Focus On Faculty

Hillary S. Tanner

Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?

I’m a “Double Dawg”! I earned both undergraduate (agricultural engineering) and graduate (environmental economics) degrees from the University of Georgia.  I am a lecturer in the College of Engineering, faculty advisor for the UGA Collegiate Section of the Society of Women Engineers and College of Engineering faculty liaison for ABET accreditation. 

When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?

I came to UGA as a student in 1994 and never left.  My first job at UGA was as a research engineer in the department of biological and agricultural engineering, and I worked throughout Georgia on watershed assessment studies. I became an engineering faculty member in December 2010. 

What are your favorite courses and why?

I currently teach several sections of ENGR 1120—Engineering Graphics and Design, which is a first-year course for six degree programs in the College of Engineering.  Many of these students are transitioning from high school and are making important decisions about their career path that will impact them far beyond high school. As such, I take the opportunity to impress upon my students the importance of strong, ethical work habits in the engineering profession through challenging coursework, while still allowing them to reflect on their decision to pursue engineering and grow as engineering students.

What interests you about your field?

I’m very interested in developing visualization skills in pre-college students at all grade levels, so students in STEM majors come into college better prepared for physics, math and engineering curricula. K-12 students love to interface with “play-related” technology, so I’m interested in integrating this into innovative learning technology geared toward developing visualization skills.

What are some highlights of your career at UGA?

It is the highlight of the day when I hear from former students how they have successfully applied their experience in UGA Engineering to their careers.  Another highlight was becoming a faculty member, one of the first lecturers, in the very department, biological and agricultural engineering (now part of the College of Engineering), where I received my undergraduate degree.  Finally, the experiences I had while traveling with colleagues and students to Costa Rica and collaborating with the amazing people in Pocora and El Carmen, Costa Rica, are irreplaceable. 

How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?

As a lecturer, most of my time is spent either in the classroom or preparing to be in the classroom. When I do have a minute to think about something else, I try to engage in projects that will help me help my students. These projects have led to the integration of interesting activities into my courses that help students learn visualization skills using things that are familiar to them, such as Legos and iPads with 3-D scanners. Additionally, my work with ABET accreditation continually reminds me that teaching and learning is always evolving and of my responsibility to provide my students the best academic experience possible.

What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?

My goal for any class I teach is that students leave the class with confidence in their abilities and a good foundation for their future engineering courses and careers.

Describe your ideal student.

My ideal student is one who is willing to work for what they want, can learn from failures and isn’t afraid to ask questions.

Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…

I like being at Driftmier Engineering Center, where I teach all my classes and meet with students. I also took all my undergraduate engineering classes in Driftmier, spent many, many, many hours studying in Driftmier, and happened to meet my husband, Matthew, in the study lounge at Driftmier. I have a lot of great memories of this good old building. I also like cheering on the Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium and tailgating with college friends on East Campus.

Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…

… spend time with all my boys — husband, sons and dogs. My husband and I have gardens where we grow all kinds of veggies. I love gardening and using our home-grown produce to make delicious culinary creations. Both of my boys love sports, so I also spend a lot of time at the ball field/gym.

Community/civic involvement includes….

Helping with my boys’ sports teams and volunteering at their school. One of the most rewarding experiences I have had lately was being a mystery reader for my older son’s third-grade class. The kids were so excited and interested and inquisitive. I am also the faculty advisor for the UGA Chapter of the Society of Women Engineers and do outreach activities with them. 

Favorite book/movie (and why)?

My favorite book is “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee.  Don’t judge a person until you’ve walked around in their shoes … it just never gets old. 

My favorite movie is “Chef.”  Watch it and try not to crave a grilled cheese sandwich.

Proudest moment at UGA?

I have many proud moments at UGA.  As a teacher, I am always proud when I see students who I had in class as timid first-year students in their regalia at graduation … it’s almost a proud mama moment. Professionally, I was most honored to be selected as a Teaching Academy Fellow and I am proud to be one of the inaugural faculty members of the College of Engineering. Personally, I was proud when my oldest son was selected to be the first ever UGA Homecoming mini-marshal (2013) and got to ride in the UGA Homecoming parade behind the grand marshal. I’m proud that my boys Cole and Justin are Bulldogs! Good or bad, they both could spell G-E-O-R-G-I-A before they could spell their names.
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