New faculty, staff pioneering GCU tech programs
By Michael Ferraresi
GCU News Bureau
These are the folks who make pocket-protectors look cool.
Grand Canyon University has hired three new faculty and a new staff member to advance the University’s training of students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — the STEM disciplines. GCU Today spoke with them about their backgrounds and the innovative STEM-related educational efforts they’re helping pioneer:
Dr. Michael Sheller, associate dean, College of Science, Engineering and Technology
Sheller worked for 17 years at a Tempe-based biomedical firm before starting his own consulting company. He’s spent most of his career in research and development of drug and medical devices but was drawn to oversee GCU’s new academic programs in computer science, information technology and engineering.
Since earning a doctorate in biomedical engineering from Arizona State University in 2008, Sheller said he’s enjoyed success in the corporate biotech world, but he wanted to be involved in academia. He was a graduate teaching assistance at the University of Texas at Austin in the past, lecturing and teaching labs about topics such as fluid mechanics. He and his family feel they will be linked at GCU into a Christian community that aligns with their personal devotion to community service and camaraderie through Christ.
Sheller is working with other CSET faculty to roll out multiple engineering degrees for 2015-16. Aside from sorting through “an amazing amount of variables” to develop the curriculum, Sheller said he’s looked forward to helping GCU develop multidimensional science and engineering students who are versatile enough to fill the fast-changing needs of tech companies.
“I can tell you, from an industry perspective, it’s about critical thinking,” Sheller said.
Luke Kanuchok, lead faculty, Computer Science
Since 2005, Kanuchok has worked primarily as a software engineer for Lockheed Martin in Goodyear. His projects at the major Defense Department contractor included displaying radar data through programs that allow for topographical or 3-D views of the information.
Kanuchok, a father of four, will teach two introductory physics courses at GCU. He aims to make scientific, mathematical information “repeatable and communicable” for students so they can apply it across various STEM disciplines.
“With physics, it definitely has the reputation as being a hard science course,” he said. “But physics is one of those ones that I like to look at as mathematics applied to the real world.”
Kanuchok grew up in Indiana and attended as an undergraduate the same small Christian college as each of his six siblings. He earned a master’s degree in physics at Ball State University in 2004.
Dr. Steve Powelson, lead faculty, Information Technology
Powelson has operated several of his own businesses for nearly 30 years, including those that provided cloud-computing and IT security expertise to a range of companies. His background in IT and entrepreneurship made him an ideal fit for GCU’s new technology programs.
The Arizona native taught at Colorado State University and the University of Phoenix, and now is teaching math at GCU. Powelson earned an MBA from GCU in 2008, and a doctorate in business administration from Walden University with an emphasis in tech entrepreneurship.
GCU’s Christian foundation also was a big draw for Powelson. He said he is looking forward to helping prepare students to be great people, not just sound IT professionals.
“I think the kind of students we produce with that Christian worldview can facilitate positive societal change in the workplace and our communities,” Powelson said.
Amanda Hughens, manager, K-12 STEM outreach
With nearly 20 years of experience in K-12 education, including teaching science to middle and high school students, Hughes was a natural fit for her role at GCU. She will help local elementary and secondary students become familiar with GCU’s tech programs through campus events like STEM Saturday fairs, which begin on Sept. 6.
“They’re going to start to see that science and engineering are really a lot of fun,” Hughens said. “A lot of times when you look at careers in STEM-related fields, unless those children have parents in those fields, they don’t know what’s out there.”
Hughens also is finding ways to get local teachers involved and expose them to ideas about teaching STEM in a more engaging manner. In addition to teaching science in the Dysart Unified and Litchfield Elementary school districts, Hughens was director of educational technology in the Litchfield district for seven years. She also was a training/curriculum designer for the Arizona K12 Center for seven years.
Reach Michael Ferraresi at 602-639-7030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.