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In this photo, taken in February 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic, Professor Chirag Variawa (left) speaks with a student at Chestnut Residence, a home for many engineering students. (Photo: Daria Perevezentsev)

Professor Chirag Variawa (ISTEP) has earned the 2021 Ron Britton Engineering Education Vanguard award from the Canadian Engineering Education Association (CEEA), recognizing significant early-career contributions to this research and practice in Canada. 

“I’m grateful for this prestigious national recognition and am invigorated in knowing that my teaching is impactful,” says Variawa. “Whether I’m teaching over 1,200 students remotely from my living room or in-person utilizing the teaching facilities on campus, this recognition is tremendously uplifting and inspiring.” 

Variawa is the fourth-ever recipient of the award, and the first at U of T, which has been conferred annually since 2018 to “a person who, early in their career, has committed to the development of engineering education in Canada through practice and/or research.” 

Some of Variawa’s approaches include a commitment to active learning, especially in large class environments and through mentoring. Together with other strategies, these techniques create a welcoming and engaging learning environment where student can contribute to their own educational path. 

Variawa also serves as the Director, First-year Curriculum, providing support to faculty, staff and teaching assistants in developing a coherent curriculum across a wide range of programs. He has a particular focus on inclusivity and the integration of active-learning opportunities. 

In this role, he launched the First-year Engineering Education Research group, a collaborative team that engages students and colleagues alike with research opportunities focused on dismantling learning barriers and enhancing the student experience. The group has given many undergraduates an opportunity to present their work at CEEA’s annual conference, and other venues.   

In addition, Variawa taken on the role of the inaugural Faculty-in-Residence at U of T’s Chestnut Residence, a home for many engineering students. The position includes engaging with students through one-on-one and group programming, supporting both their curricular and co-curricular experiences and living-learning communities. 

Earlier this year, Variawa earned the Faculty’s Early Career Teaching Award, which recognizes an early-career educator who has demonstrated exceptional classroom instruction and teaching methods. 

“U of T Engineering is committed to being just as creative and innovative in how we teach as we are in what we teach,” says Professor Greg Evans, Director of ISTEP. “Professor Variawa embodies this vision, and he is adept at inspiring others from across the Faculty, the University and indeed the entire country. On behalf of U of T Engineering, I congratulate him on this well-deserved honour.” 


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