James and Mary Ross Provost's Award for Excellence: Jim Becker, Spring Awards of Excellence, Academic Year 2021-22. Portrait of Jim Becker

Jim Becker

Jim Becker has received the James and Mary Ross Provost’s Award for Excellence, which recognizes outstanding teaching and scholarship with an emphasis on first-year, second-year and core courses. The award carries a $2,500 honorarium and is sponsored by James and Mary Ross and the Office of Academic Affairs.

Becker, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in MSU’s Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering, is known for his innovative teaching methods and continual efforts to improve and refine his courses. The award nomination letter cites his “compassion and dedication to helping students succeed.”

First- and second-year courses introducing students to the core concepts of electrical circuits have among the highest failure rates nationally, but Becker’s courses routinely receive favorable reviews from students, with some calling him the best teacher they’ve ever had. Over the course of a decade, he has modernized the courses with a focus on student engagement and deep learning and has been awarded multiple educational research grants from the National Science Foundation to support those efforts.

As an affiliate faculty member of MSU’s Montana Engineering Education Research Center, Becker has made student success in these courses the focus of his scholarship. His research has explored the innovative use of online writing exercises in order to identify students who are struggling with full understanding of technical subject matter. He has also developed interactive, web-based applications for his circuits courses.

“Dr. Becker is truly a leader in educational scholarship at MSU,” said Brett Gunnink, dean of the engineering college.