Theodora Saunders

Theodora Saunders Headshot
Director of System Engineering Education

Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department
Tagliatela College of Engineering

B.S. Electrical Engineering Technology, New York Institute of Technology
M.S. Electrical Engineering, Area of specialization Control Systems
M.S. Industrial Engineering, Area of specialization Systems Reliability
MIT Certificate in System Engineering for Managers and supervisors

About Theodora

Theodora's professional engineering career spans over 30 years starting in the commercial electronics industry, prior to moving to the aerospace defense sector, working in fixed wing aircraft projects, and later in the rotorcraft industry. Throughout her engineering assignments she has worked in projects addressing all aspects of the Product Life Cycle, including research, development, system integration, and testing.

She has been teaching in both corporate and academic settings. At Sikorsky Aircraft, she served as the Dean of the Igor University, developing coursework and a required skills model for system engineers. At the United Technologies corporate level she led the development of risk management courses where she also served as the primary training corporate instructor.

For more than 10 years she has been teaching as an adjunct professor in the University of New Haven's Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department. She was instrumental in establishing the Sikorsky Engineer In Residence program, where she also served as a mentor to several Sikorsky engineering interns. She has hired several of the UNH graduating engineers serving as their mentor in industry.

Theodora has been active for many years in several Engineering professional societies where she held leadership roles at the state and national levels including the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers (IEEE), the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the American Helicopter Society (AHS), and the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE).

The following is from a department Q & A

Can you tell us about the expertise you bring to the Tagliatela College of Engineering?

My personal experience in both industry and academia has shaped my philosophy about engineering education. I believe teaching, mentoring and practical learning are the three most critical and interdependent elements of the "engineering education" system. In order to keep up with increasing systems complexity, rapidly changing technological advancements, and industry demands, engineering education must be kept relevant, practical, and agile.

The existing Industrial Engineering (IE) program at the graduate and undergraduate levels is already adapted to address industry needs, offering courses in lean manufacturing, healthcare process improvement, six sigma quality control, applied optimization, and data analytics. In my new expanded role at the University I want to build on the existing IE course framework by developing additional course offerings, while strengthening student enrollment. Within the existing course framework, I am working with the IE faculty to develop a distinct MSIE Systems Engineering (SE) Track option. For students who already have a Master's degree in IE or in any other engineering discipline we plan to offer a certificate in SE.

I believe this will provide a flexible study program addressing the industry needs for SEs. In addition, I am developing an introductory course/seminar in system engineering which will be available to graduate students as well as to the undergraduates with instructor’s consent.

What was one of the key moments in your academic career so far?

I have many such moments. There is no better feeling than to see your ex-students and interns becoming successful practicing engineers. Many of my students keep in touch with me and it is really a pleasure to talk to them and see how they are doing. Of course, once a teacher, always a teacher, and as such I am always available for guidance and advice.

What do you look forward to most about teaching at the University of New Haven and what drew you to the University?

As indicated previously, I have been involved with teaching at the University for over 10 years now, and the people I have met including students, faculty, and staff are definitely the biggest assets. Every semester, I look forward to meeting my new students. I am interested to know their backgrounds and about their professional goals.

If you will be doing research, can you discuss a project you are working on now?

Since I am new in my position, I do not yet have specific research projects to discuss. However, I would like to explore projects, and research opportunities with industry, as well as with the local and state government at both graduate and undergraduate levels.

What do you enjoy doing outside the classroom and the lab?

My interests outside the classroom are quite diverse. I am a proud grandmother of an almost 2-year-old grandson, and my husband and I tremendously enjoy spending time with him. My other interests include reading - from literature to poetry to engineering books - theater, music, swimming, and walking.

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