University Court

Cheryl Knobloch 

Cheryl Knobloch is a ceramic engineer and began her Penn State career as manager of the Materials Research Institute Particle Characterization Laboratory in 1997; she was promoted to assistant director of the NSF-funded Particulate Materials Center in 1998. Cheryl was appointed assistant director of the Penn State Women in Engineering Program in 2002; she was promoted to associate director in 2006 and director in 2013. Cheryl champions diversity, inclusion and allyship in engineering and computer science. She provides leadership to all aspects of the Penn State Women in Engineering Program (WEP) and strategically steers pre-college outreach, undergraduate retention initiatives, and professional development for multiple constituencies. She has engaged in research investigating the impact of mentoring and retention practices on the persistence of women in engineering. Cheryl has published and presented scholarly work showcasing exceptional Penn State retention initiatives and inclusion best practices. Penn State WEP was selected as national recipient of the 2019 WEPAN “Women in Engineering Initiative Award” under her leadership, recognizing excellence in higher education impact. Cheryl teaches two first-year mechanical engineering design courses and internship professional development classes; she advises the nationally award-winning Penn State chapter of Society of Women Engineers (SWE). Her excellence in impact has been recognized by the university as recipient of the Penn State Commission for Women “Achieving Woman Award” (2018) and “Rosemary Schraer Mentoring Award” (2013). The “Faces of Penn State” campaign (2013) featured her profile characterized by “Exceptional Academics.” Cheryl is the mother of two daughters, both Penn State alumnae.

Chris Solo

Chris Solo is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Supply Chain and Analytics in the Smeal College of Business. Dr. Solo teaches business analytics at the graduate level and supply chain management, supply chain analytics, and management information systems at the undergraduate level. Prior to joining the Penn State faculty in 2016, Dr. Solo served 21 years on active duty with the United States Air Force, retiring at the rank of lieutenant colonel. During his military career, Dr. Solo held assignments throughout the United States and in the Republic of Korea and served in the intelligence, aircraft program management, and operations research analyst career fields. While on active duty, Dr. Solo also served on the faculty of the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the United States Air Force Academy, where he taught undergraduate courses in statistics, linear and nonlinear programming, simulation, and network optimization. In his current role, Dr. Solo leads the Business Analytics program in the Smeal College of Business and serves as the faculty advisor to APICS, a student supply chain management organization. Dr. Solo earned a B.S. degree in Mathematics from Penn State, an M.S. degree in Operations Research from the Air Force Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from Penn State. Dr. Solo lives in State College with his wife and children, serves fellow veterans as an active member of American Legion Post 245, and is a mediocre homebrewer.

Jo Dumas

Dumas is Associate Teaching Professor in the Film Video and Media Studies Department of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications and PSU Alumna with PhD in Mass Communications and MA in Telecommunications. Dumas serves as Schreyer Honors Coordinator for Bellisario. She completed Electrical Engineering BS at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and filmmaking study at New York University. Dumas has written and produced several films and theatrical productions with director, writer, actor husband Charles. Dumas worked as both Computer and TV Broadcast Engineer. In addition to teaching Dumas researches gender and Information and Communication Technology applications toward UN Sustainable Development Goal achievement in developing countries. Dumas was Gender Caucus Consultant, for Communications and Outreach at the World Summit on the Information Society, Project Associate for ICT policy NGO bridges.org and Lecturer at University of StellenboscAfrica. Dumas is a Cager Club member and season ticket holder for Lady Lions and Nittany Lion Football and has attended every homecoming game and parade while at PSU for the past twenty-three years.

Mike Milligan 

After spending my first twenty-two years in my native Canada, I then attended graduate school at the University of Virginia (earning a Ph. D. in American History in the early 1990s). Following this was a valuable, productive thirteen year stint teaching history and economics and coaching ice hockey and lacrosse at a New England boarding school (Phillips Exeter Academy). I have been a member of Penn State’s Department of History since 2005. Along the way, I have had the good fortunate to teach a handful of undergraduate courses in American history: notably, American Business History; United States Constitutional History since 1877; both halves of the United States History survey; and—my “new favorite”—the History of Pennsylvania State University (History 148). Creating, assembling together, and teaching on several occasions now the Penn State History course has been a major highlight of my time here! Reading about the lives of Penn Staters, working in the University Special Collection archives, talking with alums and current undergraduates about “their school” (past and present) has been rewarding and a lot of fun. So too has contributing to the “Witness to Change: The Penn State Experience” website chiefly through conducting oral interviews of PSU alums of the 1960s-1970s era. But working with undergraduates in a number of roles and capacities (instructor, honors adviser, thesis supervisor, internship coordinator, undergraduate officer) has unquestionably been the most enjoyable—and most rewarding—facet of my Penn State years. I am extremely honored to be selected as a faculty member of the 2019 Homecoming University Court.

Linda Thornton

Linda Thornton is a professor of music education at Penn State. Before her time in higher education, she taught elementary and middle school band, and still loves teaching kids that age. Teaching, researching and writing are passions of hers, and she also enjoys being outdoors, reading, and sharing a love of musical theater with her daughter, Layla. A life-long Cubs fan, she endures the ups and downs of fandom with her mother and grandmother, and was thrilled her 101-year old grandmother finally saw a World Series win in 2016. Linda grew up in a small farming community in Michigan and has also lived in Illinois, Missouri, and New York. At Penn State, she teaches classes that prepare undergraduate students to become music teachers, and graduate students to engage in research and teaching in music. She is also a Schreyer Honors advisor and grad chair for her area. She is currently the Chair of the Society for Music Teacher Education, and has served as a state and regional representative for research in the National Association for Music Education. Prior to Penn State she was an Assistant Professor of music education at SUNY Fredonia, and earned degrees from Northwestern University and the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Kirk French

Kirk French is an Associate Teaching Professor of Anthropology at Penn State and the Director and Executive Producer of Land and Water Revisited, a remake of a 1962 documentary film about the Teotihuacán Valley of México. He has spent over 20 years conducting archaeological
research in Mesoamerica that deals with the interplay between humans and their environment, specifically as it relates to water. His passion for Land and Water stems largely from his interest in environmental change. And one of the things he’s trying to accomplish with this film is to
accurately document the changes and tell the personal stories from those who have been directly affected by it. French dedicates much of his energy as an instructor toward his Anthropology of Alcohol (ANTH140) class. Now in its third year, ANTH140 is the largest anthropology class in the U.S.
with over 700 students enrolled each semester. Humans learn through association, by building on the familiar. It is for this reason French decided to focus on something that every culture in the world has a relationship with – alcohol. Everyone has an opinion about alcohol. Especially college students. Making alcohol the central theme of his teaching and research allows him to reach a much wider audience. To share with them his passion for an area of study that can have a monumental impact on the way one sees the world. His goal is to show that humans are much more similar than different. And when we focus on the similarities, it often helps us to appreciate the differences.

For more information check out the University Court handbook.

University Court Handbook

About University Court

As a Penn State faculty and staff member, you dedicate your time to not only the University, but to the students that you influence on a daily basis. Why not have the opportunity to be recognized for that great commitment? Penn State Homecoming University Court is made up of 6 individuals whose devotion to the Nittany Lion family goes above and beyond the call of duty. These individuals are advisors, professors, staff and researchers, who are nominated by the students who admire them. The experience of a University Court member is unique, and one that allows for a faculty and staff member to be fully immersed in Homecoming from a point of view that very few get the opportunity to have. We look forward to having you a part of this great tradition!

University Court Timeline

Similar to the process of Student Court, any student is allowed to nominate a faculty or staff member as an individual a part of University Court. These nominations will occur during the early part of the fall semester. After fall nominations close, a panel made up of Penn State student leaders, will select the final 6 members of the University Court, based on those individuals commitment to the success and growth of Penn State and its students. These student leaders within the selected panel, come from various academic and involvement backgrounds, as to ensure that we are able to have the most inclusive process for selection as possible.

Spring Nominations

April 8th – April 19th
Spring Nominations will open 8 a.m. All Nominations will need to be submitted online. Nomination tables will be set up in the HUB on April 17th (Legacy Celebration). Nominations will close at 5 p.m. and no late submissions will be accepted.

Fall Nominations

August 26th – September 6th
University Court Nominations Open for all University Court members at 10am. Any student is eligible to nominate a Penn State faculty or staff member. Nominations for all University Court members will close at 5 p.m. Late submissions will not be considered.

University Court Student Panel

September 17th
A panel made up of Penn State student leaders will come together in order to select the final 6 members of the University Court. These students come from a diverse range of majors and school experiences, in order to provide the best point-of-views for the University Court selections.

University Court Workshop

September 23rd
Location is TBA. All Homecoming Courts (Graduate, University, and Student) will receive their schedule of events and any important information needed for Homecoming Week. Food, fun, and games will also be provided.

Homecoming Week

September 28th – October 5th
All members of the University Court are required to be present at as many Homecoming Week events as possible. An official schedule of events and dates will be provided in advanced.