Dr. Ayman Elnaggar innovates teaching for his students
May 17, 2022
Associate Professor of Teaching
School of Engineering
Electrical Engineering, Mechatronics
Okanagan (Kelowna, BC)
PhD, Computer Engineering, UBC Vancouver
Bachelor of Science, Communications & Electronics Engineering, Cairo University
“By taking a proactive stance on improving, maintaining and nurturing students’ mental health, it supports students to not only be successful in their studies, but also in their lives and as future engineers.”
IN FALL 2021, A SENSE OF CALM SETTLED OVER UBCO’S CAMPUS as students and faculty took a collective breath. The busy university was devoid of the usual dance of students and faculty rushing to their daily classes, as the first-ever Fall Reading Week provided a much-needed respite for the UBCO community. But it took fierce determination to make it happen; just ask Dr. Ayman Elnaggar, an Associate Professor of Teaching in the School of Engineering, who was the driving force behind this mental health initiative.
Introducing a new university-wide break was not a simple process; it took unwavering dedication, countless hours of research and a full overhaul of the academic calendar, but Dr. Elnaggar knew his efforts would be worthwhile if it helped even one student get the support they need.
Growing up, Dr. Elnaggar always knew he wanted to be an academic. His first experiences with teaching came as an undergraduate student, when he would help classmates understand difficult concepts. After years of working in the computer, telecom and semiconductor industry, Dr. Elnaggar pivoted his career path and moved to Canada, where he continued his academic studies and achieved his dream of becoming an educator.
Although teaching was always one of his goals, Dr. Elnaggar never expected to also become a mental health advocate. Seeing the challenges his three sons experienced as they each studied different disciplines at UBC Okanagan led Dr. Elnaggar to look for new opportunities to affect system-wide changes that would make a difference for his students. “Every single instructor at UBC Okanagan needs to be aware of their students’ mental health,” he explains. “My sons encouraged me to do my best for them and the entire student community.”
While shaping future engineers is important, Dr. Elnaggar is more interested in preparing his students to succeed in life. He believes that being an approachable instructor is important to creating a positive learning environment for students. “I have an open-door policy and welcome students to stop by my office anytime.”
“The teaching and learning community is everything to me. It’s very important to me I have a personal relationship with my colleagues and students.”
It’s these kinds of conversations that have led Dr. Elnaggar to make changes to improve the student experience in his classroom, while also looking for innovative solutions at a system level. “Most of the initiatives I’ve developed at UBC Okanagan have come from engaging with my students. Learning about their individual experiences helps me to find opportunities to affect changes in our system that will benefit all students.”
This value of innovation, which has always been a driving force for Dr. Elnaggar, is something he tries to impart to his students as well. He believes how students approach their problems can be more important than coming up with the right answer. “During exams, I encourage students to write down their approach to the question, even if they don’t know the answer. You can always get a better calculator or simulation program, but the way you think about questions and devise innovative solutions to problems is what will take you far in life.”
This thoughtful spirit of teaching and support is one of many reasons Dr. Elnaggar was recognized as a recipient of UBCO’s 2022 Provost’s Award for Teaching Excellence and Innovation.
As for what draws him to UBCO, teaching at a smaller campus provides Dr. Elnaggar with the opportunity to connect with his students and colleagues on a personal level. “The teaching and learning community is everything to me. It’s very important to me I have a personal relationship with my colleagues and students.”
He adds: “By taking a proactive stance on improving, maintaining and nurturing students’ mental health, it supports students to not only be successful in their studies but also in their lives and as future engineers.”