Getting to know Daphene Koch
Lafayette native Daphene Koch, assistant professor of building construction management, returned to the area when she joined the faculty at Purdue University in 2006. She is the first woman tenure-track professor in the department. Prior to her appointment at Purdue, she was a faculty member at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis for five years. She also has over 10 years of experience in the mechanical and industrial construction industry.
On her industry experience: I worked for an engineering procurement construction company in Houston. I worked onsite doing field material control work for projects ranging from $150 million to $1 billion, both domestic and international. One project was a $1 billion liquid natural gas facility in Bintulu, West Malaysia. I spent 25 months there on an overseas assignment.
What she teaches: I teach all of the courses related to mechanical construction. Mechanical construction is the heart and lungs of the buildings. We need clean air and running clean water and we need to have the bad stuff exit. Without the systems (HVAC, plumbing), a building would be condemned. Although you don’t see it, it’s the life of the building.
We made a change in the department to bring a full-time faculty member in to teach students in their introductory course. I wanted to implement that here and got to do that this year. I compiled a book for the class and implemented a service-learning project and got great reviews. It was a very successful first semester, even though it was at 7:30 in the morning. For the service-learning project, we worked with a Purdue Extension office in southern Indiana that was given a metal building to move into as an office. We took information about what people wanted and what their duties were, and then the students developed 3D models for the new building and office space. We’re trying to include graphics across our curriculum, and I started it in the intro class. Since I’ve been here, I’ve brought in high-level national vendors and manufacturers to help the students see the real-world applications. I’ve had over $250,000 worth of mechanical systems materials and equipment donated.
On the tools of teaching: I try to follow the Kolb learning styles, touching on every type of learning style: experience, observation, abstract and experimentation. Hands-on and real-world is a lot of my philosophy. I have applied for a National Science Foundation grant to connect to K-12 STEM educators to assist them in teaching STEM with real-world examples. One would be to give them examples from construction to teach geometry. For example, students would use wall measurements to calculate area. They can use geometry to know how much you need to build a house. This could get teachers to give kids real world examples to encourage them toward STEM careers.
On her Spring Break class trip to Costa Rica: This year, we are working with a non-profit to improve the school cafeteria at a really poor elementary school. We’ll do tile work, painting and building shelves. The neat part is that we’ll get to work with the kids and help them learn how to do some of it. That’s important to teach them how to do it. I received a $700 service-learning grant through the provost office to assist in buying materials. This year is the first time we are going through the College of Technology. Last year we tagged along with the College of Agriculture. Now, I’ve been to Costa Rica, and I have connections there. As a department, we’re actually trying to connect to Costa Rica Institute of Technology. We’ve had high school students from Costa Rica at Monticello’s Twin Lakes High School who visited our college, and we’ll see them again in Costa Rica. We’re trying to create an exchange program.
Outside of work: I have a huge garden, and I love cooking. That’s my stress reliever. My family makes fun of how may cookbooks and recipes I have. We had 27 tomato plants last year. My dream job is to have a cooking show and show people how to preserve and use the garden crops.