Lafayette set Michelle Oswald ’07 on a career path and transformed her life. Now, as assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Bucknell University, she feels a responsibility to provide her students with the same inspiring experiences she had as an undergraduate.
At the heart of engineering is problem-solving, and Oswald, a civil engineering graduate, credits her professors with consistently providing realworld, multidisciplinary experiences for their students. Kristen Sanford Bernhardt, associate professor and chair of engineering studies, Mary Roth ’83, associate provost for academic operations, and Art Kney, associate professor and head of civil and environmental engineering, were key role models. Oswald now advises students interested in research that combines transportation engineering and urban planning, a connection she first made with the help of Sanford Bernhardt.
The opportunity to conduct two independent studies in transportation engineering and urban planning and complete a minor in architectural studies enabled Oswald to explore multidisciplinary connections with engineering and tie in her interests in regional planning, urban design, and sustainability. She went on to obtain a master’s in civil engineering and a master’s in urban planning and public policy at University of Delaware and then combined these fields into her Ph.D. research focused on sustainable transportation planning.
While conducting her doctoral study, Oswald returned to College Hill to co-instruct a multidisciplinary senior design capstone course with Kney and David Veshosky, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. She helped students connect engineering and sustainable design by redesigning Metzgar Fields. “Seeing students from multiple disciplines work together toward a common goal validated my desire to teach at an institution that enhances interdisciplinary learning.”
Although a university, Bucknell has a liberal arts, undergraduate focus, says Oswald, adding: “Undergraduate-focused institutions provide a unique learning experience that is irreplaceable. Each instructor I had at Lafayette cared about my life both in and outside the classroom. This oneon- one relationship with students is invaluable and something I knew I wanted to promote and perpetuate.”