Meet Dr. Cheryl Bodnar, Assistant Professor Experiential Engineering Education (ExEEd) within the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering and Assistant Director of Faculty Programs Rowan Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RCIE).
What is your area of expertise?
My research areas focus on game-based learning and engineering entrepreneurship. With both of these research areas, my focus is on how to improve the classroom experience so that engineering students can leave my classes well-rounded and ready to tackle the variety of challenges that are integral to the engineering field. More specifically, my work within engineering entrepreneurship focuses on the development of an entrepreneurial mindset. This doesn’t necessarily mean that students will start their own businesses, but that they will develop an innate curiosity about the world around them, be able to connect ideas and concepts from different classes, and, together, create products and/or services that will provide great value to the community around them.
Share an “a ha!” moment that you’ve had within your discipline that made you feel passionate about your field.
One of my greatest “a ha!” moments was when I could see differences in my students a few years after they had been exposed to the game-based learning techniques that I apply in my classes for developing an entrepreneurial mindset. I knew deep down that these methods of teaching would make a difference in the students and help them develop into individuals who would be prepared to take on the challenges of today’s world. However, when a student came back to me a few years after I taught them to share that they used one of the games they played in class as an example in a job interview, it really brought home that the use of these techniques is leaving a memorable impression on my students. This experience reinforced to me how leveraging teaching methods that actively engage our students and challenge them to work outside their comfort zone can really help in their overall professional development and lead to lasting memories they can draw upon.
Describe for us an experience you’ve had with a student that made you feel excited about educating the next generation in your field.
I have had several great experiences with students in my time at Rowan. With regards to Engineering Entrepreneurship, I believe one of my most memorable experiences is engaging with students as both a teacher and advisor. I have one student that I had the fortunate opportunity to teach and then advise as they are moving through the Engineering Entrepreneurship program. This student brings such a passion to everything that they do and is eager and open to learning whatever is necessary to be successful. The student often challenges the status quo and looks for opportunities to improve their and other students’ experiences on campus, thus applying an entrepreneurial mindset in and out of the classroom.
Engineering Entrepreneurship focuses on providing students with a technical foundation within engineering while providing students with the necessary business skills to become innovators within existing organizations or start their own businesses. I think that we too often overlook how essential business skills are to the engineering profession; this degree brings to the forefront that blending these skillsets can lead to new possible career directions that our engineering students may not have considered.
What is one thing you wish people knew about your academic discipline or your research focus?
I really wish that individuals would realize that Engineering Entrepreneurship is not exclusively for individuals that would like to start a business. Although this is one potential career pathway, most of the program is really focused around providing students with the technical and business skills necessary to take on critical and essential roles in the engineering industry. The jobs our students will excel at include business developers and technical sales positions, and other positions that interface directly with customers. The skillsets taught within this program focus on the cultivation of an entrepreneurial mindset which means students can recognize opportunities, are comfortable with ambiguity, can persist through failure, and can manage risk. These are skill sets that are so important to today’s society when the economy is constantly changing and individuals are having to pivot their careers.
What’s your favorite thing about being on campus on a typical Tuesday?
My favorite thing about Tuesdays is my chance to interact with junior and senior engineering students through our junior and senior engineering clinic program. As part of this program, students are grouped into teams that are assigned to work on different faculty projects. I always enjoy having discussions with my student teams and seeing how their curiosity has led them to new areas of investigation. Several of these projects are grant funded, which means the students are working towards publications that allow them to showcase their work to regional and national audiences. The amount of growth I observe in the students over the course of a semester is incredible and although not explicit, I believe that many of these students develop aspects of an entrepreneurial mindset as they start to recognize opportunities for further development, persist through failure, and deal with the ambiguity associated with research.
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Story and photography by: Alyssa Bauer, junior public relations major