Dr. Letitia Hubbard, NCSSM engineering instructor and 2022 UNC Faculty Fellow.


A Faculty Fellow first

For decades, the faculty at North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics have been recognized through awards and honorifics for their excellence in the classroom. One award, however — a Faculty Fellowship from the University of North Carolina System — had proven elusive.

Not anymore. Just recently, the System’s Division of Academic Affairs named NCSSM’s Dr. Letitia Hubbard a Faculty Fellow for the 2022 calendar year. The fellowship is both a recognition of Dr. Hubbard’s accomplishments in the classroom and an investment in leadership that will carry the 17 constituent members of the UNC System forward.

“Dr. Hubbard is exceedingly deserving of this honor,” says Dr. Katie O’Connor, NCSSM’s Provost & Vice Chancellor for Academic Programs. “I am delighted she is representing NCSSM in this position.” 

The Faculty Fellowship is part of the university system’s strategic plan to “promote partnerships and understanding between the Fellows from constituent institutions and between the institutions and the System Office.” Dr. Hubbard will receive one-third release time from her teaching duties at NCSSM to engage in the fellowship so that she may, per the UNC System’s Faculty Fellowship application, gain a deeper understanding of the public higher education landscape and the context for system-level decision making while contributing to system-wide activities and initiatives that sharpen her skills in university administration. In particular, Dr. Hubbard will be working on projects specific to the Fellowship’s Technology Enhanced Teaching and Learning initiative, which explores new and creative ways technology may enhance the teaching and learning experience. 

“It’s a little funny because I do not consider myself a techie person,” Dr. Hubbard says, “but I very much appreciate the complexities of technology and its potential to make almost every aspect of life more efficient, safe, and enjoyable. Technology in education is especially unique because we are using technology to shape the learning process, teaching students how to use technology to solve problems, AND teaching students how to quickly adapt to changes introduced by new technologies.

“STEM fields — in particular, engineering and technology — have always been at the cutting edge of change,” Dr. Hubbard continues, “but I think it is still an incredible balancing act to preserve what is good about the old while embracing the new.”

Dr. Hubbard’s educational and research interests have, since her own years in high school, revolved around the medical and engineering fields. Undergraduate degree programs in biomedical engineering — her field of interest — were not as common as today when she entered college, so she enrolled in a dual degree program at Spelman College and Georgia Tech, earning a bachelor’s degree in physics from the former and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the latter. A subsequent graduate program in biomedical engineering at Duke led to a Ph.D. in the field.

Since 2015, Dr. Hubbard has taught courses in both NCSSM-Durham’s residential program and NCSSM-Online. Students in her classes have, among other activities, used biomedical devices to record physiological data, used 3D printing to design shoe soles, employed electronics to acquire muscle signals to control robotic arms, and utilized machine learning to diagnose skin cancer.

Dr. Hubbard has also been recognized by NCSSM with the 2020 Exceptional Contribution Award and, externally, was named the winner of the EdTech 2021 Trendsetter Award. In 2020, a team of NCSSM students led by Dr. Hubbard was named one of five National Grand Prize Winners in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition, which awarded NCSSM $100,000 in Samsung technology for the school.

Driving Dr. Hubbard’s efforts has been a firm belief in a quote attributed to the science fiction writer Robert Heinlein. “One of my favorite quotes is ‘When one teaches, two learn,’” she says. “I love to learn new things and I have found, over years of tutoring and teaching in high school, college, and graduate school, that teaching is one of the best ways to learn something. I enjoy watching how people of all ages learn, and identifying strategies to help them overcome barriers and common pitfalls that occur when learning new concepts.”

“I can’t say enough about Dr. Hubbard and the work she does at NCSSM,” says Dr. Todd Roberts, NCSSM’s chancellor. “She’s an amazing teacher and an innovator in the classroom and she also does so much beyond teaching in the classroom. She’s a real advocate for students and a leader in the school. We are really fortunate that we have her as part of the team at the school, and I feel fortunate to be her colleague.”

Dr. Hubbard feels similarly about the joys of teaching at NCSSM. “I have always had a fondness for K-12 education,” she says, “and NCSSM provides me a wonderful opportunity to pursue my love of teaching and learning in a vibrant, innovative high school environment.”