Class of 2021 Celebrates Midyear Commencement

A young man in a suit stands outside in front of a brick and glass building with trees behind him on the Michigan Tech campus.
A young man in a suit stands outside in front of a brick and glass building with trees behind him on the Michigan Tech campus.
It’s the moment Jay Czerniak, shown here in front of Dillman Hall before snow blanketed campus, and fellow Huskies have been waiting for: Michigan Tech gathers to celebrate Midyear Commencement for the Class of 2021 on Saturday.
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An electrical engineer whose mastery of business skills supercharged his career and a graduating civil engineer on his way to an MBA are featured speakers at Michigan Technological University’s 2021 Midyear Commencement.

The ceremony, at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in the Student Development Complex Varsity Gymnasium, is the moment nearly 500 Huskies have been waiting for as recipients of hard-earned bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees. They’ll be addressed by student speaker Jay Czerniak, a civil engineering major from Medford, Wisconsin, who graduates with a minor in philosophy and ethics.

Commencement Logistics

  • Face coverings are required in the building. See MTU Flex for additional campus health and safety protocol information.
  • Free parking is on a first-come, first-served basis in Lot 22 adjacent to the SDC and Lot 24 near the football field. See the campus map for accessible parking locations.
  • Share your Husky Pride on social media using #mtugrad.

Building a Bright Future — and Ice Cathedrals

Czerniak’s Michigan Tech story is built on a foundation of family and faith. He found a second family at Tech as a member of St. Albert the Great University Parish, known for its close-knit, welcoming community and its steadfast and stellar MTU Winter Carnival participation through the years — including the relatively new tradition of building an ice cathedral for outdoor services on Carnival weekend.

“I will be forever grateful to St. Al’s and for all those who have helped me grow not only as a professional but as a human being during my time at Tech,” said Czerniak, whose time at MTU isn’t over. He returns to campus in spring semester 2022 to pursue a master’s in business administration (MBA). In June, he plans to return to Wisconsin to start his career as a project manager with Miron Construction, where he previously interned. 

"I hear often that faith is lost in college but at Michigan Tech, with the mystery of science and wonders of a gorgeous natural world, there is ample opportunity to grow and mature in one's faith."Jay Czerniak, Midyear Commencement Student Speaker

“Michigan Tech was my dream school,” said Czerniak, who learned about Tech from introductory engineering courses at his high school offered through Project Lead the Way. “It topped the list for schools in the Midwest. My love for snow, the outdoors and a desire for a small-town atmosphere made Tech the perfect place for me. Picking a major was also easy. My grandfather operated his own small excavating company. From a young age he helped expose me to the world of construction. I was instantly hooked. Civil engineering is the perfect major to exercise my passion for construction and design as well as my desire to engineer and problem solve.”

Other Ways to Watch

Not here? No worries. If you can’t attend Saturday’s event in person, catch the commencement livestream.

Building a Leadership Legacy — and Family Traditions

The other Husky headlining Saturday’s event is commencement speaker Mike Pulick Jr., who built an exceptional career through developing the business leadership skills he first learned at Tech. The 1986 electrical engineering (EE) graduate also knows about following in family footsteps — and in his case, those steps led to extraordinary family ties with Michigan Tech. 

A man smiles in a suit and tie with a neutral plain background.
Mike Pulick Jr. is MTU’s Midyear Commencement speaker.

A native of Livonia, Michigan, Pulick credits Tech as the portal to the leadership skills he developed in a career that began at General Electric (GE). There, the former MTU Blue Key President, who led the massive organizational effort to stage Michigan Tech’s iconic Winter Carnival, took the next step in his career by completing GE’s Manufacturing Management Program. 

“The combination of those two experiences in leadership and management really helped me in my career. I would go on to take on future roles and situations that involved leading a wide variety of people,” said Pulick, who later earned his MBA from The University of Chicago. 

After 12 years in numerous GE divisions, in 1999 Pulick joined W.W. Grainger Inc., ascending from vice president of product service management to president of Grainger International. In 2015, Pulick joined the private equity firm Warburg Pincus, where he was executive in residence for the industrial and business service sector through 2019. 

Current chairman of the Michigan Tech Fund Board of Directors, Pulick also serves on the Wencor Group, Kano Laboratories and Wittichen Supply boards of directors, and is an adjunct professor at Florida Gulf Coast University in the Lutgert College of Business. He also served on the Michigan Tech College of Business Dean’s Advisory Council for five years. 

In keeping with his commitment to expose STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students and professionals to business, financial and leadership experiences, Pulick also previously served on the Illinois Institute of Technology Board of Trustees and the board for Junior Achievement of Chicago. 

Pulick has more than his own graduation to reflect on as he takes the speaker’s podium Saturday. Three of his siblings graduated from Tech with engineering degrees. His older sister majored in mechanical engineering, his younger sister in environmental engineering and his brother in civil engineering

But wait. It gets better.

“My older sister, younger sister and I all married MTU engineers,” Pulick said. 

Pulick’s favorite Michigan Tech memory is meeting his wife, Liz. “I was a junior, she was a freshman,” he said. “Our first date was at the theater in Hancock.” The couple of 33 years married in June 1988, shortly after she earned her mechanical engineering degree.

Liz and Michael Pulick live in Naples, Florida. The couple enjoys northern Michigan summers in Petoskey, Michigan and spending time with family, including their two adult children, Eric and Rachael, and spouses Kelsey and Matt.

Building Aspirations — and Life-long Tech Connections 

Kanwal Rekhi, a visionary who has routinely worked to forward entrepreneurial skills and educational opportunities at Michigan Tech and around the world, will receive the Melvin Calvin Medal of Distinction during Saturday’s event. The medal is awarded to individuals associated with Michigan Tech who, like its Nobel prize-winning namesake, have exhibited extraordinarily distinguished professional and personal accomplishments. Rekhi, who earned his master’s in electrical engineering from MTU in 1969, is managing director of Inventus Capital Partners in California.

Kristin Kolodge will deliver the traditional Alumni Welcome to the graduating class. The 1995 mechanical engineering graduate currently serves as MTU Alumni Board president and is executive director of human machine interface at J.D. Power.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, the University offers more than 125 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.

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