Humanitarian engineering lecturer wins national teaching excellence award

Humanitarian engineering lecturer wins national teaching excellence award

RMIT’s Dr Nick Brown was announced as a 2021 winner for teaching excellence at the Australian Awards for University Teaching (AAUT) this week.

Brown was one of eight award winners across seven categories, winning in the Engineering, Information Technology, Architecture and Building category.

The AAUT Teaching Excellence Awards recognise Australia’s most outstanding university teachers who have demonstrated excellent leadership through sustained commitment to innovation, delivery of quality teaching and sustained dedication to improving the student experience and learning outcomes.

A lecturer in Humanitarian Engineering at RMIT University, Brown has a passion for creating and delivering innovative teaching practice that inspires and empowers engineers to apply their skills for poverty alleviation and social justice.

Dr Nick Brown was announced as a 2021 winner of the Australian Awards for University Teaching (AAUT) Teaching Excellence award this week. Dr Nick Brown was announced as a 2021 winner of the Australian Awards for University Teaching this week.

Brown said he was delighted to receive the award.

“It’s an incredible honour to be recognised for this award,” he said.

“I’m surrounded by such great colleagues and students, so I’d like to thank them because this would not be possible without their hard work and support.”

Brown’s journey to RMIT University started in remote Cambodia.

While working for not-for-profit organisation Engineers Without Borders in 2015, Brown led a group of engineering students from RMIT University in investigating the application of engineering for poverty alleviation there.

RMIT’s supervising academic stopped Brown after a roundtable session one night and said: “You know, you did a great job explaining those concepts, you should think about teaching.”

Three years later in 2018, he became RMIT University’s first lecturer in the field of Humanitarian Engineering, and only the fourth academic in the field in Australia.

He says despite challenges early on, the new course gave him the opportunity to apply his teaching approach focused on embedding critical learning in memorable experiences.

“The course incorporated a two-week immersive intensive in a less-developed country (in this instance Timor-Leste) which I facilitated,” he said.

“Having already worked with students in Cambodia on similar programs, I built the experiential learning around what I knew from my time in industry.

“I developed teaching materials that empowered students to reflect on their experiential learning through the lens of a human-centred engineering profession.”

The anonymous student feedback was incredibly affirming for Brown, who had come to RMIT to inspire the next generation of engineers to contribute towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and improve quality of life for all.

“I have come back to a greater motivation for my degree, to learn as much as I can and get onto what I really want to be doing - finding my place in helping people all over the world,” one student said.

Brown adds this award to his two national profession education awards, three RMIT University Vice Chancellors teaching awards and four RMIT University School of Engineering awards.

RMIT Deputy Vice-Chancellor for STEM and Vice President Digital Innovation, Professor Aleksandar Subic said it was fantastic to see Brown be further recognised for his work.

“Dr Brown has shown his exceptional commitment, passion and drive for delivering truly memorable experiences for his students – and we are incredibly proud to see him receive such a prestigious award.”

Story: Thomas Odell

24 February 2022


24 February 2022


  • Awards
  • Engineering
  • Science and technology
  • Education

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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.