Published: Jan. 24, 2020 By

The College of Engineering and Applied Science recently selected Senior Professional Development Advisor Kat McConnell and Senior Instructor and External Relations Committee Chair Julie Steinbrenner for awards recognizing their outstanding contributions as educators. Steinbrenner and McConnell have worked closely to bring many initiatives—like Student Experiential Education (SEE)—to life. McConnell received the Outstanding Staff Award, and Steinbrenner received the Charles A. Hutchinson Memorial Teaching Award.

McConnell brings expertise to a role supporting student professional development

Kat McConnel Headshot

Kat McConnell, recipient of the Outstanding Staff Award

McConnell has spent more than 10 years working at CU Boulder, including 7 years with the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Most recently, she assumed the title of senior professional development advisor, a role supporting student professional development through career advising, building relationships with industry and planning annual professional development events like ME Alumni Connect Day, the Careers in ME Symposium, Explore ME Dinners and Research Lunches

“Kat is exceptional in her ability to handle small details, execution and the big picture,” said senior instructor Julie Steinbrenner. “She’s more than ‘all in’ all the time.”

When McConnell was a student, she spent five summers working with a pre-engineering program for high school students, an experience she said inspired her interest in STEM education. McConnell completed a master’s degree in post-secondary student development at the University of Iowa and in December 2019, she received her doctorate of education from CU Denver. McConnell’s research for her doctorate focused on two areas impacting her work and Student Experiential Education today: supporting students through the internship search process and tracking examples used in class with a connection to engineering practice.

In her nomination packet, members of the CU chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers said, “Kat is unquestionably devoted to the progress and development of her students, and her ability to offer consistent support in a professional, academic and personal capacity makes her one of the most influential figures in the department.”

Steinbrenner shows students that who they are and what they do matters

Julie Steinbrenner headshot

Julie Steinbrenner, recipient of the Charles A. Hutchinson Memorial Teaching Award

The Charles A. Hutchinson Memorial Teaching Award is given in honor of Charles A. Hutchinson, a distinguished professor of applied mathematics from 1918-66. This academic year, mechanical engineering senior instructor Julie Steinbrenner is the recipient. 

“Julie has experienced long days and even longer nights in dedication to her students with the goal of providing them with the skills and demeanor needed to fight in the real world,” said alumnus Sebastian Metcalf who graduated with a concurrent BS/MS in 2018. “I am most certainly a better engineer and a better person because of Julie’s tutelage and friendship.”

Steinbrenner first knew she wanted to study engineering in high school when her chemistry teacher encouraged her to visit a women in engineering day. Upon hearing from those at the event, she said she marveled at the prospect of solving problems as a career. After completing her undergraduate degree at Valparaiso University and earning her MS and PhD in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, she worked at Xerox PARC before starting her career at CU Boulder seven years ago.

Steinbrenner is a senior instructor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and chair of the department’s External Relations Committee. She previously served as the director of the energy engineering minor. While passionate about engineering (especially heat transfer and thermofluids), Steinbrenner is equally passionate about preparing students for their careers. Across all nine courses she has taught, including Mechanical Engineering as a Profession and Capstone Design, Steinbrenner said she aims to show how mechanical engineering can open doors for students with a diverse range of goals and interests.

“Julie incorporates the philosophy of design and interaction not just in engineering but in how she works with students and in how she works on new projects,” said colleague Kat McConnell. “She has this quality of always being ready to dig in.”