Susan Koval considers herself both a student and a teacher. The senior administrator of education services for the IEEE Power & Energy Society (Piscataway, New Jersey, U.S), Koval's career has run the gamut from high school science instructor to engineer to business entrepreneur. Despite her diverse professional background, she has remained true to her three lifelong passions: science, education and horses.
“Over the past 25 years, I have worked for a variety of companies and in several areas,” she said. “Nevertheless, my jobs have all been scientifically oriented in one way or another, because I have loved science and technology since I was a kid.”
Raised in West Milford, New Jersey, U.S., Koval, who is the oldest of five children, dreamed of heading out west to attend college once she graduated from high school. Her father, on the other hand, had different plans for his daughter.
“I've always loved the West, cowboys and horses, so I had this grand illusion that I was going to go to college in Colorado,” she recalled. “My dad said, ‘No, you are going to Rutgers.’ I was disappointed, but then I found out that Cook College, which is part of Rutgers, had a farm. It worked out really well.”
Koval graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental and business economics. After working for several years, she returned to Rutgers to obtain her K-12 comprehensive science teaching certification. Koval's next career move entailed teaching high school physics.
“Teaching high school was the hardest job I ever had, but it was a lot of fun,” she noted. “To demonstrate Newton's third law (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction), I used to fix up this fire extinguisher and blast myself down the hall with it while sitting on a wheeled chair. The corridors would be lined with kids who weren't even in my class waiting to see the experiment.”
Koval's work as a physics instructor eventually led her to pursue another career track that had always fascinated her: engineering. Again, she returned to Rutgers and earned her electrical engineering degree. While working as an electrical and systems engineer, she found time to pursue her master's degree in technology management from the Stevens Institute of Technology. After several more years in the workforce, Koval switched gears again and launched her own business firm.
“For five-and-half years, I was self-employed as a business consultant, business coach and trainer,” she said. “I also taught classes at the Rutgers Center for Management Development during this time. I had a lot of success but found I missed being part of a larger organization.”
Today, Koval is the senior administrator of education services for the IEEE Power & Energy Society, where her role is to help the organization build on its existing educational offerings as well as expand its type and number of offerings.
“This job is a perfect fit for me because of my background,” she said. “I have teaching and business experience, and my engineering degree allows me to do more than just administer the curriculum. This July, we're rolling out two new courses for our Plain Talk series: Electricity Markets and Power Quality. We're also building out a smart grid curriculum and looking to put together a set of online course offerings.”
One of Koval's goals includes attracting more engineers to the industry. In particular, she wants to increase the visibility of where people can pursue an education in power engineering, and is working with Lehigh University's new Energy Systems Engineering Institute to help achieve this objective.
“I also want to see more of an effort to reach potential engineers at the high school level,” she added. “Many kids do not realize that engineering is a creative field that requires problem-solving skills to make a positive difference. We need to get the message across that engineers help people and that the field offers unlimited room for growth and success. The IEEE Power & Energy Society can help do this.”
In her free time, Koval enjoys spending time with her husband, Adam, and her other love — a 14-year-old red dun quarter horse named Checkers.
“I have always felt like the West is in my genes, so having my own horse is a dream come true,” she said. “Before I bought him, I had been on three cattle drives and a horse pack trip across the Canadian Rockies. Now, Checkers and I do all sorts of trail riding together. We've also done a beach ride, jousting and other gaming events, drill team, and we're the headless horseman in a haunted hayride. I would love to do endurance riding, which is where you ride 50 to 100 miles per day.”
A nature enthusiast, Koval likes to bike, kayak and hike. She and her husband are members of the AMC Four Thousand Footer Club, which means they have climbed the 48 mountain peaks in New Hampshire that are greater than 4000 feet.
Regardless of the personal and professional avenues she pursues, Koval puts her best foot forward.
“I'm proud that no matter what have done, I have given it 100% and gotten positive feedback about my work ethic, my enthusiasm and my integrity,” she said.