2019 SENCER Summer Institute Keynotes


Opening Plenary, Thursday, August 1, 4:30pm, Ford Auditorium

Engineering, Liberal Education, and Civic Engagement

Venkataramanan Balakrishnan, Dean, Case School of Engineering, Case Western Reserve University.

Venkataramanan “Ragu” Balakrishnan received his B.Tech degree in electronics and communication engineering and the President of India Gold Medal from The Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India in 1985, graduating at the top of the university. He received an MS degree in statistics in 1992, and MS and PhD degrees in electrical engineering, in 1989 and 1992 respectively, all from Stanford University. Following post-doctoral stints at Stanford, Caltech and the University of Maryland, he joined the faculty of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at Purdue University (West Lafayette, Ind.) in 1994, where he last served as the Michael and Katherine Birck Head of ECE and professor. Prior to assuming the leadership of ECE, he served in a variety of leadership positions at Purdue, most notably as associate dean of research of the College of Engineering. He was appointed dean of the Case School of Engineering at Case Western Reserve University in September 2018.


Friday Plenary, August 2, 9:00am, Ford Auditorium

Partnership Power: Creating Collaborative Community Connections

Felton Thomas, Jr., Executive Director and CEO, Cleveland Public Library.

Felton Thomas, Jr. was appointed Director of the Cleveland Public Library (CPL) in January 2009.  Since then, he has positioned CPL as a community deficit fighter and launched initiatives aimed at addressing community needs in the areas of technology, education, and economic development. During Felton’s tenure, CPL has maintained its “Five Star” status and been named a “Top Innovator” by the Urban Libraries Council for its use of technology and data to inform decision making.  Felton also has guided CPL through the worst recession in decades by actively seeking input from the community, and then reducing CPL’s budget by millions while still providing superior service and keeping all neighborhood branches open. Under Felton, the Library has battled the digital divide, illiteracy, unemployment, and other community deficits with innovative programming and action at all branches.


Saturday Plenary, August 3, 9:00am, Ford Auditorium

How Asking the Right Questions Can Improve Learning and Build Civic Participation

Andrew P. Minigan, Director of Strategy, Education Program, Right Question Institute,

Andrew P. Minigan is the Right Question Institute’s (RQI) director of strategy for the Education Program. He is a co-principal investigator (Co-PI) on a National Science Foundation funded research grant to help researchers, including doctoral students and faculty in higher education, learn how to formulate better, more transformative research questions. He has facilitated learning experiences for faculty and doctoral students at Brandeis University, Northeastern University, the University of Connecticut, the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Mt. San Antonio College, Citrus College, and the University of Prince Edward Island. Hundreds of faculty and students from around the country have participated in his active learning experiences, including a recent webinar for the American Society for Engineering Education. Andrew has written on the importance of question formulation and its connection to curiosity for Education WeekSocial EducationEducational Leadership, and PBS.

Sunday Plenary, August 4, 9:00am, Ford Auditorium

Education and Work in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

David Ferguson, Distinguished Service Professor and Provost’s Scholar for Diversity and Innovation, Stony Brook University.

David Ferguson is a Distinguished Service Professor of Technology and Society and Applied Mathematics and Statistics at Stony Brook University. He has been a leader in New York State and in the nation on education projects, ranging from pre-college through graduate education, with funding as PI or co-PI on grants totaling more than $30 million. He has also served on several national panels on STEM education, including a standing panel on the NSF’s Applications of Advanced Technologies.

In 1992, Professor Ferguson received the State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. He is a New York State and national leader in programs to enhance the participation of underrepresented minority students in undergraduate and graduate science, mathematics, engineering, and technology programs. Dr. Ferguson was a member of the executive committee of the NSF- supported Recognition Award for the Integration of Research and Education (RAIRE). From 1998 until 2002, Dr. Ferguson was the founding director of Stony Brook’s Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT).


Closing Plenary, August 4, 1:00pm, Ford Auditorium

Partnership Power: Learning Networks and Civic Renewal

Marsha Semmel, Marsha Semmel Consulting.

Marsha Semmel is Senior Advisor to the National Center on Science and Civic Engagement’s SENCER-ISE project (Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities-Informal Science Education). She currently serves as faculty for the Bank Street College of Education’s Graduate School of Education in the Leadership in Museum Education Program and as a member of The Museum Group (TMG), a consortium of museum leaders who support museums in achieving their greatest potential in an ever-changing world. http://museumgroup.com/

From 2013-15, Marsha was Senior Advisor to the Noyce Leadership Institute (NLI), a project envisioning an essential and transformative role for organizations that engage their publics in crucial science and technology issues. Her career has included more than two decades of work in major U.S. cultural agencies, including the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), where she served as the agency’s first director for strategic partnerships, deputy director for the Office of Museum Services, and acting Director. Previously, Marsha served 12 years in the Public Programs Division of the National Endowment for the Humanities, as program officer and Division Director.