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May 26, 2020

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15 minutes with Bluffton newcomer, Lauren Logan

"I'm the person who actually reads the signs at museums, and, I would grab old textbooks and read them for fun"

Recently the Icon talked with Dan Newkirk, a newcomer to Bluffton. Read his interview here. As promised, here's a chat with his wife, Lauren Logan.

Lauren, where do you live?
199 West Kibler Street with my husband, Dan Newkirk, and our three pets Gandalf (grey tabby cat, 8), Gimli (hedgehog, 2), and Greg (orange tabby cat, 1). Dan got to name the kitten, thus the Lord of the Rings naming scheme was busted. But collectively our pets are known as the 3 G's.

Where did you grow up and how did your educational journey lead you to Bluffton, Ohio?
I’m Appalachian, born and raised. I grew up in the less than 400 person village of New Marshfield, Ohio. But, I consider Athens my hometown, as I had many adventures there. Having come from humble roots with aspirations for their only child, my parents told me that I could be whatever I wanted to be, as long as I worked hard and didn’t cut corners.

Having a love for learning, I pushed myself to be the best, put in the extra effort, and succeed. All the hard work in K-12 came to fruition when I earned a Cutler Scholarship to Ohio University. After earning dual bachelor degrees in Electrical Engineering and Geological Sciences, I went to Purdue for my master's degree in Biology in the Ecological Sciences and Engineering interdisciplinary program, where I met Dan.

I earned my PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with research emphasis on the interaction between energy infrastructure and water resources.

Being a good Ohioan, I wanted to make it back to my home state. When applying to faculty positions, I targeted several schools in Ohio. ONU was the best fit for me academically and socially, and I am grateful to get to live my dream of being a professor in Ohio! And Bluffton? I love how friendly and welcoming the whole community is towards us. It’s exciting to grow roots in such a wonderful place.

When did you join the ONU faculty and what courses do you teach?
I joined the ONU faculty one year ago in August of 2018. I'm starting my second year of teaching now. I teach the first-year engineering course Foundations of Design, and I also teach Geotechnical Engineering, a junior-level civil engineering course focusing on soil properties, compaction, and other topics.

Every spring, I'll alternate between my two elective courses. Last spring, I developed a new course called Water-Energy-Society Infrastructure Nexus. Essentially, it's a class about how everything is connected, and engineers need to be aware of more than just math and physics.

Yes, the environment and society do matter in engineering decision-making. This spring I'm developing another new elective course called Watershed Management. I'll focus on water law and local/regional water management practices. I'm hoping to get some class visits or partnerships with the Bluffton wastewater treatment plant and Wessler Engineering.

Are there other persons in your family in this profession?
I'm the first person in my extended family to earn a master's degree or a PhD. On my husband's side of the family, there are many family members with master's degrees, but I'm the first PhD. Dan's mother, a few aunts, and sister are all K-12 teachers. So being an educator fits right in with Dan's family.

What’s the most expensive book you require in your courses?
I only require a textbook in my Geotechnical Engineering course, and it runs  about $70. For my electives, I provide the readings and materials for students. Funny you should ask, as a colleague and I have been working on a handbook for the Foundations of Design course – price unknown at this point. Our goal is to provide a multi-year resource for students going through the engineering program.

How many students do you come into contact with?
Last fall I taught a double section of Geotech with 48 students, and had 32 in my Foundations course. This fall I get a break with teaching a single section of Geotech. On any given day I see 100+ students, as I am involved with many activities outside of teaching. I'm an advisor for the ONU chapter of Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society. I'm also a district director – Ohio and Michigan– for Tau Beta Pi, so I see students from across 25 campuses at district meetings.

What did you first want to be when you were growing up?
If you can believe it, I've always wanted to be a professor. I would have my friends play school, and I would get out old/outdated textbooks I would get from the library free book days. Then I'd teach my friends a topic, write things on a chalkboard, and give them quizzes.

I think most of my friends would have rather played with cars or barbies though, so playing "school" didn't happen very often. I have also always wanted to write books. As it turns out, professors can and do write books.

I know my mom will want me to share this story: As a kid, I would walk on the green at Ohio University with my mom. We would frequently see the same professors, and even the president of OU at the time, Dr. Charles J. Ping. Mom says that one day I walked right up to Dr. Ping and told him I was going to earn a PhD.

Later, I would become a Cutler Scholar, a program in which Dr. Ping is heavily involved. He's such a great inspiration for people who love learning and knowledge. I know he's proud of me for following through on earning a PhD, and becoming Dr. Logan.

How did you become interested in your eventual profession?
I have always wanted to know as much as I can about the world around me. I'm the person who actually reads the signs at museums, and, as previously mentioned, I would grab old textbooks and read them for fun.

I still get the same rush from learning something new. But even more importantly, I enjoy helping others learn. I would tutor my friends in high school and college. There is nothing more exciting or satisfying than knowing you made a difference in someone's educational journey.

I want to give a shout-out to Belinda Burkett in Fostoria. She’s a 4-H member doing amazing things with engineering projects. 4-H is where I encountered my first engineering project, which then set me on my engineering path in college. Being a role model for young women looking to pursue engineering and science makes my job even better. I can’t wait to see Belinda at ONU a few years from now.

Read any good books lately?
Yes. In addition to reading textbooks for fun, I really enjoy young adult thrillers and fantasy/scifi books. A recent favorite is Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children – the book is way better than the movie.

On the teaching side of things, I recently read How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching by Susan Ambrose and others. I have to add that my all-time favorite book is Redwall by Brian Jacques.

What do you like on your pizza?
I really like veggie pizzas with green olives, spinach, and tomatoes. I even like pineapple on my pizza sometimes!

If you and your spouse could take a famous person out for dinner, who would it be?
Well, as you probably read in my husband's interview, Michelle Beebs from my favorite band was a special guest at my 30th birthday party!.

Seeing as we've already had dinner with Michelle, I think our next celebrity dinner would have to be with Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero from the movie The Room. Tommy seems like such a larger than life character, and Greg is the glue that holds Tommy's life together. Just being around them even for one meal would be truly fascinating.