In spring 2011, students from across Michigan Tech had the opportunity to glimpse the professional possibilities that await them, thanks to a special spring break trip organized by the late School of Business and Economics Professor Bob Mark.
“While attending a conference in Silicon Valley a few years ago, I toured a high-tech business and saw technology that blew my mind,” said Mark. “It hit me that Michigan Tech students would really benefit from seeing what’s out there.”
To expose students to businesses that hire technologically savvy graduates, Mark organized tours of Silicon Valley companies, including Google, the Porter Family Vineyards, Plug n’ Play, the Stanford Research Institute, and Brocade Networks.
“Each and every site visit was a huge success,” he said. “The students asked great questions, and the company representatives were thrilled to have in-depth discussions. This type of technical expertise is not something they see in standard student groups—but then, Michigan Tech students are a cut above the rest.”
Participating students came from departments across campus, creating an interdisciplinary experience that Mark saw as beneficial for the entire group. Of the fifteen students, there were undergraduates and graduate students from business, computer science, mechanical engineering, and physics. Four were from China, one was from India, and one was from West Africa.
Michigan Tech alumni played a large role in the success of the trip, lending their time and expertise to enhance the students’ experience. Dave House ’65 led a presentation and data center tour at Brocade Networks, Tom Porter’s ’68 son, Tim, gave an in-depth tour of his family’s Napa winery, and Danielle VanDyke ’06 acted as a tour guide at Google’s Mountain View campus.
To wrap up the week, the Michigan Tech Alumni Association set up a reception at the Computer History Museum, which was attended by more than thirty alumni. Shankar Mukherjee ’86 and Dale Luck ’79 gave testimonials and entrepreneurial words of wisdom to the students at the reception.
“Our alumni love to talk to current students,” said Mark. “They went above and beyond to get us unique access, and we were treated like royalty everywhere we went.”
The spring break trip received positive feedback from both students and participating businesses—so much, in fact, that it will be offered as a one-credit class through Michigan Tech starting in spring 2012. The new structure will allow students to use their financial aid to cover the expenses. Mark expressed hope that the class will expand in the future to include faculty and students from all across campus. “We have great, smart students here at Michigan Tech, and it’s great to get them out into the world.”
The hard work, planning, and logistics that went into the trip were well worth the effort, said Mark. “The students’ reactions were unbelievable. When I was dropping off the last student, I asked what he thought. What he said summed it up perfectly: ‘It was life-changing.’”
Editor’s note: Bob Mark passed away after this article was written; we have included it to showcase his dedication to his students and his interest in their futures.
This article was originally published in Impact, the Michigan Tech School of Business and Economics magazine.