Héctor A. Becerril, faculty member of the Department of Chemistry, spent last fall as a visiting faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he performed laboratory research and received training in current best practices in chemical safety and other areas applicable to his department and college.
As a visiting faculty member at CMU, Becerril attended classes to observe teaching methods, met with safety professionals, academic administrators, and spent time in the lab doing research with postdoctoral, doctoral and masters students. Through those experiences he learned new chemical techniques, state of the art safety procedures, and expanded his knowledge of research mentoring methods.
Working long hours in a lab, Becerril said he was reminded of his days as a graduate student and felt his abilities and dexterity coming back. He said he was grateful for the culture of professional development that BYU-Idaho cultivates and for the opportunity he was given to keep his technical skills current.
During this leave Becerril says he also gained an appreciation of the many resources that BYU-Idaho provides to its students.
"I have a better idea of why we do certain things, and why we don't do other things," Becerril said. "I came back with a new perspective."
Since returning he has shifted his focus to spending his time with those students who need it more.
"If a student is struggling, most often it is not because of a lack of capability," Becerril said. "I can't make students smarter, but I can help them focus and work through things. I find that process very rewarding."
In addition to learning from students and faculty at CMU, Becerril was able to introduce them to BYU-Idaho.
"I was given the opportunity to present my research and tell others about BYU-Idaho. Now they know that there is more than BYU in Provo," Becerril said. "Professors and students were very impressed with our weekly devotional gatherings and our emphasis in learning and teaching. I was able to give them a positive perspective of our school and our sponsoring church."
Becerril found that, despite some key differences, there are several similarities between CMU and BYU-Idaho.
"The goals, resources and equipment may be different, but the real work in both places has to do with reaching out to individuals and helping them improve." Becerril said. "We can do that here just as well, if not better, than at most other places."
"CMU is a great institution, their engineering college is ranked 10th in the nation, their computer science is on par with MIT and Stanford, their drama graduates frequently earn Grammys, Emmys and Academy awards. CMU has deep alumni networks in many fields and they position their graduates in exceptional places," Becerril commented. "My hope is that faculty at BYU-Idaho may look at CMU's graduate programs and encourage students to consider applying there for grad school. There are only a few LDS students at CMU, and certainly the Pittsburgh wards could benefit greatly from having our BYU-Idaho graduates."
Becerril went to CMU as part of a Faculty Learning Fellowship. These fellowships allow faculty to develop their abilities, broaden their understanding, keep current in their disciplines, and open up opportunities for BYU-Idaho students.