Graduate Commencement Speaker

Jean Zu

An accomplished scholar of mechanical vibrations and dynamics and mechatronics, Dr. Jean Zu is the newest member of the academic leadership at Stevens Institute of Technology. She began her appointment as dean of the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering & Science (SES) on May 1, 2017. Dr. Zu’s appointment followed an extensive international search process. 

As dean of SES, she will oversee a school comprising more than 170 faculty members and eight departments that serve both undergraduate and graduate students, offering more than 50 academic programs and majors.  

Dr. Zu brings to Stevens a distinguished record of leadership in the engineering community. Her 30-year career in academia began at Tsinghua University in China, where she served as a lecturer and researcher.

She joined the University of Toronto in 1994 as a faculty member in the mechanical and industrial engineering department. In 2009, she made history at that university by becoming the first woman to be appointed chair of the department of mechanical and industrial engineering, a role she served until this year.

Dr. Zu’s contributions to her profession are considerable. She has worked extensively to raise both awareness and funding for engineering programs at the University of Toronto and across Canada. She served as president of the Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC) from 2012 to 2014, and is a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the Canadian Society of Mechanical Engineering (CSME). She served as president of the CSME from 2006 to 2008, on the Grant Selection Committee of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) from 2004 to 2007, and as the associate editor of the ASME Journal of Vibrations and Acoustics from 2007 to 2013. 

Dr.  Zu's research is focused on mechanical vibrations and dynamics and mechatronics. She has applied her expertise to private enterprise, successfully collaborating with industry on many research projects, particularly those with a focus on automotive applications. In recent years, she has extended her research to mechatronics areas of biomedical instrumentation and energy harvesting. 

She has published more than 300 refereed papers, including 160 journal papers, and attracted a significant number of grants and contracts from government and industry to support her research. 

Dr. Zu has also received numerous awards and accolades for her contributions to academia, industry and the engineering profession, including the John B. Stirling Medal from the Engineering Institute of Canada for leadership and distinguished service; the Donald E. Marlowe Award from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) for distinguished education administration; the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, which honors significant contributions and achievements by Canadians; and the Robert W. Angus Medal from the CSME for outstanding contributions to the management and practice of mechanical engineering.

Dr. Zu holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Tsinghua University and Ph.D. from the University of Manitoba.

Undergraduate Commencement Speaker

Christopher J. Wiernicki 

Christopher J. Wiernicki is an internationally recognized figure in the maritime industry.

An accomplished naval architect and business leader, Mr. Wiernicki is a distinguished statesman in the great tradition of ship classification societies, serving as chairman, president and CEO of ABS and chairman of the ABS Group of Companies, Inc. ABS is a leading provider of classification and technical services to the global offshore and marine industries.

His 24-year career with the Houston-based organization began in 1993 when he became vice president of engineering within ABS Americas Division. He later served as president and chief operating officer (COO) of ABS Europe Ltd., chief technology officer, and president and COO of ABS Group of Companies, Inc. 

As head of ABS and its affiliated companies, Mr. Wiernicki oversees an enterprise of more than 5,000 employees in 65 countries. He spoke at Stevens Institute of Technology last November for the dedication of the new ABS Engineering Center, a multi-disciplinary teaching and research facility made possible by the generous support of ABS and Mr. Wiernicki's commitment to advancing innovation and preparing the next generation of leaders in the marine industry. The new facility is just one part of a multi-dimensional partnership between Stevens and ABS, one that includes scholarship support, an internship and cooperative education program, and research collaborations.

In addition to his leadership duties at ABS, Mr. Wiernicki lectures at the university level on topics ranging from leadership to technology; serves on the board of trustees for the Seamen’s Church Institute, as well as numerous university boards and advisory councils; and served as chairman of the International Association of Classification Societies (2015-16).

Mr. Wiernicki is a Fellow with the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. He was awarded the Vice Admiral Emory S. Land Medal in 2013 for outstanding accomplishment in the marine field, the United Seaman’s Service Admiral of the Ocean Seas Award in 2016 for outstanding contributions to the maritime industry, and is a member of the International Maritime Hall of Fame Class of 2016. 

Mr. Wiernicki holds a bachelor of engineering degree in civil engineering from Vanderbilt University, where he was later inducted to Vanderbilt University School of Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni; a master of science degree in structural engineering from George Washington University, where he was later elected to the George Washington University Engineering Hall of Fame; and a master of science degree in ocean engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Mr. Wiernicki is also a graduate of the Harvard Business School Advanced Management Program and a recipient of honorary doctor of science degrees from Maine Maritime Academy and SUNY Maritime College.

First in Class Speakers

Mark Liotta

Mark Liotta of Chatham, New Jersey is first in the Stevens Institute of Technology Class of 2017. He has earned a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering with a 4.0 GPA.

A Stevens Scholar and a member of the Stevens Honor Board, Liotta belongs to two prestigious honor societies that recognize outstanding scholastic achievement: Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society, and Alpha Epsilon Delta, the national health pre-professional honor society.

Liotta was a member of the Stevens crew team and the Italian Club. He is also a founding member of JerseySTEM, a nonprofit organization aimed at increasing STEM engagement and promoting STEM awareness among middle and high school students in underrepresented communities.

Liotta participated in a number of notable healthcare-related research activities, including one involving nerve guidance conduits and tissue engineering and another in gene therapy through a scholarship program offered by Stevens’ Center for Healthcare Innovation (CHI).

Liotta gained valuable work experience at Hoboken University Medical Center, first as a volunteer and later as a physician’s scribe in the emergency department. His other work experiences include a biomedical engineering internship at CooperSurgical in Connecticut, where he focused on the research and development of medical devices.

After graduation, Liotta will pursue a career in medicine and attend Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

Alexandra Masciana

Alexandra Masciana of Middletown, New Jersey is first in the Class of 2017 at Stevens Institute of Technology. She has earned a bachelor’s degree in business and technology with a 4.0 GPA.

Masciana was a Stevens Scholar, a resident assistant (RA) and a student ambassador for the School of Business. She is a member of the Gear & Triangle Honor Society, the Order of Omega Honor Society, Beta Gamma Sigma business honor society and Rho Alpha Sigma residence life honor society, where she served as a co-service chair.

Masciana competed on the Stevens women’s tennis team, appearing six times on the President’s List, an honor distinguishing student athletes who earn grade point averages of 3.75 or higher. She also earned the title of “Stevens Sportswoman of the Year” for her sportsmanship during the 2014-15 season.

Masciana served as cabinet secretary of the Student Government Association during her freshman year. She also actively participated in student advisory board meetings for the Center for Faculty Engagement and Advancement and was active in Greek life as a member of Phi Sigma Sigma.

As a student researcher, Masciana worked on market research projects involving the Monmouth Medical Center and female empowerment-focused advertising campaigns.

After graduation, Masciana will begin her career as a technology advisor for financial services at EY in New York City.

Sara Vitkus

Sara Vitkus of Loudoun County, Virginia is first in the Stevens Institute of Technology Class of 2017. She has earned a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering and a master’s degree in systems engineering with a 4.0 GPA.

A Stevens Scholar, Vitkus is a recipient of the Stevens Presidential Scholarship and is a member of Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society and Eta Kappa Nu, the international electrical and computer engineering honor society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). She is also a member of Phi Sigma Sigma sorority.

She is an accomplished equestrian. At her parents’ farm in Virginia, she trains horses and coaches young equestrian students.

As a student researcher, Vitkus collaborated on an interdisciplinary project to create a virtual-reality representation of the City of Hoboken for purposes of disaster, flood and urban planning. Among her notable entrepreneurial activities, she is a co-founder of Savizar, a company specializing in big data solutions and one of the first startups selected by the Stevens Venture Center to receive mentoring, networking resources and technology support.

After graduation, Vitkus will return to northern Virginia to begin a career as a systems engineer at Entegra Systems, a provider of technical and professional services for federal government clients in the defense, homeland security and intelligence sectors.