Business Matters

His software evaluation model is used by thousands of companies

Jeff Offutt, a 2019 Outstanding Faculty Awards winner, says teaching is part communication, part leadership and part empathy.

Jeff Offutt, a professor of software engineering in the Department of Computer Science in  George Mason University’s Volgenau School of Engineering, has been a college professor for more than 30 years, including 27 at Mason. He originated the new area of software evaluation called model-based testing now used at thousands of software companies.

Offutt was recently recognized for his work by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), which named him one of the recipients of the 2019 Outstanding Faculty Awards. The accolade is the Commonwealth of Virginia’s highest honor for faculty at state public and private colleges and universities, recognizing superior accomplishments in teaching, research and public service.

“University teaching takes many skills that are hard to learn,” Offutt said. “But people who care about students and who are willing to accept responsibility for student learning eventually figure them out. Teaching is part communication, part leadership and part empathy, and the strategies and tactics for effective teaching flow from those qualities. Teaching was hard for me at first because I had to develop more empathy and leadership skills.”

Stephen Nash, Offutt’s friend and former colleague who was the Volgenau School of Engineering’s senior associate dean before stepping down last year, said the honor was well deserved.

“Jeff Offutt has set a shining example, through three decades as a professor, of how to achieve excellence in all aspects of his profession,” Nash said. “He integrates his passion for teaching, research, and service, striving for quality in all he does. The Volgenau School of Engineering is thrilled by this award, providing deserved recognition to a worthy professor. But Jeff also represents the aspirations of the school as a whole, conducting research with impact and educating students to advance the fields of computer science and engineering, as well as to solve problems that are critical to our modern society.”

Offutt received Mason’s Teaching Excellence Award, Teaching with Technology, in 2013. He also received a three-year, $900,000 grant from Google to re-design how introductory computer programming classes are taught. Offutt directs Mason’s master’s program in software engineering program, teaches software engineering courses at all levels and has developed new courses in several software engineering subjects, including web engineering, software testing, construction, design, usability, experimentation and analysis.

Offutt and co-author Paul Ammann penned the world’s most widely used textbook in software testing in 2008.

“I love the fact that I can make meaningful, long-term positive impact,” Offutt said. “College is hard, and when I can help students succeed and plant seeds that become time bombs that go off years or decades in the future, I am inspired to work harder, because my work matters. Research is rarely big or loud, but usually creates ripples and currents that can have widespread effects over many years. I love contributing to that.”

Offutt was among the 13 state educators to receive 2019 Outstanding Faculty Awards out of the 86 who were nominated. The winners were honored at a luncheon in Richmond with the governor.