Faculty + Staff
Founding Director of the Calhoun Discovery Program
Calhoun Discovery Design Team
The Discovery program is led by the Calhoun Discovery Design Team. The Design Team includes senior faculty leadership from each of the participating degrees. The Design Team also includes Discovery Program Faculty that are dedicated exclusively to the instruction of the Discovery program and teach the program studios and modules and provide mentoring.
A number of faculty from across campus with interest in transdisciplinary education in collaborative technology innovation for societal impact join the Discovery program faculty in the development and delivery of Discovery program course modules. *Instructor
Visiting Faculty & Advisors
President and Chief Executive Officer, The Boeing Company / Distinguished Visiting Lecturer
Chief Technology Officer & Senior Vice President of Engineering, Operations, and Technology (Retired), The Boeing Company | Distinguished Visiting Lecturer
Distinguished Visiting Lecturer, UVA, Montgomery Distinguished Professor of Practice, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Retired GE Appliances, a Haier company
Catherine Bond Hill, Managing Director, ITHAKA S+R, Distinguished Visiting Lecturer
Harry Chase, Director at GE Appliances, a Haier Company, Visiting Professor of Practice
Charles Erignac, Associate Technical Fellow, Boeing, Visiting Professor of Practice
Eugene (Gene) V. Fife
Founding Principle, Vawter Capital LLC
Jonathan Fulton, Enterprise Industrial Engineering, BR&T, Boeing, , Visiting Professor of Practice
Gregory Garrett, Senior Ergonomics Lead, BDS Advanced Manufacturing Operations, Ergonomics/Safety & Human Augmentation, Boeing, Visiting Professor of Practice
Miriam Grace, Senior Technical Fellow, Advanced Inforamtion Technologist, Boeing, Visiting Professor of Practice
Tazio Grivetti, Emerging Technologies Program Leader, Caterpillar Inc., Visiting Professor of Practice
Trent Ingrim, GE Appliances, a Haier Company, Visiting Professor of Practice
Tony Kauer, Associate Technical Fellow, Production System Architect, Boeing, Visiting Professor of Practice
Erick King, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Capital Youth Empowerment Program, Distinguished Visiting Lecturer
Martin Kurzwell, Director, Educational Transformation Program, ITHAKA S+R, Visiting Lecturer
Sr. Global Services Director at JDA Software / Blue Yonder, Visiting Professor of Practice
Melinda Leland, Director of Youth Success, United Way Southwest Virginia, Visiting Lecturer
Elaine MacDonald, Materials & Process Engineer, Boeing Research & Technology, Boeing, Visiting Lecturer
Mike Richey, Associate Technical Fellow, Chief Learning Scientist, Leadership, Learning and Organizational Capability, Boeing, Visiting Professor of Practice
Karl Sheldon, General Manager, Advanced Military Engineering, GE Aviation, Visiting Professor of Practice
Rich Stark, 787 Structures Engineering Manager, Boeing, Visiting Professor of Practice
Travis Staton, President and CEO, United Way Southwest Virginia, Distinguished Visiting Lecturer
John Williams, Associate Technical Fellow, Additive Electronics Technologies, BR&T, Boeing, Visiting Professor of Practice
Calhoun Discovery Faculty & Staff
Neal Henshaw is the Technical Director for the Calhoun Discovery Program. He plans and manages the Discovery Studio and the adjacent prototyping lab. He also maintains the online journaling platform that is part of the Calhoun Discovery Program educational experience.
Neal has an M.A. in Instructional Design and Technology from Virginia Tech, and a B.A. in Secondary/Spanish Education from Brigham Young University. He began his professional career teaching high school Spanish in Tucson, AZ, but has also worked as a network engineer and network administrator for an Internet Service Provider, a corporate trainer for a midwest healthcare provider and has spent the last 11 years at Virginia Tech’s Newman Library. His varied professional experience across different levels of education, as well as his hands-on experience with A/V and educational technologies over 24 years makes him uniquely suited to serve in this role.
Neal is originally from Buckingham, VA, where he grew up on a farm. Since then, he has lived in Utah, Guatemala, Arizona, and Illinois. He now calls Blacksburg home because his wife fell in love with the New River Valley. In what little free time Neal has between work and church responsibilities, he likes to visit National Parks or Walt Disney World with his wife, three children, and anyone else who wants to go. He also enjoys photography, woodworking, reading, cooking, basketball, golf, and is trying to learn more about astronomy.
Michelle Kovac is the Program Manager for the Calhoun Discovery Program. She serves as the liaison between Virginia Tech students and faculty and the industry partners who are participating in the Calhoun Discovery Program. Her responsibilities include coordinating scheduling of program courses, event coordination, and assisting with student and faculty travel.
Michelle has an M.S. Ed. in Career and Technical Education and a B.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Virginia Tech. Her professional career began in the hospitality industry working in convention services and sales. Then, she went on to teach high school marketing for 10 years before coming to Virginia Tech as a project manager for the last 3 years. Working with the Calhoun Discovery Program combines her experience as a teacher and project manager to beneﬁt students, faculty members, and industry partners.
Michelle is originally from Allentown, PA, but came to Virginia Tech for college and has made Blacksburg her home. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband, four rescue dogs and a cat. She is passionate about health and ﬁtness, works on home improvement projects, and can usually be found outside doing landscaping work.
Michael Kretser is an assistant collegiate professor of Information Technology & Decisions Sciences for the Calhoun Discovery Program where he instructs in communicating data. He is also an affiliate assistant professor with the Business Information Technology and Business Management programs.
Michael earned his Ph.D. in Logistics with a specialty in Systems Engineering and a MS degree in Logistics Management from the Air Force Institute of Technology, and a BS in Computer Science: Programming from Limestone College. Michael’s research has been focused on data-driven analytical solutions using programs such as MATLAB and Arena, merging his computer science and logistics backgrounds. His thesis, “Modeling Predator MQ-1 Logistics” and dissertation, “Reducing Enterprise Systems Complexity Utilizing Collapsing Design Structure Matrices” focused on modeling and simulation in logistics that encompassed logistics, supply chain management, and business process improvement methods that employed tools from the operations and systems engineering communities. His transdisciplinary research experience combined with an accomplished Air Force career that also spanned disciplines for a common goal prepared him to join the multidisciplinary team, providing innovative education and mentorship for the Calhoun Discovery Program.
Mike is originally from Canajoharie, New York. He recently retired from the Air Force after nearly 25 years of service. He spent the first half of his Air Force career as a Boeing C-17 maintainer, and the second half as a logistics officer. Mike enjoys SCUBA diving when location allows, traveling, reading, and spending time with his wife Crystal and their four children.
Shahabedin (Shahab) Sagheb is a collegiate assistant professor at Virginia Tech, appointed in the Honors College in the Calhoun Discovery Program (CDP) and the School of Architecture + Design. Shahab teaches studio courses in CDP and develops curriculum for various modules. As a technology designer, his program of research is on designing novel interfaces for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. His most recent work emphasizes the simulation of tactile sensations of handling fluids in virtual environments. Results of this research have been published in top tier ACM conferences UIST and TEI. Shahab’s artistic practice, expresses the themes of anonymity, agency, complex systems, playfulness and curiosity. His most recent artwork is Gestures of the Everyday. His artworks have been exhibited in various national venues such as Currents New Media. Prior to coming to VT, Shahab completed his bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering at Shiraz University, master’s in Industrial Design at University of Art, Tehran and master’s of fine arts in Digital Technology at Arizona State University (ASU). He has also served as digital design and fabrication coordinator at ASU in the School of Arts, Media, and Engineering.
- Human-Computer Interaction (HCI)
- Tangible Interfaces
- Higher education curriculum development
Robert A. Smith is a Boeing Technical Fellow with more than 20 years of experience with the Boeing Company and a NextFlex Consortium Fellow. In his current role with Boeing Research and Technology, his research focus areas are optical and radio frequency remote sensing, millimeter wave sensing technology, RFID, component fabrication utilizing additive and subtractive technology for SWAP constrained platforms and advancing Flexible Hybrid Electronic (FHE) devices for Asset Tracking, Health Monitoring and Antenna applications. Robert has been the program manager and principal investigator for multiple advanced technology research projects and multiple remote sensing government contracts for Boeing Defense Systems including missile defense, international space station, satellite systems and commercial space ventures. He has 22 patents including 2 foreign patents and was the recipient of a Boeing Special Invention award in 2010.
Alkan Soysal received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park, in 2006 and 2008, respectively. Between February 2008 and January 2018, he was with Bahcesehir University, Istanbul, Turkey, first as an Assistant Professor then as an Associate Professor at the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering. While in Bahcesehir University, he was the founding director of Intel Future Technology Lab that focused on developing Internet of Things applications in a multi-disciplinary setting. Between January 2018 and July 2019, he was a Visiting Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Maryland at College Park. His research interests include wireless communications, information theory and the Internet of Things.
Joanie Banks-Hunt is a Virginia Tech Ph.D. candidate in Education Curriculum and Instruction. She aspires to combine technology and innovation with teaching, research, collaboration, and mentorship to inspire real-world problem solvers on a multi-generational scale. Joanie is a lifelong learner, educator, mentor, and community builder who is eager to engage educators and students in global transdisciplinary challenges.
She is an alumnus of Michigan State University, Stanford University, and a former member of the Stanford University Mechanical Engineering Advisory Committee. In 2015, Joanie enrolled in Virginia Tech’s Engineering Education doctoral program. Her exposure to seminars, which are platforms designed to expose and broaden the student experience, led to a dissertation topic focused on design thinking instructional practice in the department of educational psychology. Design Thinking embodies her passion for curricula in educational psychology, engineering education, and education cognition. Presently, Joanie is an Instructor in the Honors College Laureate Program and has developed a transdisciplinary research course that explores the innovation of delivery drones for global survival, sustainability platforms, and transdisciplinary research. She is excited to expand upon this teaching and learning role with the opportunity to join the Honors College Calhoun Discovery Program (CDP) as an instructor of collaborative and transdisciplinary projects addressing Industry 4.0 real-world problems and opportunities.
Joanie is married and is the proud mother of two young adults, Coltrane and Tavia. Her family is healthy, happy, living, and learning in three locations: Blacksburg, California, and New Haven, CT.
- Ph.D Education Psychology with Engineering Education and Education Cognition Certificate, Virginia Tech University, 2020
- MS Engineering Management, Stanford University, 1997
- MS Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, 1976
- BA Mathematics, Michigan State University; Minors in Secondary Ed. and Dance, 1974