Center for Socially Engaged Design

Through our Socially Engaged Design Academy, consulting service, education programs, and engagement opportunities, students of any discipline may learn about and apply a broad set of skills, methods, and perspectives that, collectively, inform socially engaged design practice.

Meet the Team

Emily Aiken, MA, Assistant Director

Emily currently serves as the Assistant Director for Student Engagement at the Center for Socially Engaged Design (C-SED) where she supports students through their journey, learning socially engaged design through skill-building and practice in a way that fosters a sense of belonging, creativity and inclusion.


Shanna Daly, PhD, Assistant Professor – C-SED Co-Founder

Shanna Daly is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering. She has a B.E. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Dayton and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University. Her research focuses on design innovations through divergent and convergent thinking as well as through deep needs and community assessments using design ethnography.


Charlie Michaels, MFA – Associate Director

Charlie Michaels is Associate Director for Experiential Learning & Lecturer at the Center for Socially Engaged Design. He leads C-SED's experiential learning programs including C-SED's fieldwork program, working with faculty to build socially engaged design resources into their courses, overseeing training for co-curricular design teams, and manages C-SED's prototyping lab. 


Tallie Ritter, Project Coordinator

Tallie is the Project Coordinator for Data Analytics and Program Support at the Center for Socially Engaged Design. They are working to support research and data analysis efforts and manage the spacial experience at C-SED. Prior to starting this position at C-SED, Tallie studied Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan.


Kathleen Sienko, PhD, Associate Professor, C-SED Co-Founder

Kathleen Sienko is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, Miller Faculty Scholar, and Associate Professor of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan. She earned her Ph.D. in 2007 in Medical Engineering and Bioastronautics from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science and Technology, and holds an S.M. in Aeronautics & Astronautics from MIT and a B.S. in Materials Engineering from the University of Kentucky.


Steven Skerlos, PhD, Professor – Faculty Director

Steve Skerlos is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering. He received his Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering (2000) and his B.S.E. in Electrical Engineering with highest honors (1994), both from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has been a faculty member at the University of Michigan since 2000.


Robert Stonik, Project Coordinator

Robert is the Project Coordinator for Events and Storytelling at the Center for Socially Engaged Design (C-SED). With the help of the rest of the staff, he coordinates events and meetings for C-SED programs including Innovation in Action. In addition, as a storyteller, he seeks out media opportunities to share C-SED stories about student success, experiential learning, and finding your purpose.


Ann Verhey-Henke, MDiv, Strategic Director

Ann Verhey-Henke is the Strategic Director of the University of Michigan Center for Socially Engaged Design. Prior to her appointment at C-SED, Ann was the Managing Director of Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship and Adjunct Lecturer in Health Management and Policy at the University of Michigan School of Public Health (U-M SPH).


Advisory Board

Jesse Austin-Breneman, PhD Asst Prof

Jesse Austin-Breneman is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan. He earned his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering in 2014 from MIT. He also holds a S.M. in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and a B.S. in Ocean Engineering also from MIT. Previous to his academic career, he worked as a development engineer in Peru, working with rural communities on alternative business opportunities and with local doctors’ groups on medical device development. He also spent two years as a high school mathematics teacher in Boston, MA.


Dave Chesney, PhD

Context matters. I am a woodworker. Much of the furniture in my house was built by me, including the three beds that my children sleep in. I have also built tables – lots of tables. I was originally attracted to woodworking because of the desire to create something beautiful and useful, and because I have no other art form that I practice or am good at.


Amy Cohn, PhD

Professor Amy Ellen Mainville Cohn is an Alfred F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan, where she also holds an appointment in the Department of Health Management and Policy in the School of Public Health. Dr. Cohn is the Associate Director of the University of Michigan Center for Healthcare Engineering and Patient Safety (CHEPS) and serves on the Institute Leadership Team of the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation (IHPI).


Jonathan Fay, PhD

As the Dixon and Carol Doll Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at University of Michigan, Jonathan focuses his efforts on facilitating and inspiring entrepreneurship and innovation in the PhDs, PostDocs, and Faculty at the University of Michigan.  He assists the researchers throughout the project lifecycle including concept creation and business model generation.  As a part of this work, he currently manages the nationally acclaimed NSF Innovation-Corps program (NSF I-Corps) for the Midwest region as well as manages statewide innovation education programs for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.


Gail Hohner, MS

As the Director of the University of Michigan’s Multidisciplinary Design Program, Gail is responsible for a team delivering a wide range of significant, on-campus experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate and Masters students focusing on the engineering design process, developing new models of experiential learning (often piloted jointly with other organizations), and providing evaluation and assessment of the educational outcomes of the program.  In 2015 she received a joint award of the Provost’s Prize for Teaching Innovation.


James Holloway, PhD

James Holloway is Vice Provost for Global Engagement and Interdisciplinary Academic Affairs at the University of Michigan. Holloway joined the faculty of U-M as an assistant professor for Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences in January 1990. In 2007, he was named an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in recognition of outstanding contributions to undergraduate education. Later that year, he became associate dean for undergraduate education for the College of Engineering. With the responsibility to blend the hemispheres of creativity and analysis within the engineering undergraduate experience, he dedicated himself to introducing students not only to the theory of engineering, but also to its practice, and to the world at-large.


Aileen Huang-Saad, PhD Assoc Prof Prac

Aileen is an Associate Professor of Practice in Entrepreneurship and Biomedical Engineering. Aileen was previously the Associate Director for Academics in the Center for Entrepreneurship and was responsible for building the Program in Entrepreneurship for UM undergraduates, co-developing the masters level entrepreneurship program, and launching the biomedical engineering graduate design program. Aileen has received a number of awards for her teaching, including the Thomas M. Sawyer, Jr. Teaching Award, the UM ASEE Outstanding Professor Award and the Teaching with Sakai Innovation Award. Prior to joining the University of Michigan faculty, she worked in the private sector gaining experience in biotech, defense, and medical device testing at large companies and start-ups. Aileen’s current research areas include entrepreneurship engineering education, impact and engaged learning. Aileen has a Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, a Doctorate of Philosophy from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Aileen is also a member of Phi Kappa Phi and Beta Sigma Gamma.


Nancy Love, PhD

Dr. Nancy Love is the Borchardt and Glysson Collegiate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University Michigan. She served as chair of the department from January 2008 – August 2011, and Associate Dean in the Rackham School of Graduate Studies from 2011 through December 2012. Prior to 2008, Dr. Love was a faculty member in the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Biological Sciences at Virginia Tech. Her research focuses at the interface of chemistry and biology by assessing and advancing human and environmental health using chemical, biological and systems analysis approaches applied to water systems using lab- and field-scale experiments, and models. She has distinct expertise in: evaluating the fate of chemicals, pathogens and contaminants of emerging concern in water with relevance to public health and the environment; using technologies to sense and remove these constituents; and advancing technologies that recover useful resources from water. She is currently emphasizing studies centered at the intersection of water quality and children’s livelihoods across the globe. Dr. Love is a licensed professional engineer (P.E.) in the state of Michigan and a Board Certified Environmental Engineer (BCEE). After completing her M.S. degree, she worked as a process design engineer for 3 years where she worked mostly on drinking water treatment plant and distribution system design and construction.


Bruce Tharp, PhD

After studying mechanical engineering at Bucknell University and graduating from Pratt Institute's Master of Industrial Design program, Bruce went on to receive a MA and PhD in sociocultural anthropology at the University of Chicago. As an anthropologist he spent two years living with the Amish of Indiana studying their material culture and the production and consumption of value. His dissertation work was published as "Ascetical Value: The Materiality of Spirituality among the Old Order Amish."


Kentaro Toyama, PhD Assoc Prof

Kentaro Toyama is W.K. Kellogg Associate Professor at the University of Michigan School of Information, a fellow of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT, and author of Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology. Until 2009, Toyama was assistant managing director of Microsoft Research India, which he co-founded in 2005. At MSR India, he started the Technology for Emerging Markets research group, which conducts interdisciplinary research to understand how the world's poorest communities interact with electronic technology and to invent new ways for technology to support their socio-economic development. Prior to his time in India, Toyama did computer vision and multimedia research at Microsoft Research in Redmond, WA, USA and Cambridge, UK, and taught mathematics at Ashesi University in Accra, Ghana. Toyama graduated from Yale with a PhD in Computer Science and from Harvard with a bachelors degree in Physics. For more information, see


Student Advisory Board

Meet them here.