George Mason University

News at Mason

State award is the 'pinnacle' for Mason professor

February 15, 2017   /   by Damian Cristodero

University Professor Danny Menasce, center, who earned an Outstanding Faculty Award from the state, also received Mason's Teaching Excellence Award in 2000 and the Volgenau School of Engineering's Outstanding Research Faculty Award in 2009. Photo by Evan Cantwell.

When Danny Menasce was 14 years old in his native Brazil, he decided to figure out how televisions work. So he studied from an explanatory book and took a summer job at a TV repair shop.

“I realized I could teach myself something and use that experience,” Menasce, a University Professor in computer science at George Mason University, recalled recently. “That’s why I insist in my classes my students learn something by themselves in order to do their projects.”

That sensibility has guided Menasce’s 25 years at George Mason—a career that will be honored in Richmond on Thursday, Feb. 16, when he receives an Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

Menasce, 65, in the Department of Computer Science in the Volgenau School of Engineering, is one of 12 recipients from 97 nominees and the 20th recipient from Mason since the award’s 1987 inception.

“It’s a big honor,” Menasce said. “I see it as kind of a pinnacle of a long trajectory.”

The Outstanding Faculty Award recognizes excellence in teaching, research, knowledge integration and public service. Nominees are submitted by their institutions and judged by a panel of SCHEV members and education, business and community leaders.

Winners receive $5,000 underwritten by the Dominion Foundation.

“What makes Danny stand out is he is very good at integrating his research with his teaching,” said Sanjeev Setia, chair of Mason’s Department of Computer Science. “Above all, he truly cares that his students learn the material and succeed in their career goals.”

“I learned so many things from him,” said Arwa Aldhalaan, who earned her PhD in information technology from Mason in 2015 and is now a postdoctoral fellow working with Menasce. “I learned dedication, patience, time management, organization. He’s super organized, which makes things clear for his students,” she said. “You can add that he is my role model. I strive to be like him one day in my career.”

Menasce, who received Mason’s Teaching Excellence Award in 2000 and Volgenau’s Outstanding Research Faculty Award in 2009 (see his bio page), does not want his students to simply regurgitate what they read in a textbook. That is why his exam questions never require a memorized answer.

“I want you to understand what we’re discussing,” Menasce said. “If you memorize something for an exam you will not remember what you memorize. But if you understand something, you keep it for the rest of your life.”