News - 7/5/13

Valparaiso University Professorship Fosters Excellence, Innovation in Engineering

Valparaiso University has named Mark M. Budnik to the Paul and Cleo Brandt Professorship, which promotes teaching excellence in the University's College of Engineering, effective July 1.

Previously, the position was held by Eric Johnson, who became dean of the College of Engineering in January. Johnson was named to the professorship in 2003 and has been a member of Valpo's faculty since 1997. Budnik will also assume Johnson’s former role as chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

"Mark is an outstanding selection for the professorship because he has a passion for teaching and is always looking for innovative techniques to educate our students," Johnson said.

Mark BudnikBudnik joined Valpo's faculty in 2006 after a 16-year career in the electronics industry, bringing experience in engineering and engineering management. Budnik said training was the most rewarding aspect of his career, and he wanted to focus on engineering education. He fell in love with Valpo during his interview, and he said his passion for teaching and working with students grows every year.

As Brandt Professor, Budnik will research and develop innovative new education techniques and integrate them with Valpo’s engineering curriculum. He has begun to identify projects he would like to focus on, which include putting together a four-year program for students to cultivate soft skills throughout their education at Valpo.

"We're really trying to renew our focus within the College of Engineering on how to intentionally develop creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership within our students," Budnik said. "We want to have opportunities for our students to specifically focus on skills beyond their technical capabilities. These soft skills are going to take them beyond what the typical student is going to be able to do."

Budnik said engineering education provides a vital opportunity to students preparing to solve problems in the 21st century. Valpo engineering students study and discuss how to define these problems and how to work collaboratively to solve the challenges that will face them.

While Budnik's primary focus as Brandt Professor is working with students, he said he is also excited to work closely with Johnson to implement new education initiatives.

"The most important opportunity that I have as Brandt Professor is to continue to impact our engineering students' education," Budnik said. "I cannot imagine a greater opportunity for any professor to walk into, and I cannot imagine a place I'd rather work than right where I am now, with Eric and with the rest of my colleagues at Valparaiso University."

CELT Awards Travel Grants to Faculty

On May 24, the Committee to Enhance Learning and Teaching awarded travel grants to faculty members to attend conferences, workshops, and other events. Visit the CELT website for additional information about these and other grants.

Edward Armstrong, assistant professor of English, will attend the Council of Writing Program Administrators 2013 Workshop and Institute in Savannah, Ga., July 13-18.

Sara Bothun, assistant professor of economics, will attend the Cenage Learning 9th Annual Economics Teaching Conference in Austin, Texas, Oct. 24-25.

Alex Capaldi, assistant professor of mathematics and computer science, will learn about flipped classroom techniques at the Mathematical Association of America's MathFest conference in Hartford, Conn., July 31 - Aug. 3.

Mindy Capaldi, assistant professor of mathematics and computer science, will present a paper at Mathfest in Hartford, Conn., July 31 - Aug. 3.

Melissa Desjarlais, assistant professor of mathematics and computer science, will attend the Project Kaleidoscope Summer Leadership Institute for STEM faculty in Crestone, Colo., July 23-28.

Erica Grodrian, assistant professor of music, will perform at the International Horn Symposium at the University of Memphis, July 28 - Aug. 3.

Jennifer Holt, assistant professor of chemistry, will attend the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Indianapolis, Sept. 8-12.

Ralph Klapis, adjunct instructor of music, will attend the National Centers for Voice and Speech 2013 Singers Workshop in Salt Lake City, Utah, Aug. 6-9.

Host Families Needed for International Students

Valparaiso University's Chinese and Japanese Studies Program is looking for host families within 30-minutes driving distance from the University to host visiting Chinese college students this summer. A total of 15 Chinese students will visit Valpo in mid-July (July 15 through July 28, 2013) to assist U.S. students enrolled in the 2013 Valparaiso University Chinese immersion program on campus as well as to learn about American culture and society. As a result, organizers particularly interested in families who have middle or high school children who are currently studying Chinese or plan to start learning Chinese so that their children will have ample opportunities to learn some Chinese though interactions with these visiting Chinese students.

Host families are expected to provide a room, bedding, and breakfast for the Chinese college students (normally two per family). They will also bring their guests to Valpo each morning by 9:30 a.m. (Valpo will transport their guests home after dinner). In return, the Chinese and Japanese Studies Program will provide $300 per guest to cover the cost.

This is a great opportunity for local families to show hospitality to visiting Chinese students and use the opportunities to have their children improve or start learning Chinese.

If you are interested in the program, please contact John Ruff at or 464.5284, or contact Michelle Hanson at or 464-5535.