Students Know Where Baseheart Places His Priorities: On Them

Professor T. Michael Baseheart in the College of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is the kind of teacher that, no matter how busy, will take time to approach and help a lost and confused stranger, make a nontraditional student feel comfortable and use his personal time for student extra-curricular activities.

The winner of this year’s George B. Barbour Award for Good Faculty-Student Relations at UC, Basehart has one of those office doors that’s always open, and in general makes a large campus seem like a place you want to be. You can tell a lot about a teacher’s personality just by looking around his office.

Baseheart’s is neat, but not pretentious. It’s the kind of room where you can forget the academic pressures of a large university and relax and feel safe. And as soon as you sit down with him you know you are in the right place with the right person.
In a nomination letter for the award, Jefferey Bolchalk gave an example of Baseheart’s concern for students. “During the first few days of my first quarter in school I had a problem with one of my classes. I was wandering the halls looking for a sign to direct me to someone I could talk to. He must have seen that anguished and distraught look on my face, stopped me and asked if he could help.

“He took me into his office, and we talked for an hour. He was the first person at UC to know my name and recognize me in the hallway. He always asked how my classes were proceeding and expressed a genuine interest in my life.”

Baseheart has a reputation for helping other lost and confused-looking students. He said, “I just kind of believe that an academic institution has a special mission: It’s to prepare students for their careers and for life. There’s no reason not to make it as easy and palatable as I can for everybody.”

Baseheart said he tries to pay attention to the little things around the department, college and campus because the students deserve it. According to former student Julienne Pack, Baseheart’s commitment to his students went well beyond the classroom. “Dr. Baseheart’s respect for his students and overall concern for their well-being has influenced more lives than he can imagine. During the renovation of Baldwin Hall, we lost our student lounge and the ASCE and Chi Epsilon offices. He knew it was important to us and fought hard to get those back.”

Michael Baseheart

Michael Baseheart

Baseheart worked at Armco Steel after earning his BS degree from the University of Dayton.  He came to UC with the intention of earning a master’s degree so he could go into structural consulting. That is when he got his first taste of teaching as a graduate assistant. “The interaction with students changed my mind,” he said. “I modified my career objectives and continued on for a PhD, so I could stay in the academic end of things.”

Baseheart’s prior teaching awards and long list of accomplishments during his 33 years at UC are an indication of his dedication to the art and science of teaching. He has twice earned the College of Engineering’s Neil Wandmacher Excellence in Teaching Award and was elected Educational Committee Member of the Year by the National Educational Activity Committee Board of the American Concrete Institute.

According to Anant Kukreti, professor and department head of civil and environmental engineering, “As an educator Dr. Baseheart is considered a favorite teacher and one who has made a significant impact of the lives of numerous students.”

Baseheart thinks and operates in a student-centered modality: Ask him virtually any question about the university, and he ends up explaining it in terms of the students’ well-being and how it betters their education. Eleven engineers from THP Inc. wrote, “As students, we always felt we were his first priority. Somehow, he was always there to help and lead us in the right direction even when he did not personally get any credit.”

Though his achievements are many, Baseheart remains most proud of the students he has helped to graduate. “What I enjoy most is meeting former students on a regular basis,” he said. “I run into them all over the place, at professional meetings or business meetings and that sort of thing. I just love interacting with former students who are now very active in the civil engineering profession - that’s what I think is really rewarding.”

Baseheart even found a way to use one of his hobbies to make him a more understanding mentor. A number of years ago he got involved in genealogy and researched his family’s background. “It’s a great way to learn about history,” he said.  “It helps in a university setting when you really realize that everybody’s family in the United States immigrated here at one time or another. It puts a proper perspective on things and helps me with the international students that are here. It helps me be a little more sensitive to their situation.”

Baseheart’s impact on UC students is best summed up in one sentence from Bochalk’s nomination letter. He wrote, “I know that I will be a better engineer and person because I have had the opportunity and privilege to listen and learn from a professional such as Dr. Baseheart.”

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