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06/20/95

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Mechanical Engineering's Sheppard wins Rhodes Prize

STANFORD -- Sheri Sheppard, associate professor of mechanical engineering, has received the 1995 Lilian and Thomas B. Rhodes Prize for excellence in undergraduate teaching.

Established in 1991, the Rhodes Prize celebrates the dedication and commitment to teaching of the Stanford faculty. Selection is made by the dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, acting on recommendations from department chairs and associate deans, and in consultation with the deans of the schools of Earth Sciences and Engineering. The prize, given at commencement time, carries a stipend of $4,000.

Sheppard, who came to Stanford in 1986, is described by colleagues as "a leader in undergraduate education" and "an outstanding, devoted teacher" who has tremendous concern for her students "as learners and as people."

She was described by nominators as being always ready to do what is necessary "to make Stanford work properly." One faculty member commented that Sheppard is "that increasingly rare type of person who keeps undergraduate education alive and well at Stanford."

Sheppard's devotion to expanding and improving the undergraduate engineering curriculum is evidenced in many ways. She belongs to a consortium of professors from several universities who are developing new curricular and course approaches and integrating them into their individual university programs under National Science Foundation sponsorship. She is a regular, contributing member of the Undergraduate Council and the Subcommittee on Engineering School Special Programs, and is currently leading the departmental review of the undergraduate mechanical engineering curriculum.

She has worked "selflessly at doing an exceptional job in engineering service courses," according to her peers in the School of Engineering, and has improved the general intellectual opportunities available to undergraduates.

While some faculty shy away from teaching the introductory service courses in engineering, Sheppard has assumed this task despite the fact that it is not rewarded at promotion time. She recently developed a popular introductory course, "Mechanical Dissection," in which she has created an entirely new way of introducing students to engineering principles. As a result of the course's success, it is now being adopted at universities across the country.

In addition, Sheppard has adapted the course concepts to the K-12 grade levels. Several of her colleagues say of Sheppard that she always "decides in favor of doing what is best for the education of students over her own personal needs, she gives of herself completely, and her constant support and response to the needs of her students is her first priority."

The only female professor in the design division of the Mechanical Engineering department, Sheppard was described by students as an important role model and mentor. Students also noted that Sheppard is always ready and willing to help and guide them, "from her office or via telephone at her home," and that few professors could rival her dedication to students.

As one student said: "She is the best prepared, best organized, most dedicated to students, most thoughtful professor I have ever known." A faculty colleague wrote in nominating Sheppard, "She is one of the most dedicated university-level teachers I have ever met."

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