Alumni spotlight

Cheryl Bodnar, BSc (Eng)’01, PhD‘06

Engineering alumna engaged in game-based engineering education

Cheryl Bodnar is an associate professor of Experiential Engineering Education at Rowan University. Her research is focused on the integration of game-based pedagogy into the classroom and engineering entrepreneurship. Funding for her work comes from the National Science Foundation and the Kern Family Foundation. 

When I completed my PhD in chemical engineering, I had a strong passion for teaching and education but didn’t realize that you could develop a research program with a focus on this area.

Dr. Cheryl Bodnar

BSc (Eng)’01, PhD‘06

What is your favourite memory from your time at UCalgary?

My favorite memory is working with my senior design team in chemical engineering in my last year of my bachelor’s degree. It was through this design team that I met my husband (also a UCalgary chemical engineering alumnus) that I married right after graduation from my bachelor’s degree.

What was your favourite campus hang-out spot?

My favorite campus hang-out was the Pharmaceutical Production Research Facility (PPRF) where I spent many long hours working during my PhD program.

What advice would you give your student self, knowing what you do now?

I would tell myself that you don’t need to have all the answers when you are pursuing your first degree and that it is really critical to stay open to opportunities. I never would have expected that elements that I gained exposure to during my bachelor’s and PhD programs would lead me to the career path that I have now.

How did your engineering degree help you get to where you are today?

Currently, I am working as an associate professor in the Experiential Engineering Education Department (ExEEd) at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ.  Having the engineering degree provided me with the foundation to understand the fundamental knowledge that is necessary for engineers that are entering into industry. It also provided me with a number of role models and exposure to different types of pedagogical practices that have helped shape me into the educator that I am today.

How has your career path evolved and changed since your graduation?

My career path has changed quite a bit from what I anticipated at the time of graduation. When I completed my PhD in chemical engineering, I had a strong passion for teaching and education but didn’t realize that you could develop a research program with a focus on this area. I also had a desire to help others and allow them to grow and develop into professionals. Between graduation and my current position, I worked as a post-doctoral researcher in a lab that served as a bridge between industry and academia (Industrial BioDevelopment Laboratory - IBDL) and then transitioned into an educational training manager role with them. I built upon this knowledge when I worked as a grants developer at the University of Pittsburgh, where I could assist other faculty members in how to best present their research to make a compelling pitch for receipt of funding. These experiences allowed me to grow and develop the necessary expertise to be able to transition into a faculty role focused on engineering education. I now collaborate with faculty across the United States on projects that focus on the use of game-based learning methods to teach engineering and the integration of entrepreneurial mindset concepts into engineering curriculum. I love my current role as I can work directly with students and help promote their professional development while doing transformational education research that serves to determine best practices for educating the next generation of engineers.