Improving engineering education through outreach to the next generation


By Rachel Petty ('17), JMU Public Affairs

Why do students choose the majors they study in college?

Oftentimes, at least for students in engineering, the choice is influenced by some experience they had with the subject during their childhood, said Dr. Keith Holland, associate professor of engineering. And that's why the department of engineering is continuously seeking outreach opportunities to explain the discipline to young audiences.

The topic of outreach to young students along with goals for improving the engineering experience for college freshmen were among the ideas Holland explored during a recent Frontiers of Engineering Education conference in Irvine, California. Holland was among 70 engineering faculty from across the country chosen to attend the conference hosted by the National Academy of Engineering from Oct. 25-28. The conference brings together faculty from a variety of engineering disciplines to share ideas and learn from research and best practices in education.  JMU engineering faculty have been selected to attend the conference the past several years.

In addition to Holland, Dr. Robert Nagel, an assistant professor of engineering, attended as a moderator this year.

"The NAE and the Frontiers of Engineering Education is really about a community of practice," Holland said. "What I proposed is trying to further develop a pipeline or pathways for engineers in the future. We want to incorporate some more innovation and entrepreneurial thinking into the freshman level courses. Can we initiate and drive interest in engineering by integrating our freshman students to solve problems that will be interesting and intriguing to younger generations?"

Check out more JMU faculty accomplishments below:


Dr. Emily K. Akerson (Clinical Coordinator and Interprofessional Initiatives, Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services) received $27,161 from Sentara Rockingham Memorial Hospital for the program Healthy Families Shenandoah County to provide education, resources and support for at-risk families. Akerson received $27,161 from Sentara Rockingham Memorial Hospital for the program Healthy Families Page County to provide education, resources and support for at-risk families.

Dr. Elise M. Barrella (Assistant Professor, Engineering), Dr. Robin D. Anderson (Head, Department of Graduate Psychology; Professor, Psychology) and Dr. Jacquelyn K. Nagel (Assistant Professor, Engineering) received $298,502 from the National Science Foundation to develop and assess engineering students’ ability to apply complex knowledge across different problem contexts in sustainable design.

Dr. Christopher E. Berndsen (Assistant Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry) received $30,000 from the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation to identify and to characterize the reaction cycle of Uba5 enzyme via solution biochemistry experiments and X-ray crystallography.

Dr. Thomas C. DeVore (Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry) received $9,500 from the Academy of Applied Science to conduct a Virginia Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.

Alleyn S. Harned (Executive Director, Virginia Clean Cities) received $829,954 from the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce toxic diesel emissions by working to replace heavy-duty vehicles with cleaner fuel vehicles. Harned received $75,000 from the National Fire Protection Association to deploy alternative fuel vehicles for first responders.

Kimberlee Hartzler-Weakley (Director of Children and Youth, Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services) received $77,663 from the Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority to promote health careers and access to primary care for medically underserved populations through community-academic partnerships. Hartzler-Weakley received $565,674 from the Administration on Children, Youth and Families to emphasize abstinence and the use of contraception in order to reduce the number of teen pregnancies in the Harrisonburg, Rockingham and Page areas of Virginia. Hartzler-Weakley received $500 from R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. for Gus Bus school visits to provide weekly support in the surrounding area to encourage early learning and literacy.

Patricia A. Kennedy (Early Literacy Initiatives Director, Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services) received $405,448 from the Virginia Department of Health for a Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program to coordinate professional development to home visiting staff and supervisors working with vulnerable children and families.

Dr. Thomas E. Moran (Associate Professor, Kinesiology) received $10,000 from the Warren G. Stambaugh Memorial Foundation to promote physical activity and nutrition programming in the Shenandoah Valley.

Dr. Jacquelyn K. Nagel (Assistant Professor, Engineering) and Dr. Christopher S. Rose (Professor, Biology) received $128,563 from the National Science Foundation for collaborative research to address the need for undergraduate student training in multidisciplinary design innovation by providing exposure to the abundance of design examples that can be found in nature in order to inspire engineering solutions.

Dr. Robert L. Nagel (Assistant Professor, Engineering) received $142,908 from the National Science Foundation to investigate relationships between student knowledge of functional modeling and their ability to create design solutions.

Remy M. Pangle (Associate Director, Virginia Center for Wind Energy) received $20,000 from the Dominion Foundation to participate in competitions for students to construct wind turbines to generate the most electricity, while learning about the advantages of wind energy.

Dr. Michael R. Parker (Assistant Professor, Biology) received $26,400 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to understand the nature of the chemical communication used in Burmese python reproductive ecology.

Dr. Paul L. Raston (Assistant Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry) received $55,000 from the Petroleum Research Fund to determine a better understanding of nitrogen combustion chemistry at the molecular level.

Dr. Kenneth R. Rutherford (Director, Center for International Stabilization and Recovery; Professor, Political Science) received $50,761 from Radiance Technologies Inc. to incorporate technology-related articles into the existing Journal of ERW and Mine Action. Rutherford received $548,545 from the U.S. Department of State to encourage and stimulate the support of programs undertaken by the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement by acting as an information clearinghouse.

Dr. Lisa C. Schick (Instructor, Learning, Technology and Leadership Education) received $100,000 from the Virginia Department of Education for a Career Development Academy to offer high quality, affordable, contextualized EL CIVICS services to adult learners in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.

Dr. Nicholas J. Swartz (Director, Madison Center for Community Development; Associate Professor, Political Science) received $5,000 from the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Association of Realtors to provide a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Housing Market Area.

Nick D. Swayne (Coordinator for External Relations, School of Education; Instructor, Learning, Technology and Leadership Education) received $44,923 from Virginia city and county donors for the sponsorship of Virginia/DC FIRST LEGO League teams.

Dr. Linette M. Watkins (Head and Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry) received $12,000 from Huntsman International LLC to perform bio-analytical testing services.

Dr. Rhonda M. Zingraff (Associate Dean, College of Health and Behavioral Studies; Director, Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services) received $1,542,225 from the Virginia Department of Education to continue to support state directed and regional/local activities for the Virginia Department of Education Training/Technical Assistance Centers. Zingraff received $1,518 from CASA for Children to provide services for children whose families have been cited for abuse and neglect by the courts to ensure that children may live in safe and permanent homes.


Natalie Doughty (Graduate Student, Piano Performance) was selected as one of 16 students to participate in the Dublin International Piano Festival and Summer Academy in summer 2015. In addition to this high honor, Natalie participated in the Zodiac Music Festival in Valdeblore, France.

Dr. S. Keith Holland (Associate Professor, Engineering) was among 70 of the nation’s most innovative engineering educators to participate in the National Academy of Engineering’s seventh Frontiers of Engineering Education symposium held Oct. 25-28 in Irvine, California. The event provided a forum for educators to discuss and critique new ideas and teaching methods to enhance the education experience of engineering students. The National Academy of Engineering, an independent, nonprofit organization, was established in 1964 under the charter of the National Academy of Science as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers.

Dr. John W. Ott (Professor, Art History) won the William R. Levin Award for Research in the History of Art for the second time, for his project, “Mixed Media: The Visual Cultures of Racial Integration, 1931-1954.” Ott specializes in American Art and wants to examine black and white artists’ efforts toward racial integration, both at the level of representation and within art institutions, during the decades before the civil rights movement.


Dr. Edward J. Brantmeier (Associate Professor, Learning, Technology and Leadership Education) delivered the keynote address, “Deep learning and critical peace education for sustainability,” for the Cambridge Peace and Education Conference of the Cambridge Peace Education Research Group, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Dr. Michele D. Estes (Associate Professor, Learning, Technology and Leadership Education) delivered the keynote address, “Innovative technologies that serve a diverse and engaged classroom,” to the students and faculty of Malmo University during International Week.

Dr. Karen A. Ford (Director and Professor, Strategic Leadership Studies) collaborated with Dr. Justin Haynes of Randolph-Macon College to tell the story of the life of transformational leader Janie Porter Barrett through a play, “Palace of Delight.” Ford wrote a piece about Barrett’s life, influence and leadership that accompanied the playbill for the October performance of the play at R-MC.

Kevin Libuit (Graduate Student, Biology) participated as bioinformatics specialist on a research team in a summer 2015 residency at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Spain, where he worked on a project sequencing the DNA of several species within a bacterial genus. In addition to his participation on the research team, Libuit gave two university talks, a presentation about his research projects here at JMU and a presentation on DNA sequencing.


Dr. Karen A. Ford (Director and Professor, Strategic Leadership Studies), Dr. Margaret F. Sloan (Associate Professor, Strategic Leadership Studies) and Dr. Daisha M. Merritt (Alumna, Strategic Leadership Studies) published “Shifts in practice based on rapid re-housing for rural homelessness: An exploratory study of micropolitan homeless service provision” in Contemporary Rural Social Work

Dr. Evan J. Friss (Assistant Professor, History) wrote “The Cycling City; Bicycles and Urban America in the 1890s,” a book the University of Chicago Press will publish in November. Friss’ book garnered attention in a book section article, “Naked Cities: The death and life of urban America,” by Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker magazine in October.

Dr. Joshua R. Pate (Assistant Professor, Sport and Recreation Management) published “Speak for yourself: Analyzing how U.S. athletes used self-presentation on Twitter during the 2012 London Paralympic Games” in the International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing, Vol. 15, No. 3/4, 2015. His co-authors are from the University of Cincinnati and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Dr. Jon M. Thompson (Professor, Health Sciences; Director, Health Services Administration Program) and Dr. April L. Temple (Associate Professor, Health Sciences) published “Early careerist interest and participation in the health care leadership development programs” in The Health Care Manager, Vol. 34, No. 4, October-December 2015.

Dr. Adam J. Vanhove (Assistant Professor, Organizational Science and Leadership) published “Reconciling the two disciplines of organizational science: A comparison of findings from lab and field research” in Applied Psychology: An International Review. His co-author is from the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.


Graduate students Natalie Perez (Occupational Therapy), Sevinj Iskandarova (Adult Education/Human Resource Development) and Kevin Libuit (Biology) presented their research interests and shared their graduate school journey with undergraduate students from across the state at the Virginia Council of Graduate School’s Commonwealth Education Day, held at Virginia Commonwealth University on Oct. 30. The day is designed to acquaint undergraduate students with different types of institutions and graduate degrees and for them to acquire basic information about graduate education to spark their thinking about pursuing a graduate degree.

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Published: Saturday, October 31, 2015

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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