Jon Southen recognized for excellence in teaching

Jon Southen, assistant professor and associate chair of undergraduate studies in the department of civil and environmental engineering, is the 2023 recipient of the R. Mohan Mathur Award for Excellence in Teaching.

The Award is presented annually to an outstanding Western Engineering faculty member to recognize exceptional contributions to university teaching and promoting academic excellence amongst our students.


“I am honoured to be chosen as the recipient of this award.” says Southen. “It truly is a reflection of the outstanding team of Faculty members, staff and students within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and our collective effort to provide the best possible learning experience for our students.”

Since joining the faculty in 2005, Southen has been an instrumental figure in advancing Western Engineering’s teaching mission, significantly impacting the academic success and professional readiness of his students.

Southen, whose teaching philosophy is “meet students where they are and help them get where they want to go”, has consistently demonstrated an exceptional commitment to education. He teaches an impressive six to seven courses per year, covering a wide range of subjects across all years of the academic program. Remarkably, he has taught 10 different undergraduate courses throughout his tenure, maintaining high standards of quality without compromise.

Student feedback highlights Southen’s effective communication of complex technical content and his approachable teaching style.

“This has been my favourite class of the entire semester,” wrote one student. “He's very understanding and cares about student success.”

Another student wrote, “Dr. Southen is the best teacher that I have had at Western University and I know the great majority of the civil department would agree. He teaches very clearly and efficiently, answers every question coherently and leaves nothing to be desired.”

Ashraf El Damatty, professor and chair of the department of civil and environmental engineering, attests to the overwhelmingly positive response from students.

"I have never seen a professor so liked and admired by his students like Jon," El Damatty says, emphasizing  Southen’s impact on the department's reputation and the success of its programs.

“Jon’s excellence in teaching courses in both structural and environmental engineering has had a tremendous impact on the success of our program and the excellent reputation it has.”

Beyond his teaching duties, Southen has significantly contributed to the department’s academic leadership as the associate chair of undergraduate studies. His role in developing and implementing the dual degree Smart Cities program, which combines civil and artificial intelligence systems engineering, and introducing new courses in transportation engineering, has diversified the undergraduate curriculum. These initiatives have provided students with greater flexibility to tailor their degrees to their career goals.

Southen’s leadership was particularly crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic. His efforts in transitioning the undergraduate program to an online format ensured the maintenance of high academic standards and a safe learning environment. His dedication during this challenging period was instrumental in preserving the quality of education and student outcomes.

In addition to his formal roles, Southen is deeply involved in extracurricular activities and student advocacy. As the faculty advisor for the Western Society for Civil Engineering and the faculty representative for the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering, he has strengthened the connection between students and the professional engineering community. His participation in outreach activities, such as open houses and competitions, further highlights his commitment to student engagement and success.

Southen’s receipt of the R. Mohan Mathur Award for Excellence in Teaching is a testament to his outstanding leadership, dedication, and impact on the continuous improvement of the undergraduate learning experience at Western Engineering.