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College of Engineering / Dean's Report / other-stories / Excellence in Teaching

Excellence in Teaching

Cordelia Brown
Senior Lecturer, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Director, Engineering Academic Excellence Program

Senior lecturer Cordelia Brown addresses a crowd from a podium.
Cordelia Brown

“Find the thing that you are passionate about and stick with it, despite adversity.” 

This piece of advice is one that Cordelia Brown, senior lecturer of electrical and computer engineering and director of the Academic Excellence Program, has given to many of her students since she began working at Auburn in 2015.

Brown currently teaches Engineering Success Strategies and Digital Logic Circuits while also directing AEP, a program designed to support underrepresented students in their engineering studies at Auburn, and has excelled in both roles. 

One of the most important lessons that teaching has taught her is to always have flexibility, especially with a diverse range of students, she said. AEP is a program that is diverse, and being able to teach in a way that a wide range of students will understand the material is important, she said. 

As a lecturer, Brown focuses on helping students navigate their engineering career both inside and outside of the classroom by encouraging problem solving. Her goal is to help students work through challenges and misconceptions by first identifying them and then solving them, she said. 

“Being committed to different teaching approaches and also being adaptable is one of the key pieces that has really helped how I approach working with students,” Brown said. “The greatest human engineering problem is being able to work with one another.”


Molly Hughes
Lecturer, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Auburn Engineering Dean Christopher Roberts poses next to Molly Hughes, a lecturer in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Molly Hughes

When it comes to Auburn, Molly Hughes, lecturer of civil and environmental engineering, has come full circle.

Hughes, raised in Auburn, is a former Auburn Engineering student. After receiving her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in civil engineering from Auburn University, she relocated to Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida to begin working in the research lab to develop and improve the materials used in missile defense. After receiving her doctoral degree from Georgia Tech, she relocated to Eglin Air Force Base to create missile material to defeat buried structures.

After 13 years with the Air Force, Hughes returned to Auburn University to begin her influential career in engineering education, teaching courses with a classic, tailored instruction strategy every student she encounters seems to love.

Hughes describes her lecturing style as “old school” with added modernity. Fulfillment is derived from her students’ accomplishments; whiteboards, class polls, Zoom breakout rooms and a passion for personalized interaction accompanies each lecture.

“I want everyone to understand the basic building blocks they need to be successful in his or her chosen profession,” Hughes said. “No position fits me better than the role I play in students’ lives at Auburn Engineering.”

Hughes was previously selected as the Civil Engineering Outstanding Faculty and has received the William F. Walker Teaching Award. Additionally, she is an active member of 100+ Women Strong and has served as the faculty liaison.


Rick Williams
Senior Lecturer, Mechanical Engineering

Auburn Engineering senior lecturer Rick Williams poses in a mechanical engineering lab.
Rick Williams

Mechanical engineering senior lecturer Rick Williams doesn’t let his students use their cellphones in class. Break the rule one too many times, and he’ll even ask you to leave. It’s a strict policy. And they love him for it. 

Williams, director of Auburn University’s Nuclear Power Generation Systems program, has become a fixture at faculty recognition ceremonies in recent years thanks in large part to the mutual respect he’s able to foster in the classroom. 

In 2018, he won Auburn Engineering’s Outstanding Faculty Award. The following year, he received the William F. Walker Teaching Award, which recognizes outstanding faculty achievement in the education of engineering students. 

Williams says he’s built his approach to instruction around a single maxim: every student matters. 

“I randomly call on students using an iPad app that I developed, and usually by the end of the semester, I know all of my students by their name,” he said. “I’ve learned that although students do not necessarily like being called on by name to answer questions in class, they do appreciate the fact that it makes them pay attention.”