KEEN Rising Stars

2022 Edition

In honor of our KEEN Rising Star award program, we invite you to get to know three engineering educators who are making a substantial difference in entrepreneurial engineering education.

The 2022 KEEN Rising Star awardees are


Dr. Kaitlin Mallouk, Associate Professor at Rowan University.

Dr. Erin Henslee, Assistant Professor and founding faculty member of the Department of Engineering, Wake Forest University.

Dr. Jennifer O'Neil, Assistant Professor, Rochester Institute of Technology.

In addition to expressing their commitment to the entrepreneurial mindset (EM), each awardee has demonstrated an inspirational approach to making the engineering classroom a value-driven partnership between student and faculty. Read their stories for stimulating concepts and strategies with far-reaching effect!

Dr. Kaitlin Mallouk

Rowan University President Ali A. Houshmand writes, “I’m delighted we have yet another KEEN Rising Star among our faculty at the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering. Kaitlin Mallouk embodies what it means to be an engineering educator with an entrepreneurial mindset. Her work not only benefits our students, but also her field. Indeed, that was our benefactor’s goal—to transform and advance engineering education.”

Kaitlin Mallouk

Dr. Kaitlin Mallouk is constantly looking to create value for her students and the instructors she works with. Part of this approach is her willingness to take risks. 

"There has not been a single semester I’ve taught where I haven’t tried something new to make the material more engaging or relevant, or my practices more pedagogically sound," she says. "The new stuff doesn’t always work, but I always learn something about what to try next time. I’m always seeking new things to try: Attending workshops, reading Engineering Unleashed cards, or talking to colleagues to find my next modification."

Dr. Erin Henslee

"Dr. Henslee truly embodies the Wake Forest teacher-scholar ideal," says Dean Michele Gillespie. "Her exciting pedagogical innovations are rooted in her profound commitment to developing powerful teacher-student relationships that invite all her students to take risks, bounce back from challenges, and pursue purposeful lives."

Erin Henslee

Dr. Erin Henslee’s focus has always been on her students. 

“I ask myself questions like, ‘What should my students be able to do by the end of this class? What are the things they will have accomplished, or can show or demonstrate?’" she says. "I look for ways to integrate lectures with hands-on activities and community-based or service learning. I try to be intentional about taking a student-centered approach rather than a content-centered approach.”

Dr. Jennifer O'Neil

“As Jen’s Dean, I am extremely proud that she is being recognized as a 2022 National KEEN Rising Star," writes Dr. S. Manian Ramkumar, Dean, College of Engineering Technology at RIT. "This is a wonderful recognition of her efforts to improve engineering education at RIT and her passion for student success. She was instrumental in introducing KEEN to RIT and nurturing its growth over the past several years. In her unique position as a graduate of the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, and now a faculty member within the College of Engineering Technology, Jen has enabled RIT to bring these two distinct colleges together for a common purpose of enhancing undergraduate engineering education. Jen’s vision has made Entrepreneurial Minded Learning a reality at RIT and an integral component of new faculty on-boarding for both colleges.”

Jennifer O'Neil

Dr. Jennifer O'Neil believes a mixture of teaching methods works well in the classroom because not everyone learns the same way. In fact, she prefers to put more ownership on the students to manage their learning. 

“I give students the bare basics of the fundamental concepts where they have to go above and beyond technically," she says. "I expect them to go learn how to do it and to ask questions if they don’t know something. Because when you’re out on a co-op or in a job, you’re not going to know everything, and you need to learn what to do when you don’t know something. I know it’ll be uncomfortable, but in the end, you’ll be a better person for it.”

About the Award

KEEN, a partnership of engineering colleges and universities working to ensure students develop an entrepreneurial mindset, recognizes that education starts with the teachers. As part of its effort to showcase excellence in education, a KEEN award committee annually names three young faculty as KEEN Rising Stars who have gone above and beyond to equip undergraduate engineers to create personal, economic, and societal value through the entrepreneurial mindset. 

To help celebrate and recognize faculty achievement, each KEEN Partner can nominate one individual with less than 10 years of experience as a faculty member for the KEEN Rising Star Award each year. The KEEN Award Committee then selects three awardees using an evaluation rubric. 

The award goes to the faculty members' institutions, recognizing these individuals who have gone above and beyond to equip undergraduate engineers to create personal, economic, and societal value through the entrepreneurial mindset.

As the top awardee of the KEEN Rising Star Award, Kaitlin receives: 

  • A letter of recognition from the KEEN Awards Committee
  • A KEEN guitar—the KEEN Rising Star Award!
  • A story published on Engineering Unleashed highlighting her achievements
  • A $25,000 grant to Rowan University from the Kern Family Foundation to advance KEEN’s mission
  • Sponsored airfare and registration (including hotel accommodations) to the 2023 KEEN National Conference—where she will be recognized.

Erin Henslee and Jennifer O’Neil will each be honored with: 

  • A letter of recognition from the KEEN Awards 
  • A story published on Engineering Unleashed highlighting their achievements
  • A $10,000 grant to their institutions from the Kern Family Foundation to advance KEEN’s mission
  • Sponsored airfare and registration (including hotel accommodations) to the 2023 KEEN National Conference—where they will be recognized.

Read more Engineering Unleashed faculty stories

Read more stories

Discover more ideas, opportunities, and actionable take-aways for the entrepreneurial mindset by faculty around the nation!