Staff: Robert Morris University Staff | Robert Morris University

RISE Center


Suzan Kardong-Edgren PhD, RN, ANEF, CHSE, FSSH, FAAN

RISE Center Director
412-397-3534 (office)


Dr. Suzie Kardong-Edgren is the Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Clinical Simulation in Nursing, the INACSL association journal, published by Elsevier and served as the Vice President for Research for the INACSL organization and the Chair of the Research Committee for the Society for Simulation in Healthcare. Dr. Edgren received the Excellence in Educational Research and the prestigious Debra Spunt Endowed Le
ctureship in Simulation from the NLN. She served as a consultant on the landmark NCSBN National Simulation Study evaluating varying levels of simulation substitution for traditional clinical hours. Dr. Edgren recently served for two years as a STTI/Elsevier National Faculty Mentor. Her current research focuses on deliberate practice, CPR, and virtual reality. Dr. Edgren was an inaugural Fellow in the Society for Simulation in Healthcare. She currently teaches two of the three courses in the Leadership in Simulation Instruction and Management online certificate program. Dr. Edgren earned her BSN from the University of Nevada, her MS and PhD from Texas Women's University and has over 24 years of teaching experience.

Valerie M. Howard EdD, RN

Dean, School of Nursing and Health Sciences
University Professor
412-397-6801 (office) 

2817Dr. Valerie Howard is Dean and a professor of nursing for Robert Morris University's School of Nursing and Health Sciences. She is also the founder and director of RMU's Regional Research and Innovation in Simulation Education (RISE) Center and past-President of the International Nursing Association of Clinical Simulation in Nursing (INACSL), from which she received an Excellence Award in Research in 2010. She also served as a team member for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant funding and RAVEN CMS funded initiative.

Dr. Howard has over 20 years of experience in higher education, with the past 12 years dedicated to researching, developing and implementing simulation experiences across the curriculum. Since 2004 she has been responsible for integrating academically sound simulation experiences for undergraduate and graduate students at RMU. In addition to supervising the expansion and accreditation of the RMU Simulation Lab into the RISE Center, she also created and implemented the Leadership in Simulation Instruction and Management online certificate program to assist with integrating this complex training methodology. Dr. Howard is a national and international resource for simulation, with previous service to the Scientific Counsel for the Certificate of Simulation in Advanced for the College of Health and Applied Sciences in Lausanne, Switzerland and the Global Network for Simulation in Healthcare.

During her time at RMU, she has played an integral part in the development and success of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, and has also served the university in other initiatives as well. Working in tandem with RMU's Office of Institutional Advancement, she played an integral part in helping to raise over $6M for the School of Nursing and Health Sciences. She also served as academic department head of nursing, where she developed a faculty orientation program, set standards for clinical and classroom education, and monitored program evaluation and outcomes. As a co-leader of RMU's Academic Integrity Committee, she helped develop the university's first Academic Integrity Policy. She also co-led the Standard on Integrity for RMU's Middle States Self-Study Report.

Dr. Howard earned a BSN from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and an MSN and Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration from the University of Pittsburgh. Her research interests include the use of simulation, inter-professional teamwork training, and technology in education, specifically related to participant learning outcomes. Her most cited study on this topic is entitled, "Human Patient Simulators and Interactive Case Studies: A Comparative Analysis of Learning Outcomes and Student Perceptions" (CIN, 2010). Other notable collaborative publications include: Faculty Mentoring Programs: Re-envisioning rather than reinventing the wheel. (Review of Educational Research, 2008); "Communication and Human Patient Simulation in Psychiatric Nursing" (Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 2009); Simulation-Based Team Training in Healthcare (Simulation and Healthcare, 2011); "Integration of Simulation Across the Curriculum: Student and Faculty Perspectives" (Clinical Simulation in Nursing, 2010). She is co-Author of the original Elsevier Simulation Learning System Product and has presented nationally and internationally on such topics as simulation, electronic health records, and online learning at conferences held by Sigma Theta Tau, AACN, INACSL, SSH, Mosby, Contemporary Forums, and Emerging Technologies.

Dr. Howard is also a master trainer for the TeamSTEPPS evidence-based teamwork training system developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and Department of Defense, which are incorporated throughout all undergraduate and graduate simulation experiences. She also developed the STRIVE Model to assist faculty with the implementation and expansion of simulation services in their respective institutions. Dr. Howard and her husband, Matthew, live in Peter's Township and have four college-age children. A native of Philipsburg, Pa., she is also a talented vocalist and devoted fan of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Janice A. Sarasnick Ph.D, MSN, RN, CHSE, CHSOS

Assistant Professor of Nursing 
412-397-5299 phone 

2820In 2010, Janice began her career at RMU building a strong simulation curriculum in the undergraduate nursing program. Students are provided opportunities that help market them in a competitive health care environment. Core certifications added to the undergraduate curriculum include Team Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance and  Patient Safety (TeamSTEPPS), Rapid Response, American Heart Association (AHA) Pediatrics Emergency Assessment Recognition and Stabilization (PEARS) course, AHA Heartsaver First Aid/CPR/AED training course, and the AHA Basic Life Support healthcare provider course.  Janice's dissertation titled, "Efficacy of a simulation/clinical evaluation process in an undergraduate nursing program" allowed the BSN undergraduate team of faculty and staff to recognize deficiencies within the BSN curriculum and implement valid and reliable evaluation tools in core clinical nursing courses. Dr. Sarasnick also leads many of our community partner simulation programs.   

Currently Dr. Sarasnick teaches the Community Nursing course. She has introduced a home health simulation and the Poverty Simulation.  The home health experience is geared towards providing students with much needed client education experience and the poverty simulation provides an overwhelming insight into life as an impoverished human being. With over 20 years of nursing experience, Janice is proud to boast the fact that she remains current in practice, working as a community Emergency Department nurse and is an American Heart Association Regional Faculty member. 


Dana Bargerstock, MSN, RN

Dana Bargerstock, MSN, RN began her nursing career at the local community college where she became an RN in 2004 after completion of an ADN program. Several years of experience in long-term care, alternative medicine, and chronic illness led to a corporate job in operations management. In 2015 Ms. Bargerstock completed her MSN and began teaching at Robert Morris University in an undergraduate nursing program as a simulation educator. Professor Bargerstock completed the RMU Leadership in Simulation Instruction and Management certificate and is currently enrolled in a PhD program with an emphasis on nursing education.


Chuck Simon

Simulation Technician
412-397-6216 (office)


Chuck Simon has served as the RISE Simulation Technician since 2009. Chuck had 7 years in technical sales providing professional video, photographic and multi-media equipment f to support schools, hospitals and businesses. He then worked for IT at RMU for 13 years before joining the RISE Center. Chuck is an expert in all technical aspects of simulation including programming and running simulation and troubleshooting simulation equipment. He has expertise in manikin upkeep and maintenance and video and audio recording of simulations. He is proficient in video and audio recording of simulation, has extensive knowledge in computer networking systems, and is proficient in software based video and photographic editing. He has been an INACSL podium speaker, presenting on technical aspects of simulation.

Jan Barber, MSN, RN, CHSE

3462RISE Center Standardized Patient Manager, Test for Success Coordinator

In her current role in the RISE Center, Jan Barber manages the standardized patient program, coordinating and facilitating all SP simulations. This role has provided opportunities for publications, speaking and presentations at INACSL and ASPE conferences, including as a co-presenter of the META Toolkit at ASPE, 2016. She also serves as an active member of the ASPE membership committee.

Jan has served as a consultant for SPs for several area hospitals and schools of nursing who are developing their own SP programs. Her background in community theater both on and off stage, and training in stage makeup has proved to be most useful in the standardized patient program and working with the actors we cast for our simulations. In addition to training for the SP simulation role by the creator of the RMU SP program, she studied under Demetria Marsh, then owner of Marsh Professional Simulators.

She also manages Junior and Senior student worker lab assistants/ peer tutors. As Test for Success Coordinator, Jan works with students to provide academic guidance, and study and test taking skills to achieve the academic outcomes they desire.

Jan has over 35 years of experience in various professional nursing roles including clinical instructor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, and Robert Morris University, teaching Foundations and Med/Surg. This included assisting in simulation both at the WISER Center in Pittsburgh, PA, and RMU's Regional RISE Center in Moon Township. A clinical instructor for over 13 years, Jan worked with sophomore and senior nursing students, applying lab skills and classroom theory to direct patient care. She also focused on the students’ development of critical thinking, prioritization, human interaction, and professional behavior.

Jan’s direct patient care experience includes trauma and general orthopedics, reconstructive plastic surgery, and urology at Hermann Hospital in Houston Texas and at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She also has in-patient clinical nurse specialist and nurse educator experience, and assistant nurse manager experience at both of these Level I Trauma Centers.

Jan trained at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing (BSN, 1982), and La Roche College (MSN, Gerontological Clinical Nurse Specialist, 1997). Additionally, Jan has training and experience as a Life Coach through The Coaches Training Institute, San Rafael, California.


Molly Schleicher BSN, RN

Molly Schleicher is currently working as a part-time simulation educator and undergraduate simulation coordinator for the RMU RISE Center. She has been working in simulation for almost two years, has completed the online RMU Leadership in Simulation Instruction and Management Certificate course, and hopes to be a Certified Healthcare Simulation Educator (CHSE) in Fall 2018. ?Molly received her BSN through the University of Pittsburgh in 2011 and has spent seven years working as an RN in many areas of nursing including orthopedics, inpatient rehab, internal medicine, family practice, ambulatory surgery, and medical-surgical nursing. Molly will complete her MSN in Nursing Education through Capella University in September 2018 and also hopes to be a Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) by 2019.

Joy Laughlin MSN, RN

LaughlinJoy Laughlin is currently working as a part-time simulation educator in the RMU RISE Center.  She has been working in simulation since 2017.  She hopes to begin the online Leadership in Simulation Instruction and Management Certificate course in the fall of 2018.  Joy also works for Kaplan, where she teaches NCLEX review courses to nursing students.  She has worked for Kaplan since 2010, traveling to area universities, equipping nursing students to be successful on the NCLEX.  Joy received her BSN from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and her MSN from the University of Pittsburgh where her focus was in the Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist track.  She has worked for many years in the critical care setting and currently works in the Cardiovascular Surgical ICU in St. Clair Hospital.


Nicole Szalla MSN, RN

Nicole Szalla teaches in the RISE Center, aiming to become a Certified Healthcare Simulation Educator (CHSE).  In 2017 she graduated from Duquesne University, receiving her Master of Science in Nursing Education degree and is currently enrolled in their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program anticipating graduation in August 2019.  Nicole has also served 11 years on active duty in the United States Navy, and has worked in medical surgical, cardiac, neurology/spinal cord injury, home health/case management, complicated obstetrics, postpartum, labor and delivery, pediatrics, and NICU.  Nicole enjoys working with students, in addition to working at RMU Rise Center she teaches clinical in obstetrics, health assessment, and leadership and management for Duquesne University, and plans to work in academia for the rest of her career.  Her current research interests involve workplace bullying prevention for nurses at the bedside.

Dr. Donna McDermott, PhD, RN, MSN, CHSE

3469Assistant Professor of Nursing
Department Head for the School of Nursing

Donna has over 20 years clinical nursing experience in medical surgical and critical care nursing. She is a Certified Simulation Healthcare Educator (CHSE) through the Society for Simulation in Healthcare (SSH) and is a member of the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning (INACSL).  She is experienced in simulation design and facilitation and her area of research interest is simulation prebriefing. Her published research, The Prebriefing Concept:  A Delphi Study of CHSE Educators (McDermott, 2016) provided guidelines for preparing students for simulation learning. She has developed and initiated simulation scenarios across the curriculum in undergraduate psychiatric care of clients, undergraduate community/hospice care, and nuclear medicine ECG and IV training using INACSL Standards of Best Practice: SimulationSM.   She has facilitated and debriefed simulation scenarios in all areas of undergraduate and graduate nursing. In addition, she initiated the Standardized Patient program at RMU and was instrumental in the RISE Center accreditation.  Donna is currently a member of the INACSL Standards committee helping to revise and develop content for the INACSL Standards of Best Practice: SimulationSM.  In addition, Donna serves as a Nurse Planner for INACSL and as a reviewer for the Clinical Simulation in Nursing journal.  

Denise R. Ramponi, DNP, NP-BC, FAEN

4699Doctorate of Nursing Practice Simulation Coordinator
Family/Adult Gero Nurse Practitioner Coordinator, Assistant Professor of Nursing

Dr. Denise Ramponi, DNP Simulation Coordinator, Family/Adult Gero Nurse Practitioner Coordinator, Associate Professor of Nursing in the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at Robert Morris University has over 25 years of experience as a Nurse Practitioner.  She is a graduate of LaRoche College (BSN), Duquesne University (MSN), and Waynesburg University (DNP).  She has incorporated low and high fidelity simulations in the doctorate of nursing practice curriculum including clinical diagnostics and diagnosis and management of the acute illness in adult patient courses.  Dr. Ramponi has peer-reviewed publications in both Clinical Simulation in Nursing & Simulation in Health Care journals. Her simulation research has included “Using simulation to teach primary care gynecologic procedures” and “Preparing Nurse Practitioner students for international experiences using skills acquisition”.