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Faculty spotlight: Lauren Cooper

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Written by Evan Ford

Posted on 03 February 2013

Lauren Cooper, Mechanics of Materials course coordinator and professor at Mines, has quite the medley of industry experience—she has worked as a surveyor, energy auditor, teacher of grades between 3-12, and even worked for a hospital in Nicaragua. Currently, she works to positively advance the way engineering classes are taught at Mines.

lauren-cooperBorn in Reno, Nevada, Lauren grew up with plenty of positive reinforcement from her parents. "Reno is surprisingly similar to the show 'Reno 911,'" she said. After Reno, she moved around, all while trying out all sorts of activities like "piano, singing, sports, and pretty much everything else. My parents were extremely supportive." After staying in Denver for four years, Lauren decided she wanted to come back to Colorado at some point in the future. "I loved the sunshine, people, and variety of Colorado." Until then, she stayed busy with high school and athletics; she played soccer, ran track, and taught skiing and snowboarding lessons.

Finding herself as an engineer was neither intentional nor ordinary for Lauren. "As a kid, I actually wanted to be an English major. When I was a junior and applying for college online, I clicked Engineering instead of English on the website." Later, she found out she was accepted into the engineering school, "but at Cal-Poly, you can't change your major until after a year of classes. It turned out that I enjoyed the engineering track, so I stuck with it," said Lauren. After she finished her Mechanical Specialty at Mines, Lauren obtained her Masters Degree at CU Boulder, where she is currently working on acquiring her PhD in Engineering Education.

One thing immediately noticeable about Lauren is her unique teaching style. Unlike traditional engineering courses, her classroom is infused with hands-on learning and specialized group collaboration. "I strive to find the right balance between lecture and hands-on activities, because I find when a student can see and feel something, it forms a connection, and the topic becomes easier to remember and understand," she said. "I work to create a welcoming environment, to foster peer to peer interactions, and I try not to be dismissive. To do this, I pay attention to the specific class climate. Also, I tend to be strict about respect for everyone in the classroom."

While she is not teaching, Lauren loves "yoga, the outdoors, piano, and guitar. I am an avid aerial dancer, which takes up a lot of my time." In order to balance all of the different aspects of her life, Lauren follows some rules, and offers this advice, "Start things early, assignments will take the same amount of time regardless of when you start. Make sure to treat everyone with respect; you will never know when he or she can offer you help of some kind. Most importantly, take time to pursue other, non-engineering activities. Stay passionate, and stay well-rounded."