Faculty, Staff & Student Accomplishments

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John Suarez 260x300
School of Engineering

Engineering Professor Awarded Manufacturing PA Innovation Program Grant

John Suarez, associate professor of electrical engineering, received a $68,200 grant from the Manufacturing PA Innovation program funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. The project, titled “Capacitive and Infrared Sensing for Precision Chemical Analysis of Polar Compounds,” will build upon preliminary work completed by Probes Unlimited, Inc. (PUI) to design, prototype, rigorously test, and manufacture a precision sensor for monitoring the quality of cooking oil. Suarez will lead a research team to conduct the necessary research and development to assist PUI in developing the capacitive sensor with the required characteristics as well as investigate the viability of infrared sensing technology in this application.

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Kiara Allison
The Office of Human Resources

Title IX Coordinator Testifies Before State Senate Committee

Kiara Allison, Title IX coordinator and equal opportunity officer, testified before Pennsylvania's Senate Democratic Policy Committee regarding domestic violence. Her testimony addressed the types of education and programs that students receive regarding sexual violence including domestic and dating violence, the effects of sexual violence on students including financial impacts, and made suggestions on how to address the problem of sexual violence on colleges campuses. Her testimony also advocated on behalf of increasing funding to local rape crisis and domestic violence centers and to continue the support of the state's Its On Us PA initiative led by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. 

Allison's testimony can be viewed online here (starting at 1:37:50). The testimony can be found under the video headline "Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention, May 22, 2023."

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Sachin P. Patil
School of Engineering

Engineering Professor Named Journal Guest Editor

Sachin Patil, professor of chemical engineering, was invited to serve as the guest editor for a special issue in the peer-reviewed journal Pharmaceuticals. Titled “Alzheimer’s Disease: Small-Molecule Modulators of Novel Therapeutic Pathways,” this special issue is dedicated to gathering novel Alzheimer’s disease mechanisms, with a particular emphasis on targeting these mechanisms using small-molecule drugs. 

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Pamela McCauley's headshot.
School of Engineering

Pamela McCauley Named Next Dean of School of Engineering

Pamela McCauley, a renowned scholar, educator, university administer and entrepreneur, has been named dean of the School of Engineering. McCauley will assume the role on July 1 following the retirement of Fred Akl, who led the program for more than two decades. 

McCauley comes to Widener after serving as associate dean for Academic Programs, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Wilson College of Textiles at North Carolina State University since 2020. She is an internationally-recognized industrial engineer whose research accomplishments include the development of fuzzy set theory-based mathematical models, human engineering, ergonomics and biomechanics as well as engineering leadership and women’s leadership in STEM. In her role as associate dean, McCauley has overseen the college’s academic programs, promoted innovation and entrepreneurship within the college and the university, and led and implemented diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives across the college. 

“We are thrilled to have Dr. McCauley join the Widener community and lead our esteemed engineering program,” said Provost Andrew Workman. “Throughout her extensive career she has demonstrated herself as an innovator, entrepreneur, researcher, educator, and advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging both in the engineering field and the greater academic community. She will be a tremendous asset in enhancing the Widener student experience by bringing extensive research and entrepreneurial experiences to her role and championing student-faculty research opportunities. Her remarkable record of service to the professional and global scientific community will position the engineering program and the university to continue expanding its commitment to experiential service learning and community engagement.”

“I am honored and excited to join Widener’s vibrant community,” said McCauley. “The university’s engineering program has a remarkable legacy of innovation. Engineering changes the world, and Widener students and faculty are cultivating bold ideas in a space where students from diverse backgrounds know they belong and contribute unique perspectives. I am excited to lead the program and build on this success, guided by my years as an industry professional, engineering scholar, and university leader.”

McCauley has developed an impressive catalog of research backed by funding from some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions including NASA, the U.S. State Department, and The National Science Foundation. In 2012, McCauley was selected as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar and presented her funded research on human factors and ergonomics in disaster management. In additional to scholarly accomplishments, McCauley is the author of more than 100 technical papers, book chapters, conference proceedings and the best-selling ergonomics textbook, “Ergonomics: Foundational Principles, Applications, and Technologies.” 

McCauley brings more than 25 years of entrepreneurial experience to Widener and has led numerous small businesses. Throughout her career McCauley has been a tireless advocate for diversity and inclusion in engineering and higher education, particularly for females and students from groups who are under-represented in STEM. 

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Widener University Small Business Development Center logo
Small Business Development Center

Small Business Development Center Helps Client Secure $50,000 Grant to Develop New Sound Measuring Device

Widener University’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has helped countless business owners in getting their businesses off the ground, and counseling them as they grow. Recently, the SBDC helped a client, Felicia Doggett of Metropolitan Acoustics LLC, secure the $50,000 Women’s Entrepreneur Grant from JVS Fund Philadelphia

Doggett worked her primary consultant, Bill Pearce, to connect with SBDC technology entrepreneurs and partner solutions. The team at the SBDC helped to coach Doggett through every step of the process including a 10-minute presentation to the JVS Fund committee. 

“Bill has been so helpful. He introduced us to several solutions and opened many doors… It was great to have someone like Bill and the SBDC behind him to bounce ideas off of and answer questions,” said Doggett. 

The funding will help Doggett and Metropolitan Acoustics LLC advance their new SenSV™ device, a revolutionary remote laboratory monitoring platform that measures vibration, audible sound, and ultrasonic sound for the environment of laboratories like microscopy and animal housing labs. It’s important for labs to be able to measure how sounds such as traffic, HVAC, and more can impact their research. 

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Headshot of John Culhane
Delaware Law School

Delaware Law Professor Publishes Book on the Impact Marriage Equality has on Families

John G. Culhane, professor of law and co-director of the Family Health Law & Policy Institute at Delaware Law School, recently published the book "More Than Marriage: Forming Families after Marriage Equality." The book explores how the march toward marriage equality spun off a number of other legal statuses and investigates how the law has expanded and where it falls short. Filled with relatable, in-depth interviews giving a voice to the millions of Americans building family structures outside the protections of marriage—whether by choice, necessity, or exclusion. Culhane proposes an updated legal status that offers flexible and portable benefits for a diverse range of commitments and needs.

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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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President Stacey Robertson reading to students of the CDC
Child Development Center

Child Development Center Wins Gold for Equity in Early Childhood Education

Widener University’s Child Development Center (WCDC) has won Gold for the 2023 Equity in Early Childhood Education from the Office of Child Development and Early Learning. The award was announced during a visit by President Stacey Robertson, where she read "The Paperbag Princess" to the children.

This award recognizes early childhood education programs and professionals for their commitment to Pennsylvania children through embracing diversity, upholding the principles of fairness and justice, and working to eliminate structural inequities that limit equitable learning opportunities. 

"This award highlights The Widener Child Development Center's commitment to ensuring every child receives a nurturing, loving, and well-rounded educational experience throughout their time at the WCDC,” said WCDC Director Alicia Vaux. “The WCDC is proud to be a pillar within the community acknowledging and celebrating children and their families.” 

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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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Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council Logo
School of Business Administration

Widener SBDC Staff Member Nominated to Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council by PA Governor

Jeremy Hancher, EMAP Program Manager for Widener’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and adjunct professor in the School of Business Administration, has been nominated by Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro to serve as the state’s official representative on the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

In the nomination, Governor Shapiro recognized Hancher for his over 15 years of experience working for the Environmental Management Assistance Program (EMAP) in southeastern Pennsylvania and within the SBDC. He also currently serves as an advisory panel member of the MAFMC. 

Hancher notes that he brings these experiences into his teaching to try and share sustainability insights with undergraduate business students in his classes. 

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Marina Barnett
Center for Social Work Education

Social Work Faculty Recognized for Commitment to Community Work Through Pandemic

Associate Professor of social work Marina Barnett has been awarded the Legion of Honor Award from the Chapel of Four Chaplains for her commitment to, and continued work with, the Chester community during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Legion of Honor Award is one of the highest honors given by the Chapel of Four Chaplains. It is awarded in recognition of exceptional selfless service on the part of an individual which contributes to the well-being of his or her community, and to a spirit of interfaith cooperation. 

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School of Nursing

Nursing Professor Selected for 2023 NLN Leadership Institute

Teresa Lamarra, director of the Center for Simulation, has been chosen to participate in the 2023 National League for Nursing (NLN) Leadership Institute. The highly competitive program offers dual professional leadership development tracks for nurses in education and practice. Lamarra will participate in the Leadership Development Program for Simulation Educators, which is designed for the experienced simulation nurse educator who aspires to a leadership role in simulation. Sim Leadership track participants focus on maximizing their leadership potential to advance simulation initiatives in nursing education and practice. As part of the yearlong program, Lamarra will attend the Intensive Leadership Retreat this summer in Washington, D.C. as well as the 2023 NLN Education Summit, Extraordinary Nurse Educators: Leading Extraordinary Times, in the fall. 

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Headshots of John Dernbach and Jim May combined into one photo
Law Schools

Professors Named to National List of Environmental Law Leaders

Professor James May from Delaware Law School and Commonwealth Professor of Environmental Law and Sustainability John C. Dernbach from the Commonwealth Law School have been recognized by the 2023 Lawdragon Green 500: Leaders in Environmental Law for their environmental advocacy efforts. Lawdragon Green 500 features attorneys who are fighting to protect the environment and help clients participate in more sustainable business practices. Those practices range from helping businesses develop properties that are facing environmental challenges to finding insurance coverage for environmental liabilities.  
May is the founder of the Global Environmental Rights Institute, and co-Founder of the Dignity Rights Project and the Environmental Rights Institute at Delaware Law. He has previously directed the school’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic. Dernbach directs the Environmental Law and Sustainability Center at Widener Law Commonwealth. He has written over 50 peer reviewed articles and journals and has co-authored and authored over 20 chapters on law and environmental law.

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-- Compiled by Zora DeSeignora '23

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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Erika Evans-Weaver
Center for Human Sexuality Studies

Human Sexuality Faculty Named to State and National Leadership Boards

Erika Evans-Weaver, Widener alum and adjunct faculty in the Center for Human Sexuality Studies, has been named Vice Chair for the State Board of Social Workers, Professional Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists for Pennsylvania. 

Additionally, she has been elected as a board member for the Marriage and Family Therapists Regulatory Board, which creates and manages the licensure exam for Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) across the United States and assists in MFT-related legislation.

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Janelle Williams
Graduate & Continuing Studies

Faculty Examines HBCUs as a Visiting Scholar

Janelle West, interim dean for Graduate and Continuing Studies, is featured in the Rutgers University visiting scholars report for her ongoing contributions to the program. To qualify, a visiting scholar must be interested in minority serving institutions (MSI)- related and/or higher education leadership and equity focused research. 

West is investigating “college choice and enrollment patterns at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), contemporary approaches to address challenges facing HBCU enrollment, and the experiences of Black women in higher education through critical qualitative inquiry. Most recently, Janelle served as Co-PI on a national study that focused on the experiences of Black students at HBCUs during the Black Lives Matter Movement.”

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