Cornwell Took Teaching, Scholarship to Highest Levels

Monday, May 20, 2019
Phillip Cornwell

Mechanical engineering professor Phillip Cornwell was featured in the Princeton Review's 2012 book, The Best 300 Professors, and received the Rose-Hulman Dean's Outstanding Teacher Award and Outstanding Scholar Award.

Phillip Cornwell may be retiring this spring as a mechanical engineering professor at Rose-Hulman, but his days as an award-winning educator will continue. After all, he considers teaching to be his life’s calling.

“I thoroughly enjoy helping students learn and explore new things. My place has always been in the classroom,” says Cornwell, a member of the institute’s faculty for 30 years. He will return to the classroom this fall as an engineering professor at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“The mountains are calling me and my wife (Rachel), and it’s closer to family on the west coast,” states the native of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Cornwell’s teaching skills were featured in the Princeton Review's 2012 book, The Best 300 Professors. He also received the Rose-Hulman Dean's Outstanding Teacher Award (2000) and Board of Trustees’ Outstanding Scholar Award (2001). He also earning the Society of Automotive Engineers’ Ralph R. Teetor Education Award (1993) as an outstanding young engineering educator, and his papers and presentations have earned best-in-class honors in the mechanics division at numerous American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) annual conferences.

Being a good teacher, Cornwell says, means “being organized, having a mastery of the material, being enthusiastic, respecting the students, engaging students in the material through active learning, homework and projects, having high expectations and standards, and helping students reach those standards.”

That makes the words of one of Cornwell’s former students particularly telling: “One of the hardest classes was made easier than almost every other class, merely because (Cornwell) was an amazing teacher.”

Cornwell is a believer in active learning, allowing students to learn by doing and through interactive examples. He wants students to become better problem-solvers, which makes conveying the process even more important than teaching the answer. As a professor and former vice president for academic affairs, Cornwell has supported curricular development to prepare students to meet future challenges in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“The mission of Rose-Hulman is to provide our students with the world’s best undergraduate STEM education in an environment of individual attention and support,” he says. “I know of no other school in the country that has such a strong institutional alignment around its mission, or one that has such a great group of faculty, staff, and students. We say we are focused on teaching and on the students, and we mean it.”

As vice president, Cornwell testified before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Science, Space and Technology Committee’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology about how private-sector programs can engage students in STEM careers. He also served on the ASEE’s Global Leadership Forum, ASEE Task Force an Access and Affordability of Engineering Education, and the Indiana Automotive Council.

As for retirement from Rose-Hulman later this month, Cornwell says, “I’m going to miss the students here and my faculty colleagues. Both have challenged me to be a better teacher.”