By: Michelle Thompson
It has always been the personal interactions that has made teaching so enjoyable for Chris Nelson, Senior Instructor in the Engineering Department at the Faculty of Agriculture.
“To teach you have to have a command of the background information certainly, but you also have to have an interest in people and how to listen to be able to reach them,” explains Chris. “I believe in dialogue and this is how I try and engage in my classes. It is rewarding to see your students succeed but it’s interesting in how it’s been a two way street.”
Passionate about teaching, learning and making a memorable mark on his students, Chris Nelson, has been at the Faculty of Agriculture for 10 years now. He is currently teaching applied science courses in wood construction, surveying and properties and mechanics of materials and an environmental management course. “I also manage the AC wood lab, assisting with campus projects and teach an upgrade course for the province’s technology education teachers (industrial arts) in wood construction,” Chris explains.
An average day at work at the Faculty of Agriculture is rarely predictable. “My average day is all over the board as we have many different projects on the go between our professors, graduate and undergraduate students,” explains Chris. “I consult on the design of many engineering projects, help with sourcing materials and then provide instruction and supervision on the use of tools,” he added. “Otherwise, I can be found in my office preparing for my next class or consulting with students.”
Some of the moments that have been most rewarding for Chris is seeing former students after they have graduated and began on their new path and hearing how their time together has influenced their life. He also enjoys seeing a student’s pride when after a long semester of work, their project finally comes together.
The Hovercraft that Chris and his team started three or four years ago is what Chris describes as one of his favourite projects done at the AC.
“It’s interesting to see the students coming in with little to no building experience and having a good finished product at the end of the day that they can stand back and be proud of is really cool to see,” explains Chris. “We’ve had students build hockey nets for ball hockey that send the ball back and getting somebody with mobility problems out of their car, tractor, lawn mower, etc. into their wheelchair and vice versa,” he added. “We did small scale models of, effectively, cranes and in some cases different lifters that you can get to give them maximum amounts of mobility.”
Other favourable memories Chris has of projects done during his time at the Faculty of Agriculture include a time capsule built with the graduating class of 2012, designing and making tankards or beer steins, flying helicopters and working with the 3D printer to name a few.
Chris’ favourite part about working at the Faculty of Agriculture are the day-to-day interactions with people, meeting new people all the time and having different faces coming through. “It’s never stagnant,” explains Chris. “And we get a lot of fun toys to play with here too!”
Originally from a hobby farm in the town of Winchester, on the outskirts of Ottawa, surrounded by large impressive dairy operations certainly had an influence on Chris’ career path.
“Many of the farmers and my family is no exception, had a very self-reliant, do-it-yourself-attitude,” explains Chris. “My father had a well-equipped shop for any job around the farm but always had an interest in fine woodworking,” he added. “Throughout my early career I did everything it seems from general contracting to bartending with the common thread being working with people. I eventually ended up at UNB studying biology and philosophy. While the two degrees (BSc and BA) are seemingly worlds apart I have always been interested in how things work both from the day-to-day perspective to the bigger existential questions.”
Outside of work, Chris enjoys sports, good food, ruminating on and building new projects and spending time with family at their cottage.
“With the little spare time I have left I also enjoy competitive shooting,” explains Chris. “It’s a great way to relax, spend time outside and meet friends.”