Letter from the Provost - Spring 2014

Well Wishes for the Spring Term

At the end of his great “Ode to the West Wind, Percy Bysshe Shelley asks, “O Wind, If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

Most Philadelphians would not have a ready answer to this question. Despite the most brutal winter in many years, a few bulb shoots appear above ground level. The days appear to last longer as sunlight increases. And we continue to celebrate the intellectual and material progress we are making at Drexel.

Our Strategic Plan has spawned a number of initiatives aimed at driving academic excellence through the variety of modes in which students currently learn: in person, online, in hybrid blends, and at a distance using all these modes. We are reimagining how best to wed online admissions, onboarding, counseling, academic advising, and instruction. Dr. Susan Aldridge, a seasoned and accomplished educator, has joined us to lead this effort as President of Drexel Online and Senior Vice President of Online Learning. Many of the lessons learned will spawn better in-person experiences, as well. We are starting to recruit to retain and graduate students, and anticipate with satisfaction moving our graduation rates ahead. We are rounding out the Co-op experience, to include international, research, and non-profit opportunities supported by generous donors to the University. We are enhancing our teaching and learning facilities, with the opening of the renovated Nesbitt Building, now welcoming our colleagues in the School of Public Health and its new dean, Ana Diez Roux. Psychology occupies transformed spaces in Stratton Hall, and our Business colleagues and students are enjoying the commodious and beautiful Gerri C. LeBow Hall. Over 800 students are safely nesting in the fine new Chestnut Square residences, and most of us have enjoyed food from Yogurino and Shake Shack.

Drexel’s singular approach to educating by doing also finds expression in our many neighborhood and regional opportunities for civic engagement.  The Lindy Institute, directed by Dr. Lucy Kerman, sponsors school-based opportunities to learn by serving and now includes the Center for Civic Engagement and the new Dornsife Extension Center.  There, neighborhood based programs, full partnerships between Drexel and the residents of Powelton Village and Mantua, will promote deep and lasting relationships and the learning they spawn.  Help with taxes, design-build programs, nutrition classes, and a law clinic, among other programs, will connect campus with community.  Having secured Promise Zone status recently, thanks to Lucy’s efforts, aids our twin goals of supporting research (advantaging applications from Drexel researchers) and enhancing our neighborhood.  The opportunities for learning and research here are limited only by our imaginations.

One University.  That goal of the Strategic Plan expresses our understanding that a University the size of Drexel and with its urban physical location and current endowment will succeed only if we work together, united in service to our students, to learning, and to the advancement of the University’s reputation.  Through a vote of our Trustees in support of One Drexel, the College of Medicine will join the other colleges and schools--not as an anomaly with its own separate budget, Board, email addresses, and apparent distance from teaching, learning, and research--but fully integrated now, part of one Drexel University.  Again, as a result of Trustee leadership, we are exploring ways of bringing important aspects of online education closer to the University, to the colleges and schools that actually offer the courses and academic advising.  Our goal is to create an online experience with all the connectedness, interactivity, support, and rigor of the campus experience we offer our students in Philadelphia and Sacramento and through a growing Drexel Network of engagements with area community colleges.  One University.

New leadership in several academic units will bring new vision, commitment, collaborations, and abilities to a University that never sits still.  We are searching for new deans for the School of Education and the Pennoni Honors College.  We are in the final stages of our Education search, with President Fry and me interviewing five semi-finalists to determine which finalists to bring to campus for two-day interviews and presentations.  Thanks to Dean Allen Sabinson for chairing the search committee.  The internal search for a new dean of the Pennoni Honors College, chaired by Dean Gloria Donnelly, is underway.  And with endorsement from the members of the Program Alignment and Review Committee and its task forces devoted to Goodwin College, we will soon be searching for new leadership for a reimagined Goodwin College.  Goodwin is moving back to its future.  With millions of working adults seeking to complete their baccalaureate degrees while working and raising families, sometimes involving travel and the need for flexible, distance learning,  we see a critical role for Goodwin—Drexel’s renamed, venerable Evening College.  We again look to it to serve as a national model for quality education for this student population with particular needs.  Offering access and affordability for working adults is part of our Founder’s vision.  We aim to reaffirm our commitment to it using 21st-Century technologies and instructional techniques. 

While we may lament whatever cruelties attend the season, there’s no apparent diminution of energy, commitment, or imagination among our faculty or students as we look ahead to the full flowering of spring.  I wish you all the best for this season and the upcoming academic term.


In This Issue...

ALUMNI NEWS  Past Issues of the Newsletter

Please send comments and questions pertaining to the Provost’s Newsletter or articles of interest to the attention of Donna McVicker, donna.t.mcvicker@drexel.edu, Editor.


2014 Convocation
By Ludo. C. P. Scheffer, PhD, Chair, Faculty Senate and
Donna McVicker, MS, BC-HSP, Director of Provost Operations
and Assistant to the Provost

Drexel University’s 2014 Convocation is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, October 7; a precursor to the official start of the 2014-2015 academic year.  In an effort to improve upon how Convocation has been administered in the past and to revitalize its formal intent, the Office of the Provost administrative staff – Donna McVicker, MaryBeth O’Neill, Joanne Robinson, and Denise Smith – met several times to discuss Drexel’s Convocation ceremonies of the past.  Subsequently, Joanne volunteered to take a look at Convocations at aspirant, benchmark, or peer Universities, shared her findings with her peers, and then the four sat with Provost Mark Greenberg and Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs John DiNardo to discuss a new approach.

The results of their efforts have led to a rethinking of the next few Convocations to focus on the contributions of the Faculty and academic issues.  This approach has the enthusiastic support of President Fry and Faculty Senate.  The keynote speaker, who will be announced at the May 14 Faculty Recognition Dinner, will be one of our Distinguished University Professors, new faculty members will be introduced, and extraordinary faculty achievements will be prominently recognized.  Recipients of faculty awards that are bestowed during the Faculty Recognition Dinner will have reserved seating in the front of the Main Auditorium at Convocation.  This new approach connects recognized achievement with Convocation and emphasizes this event where new faculty are introduced to their peers and emeritus faculty are acknowledged for their accomplishments.  In addition, the 2014-2015 Academic Year is being declared the Year of Faculty.

Sustainable Engineering and Entrepreneurship for Development Lab Receives Gates Foundation Grant
By Britt Faulstick, News Officer, University Communications

A team of students from Drexel's College of Engineering, led by Alexander J. Moseson, PhD, an assistant teaching professor in the College and director of the Sustainable Engineering and Entrepreneurship for Development (SEED) Lab are among the latest recipients of a Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Grand Challenge Explorations initiative, which funds innovative global health and development research, will help the team continue its work to create transformative farming tools for female smallhold farmers in Thailand.

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Moseson’s project is one of more than 80 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 11 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To receive funding, Moseson and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 11 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas that included development of the next generation condom, agriculture development and neglected tropical diseases.

During the last four years, Moseson has partnered with farmers in a rural region of Thailand to design and build tools that help them to more efficiently and comfortably plant seeds and cut weeds. This grant will enable the group to optimize the tool for manufacturing, establish a local fabrication and maintenance center in the village, and develop a social entrepreneurship business plan.

Moseson, who made his first visit to Bo Klua, Thailand in 2009 identified an unmet need with the subsistence farmers of this mountainous region. For more than 700 years the traditional method of planting involved one person digging a hole and one or two others –typically women– following behind and stooping to plant the seeds. The planter that Moseson’s teams of engineering and media arts students worked with the famers to create allows one person to complete the task just as effectively, while remaining standing. Both the planter and weeder are more efficient, ergonomically sound, affordable and can be locally made.

“Our primary goal for this grant is to establish a local social entrepreneurship center to produce 50 tools per day,” Moseson said. “There are 100 million sloped-field famers in Southeast Asia alone who could see their quality of life improved by these tools. We worked with some of these farmers to choose which problems to pursue and developed solutions together. Putting the tools in the hands of so many others is a very exciting possibility.”

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a U.S. $100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 850 people in more than 50 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants. The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization. The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data required. Initial grants of U.S. $100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.

About The Sustainable Engineering and Entrepreneurship for Development (SEED) Lab at Drexel University

The SEED Lab was founded in 2011 to empower marginalized populations through technology. To do so, it leverages the Technology Seeding methodology and Drexel University senior design teams. It has been supported by Drexel’s College of Engineering, the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, Drexel’s School of Biomedical Engineering Science and Health Systems and Drexel’s Office of International Programs. In partnership with the Thai Sustainable Development Research Foundation (SDRF), it is currently developing agricultural tools and water purification technology in rural Thailand. Related projects advanced by the director, Alexander J. Moseson, PhD, include manufacturing in Tanzania and green cements in the United States and India.

The Expressive & Creative Interaction Technologies Center (ExCITe)
By Youngmoo E. Kim, ExCITe Center Director, and Kara Lindstrom, ExCITe Center Program Manager

Ever since our University’s founding as the Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry in 1891, these same three pillars of knowledge have remained vital to the academic mission of our institution. These elements are the essence of our modern values of design, technology, and entrepreneurship: design as problem solving informed by the artistic process; technology as the product of scientific achievement; and, the industrious spirit of the entrepreneur. The Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies (ExCITe) Center, established in 2013, brings together those whose work combines these three elements. There is remarkable activity within each of Drexel’s 14 colleges and schools contributing to these areas, and ExCITe serves to support all of those from across the University engaging with and advancing knowledge at this intersection of fields.  We believe some of the most innovative ideas are hatched through a diversity of perspectives approaching a problem and pushing each other towards the best possible solution.

In its role as a physical space in 3401 Market Street, the ExCITe Center is designed to foster creative collaborations. Roboticists working with Hubo sit adjacent to fashion designers in the Shima Seiki Haute Tech Lab, next to students in the Drexel APP Lab, and the digital inclusion efforts of Digital On Ramps.  A spontaneous performance on the Magnetic Resonator Piano relieves the stress of a senior design team pre-presentation beside a start-up company tapping their toes to the music while discussing their revised website design. These groups engage each other as their work reveals an opportunity, whether through an impromptu demo, casual conversation while getting coffee, or sharing a lunch table. Teams come to ExCITe through a variety of pathways, be it student groups, hosted speaker events, a monthly convening on the third Thursday at 3pm (T3), faculty research collaborations, senior design teams, and co-op positions. 

Annually, the ExCITe Center creates an opportunity for novel research ideas to be pursued by multi-disciplinary teams through a seed funding competition. These grants of up to $5,000 each are aimed at kick-starting a project idea to serve as a proof-of-concept to potentially pursue longer term funding. To expand opportunities for collaboration, teams are not limited to being solely Drexel-affiliated; the projects must only meet the basic criteria of being novel, collaborative, and multi-disciplinary to be accepted for panel review.  Coverage of the two previous cycles of funded projects is available on the ExCITe Center’s website, and the Spring 2014 call for proposals is open now through May 30.

Faculty Feature

The Aesthetic of a Shared Moment: A Westphal Professor Creates Wonder from the Edges
By Rebecca Ingalls, PhD, Director of the First-Year Writing Program,
Associate Professor, Department of English & Philosophy

If you haven’t been to the ExCITe Center (short for Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies) at 34th and Market, you gotta go. Springtime is here, there are food trucks on the way, and you’ll enjoy an urban walk that opens up into one of Drexel’s many innovation epicenters. The words “Science Center” on the outside of the building don’t do justice to the buzz of creativity in fashion design, computer science, digital media, and art that swarms in and around the moveable, communal, collaborative spaces of this place. It’s also where you will find Dr. Frank Lee, Associate Professor of Game Design (with affiliated positions in Psychology, Biomed, and Computer Science). But even that cool title doesn’t do justice to what Lee does, to what he imagines, and to what he ultimately builds.

Lee’s career has been a serendipitous unfolding; in his humility, he’ll tell you that it was marked by some moments of uncertainty and some lack of focus early on, but if you listen to him tell the story, it’s moving to hear how fundamentally mindful he has always been of the driving force behind his pursuits. From the beginning, says Lee, he was “not tied to a discipline, but to an idea.” As an undergraduate at Berkeley, Lee found his way toward cognitive science through a meandering route. “I’m almost half embarrassed to tell people,” he smiles, “that it took me about seven or seven-and-a-half years to complete my Bachelors. At Berkeley, one of the benefits is that they allow you to come in undeclared and then figure out what you want to do. I changed my major approximately seven or eight times.”

This exploration took Lee from courses in Rhetoric, to Psychology, to Computer Science, into Philosophy, and even into Linguistics. Two years before graduation, Berkeley developed a program in Cognitive Science, and Lee found a home there. “I wasn’t interested in programming,” he explains, “but in human behaviors in programming. In Psychology, I was interested in cognitive psychology. In Philosophy, I was interested in philosophy of mind. In Linguistics, I was interested in metaphors, human cognition, and human thought. But it wasn’t really adding to anything. It was luck and coincidence that they formed the interdisciplinary degree called Cognitive Science, and it struck me that all of the things I was interested in were in this area! I was one of the first grads of the program.”

From Berkeley, Lee’s interdisciplinary mind would establish a strong foundation of academic experience. He completed his Ph.D. and worked as a postdoctoral research associate in the Psychology department at Carnegie Mellon, one of the top programs in the field, and then he took his first assistant professorship in Cognitive Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In 2003, he came to Drexel as an assistant professor in Computer Science, and over the next decade he worked his way up to Full Teaching Professor. In 2013, he became an Associate Professor in the Westphal College of Media Arts and Design. He reflects, “I think I’m relatively unique in the sense that, typically, people in academia or in industry follow a set path. But for me, it’s always been about following the idea.”

Speaking of ideas, I am aching to know how the World’s Largest Videogame was born in his mind. You might be familiar with this phenomenal installation of art and technology that took the form of a game of Pong on the side of the Cira Centre in Philadelphia last Spring. “I love talking about it,” he says, as his face illuminates. “There is the visceral birth and the intellectual birth. The visceral birth: I was driving on I-76 one night in 2008 or so, and I was looking at the twinkling lights of the Cira Centre building. In my mind, I saw a Tetris shape take place. I saw shapes rotating and falling, and thought, wouldn’t it be cool to create a game? It brought me back to the early 90s, when I was driving across San Francisco Bay Bridge around sunset after a 20-hour marathon session of Tetris. I saw in my mind’s eye Tetris shapes rotating and falling on the buildings. I dismissed it then. But this time [in 2008] when I had a similar reaction, I thought it would be cool to make it happen. It took four and a half years to get permission from Brandywine, and it all came to fruition during last year’s Philly Tech Week.”

But Lee’s sense of purpose for this awesome feat went even beyond the imagination, right to the heart of education and community, which speaks to what he calls the “intellectual birth” of the event. “I am interested in using games to create an interactive, social moment,” he explains, and this is where we begin to uncover the exigency for why he does what he does in academia. “People think of games as a solitary thing,” he says, “and this led me to think that technology has created or reinforced isolation.” He recalls the emergence of the Walkman, whose headphones seemed to “shut off the world,” and he compares that social separation to today’s scene of folks sitting around a table, entranced by their cell phones. “I don’t think this is necessarily a good thing,” he cautions. “We’re fundamentally social animals. This [concern] led me to use games to create a social event, a social interaction. I was more interested that as two people were playing, there were hundreds of people sharing in the experience. Hundreds at the Art Museum, thousands across Philadelphia sharing in the event. Potentially the entire city was sharing in this unique experience. I love the aesthetic of trying to create an event, if you happen to look up and you see it, you’re sharing in that unique, fleeting moment.”

That moment is now in the Guinness Book of World Records. But even more than that, Lee is proud of how the game impacted the younger members of the audience who watched it happen. “We got recognition from the city, from the Philly Geek Awards,” he says. “They took joy in the fact that this put a positive spotlight on the city, on Drexel. But the one thing I take the deepest meaning from? There was an interview on NPR’s “All Tech Considered,” and the journalist, Zack Seward, interviewed a high school kid who was there playing the game. The quote said that this [event] inspired the kid to try to top what I had done.” (For the full NPR article, click here.) For Lee, who focused on drawing underrepresented, younger folks to the Pong project, the students’ words were validation that the “creative and technological moment” of his project could encourage others. The visceral and the intellectual motivators behind it had come together to produce something unprecedented and inspiring.

That inspiration, it would seem, gets him closer to his own initial motivations for studying what might be called “cognitive engineering.” Lee defines it like this: “You’re trying to understand the algorithmic process of how humans work, to use human cognition as a model to better understand how human beings think to create more intelligent, more robust, smarter tools and interfaces.” Underneath the outcome of the product, however, lies his fervent interest in how we as people relate to our technology. “I think one tenet of cognitive science,” he explains, “is that human beings and human cognition will change very slowly especially relative to the rapid changes in technology. Evolution is a slow process. Our devices and tools therefore have to adapt to the scope of our limitations and strengths. In the end, gaming is like that—it’s fundamentally a study of humans, how they think, how they play.”

Add to this fascination Lee’s genuine interest in merging technology and collaboration, and you’ll soon see why his next project, coming to the Cira Centre in April, is particularly exciting. Lee explains the birth of this new idea: “I had this vision of uniting the city of Philly in this aesthetic of a shared moment. The Pong game only half-succeeded. It was on the north face of the Cira Centre building, so only people in North Philly could experience it. So, I thought, what kind of game can I use that would be a beacon for the city, so that as you look up you can see it wherever you are?” And the answer seems to come full circle in Lee’s imagination, as he envisions a magnificent display of Tetris. “We are using both north and south sides of the building,” he explains. “A Tetris game played on both sides: two different games, playing against each other. As I clear my rows, rows will get added to the other. Also, people will be playing in the Oval in front of the Art Museum: one person will control rotation, and one person will control lateral movements in a game of cooperative Tetris.” Cooperative Tetris? Unbelievable. Thinking back to my own love for the game, I ask with anticipation, “And who will play it?” Lee responds, “We are hoping Mayor Nutter, who was scheduled to play Pong last year, will play Tetris this year. We would like President Fry to play, too.” And for those members of the Philly public who might be interested in being a player in this outrageous event? There will be a lottery, and details will be announced very soon.

As our interview winds down, I admire the multidisciplinary path Lee has taken through and toward an exuberant, ingenious life in academia, by the ways in which he has sought to blend Drexel into its larger urban surroundings in remarkably creative ways, and by his unwavering commitment to the study of human cognition and to sharing his love of that study with young people. Perhaps it’s that genuine interest in human nature that helps Lee to stay quite grounded in his own modesty, and to express gratitude for the support he’s been given here at Drexel. “There are moments when you’re not sure whether this direction is for you,” he says. “Underneath was the belief that this is what I wanted to pursue. And one thing I can say is that I followed what I wanted to do. I’ve gotten great support here at Drexel. It has always been supportive of what I do. My peers, President Fry. I deeply appreciate Drexel. Many people wouldn’t know where to put me. Drexel has provided me with a unique opportunity to work within the edges of programs and departments.”

As Lee seeks to create synthesis from those edges, we get to marvel at the ways in which he brings art, science, and industry together, and to feel that we are a part of that creation.

Student Spotlight

Better Know a LeBow Ph.D. Student: Alex Cohen
By Leda Kopach, Assistant Director, Communications,
Bennett S. LeBow College of Business

It wasn’t until Ph.D. student Alex Cohen started to drive in high school that he noticed that something was seriously wrong with his eyesight. Many tests and doctor visits later, the East Falls native was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that causes sight to diminish over time. In the 20 years since his diagnosis, Cohen has taken his impairment, which has deteriorated to the point that he relies on special accommodations for work and home, and uses it to improve society. His disability currently fuels his research, and one can say it has become his life’s work.

After graduation from Philadelphia’s Central High School in 1994 where he wrestled, Cohen took off to Las Vegas to pursue a degree in hospitality management. For 17 years, Alex worked in industry in senior level positions at properties such as the Golden Nugget Casino Resort, a Mirage, Inc. property, before moving back home to Philadelphia, eventually joining the Latham Hotel.

LeBow College of Business Ph.D. student Alex Cohen with his family

Always eager for a new opportunity, Alex decided to delve into the ultra-luxury property management market in 2007. The timing couldn’t have been worse. The economy was tanking, his eyesight was worsening, and Cohen needed to head in a new direction.

“My vision has deteriorated in the last 10 years,” Cohen says. “This was a terrific opportunity to do something different that could make an impact.”

That opportunity was Drexel. 

While studying for his master’s degree in hospitality management at the Goodwin College, Cohen taught a few academia. After much consideration and a big win at Drexel’s Research Day in 2011 where he met his eventual PhD advisor, Professor Rolph Anderson, Cohen entered the doctoral program in marketing at Drexel.

Currently, this second-year PhD student is working on three research projects that will hopefully assist serving the disabled in the marketplace.

“Philadelphia is a hotbed of disability research, especially for the visually impaired. Right here we have the Scheie Eye Institute and Wills Eye. There is so much opportunity,” says the father of two boys, Charlie, 8, and Aaron, 4.

Many of Alex’s ideas are derived from his own personal experiences. Shopping for the visually impaired is obviously a different experience than for the sighted. One study will focus on the atmospherics in retailers which includes ambient music, sight, smells, sounds and taste.

“I will look at how those factors impact the visually-impaired as compared with normally-sighted shopping experiences,” Cohen explains. “I hope that with this particular study, retailers will gain an understanding of the visually impaired consumer and how these atmospheric techniques can help promote their business and support the visually-impaired communities.”

Another research project will focus on online accessibility for all disabilities.

“There are 30 million people who are impacted with website accessibility,” Cohen explains. “What I want to determine is what occurs when a retailer with multiple channels, such as an online store, a catalog and a brick-and-mortar store, has a service failure of an accessible nature. Will it affect the other channels’ businesses? What I want to see is based on these service failures, what kind of negative reactions will occur and to what extent will the consumers take their reactions, such as avoidance and negative word-of-mouth.“ 

Cohen’s final, and perhaps most exciting research project, is still being developed – he is currently searching for a grant – but will focus on developing an accessibility rating scale for businesses including restaurants, hotels, attractions, museums, theaters, arenas, casinos, convention and conference centers, and large retail (total destination marketing). 

“The rating would be based upon the accessibility accommodations as dictated and ranked by the disabled population,” Cohen says. “The scale could then be used in similar fashion to the LEEDS scale for environmentally sustainable businesses, where businesses could use it as a marketing tool, and the population could use it to seek businesses which are the most prepared to accommodate their special needs.”

While his research schedule doesn’t allow for much free time, Cohen enjoys spending time at home in Center City inventing games with his sons, taking them to the playground and visiting their schools where he sometimes plays guitar. He is partial to the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Vampire Weekend. He loves living downtown since he can get around easily by walking or taking the bus. In warmer weather, he and his wife, Sara, enjoy their home on the Delaware beach, taking their boys to the boardwalk and driving bumper cars. “They’re the only cars I’m allowed to drive.”

Former STAR Student and Amgen Scholar to Attend
Harvard PhD Program
By Erica Levi Zelinger, Communication Specialist, Pennoni Honors College

Matthew McBride has always been excited about the power of scientific inquiry. As a homeschooled kindergartener, the senior chemistry major with minors in biological sciences and business administration recalls his first science fair. His project involved changing the vertical height of his toy cars along the top of a board and measuring the change in the horizontal distance they traveled.

Over time, the inquiries have gotten more complex: cell cycle progression, uncovering new chemical mechanisms useful for performing organic synthesis using NMR spectroscopy, and measuring the solubility of certain compounds in organic solvents. But the Honors student’s excitement for science has only heightened.  Which is why when he was readying himself for a journey to Los Angeles in June 2013 to begin research as part of UCLA’s Amgen Scholars Program, he put all the packing, paperwork, and errands on a back (Bunsen) burner to an invitation to the White House.

Former STAR Scholars Program Student Matthew McBride who will enter the PhD program at Harvard in chemical biology this fall.

McBride was invited as the guest of Dr. Jean-Claude Bradley, an associate professor of chemistry, who coined the term “Open Notebook Science” to describe a way of making scientific findings easily accessible and freely available online. The Medford, N.J. student joined his mentor at the White House to present a poster on Open Science at a “Champions of Change” event.

“I had the chance to listen to leaders in the field of science, such as Dr. David Altshuler of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and Dr. John Quackenbush of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute discuss how the scientific community is excellent at collecting data and information, but how we need to improve our ability at understanding and drawing significant conclusions from these data sets.”  McBride adds, “It caused me to strive to develop not only my ability to use scientific instrumentation and perform tedious laboratory techniques, but also to strengthen my scientific reasoning in order to appreciate the significance of my findings.”

Always the conscientious and energetic student, McBride applied to 15 PhD programs; he received interview requests from 14 of those 15 programs. It was scientific reasoning that helped him make a decision: McBride will enter the PhD program at Harvard in chemical biology this fall.

One data point or a single experiment, McBride says, does not create a new disease treatment. A series of logical experiments with a focus on understanding the scientific foundation of a disease allows for the tedious design of an effective treatment.

The 21-year-old took this lesson with him to UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine in the Department of Biological Chemistry, where he worked with Dr. James Wohlschlegel to explore the roles of E3 ubiquitin ligase adaptor KCTD7 in Fe-S cluster biogenesis and cell cycle progression for maintaining genome stability – or, as he explained it at Discovery 2013, Drexel University’s College of Medicine’s annual research day, “It all comes down to regulating appropriate cellular protein levels to prevent the development of disease such as cancer,” McBride explained. “Fe-S cluster biogenesis is required for the activation of proteins needed for DNA replication and repair. Cell cycle progression needs to be monitored to prevent cells from proliferating in an uncontrolled manner (i.e. cancer) and this monitoring occurs from controlling certain protein levels.”

His poster earned him a 2nd place in the undergraduate poster category.

McBride, the oldest of eight children, grew up being homeschooled, which gave him the flexibility to complete high school projects at Villanova University – even working in their biology department on breast cancer projects. Starting in 10th grade, McBride took math and science classes at Burlington County Community College, which allowed him to transfer credits toward his Drexel degree.

In the fall term of his first year, McBride approached Dr. Bradley, then his University 101 instructor, about getting involved with research.

“I was interested in gaining lab experience and training on the use of instrumentation, particularly in the area of organic chemistry,” he says.  “A day or two later I came by his office to talk more about research with him and I was conducting my first experiment 15 minutes later!”

Dr. Bradley describes McBride as a trustworthy and hard-working student – and one who grasps concepts quickly and shows creativity in designing experiments. But what most impressed Dr. Bradley about McBride was his request to present his work as an oral presentation at the Fall 2012 American Chemic Society (ACS) Meeting.

“I have had over 100 undergraduates work in my lab in the last 15 years and I have never had a student – let alone a freshman – request to present a seminar at a national meeting,” Bradley said. “[Matt’s] delivery was very polished and reflected that his thinking about research is close to graduate level.”

In the summer after his freshman year, McBride participated in the STAR (Students Tackling Advanced Research) Scholars Program, giving him the chance to conduct research every day and the realization that he loved coming into the lab each morning to learn new methodologies and how to systematically approach scientific problems.  The STAR Scholars Program provided him with the funding to present his research at the National Collegiate Research Conference (NCRC) 2013 held at Harvard as well as the opportunity to give his 25-minute oral presentation at the American Chemical Society (ACS) national meeting.  “I found it so exciting to learn about the power of the scientific inquiry that I was undertaking and I was further motivated to keep pursuing my passion for research,” McBride says.

McBride says he is extremely grateful for the opportunities provided to him through Drexel’s Fellowships Office and the Office of Undergraduate Research. He attended numerous Fellowships workshops that offered him instruction and guidance for leveraging his background to help craft strong applications for the UCLA Amgen Scholars Program in which he participated, as well as the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Research Internships in Science and Engineering (RISE) and the University of Washington Amgen Scholars Program, both of which he was offered.  “Matt is a remarkable student who has sought out research experiences here at Drexel and through the Amgen Scholars Program at UCLA,” says Cindy Schaarschmidt, assistant director of the Fellowships Office. “He has truly made the most out of his undergraduate education.”

McBride a member of the Christian student organization Drexel Students for Christ, but given the chance to get out of the lab, McBride loves the beach and a chance to play a game of Ultimate Frisbee.

McBride says he can see himself staying in academia and running a research lab focused on investing the role of proteins and protein misfolding in the developing of disease. Or perhaps being a part of a biotechnology start-up that discovers and develops tools for the rapid diagnosis and treatment of specific diseases. Regardless of his path, McBride keeps going back to the words of U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park who spoke at the White House event McBride attended. Park emphasized the need for scientists to communicate their research to citizens in order for our society to continue to have an appreciation for the importance of dedicating resources to pursuing advancement through research.

“It was a great reminder to me that it is essential that I continue to hone my communication skills for both a scientific and non-scientific audience in order to maximize my ability to share my findings and promote scientific research,” McBride says.

Freeman Scholar Explores Malaysia through International Co-Op
By Jill R. Marateck, Marketing and Communications Coordinator,
Steinbright Career Development Center

“You don’t realize how big they are until you’re sitting next to a live tiger,” said Drexel senior Will Heyman.  A communications major with a concentration in corporate and public relations, Will completed an international co-op in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia during spring and summer 2013.  With the help of funding from the Freeman Foundation, Will was able to maximize his experience abroad. “The Freeman Foundation allowed me to travel to Malaysia, pay for a place to live and eat, and the freedom to travel around Southeast Asia.  I would never have had a chance to travel as much as I did without the Freeman Foundation.”  And he definitely would not have had the opportunity to pet a tiger at a Buddhist animal habitat in Thailand!

The Freeman Foundation, a private and philanthropic foundation created through the bequest of Mansfield Freeman, co-founder of American International Group, Inc., is dedicated to augmenting international understanding between the United States and the nations of East and Southeast Asia.  Steinbright was named a co-awardee of a multi-year grant from the Freeman Foundation to promote the participation of United States citizens in study and work abroad experiences in East and Southeast Asia.  Twenty Drexel students, including Will Heyman, have received funding from the Freeman Foundation for their international co-ops.

Will worked for Lion & Lion, a digital marketing agency in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He began as a member of the social media marketing division and, after a few months, he led the team and even trained new employees.  “I wanted to experience working for a marketing company in an emerging market,” said Will, “and I really got a lot of hands-on experience there. I left with an amazing wealth of knowledge of marketing and have a clear understanding of the direction I want to go in the future.” A direction that he hopes includes international travel.

Outside of the office, Will made it his goal to explore as much as he could of the city and surrounding areas. “I’ve never been to Asia before.  I wanted to experience a different culture, different foods and different people.”  Will traveled all around Malaysia and to the surrounding areas, including Thailand and Singapore. “I learned so much while I was there about culture, business, and people all over the world.  I would go back in a heartbeat!”

Will is one of 161 students who went on international co-op involving 49 countries during academic year 2012-2013.  The international co-op team strives to place 175 students abroad this current academic year.  Considering international co-op?  Take Will’s advice: “you should take any opportunity you can to go experience something new.  It’s a big world.  There’s a lot that you can discover about yourself as well as the rest of the world by meeting new people and trying new things.”

For more information on international co-op, visit drexel.edu/internationalcoop or email internationalcoop@drexel.edu.

College & School News

Drexel Historic Costume Collection Going Digital at Winterthur
By Jeff Hill, Director of Communications,
Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design

“Material and Ethereal: A Mixed Reality Exhibition of Fashion from 1929-1939” is an exhibition that will combine selections of historic fashion from the Drexel Historic Costume Collection with state of the art interactive and immersive 3D displays at the wonderful Winterthur Museum Garden & Library.  The exhibit will run from August 2016 through early January 2017.  Life-size simulations of selected fashions will populate a detailed 3D environment modeled on a Winterthur grand room.  “Magic Mirror” technology will create a virtual character of the viewer and dress it in the simulated historic fashion.

For the past five years, Westphal College of Media Arts & Design Graduate Fashion Design Associate Program Director Professor Kathi Martin has been part of an international team of fashion specialists and computer and information scientists engaged in researching virtual humans and avatars, and their roles in fashion design and conservation of cultural heritage.  She first approached Winterthur with the idea of a mixed reality exhibition in 2008.  Museums are using 3D technology to transform how they document, analyze and create access to their collections.  These technologies provide a means to explore complex ideas and interact with museums’ objects in new ways, and to share these fresh discoveries with teachers, collaborators and the public. 

Working with Clare Sauro, curator of the Drexel Historic Costume Collection (DHCC), the focus of the exhibition became fashion from 1929-1939, a period which saw the birth of the “American Look” in fashion, forged around the identity of the individual and that of America across motifs of modernity, unity and progress.  The DHCC has many fine representations of fashion design and ephemera from this period.  Sauro is developing the physical exhibition content to showcase these objects.

Historic accuracy is a prime driver in Martin’s work in 3D simulation.  Measurements are taken from the historic piece.  She then makes patterns from these measurements in a software program, the Digital Clothing Suite, being developed by her colleagues at Seoul National University, South Korea, where Martin has been a visiting researcher since 2008.  Next, material properties of the fabric are defined, textile surface details added, and the garment is simulated and rendered in the software. The result is realistic drape and motion of the fabric.  Even with this advanced technology, recreating accurate fabric movement digitally is still a long and detail-oriented process, especially for fashion professionals Martin and Sauro who are determined to capture the physical and aesthetic subtleties of the DHCC treasures.  In addition to realizing the garment, to do so requires a body that not only matches the size of the garment but captures the posture, gait and look of a 1930s socialite.  With support from a Drexel mini-grant awarded last spring, Martin and Westphal College Animation & Visual Effects Professor Dave Mauriello teamed up to create a historically accurate, digitally animated model inspired by 1930s American actress Carole Lombard. 

While Mauriello went to work on creating the model that will wear the DHCC ensembles, Martin and Sauro hired a professional model to map complex skeletal movements for a virtual model in our Motion Capture studio.  They chose a model similar in stature and girth to the original owner of the gown, inferred from the pattern specifications. They purchased period undergarments and shoes for the model to wear under the motion capture suit worn during the motion session and studied period movies and stills to choreograph a scenario of 1930s motion.  “It was difficult work for the model to move naturally.  This is a fairly new process for this kind of fashion application and I’m sure we had much more fun on our side of the computer screen”, says Mauriello.  “We aim to create a best practices model for the process,” states Martin. 

Mauriello will have to animate the virtual model’s hair and facial movements manually, so he’s creating a digital face from scratch based on 1930s American actress Carole Lombard.  “In the digital media world, there’s a lot of work and focus on creating visually appealing digital models, but very few of them get animated,” Mauriello says.  “There’s a lot of work involved in creating natural movement in digital animation, especially with joint flexing and elbow movements.”

Assisting Mauriello in the motion capture and transfer of data to the virtual model were Digital Media undergraduates Stephen Pettit and James Maguire, along with Digital Media graduate program alum, Glenn Winters, who just finished an internship as a Motion Capture Technician at Sony Computer Entertainment America.  They needed to layer the motion capture data over the more complex rig they had created for animating virtual model.  “The motion capture process generates a basic rig, but that alone is inadequate for all of our needs,” says Mauriello.  “The complex rig has finer controls for more intricate character movements for areas like the face and hands along with better control of body deformations like in the hips and shoulders. It’s no small task connecting the motion capture rig to our complex rig.”

This work is the basis of an organic modeling course Mauriello teaches at Drexel, as well as a book he is currently writing for Focal Press, exploring accurate human modeling for animation.  In September, Martin and Mauriello presented a paper, titled “3D Simulations: A New Embodiment for Historic Fashion,” at the International Conference on Culture and Computing held at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan.  In October they presented “Motion and Embodiment” at the Digital Heritage International Congress 2013, at the new waterfront complex for international cultural dialogue and exchanges in the Mediterranean, in Marseille, France. Martin also co-authored Digital Production of Traditional Costume, presented at the same conference. 

Mauriello also shared production applications of his research and creative works into organic modeling for animation by conducting workshops on “3D Modeling for Animation with Maya & Modo” at the Association of Medical Illustrators Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City this past June. He is currently working with Digital Media program colleagues and students on other digital anatomy projects, including the building of a virtual heart and a neonatal “smart” simulator.

The Ardmore’s Music Hall Revival
By Jeff Hill, Director of Communications,
Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design

On the Main Line, Ardmore’s iconic 23 East Cabaret music venue once hosted an array of world-famous 80s and 90s acts – from Dave Matthews Band to The Red Hot Chili Peppers – before becoming a Philly suburb venue featuring cover bands in more recent years.  Now in the hands of new ownership, the renamed and revamped Ardmore Music Hall is quickly regaining its former glory, thanks to renovations and the concert programming team of Westphal College of Media Arts & Design Music Industry professors Jesse Lundy and Rich Kardon, with a little help from Westphal graduates.

Kardon has more than 15 years of touring experience for a variety of major label artists as tour manager, tour accountant and production manager.  In 1998, he opened The Point in Bryn Mawr, which was named by Esquire in 2003 as “One of the Best Places to See Live Music in America.”  The success of The Point was the catalyst for the creation of Point Entertainment with Lundy, a Philadelphia-area concert promoter and publicist who worked with Electric Factory Concerts and New Park Entertainment/Jack Utsick Presents.  Point Entertainment produces shows, concerts series and special events, and they’ve booked the acts for the Philadelphia Folk Festival for some time now.  Lundy and Kardon’s engagement with the revival of the Ardmore Music Hall has ranged from reconfiguring the club’s layout to refocusing on a new target audience.  “We don’t want the Ardmore to compete with other clubs in Philadelphia,” says Lundy.  “Though many young people are moving in town, there are still a lot of people in the suburbs that are starting families, but still love going to good shows as long as they don’t have to drive into the city and pay for parking.”

After a much-needed layout and décor re-do from its 23 East days, The Ardmore Music Hall now features a state-of-the-art sound system, a large dance floor, a low stage that provides an intimate experience for audiences, and flat screen TVs to project the shows throughout the venue.  Kardon explained, “The bare bones of the room were good, but the previous owner had it configured like a Jersey Shore club – where the bar dominated the space and the stage is tucked away in a back corner.  The Ardmore needed to have flexibility.  We wanted it to be less ‘rock club’ and more ‘listening room.’  So, we put up walls, hung new curtains and made changes based solely on improving the quality of sound.”

Lundy and Kardon now want the Ardmore Music Hall to serve as a place for their Music Industry students to learn the live entertainment business.  “We’ve gotten jobs for a lot of Westphal students,” says Lundy. “We have Music Industry alums on our team at the venue and we’ve always encouraged new students to come work shows.  We tell them that they have to build a network of relationships if they want a good job out of school. The degree could mean nothing without that experience, and there’s no better place to get that than in the live entertainment.

Kardon adds that Drexel students can reach the Ardmore Music Hall easily via mass transit.  “The R-5 regional line stops, literally, at our back door,” he says. “And, if you prefer to drive, parking is always free.”

Westphal Gaming Professor Frank Lee Holds Guinness World Record
By Jeff Hill, Director of Communications,
Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design

The dream of Westphal College Game Art & Production associate professor Frank Lee, PhD, that came to fruition in the form of a 29-story video game – Pong - played on the north facade of Brandywine Realty Trusts’ Cira Centre is now a world record.  Guinness World Records officially recognized the event, which was held on April 19 and 24, 2013 as part of Philly Tech Week, as the “largest architectural videogame display.”

“This is a tremendous recognition,” Lee said. “Most people can only dream about playing a giant video game, but thanks to Jerry Sweeney at Brandywine and Chris Wink at Technically Philly, my dream became a reality. To be a world record holder without having to win a race, eat a ton of hot dogs, or join a flash mob is a pretty surreal and utterly cool feeling.”

The display for the giant arcade game, which was created with 400 of the LEDs affixed to the center’s shadowbox spandrels, measured 5,555.62 square meters (59,800 square feet) –the official record.  From a vantage point at the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art, more than 250 people were able to play the record-setting recreation of the classic 1970s arcade game during two days of 2013 Philly Tech Week.

Lee, who is an associate professor in the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design and the director of Drexel’s Entrepreneurial Game Studio, recruited a team of his colleagues and students to pull off the feat, which included hacking the building’s lighting control software to link it to the video game.  The feat was also heralded as the “Geek Story of the Year” at the Philadelphia Geek Awards and Lee was named “Hacker of the Year” for pulling it off.  “It’s been great to see this event stir up so much excitement in Philadelphia’s growing community of scientists, engineers, innovators and inventors,” Lee said. “I hope this inspires others to dream big. I know it’s inspired me, personally, to come up with something even bigger and better for next year’s Philly Tech Week.”

(See Faculty Feature).

Drexel Launches Cybersecurity Institute
By Kerry Boland, Writer/Editor, College of Computing & Informatics

This past February, over 140 members of government, industry, and academic communities gathered at Drexel University’s ExCITe Center to celebrate the launch of the Drexel University Cybersecurity Institute, which aims to address national cyber-based threats and prepare the next generation of cybersecurity leaders. Drexel University President John Fry, Provost Mark Greenberg, and College of Computing & Informatics (CCI) founding dean and Isaac L. Auerbach Professor David E. Fenske were joined at the launch event by special guest speaker Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa., 7th district and chairman, Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies, Committee on Homeland Security).

Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) addressing the audience at the Drexel University Cybersecurity Institute launch at the ExCITe Center on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014

“[The Institute] is the kind of place where we need to be promoting the constant ability to push the envelope in terms of challenging what we understand about not only what’s happening today, but where the supporting area is going,” Rep. Meehan said. “Drexel’s leadership in this is going to be recognized not just here in the city of Philadelphia, but I would suggest to you that this will be something that will be appreciated across the United States.”

Following opening remarks, attendees—including Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa., 2nd district and ranking member of House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science and chair of Congressional Urban Caucus)—were provided tours of the Institute’s 4,000 square-foot space on the third floor of the Science Center Building at 3401 Market Street.

“Drexel is committed to using our expertise to meet critical societal challenges like cybersecurity,” Fry said in an earlier statement. “With several of our academic strengths now concentrated in our new College of Computing and Informatics, the time is right for the College, through the Cybersecurity Institute, to take the lead on interdisciplinary research and policy development that help keep America’s information systems functioning and secure.”

In serving as a center for research, teaching and training and as a cybersecurity resource for industry, government and the military, the Institute will bring together a breadth of faculty, professional staff, and research from across the University to study emerging cyber threats and risks. It will also be a resource to guide law and policy makers in the areas of cybersecurity, privacy and cyber risk management.

In addition, the Institute, led by Norman Balchunas, CCI director of strategic solutions and assistant research professor, will work to build partnerships with industry to help advance their cyber infrastructure protection and incident response.

“As we stand on the precipice of the next major attack, our charge as an Institute is clear: we need to anticipate, understand, and—at all costs—prevent cyber-attacks before they succeed in the disruption or destruction of critical U.S. resources,” Fenske said. “Our partnerships with industry, government and military will be integral in the coming months in identifying challenges and discovering solutions in the areas of cyber infrastructure protection and incident response.”

Researchers and students studying cyber-risk management will work and train in the Institute’s laboratories using simulations of cyber-attacks. The research lab is a 2,500 square-foot space with state-of-the-art computing capabilities that will allow for hands-on experience in protection, defense and attack operations without disturbing real-world networks. 

The Institute is one of several Drexel’s initiatives to address challenges in big data and cybersecurity, including becoming a National Science Foundation Center for Visual and Decision Informatics in 2012 and the creation of the Applied Informatics Group in the College of Computing & Informatics in 2011.

For more information about the Institute, please visit www.cci.drexel.edu/cybersecurity.

(See Featured article, “The Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies Center (ExCITe)”)

Dr. Hanau Named First Shuman Chair In Anatomical Pathology
By Ed Federico, Media Relations Manager, Drexel University College of Medicine

Cheryl A. Hanau, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, has been named the first Richard Shuman, MD Chair in Anatomical Pathology.

“As someone who is passionate about history, I view the establishment of this Chair not only as a cause for celebration of what our Department can accomplish going forward, but also as an opportunity to look back and learn about extraordinary physicians who came before us,” said Hanau. “As a woman physician, I strongly value the heritage of our predecessor schools, Woman’s Medical College and the Medical College of Pennsylvania. I am honored to be the first Shuman Chair and hope that it sets a precedent for the establishment of more endowed chairs.”

The Shuman Chair was made possible by a generous bequest from Marie Shuman in honor of her late husband, who was a professor of pathology at Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania at the time of his sudden death in 1975. From that moment on, Marie Shuman devoted her life to perpetuating his memory. She was determined to fund a chair in anatomical pathology that would honor Richard Shuman’s significant achievements and foster future contributions in his field.

“This Chair is a concrete connection to the history of Woman’s Medical College and to such preeminent figures as Dr. June Klinghoffer, who as a contemporaneous colleague of Dr. Shuman’s and Chair of Medicine must have had a strong collaborative relationship with him. I want to pay tribute to Mrs. Marie Shuman’s determination to honor her husband’s legacy so many years after his untimely death. This gift keeps his ideas alive in perpetuity,” added Hanau.

Hanau was appointed department chair in 2009. She has served the College of Medicine in a number of key positions, including associate dean for admissions, director of the Anatomic and Clinical Pathology Residency Program, and course director for pathology for first- and second-year medical students. Hanau joined the College in 1995 after completing fellowships in surgical pathology and cytopathology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where she had earned her medical degree and completed her residency training. She is a graduate of ELAM®, the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine Program for Women, at Drexel University College of Medicine.

Left to Right – Provost Mark Greenberg; Dan Schidlow, MD; Cheryl Hanau, MD; Jeffrey Levine (Nephew of Richard Shuman, MD); President John Fry; and, Drexel University Board of Trustees Chair Rich Greenawalt

Drexel University Hosts National Conference for
Individualized Major Programs
By Erica Levi Zelinger, Communication Specialist, Pennoni Honors College

In 2007, Lauren Grimanis spent two weeks in a small rural village in the Eastern Region of Ghana where she lived with a host family, volunteered in an orphanage, and became engrossed with figuring out how to improve the impoverished community of Akaa by finding sustainable, innovative solutions to global issues.  At the time, Lauren was a rising senior in high school.

By the time she arrived at The College of Wooster in north central Ohio, she’d started the Akaa Project, a non-profit that gives this Ghana community access to quality education, healthcare, and financial resources.  Lauren enrolled in international relations courses, economics classes, and Africana studies. However, international relations, she felt, was too much about countries with power.  Economics was too much about numbers. So, the highly motivated student opted to design her own major.

Her trajectory made Lauren the perfect alumni success story at the 6th Annual National Conference for Individualized Major Programs (IMPs), hosted by Drexel University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry, a unit within the Pennoni Honors College.  “Being locked into one discipline may be the wrong way to spark social innovation,” Lauren quoted from the new social entrepreneur manifesto, “Power of Unreasonable People.”  The individualized model gave Lauren the ability to develop a Global Development and Management major that, combined with her interdisciplinary curiosity and out-of-the-classroom independent actions, catapulted her into her career.

Nearly sixty IMP faculty, professionals, students and Drexel colleagues gathered in the grand meeting room of LeBow Hall this past March to hear Lauren’s IMP Conference presentation.  With attendees from approximately 25 colleges and universities, this conference has become the basis for a new national organization to formalize IMPs, help departments overcome administrative challenges, and offers a forum for students nationwide to share their unique major stories.

Fletcher Linder, Matt Chamberlain and Phil Frana of the Independent Scholars Program at James Madison University expressed the approval gauntlet they must challenge to get decisions made.  But, “what liberal education can and should be,” Linder says, “is rigorous academic inquiry spearheaded by students themselves.”   Universities have to respond to change in the environment with innovation and creativity, but traditional structures stand in the way.

Panel discussions throughout the two-day conference presented concerns about how to grapple with the issue of prerequisites, the common critique that a student in an IMP knows only broad information across many disciplines, and the transition of certain programs from incubation stage to formal major.  It takes a certain type of person to pursue this type of program.

“You have to defend yourself when you tell people your major,” says Ricky Holtz, of the University Connecticut, who sat on a student panel about integrative learning in the student experience.  Kathryn Gardner, one of Drexel’s first two custom-designed major (CSDN) graduates, agrees.  “It’s an ability to say that you are wrong, but that you want to know why,” Gardner says. “Having the initiative to go and figure out why it was wrong.”

The CSDN major took in its first four students only three years ago.

“The Custom-Designed Major has, in a very short time, grown into national prominence,” says Director Kevin Egan. “At last year's conference, two Drexel CSDN students took part in a panel discussion about their experiences in the program, and I had a number of people come up to me after and express how impressed they were by these students. That was a signal that we have some very special students in the program; and, now, we are demonstrating, at a more institutional level, the strength and ability of this program.”

The CSDN major has added one more distinctive program to the wealth of opportunities Drexel offers, says Pennoni Honors College Dean Dave Jones. “The CSDN attracts and retains students who want to craft their own major and are capable of doing it—with considerable mentoring from interested faculty,” Jones says.

At Hampshire College, where all students create their own personalized areas of study, comedian Eugene Mirman studied what he wanted to study: comedy.  The Russian-born funnyman and keynote speaker at the National Conference for IMPs said he paired his classes in writing, rise in mass culture and film with other experiences such as running a radio comedy show out of the basement of his dorm.  “A lot of majors had some long titles with a colon in it and info on both sides, but I studied comedy,” Mirman says. “[At Hampshire], they let you guide your own education. I convinced professors to let me do a 1-hour stand-up act as a thesis.”

“Why are universities funny?” one conference attendee asked Mirman.  “Because of their fear of ideas,” Mirman quipped.

Eighteen years after graduating from his self-guided studies, the voice of Gene in Bob’s Burgers, the landlord in Flight of the Concords, and one of physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s comedic sidekicks on the radio show StarTalk, doesn’t get why the concept of an IMP is so outlandish.  The JMU staff agrees. Their program, Linder says, is a mix of hard and soft skills that enhance creativity, self-directedness and perseverance.  “We offer skills that enhance a student’s aptitude and confidence in working independently and collectively,” says Linder.

Some university programs, like Drexel’s CSDN, offer skill-enhancing workshops where students develop a co-curricular plan of study, contemplate their co-op plans, undergo professional interviews, and allow students to grow together as a cohort.

“The CSDN demonstrates through the co-curricular opportunities afforded by the Honors College, and Drexel as a whole, the uniqueness of the program among other IMPs,” says Egan. “Opportunities like co-op, the STAR program and other undergraduate research opportunities, interdisciplinary research and community-based learning initiatives like the Smart House and the ExCITe Center offer an integrative learning experience to which other IMPs don't necessarily have access. This will be an opportunity for Drexel to really showcase those elements and how they manifest through the Custom-Designed Major.

School of Public Health Welcomes Dean Ana Diez Roux
By Rich Ochab, Director of Marketing and Public Relations, School of Public Health

Ana V. Diez Roux, MD, PhD, MPH, started her tenure as dean on Monday, February 10, 2014 at the Drexel University School of Public Health.  She will oversee the expansion of the school’s research and training portfolio in urban health, health disparities, and policy-relevant public health, while continuing its leadership in experiential education, community engagement, and cultural diversity.

Diez Roux is a physician and epidemiologist known worldwide for seminal research on multilevel determinants of population health. Her work has had a major impact on public health research and practice.

“We’re very excited that the University has filled this critical position with one of the nation’s most accomplished public health researchers and administrators,” said Drexel President John A. Fry when the announcement of her deanship was made in September 2013. “Ana will be charged with continuing to expand our School of Public Health’s vision and culture, strengthening its research programs, building partnerships at Drexel and beyond, raising visibility nationally and internationally and developing and stewarding the school’s resources.”

Diez Roux was previously the chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.  She also directed two distinguished research and training centers focused on health inequalities: the Center for Integrative Approaches to Health Disparities (CIAHD) and the Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health (CSEPH).

Her own research is funded at a level of more than $4 million annually. She has led research programs on health disparities and the social determinants of health, the impact of neighborhood environments on health, the role of psychosocial factors in health, environmental health, and urban health issues both nationally and globally.  Her work on neighborhood health effects has had a major impact on policy discussions by highlighting the impact of urban planning and community development policies on health.

Diez Roux is an elected member of the American Epidemiological Society, the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

The School of Public Health recently moved to its own, bright and modern building on the University City Campus of Drexel University.  The school continues to embrace innovative programs including a new bachelor’s degree in public health, which started this past fall, and global health field experiences for students.  Its faculty is in the vanguard of research on urban health, violence prevention, child hunger, autism, HIV/AIDS, health care equality, health disparities, and more.

School of Public Health Moves to Renovated Nesbitt Hall
By Richard Ochab, Director, Marketing and Public Relations, School of Public Health

The Drexel University School of Public Health has moved to a renovated and modernized Nesbitt Hall, a seven-story, 78,000 square-foot building in the geographic heart of the University City Campus of Drexel University.

Located at 33rd and Market Streets, Nesbitt Hall has significant value to the continued growth and expansion of the school’s academic offerings and its relationship with the communities it serves.

“The move to our very own building in the heart of Drexel University is a major milestone and defining moment for the School of Public Health,” said Ana Diez Roux, MD, PhD, MPH, Dean, Drexel University School of Public Health.  “Nesbitt Hall will be one of the foremost academic public health facilities, and affirms Drexel’s prominence as one of the nation’s premiere schools of public health.”

“Our move to this new, bright and modern facility will help prepare future generations of students for leadership roles in addressing some of the world’s most pressing public health needs,” said Shannon P. Márquez, PhD, MEng, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Director of Global Public Health Initiatives, Drexel University School of Public Health.

Nesbitt Hall, the former home to the Drexel University Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, has undergone more than $13M in renovations over the past year.  The building has since been completely renovated and designed to meet the specific needs of the School of Public Health. See Image Gallery of Renovations

“We thank Drexel University President John A. Fry, the Board of Trustees, the Connelly Foundation and all of the funders, and everyone who made this remarkable new home possible,” said Diez Roux.

The renovations to Nesbitt Hall were designed by Philadelphia-based Strada/UJMN.  The design of the interior space is modern, airy and with clean lines that stay true to the original design of the 1960’s building and classic façade.  Form, function and bright colors unite each floor and Nesbitt Hall has a number of environmentally-friendly features, according to lead architect and Drexel alumnus George Poulin, AIA, LEED, AP ’07, who has directed a number of LEED-certified projects. See Series of Videos from George Poulin About the Building

Yet, each floor was specifically designed to meet the unique needs of each academic department, while fostering collegial interaction amongst students and faculty.  The building will also encourage even greater collaboration with the community.

“The School of Public Health is known for our commitment to health and human rights, and addressing urban health and health disparities,” said Jennifer Kolker, Associate Dean for Public Health Practice, Drexel University School of Public Health.  “We blend rigorous science and meaningful service, and this building will benefit our real-world engagement for students with the community.”

The updated interior of Nesbitt Hall features instructional computer laboratory facilities, innovative and large research spaces, and an environmental and industrial hygiene laboratory, as well as many open-space collaboration areas, conference areas, numerous student lounges and other amenities.  The building also houses two, unique idea labs. Watch Time-Lapse Video of Construction of Environmental Health Lab

The upper floors of the building are dedicated for use by the School of Public Health. The ground floor, including the lobby, two large lecture halls and other spaces, will be available for use by the entire Drexel University community.  While renovations to the upper floors are complete, work to the ground floor is scheduled to begin in the spring.

The building will also host a number of Drexel University firsts.  Located just off the lobby will be the only dedicated nursing mother’s room for use by all Drexel University students, faculty and staff.  The first-floor will also include a gender-neutral bathroom. Watch Video of Dr. Jennifer Breaux Discussing the Nursing Mother's Room

The School of Public Health’s move also marks the first time an entire academic unit at Drexel University has relocated from Center City to the University City Campus.

The new home for the School of Public Health will house each of its four academic departments, including Community Health and Prevention, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Environmental and Occupational Health, and Health Management and Policy, as well as the global health and undergraduate programs.

It will also house the school’s numerous research centers and programs, and offer a convenient location for graduate and undergraduate public health students.  In fact, the first floor lobby will include a public health graduate student collaboration and learning space, which is being supported by a $350,000 grant from the Connelly Foundation.  The building’s renovations also received $1 million towards construction costs from Drexel University Trustee Earl Stafford.

The Center for Hunger-Free Communities will continue to operate from the Bellet Building, which is the School of Public Health’s previous home, on the Center City Campus.  Program staff from the Healing Hurt People program will also remain in Center City.

Many of the School of Public Health’s prominent research seminars, lecture series’ and major events will be held on the University City Campus.

The move also offers the school’s students the many social, cultural and academic benefits of being located in the heart of a comprehensive, urban campus community.

“The new building is inspiring, and our location is central to the modern athletic facilities, numerous eateries and restaurants, and a wealth of museums, concert halls and theaters within the university and across Philadelphia,” said Warren Hilton, EdD, Associate Dean for Student and External Affairs, Drexel University School of Public Health.  “The City of Philadelphia is diverse, vibrant and has deep healthcare and public health roots.”

The renovation project and move was directed at the School of Public Health by Perry W. McFarland, MBA, Associate Dean for Finance and Administration, Drexel University School of Public Health.

“The relocation of the School of Public Health has been years in the making, and it is the culmination of a great deal of hard work by many people within and outside of the university,” said McFarland.  “The School of Public Health’s growth has been rapid and significant over the last decade.  I’m proud to have shared in that growth.  The move to our own dedicated and modern facility is a reflection of that growth and will allow the School of Public Health to reach even greater heights.”

Links to College and School Newsletters
By Donna McVicker, MS, Director of Provost Operations and Assistant to the Provost, and Jim Mergenthal, Director of Web Development, Office of the Provost

Stay up-to-date on Drexel’s colleges’ and schools’ local, national, and international news by clicking on one of the following links:

College of Arts & Sciences

School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

Bennett S. LeBow College of Business
LeBow College of Business Quarterly Research Newsletter

College of Computing and Informatics

School of Education

College of Engineering

School of Entrepreneurship

Pennoni Honors College

Center for Hospitality and Sport Management

School of Law

College of Media Arts & Design

College of Medicine

College of Nursing and Health Professions

School of Professional Studies

School of Public Health

University Libraries


2014 Commencement
By MaryBeth O’Neill, MS, Executive Assistant to Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs; Denise Smith, Academic Coordinator; and, Joanne Robinson, MEd, Executive Assistant to Senior Vice Provost for Budget, Planning and Administration

Preparations are underway for the Drexel University’s 2014 Commencement ceremonies.  Drexel Medical School students will commence on Friday, May 16 at 9:00 a.m., followed by Drexel School of Law on Wednesday, May 21 at 9:00 a.m., both at the Kimmel Center.  On Friday, June 13 the DAC will be the location for the Commencement ceremonies for College of Arts & Sciences, College of Information Science and Technology, School of Education, College of Nursing & Health Professions, and School of Public Health.  On Saturday, June 14 at the DAC, LeBow College of Business, A. Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, Goodwin College of Professional Studies, College of Engineering, and the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science, and Health System will recognize their graduates.

For full event details, visit http://www.drexel.edu/commencement/main/ceremonies/.

As Commencement approaches, please consider assisting us as we celebrate our students’ accomplishments on a very special day for all of our graduates and their families.   Your collaboration is appreciated and, while assisting with this event, you are provided a wonderful opportunity to meet colleagues, graduates and special guests. To sign up to assist with Commencement, please call 215-895-2200.

Easy Preparation of NIH Biosketches Through Faculty Portfolios
By Danuta A. Nitecki, Dean of Libraries, Drexel University Libraries

The Faculty Portfolios system assists Drexel faculty with managing information about themselves and, as of January 2014, it simplifies creating bio sketches for National Institutes for Health (NIH) grant proposals. Faculty can now easily create a customized NIH bio sketch by editing a form that can be downloaded as a Word document from the Faculty Portfolios webpage, http://library.drexel.edu/facultyportfolios. The downloaded form includes numerous pieces of information required by the NIH that are drawn from data entered and stored within Faculty Portfolios.  A resulting benefit is less work to find details about publications and eliminating the need to re-enter this information.

Faculty Portfolios is an evolving and powerful central database of information about Drexel faculty’s academic achievements. This campus service collects and manages information about activities from various sources.  Applying analytic tools to its data, faculty and administrators can identify research collaborators, produce evidence for tenure, promotion and program reviews, and formulate comparisons and ranking of Drexel research and academic output with other institutions. Data included such information as scholarly and creative works, civic engagement activities, teaching, and research funding.  Librarians, with expertise in the scholarship of specific disciplines, assist and train faculty and administrators in contributing data to the centralized database and creating customized reports.   In addition, library liaisons continue to be available to provide presentations, workshops, and consultations on the Faculty Portfolio system.

Embracing the Outcomes of Quality Initiatives for Online Courses
Online Learning Council’s Linda Marion, PhD, Marlin Killen, PhD, Allen Grant, PhD,
Fran Cornelius, PhD, , Karyn Holt, PhD, John Via, D Eng, Ray Lum, MPhil, MS

Drexel University’s commitment to quality initiatives for online learning continues to gain momentum and widespread recognition outside of Drexel.  Other academic institutions have expressed interest in replicating our faculty support model and want to learn more about our transformation from early adopter to established industry leader.  In addition,  further enhancing our position in the marketplace, several Online Learning Council (OLC) Fellows attended the International Technology, Education and Development Conference (INTED2014) in Valencia, Spain this past month and presented a paper on our latest developments in the field of teaching and learning methodologies, educational projects and innovations, and new technologies applied to education and research. 

Within the Drexel University community, results of the OLC Fellows’ efforts are advancing support of Drexel’s vision for excellence in online learning.  With the focus of improving the quality, accessibility, and scalability of online courses as well as  support services and engagement opportunities of online students, the Fellows’ commitment to confidential, collegial, constructive support has resulted in completion of over 75 course design reviews, presentation of over 60 workshops, and personal consultation of 10% of faculty who teach online. Thus, the Fellows continue to intensify their efforts through increased consulting, workshop, and training initiatives that include collaborating with instructional designers to develop ready-to-use course structure template options for faculty, training for teaching assistants and faculty support staff, and evaluating additional quality course design models.  In addition, the Drexel University Core Design Elements Checklist provides an important foundation for online course design and a platform for more extensive course design review efforts. 

Building Sustainability

The increased recognition, while gratifying, nevertheless brings several questions to the fore - how to sustain the efforts and institutionalize the accomplishments to ensure lasting culture change - which coincide with major organizational changes within Drexel such as the transformation of Drexel eLearning into Drexel University Online with new leadership and integration into University systems, development of the Online Learning Subcommittee of the Faculty Senate Committee for Faculty Affairs, and University strategic objectives for significant expansion of enrollment.  The Fellows are poised to collaborate with others initiating innovative distance learning approaches and responding to emerging institutional needs for new programs and courses. 

On the Right Path

As noted in the 2014 Winter Provost Newsletter, a course review using the Quality Matters (QM) Rubric or the Drexel University Core Design Element Checklist offers the participating faculty member valuable data and feedback about his/her course design.  While Drexel courses have well-designed courses overall, the OLC Fellows observed that one area for improvement is creating a level of consistency across the courses that measures and aligns the learning objectives with course activities and resources. 

Beyond QM?

The Fellows recognize that quality online learning extends beyond the QM Standards and, thus, the correspondence between QM Standards and the Sloan-C Standards for Online Courses is being explored.  While the QM Standards focus on course design, the Sloan-C Standards more comprehensively include types of university support, teaching and learning, and engagement.  The goal of this comparative research is to establish outcomes metrics that will support institutionalization of best practices for Drexel’s Online Quality Initiatives and measure the value derived from the expenditure of resources in these initiatives.

An Untapped Resource

TAs, which represent a cohort of more than 2,000, have embraced quality initiatives for online teaching.  Presently, ten TAs from across the disciplines are members of the Online Learning Council and several will present a workshop titled “Unifying Graduate Teaching Assistant Training for Online Teaching” to the Online Learning Council and to the TA community.  The workshop will address skills relevant to TAs in their present role as well as professional development towards their future as young academics.

A Call to Action

The Fellows are actively seeking not only courses to review, but also research and other collaborations across the University.  For more information about the OLC fellows, please visit them online at www.drexel.edu/inspire.

Quality Improvement Quarterly – Spring Edition
By Stephen DiPietro, PhD, Associate Vice Provost for University Assessment Operations

One of the many qualities that makes Drexel University great is that it is a community where innovation is the norm rather than the exception.  The Office of Assessment & Effectiveness within IRAE has developed a new online newsletter to highlight some of the inspired ways Drexel’s faculty and staff are working to make Drexel even better through innovation in assessment, teaching and learning.  The publication focuses on new initiatives as well as those that have been in operation for a longer period but have recently been evaluated.  It also features articles, interviews, and links to resources. 

The next edition of Drexel’s assessment newsletter the Quality Improvement Quarterly will be published in the second week of the Spring Quarter.  This publication will feature articles pertaining to assessment efforts in Drexel University Libraries, new and ongoing work using students’ co-op essays to assess writing and inform curricular design, and insights from people who have had programs participate in the Program Alignment and Review (PAR) process.  In addition, the newsletter will highlight some of the decisions Drexel has made as a result of PAR.

Please send article suggestions to the attention of Steve DiPietro at sld343@drexel.edu or Jeff Bonfield at jkb28@drexel.edu.

Students Present on Global Gender Challenges at the
7th Annual Student Conference on Global Challenges
By Adam Zahn, Program Coordinator and Jingwen Ling, Marketing & Communications Co-op

This past month, the Office of International Programs held its 7th Annual Student Conference on Global Challenges that focused on the theme of Gender.  The conference, the only one of its kind on Drexel’s campus, was attended by over 200 students, faculty, and community members. This important event provided the opportunity for students to come together to address global challenges and explore innovative solutions through a gender lens.

During the six panel sessions, students presented research, posed questions, and offered solutions on a wide array of topics including gender health disparities; gendered roles in the media and in sports; the gendered impact of new technologies on lifestyles and relationships, employment trends, and occupational health;  STEM education and gender equality; gender sexuality and HIV/AIDS; and transgender policies. The conference featured two keynote speakers: Dr. Rashad Shabazz and Dr. Tererai Trent.  Dr. Shabazz’s academic expertise brings together theories of race and racism, gender studies, cultural studies, and critical prison studies within a methodological framework that draws on history, human geography, philosophy and literature. "We have to dis-articulate our perception that gender is only related to women,” Dr. Shabazz argued in his speech, which looked at ways in which urban spaces and prison spaces have influenced public practices of masculinity.

Dr. Tererai Trent is a senior consultant with more than 18 years of international experience in professional program and policy evaluation. Her work focuses on issues such as the intersection of HIV transmission with gender based violence, food security, women’s and girls’ empowerment and education.  Dr. Trent, one of Oprah’s “most memorable guests,” told the moving story of how she overcame enormous barriers born in a small village in rural Zimbabwe in South Africa to realize her dreams, including bringing education to some 4,000 village girls. Dr. Trent advised Drexel students: "if you desire it, it's achievable!"

The conference concluded with a lively reception and closing remarks delivered by Dr. Julie Mostov, Vice Provost for Global Initiatives.

The Office of International Programs would like to extend its gratitude to all of the panelists who contributed to the success of this event and appreciation to faculty moderators for their time and dedication.

Information pertaining to the 2015 Student Conference on Global Challenges will be made available this fall.

DCAE’s 2nd Annual Showcase of Teaching to Shine the Spotlight
on Innovative Teaching at Drexel University
By Allison H. Keene, Administrative Coordinator II,
Drexel Center for Academic Excellence

Even the snow and bitter cold temperatures during the winter quarter could not hold the Drexel Center for Academic Excellence (DCAE) back from hosting its monthly workshops on teaching and learning topics important to Drexel faculty and PhD students or planning Drexel’s 2nd Annual Showcase of Teaching.

The first workshop of the New Year took place this past January and featured a partnership between the DCAE and the Writing Intensive Program.  Presenters Scott Warnock, PhD, and Dan Driscoll, MFA, faculty members in the Department of English and Philosophy and the Director and Associate Director, respectively, of Drexel’s Writing Center, provided background on the structure of Writing Intensive (WI) courses, how to create WI courses, and how to establish meaningful learning and writing goals for these courses. 

The February event on Classroom Management drew another large crowd representing faculty attendees from eight different colleges or schools. Tim Kurzweg, PhD, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Sandy Friedlander, PhD, Department of Culture and Communication, Shivanthi Anandan, PhD, Department of Biology, and Jennifer Taylor, PhD, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, discussed various types of bullying in the classroom, ways to manage students during group work, and setting expectations for behavior in one’s teaching philosophy and course syllabus.

Winter quarter’s final workshop took place in early March and featured Rachel Reynolds, PhD, Department of Culture and Communication, Samir Shah, DPS, Department of Management, and Alisa Morss Clyne, PhD, Department Mechanical Engineering, regarding the topic of integrating teaching and research. Each of these three events was videotaped and a link is available on the DCAE resources page.

In addition to the Center’s monthly workshops, planning is currently underway for Drexel’s Second Annual Showcase of Teaching, to be held in Behrakis Grand Hall on April 15, 2014. This event, hosted by the DCAE, will highlight best practices in teaching, learning, assessment and effective classroom techniques that Drexel faculty and TAs engage in each day.  Faculty and PhD students submitted proposals in March to share their knowledge and experiences through either poster or roundtable presentations, with morning and afternoon sessions available for each format.

Last year’s inaugural Showcase of Teaching featured 79 faculty and PhD students representing every college and school and each of Drexel’s three campuses. Responses to an event survey highlight the importance of providing an environment for faculty to engage with their peers and learn from one another, with 85% of respondents either agreeing or strongly agreeing that this event “contributed to developing my professional competence” and “highlighted quality aspects of teaching and learning that I will promote in my professional environment”.  All faculty and PhD students are strongly encouraged to attend the Showcase on April 15.

On April 14, 2014, the DCAE will host a workshop with Brian Coppola, PhD, from the University of Michigan, who will also be on hand for the DCAE’s Showcase of Teaching the following day.  Dr. Coppola is a Professor of Chemistry, recent recipient of the Cherry Award for Great Teaching, advocate for science education, and promoter of global higher education partnerships across continents. Please visit the DCAE’s Workshop and Events page to RSVP to Dr. Coppola’s workshop.

Additionally, the winter quarter saw the DCAE welcome four new mentors to its Faculty Academic Portfolio program: Stephen Gambescia, PhD, Department of Health Administration; Yoto Yotov, PhD, Department of Economics and International Business; Jonson Miller, PhD, Department of History and Politics; and, Lloyd Ackert, PhD, Department of History and Politics.  All four mentors will join the DCAE’s current mentor group to work one-on-one with faculty on the creation of academic portfolios.

Jennifer Taylor, DCAE Fellow and Associate Professor in the School of Public Health, addresses fellow faculty during the February 24, 2014 DCAE workshop on the topic Classroom Management.

Faculty Diversity Initiatives at Drexel
by Ellonda L. Green, MEd, Senior Academic Coordinator,
Office of Faculty Development and Equity

Faculty diversity was highlighted at Drexel’s 2013 Convocation, and several new initiatives are helping Drexel to improve its academic environment.  In addition to our ongoing efforts to broaden our recruitment efforts to employ a more diverse faculty, projects designed to help us learn more about how to improve Drexel’s climate are being implemented.

Under-Represented Minority Faculty Focus Groups

Several months ago, President John Fry created the Drexel University Committee on Diversity and Inclusive Excellence.  Members of the Committee and the Office of Faculty Development and Equity are conducting informal discussion groups with self-identified under-represented minority faculty members to explore their experiences at Drexel and elicit their insights and recommendations. The focus groups have been very successful and have attracted faculty members from across the university who shared their experiences and perceptions.

Departed Female Under-Represented Minority Faculty Interviews

The Office of Faculty Development & Equity recently analyzed faculty departures from Drexel. After discovering several full-time faculty women who self-identified as members of underrepresented minority groups who have left Drexel since 2007, there was concern about departure disparities. In response to these findings, members of Drexel's Committee on Diversity & Inclusive Excellence conducted structured phone interviews.  Upon completion of these interviews, the Committee members and Office of Faculty Development and Equity will analyze the findings and develop initiatives to build upon our strengths as well as address areas of weakness.

For more information, please contact Janet Fleetwood, Vice Provost for Strategic Development and Initiatives, at janet.fleetwood@drexel.edu.

Monthly Assessment Workshops
By Stephen DiPietro, PhD, Associate Vice Provost for University Assessment Operations

With over 265 faculty and staff having registered for the fall and winter series of monthly assessment workshops, the office of University Assessment Operations is pleased to announce the expansion of these workshops into the spring term.  Additionally, a “Best of the Best” series, consisting of those workshops that were the most highly rated, will be offered.  More information will be provided in the days ahead.

Thursday, April 10, 2014
How to Effectively Use Hyperon to Generate Reports
Presented by Lora Furman, College of Nursing & Health Professions

Participants will learn how to combine AEFIS course evaluation data and Banner data through the use of Hyperion to create simple, straightforward reports.  Users need not have extensive knowledge of databases or statistical software, such as SAS or SPSS, to be able to quickly and easily summarize results from course evaluations.  Participants will learn how to import AEFIS data into Hyperion, link Banner data to course evaluation results, create pivots with course averages and section totals, and calculate response rates.  It is recommended that attendees have good understanding of Hyperion, including experience running reports and creating pivots.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Assessment Instruments and Methods
Presented by Teresa Harrison, LeBow College of Business

You’ve created your objectives and your rubrics…Now what?  This workshop will discuss how to move from the design phase to the implementation phase of an assessment plan.  Attendees will discuss trade-offs associated with different methods of analysis both from a pedagogical and a logistical component.  In addition, participants will address issues such as how to assess using an essay versus multiple choice format, and possible technology/software (AEFIS, Waypoint, BBLearn etc.) that could facilitate assessment.  The workshop will include a demonstration of how to begin to use some of this technology.

A description of each workshop is available on the IRAE website.  To register for one or more workshops, click “Register for this Workshop” located below the workshop descriptions. Workshop confirmations will be automatically generated upon completion of registration. 

Program Alignment and Review (PAR) Update – the External Reviews
By Jan Biros, EdD, Senior Vice Provost for Budget, Planning and Administration

The Program Alignment and Review (PAR) project provides a unique opportunity for curricular reflection and organizational renewal.  This year, 18 programs are under review, and the self–study reports of these programs are complete.  Deans have identified programs to be reviewed next year, self-study teams have been selected, and an orientation for these teams will take place on Thursday, April 24.  PAR standing committee members are currently reviewing this year’s self-study reports before sending them out to the external reviewers.  External review team visits are scheduled to take place over the course of the next few months.

The external reviews have proven to be one of the most significant aspects of the PAR process.   Distinguished reviewers carefully selected from reputable peer and aspirant institutions take their roles seriously and provide careful, thoughtful, and insightful program critiques.   They spend an entire day meeting with faculty, students, and staff, ending each meeting with a report to the Provost.  The external reviewers offer valuable recommendations for curricular changes, new research initiatives, and suggestions for offering clearer career paths for students. During their visit at Drexel, they are also able to observe the culture of a department, engagement of students, and relationships among faculty and then identify areas which may need improvement or attention.   These visits are extremely collegial, constructive, and are great opportunities to view our programs through a different lens.  External reviewers have unanimously been impressed with the commitment Drexel is making to improve the quality of the academic experience we offer to our students and faculty.  Their involvement is a valuable opportunity for Drexel to benefit from their wisdom while promoting Drexel’s reputation as an institution committed to continuous quality improvement and, ultimately, the success of our students.

Over 70 Drexel Faculty and Staff Recognized at Celebrating
Drexel Authors of 2013
By Jenny James Lee, Marketing & Events Associate, Drexel University Libraries

The Drexel Community gathered in the Paul Peck Alumni Center this past month to recognize 74 faculty and staff members who edited or authored books in 2013. The second annual event, Celebrating Drexel Authors recognized Drexel’s contributions to scholarship by showcasing the books published by members of the community.

This year’s event recognized 25 editors and 49 authors who represented 12 of Drexel’s Colleges and Schools. Visit the Drexel University Libraries website to view a complete list of recognized publications.

For more information about the Celebrating Drexel Authors event or to submit a publication for the Celebrating Drexel Authors of 2014, please contact libraries@drexel.edu. Publications entered into the Faculty Portfolios system will automatically be entered.

Update on Fall Assessment Conference
By Stephen DiPietro, PhD, Associate Vice Provost for University Assessment Operations

Drexel is hosting its first regional conference on assessment September 10-12, 2014.  It is anticipated that this first attempt will bring nearly 300 attendees from across the middle states region to Drexel’s campus and from many more institutions across the United States in the years to come.  In fact, proposals are being received from people who wish to present from every region of the United States. The planning committee is especially interested in receiving proposals for the conference from Drexel faculty/staff.

By referring to the conference website, interested participants can register for the conference, secure lodging, and submit session proposals.  As a special feature of the conference, Drexel faculty and staff who register in all or some of the conference will be FREE OF CHARGE.  In order to secure this benefit, faculty and staff MUST register at the above URL.  During the registration process, registrants will be asked to indicate if he/she is a Drexel employee and will then be automatically registered at no expense.

​Entitled “Myths & Movements: Re-Imagining Higher Education Assessment,” the planning committee hopes to engage attendees in rich conversation through interactive presentations, snapshot sessions, debates and plenary addresses.  ​​Please contact Steve DiPietro at sld343@drexel.edu for additional information.

Taking Advantage of the Online Learning Council: A Snapshot of Courses and Services
By Allen Grant, PhD, and Fran Cornelius, PhD, MSN, Rn-BC, CNE

Since 2009, the Online Learning Council (OLC) has been actively engaged in efforts to enhance the academic experience for students and faculty at Drexel University.  The OLC is comprised of nearly 100 faculty, TAs, and professional staff from across the university with the goal of developing and disseminating strategies that will have positive and lasting impact on the design, delivery, and outcomes of Drexel’s online, hybrid, and enhanced face-to-face courses.  An important outcome of these efforts is the OLC INSPIRE website, www.drexel.edu/inspire,serving as a portal to extensive university resources that support the teaching/learning experience at Drexel.


Whether you are an online novice or pioneer in the field, the resources that the OLC provides are designed to assist you throughout the lifecycle of an online course or online program.  Through the INSPIRE website, course instructors can easily locate university resources, learn about upcoming workshops/events and access tips and practices to not only deliver a highly effective online course, but also design and assess that course.  The website contains information and many on-demand mini-tutorials.  Some of the key resources include:

Designing Your Course

Effective course design is the foundation of a quality teaching and learning experience.  This foundation begins with an understanding and application of the required elements contained in the Learner-Centered Syllabus, which includes the Drexel Student Learning Priorities that directly tie to the University Strategic plan.   From the syllabus, the foundations for building your online course are contained in the Drexel University Core Design Elements checklist.  This rubric is a comprehensive checklist adapted from existing design standards and modified by Drexel faculty for Drexel faculty can help you get started in designing your course. 

Course accessibility is another important area of instructional design that the OLC has focused on over the last year.  Ensuring a quality learning experience for all learners, including those with a disability, can be easier than you think.  INSPIRE provides links to a best practices manual for accessibility, printable “cheat sheets” for making content accessible (such as Word, PowerPoint and PDF’s) as well as multimedia presentations and workshops produced within Drexel and from the WebAim (Web Accessibility in Mind).

Delivering Your Course

When it comes to course delivery, whether you are augmenting your face-to-face class with technology, teaching in a hybrid mode with some face-to-face and some online components, or facilitating a completely online class, there are resources available on the website for you to use to prepare your course, deliver your course, and engage students in active learning. The site can also connect you with experts who are available to help you.

Reviewing Your Course (or just getting started)

Whether you are just beginning to think about developing an online course or considering reviewing/updating an existing program or course, course design review services can be utilized at any point in the continuum.  You can get started by doing a self-review using the Core Design Elements Checklist, a self-paced Course in Blackboard Learn or you can request a course design review by an OLC Fellow. The Course Design Review Program is intended to provide instructors with constructive, collegial, and confidential feedback on the design of their online or hybrid course. Please use the request form to request a course design review.


Across campuses at Drexel, there are many opportunities to learn and interact with colleagues. The INSPIRE website homepage offers a current list of available workshops, training and professional development events and opportunities offered throughout Drexel University.  Be sure to make this your first stop when planning your continuing education.


The OLC is actively seeking the support of new colleagues in order to advance teaching and learning at Drexel University.   Our goal is to tap into the diverse expertise within the Drexel community.  Working together, we can achieve the ultimate goal of bringing a higher quality learning experience to our students.  If you are interested in becoming more involved visit www.drexel.edu/inspire and click on ‘Get Involved’.

Fall Activities at the Drexel Smart Initiatives Program(DSIP)
By Shivanthi Anandan, Diana Nicholas and Joan Weiner, Co-directors,
Drexel Smart Initiatives Program

DSIP Academic Program - The Interdisciplinary Smart Initiatives (INSI) minor has been approved by faculty senate and the first course in the core was offered with a second planned for the summer term.  The minor will allow students from across the University to plan and complete multidisciplinary projects that use technology to solve problems related to urban communities.  Although housed within the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, students can come from any undergraduate program at Drexel.   As long as students want the chance to produce an innovative, tangible project, they can take the minor; whether they are studying biology, engineering, Architecture, Interior Design or something else.  The minor is predicated on giving students the opportunity to create projects that will tackle issues of sustainability and technology within the urban environment.  Students will develop skills and knowledge in the topics associated with problem solving, innovative technology, leadership and immersive participatory experiences.  Skills and knowledge will be delivered through collaborative teaching and coursework, skill building, experimentation, experiential learning, and engaging research initiatives.  

Outreach:  NCIIA - Diana Nicholas, director of the new INSI minor; will represent the DSIP co-directors as she begins a series of presentations at the 18th Annual National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) conference in San Jose, CA in a session titled “Smart Initiatives = Smart Programs: Interdisciplinary Programming and Research.”  NCIIA’s mission is to “…support technology innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education and to create experiential learning opportunities for students and successful, socially beneficial innovations and businesses.”   This fits well with the new minor and the Drexel Smart Initiatives Program.   A NCIIA Seed Fund grant to Joan Weiner, co-director of the DSIP, and Eric Eisle, a founder of Drexel Smart House, already has been used to support the development of student projects.  While not all will lead to commercialization, each project will be a good learning experience.

Preservation Award - More news about the Drexel Smart House  – both as a physical property and as a symbol of the Drexel Smart House mission - the University City Historical Society recognized Drexel’s efforts “to improve the historical fabric of this exceptional neighborhood and  presented its 2013 Outstanding Preservation Award to Kimberly I Miller, Director of Planning Design, and to Richard H. Olaya of Olaya Studio for their work on this stage of work.

Research with the Drexel Smart Initiatives Program - Continuing its series of special guest speakers, Edward "Ted" Grauch, Vice President, Video Premise Equipment, Comcast Cable Communications, visited Drexel in March.  He spent time with DSH students and then spoke to a full audience of interested faculty, guests and students about the  "Rise of the Machines: Creating Tomorrow's Smart Home.”   In his talk, Mr. Grauch discussed the status of smart home technologies, and cost curves and trends that are driving adoption of such technologies.   Many questions were raised relating to the technical issues in developing the new machines and also the social implications of doing so.  After seeing the PowerPoint slide of an “average” living room, many in the audience may now think differently about how the machines they have come accustomed to using increasingly can be used to provide information about them.  Mr. Grauch oversees Comcast’s video equipment strategy, and the development of all technical specifications covering products in over 23 million homes.  He is a graduate of Drexel University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Edward (Ted) Grauch with Drexel Smart House students

Drexel Smart House Gives Awards - In a new outreach initiative, Drexel Smart House will present two awards at this year’s Delaware Valley Science Fair.  The winners will be invited to campus to present their work and learn more about the DSIP.   In May, DSH will present the first DSH Award at Intel ISEF (Intel International Science and Engineering Fair) in Los Angeles.  This is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition with over 1,600 high school students from around the world competing to showcase their work.   Presenting the award will be four former Intel ISEF winners and current DSH members Alex McBride, Vincent O’Leary, Aimee Turner and Mohamed Zerban. 

For more information about DSIP and DSH, please visit drexel.edu/smarthouse.


Building Homes & Hope
Lisa Litzinger-Drayton, Assistant Director, Communications,
Bennett S. LeBow College of Business

Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article for The New Yorker a few years back about a burly ex-Marine named Murray Barr who lived on the streets of Reno, NV. Struggling with alcoholism, Barr was repeatedly picked up by police and taken to jail or, often times, to the emergency room because he was too inebriated to head to prison. His presence was such a constant and his personality (aside from his drunken rants) so warm and funny, that over time, the police really took a liking to him. They begged him to quit drinking.

A couple of times, Barr wound up in a treatment program that placed him under strict rules similar to house arrest. Under this program, he thrived. He quit drinking, got a job and worked hard. But one of the police officers who knew Barr well, Patrick O’Bryan, reported that once Barr graduated from the program, “They said, ‘Congratulations,’ and put him back out on the streets.” O’Bryan suspects that as a result of his military background, Barr needed someone to hold him accountable in order to succeed.

It’s too bad that Barr happened to be homeless in Reno and not in Philadelphia. Here, thanks to the vision of Drexel LeBow alumna Joan Dawson McConnon ’89 and Sister Mary Scullion, co-founders of Project HOME, there are long-term programs tailored to people just like him.

McConnon grew up one of six children in a devout Catholic family in Springfield, Delaware County, which viewed volunteer service as an expression of their faith. Her parents clearly modeled and instilled in their children the expression of St. Francis of Assisi. “Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words.”

After earning a bachelor’s from Pennsylvania State University, she began a brief career in accounting before coming to Drexel LeBow on a graduate assistantship. McConnon assumed that upon finishing her M.S. in taxation that she would pursue a career in the tax accounting department in one of the city’s large public accounting firms.

During her years studying at LeBow, she was compelled to continue practicing her faith through acts of service. After completing her classes and teaching responsibilities on any given day, McConnon would head out into the night, to the cold, hard streets of Philadelphia, to perform outreach and volunteer with Mercy Hospice and Committee for the Homeless.

LeBow College of Business alumna Joan Dawson McConnon '89, co-founder of project HOME.

Through the people she met in the shelters, and a budding friendship with a nun named Sister Mary Scullion, a higher calling was revealed to her.

Scullion had joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1976 and has been advocating for homeless and mentally ill men and women since 1978. She and McConnon were not content knowing that certain individuals were not given shelter options. Specifically, the city of Philadelphia’s shelter system refused to house individuals who had been drinking. Many of those living on the streets struggled with addiction, McConnon says, and many were veterans who were afflicted with mental illness.

“Sister Mary and I shared the common vision that every person has dignity and deserves a safe, welcoming place to live,” McConnon says. So in the winter of 1989, they worked with the city to open an alternative emergency shelter at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center that would welcome those who were not able to enter the city’s shelter system.  With 50 cots set up in the locker rooms, the shelter was named the Mother Katherine Drexel Residence in tribute to a deceased nun who had recently been beatified by Pope John Paul II. Mother Drexel, the niece of Anthony J. Drexel, has since been canonized.

At the same time McConnon was helping to run this shelter, sleeping in shifts, she was writing her master’s thesis on low-income housing tax credits. The government’s intent with the LIHTC program was to increase the number of affordable rental housing units across the country. While the program provides critically needed resources to build affordable housing, it must be coupled with long-term rental subsidies and support service funding in order to permanently break the cycle of chronic street homelessness.

While much has been accomplished since the first winter shelter 25 years ago, the main problem that existed then remains today: There aren’t sufficient units of affordable housing.

McConnon started thinking about combining her passion for solving homelessness with the knowledge she acquired in her research. It occurred to her that the theory of social enterprise – using commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being rather than maximizing profits for external shareholders – might be a viable solution to creating more affordable housing. “I had this question in my mind: ‘What if we built affordable housing where, instead of the profits earned through that endeavor benefiting a few partners, we reinvested those profits into funding the next building and the next building?’”

With support from the men who lived in the first winter shelter, the staff of Bethesda Project, the Connelly Foundation and the Sisters of Mercy, Project HOME (acronym for Housing, Opportunities for Employment, Medical Care, and Education) was born. Over the past 25 years, Project HOME has evolved into a major developer of housing and a provider of comprehensive services for homeless men, women and children and those at risk of becoming homeless.

Today, Project HOME provides a range of services from street outreach (teams work around the clock seven days a week) to long-term housing and job training. It is widely acclaimed for its multifaceted support system that’s designed to help people stay off the streets long term. Project HOME services include community-based health care and treatment for mental health and addiction issues, adult education and after-school programs, an employment program that provides residents with jobs at a resale boutique and cafe run by Project HOME, even an alumni program to ensure that people have a caring community when they move out of supportive housing and into more independent living situations.

Education is an important part of Project HOME’s strategy to end homelessness. In 2004, it opened the Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs, an education and technology center with programs that focus on the integration of technology with art, education and enterprise. Last year, Drexel’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design began a partnership with Project HOME’s Art Program, which invited Westphal students and the resident artists to share their talents. An exhibition of Project HOME artists’ works was held at Westphal’s URBN Center.

Drexel photography student Charles Cerrone, who also photographs for Market Street magazine, participates in this partnership. He spends two hours each Monday with the Project HOME artists, helping out “any way I can.” Some days he helps the residents with their photography or mixed media art; other days they just talk.

Cerrone has done videography to help the artists market their art, and says some of the Project HOME artists have been successful in supplementing their incomes through the sale of their works. At the Drexel exhibition, artist Doug Sanders sold 13 pieces, and James Webster landed a commissioned project from an attendee.

Scullion says one of the great things about art is that it can help to break down social boundaries. “I think it’s remarkable what the Drexel and Project HOME artists have achieved in their collaboration. Art has a unique ability to unite us on more of a level playing field.”

Cerrone says the residents really benefit as a result of the art program. “I’ve heard a lot of stories. After their lives fall apart, they start to rethink their creative energy, and they get to create something, express themselves and get in touch with their creativity that doesn’t really cost them money. It helps them to get their lives back on track.”

These artists are residents of Project HOME’s long-term supportive housing. Perhaps the most visible results of the organization’s success are the newly constructed and renovated residences that house formerly homeless and low-income individuals and families all over the city; they are a direct result of the vision of the Project HOME community to solve the shortage of low-income housing. The residents pay 30 percent of their income for rent. Project HOME keeps its overhead as low as possible, takes no profits, and reinvests any money left over into developing more housing and services.

All told, about 700 individuals who require low-income housing now have a safe place to call home. Through successful partnerships with community and government organizations, and with the help of generous gifts and grants, 535 of these units were constructed from the ground up by Project HOME.

Project HOME’s most recent development is the four-story JBJ Soul Homes (one of its major funders is Jon Bon Jovi). Located at 15th and Fairmount streets, its 55 apartments now house formerly homeless individuals.

Project HOME is working with another nonprofit, the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, to develop a nine-story, 94-unit apartment building on a formerly vacant lot at Ninth and Arch streets. A Philadelphia Inquirer article about the partnership reflects how the organization’s success has changed attitudes: “Twenty years ago, news of a residence for formerly homeless people was typically met with neighborhood resistance. Today, the group is welcomed as a partner.”

A study by Drexel LeBow adjunct instructor Stephen Mullin’s consulting company, Econsult Solutions, found city neighborhoods that have Project HOME developments see home prices rise significantly faster than homes in other neighborhoods. “In addition to their well-deserved accolades in providing housing for those in need, their investments are also effective economic development drivers, making neighborhoods more attractive and hence more valuable,” Mullin says.

Long-term housing solutions also save significant dollars. A recent Project HOME study titled “Saving Lives, Saving Money” concluded that permanent supportive housing can yield cost savings averaging more than $7,700 per person annually. In fact, the top 20 percent of the chronically homeless who also struggle with substance abuse cost the city of Philadelphia approximately $22,000 per year, per person, in behavioral health services, homeless services and incarceration.

Mayor Michael Nutter is quick to credit McConnon for her service to Philadelphia. “I am very proud of Joan’s contributions to the city and know that she will continue to work hard until, as Project HOME’s motto says, ‘all of us are home.’”

Scullion says McConnon’s vision has made their organization’s growth, development and mission possible. “She is phenomenal. I’ve worked with her for 25 years, and every year my love, admiration and gratitude for her grow stronger.”

Recalling the decision to devote her career to Project HOME instead of the big accounting firm, McConnon says, “There were a lot of people who wanted to work for the public accounting firms, but there were not a lot of people willing to work with the chronically homeless men and women I had gotten to know. I was single at the time, and I lived simply, so it wasn’t a big sacrifice.”

McConnon now resides with her husband, Mark, and three children, James, 16, Annie, 14, and Sarah, 12, in Springfield, where she grew up. She says the ability to take her skillset and apply it to solving a tragic injustice in our society is one of the blessings of her life. “To spend my day working with the passionate, brilliant and creative members of the Project HOME community has transformed my life and has allowed me to instill in my children the legacy of my parents: that our faith is a call to action on behalf of women, men and children who are marginalized in our society.

Since its inception, Project HOME has helped thousands of people who were formerly living on the streets or at risk of winding up there. And while public perception is not generally that people are able to break the cycle and succeed, Project HOME has proven otherwise: The organization’s permanent supportive housing facilities have a one-year retention rate of about 95 percent.

Advocates estimate that Project HOME has reduced Philadelphia’s homeless population by half. The city has the lowest estimated rate of homelessness among major U.S. cities at about 1 in 3,095; New York City’s rate is about 1 in 2,555, Chicago’s is 1 in 1,661; and Los Angeles’ is 1 in 378.

In 2011, McConnon and Scullion were jointly awarded the University of Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, the oldest and most prestigious honor given to American Catholics, in recognition of their good works.

But instead of focusing on her successes, McConnon prefers to keep the focus on the work left to do. She points out that thousands of people are currently on waiting lists for subsidized housing in the region – and the wait is usually longer than three years. She says the effects of the economic downturn have been crippling: It has increased the number of people living on the streets and reduced the government funding devoted to helping them. Project HOME has been increasingly challenged due to cuts at the state and federal levels.

In his New Yorker article, Gladwell reported that those familiar with Murray Barr’s stints in the back of a police car, in prison, in rehab, at the emergency room and during hospital stays, surmise that the cost of managing his illness over the 10 years he spent homeless in Reno would have easily added up to $1 million. “It probably would have been cheaper to give him a full-time nurse and his own apartment,” Gladwell wrote. But despite all the resources devoted to Barr, he died on the streets in 2005.

“Still, today, it’s just unconscionable to me that we allow homelessness to happen, simply because of the way we allocate resources,” McConnon says. 

Where are they now? Alumni Success Stories
By Sandra Golis, Administrative Coordinator, Graduate Studies

In the spring, with Commencement just around the corner, the Office of Graduate Studies prepares to clear students for graduation.  It is also a time when we must gird ourselves to say goodbye to the soon to be graduates.  “What are your plans?” we ask. “Did the post-doctoral position at Harvard come through?”  “Has UC Irvine made an offer?”  “Are you choosing Intel?”  “The bright lights of Wall Street beckon, huh?”  Each year it seems the news gets better.  Then, before we know it, they are gone and we lose touch with them.  “What are they up to now, I wonder?”  “Has their Drexel education stood them in good stead?”  This spring, we decided to track a few of our formers students to catch up with them. This would be incidental to the effort to invite them to sit on an alumni panel on placement in industry to be hosted by the Graduate Student Association and the Office of Alumni Relations.  In our conversations, we probed them for nuggets of wisdom from their experiences while at Drexel and we asked if Drexel and the professors who worked with them have helped to shape their careers, thus far.

Evan Sultanik received each of his three degrees from Drexel, receiving his accelerated BS/MS in Computer Science in 2006, then his PhD in 2010.  Evan is now serving as the Chief Executive of Digital Operatives, LLC, a computer research and development firm based in Washington D.C.  He directs fundamental and applied research activities, makes technical contributions, and holds the role of Principal Investigator on various projects related to computer security, cyber warfare, artificial intelligence, and computer vision.  As an accelerated student, Evan was introduced to graduate-level research during his undergraduate co-op in Dr. William Regli’s laboratory and then with Dr. Moshe Kam.  Dr. Regli helped Evan develop important skills for managing ongoing research projects, something Evan does now at Digital Operatives. “I originally did not intend to focus on academic research,” he said. “My goal was to graduate as quickly as possible and get a job in industry.”  Evan’s motivation to earn his PhD came from the faculty who willingly allowed him to participate in research and co-author papers and to present his work at international conferences.  Evan felt his experience was “relatively unique, but apparently common at Drexel.”

Drexel’s internship program, the precursor to today’s masters co-op, provided Kaushal Desai with real world job experience and exposed him to research and development (R&D) during his studies.  Kaushal earned dual MS degrees in Biomedical Engineering and Information Systems in 2001 and he interned at AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals.  The company was so impressed with him that they gave him his first position there.  Kaushal got hooked on R&D and, with the company’s blessings, decided to come back for a PhD in Information Systems, which he received in 2012.  He is currently serving as the Associate Director of the Design and Interpretation Center of Excellence at the company.  “Drexel provided me the rare opportunity to gain research experience and apply new ideas to ‘real world’ problems,” he said. During his studies, Kaushal was also thrilled with the unlimited access to both the Drexel University and University of Pennsylvania libraries that assisted him with his work. He said he owes much of his success and experiences, both in research and in life, to Dr. Tony Hu and Dr. Oleh Tretiak. He also recalled his first course on design with Dr. Michael Atwood which changed the way he thought about information, knowledge sharing, design, and related phenomena.

In addition to internships and now co-op, many graduate students have the opportunity to collaborate with other professionals scattered across various institutions and organizations and, thus, build a strong professional network.  One such beneficiary was Don Pellegrino who graduated from Drexel with a PhD in Information Studies in 2011. Don is the Senior Analyst for Research and Development at the Dow Chemical Company.  His group is responsible for managing research data across all of the company’s organizations globally. “We design the information environment for chemists, biologists, and other researchers,” he said.  In particular, Don helps develop architectural road maps for systems and services that assist researchers record their findings and search for other relevant material.  While at Drexel, Don had the unique opportunity to collaborate with other professionals at Penn State, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the US Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, the US Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Command (CERDEC), and Pfizer Research and Development.  Working with these organizations helped Don to understand the broad range of issues in the field and to learn the importance of collaborative research among geographically-distributed teams. Don’s advice to current graduate students is to take the time to develop a network of professional colleagues.

Spencer Stober found his passion for research after working in industry. Spencer received a BS in Chemical Engineering from Drexel in 2000 and returned later to earn his PhD in Chemical Engineering in 2012. Spencer did co-op stints at ExxonMobil in 1997and 1998. After earning his BS, Spencer worked at ExxonMobil for some time and acquired a patent for his work. Spencer became increasingly interested in research and, like Kaushal with the blessings of his employer, eventually returned to Drexel for his PhD in 2009. He has now risen to the rank of Senior Engineer at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering. His work with Dr. Cameron Abrams led to several publications. “Dr. Abrams challenged me to understand problems in the most fundamental way possible,” he said. Spencer also serves on the Industrial Advisory Board of the Department of Chemical Engineering at Drexel and the Industrial Advisory Board for the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power, a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center comprised of 7 universities and 50 industrial partners.

Spencer Stober, Senior Engineer at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering

Spencer’s advice to current graduate students is to focus on the fundamentals early on. “Do problems. Do problems. Do problems,” he said. Spencer feels that “students must be challenged beyond their level of comfort” to achieve great things.

Our Drexel graduates are making an impact in industry and Daniel Mollicone is no exception. Daniel graduated from Drexel with a PhD in Biomedical Engineering in 2008. He is now the President and CEO of Pulsar Informatics, Inc. responsible for strategy development and oversight of all company operations. He is also the Principal Investigator for research and development contracts for the Navy, NASA, NSBRI, and the DOT. 

As CEO, Daniel has been involved with a range of company activities including research for the Navy while aboard the USS Freedom where he lived among the enlisted sailors for two weeks during naval exercises in the Pacific. He has conducted research for NASA and communicated with astronauts before and after their mission on the International Space Station. He also supports research for the DOT Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration evaluating safety impacts of new hours of service regulation for commercial truck drivers, which involves briefing senior members of government including members of congress and their supporting staff. 

Daniel Mollicone, President and CEO of Pulsar Informatics, Inc

While at Drexel, Daniel was involved with R&D efforts associated with the Drexel fNIR (Functional near-infrared) spectroscopy research initiative. He received mentoring from senior faculty researchers including Dr. Banu Onaral. “Dr. Onaral provided visionary leadership in [a] field that is rapidly evolving,” he said. “She fosters an environment where students can meaningfully interact with faculty.” Daniel’s advice to current students is to interact with faculty as much as possible, a common tip given by all our interviewees.

Our small-scale survey has driven home to us that our successful alumni have the greatest affection and unwavering gratitude towards Drexel, its special brand of education and the faculty and staff who provide it.  We, in turn, can be justifiably proud that the graduates we produce can stand alongside those from the best universities and be more than competitive.

Please send any current and former graduate student success stories to the Office of Graduate Studies at sbg38@drexel.edu throughout the year for future publications.

Global Living in Myers Hall: Alumnus Brings Vision for a Model U.N. Learning Community to Life
By Lisa Litzinger-Drayton, Assistant Director, Communications, Bennett S. LeBow College of Business

Lixin Liu always wanted to study in America and worked hard for years to turn that dream into reality. But upon her arrival from China, she says she felt homesick, lonely and scared. She felt that she didn’t fit in.

She recalls thinking everything about America was different – the food, the culture, the educational environment. She didn’t get other students’ jokes. Her hometown, Guangzhou, is located in the southern part of China where it never  snows, so even the weather was foreign to her.

Liu says she might have decided to return to China were it not for the support she received from her advisors and friends, and from her Business Learning Community (BLC) peers.

As a member of BLC, Liu took classes and lived with a cohort of freshman business majors from many different backgrounds, whom she credits for helping her to acclimate more quickly. “The BLC students helped me a lot. We did a lot of activities, which gave me lots of opportunities to get to know American culture. BLC was like my family.”

As a foreign student here at Drexel 25 years ago, Eydis Olsen had a totally different experience. A native of Iceland, Olsen could not count a single American among her circle of friends — even by the time she reached graduation. “My friends were from Germany, the Middle East, India. I had a bunch of international friends, but no Americans.”

Drexel LeBow’s first Global Classroom learning community was created to ensure incoming international students have an experience more like Liu’s and less like Olsen’s. Twenty-three freshmen, eight from foreign countries and 14 American students with international interests currently live together in Myers Hall and take all of their classes together as a cohort.

Olsen, who is now an associate clinical professor in LeBow’s School of Economics, runs the program along with Associate Director of Undergraduate Programs Jackie McCurdy. As one of the program’s first initiatives, Olsen encouraged the students to pair up and write each other’s life stories — an activity which allowed them to toss the stereotypes and talk about real life experiences.

She says the resulting stories were amazing and eye-opening, and the students really bonded. “I want the foreign students to get a solid understanding of the culture here in the United States, and for all the students to understand that while people from different countries may seem very different, on the inside we are basically the same.”

Petkana Vatchev, a Global Classroom student who plans to major in legal studies and business analytics, says living with such a diverse group creates lots of opportunities for learning.

“As opposed to one specific thing, we learn from each other about our different cultures every day, through the way we talk, work and learn, to the things we eat when we cook hall dinners for each other — which really makes our floor feel like a home.”

The idea for the program came from alumnus Joel Cohen, who provided LeBow with a generous donation to help it come to life. His vision was for a sort-of model United Nations community that would produce adaptable graduates who can easily cross borders to conduct multinational commerce.

Cohen is an active alumnus who decided to give back by volunteering his spare time to promote higher education. He’s an active member of Drexel’s Alumni Association and the dean’s advisory boards of both Drexel LeBow and the College of Engineering. He’s the president of a company he started, Allflex Packaging Products, Inc.

Cohen says that not enough people are currently working to promote global understanding. “We have discovery and invention — two words that keep America going. We want to pass that on to emerging markets,” which we can do by inspiring international students who may return to these countries.

He also wants all participating students to understand the multitude of opportunities that will arise globally during the next decade, pointing to a McKinsley Global Institute study that shows emerging markets’ share of Fortune 500 companies are expected to rise from 5 percent in 2000 to more than 45 percent by 2025.

He envisions trips to see the United Nations General Assembly in action in New York, to see Congress in action in Washington, D.C., and to attract “global leaders to tell the students about global opportunities worldwide.” This vision will come to life this spring when the students take a four-day trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with policymakers from around the world and visit organizations such as the World Bank, The International Monetary Fund and foreign embassies.

Liu, who is currently a sophomore, will get to attend these events, too. Privy to Liu’s experience as an overwhelmed international student who found a home in her learning community, McCurdy asked her to serve as a LeBow Peer Leader to the Global Classroom students. Liu says she is excited to be part of the program because she wants to help other students adjust to life here as quickly as possible and to reap all the benefits that come with multicultural understanding.

This message to the Drexel Community via Drexel Announcement Mail was approved by
Dr. Mark Greenberg, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs