Michigan Tech Magazine Autumn 2008 Cover

A Conversation with President Mroz

Change is good when it's done right.

Days of War, Captivity, and Faith

James Cooper '39 survives a plane crash and WWII POW camps.

A PhD at Twenty-One, the World at Twenty-five?

Katerina Aifantis '01 is on her way to creating the future.

Helping Troubled Students

Michigan Tech assists students, thanks to cross-campus collaboration.

The Semi~Sweet Story of Sugar~Making

Researchers study Puerto Rico's yesterdays and today with an eye on tomorrow.

Short's Story

The guy next door (Kingsford, actually) succeeds on turf and in class.

Blowing the Top Off Mount St. Helens' Secrets

Drumbeat earthquakes drive Greg Waite.

A Conversation with President Mroz

On a sunny summer day, Michigan Tech President Glenn Mroz sat down in his fifth-floor office overlooking Houghton and the lift bridge and discussed Michigan Tech’s current state and future plans.

Universities support society in a variety of ways. Given how fast our world is changing, what do you see as Tech’s vision and purpose?

Michigan Tech must maintain and enhance the quality of education at all levels. Tech graduates want credibility in the marketplace, and they want to know their education is relevant to helping solve the problems that lie ahead.

Programs like Enterprise really combine the students’ in-classroom learning with practical experiences that include research and development.

James Cooper POW

James Cooper—
World War II navigator,
POW, and survivor.
Just don't call him "hero."

Days of War, Captivity, and Faith

by John Gagnon

During World War II, James Cooper ’39 cheated death. In a bomber over the flak-fierce skies above Germany, his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire. The bomber and its crew of ten had to crash-land in a field in Holland.

“The day we went down, the group lost two planes. There were no survivors of the other plane. Everyone in our crew survived.”

Lucky?

“Yes, yes,” he says, even though he ended up a prisoner of war for ten months—a time of tension, boredom, loneliness, and misery.

A PhD at Twenty-One, the World at Twenty-Five?

by Marcia Goodrich

Katerina Aifantis ’01 is accustomed to being the youngest in the room.

At the age of sixteen, the Houghton High School student sweet-talked her principal into letting her take courses at Michigan Tech, where she promptly aced calculus and chemistry.

“She just beat everyone in the class,” remembers Associate Professor Paul Charlesworth. “She’s one of the finest students to ever take my general chemistry course.”

The next year, Aifantis went hat in hand to Stephen Hackney, a professor of materials science and engineering, and asked to work with him on his applied elasticity research. He hesitated, Hackney says, until “it became clear that her math skills far exceeded those of many graduate students.”

The question arises on the nations' campuses—do today's students wrestle with more psychological problems than previous generations did, and, if so, what can be done to prevent them from escalating into tragedies?

The Early Intervention Team is a cross-campus committee to assess troubled students on a case-by-case basis.

Counseling Sevices, Student Affairs, Hamar House

Helping Troubled Students

by Jennifer Donovan and Kara Sokol

He sits alone in class every day, lost in his own world, not really connecting to people around him. A recent writing assignment contains graphically detailed scenarios of violence, but he says it’s nothing more than harmless fiction . . .  

She’s the leader of a high-profile student organization, devoting long days to her studies and working on extracurricular activities. Previously friendly and outgoing, lately she seems scattered and an emotional roller coaster. Her friends complain that she’s drifting away from them . . . 

With incidences of school violence on the rise, the challenges of dealing with anxious, depressed, or stressed-out students are receiving priority attention on campuses. Tragedies like the Virginia Tech massacre have prompted universities to look inward, assessing their own students as they scrutinize their crisis and emergency intervention plans.

The question arises on the nations’ campuses—do today’s students . . . 

Sam Sweitz, center, with wife, Lee, on his right, MS student Carmelo Davila on his left, and the Quinones family

Sam Sweitz, center, with wife, Lee, on his right, MS student Carmelo Davila on his left, and the Quinones family.

Industrial Archaeology Program

The Semi-Sweet History of Sugar-Making

by John Gagnon

Sam Sweitz has been a wandering scientist interested in sherds and sugar; houses, mills, and gold mines; and history unearthed.

Now settled in Houghton as an assistant professor in social sciences, he dreams of expanding the reach of Michigan Tech’s industrial archaeology program.

Sweitz is a young man with seasoned credentials. His work has spanned four time periods and four nations: prehistoric Mayan culture in Belize; eighteenth- to twentieth-century Mayan culture in the Yucatan; nineteenth-century gold mining in the US; and now the twentieth-century sugar industry in Puerto Rico.

“Everything is connected,” he says. “I am fascinated by how decisions made in one place can affect people in another place.”