SEMS Board of Visitors


In order to assure that our programs stay in touch with the realities of the world of work we have established an Industrial Board of Visitors for the School of Engineering, Mathematics and Science (SEMS). This Board would have members who are engaged in engineering, mathematics or science related endeavors. Its main purpose would be to serve as a strategic sounding board to the school dean in charting the course of growth and development in the years ahead for a new paradigm of engineering, mathematics and science education at Robert Morris University. Thus the Board plays a crucial role in shaping the future of SEMS in the years ahead and helps us to realize our goal of making SEMS a school with national distinction in preparing the future engineers, scientists and mathematicians serving the needs of society.

Specific Roles of the Board and its Members

  • Assist in building brand name recognition for Engineering, Math and Science at Robert Morris University
  • Provide a forum to present knowledge of current and future industry trends for continuous improvement of the programs offered by SEMS.
  • Help steer the development of SEMS curricula and facilities based on industry needs.
  • Serve as the point of contact within their organizations or the professional community for grants, gifts and other mutually beneficial projects.
  • Help secure cash and in-kind gifts for the University and the SEMS.
  • Help secure internship positions and jobs for SEMS students and graduates.
  • Assist with class projects, senior capstone design projects, research projects, and proposals to funding agencies.
  • Serve as ambassadors for the School (SEMS) in their community.


  • Michael Broeker, President and Chief Operating Officer, Epiphany Solar Water Systems
  • Christine Bryant, Sr. Vice President, Polyurethanes – North America, Covestro LLC
  • Sarah Burns, Quality Engineer, Ellwood City Forge Group
  • Jennifer Cipolla, Director in the Private Equity Performance Improvement team, Alvarez and Marsal
  • Stephen Doyle, Sr. Director, Life Solutions, WorkPartners
  • Dr. Gary Fedder, Howard M. Wilkoff Professor of ECE | Faculty Director, Manufacturing Futures Initiative (MFI); Courtesy faculty in Biomedical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and The Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Timothy Friez, COO, Robomatter, Inc.
  • Christine Furstoss, Vice President & Chief Technology Officer (Retired), GE Additive
  • Dr. MaCalus Hogan, Vice Chair of Education and Program Director Chief, Division of Foot and Ankle Surgery and Associate Professor, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
  • Charles Homan, Robert Morris University - Member of Board of Trustees and President (Retired), Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan  
  • Dr. James Kassner, Consultant, James E. Kassner Consulting
  • James Kreider, Project Manager, Keystone Industrial Services
  • Keven Kweder, Quality Manager, Schroeder Industries LLC
  • Mark Leyenaar, Director Corporate Development, PPG
  • Daniel Long, Partner, Enscoe Long Insurance Group, LLC
  • William Sarniak, Vice President and Chief Actuary, Highmark, Inc.
  • Augustus Schroeder, President, Schroeder Industries LLC
  • David Shearer, Director, Actuarial Services, Highmark, Inc.
  • Daniel Sypolt, Assistant University Counsel, Robert Morris University
  • Alan West, Resident Entrepreneur, Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse

View SEMS Board of Visitors Charter   SEMS Board of Visitors Portal (Members Only)

Ten Tips for Members and Prospective Members of Advisory Councils

1. Understand the purposes of the council and the expectations of members.
Is the purpose of membership on the council primarily to provide advice, to serve as an advocate and ambassador for the institution, or to give and raise funds, or some combination of the three? Are the purposes defined in a document—bylaws or guidelines? Can the president or dean offer some examples of how the council has made a difference to the institution in the past? Be clear about the answers to these questions before accepting council membership.

2. Carefully consider your own motivations for serving on the council.
There is nothing untoward about serving on a council in part because it provides the potential for making new social or business contacts or because it provides a pleasant and interesting relief from the daily routines of business or professional life. But the institution has needs that the council has been established to serve—whether they are for financial resources, expertise, or relationships in the broader community. Before joining, be sure that you are willing to sacrifice the time and effort necessary to be an active participant and that you will be willing to serve the institution's needs.

3. Familiarize yourself with the other members of the council and consider what strengths and
perspectives you add.

How does your experience and expertise differ from that of other council members? What will you bring to the discussions? Is this a group with which you will feel comfortable working? If the answers to these questions are not satisfactory, then it may not be the right assignment for you.

4. Be prepared to make an appropriate financial commitment.
Whether the council requires giving by its members or not, your position as a member of the institution's leadership group makes your giving—or lack thereof—visible to others. Personal support from members of the institution's "family," including the advisory council, makes a statement about their commitment to the institution and the worthiness of its case. Without such a demonstration of support from those who know the institution best, appeals to others less directly involved may be less credible.

5. Remember your appropriate role.
Advisory means advisory. An advisory council is not the governing board of the institution and does not have legal authority or responsibility for its programs, assets, or personnel. Most advisory councils take direction from the president or dean and exist to help that individual advance his or her goals. Accepting this reality is essential to maintaining the council's appropriate role and to making it a resource that the president or dean is comfortable engaging. It is fine to hold and express opinions, but avoid taking positions that could make the council seem like it is overstepping its limited role.

6. Insist on discussions of real questions and issues, not just meetings of show-and-tell by the
institution’s leaders and faculty.

Members of advisory councils are busy people. They can find many opportunities to listen to speeches. If the council meetings consist entirely of presentations about the programs and achievements of the institution, politely question the purpose and role of the council; if the experience does not improve, consider leaving when your current term expires.

7. Expect your advice to be taken seriously and insist on feedback on what actions, if any, were
taken as a result.

If the president or dean asks for your advice but then does not go the additional step of considering it—perhaps in consultation with the faculty, senior administrators, the governing board, or others as appropriate—you have reason to question whether your time on the council is well spent. But accept the answer if the council's advice does not carry the day. Colleges and universities are complex institutions. There may be good reasons—political, financial, and other—why the advice of individuals from outside their walls, no matter how experienced and wise they may be within their own spheres of activity, cannot be implemented. Of course, if the council's advice seems consistently to have no impact, then you are right to question its continued value and purpose.

8. Get to know the institution and its people.
Invest the time to become acquainted with the president or dean, faculty members, and students. As part of an organized effort, it is valuable for advisory council members to meet students, tour campus buildings, and hear from faculty about their research and writing. You will find your service on the board or council more interesting and rewarding, and you will be a more effective advocate for the institution, if you are able to speak knowledgeably about its people and programs.

9. Maintain confidentiality.
The council may see and hear about the institution's problems and weaknesses. Maintain confidentiality with regard to council discussions. Part of your job is to serve as an advocate. If you cannot do that in good faith, it is best to leave the council.

10. Uphold ethical standards.
Although advisory councils do not have the same fiduciary responsibilities as governing boards, members should adhere to the same ethical standards, including those related to potential conflicts of interest.