Published: April 2, 2024

Robyn will be retiring in May after spending nearly 30 years with CU Boulder and the College of Engineering and Applied Science. For her Employee Spotlight, she reflected on the work she has done to “change the face of CU Engineering.”

Robyn SandekianI was born and raised in Denver as the youngest daughter of an engineer and a nurse. By the age of 10, I was convinced that I wanted to be an astronaut and believed that the only pathway to fulfill that dream was to become an aerospace engineer. That singular focus led me to enroll in the aerospace engineering department here at CU Boulder in the late 1980s. It thus began a four-decade relationship with the CU Boulder campus and the College of Engineering and Applied Science. By the time I graduated with my MS degree in aerospace, I had found lifelong friends and the love of my life but felt that I was no longer on the path to becoming an astronaut.  I decided that what was most important to me in the short term was to increase the number of women studying engineering and to improve the culture of the college so that it would be more inclusive for those who followed in my academic footsteps. So, my first job post-graduation was as the program coordinator for the Women in Engineering Program. 

Over my career, I am proud of the work that I have done to change the face of CU Engineering. I was one of the first two student assistants who worked with Dr. Miriam Maslanik, the Women in Engineering Program founder. Although that work was fulfilling, I felt that I could make a greater impact by broadening my focus to supporting all students on campus. I joined the Student Odyssey Project in 1999 and was the co-creator and founding manager of Ralphie’s Resource Center, which existed at Norlin Library in the early 2000s. Ralphie’s was “the place to go when you need to know” and we helped students navigate the maze of administrative offices and processes encountered on campus. When Ralphie’s closed due to budget cuts in 2003, I had the great fortune of returning to the College of Engineering and Applied Science. I supported the development of the college’s active learning program, and then alongside Dr. Bernad Amadei, I helped found and manage the Engineering for Developing Communities Program for 15 years. 

After earning an education specialist (EdS) degree in educational leadership and policy studies in 2011, and then my doctorate in higher education and student affairs leadership from the University of Northern Colorado in 2017, I pivoted my focus once again to supporting faculty in our college. I worked with Dr. JoAnn Silverstein, the inaugural associate dean for faculty advancement, and Dr. Bev Louie, another former leader of the Women in Engineering Program, to start to incorporate transparency and inclusive policies and practices throughout faculty hiring and promotion.   

It's been a wild and unforeseen career in student and faculty affairs, but I’ve enjoyed my time working for the college. I’m ready for the next phase of life. 

One thing you’re willing to spend way too much on . . . 

Travel. My most recent milestone birthday trip of a lifetime to Cuba was canceled due to COVID. Instead, I spent my birthday two years later on a bus trip around the northern end of Ireland and, shortly after my birthday this year I’ll be moving to the island of Hawaii! Living in Hawaii has been a dream for several decades, and my wife and I decided to follow that dream upon my retirement this summer. 

What is your guilty pleasure? 

Snuggling in bed with my two small doggies after my alarm has gone off and I’m supposed to be getting ready for the day!  

Thank you to Robyn for such an amazing career with CU Engineering! She has been absolutely instrumental in the creation and improvement of many collegewide policies and practices that benefit and support our faculty. The college wouldn't be the same without all of her dedication and hard work. The CEAS HR & Faculty Advancement team will miss her dearly.