Nilufer Onder
Nilufer Onder
Thomas Werner
Thomas Werner
Melissa Michaelson
Melissa Michaelson
New centers support academic success, one frazzled student at a time
New centers support academic success, one frazzled student at a time
“The Waino Wahtera Center for Student Success will give our students the skills they need to succeed . . .”

1400 Townsend Drive

by Karina Jousma

Onder, Werner named Tech's top teachers

Nilufer Onder, an associate professor of computer science, and Thomas Werner, an assistant professor of genetics and developmental biology, shine as recipients of the 2013 Distinguished Teaching Awards.

So what sets them apart? Just ask their students.

Werner's students sing his praises: "He is by far the best professor that I have had in my three years at Tech. He is funny, kind, and very passionate about the subject that he teaches, and he is always ready to help students learn." Onder's students describe her as empathetic: "You can tell she truly puts her heart into the course and wants everyone to succeed"; "She is far and away the best teacher I've had in my five years at Tech. She consistently goes above and beyond."

"My teaching style is that I'm an entertainer," says Werner. "It's important to let students have some fun because it helps them learn," he said. "They need to enjoy the material in order to really want to engage with it. I treat my classes with a sort of 'work hard, play hard' mentality."

Onder goes to great lengths to challenge students without overwhelming them. "People need to get stuck in order to learn, so I try to avoid spoon-feeding students the answers. That being said, I always make it clear that I'm there to help them through any problems," she says. "They all want to contribute to society in one way or another. It's my job as a teacher to help them do that."

Archives reopen

The Michigan Tech Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections have resumed normal hours.

The archives were closed October 26, 2012, following a fire in the lower level of the Van Pelt and Opie Library. The blaze was minor, but water damage was extensive. Nearly seven hundred boxes of water-damaged documents were processed at a freeze-drying facility in Philadelphia; the last batch was returned to Michigan Tech in May.

Back to flat Tech reinstates plateau tuition

Starting this fall, students again began paying a flat rate for taking between 12 and 18 credits. In 2003, the University switched from plateau tuition to a per-credit system. The change occurred when state support for Michigan universities was plummeting, and tuition across the state was rising by double digits; per credit tuition was seen as a way to help students manage rapidly increasing costs.

Now tuition increases are leveling out, and the new plateau tuition structure can make it easier for students to finish their degree faster or expand their horizons with enrichment courses.

Up to our necks in plastic: student makes a graphic point about water bottles

To make people think twice about their role in generating plastic waste, undergraduate liberal arts student Melissa Michaelson created a cascading display of six hundred plastic bottles she collected from recycle bins and dumpsters. Michaelson made the head-turning display last spring for a social-change assignment in a humanities course, the Rhetoric of Everyday Texts. The exhibit was located at the Portage Lake District Library in Houghton. "Seeing pictures of plastic pollution and noticing how big a problem it is made me think, 'Where can we start?'"

Michaelson said. "As I researched the topic, there was a lot of information on water-bottle consumption, so that made it an easy place to start and maybe an easy habit to change."

The six hundred bottles in the display represent less than one-half of what is consumed nationwide in one second, Michaelson said. And the plastic waste that accumulates is not the only negative effect. Each year, 17 million barrels of oil are used to produce plastic bottles.

All of the bottles used in Michaelson's project were collected at Michigan Tech, although the University is doing its part to combat plastic-bottle waste; currently, there are water-bottle refill stations with filtered water in twelve locations on campus.

Michaelson's exhibit aims to shock viewers and encourage them to change their plastic-bottle habits. Her biggest challenge was finding an effective way to raise awareness without being there to talk to her audience. "Just look at this," she wants her exhibit to say. "This is an issue. It's real. Let's just take one small step."

New centers support academic success, one frazzled student at a time

It's a fact of life that nothing in the garden can be in full bloom all of the time, but as a student, it can be discouraging when your academics aren't always coming up roses. Two generous alumni gifts, however, have made it possible for Michigan Tech to lend some additional helping hands to all students, including those with less-than-perfect grades.

The William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning and the Waino Wahtera Center for Student Success will encourage students to thrive academically through enhancements across campus. The eponymous centers were established by $1 million from William G. Jackson '58 and approximately $875,000 from the estate of Waino Wahtera '42.

The Jackson Center will bring together a full suite of technological tools to upgrade teaching, learning, learning assessment, and student assessment of teaching.

Improvements include new classroom technologies, a secure testing center for standardized tests, and support for faculty initiatives.

The Wahtera Center will coordinate an array of initiatives to help students complete their degrees. Funding will help support the University's learning centers, develop workshops, hire peer coaches, initiate an academic recovery program for suspended upper-level students, and increase cooperation with academic advisors.

Together, the programs have the potential to revolutionize learning at Michigan Tech, said President Glenn D. Mroz. "The Waino Wahtera Center for Student Success will give our students the skills they need to succeed, no matter their discipline, and the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning will help them learn more and retain more of what they learn," he said. "We are deeply grateful."

Jackson, of Scottsdale, Arizona, has received the Board of Control Silver Medal and Michigan Tech's Distinguished Alumni Award and is a member of the Electrical and Computing Engineering Academy. The president of CableAmerica, Jackson graduated from Michigan Tech in 1958 with a BS in Electrical Engineering. In 1999, he and his wife established the William G. and Gloria J. Jackson Endowed Scholarship.

Wahtera earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Michigan Tech in 1942. His degree contributed to a successful career at Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York, from which he retired in 1977 as senior air pollution control engineer. Wahtera passed away in June 2012 at the age of ninety-three.