Dream Jobs

By Wes Frahm

Published

Arvia gets to play with toys every day.

A degree from Michigan Tech can land you the career of your dreams. Just ask these alumni.

Send us details about your dream job or that of a Husky you know at alumni@mtu.edu.

Toys Need Engineers, Too

You never know where a Michigan Tech degree may take you. Aaron Arvia '99 certainly didn't imagine he'd be in Rhode Island working for Hasbro, one of the world's largest toy companies.

Arvia is a senior project engineer in Hasbro's Advanced Technology and Innovation Department.

"This is about as close to my dream job as I can imagine," he said. "I really get to use a lot of my skills and talents—more than just engineering: art, music, and performance to name a few." His team creates and utilizes new technology and integrates that into Hasbro's products. "We're involved in all phases of a project including development, testing, manufacture, and even marketing.

"The level of talent in all areas of this company is absolutely amazing. It's inspired me to explore and develop entirely new skills."

The Twin Lakes, Michigan, native had a lot to learn about engineering when he chose to attend Michigan Tech. He knew he was good at math and science, but didn't have an understanding of where that might take him.

"Once I got to Michigan Tech and began studying engineering, it was really then that I understood what engineers did. Innovation is a lot about connecting dots from multiple industries, multiple sciences, and the arts. I can't think of a more fitting background than the education I received in mechanical engineering."

Arvia worked for a major appliance brand helping develop residential refrigerators in South Carolina prior to his move to Hasbro. He credits that experience with fueling a passion for innovation and new product creation.

"I like the sense of achievement and accomplishment that comes from solving unique problems. Hasbro is a great fit for me, and the icing on the cake is seeing a child interact and build memories with a toy that I've created. The smiles and giggles are priceless."

Making a Smooth Show

Smith stands in front of the Hallgrimskirkja Church in Iceland.

In just one year since graduating with a BS in Audio Production and Technology, Eric Smith '18 has more stamps on his passport than most folks get in a lifetime. The Battle Creek, Michigan, native has traveled to work on projects in Iceland, China, the United Arab Emirates, and Angola in addition to many domestic locations.

The work Smith is doing is unique. As a project engineer for his employer, Smart Monkeys, he's helping design entertainment experiences at theme parks, airports, museums, cruise ships, and theaters.

"We work on medium- to large-scale show control systems," he said. "We collaborate with the creative team, technical designer, and integrator to build the system that will allow the operators to run their show and get the most out of their technology. We work with every element of the show or attraction."

Some of the places and projects Smart Monkeys has been involved with include Universal Studios Orlando, the Rockettes in New York City, the African American Museum in Washington, DC, and the Tom Bradley International Airport Terminal in Los Angeles.

Smith, who goes by the nickname Smooth, credits his time at Tech for preparing him for the fast-paced environment. "Christopher Plummer and Josh Loar in the Visual and Performing Arts Department's audio program constantly presented me with situations where our troubleshooting was tested and time was of the essence. Now when those situations happen on the job, it's quite familiar territory.

"I was also able to work for Michigan Tech Athletics and Michigan Tech IT running broadcasts for sporting events and the in-game experience for hockey. That experience was the closest thing to what I do in my current position. Running events. Working on systems. Troubleshooting on the fly. All of that directly applies to what I'm doing now."

Smith and friends work onsite at Warner Brothers World in Abu Dhabi.

Approximately one-third of Smart Monkeys' employees are Michigan Tech alumni, further speaking to the value of Tech's program in the industry.

Smith can see himself working long-term for Smart Monkeys, which is based in Miami. "I do miss Michigan and the changing seasons sometimes, but we have a great team and environment here. The work I get to do on a day-to-day basis is exciting."

Dentist X3

Derek Schmidt, Kris Alpers, and Tara (Ferris) Stream

What do a dentist in Scottsdale, Arizona, a dentist in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and a dentist in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, have in common? More than you'd think. Kris Alpers, Derek Schmidt, and Tara (Ferris) Stream are Michigan Tech alumni, former Huskies student-athletes, and graduates from Marquette University School of Dentistry (MUSOD)—all in 2014.

Alpers earned a BS in Exercise Science from Tech in 2009 while playing basketball for the Huskies. After finishing his education, the Minnesota native worked for three years as dental director of the Neighborhood Christian Clinic, a non-profit clinic in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, focusing on underserved groups. He was a finalist for Phoenix Business Journal's Healthcare Heroes award. Alpers now is owner/dentist of Alpers Family and Cosmetic Dentistry in Scottsdale.

Schmidt graduated from Tech in 2010 with a BS in Biological Sciences. While a Husky, Schmidt was an offensive lineman on the football team. He is now owner/ dentist of Spring City Family Dental in his hometown of Waukesha. Schmidt is a member of the American Dental Association, the Academy of Osseointegration, and the International Congress of Oral Implantologists.

"Dentistry was always something I wanted to do," says Schmidt. "Michigan Tech gave me the tools to get here. Being my own boss and positively interacting with people makes it fun to get up and go to work every day."

Stream earned a BS in Biological Sciences in 2009, and she was a starter for the Huskies as they won three consecutive conference championships and made back-to-back NCAA Elite Eight appearances. (Fun fact: Stream is now sisters-in-law with former teammate Sarah Stream.) Upon graduating from MUSOD, Stream accepted a position with the National Health Service Corporation, treating underserved patient populations. She is a partner/dentist at Dental Park in Manitowoc.

"This is my dream job for several reasons: I get to work with my hands and draw upon my artistic side, I enjoy the challenging nature of the job, I have the opportunity to build connections with patients, and I have the satisfaction of owning my own business."Kris Alpers '09, dentist, Alpers Family and Cosmetic Dentistry

"Dentistry allows me the opportunity to interact with people on a daily basis, while using my skills to positively impact their lives," she says. "Also, being one of the owners of a local group practice provides a work-life balance that allows me to spend time with my family and friends."

Alumni Take Time For Students

Michigan Tech students who want to become entrepreneurs or innovators recently had access to a critical resource: Time with a group of successful Michigan Tech alumni experienced in venture capitalism, innovation, and leadership.

The group—called 14 Floors because of its association with Silicon Valley (silicon is an element with an atomic number 14)—comprises alumni who are entrepreneurs in the field of technology.

Students and alumni connect during "office hours."

The alumni held "office hours" to connect with students and share insights and experience. The group also provided feedback at the Husky Innovate Series: Idea Pitch Competition. There, students had two minutes to share their favorite innovation and/or disruptive idea in front of the alumni and other campus and community members.

Alumnus Kanwal Rekhi offers his time and expertise.

"I enjoy being around the students and seeing that hunger and willingness to take risks. It gives me goosebumps," says Paul Fulton '84, an electrical engineering graduate and current CEO of Nwave Technologies in Los Gatos, California. "I'm excited that Michigan Tech gives students resources to be innovative. I love the Pavlis Honors College. If I'd had that program, I would have had a mentor, would have had more social skills, and would have been more confident."

Tom Nye '03 earned a bachelor's in electrical engineering and later earned his MBA. He's now an investor with Generation Growth Capital.

"I'm here because I want to help foster the entrepreneurial spirit. Michigan Tech does a great job of preparing students for the technical side of things, but there are more possibilities out there that I want to help students see. There's a huge opportunity here to help connect the dots between the business and technical aspects of industry."

A Superior Classroom

Lakers. Surfacing sturgeon. Lava flows and water samples.

A boatload of Huskies, ranging from undergraduates to doctoral candidates, learned and practiced research techniques in the Lake Superior Exploration course led by ecosystem ecologist Amy Marcarelli. The group traveled the shoreline of Upper Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula aboard the University Research Vessel Agassiz during the summer of 2019, taking dozens of water samples and performing other fieldwork that helped lay groundwork for future Michigan Tech research projects and their own careers.

Water sampling to underwater autonomous vehicle operation, students learn the ropes aboard our Research Vessel Agassiz.

Exposure to the what, how, and why of research included more than a dozen guest scientists and other experts who shared their work, ranging from offshore nutrients and water column characteristics to river-plume sampling and the near-shore dynamics of Lake Superior, which has thousands of tributaries. Marcarelli wanted her students to cultivate the big-picture critical thinking behind research, considering the human decisions about what is important, and also the inherent constraints of the work researchers choose to pursue.

"I've always been interested in water chemistry," says Sarah Kiszelik, an undergraduate student in environmental chemistry. "Being on the boat has solidified what I want to do for a living."

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.

Last Modified 8:19 AM, August 31, 2020