Volunteer Spotlight
From Non-Traditional Student to Successful Engineer, Joseph Sener Set His Own Course

By Eva Richards

joseph-sener-imageSener didn’t take the traditional route to earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in industrial engineering.

Joseph Sener, ’93, M.S. ’10, didn’t take the traditional route to earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in industrial engineering. When his original college career was interrupted by three years in the army in the early 1970s, he decided to go back to earn his bachelor's degree while working full-time and raising two young children with his wife Linda. Sener's dedicated work ethic and desire to give back to NIU set him apart from other alumni. Now a retired professional engineer, the 2007 Outstanding Alumni for the College of Engineering and vice president of the NIU Alumni Association Board looks back and shares the opportunities and challenges that shaped his life.

NIUAA: Tell us about your experience leading up to and choosing NIU. What set it apart?
Sener: I was working full-time and going to school constantly. I was working as chief engineer/director of engineering at a manufacturing company in the south suburbs of Chicago. I had just received a postcard from NIU’s College of Engineering for continuing education, so I picked up the phone and the person who answered was Dennis Stoia, the Chair of the Department of Technology. We spoke for 45 minutes, and I was hooked. That was 1989.

NIUAA: In a few sentences, please share the impact NIU has had on your life.    Sener: Yikes, the impact has been unbelievable. I finished my bachelor’s degree, got involved with the Engineering and Technology Alumni Society, became its president, completed a master’s degree in systems engineering, and am now vice president of the NIU Alumni Association Board of Directors.

NIUAA: What are you most proud of in your professional career?     
Sener: I am proud of working and leading the engineering and quality functions in three separate companies solving some of the toughest issues in the medical device industry.

NIUAA: What would you want to tell current and prospective students about NIU?     
Sener: It’s important to set your course and follow through but always be open to the changes that come your way. Be present to new opportunities. There is no way I could draw a straight line from my first years in college to my current role! For goodness sake, don’t be afraid to accept a new opportunity because it is not where you thought you were headed.

NIUAA: What do you enjoy most about volunteering?     
Sener: I enjoy the opportunity to work with young, excited people who are trying to change the world. Never believe that a small group of dedicated individuals can’t change the world!

If you are looking for other ways to be an NIU volunteer, please check out NIU Nexus, or contact Liz McKee at lmckee1@niu.edu or 815-753-7400.