Who We Are


Mary Besterfield-Sacre, PhD, Director

Dr. Sacre is an Associate Professor and Fulton C. Noss Faculty Fellow in Department of Industrial Engineering and a Center Associate for the Learning Research and Development Center. Her principal research is in engineering education assessment, which has been funded by the NSF, Department of Education, Sloan Foundation, Engineering Information Foundation, and the NCIIA. Dr. Sacre's current research focuses on three distinct but highly correlated areas – innovative product design, entrepreneurship, and how engineers model. She has served as an associate editor for the JEE and is currently associate editor for the AEE Journal. She recently was awarded the 2012 ASEE Sharon Keillor Award for Women in Engineering Education.

Sam Spiegel, PhD, Associate Director of Outreach & Development

Dr. Spiegel is also chair of the Disciplinary Literacy in Science team at the University of Pittsburgh's Institute for Learning (IFL), Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC). Dr. Spiegel's previous experiences focused on professional development of educators and curriculum development in STEM education. He served as Director of Research and Development for a multimedia development company and as Director of the Center for Integrating Research in Learning (CIRL) at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Florida State University. Dr. Spiegel's current efforts focus on educational reform in K-12 and higher education systems, and in the innovation of learning resources.

Natasa Vidic, PhD, Associate Director of Operations

Natasa Vidic is an Assistant Professor of Industrial Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. She received her B.S.in Civil/Transportation Engineering from the University of Belgrade, Serbia; her M.S. in Operations Research from the University of Delaware; and PhD in Industrial Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. Her research primarily focuses on engineering education assessment methodologies and problem-solving processes. She also worked on the use of operations research models for design and control of production systems with particular emphasis on workforce assignment. She has been teaching graduate level Statistics and Data Analysis as well as Introduction to Probability and Statistics and Simulation Modeling for undergraduate students. She is a member of POD, IIE and INFORMS.

Janet Littrell, EdD, Director of Distance Learning

Prior to joining the Swanson School of Engineering, Dr. Littrell served as Dean of Continuing and Professional Studies at Chatham University in Pittsburgh. Dr. Littrell has extensive experience in establishing and expanding distance learning capabilities at a variety of universities including the University of Arizona, University of San Diego, San Diego State University, and National University in California. Dr. Littrell specializes in optimizing online infrastructure, creating and expanding academic program areas through distance education, and promoting university business-to-business partnerships, especially those that take advantage of non-traditional content delivery models.

Cheryl A. Bodnar, PhD, CTDP, Assistant Professor (Teaching Track), Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering

Dr. Bodnar’s research interests relate to the incorporation of active learning techniques in undergraduate classes (problem based learning, games and simulations, etc.) as well as integration of innovation and entrepreneurship into the Chemical and Petroleum Engineering curriculum. In addition, she is actively engaged in the development of a variety of informal science education approaches with the goal of exciting and teaching K-12 students about regenerative medicine and its potential. Dr. Bodnar is certified as a Training and Development Professional (CTDP) from the Canadian Society for Training and Development (CSTD).

Renee Clark, PhD, Director of Assessment

Renee Clark serves as the Director of Assessment for the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. She received her PhD from the Department of Industrial Engineering, where she also completed her post-doctoral studies. Her research primarily focuses on the application of data analysis techniques to engineering education research studies as well as industrial accident scenarios. She has 20 years of experience in various engineering, IT, and data analysis positions within academia and industry, including ten years of manufacturing experience at Delphi Automotive.