Robert Klenke, Ph.D., reflects on nearly two decades of teaching at VCU

Words from the wise: Longtime professors reflect on their 20-plus years of teaching at VCU

Professor standing in the UAV lab under a yellow drone.
Robert Klenke, Ph.D., in the College of Engineering’s UAV Lab. (Photo by Tom Kojcsich, University Relations)

By Elinor Frisa

University Public Affairs

The university asked five professors who have longtime VCU teaching experience to share their experiences, favorite moments and lessons learned throughout the years. One of them was Robert Klenke, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of VCU’s Vertically Integrated Projects Program.

What do you like best about teaching at VCU?

I generally appreciate the fact that the majority of VCU students are hard workers who are eager to learn. I enjoy teaching them gain skills that they can use to join the electrical and computer engineering profession and solve real-world problems.

How has VCU changed since you started working here?

Our school has grown tremendously since I came here — which is why it’s now a college. When I started in the school, we had less than 20 faculty and staff, including the dean, and around 400 undergraduate students. Now we have well over 150 faculty and staff, over 1,700 undergraduate students and almost as many graduate students as we originally had undergraduates.

What’s the best or most outrageous excuse you’ve gotten from a student for missing class or turning in a paper late?

Probably getting arrested and/or having to be in court to miss a test — both of which I require third-party proof of before accepting.

What have you learned from the students at VCU?

Not to judge a book by its cover. Students who might not appear to be the most “notable” at first can turn out to be the best in the long run.

How has changing technology shaped the way you teach?

In engineering, the technology we actually teach to the students changes very rapidly and the rate of change does not seem to be slowing down. Thus it is critical for faculty in our profession(s) to pursue outside research, consulting and professional society involvement in order to keep up with the technology we need to teach our students about.

As far as teaching technology is concerned, that has not changed a great deal. We use white boards instead of chalk boards, we use the latest version of PowerPoint, and some multimedia, Blackboard for student communication, and the latest electronic design tools to build our designs, but the most learning still occurs when students go into a lab and actually build and test things.