20Faculty Feature Hanson
 it the best solution? Could they have done better? Will the design stand the test of time?”
   There are those questions again.
   Hanson’s inquisitive nature has extended to other aspects of his professional career. In 2004, he
20Faculty Feature Hanson2
started a project to interview 35 of America’s leading practicing structural engineers.
What they have in common: Each professional could identify problems
throughout the design stage and understood the significance of finding a reasonable solution.
   “While these outstanding engineers at the top of their fields are creative and innovative, there are basic principles that are part of every design they complete,” the professor says. He is using that valuable insight, along with his classroom teachings and professional career lessons,
Award-winning civil engineering educator Jim Hanson, PhD, believes teaching is
more about giving students the ability to ask the right questions rather than just providing future engineers with skills to address tomorrow’s challenging problems.
   That’s why Rose-Hulman students know Hanson isn’t always going to answer
a question posed in class or project review session. Rather, Hanson is most likely to reply with a question such as, “Is that reasonable?” “Why did you come up with that conclusion?” or “Convince me that’s the best solution.”
   “Our students need to know how to do things better,” Hanson says. “They have all the knowledge and skills to address a multitude of questions. I challenge them to come up with the very best solution to solve those
   Students’ problem-solving and design skills have been honed in a new building systems course Hanson developed. The mission of the first project assignment was designing a structure that could stand with only three base columns. Hanson took great pride in the students’ multitude of creative solutions, each taking a different design approach.
   “My job is to get students to think creatively. It’s those out-of-the-box
concepts that excite me and bring me to the classroom with a sense of wonder,” says Hanson, the department’s senior structural engineering faculty member. “They need to understand how to deal with a problem that they have never seen before. When completing a design project, they need to step back and reflect on what they have done. Is
to write a structural analysis textbook.    
   Students appreciate the talents and challenges that Hanson brings to the classroom. In 2006, civil engineering seniors surprised him with a necktie signed by each of them as a holiday gift. The cherished token has become an annual tradition, and Hanson proudly wears each year’s “Senior Class Tie” to
professional meetings.
   “The tie is a constant reminder of why I’m a teacher. I exist for my students,” he says. “I strive to take them as far as they need to go with a limit that exceeds even my imagination.” 
Dale Long is Rose-Hulman’s director of media relations.