2016 Michigan Tech Magazine: Issue 1

1400 Townsend Drive

By Scott Balyo

Nurturing and expanding diversity, PECASE Award, spring break with Medlife, and more.

A Diversity of Efforts

Michigan Tech's focus on nurturing and expanding our diverse student body, faculty, and staff is paying dividends.

The Nepal representatives in the Parade of Nations.
Students, faculty, and staff from Nepal march with their flag in the Parade of Nations.

Diversity of thought and experiences significantly contribute to the learning experience of all students and for that reason it is important that we track metrics that include, for instance, international students.

And striving for more diversity in our student, staff, and faculty numbers also means we are committed to the inclusion of populations in our educational institution who have been traditionally underrepresented or otherwise disadvantaged, whether through economic or structural barriers. As of this printing, Tech was at an all-time high for the number of domestic minority students paying enrollment deposits for Fall 2016 semester.

Looking at our efforts through a social justice lens means we also pay attention to domestic underrepresented minorities, social economic indicators, and other populations.

A diverse student body is a consummate demand from the employer market. Employers of Michigan Tech students, and students nationwide, want to recruit from  a talent pool well versed and experienced with diverse populations.

Native American performance at the annual Parade of Nations.
Native American performance at the annual Parade of Nations.

To them, a diverse set of employees means a diverse set of solutions to problems, increasing the probability of finding the most profitable one.

Specific programs by the Office of Institutional Equity and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) include:

  • Promoting all-gender restroom signs and the gender-neutral locker room in the SDC
  • High school outreach and education on supporting trans and non-binary students
  • Collaborating with GEAR UP to bring social justice speakers to the Dollar Bay School to do workshops with students
  • Supporting diverse students in the classroom: Lunch and Learn with the videos we created and the presentation on microaggressions
  • Promoting Inclusive Classrooms Workshops
  • Hosting Cultural Competency Workshops
  • Conducting Safe Place Training
  • Presenting Social Justice Lecture Series

Design Thinking Drives Space to Create

University Innovation (UI) Fellows nationwide are changing the way students think. UI Fellows at Michigan Tech and across the nation are teaching a fresh mindset known as design thinking, a methodology that helps users identify human-centered problems and imagine and implement innovative solutions through experimentation.

Michigan Tech’s UI Fellows introduced design thinking to incoming first-year students during fall 2015 orientation week. Now they’re reaching down into the elementary and middle schools, offering after-school classes called “Discovering Your Creative Confidence and Inner Maker.”

Plans being worked on for a pernmanent makerspace on campus.
Plans being worked on for a pernmanent makerspace on campus.

The UI Fellows also sponsored an extremely popular Makerspace Workshop that generated enthusiasm for creation of a permanent makerspace. Based on input received from the more than 100 workshop participants, the UI Fellows have been working with the Makerspace Committee to develop some renderings of the space and estimates for the renovations.

There are seven UI Fellows at Michigan Tech, including four who finished their training last fall. The new fellows are Michelle Hoard, a senior in chemical engineering; Carly Joseph, a third-year biomedical engineering major; Nichole Mackey, a second-year student in software engineering; and Nate Peterson, a senior in materials science and engineering.

The Michigan Tech UI Fellows operate under Pavlis Honors College and the new Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship, with support from their faculty sponsor, Mary Raber, assistant dean of academic programs.

Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the UI Fellows program is administered by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation Program, also known as the Epicenter. It is run by Stanford University and nonprofit VentureWell.


Mouw honored with PECASE Award

President Barack Obama named 106 researchers—including Assistant Professor, Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences, Colleen Mouw—recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award (PECASE) for Scientists and Engineers.

Colleen Mouw received the Presidential Early Career Award (PECASE) for Scientists and Engineers.
Colleen Mouw received the Presidential Early Career Award (PECASE) for Scientists and Engineers.

It is the highest honor bestowed by the US government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. “These early-career scientists are leading the way in our efforts to confront and understand challenges from climate change to our health and wellness,” President Obama said.

We congratulate these accomplished individuals and encourage them to continue to serve as an example of the incredible promise and ingenuity of the American people,” he said. Nominations come from federal agencies who support the young scientists’ and engineers’ research. Mouw was nominated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

US Senator from Michigan, Gary Peters, echoed Obama’s praise.

“I join in congratulating Dr. Colleen Mouw on her receipt of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, which is a true testament to her commitment to marine science and pursuit of innovative research,” he said. “Her efforts to keep the Great Lakes safe are profoundly benefiting the millions of Michiganders that rely on the Lakes for clean drinking water and as drivers of economic growth through tourism, recreation, shipping, and so much more.”

Colleen Mouw joins fellow PECASE award recipients at a White House awards ceremony.
Colleen Mouw joins fellow PECASE award recipients at a White House awards ceremony.

Mouw expressed gratitude for the honor.

“I’m very humbled to be recognized in this way,” Mouw said. "I’ve been fortunate to have worked with many fantastic colleagues over the years who undoubtedly deserve this recognition just as much as myself."

The awards were established by President Bill Clinton in 1996. Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach. Mouw received her award during a Washington, DC, ceremony at the White House in May.


Johnson-Cash's PhD a First for ME-EM Program

Robin Johnson-Cash '15, the first African American to earn a PhD from the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics.
Robin Johnson-Cash '15, the first African American to earn a PhD from the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics.

Robin Johnson-Cash ’15 is the first African American to earn a PhD from the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. Johnson-Cash graduated in December 2015 and has worked at Ford Motor Company since 1988. She is currently the technical training manager. 


Students Set up Mobile Health Clinics, Mentor on Spring Break

Students in Michigan Tech’s chapter of Medlife spent their spring break working in Ecuador.

Michigan Tech student Madison Brooks checks a patient's blood pressure.
Michigan Tech student Madison Brooks checks a patient's blood pressure.

Medlife is an organization that partners with low-income communities in Latin America to improve their access to medicine, education, and community development initiatives.

In Riobamba, Ecuador, the group spent the first two days learning about how people in the rural areas work and live. The next four days they set up mobile clinics in schools, empty buildings, or courtyards, and went to a town sitting at 12,000 feet to work on a staircase-building project.

Medlife partners with low-income communities in Latin America to improve access to medicine and education.
Medlife partners with low-income communities in Latin America to improve access to medicine and education.

At the clinics the students rotated through specific stations including vital signs, education, general medicine, dentistry, and gynecology.

They recorded patients’ height, weight, temperature and blood pressure, and taught them preventative medicine for tooth decay, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. The students shadowed doctors to learn how they do medical treatment in developing countries and also assisted in the treatment of patients.

Alexandria Marks helps children brush their teeth.
Alexandria Marks helps children brush their teeth.

On project day they worked with locals to collect rocks, then carried them up and down a mountain to create a staircase mold to later be filled with cement. With the town sitting on a massive hill, the staircase was put in to help prevent the locals, especially the elderly, kids, and pregnant women, from injuries when attempting to trek it.

“The entire experience immersed us in a completely new culture to learn so much about simple privileges such as having a toothbrush, hot water, and easy access to healthcare,” says student-leader Madison Brooks.
Student participants included Madison Brooks, Hailey Cochrane, Braden Peterson, Braedyn Bosilovatz, Courtney Smith, Harmony Osborn, Alexandria Marks, Monica McClellan, and Erin Kalinec.


NSBE Members Recruit High School Students to STEM

While some students travel for adventure, others do it for the greater good. Once again, in collaboration with the Detroit Public Schools, the Michigan Tech Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) traveled to the Motor City over Spring Break 2016 to offer free Family Engineering Nights at K-8 schools and engineering presentations at high schools during the day.

Mechanical engineering graduate student Yomi Famuyiwa of Tech’s NSBE chapter says Family Engineering Nights give students and their parents the chance to experience common engineering problems and encourage them to develop creative solutions as a team.

National Society of Black Engineers members Matthew Alexander, Stuart Liburd, Rebecca Spencer, Emeka Esemonu, Jalen Beck, and Bruce Brunson.
National Society of Black Engineers members Matthew Alexander, Stuart Liburd, Rebecca Spencer, Emeka Esemonu, Jalen Beck, and Bruce Brunson.

“The engineering presentations at the high schools are tailored to inform the students about the potential career paths in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields,” Famuyiwa explains. “We encouraged the students to attend college and ideally pursue STEM majors.”

Famuyiwa says he enjoys the alternative spring break experience “because of the impact we can have on the students. It’s one thing for the students to be encouraged by their teachers to consider engineering or going to college. It’s another for minority college students who are actually studying engineering to take the time to come down to speak with the students about it. The students see real-life proof that anything they set their minds to is possible.”


Rankings and Recognition

The latest rankings and recognition for Michigan Tech.

Michigan Technological University’s graduate engineering programs moved up dramatically in US News & World Report’s annual rankings of graduate school programs—to 82nd in the nation. Last year, Michigan Tech’s graduate engineering programs ranked 104th.

While the University of Michigan retained the top spot in the second annual SmartAsset study, Michigan Tech was 2nd out of 29 public and private colleges ranked statewide. Both cost about $26,000 to attend in-state (annual tuition of $13,142 and $13,728 respectively, in 2014, plus roughly $13,000 each in annual living costs), while average starting salaries were $58,000 and $62,800, respectively.

The National Science Foundation has released its annual research spending report, and Michigan Tech has moved up in its rankings. Of 634 institutions that received research funding in 2014, Tech received $68.5 million, ranking 163rd overall nationwide. The University ranked 117th among public institutions. 

Mechanical engineering research at Tech received $13.1 million in research funding in 2015, ranking 19th in the nation. Atmospheric science—a new interdisciplinary category—received $3.1 million and ranked 34th.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries around the world. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science, engineering and technology; forestry; business and economics; health professions; humanities; mathematics; and social sciences.