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Capital University News, California State University, Sacramento

November 24, 2004

Engineering students know Oldenburg has their needs in mind

John Oldenburg thinks he knows what makes technically minded students tick—practical, hands-on learning and recognition for working hard.

Photo: John Oldenburg
John Oldenburg

And his theory seems to be paying off. Oldenburg is the most recent recipient of the Outstanding Teaching Award for the College of Engineering and Computer Science, and he’s the primary advisor for a fast-growing graduate program.

“I really try to be accessible to students,” Oldenburg says. “I want them to feel they can come and talk to me, and I want them to know I have the background that’s relevant to what they’re learning.

“I also think it’s important to be fair but firm in my grading. Students who work hard want to be distinguished for doing so. I don’t give that many A’s.”

Oldenburg is now in his 25th year at Sacramento State. He’s the graduate coordinator in the electrical and electronic engineering department, where graduate enrollment has grown from about 100 to about 250 in just five years.

Even though he’s responsible for a particular graduate program, Oldenburg is clearly focused on getting undergraduates interested in all of the College’s programs. For instance, he talks passionately of the importance of giving tech-oriented students a chance to take engineering or computer science courses early in their undergraduate years.

“I understand the need for a broad liberal studies program. I support that, but there has to be a balance for these students,” he says. “I think it’s important for them to have the opportunity to take some of the technical classes as early as possible.”

Oldenburg teaches graduate courses in electrical engineering analysis and in research methodology, and an undergraduate course in electronics. For many years, he taught the undergraduate course in transmission lines and fields.

In recent years, he has also developed the coursework and lab for a class on electronic analysis and design using “virtual instruments” that measure electronic circuits. The lab was built in part with a $155,000 grant from the Whitaker Foundation in Washington, D.C. It allows students from both electronic and computer engineering to get hands-on experience with applications that are fast becoming the industry standard.

“The computer students have really gravitated to this,” he says. “It uses computer technology to teach the other areas of engineering that they need to understand to be successful.”


California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 •
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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 •