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Five Minutes Matter: First Impressions with Wayne Whiteman

Mar 27, 2018

You can learn a lot about someone in just five minutes, and first impressions can leave a lasting impact. Sometimes, it only takes five minutes to learn something new, connect over shared interests, or change a person’s mind. It’s just enough time to leave an indelible mark that can last a lifetime. 

Today, we sat down with Wayne Whiteman, professor and director of the Mechanical Engineering Office of Student Services, for five minutes to see what we could discover.

Wayne Whiteman

He appears on the phone of a student who rides on a subway train, on the laptop of a professor making lesson plans in China, on the tablet of a lifelong-learner in France. Over a quarter million scholars – people from different countries, backgrounds and abilities – have seen the face and heard the voice of Wayne Whiteman.

Whiteman, director of the Office of Student Services and senior academic professional, has recorded eight massive open online courses (MOOCs), which are free and accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

“They’re pretty popular,” said Whiteman. “I get a lot of nice feedback. It’s a way of providing outreach and academic and educational resources to folks that might otherwise not be able to get them.”

Whiteman teaches mechanical engineering to students in real life, too, and has for many years. His teaching career began when he was in the military; he served 24 years in the United States Army. Whiteman taught at the United States Military Academy at West Point and while employed there he was sent to get his master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. from Georgia Tech.

When Whiteman finished out his career at West Point as the mechanical engineering program chair and was deciding what his next move was, he remembered everyone that he met during the time he spent at Tech.

“I had kept in touch with folks here at Georgia Tech so that I could hopefully transfer back because I really liked it when I was here as a grad student doing my Ph.D.,” said Whiteman. “I’ve had experiences at many different schools and Georgia Tech was just very attractive.”

No detail or question is too small for Whiteman. As an administrator and the director of the office that deals with all academic student needs, he worries about the day-to-day operations of the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. As a professor, he answers the questions of the students who are enrolled in his classes.

“The biggest challenge in these kind of roles in academics is the interaction between students, faculty and staff,” said Whiteman. “The personal things like communication are the most difficult. It’s easy to do engineering problems in the classroom, but when it comes to interactions it can get difficult. We try to keep things under control so there’s not so much drama”

In the past, when he needed to get away from it all, Whiteman would travel to the mountains of Chattanooga and go hang gliding. He says he has always been fascinated with flying, and that hang gliding was a fun way to explore that interest.

He doesn't fly so much anymore, but still works hard to make sure that anyone around the world who wants to learn about engineering dynamics or the mechanics of materials has the opportunity to do so.

You can find Whiteman almost anywhere: in the classroom or on a computer screen in the most remote of locations.


For more information about online education at Georgia Tech's College of Engineering, please visit https://coe.gatech.edu/online-education.