February 24, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 13

Off to Build a Career

Career Fair20150217_0067

There are a lot of days I envy the students here. Not in a bad way, not like brooding jealousy. More like a kind of admiration. They have so many opportunities, ones I wish I could take advantage of now. It’s one of the reasons I’m so grateful to be here, and also why flipping through the course catalog is so much fun as an adult. Because that sounds interesting. And that. And that. And the thousands of students here are walking across the tundra-like campus—I’m writing a lot of this on Thursday, Feb. 19, and it’s -7 a bit after noon—going from opportunity to opportunity.

Career Fair was the past week, and it’s definitely a time I’m envious. This time that walk to opportunity is up the hill to the SDC. Perhaps you remember it. That some of them are making that walk in dress shoes and not falling on their faces—as I would—is a testament to their toughness. Or balance. Or broomball experience.

More than 240 companies were on campus for the spring edition—and this is the smaller of the two Fairs. Walking up and down the aisles in the Multipurpose Room, it’s hard not to be impressed by how prepared all of these students are. Resumes in folios, formalwear fitting remarkably well.

Granted, they’re still nervous.

You can see it in their straight backs, looking down at hands before they shake them, a smile more of professionalism than comfort. Hey, they haven’t done this before. So they’re doing pretty darn well at it if you ask me.

The reason it’s easy, from a mid-career perspective, to find it a touch amusing is because so many of these same company reps are actually alumni themselves. Many of you reading this, in fact, have probably come to campus the same way.

That means my favorite conversations are the ones where the alumni reps kind of become mentors to these budding employees. Here’s what you’re doing great. Here’s what needs work. Here’s where to go from here. It very much has the feeling of everyone pulling in the same direction. Our students want careers, and these employers want them.

Being there as neither an employer nor a student is a bit of a treat. I get to just observe. To see just how many retractable banners can fit on one table. To see the contrast between formalwear from students and branded polo shirts from company reps. To see the student-athletes slightly bewildered looks as they try to navigate to practice or workouts.

I also love seeing what free goodies companies bring with them. Branding is important, and if you can get an object into a student’s everyday life, you’re going to stay on their mind. The offerings have gotten pretty good. Smart. Here were my favorites this time:

CN brought back their foam rubber locomotives, a personal favorite of mine. A rep gave me one last time, and you can see it on my desk here in my office—please come visit! I used to see such toys from all of the railroads, but CN was the only one this time. Marathon Petroleum had foam rubber trucks and gas pumps. No, I didn’t snag them. This time.

Gerdau and Jackson National Life Insurance both brought snow brush/ice scraper combos. That’s genius right there. I’d love to see a brush/scraper combo that’s built onto a pair of gloves. Scraper on one hand, brush on the other, like a winterized Edward Scissorhands. Can I get money from a vaguely annoying reality TV show for it?

Kimberly Clark had a remarkably colorful booth, covered in their products and bright packaging. They also had Kleenex packets, which was perfect for a February day. And five-pointed highlighters. Because who doesn’t like highlighters?

Continental had beverage bottles that looked really nice. A few other companies did as well. I wasn’t able to write all of them down, as looking down to write in a crowded room can be iffy. Especially as I have a habit of pacing while writing. Don’t want to take out someone’s display or damage a suit.

I think it was Rockwell Automation that had pizza cutters. That’s some college intelligence right there. Now I want pizza.

But it was also the booths that had equipment, displays, information that kind of overwhelmed me. I had the chance to speak with Eric West from Pieper Electric for a few minutes, giving me a sense of just what these students are signing up for. Here’s a Milwaukee-based company, doing projects like wiring Miller Park—spring training has started!—and it’s the kind of place our students can go. These are the projects they work on.

Or, for many of you, that you work on.

I have 26 letters at my disposal, and I keep working them until they mean something. With all of the tools our students have at their disposal, from Career Services to Learning Centers to broomball refs, they have a ton of combinations to put together.

That’s what I like most about going to Career Fair. You walk out of there, you see the slight smiles of the students who know they’ve nailed it. You know they’re moving on to interviews the rest of the week. And you know they are about to get out there and start doing.

There’s a kind of magic in that, going from watching and learning to doing. It’s an allegory of learning to walk all over again, and I got to see some pretty big steps last week.

What’s New

As you probably know, we’ve had quite a bit of turnover in writers in our office. With both Dennis Walikainen and Marcia Goodrich retiring, as well as three others leaving for new opportunities, we’ve been getting help from some new people. One you should know is Allison Mills. She’s our new science and technology writer, covering complicated, technical material and making it easy for the non-expert. It’s a gift Marcia had so well—and one I don’t possess—so it’s good to have some of that science storytelling magic return with Allison. A couple of her articles are linked below. Drop her an email to welcome her if you get the chance.

Also, as you’ll see below, hockey is up to #3 in the rankings this week. We’ll get the new women’s basketball rankings either later today or tomorrow; though the women lost one last week, that makes all of 2 for the season. Yeah, they’re really good.

As always, drop us a line here at the TechAlum desk—it’s more of a table, really—with whatever is on your mind. And if there’s something we can do for you, let us know. Thanks for reading.

At Tech


Research Funding Rises at Michigan Tech

Sponsored research, including federal and state grants, corporate and other sponsors increased 46 percent during the second quarter of the current fiscal year, compared to the same time last year, Vice President for Research David Reed told the Michigan Technological University Board of Control at its regular meeting on Feb. 19, 2015.  Federal grants rose . . . [ Full Story ]


Conserving for Nature’s Sake or Our Own?

The value of nature in conservation may seem simple, straightforward and fundamental. Yet a persistent question arises: Should we conserve nature only for humans or also for its own sake as well?

Examining nature’s intrinsic value usually wallows as a dusty philosophical quest. And some argue valuing nature for its own sake is not only . . . [ Full Story ]


PhD Students Learn to Communicate their Research

Scientists and engineers earn PhDs so they can do research.  But they rarely consider the importance of communicating their research to the general public, teachers and school children, or the news media—a major conduit to the public.

What can happen if researchers don’t open that line of communication with the public?  Lots of bad things.  . . . [ Full Story ]

Alumni Around the World


Alumni Watch Hockey in Columbus

Alumni and Friends from the Columbus Alumni Chapter gathered at Otie’s Tavern & Grill for a hockey game.
Many thanks to Curt Walz ’06 for organizing the event!


It is Hockey Season, After All

More than 40 alumni, families, and friends attended the pregame dinner at the Peanut Farm complete with a variety of pickled eggs provided by Aimee Rathbun ’05 and her father Jim Rathbun ’81. The group then celebrated as the Huskies swept the series, finishing with a 10-0 score.

Photos: the DeCovich and . . . [ Full Story ]

2015 DC Gamewatch

More Hockey Fans in the Beltway!

Alumni and friends from the Washington DC/Baltimore Chapter held an impromtu gathering at Kangnam BBQ Sports Bar & Grill on Friday, February 6th. The camaraderie was the best! They cheered on our hockey huskies and swapped stories about their time at Tech.

With the weekend sweep, the Huskies made it in the WCHA playoffs. The . . . [ Full Story ]

Alumni Profile

Ron Van Dell ’79


Alumni spotlight | A new way to harvest solar energy“A lot of people think of solar panels as being all there is to solar,” says Ron Van Dell, President and CEO of Austin-based SolarBridge Technologies. “They tend to think if panels were cheaper, then solar would be affordable. But, with the price of solar panels . . . [ Full Story ]

Tech Sports


Tech Hops Up To No. 3 In Both Polls This Week

HOUGHTON, Mich. – Michigan Tech, that nation’s hottest team, was bumped up to No. 3 in both the USCHO and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls. The Huskies have the most wins in the country with a 24-7-1 overall record and travel to No. 2 Minnesota State for a showdown between the WCHA’s top two teams.

. . . [ Full Story ]

Fill in the Blanks


Your Favorite Faculty

I’ve been very lucky to get to teach quite a bit over the last fifteen years. I’m sure that, when you’ve been in a mentorship position, you’ve felt good after helping someone get through a particularly challenging problem. That got me thinking of a lot of the faculty who made a difference over my long—and . . . [ Full Story ]


Getting Up Here

The first time I came to Houghton was 2001, and I’ll be honest—I had no idea there was a town this big or a university up here. I’m not from Michigan, I don’t have an engineering background, and I really just wanted to spend my tax refund kayaking on Lake Superior.

By 2006 I was . . . [ Full Story ]

From the Email Bag


Puttin’ on the Skits

Hi Kevin,

Was that picture specifically 1950?  The woman (assuming that it’s actually a female) almost looks like it could be Donna Lee Graham, but she wouldn’t have been at Tech in 1950.

Otherwise, it probably took place at the Kerredge theater in Hancock. That’s where the stage revues took place at the time I . . . [ Full Story ]

An Alumnus in Need

Hello, I am from the 96 class. More recently I have been working with Dr. David Hand with some of my PhD work when I was studying at CU-Boulder. I am writing you to inform you of an unfortunate chain of events that has occurred to another alumnus: Justin Kapla, Met, 1996. He has been working . . . [ Full Story ]

Some Flurries

Hi Kevin,

First, congrats on your new position.  Great to have you on board.

Reading Bill Haire’s comment in the latest Tech Alum about the 1/4-inch of snow made me chuckle.  Usually, when we get a “Heavy Snowfall Warning”, the result is about 4-inches of snow. However, the really funny part is how the people . . . [ Full Story ]

Old Adventure Spots

The Satellite, in Lake Linden, was the place to go. Especially on Tuesday evenings when the new talent came to town.

Fred Wark ’75

Kevin, In the early 60′s my favorite place for a “study break” during the week was Chuck’s, a bar at the east end of Houghton, near the confluence of Shelden and E. . . . [ Full Story ]

Alumnus in the News

Paul DeKeyser BS ’78 and MS ’79 Civil Engineering, has joined MWH Global Inc as the Director of Global Business Development for Government and Infrastructure (North America and Asia-Pacific). He will be located at the Fairfax VA office. MWH Global employs 8,000 and operates on six continents providing engineering, construction and management of water, hydropower, . . . [ Full Story ]

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Around the Keweenaw

Job Opportunities

On Campus

Miss the great Keweenaw lifestyle? If you’re looking for a way to get back to this awesome corner of the world, check out these positions available right here at Michigan Tech.

View a listing of our on-campus career opportunities.