Stephen Wicker, ECE, Douglas Whitney '61 Award
For Stephen Wicker, good teaching requires adaptation.
"When I'm doing it properly, my teaching is equal parts talking, listening, and watching," he says. "I would like to think that I adjust to the students in my classroom as time passes, finding a place that works for all of us."
His students were the ones who taught Wicker the importance of being a good listener. When he first started teaching, he says he tried to fit students into a mold, but now he realizes that every student is unique. "Whether in teaching or advising, I listen to my students, determine where they are coming from, and try to meet them halfway," he says. "I've learned that teaching is a process, not a goal."
Wicker says excellent teaching depends more on making the material relevant and developing a rapport with students than on flashy presentations. "I would suggest that connecting with students is more important than world-class PowerPoints," he says. "As for the content, I make a point of integrating material that I have picked up from my consulting, relating the theory in a given course to real-world systems."
Wicker gave up tenure at Georgia Tech to come to Cornell in 1996. "He was a highly-regarded teacher at Georgia Tech and won an Outstanding Teaching Award at Cornell in 1998," writes ECE Chair Tsuhan Chen in his nomination letter. "We believe that Steve's more recent teaching performance fully justifies his being recognized again for this award, as his teaching evaluation constantly shows high scores in all aspects."
"Professor Wicker is an excellent instructor and one of Cornell's ECE department's finest educators. Good sense of humor, excellent command of subject material, up-to-date knowledge," reads one student evaluation.
Another student evaluation states simply, "Wicker is awesome."