Catherine E. Wolfgram French
Professor, Civil, Environmental, & Geo- Engineering
Throughout her career, Catherine French has breathed joy and enthusiasm into the lives of civil engineering students.
Her students learn in a variety of ways. Sometimes, they put their heads together in group learning exercises. Other times, a student will stop by her office, where she walks them through tough problems, including some in her specialty: steel and concrete design.
“She runs the classroom with authority and passion, while showing compassion and understanding to her students of all backgrounds and abilities,” says a former student.
I feel that developing a connection is especially important for the significant number of transfer students in our program who sometimes feel isolated or disconnected.
As director of undergraduate studies for civil engineering, French developed a required welcome orientation for new students, and she helps ensure that students are well matched with faculty advisers. She is also active in efforts to improve her department’s programs in civil engineering; one project led to new content on issues like business models, sustainability, and public policy.
French created the CEGE Student Ambassadors, whose members volunteer at events and at times lend mentoring help to struggling peers. She is faculty adviser to the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, and has been recognized for her work with transfer, minority, and prospective students. And as part of NSF’s Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation program, French has given students current, high-level research experiences.
“She knows how to get people excited about all aspects of civil engineering,” says an associate.