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Faculty Spotlight | Lisa Ovelman

15 June 2021

Lisa Ovelman, Assistant Professor and lead faculty member in Harford’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) division, has been focused on helping students achieve their educational goals since she began almost 15 years ago. Asst. Prof. Ovelman has greatly developed the engineering program in recent years to be a top-notch program to prepare students for a career in the field.

Within the program, Lisa has worked to develop course equivalency and articulation agreements with all of Harford’s four-year transfer institutions. She is a stellar mentor for students, working diligently to create advising pathway documents in each of the many engineering disciplines for most of the top transfer institutions. Lisa also helped organize the first annual STEM Connection Day at Harford, which has become an annual event connecting our STEM students and the community.

Starting her career as a math instructor, she switched to teaching engineering courses in 2008. Through Introduction to Engineering Design, Statics, and Mechanics of Materials, Lisa develops learning activities for her courses including hands-on design projects to keep students engaged and excited about engineering. She utilizes the latest technology in her classroom, including programs such as MATLAB and AutoCAD, so her students can take full advantage of real-world applications.

Her path to earning her Master’s of Engineering from Penn State and a BS in Applied Math with a minor in Engineering Mechanics wasn’t her original plan. Eager to go to college, Lisa knew she wanted to study and major in mathematics; she had dreams of becoming an actuary. Similar to a community college, Lisa attended a Penn State branch campus for her first two years because it was close to home and had significant cost savings for her and her family – a point she emphasizes to all her students when they first enroll in her classes. During her own higher ed journey, the branch campus she was attending couldn’t provide enough higher math courses for her to take, so following the advice of her older brother, Lisa enrolled in engineering classes. Laughing about her decision now, she remembers thinking that this certainly wasn’t normal; taking engineering courses for fun? Ultimately her brother’s advice paid off because she thrived in her coursework and has him to thank for her career.

The engineering gene seems to run in Lisa’s family. She has four brothers, all of whom are engineers. Three of them even married engineers. Lisa did as well; her husband is an architectural engineer. She grew up on her family’s 35-acre sheep farm in Pennsylvania and credits her hard-working and loving mother for the values she instilled.

Practicing those values in everything she does, Lisa makes student learning and success her highest priority. “I truly enjoy teaching at Harford because of the diverse student population and the ability to mentor students through classes, clubs and scholarship programs.” Serving as a dedicated faculty advisor to the Engineering Club, she’s made it possible for her students to make successful connections in the professional realm. Many have obtained scholarships and unique internship opportunities with organizations like the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) and the Department of Defense. Lisa’s continued focus and chair work on the National Science Foundation’s S-STEM Scholarship program has allowed some of her students to pay for their future educational goals. Former student and engineering alum Daniel Buzminsky was offered an internship at APG and earned the prestigious Department of Defense SMART scholarship with her help. Also guided by Lisa, Harford student Allison Dietz began college as a dual-enrolled student and by age 18, had already earned an AS in Engineering, a National Science Foundation S-STEM scholarship, a paid internship at Raytheon, and a transfer scholarship to UMBC. Tim Sturla, another successful engineering student mentored by Lisa, spoke highly of her and other Harford faculty members in a recent interview, “Harford gave me the confidence to pursue my dream of attending a university and more importantly, to pursue my dream of becoming an engineer. Professor Chris Jones, Assistant Professor Lisa Ovelman and Assistant Professor Gene Cooper helped me navigate the path of higher education. It is with no reservation when I say that these exceptional professors changed my life.”

Lisa’s continued dedication to her students is evident in the breadth of her teaching techniques, training students in up-to-date techniques and concepts. She embeds active learning activities in her instruction and her engineering students benefit from hands-on design projects where they take concept to creation. One of her favorite projects is an annual collaboration where students work with a local nonprofit organization, Volunteers for Medical Engineering (VME), that makes specialized adaptive equipment for the disabled. “Having the students connect with the technology and the community is invaluable – there’s no better instructional tool,” says Lisa. Another unique undertaking Lisa coordinated for her Mechanics of Materials students was a model housebuilding project for FEMA called a DAWG HAUS (Disaster Avoidance With Good Home Attenuating Unionization System). The class built two scale models of a hurricane-resistant house, demonstrating teamwork and adaptability – crucial skills required in the field of engineering.

When Lisa is not busy honing her skills and conducting research in engineering mechanics and applied mathematics, she’s kept busy with her two children, her passion for reading, and her flower garden.

It is evident that Lisa Ovelman is dedicated to the advancement of STEM students. She is a tireless advocate for active learning, individual student success, good science and science communication, and diversity, inclusion and representation in STEM and Harford Community College is proud recognize her efforts and highlight her success.