For making strong connections with his students, Dr. Ahmad Ghasemloonia, associate dean of Student Success and Interdisciplinary Academic Programs at the Schulich School of Engineering, has been honoured with this year’s prestigious McCaig-Killam Teaching Award.
It is not uncommon to see Ghasemloonia, PhD, who is also an associate professor (teaching), walking to his lectures with arms full of demonstration tools. His literal hands-on approach is greatly appreciated by students who learn to grasp difficult concepts through his in-class demonstrations and active learning approaches in which they are challenged to think critically to help them understand concepts.
“A crucial element in my teaching strategy is the emphasis on knowledge-application in future careers,” says Ghasemloonia. “Engineering students are ultimately evaluated based on their creative ability to apply concepts that solve engineering problems. It is imperative for them to learn to implement their engineering sense, modelling abilities and engineering software tools, as these skills are fundamental to their success as engineers.”
An exceptional educator
His dedication to teaching has been widely acknowledged through an impressive array of awards beyond the McCaig-Killam. He has received the Students' Union Teaching Excellence Award twice, been named Professor of the Year in Mechanical Engineering three times, and won the Graduation Banquet Teaching Excellence Award. The Schulich School has recognized his teaching excellence on two occasions, and he has received the Teaching Achievement Award three times. "Awards in education serve as a testament to teaching effectiveness, inspiring educators to perpetually elevate their standards," says Ghasemloonia. "Furthermore, they fuel my drive to make a positive impact on the broader educational community."
Since joining Schulich in 2016, he has taught and co-ordinated a wide range of challenging courses across the 200, 300, 400 and 500 levels. He recently co-ordinated a class of 1,050 first-year engineering students using a blended teaching method, demonstrating his ability to manage large classes effectively while ensuring his students are engaged and supported.
Students have described him as engaging, interactive, respectful, dedicated and accessible, both inside and outside of the classroom. One external referee noted in a review of his tenure application: "In my view, Dr. Ghasemloonia achieves a level of commitment and effectiveness in the classroom that serves as the model of instructor stream faculty at UCalgary." This endorsement underscores the high regard in which he is held as an educator.
Mentorship and engagement in research and scholarship
Beyond his teaching, Ghasemloonia has shown an extraordinary commitment to mentoring and engaging students in research and scholarship. He has supervised many undergraduate design projects and co-supervised graduate students in research and teaching assistantships, fostering their academic growth and inspiring them to pursue their research and teaching interests.
“Interdisciplinary learning and collaboration between departments are crucial, as engineers often work in multidisciplinary teams after graduation,” says Ghasemloonia. “Providing research opportunities for undergraduate students and fostering industry partnerships are essential for real-world relevance.”
His pedagogical research findings have led to tailored strategies for engineering education, enriching his commitment to students' success and ensuring that the Schulich faculty’s teaching methods remain innovative, effective and responsive to the evolving needs of our students and society.
“Educators should approach their role with passion and empathy, understanding the diverse backgrounds of their students, especially international ones,” says Ghasemloonia. “Building rapport and actively listening is essential for meaningful connections.”
Ghasemloonia's educational leadership is evident in his commitment to enhancing students’ success and mentoring colleagues within Schulich and in the broader academic community at UCalgary. In his role as associate dean, he has made significant contributions to the academic community, including serving on the academic committees, mentoring faculty, policy development, representing Schulich in university committees and resolving matters related to students. More recently, as the academic co-ordinator of the engineering first-year program, Ghasemloonia has made significant contributions to enhancing the Schulich Studio initiative and, through it, the faculty commitment to integrated experiential learning.
“Dr. Ghasemloonia's commitment to educational leadership and his service to the Schulich School of Engineering is highly commendable,” says Schulich Dean Bill Rosehart. “He has gained my strong respect and the respect of his colleagues. He has shown a steadfast commitment to educational leadership and has demonstrated a deep dedication to the university and the broader community. His dedication to teaching, research and leadership fully embodies the spirit of the McCaig-Killam Teaching Award, and this is a well-deserved honour.”