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Patrick Spero leans on a podium with an "America 250 PA Delco" sign on it
College of Arts & Sciences

Widener Hosts Author Patrick Spero for Second Annual Revolutionary Reads Event

Widener University, in partnership with America 250 PA Delco and Delaware County Libraries, hosted Patrick Spero, author and director of the George Washington Presidential Library at Mount Vernon, on campus as part of the ongoing Revolutionary Reads initiative. 

Spero poke about his book, “Frontier Rebels: The Fight for Independence in the American West,1765-1776,” which shares the untold story of rebellion on the American frontier which helped to spark the American Revolution. Provost Andrew Workman facilitated the discussion.

Happening through 2026, Revolutionary Reads is a multi-year initiative leading up to the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Assistant Professor of History Jordan Smith represents Widener in this initiative and helps to bring these author events to campus.

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A group photo of the faculty holding their awards.
University Faculty

Widener Commends Faculty at 2023 Awards Event

Widener honored faculty members for their high distinction in areas of civic engagement, institutional leadership, research, as well as innovative and distinguished teaching. Various faculty were awarded at the ceremony, held Thursday, October 19 in Lathem Hall.

“The professors who were honored at our annual awards ceremony continuously display commitment to teaching, civic engagement, meaningful research, remarkable leadership, and cutting-edge innovation. They are highly valued colleagues and represent core values for which Widener stands," said Provost Andrew Workman. 

The awards included:

  • The Distinguished University Professor Award honors faculty members of high distinction at the University who also demonstrate the institution is committed to recognizing excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service throughout faculty members’ careers. This year's recipients were College of Health and Human Services Professor, Stephen E. Kauffman as well as College of Arts and Sciences Professor, Alexis A. Nagengast.
  • College of Arts and Sciences Professor Dana Olanoff was awarded with the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award. This award is given to a faculty member who has exemplified a history of teaching at the highest level of distinction. It is endowed by the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation, a Philadelphia-based foundation that provides grants to institutions of higher education for the promotion of excellence in teaching.
  • The Faculty Award for Civic Engagement serves to recognize the outstanding contributions that faculty members have made in accordance with Widener’s civic engagement mission, as well as solidifying Widener students’ understanding of their social responsibilities, and the impact of their disciplinary learning. This year's recipients included faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences: Associate Professor Angela M. Corbo, Professor J. Wesley Leckrone, and Associate Dean of Social Science and Professor James E. Vike.
  • College of Arts and Sciences Associate Professor Michael Toneff was awarded the Outstanding Researcher Award. This award gives recognition to a faculty member who has participated in research and scholarship nationally or internationally, and made a significant contribution through their research, while advancing their profession or discipline as well as the university’s mission and vision.
  • The Fitz Dixon Innovation in Teaching Award highlights an individual who has designed, implemented, and assessed an innovative or experimental teaching and learning project. This award was presented to College of Arts and Sciences Associate Professor Janice Krumm.
  • The Faculty Institutional Leadership Award recognizes a record of leading initiatives that further the university’s vision, mission, and strategic objectives. This year’s award recipients were College of Health and Human Services Associate Professor Marina Barnett, who is also interim assistant provost for civic engagement, and College of Arts and Sciences Associate Professor Bretton Alvare.

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Students pose in front of the American Museum of Natural History
College of Arts & Sciences

Widener Students Visit New York City for Urban Excursions Trip

Widener faculty recently took 20 students to New York City as part of the urban excursions grant program, which allows faculty to take students on daylong trips to a metropolitan area to allow for deeper engagement and hands-on experiences as they relate to course material. 

Led by YuFeng Mao, associate professor of history, Beatriz Urraca, chair of modern languages, and Stephen Madigosky, chair of environmental science and sustainability, students visited popular New York City stops such as the Natural History Museum, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Times Square, and Koreatown. The trip also coincided with the date of the 2023 New York City Marathon, where students were able to watch and cheer on runners. 

In addition to experiencing the iconic New York sites, students were also exposed to the diverse culinary culture of the city by trying Latin American food, Dim Sum, and Korean shaved ice and coffee. 

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Faculty in front of a computer presenting their work
College of Arts & Sciences

Widener Hosts AAPT Members for Fall Meeting, Physics Faculty Share Research

Widener University’s Physics Department hosted members the Southeast Pennsylvania Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) on campus for their fall 2023 meeting. 

Organized by Assistant Professor of Physics Alice Du, the event was full of guest speakers and presentations covering topics such as student engagement, professional development for teachers, and hot topics in the physics industry. Martin Melhus, assistant professor of physics, presented “Numerical Integration of Trajectories at a Student Level.”

The AAPT hosted an additional event in collaboration with the Delaware Valley Amateur Astronomers in which Paul Baker, assistant professor of physics, shared work he completed as a member of the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) and the International Pulsar Timing Array (IPTA). 

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Students and faculty pose for a photo
Undergraduate Academics

2023 SURCA Symposium Winners Announced

Widener’s Summer Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) program offers undergraduate students hands-on, faculty-mentored research experience over the summer. Months of hard work led to the annual SURCA Symposium where students present their findings to the community, as well as a panel of volunteer judges. 

The winners of the 2023 SURCA Symposium are: 

Biochemistry: Emily McHenry (Mentors: Robert Mishur & Michael Toneff)
Developing a procedure for the metabolic profiling of cancerous cells

Biology & Environmental Science: Evelyn Peyton (Mentor: David Coughlin)
Comparing summer acclimation studies during summer months between hatchery brook trout and wild brook trout

Chemistry & Chemical Engineering: Christina McCullough (Mentor: Dipendu Saha)
Conversion of Styrofoam to activated carbon

Engineering & Computer Science A: Ryan Mendenhall (Mentor: Babak Eslami)
Experimental investigation on effect of temperature on FDM 3D printing polymers: towards 4D printing

Engineering & Computer Science B: Fran DiPietro (Mentor: Aylin Acun)
Examining senescence in artificially aged induced pluripotent stem cell(iPSC)-derived cardiomyocytes

Engineering & Computer Science C: Alyson Fornes (Mentor: Daniel Roozbahani)
AI-driven cardiovascular disease forecasting platform

Humanities: Zoe Sweet (Mentor: Jayne Thompson)
Prison reform: Little Scandinavia

Social Science, Social Work, and Business A: Shane Landue (Mentor: Wei Gao)
Robo-advisor returns: startup vs traditional

Social Science, Social Work, and Business B: Brooke Morales & Adriana Moreta (Mentor: Robin Goldberg-Glen)
Intergenerational relationships: SURCA and career development in Social Work

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Jordan B. Smith
College of Arts & Sciences

History Faculty Recognized by Agricultural History Society

Assistant Professor of history Jordan Smith has received the Wayne D. Rasmussen Award from the Agricultural History Society for his article “The Native of this Island: Processes of Invention in Early Barbados.” This award recognizes an outstanding article on agricultural history that is published in a journal other than Agricultural History.

In the article, which was published in the Fall 2022 “Sugar and Slaves at Fifty” special issue of Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Smith explores the contributions of indigenous people and enslaved Africans in the production of rum in the seventeenth century. The article demonstrates that, while officials of the time claimed that rum was native to the island of Barbados, those contributing to the production used their own cultural assumptions to adapt new ingredients and methods to create something new.  

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Head and shoulders shot of Professor Kate Goodrich
College of Arts & Sciences

Biology Faculty and Alumni Publish Research

Associate Professor Kate Goodrich, Inesha Ellis ’20, Allison DeHaas ’20, and Rebecca Senski ’19 have had their paper entitled “False Advertising with Fermented Scents: Floral Mimicry in Pawpaw (Asimina triloba: Annonaceae) Pollination” published in the July/August 2023 edition of the International Journal of Plant Sciences

The team, in collaboration with Professor Jade Savage at Bishop's University in Quebec, Canada, investigated the pollination of Asimina triloba to identify sources of floral mimicry in pollination.

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Jessica Guzman
College of Arts & Sciences

Writing Faculty Named Periclean Faculty Leader

Assistant Professor and Co-Coordinator of Creative Writing Jessica Guzman has been selected as a Periclean Faculty Leader by Project Pericles, a national group of colleges and universities committed to furthering and promoting civic engagement in higher education. 

Periclean Faculty Leaders create and teach courses across various disciplines that tackle large-scale issues such as climate change, public health, voter engagement, and many more. This award comes with funding dedicated for use in creating and implementing a new course, which will be implemented in the Spring 2023 semester.  

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Catherine Safran (left) and Taylor Wise '25 (right)
College of Arts & Sciences

Biology Faculty Presents Poster at Human Anatomy and Physiology Conference, Receives Award

Assistant Teaching Professor of Biology Catherine Safran, with the help of nursing student Taylor Wise ’25, presented a poster at the 2023 Annual Conference of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society (HAPS) in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The poster, titled “The Implementation of Structured Office Hours as a Central Component of Student Success in A&P courses,” is based on Wise’s experience in anatomy and physiology (A&P) courses and using resources such as faculty office hours and peers to improve her academic performance. The observations concluded that students who utilize office hours will have improved performance in A&P classes and can act as group leaders to help their peers succeed as well. 

In addition to presenting, Safran was awarded the HAPS John Martin Second Timers Award, which recognizes HAPS members for repeated attendance and commitment to the organization’s annual conferences. 

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Student speaks with a Pennsylvania State Police Officer
College of Arts & Sciences

Criminal Justice Signs Agreement with Municipal Police Academy

Widener University’s Department of Criminal Justice has signed an agreement with the Municipal Police Academy at Delaware County Community College to expand opportunities for Widener criminal justice undergraduates. 

The agreement will allow students to take one semester of their junior year and study at the Municipal Police Academy before returning to Widener to complete their degrees and be ready for immediate hiring after graduation. 

Students who participate in this program will leave the Municipal Police Academy having completed their Act 120 basic training, which is required for all municipal police officers in Pennsylvania. Once this training is completed, students are eligible for work as police officers in the state.

“We are so excited about this partnership,” said Professor of Criminal Justice Lauren Shermer. “Students often ask what they can do to set themselves apart from others, and this is such a great opportunity for our students who want to pursue law enforcement to be immediately employable upon graduation.”

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ROTC cadets stand in uniform in front of Old Main and American flags.
College of Arts & Sciences

ROTC Dauntless Battalion Commissions 2023 Officers

Widener University’s ROTC program celebrated its 2023 Commissioning Ceremony in Alumni Auditorium on Wednesday, May 17 with 26 cadets taking the oath of office as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army.

Eleven Widener students were among the cadets commissioned. The group of 26 hailed from five area universities and all trained through the Dauntless Battalion unit at Widener, where they engaged in the hands-on, intense military training that has prepared them for successful careers. Family members pinned the new rank to their dress uniforms, and each officer shared a silver dollar with the individual they selected to give them their first salute – a military tradition.

The 11 officers who earned their undergraduate degrees from Widener last week, and the military careers for which they prepared, included:

  • Joshua Aarsen, field artillery
  • Othniel Degahson, field artillery
  • Emily DeOrio, nursing
  • Jacob Fisher, armor
  • Kevin Fitzgerald, field artillery
  • Jeffrey Miekley, field artillery
  • Madison Murphy, transportation
  • Meghan O'Donnell, adjutant general
  • William Rodgers, aviation
  • Hannah Specht, nursing
  • Vincent Starkey, adjutant general

The program speaker was three-star retired Lieutenant General Tony Ierardi, the uncle of West Chester University graduating cadet Stephanie Ierardi. He advised the new officers to acknowledge and reflect upon the responsibility that they hold to their country, their units, and the soldiers that they may one day lead. 

“The army and the nation are counting on you to do what’s right even when you may find yourself in the most challenging circumstances,” said Lt. Gen. Ierardi. “Be faithful to the institution and always serve the army, the constitution, and the people of the United States with integrity and honor.”

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Sachin P. Patil
School of Engineering

Engineering Professor, Interdisciplinary Student Team Publish Cancer Immunotherapy Discovery

Professor of Chemical Engineering Sachin Patil and a team of student-researchers published a paper in the journal Computational Biology and Chemistry titled, “Discovery of small-molecule PD-1/PD-L1 antagonists through combined virtual screening and experimental validation.” The paper presented an integrated drug discovery approach leading to identification of a novel PD-1/PD-L1 antagonist that may serve as a starting point for further optimization into potent, small-molecule cancer immunotherapies. The team included students from Widener's chemical engineering and computer science program, as well as Computer Science Professor Jeffrey Rufinus and technician John Stoddart. Michelle DiFrancesco '18, a chemical engineering graduate, served as the student team leader and study first author. She is currently continuing her cancer immunotherapy work at Bristol-Myers Squibb, a leading global biopharmaceutical company. 

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Jordan B. Smith
College of Arts & Sciences

History Professor to Attend Summer Seminar on Legacies of American Slavery

Assistant Professor of History Jordan Smith has been chosen to attend the 2023 Legacies of American Slavery Faculty Seminar hosted by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) in New Haven, Connecticut. 

Smith’s field of research covers a variety of topics stemming from the enslavement of individuals of African descent. From seventeenth- and eighteenth-century rum production through to the historical impact of slavery on the area now known as Chester. He brings this work and much more into his classes as well as into the community to educate others on this deep history.

The seminar is part of the larger “Legacies of American Slavery” project spearheaded by the CIC, which aims to address the history of slavery with faculty and students from CIC member institutions in various ways. 

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Sara K. Berkowitz 260x300
College of Arts & Sciences

Art History Professor to Attend CIC Summer Seminar

Assistant Professor of Art History Sara Berkowitz has been selected to attend the Council of Independent Colleges’ upcoming seminar “Power and Absence: Connecting Renaissance Art to Diverse Audiences,” in Memphis, Tennessee. 

The seminar will explore European art ca. 1400-1700 and discuss ways to open conversations about historical representations of different populations. Attendees will collaborate and have special access to works from the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, tour of the National Civil Rights Museum, and hear from experts in the art history field. The goal is for attending faculty to develop ways to approach potentially difficult conversations around representation in historical art pieces in their classrooms so that they are engaging and beneficial for students.

Dr. Berkowitz hopes to strengthen her knowledge and continue to grow opportunities for students to have powerful conversations around art. 

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Thomas Wilk
College of Arts & Sciences

Philosophy Faculty Selected for Summer Philosophy Institute

Thomas Wilk, assistant teaching professor of philosophy, has been selected from a competitive pool of applicants to take part in the Council of Independent College’s (CIC) New Currents in Teaching Philosophy Institute in July 2023. 

This program, funded by The Mellon Foundation, is designed for philosophy faculty to attend, collaborate, and bring new knowledge and skills back to their classrooms. As part of the institute, attending faculty will also receive a grant to support new curricular activities at their own institutions.

Dr. Wilk is most interested in learning how to grow philosophy at Widener to make it more interdisciplinary as he sees great potential for collaboration between philosophy and many other programs. 

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Head shot of student Taylor Easter with All In voting challenge frame
College of Arts & Sciences

Political Science and Sociology Student Receives ALL IN Student Voting Honor Roll

By: Riya Sembhi '25 secondary education, English

Taylor Easter ‘25, a political science and sociology major, has been recognized for her nonpartisan democratic engagement work as an awardee of the 2023 ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge’s Student Voting Honor Roll. She was one of just 175 students nationally to be recognized through the program.

ALL IN works to improve civic engagement, voter participation, and political education with campuses nationwide.  

The award highlights Easter’s commitment to increasing student voting rates, education, and turnout efforts, as well as ensuring equitable access to the polls. With a focus on civic engagement, Easter hopes to continue her political engagement on campus and beyond. She credited Director of Civic Engagement LaShanda A. Patton for unwavering support and encouragement of her efforts at Widener.

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(top left) Jessica Guzman, (bottom left) Christine Woody, (right) Jennifer Padilla Wyse
College of Arts & Sciences

Three Humanities Faculty Invited to Join Summer Leadership Development Program

Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing Jessica Guzman, Assistant Professor of English Christine Woody, and Assistant Professor of Sociology Jennifer Padilla Wyse have been invited to participate in Swarthmore College’s Humanities Leadership Development Program. 

This program is designed for faculty in the humanities and will provide facilitated discussions, guest speakers, case studies, and more for faculty from Widener and select other Philadelphia-area colleges and universities. The goal is to support faculty in growing their leadership skills and continuing to step into leadership roles within their institutions. The experience is funded by a grant from The Mellon Foundation, a known advocate for humanities and the arts.

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Zora DeSeignora '23 with the Janice Bond Memorial Plaque and Award for Graduating Seniors
College of Arts & Sciences

Spanish and Communications Student Receives Janice Bond Memorial Award for Graduating Senior

By: Riya Sembhi '25 secondary education, English

Zora DeSeignora ’23, a double major in Spanish and Communications, has been awarded the Janice Bond Memorial Plaque and Award for Graduating Seniors from the Pan American Association of Philadelphia. She is the first student from Widener to receive this award, which is given to graduating seniors of local colleges and universities for excellence in courses related to Latin America during their four years.

The award was presented at the 2023 Pan American Day Celebration & Scholarship Luncheon at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. Joining Zora at the event was her father, John, and Professor of Spanish Beatriz Urraca. The luncheon provided networking opportunities for students present, as well as a keynote address from Ramón Eduardo Martínez de la Guardia, Ambassador of Panama to the United States.

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David J. Coughlin
College of Arts & Sciences

Biology Professor Receives Cynthia H. Sarnoski Faculty Fellowship to Continue Climate Change Research

Biology Professor David Coughlin has been awarded the Cynthia H. Sarnoski Faculty Fellowship award to support his research focused on climate change and wild brook trout. This is the second time Coughlin has been the recipient of this award, which will run from July 2023 through June 2025.

“The future of biological systems, upon which humans depend, is imperiled by climate change. My laboratory uses multiple experimental approaches to examine how changes in the environment affect the physiological performance of a given organism,” Coughlin explained.

Coughlin works together with Widener students to examine the impact of rising temperatures due to climate change on muscle function in brook trout. Working in the lab, the team has found a strong physiological response to a warming environment in a controlled setting. In the past year, Coughlin has begun analyzing wild, native brook trout populations across the state of Pennsylvania. 

“This study aims to bring data together from throughout the year to determine how wild trout are responding to changing environmental temperatures,” says Coughlin. “We hope to gain insights that will contribute to management of threatened brook trout populations.”

The Sarnoski Fellowship supports science faculty through a generous gift made by Cynthia H. Sarnoski, who serves as vice chair of Widener’s Board of Trustees. Sarnoski graduated from Widener in 1974 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry. She is a retired senior vice president for Global Compliance and Quality Systems for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. 

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Janice L. Krumm
College of Arts & Sciences

Biology Faculty Receives Continued National Science Foundation Funding

Associate Professor of Biology Janice Krumm is the recipient of over $143,000 from the National Science Foundation to continue a multi-year project aimed at making undergraduate research more accessible for students. This is the fourth grant that this project has received, bringing the total funding to nearly $2 million of which nearly half has been awarded directly to Widener. 

Krumm served as primary investigator for the first three awards and is now collaborating with additional researchers from George Washington University, Texas Tech University, Westfield State University, and Anoka-Ramsey Community College. The project has been focused on creating Course Based Undergraduate Research (CURE) classes which utilize a newly created online database of natural history resources that are free and available for use by students across the country. 

This new funding will:

  • Support recruitment and training of more faculty nationwide to implement accessible CURE strategies into their classrooms
  • Allow researchers, like Dr. Krumm, to assess the effectiveness of these new practices using newly designed research instruments
  • Provide funding to support students participating in these CURE courses to attend national conferences to present their research. Dr. Krumm estimates that nearly 100 students will be able to attend and present their work over the next 3 years. 

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