Honors Program Faculty & Staff

Honors Program Administration & Staff

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Monica VanDieren

Dr. Monica VanDieren is Director of the University Honors Program and a University Professor of Mathematics.  She has two main lines of research: pedagogical research on student understanding of multivariable calculus concepts and model theory, which is a branch of mathematical logic with remote connections to linguistics, philosophy, and computer science.  Both her pedagogical and model-theoretic research have been supported by individual National Science Foundation research grants. She has co-taught honors seminars on Math, Music, and Art.

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Sylvia Pamboukian

Dr. Sylvia Pamboukian is a professor of English and Associate Director of the University Honors Program. She is the author of Doctoring the Novel: Medicine and Quackery from Shelley to Doyle as well as recent articles on anesthesia in Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s “Good Lady Ducayne,” girl poisoners in children’s literature and medicinal herbs in Agatha Christie’s work. Her current book project examines poisoning in literature and film since the Victorian period. She teaches British literature, detective fiction, Victorian fiction, and the medical humanities.

Lindsey Sobolosky

Lindsey Sobolosky is the Honors Program Specialist. Lindsey is a double alumnus of Robert Morris University receiving both her business undergraduate degree and Organizational Leadership master’s degree from RMU. As the Honors Specialist, Lindsey serves as an advisor to honors students and coordinates all events for program, such as the annual Undergraduate Research Conference. She also works for the Office of Scholar Development where she helps students identify and apply for competitive undergraduate and graduate fellowship and scholarship opportunities. She currently serves as an application reviewer for national scholarships and fellowships. 

Honors Program Faculty

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Hyla Willis

Hyla Willis, Professor of Media Arts, is an interdisciplinary artist & graphic designer best known for her work with subRosa, an art collective focusing on the ways women are impacted by rapidly-evolving biological and communications technologies. Professor Willis has performed, exhibited, and given workshops in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Australia, and throughout the US. She holds an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University and has been the recipient a MacDowell Colony Fellowship and, with subRosa, two Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowships and a Creative Capital grant. Through a nomination and jury process, she was selected as Pittsburgh Center for the Arts’ 2014 Artist of the Year.

With Dr. Monica VanDieren, Willis co-taught HNRS3967 "Behind the Curtain," an experimental seminar that examined the mathematics and design principles behind computer animation as well as the project planning and teamwork involved. Students applied their learning to historic, hands-on techniques and to ray tracing software that required the application of coding and calculus formulas. A poster presentation of the course took first place in its category at the 2018 National Collegiate Honors Council conference.

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Connie Ruzich

Dr. Connie Ruzich was a UK Fulbright Scholar in 2014-2015; her essays on WWI history and poetry have appeared on numerous online sites, including University of Oxford/ JISC’s WW1 Centenary: Continuations and Beginnings. Her blog, Behind Their Lines, with over 250 posts and 320,000 views, discusses lesser-known poetry of the Great War.  The Honors Seminar First World War Poetry intermingles the study of history and literature to answer the question, why should we read war literature?

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Gavin Buxton

Dr. Gavin Buxton is a physics professor at RMU. He teaches a range of courses including the honors seminar Physics and Sport. In terms of his research, Dr. Buxton is a computational physicist. In other words, he takes the mathematical equations that govern a system and put them into a computer to solve complicated systems that might be difficult to probe experimentally. Dr. Buxton co-developed the honors seminar Sport and Physics. In this seminar, students examined the physics of sports through projects and research conducted both in the classroom and in the gym.

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Lauren Rauscher

Lauren Rauscher, PhD, is a champion of gender equity and has devoted her career to supporting women and girls optimize their full potential and build leadership capacity. She currently serves as the Director of the Women’s Leadership and Mentorship Program and an Associate Professor of Sociology at Robert Morris University. Dr. Rauscher co-developed Identities & Inequalities: The Intersections of Race, Gender, Class and Sexuality with Dr. Nathan Taylor (Education). The seminar is organized around a set of topics that represent central ideas, theories, and debates in critical race studies, feminisms, and sociology. We examine race, racism, and white privilege; sex, gender, and sexuality; social class and poverty; and how inequality is written on the body. 

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Jianyu Ma

Jianyu Ma received his Ph.D. in Business Administration (Finance) from University of Texas-Pan American. He is an Associate Professor in Finance at Robert Morris University. He has 40+ publications and international conference presentations. His current research interests include mergers and acquisitions, international investment, and local government taxation. He is an editorial review board member of International Journal of Revenue Management, International Journal of Cyber Research and Education, and a guest reviewer for Journal of Economics and Business as well. He served as Program Chair for 25th International Conference on the Pacific Rim Management (Los Angles, USA, 2015) and President of Association for Chinese Management Educators (ACME 2016). Dr. Ma developed the seminar Personal and Business Finance. In this course, students explore how to develop a plan to achieve financial security and make informed business descriptions.

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Armand Buzzelli

Armand Buzzelli has served as the Director of Campus Recreation since joining RMU in 2009. He holds a bachelor of arts from Washington & Jefferson College, and an M.B.A. in Management, M.S. in Data Analytics, and Ph.D. in Instructional Management and Leadership from Robert Morris University. Dr. Buzzelli co-developed a Sport and Physics seminar with physicist Dr. Gavin Buxton. The course mergers sport and physics through experiments in the gym and research in the classroom.

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Philip Harold

Philip Harold is Professor of Political Science and Interim Dean of the School of Education and Social Sciences and served as the Co-Director of the University Honors Program for ten years.  He was a Fulbright Scholar to Germany in 2010 and is finishing up a book critiquing modern political thought. 

HNRS3968 Modern Political Thought is a seminar about how we as moderns think about ourselves and our political and social order. Concepts like "sovereignty," "morality," or "values," are actually recent inventions, and did not exist before modern times; this course will examine what these idea mean, and their limitations, by reading and discussing classic texts of modern political theory, with the goal of becoming more reflective and critical when listing to political rhetoric. 

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Barbara Burgess-Lefebvre

Barbara Burgess-Lefebvre teaches Honors Humanities and an Honors Seminar class titled “Creating the Magic, Leadership, Storytelling, and Fandom of WDW”. She has advised a number of creative honors projects that focused on theatre.  Prof. Lefebvre’s Master of Fine Arts is in Directing from Illinois State University and her BA in Drama/English Writing from Potsdam College, State University of New York.  She has taught at RMU for 14 years and has directed musicals and plays that garnered regional and national awards from the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival.  She is a founding ensemble member of Ashcat Theatre and works as a judge for the Mancini Awards in Beaver County.