Dr. Sarah Zappe, Ph.D.

Director, Leonhard Center, Assistant Dean for Teaching and Learning, Research Professor

My journey to the Leonhard Center:

I started working in the Leonhard Center as a graduate student in 2000.  After a brief stint working elsewhere, I decided I missed the Leonhard Center so much that I decided to come back full-time in 2007 as the Director of Assessment and Instructional Support.  I had earned my PhD in educational psychology specializing in applied testing and measurement.  As a graduate student, I never knew that I would develop expertise in the discipline of engineering education.  In fact, my dissertation actually focused on the cognitive processing of law school students.  Yet, I found an affinity in the Leonhard Center working with engineering faculty and began to conduct research and publish in various areas of engineering education.  In 2022, I was extremely fortunate to obtain the position of Director of the Leonhard Center and Assistant Dean for Teaching and Learning in the College of Engineering. I am so excited to be in this role as I feel I have the ability to make a stronger impact on student and faculty experiences in the College!

My primary interests have been associated with the professional skill set, specifically entrepreneurship, creativity, and innovation.  More recently, I have begun to work more with efforts relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion, particularly in relationship with inclusive teaching in the College.  In addition, I am becoming more interested in holistic faculty development, particularly in relationship to wellness and work-life balance. I have been very involved with the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and recently finished a term as  Chair of the Educational Research and Methods Division.  I also often partner with VentureWell on various tasks and was awarded a research retreat from them to study failure in student entrepreneurship teams in 2019. 

Sarah is passionate about:

  • Faculty development
  • Entrepreneurship education
  • Failure in student entrepreneurial teams
  • Research methods and assessment
  • Inclusive teaching strategies
  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Mindfulness
  • Paddle boarding
  • Watercolor painting

Proud moments:

  • Deputy editor of the Journal of Engineering Education (2000 to present)
  • ASEE ERM Division Chair (2019 to present)
  • Recipient of the 2017 Helen Plants Award for Best Special session at the Frontiers in Education conference
  • Recipient of the 2016 Helen Plants Award for Best Special session at the Frontiers in Education conference

Favorite Leonhard Center Halloween costume:

Tinker Bell from Peter Pan (2018)

a woman dressed in a fairy costume

What to contact Sarah for:

Email Sarah if you want to know more about Leonhard Center workshops, improving teaching evaluations, or conducting research in engineering education!

sarah zappe headshot


The Leonhard Center for Enhancement of Engineering Education was established in 1990 by an endowment from William and Wyllis Leonhard. Its mission is to catalyze the changes that are crucial to maintaining world-class engineering education at Penn State. In 2006 the Leonhard Center became the home for two other major programs that support teaching and learning in the College - the Office of Assessment & Instructional Support and Programs for Engineering Writing & Speaking.

The Leonhard Center

201 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710

Phone: 814-865-4020