Michigan Tech Magazine Spring 2009 Cover

On the cover

On March 16, Michigan Tech's women's basketball team fulfilled a pledge they made to themselves and their fans last fall by winning the 2009 NCAA II Midwest Regional Championships. The victory capped a spectacular 27–6 season.

"I couldn't be more proud of them," said head coach John Barnes after their win over the University of Indianapolis. "They are very focused, not only on the court, but also in the classroom. They've given their all to get here." Team captain Sarah Stream, who owns a 4.0 grade point average, credits a work ethic that just won't quit. "I think we try as hard as we can at whatever we do," she said. "Academics are very important to us, and the coach places a big emphasis on how well we do in the classroom."

As for the University, "I love going to Michigan Tech," Stream said. "Everyone accepts you for who you are. You can be yourself. It's challenging, but when you leave here, you'll have a great education. That's why we picked Michigan Tech."

Last fall, the players told one of their biggest fans of their aim to become Midwest champions, so no one was happier to see their dream come true than Michigan Tech President Glenn D. Mroz. "I'm just so proud; they are the epitome of scholar-athletes," he said. "Many teams have good three-pointers. At Michigan Tech, we have great four-pointers."

Students at LeaderShape

LeaderShape, a six-day immersion in "leading with integrity."

LeaderShape, Michigan Tech Ford Center, Social Sciences Student Society

Learning to Lead

by John Gagnon

You cannot lead if people won't follow, and in January fifty-two Michigan Tech students received intensive lessons in how to take charge without bossing people around.

"Some of my best teachers are people who worked for me," local businessman Steve Bethel told the students gathered at Michigan Tech's Ford Center in Alberta, forty miles south of campus, where they tackled, in the words of one student, "cool stuff like changing the world."

The occasion was LeaderShape, a six-day immersion in "leading with integrity." Students weighed ideas: being fair and square; letting others take the lead and the credit; "having each other's back"; leading by example, not directive; being guided by principles, not self-interest; and steadily working at it. "You're not born a leader," Bethel told the group. "You have to earn that."

This is year fourteen of LeaderShape at Tech; since 1996, more than 600 students have participated in this rigorous, internationally recognized institute.

Applied Portfolio Management Program

Finance students face the toughest market in generations.

Applied Portfolio Management Program, School of Business and Economics, Winter Carnival

The Hard Lessons of the Dismal Science

by Dennis Walikainen '92, '09

Dean Johnson has just spent the last two days giving his finance students a primer on America's two greatest economic crises: the 1929 stock market crash and the 2008 implosion of the housing market. "The particulars are different," says the associate professor of finance. "But the basics are familiar to us."

Both the housing and stock market bubbles were driven by debt–"buying on margin"–and fueled by the false expectation that values would always rise. Borrowing, or purchasing assets on margin, creates leverage, Johnson says.

"Back in the 1920s, instead of paying 100 percent of the stock price, people would borrow as much as 90 percent, creating higher demand and higher stock prices," he says. "Back then it was stock markets and buying on margin, whereas now it is homebuyers and mortgages."

Borrowing also fueled consumer spending.

Wayne Pennington

Energy, the economy, and what lurks around the corner.

Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

BTU U

by Dennis Walikainen '92, '09

Wayne Pennington asks his students a tough question every year.

"What would it take to make the price of oil collapse?"

With some prodding, they come up with three answers: peace in the Middle East, respect for law and order in Russia and Venezuela, and a worldwide recession.

"Well, they got the last one right-on this time," says the chair of the geological and mining engineering and sciences department.

It's been a generation since energy markets saw anything close to the turbulence of the last year, and Michigan Tech students are . . . 

Partnered with industry, Michigan universities are blazing a trail to an energy-efficient future.

Research, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Waste Not . . .

by Jennifer Donovan

What does the future of energy look like? It looks like forests, like grasses, like culled potatoes and sugar beets. It's based on plants instead of petroleum. It makes use of the waste as well as the primary product. And it involves much more than turning corn into ethanol.

"In our Centers of Energy Excellence, we're looking for ways to turn problems into possibilities, to turn a waste stream into a revenue stream," says David Reed, Michigan Tech vice president for research and a key player in the development of the three centers. "That's the only way to make a bioeconomy economically viable.

"Each Center of Energy Excellence focuses on a different piece of the bio-energy puzzle. In the partnership between Michigan Tech and Working Bugs LLC, for example, the East Lansing–based company operates a bio-refinery, using fermentation processes to make products like fuel additives and solvents from biochemicals rather than petrochemicals.

Students and faculty alike utilized top of the line computing equipment in labs.

Writing in 1948, George Orwell predicted a repressive, totalitarian nightmare where "Big Brother" would be constantly watching you.

Computer Science, Computer Networking and Systems Administration, Women in Engineering

From the Archives: So Much for Big Brother

by Erik Nordberg, University Archivist

Writing in 1948, George Orwell predicted that world culture would be transformed by autocratic politicians, government-controlled media, and computing machines into a repressive, totalitarian nightmare where "Big Brother" would be constantly watching you. When 1984 finally arrived, some social commentators felt we hadn't heeded Orwell's warnings and had allowed technology to erode our essential human nature. The Michigan Tech Lode even hinted that the "proliferation of computers and the data banks of credit bureaus" were making Big Brother a reality—or at least a distinct possibility.

Yet, looking back twenty-five years to the computing activity on the Michigan Tech campus, one wonders what all of the fuss was about. Certainly in comparison to our current generation of computer technologies, things look rather tame.

Texas Instruments advertised its TI-66 calculator in the Lode with "170 built-in scientific, engineering, and statistical functions" and a "10-digit angled Liquid Crystal Display"—for only $69.95. Hewlett-Packard advertisements offered to "end the pencil-and-paper drudgery" with up to 6,437 bytes of memory in their HP-41CX.