All posts by akaragia

Defining Success

googleBy Lorelle Meadows

Earlier this week, I spent a day with Michigan Tech students in Silicon Valley and had the opportunity to visit with a number of Michigan Tech alums. Among the Tech alums were Stuart Pann, class of ’81, Alex Johnson, class of 92′ and Tony Altobelli. They welcomed us to their companies (HP, Facebook, and Google!), gave us tours and shared their stories. As they presented their ideas to us, I recorded the advice that they gave. Here it is:

  1. It’s not about your major – it’s about what you want to DO
  2. A Michigan Tech background gives you great quantitative skills to build on (these were all engineers), but you need more
  3. Follow your passion – know your strengths and what you love to do
  4. Put in the work – effort and perseverance matter – but also know when to ask for help
  5. Your first job matters, it sets up how you will view the world
  6. Money isn’t everything, just something – make sure the value system of the company works for you (this might mean taking your lowest offer)
  7. The hallmark of a good interview is preparation – you need to convey curiosity, your ability to work in teams and a sense of humility – tell why you want to join THIS company – do your homework – share your projects AND passions – tell your story
  8. Map your path to success, but adapt as opportunities come up and changes happen
  9. Enjoy the ups and downs – nothing in life is perfect – don’t give up on your dreams

Within these valuable tidbits, I could feel the alignment with Pavlis. Here, we build on the skills in your major and challenge you to find your own pathway to success – to figure out who you are and what you want to DO. We demand effort and offer resources. We encourage you to explore your values and purpose and use these to identify the right opportunities for you. We value curiosity, communication and ask you to balance confidence with humility. We push you to develop professional flexibility, to act in the face of uncertainty. We help you compose and then tell your story. It’s hard work, but in the end, we believe that this development of character is exactly what it takes to propel you to your goals and ultimately YOUR success.

I think what stood out most to me was that every one of these alums loves what they do. They all talked about how much they love coming to work every day – even on challenging days. Imagine how that feels and how following their advice might get you there!

Fostering an Innovation and Entrepreneurial Mindset at Tech

By Amy Karagiannakis

Michigan Tech has been awarded the VentureWell Faculty Grant in the amount of $22,800 for the proposal “Building a Curriculum that Fosters an Innovation & Entrepreneurial (I&E) Mindset for our First-year Students.” The Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship teamed up with Engineering Fundamentals and the School of Business and Economics (SBE) to develop a first-year curriculum that infuses design thinking methodology into Tech’s first-year engineering and business courses.

All engineering students at Tech are required to complete ENG1102, Engineering Modeling and Design in their first year and SBE offers BUS1100, Introduction to Business to their first-year students. Last Fall semester, working off a previously awarded grant, PIs Mary Raber, Mary Fraley, Brett Hamlin, and Amber Kemppainen piloted incorporating the design-thinking process into two sections of ENG1102. Concurrently, the team also worked with Jon Leinonen to incorporate a similar set of design-thinking modules in three sections of BUS1100.  Students in these courses were ultimately required to form teams and develop innovative solutions for a self-identified problem. Prior to being given a designated challenge however, students were introduced to design thinking methodology through a series of interactive workshops and activities. With the knowledge and concepts they learned, they could apply the phases of empathy, define, ideation, prototype, and test to developing solutions to their prescribed team challenges.


Mary Fraley, Lecturer for Engineering Fundamentals reflected, “We learned in the pilot that including design thinking in a first-year engineering course was an effective way to introduce students to an entrepreneurial mindset. Through the development of an innovative product, students not only improved their critical thinking skills, but also developed an understanding of incorporating customer needs into their design. We look forward to refining this approach in the future.”

The new grant will allow Tech’s PIs to expand upon the Fall pilot, affording business and engineering students the opportunity to work together on innovative solutions to problems they identify. The goal is to refine the curriculum based on lessons learned from last Fall hoping to eventually introduce a permanent curricular offering. The new grant money will also enable Tech to train additional faculty in the design thinking and lean startup methodology through workshops facilitated by those who have completed Stanford’s Teaching and Learning Studio training, as well as Steve Blank’s Lean Launchpad training. The team also plans to incorporate Tech’s new makerspace, the Alley, for prototyping and testing student design projects.


Jon Leinonen, lecturer in the School of Business and Economics highlights the interdisciplinary teamwork that the VentureWell project provides as a point of distinction for Michigan Tech’s students, saying, “In this setting, students learn to apply business principles in a technical environment. This provides a foundation for more creative, feasible and rewarding outcomes when graduates step into industry.”Venturewell2

This collaborative project is lead by a team of faculty from the Innovative Center for Entrepreneurship, the Engineering Fundamentals Department and the School of Business. Mary Raber has experience with developing educational programming around Design Thinking, Lean Start-up and makerspaces. Mary Fraley, Brett Hamlin and Amber Kemppainen are instructors in the first-year engineering program and Jon Leinonen is a business instructor and I&E mentor. Together, this team will lead the efforts to continue to integrate design thinking and lean startup concepts into the core engineering fundamentals and business courses.

Mary Raber, co-director of the Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship and Assistant Dean of the Pavlis Honors College stated, “This grant from VentureWell will allow us to build upon the pilot conducted in Fall 2017 that introduced design thinking into first-year engineering and business courses.  Our goal is to give these students an opportunity to begin developing an innovation and entrepreneurial mindset while working together to create innovative solutions to problems of interest.”


University of Minnesota Duluth is seeking submissions for Aisthesis


Are you looking for an opportunity to get your academic or creative work published? The University of Minnesota Duluth’s Honors Program is currently accepting submissions for the 2018 issue of Aisthesis, a student-run annual honors journal. As an interdisciplinary publication, the journal welcomes academic work, including honors capstone projects, literature reviews, and articles from all fields of research. Creative writing, multimedia, as well as visual art submissions are also encouraged. The submission deadline is March 15, 2018.

To submit, please visit The 2018 call for submissions can be found on here.

If you have any questions, please email

Summer Study Abroad in Ireland

cork-kinsale-1The University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC) Honors College is facilitating a study abroad this summer in Cork, Ireland. Courses through the University College-Cork will focus on Irish history and culture and will be six credits. Over a four-week period students will visit, Limerick, Galway, Belfast, Trinity University in Dublin, and the famous Cliffs of Moher. In-state tuition rates will apply for all students, and scholarships are available. The application can be found here. This study abroad opportunity is exclusively available to honors students. If you have questions about the program, costs, or the application, please contact John Herron (

Please note that this study abroad does not fulfill the immersion experience requirements for the Pavlis Honors College as is. Immersion experiences must identify an opportunity, solve a problem, or address an issue. Michigan Tech students interested in studying abroad through programs facilitated by other universities should contact the office of International Programs and Services in advance to discuss the international credit process. Students may email or call 906-487-2160 to schedule an appointment.


Summer DC Internships


The Fund for American Studies is currently accepting applications for full scholarships to attend Summer 2018 programs in Washington, D.C. through their Leadership Scholars Program.

The Institutes are eight week summer academic internship programs sponsored by The Fund for American Studies in partnership with George Mason University. The programs offer undergraduate students a first-hand look at the U.S. political system through:

  • An internship placement
  • Courses for credit in economics and government
  • Exclusive lectures, briefings and professional development seminars
  • Housing in the heart of Washington, DC

Pavlis Honors College students may receive priority admission and scholarship consideration along with other NCHC members. You are encouraged to apply by the priority deadline of February 7, 2018.

The goal of these programs is to help students close the gap between theory and practice by developing skills to work on today’s most pressing global and domestic policy issues. The Fund for American Studies is committed to providing an educational experience that will prepare students for a successful career in domestic, economic, or foreign policy and beyond.

Scholarship funding is still available and students should apply by the final deadline of March 13, 2018. Visit for more information on admission and program requirements.

Meet Magann Dykema…

By Amy Karagiannakis

From right to left: Magann Dykema, Brad Turner, and Kathryn Christopher. Photo credit to Patrick Beaudouin.


Magann Dykema is committed to spreading a culture of innovation across the Michigan Tech campus. A University Innovation Fellow (UIF) since 2015, Magann is always looking for new opportunities to engage Tech students in innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking and creativity. Fellows work to ensure that their peers gain the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to make a positive impact on the world. Magann’s biggest and most impactful project on Tech’s campus is #uifresh which introduces incoming first-year students to innovation and the entrepreneurial mindset. To date, Michigan Tech’s University Innovation Fellows have engaged with over 4000 incoming first-year students through orientation, exposing them early on to powerful entrepreneurial tools and resources.

Magann at the March 2017 UIF meetup in Silicon Valley. Photo credit to Ryan Phillips.

Have you visited the Alley yet? The space where the old Michigan Tech bowling alley used to reside was completely redesigned and repurposed to create an open-community workshop incorporating elements of machine shops, wood shops, art studios and computer labs where Michigan Tech students, faculty, and staff can come together to share resources and knowledge to build and make things. Magann is currently the Alley Student Director and collaborated on the design and creation of the new makerspace back in the fall of 2015. Magann worked with Pavlis alum Brad Turner to incorporate a design thinking process to turn an old bowling alley into a multi-functional makerspace that the entire University community could benefit from. The Alley currently has tools and equipment available to use for 3D printing, woodworking, electronics, crafting, and sewing, but Magann hopes to expand these offerings through more donors and sponsorship. The Alley and its associated events and activities are completely student led and student driven. The student team also offers classes, seminars, and workshops. Their mission: to create an environment where everyone in the Michigan Tech community is encouraged and supported by providing a welcoming space, learning opportunities, a maker network, and resources.

Michigan Tech’s makerspace, the Alley

Last summer, Magann traveled to Brazil to pilot the new Belem site for the Global Leadership pathway in the Pavlis Honors College. Her team’s goal on this initial trip was to determine the needs of the Belem people and develop sustainable solutions that the local community would support. Over five weeks, Magann and her team were able to establish a network of contacts in Brazil, as well as a plethora of resources to aid the next Pavlis team that travels to Belem. Project opportunities for future Pavlis cohorts include stormwater management, English language and STEM education classes, and alternative energy using biofuels. The work and documentation that Magann and her team completed over these initial five weeks in Brazil laid the groundwork for future Pavlis teams to continue to help the people of Belem.

Magann (front, right) in Belem, Brazil for her Pavlis Honors College immersion experience.
Magann (front, right) in Belem, Brazil for her Pavlis Honors College immersion experience.

Magann hails from Norton Shores, MI and is in her fourth year at Michigan Tech. While her focus is in water resources as a Civil Engineering major, her passion is teaching design thinking. IDEO CEO, Tim Brown describes this methodology and mindset, “Design Thinking draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning, to explore possibilities of what could be—and to create desired outcomes that match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.” Magann has also been an integral part in helping get the new Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship (ICE) established at Michigan Tech. Director of Global Leadership and Co-Director of the Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship, Mary Raber stated, “Magann has really embraced the intent of the Pavlis Honors College by taking advantage of all that Michigan Tech has to offer in order to gain the most from her educational experience.  Participating in the University Innovation Fellows program, spending five weeks living and working in Brazil through the Global Leadership pathway, and helping to lead the new makerspace, are just a few of the ways Magann is making a lasting impact at Tech.”

Magann crowned at the 2017 Michigan Tech Homecoming.

Having attended Tech’s Summer Youth Program (SYP) in 2012 and 2013 as a high school student, Magann wanted to give back by becoming an SYP counselor herself. Working for the Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship and in collaboration with SYP, Magann developed and taught a design thinking-related summer camp called World of Design. Through the success of this initiative, Magann was also able to offer after-school classes to elementary and middle school-aged children called Discovering Your Creative Confidence and Inner Maker. Magann is the Vice President of MUB Board and was recently crowned Homecoming Royalty. Magann is an avid bowler, a diehard Detroit Tigers fan, and loves exploring the outdoors.

I-Corps Site Program at Michigan Tech

The Michigan Tech I-Corps Site Program and the Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship will be hosting its next NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Workshop beginning January 2018. Dates and times for the upcoming workshop are tentatively scheduled for Jan. 17, Jan. 24, Feb. 14 and Feb. 21 from 5pm-8pm.

The I-Corps Site program is a team-based program structure that was developed through a partnership between the National Science Foundation (NSF) and successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. The workshop provides an introduction to the Lean Start-up business development methodology which focuses on getting out of the lab and using the proven tools of Customer Discovery and the Business Model Canvas to evaluate the commercial potential of innovative technologies.

This is a great opportunity to work with an experienced team of workshop leaders to determine, document, and fully realize the commercial potential of your technology. Teams which successfully complete the program requirements are eligible for $2500 to advance their technology-focused start-up ideas through customer discovery and prototyping. Teams also become eligible for NSF’s National I-Corps program which includes $50,000 in funding.

Participants of I-Corps Site programs and NSF’s National I-Corps have demonstrated significantly higher funding rates from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) programs which offer Phase I awards up to $225,000 and Phase II awards up to $750,000. Past participants also report that the I-Corps program had a positive impact on their careers, as well as their approach to research, teaching and mentoring.


Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor, Dr. Andrew Barnard commented on his experience with I-Corps, “Our participation in the I-Corps Site Program at Tech helped us to understand our potential customers and get answers to questions that will steer our research for years to come. It has propelled us to the National I-Corps Program where we’re excited to learn more from our customers about our product idea.”

Apply today for this great experience. For more information on the Michigan Tech I-Corps Site Program or to apply for the January workshop, visit

Meet Laura Schimmel…

By Amy Karagiannakis

Schimmel in Montserrat, Spain on a study abroad

Laura Schimmel is driven towards making an impact in the environmental sustainability field. Growing up on a small farm in Oxford, MI laid a solid foundation for her interest and education in sustainable development. Peace Corps Prep, within the Pavlis Honors College Community Engagement pathway, is preparing her for the U.S. Peace Corps after graduation.

Schimmel volunteering at the Niabi Zoo

Laura’s love of animals, along with her commitment to conservation, drew her to volunteering at the Niabi Zoo in Coal Valley, IL last summer for her Pavlis Honors College immersion experience. The zoo’s name comes from the Native American Osage language and means “young deer spared by the hunter.” Laura’s personal interest in conservation and sustainability paralleled with the zoo’s mission to connect the community with nature through conservation leadership and education. As an interpreter in the zoo’s new ocean exhibit, much of her time was spent teaching visitors about tropical fish, sharks, eels and stingrays. Educating local children and adults about the direct connection they have between the Mississippi River basin and the ocean was one of the most rewarding aspects of the experience. “Even though these animals seem exotic, we are more connected to them than it may seem. I refined my ability to communicate scientific information to people spanning a wide range of ages, nationalities, and socioeconomic statuses,” reflected Laura.

While the experience at Niabi was certainly valuable, Laura is excited to pursue more international endeavors through the U.S. Peace Corps after graduation. The federal U.S. Peace Corps volunteer program is highly competitive, generally only accepting one fourth of its annual applicants. The Community Engagement pathway through the Pavlis Honors College offers Peace Corps Prep certification that aligns closely with the skills and training that the U.S. Peace Corps is looking for in its applicants. Peace Corps Prep lays the foundation for Honors students to specialize in an area of international development such as education, health, or the environment

Laura is an active member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and Engineers Without Borders (EWB). Through her involvement in SWE since 2015, she has helped organize and participated in various events ranging from pre-college outreach to fund raising. She presented at the 2017 D80 Conference on her EWB team’s work designing and implementing a water system for a rural community in Guatemala. The team is currently trying to organize a trip to Guatemala over the upcoming winter break. Laura’s experiences with EWB have enabled her to apply her engineering education to real world issues that truly benefit communities in need of basic infrastructure.

EWB picture
Schimmel (right) working with Engineers Without Borders


As a member of the Alternative Energy Enterprise (AEE), Laura collaborated on a project with the Keweenaw National Historic Park regarding a geothermal energy system using abandoned mineshafts as the thermal reservoir. She currently writes the blog on the Sustainability Demonstration House project which seeks to retrofit the Kettle Gundlach building (formerly the university president’s residence) with more sustainable energy, water, and gas efficiency. Laura explained her interest in AEE projects, “Living sustainably is not merely a trendy alternative lifestyle for those living in the UP. With electricity costs more than twice as high as the rest of Michigan, and the second highest in the US, living efficiently is absolutely necessary.”

Alternative Energy Enterprise team photo
Alternative Energy Enterprise team photo

Laura Schimmel’s passion for the environment and conservation is fueled by her love for the outdoors. She enjoys hiking and camping and has enjoyed exploring the Keweenaw landscape and other areas of the upper peninsula while at Tech. An avid runner, Laura has accomplished six half marathons and last September completed her first full marathon. Her favorite places in Houghton to run and train are the Tech Trails and along the Portage Canal. Laura is expected to graduate Fall 2018 with bachelor’s degrees in both Materials Science and Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. She is determined to join the Peace Corps after graduation and feels this time in public service will help to build intercultural competency and develop a better understanding of critical global issues. Ultimately, she hopes that her time in the Peace Corps will help give her direction and focus, so that she can continue to make positive impacts in the field of sustainable development. Michigan Tech News recently published a story about Laura Schimmel and the Peace Corps Prep program.

Laura volunteering at the UP Science Fair
Laura volunteering at the UP Science Fair


Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows Program Now Accepting Applications


The Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows program is a competitive six week long summer leadership program that takes place just outside of Washington, D.C. at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The program offers a small, select group of rising college juniors unparalleled opportunities in the nation’s capital and on the famous estate of the first President of the United States. The program is fully funded and offers a $3000 stipend plus room, board and transportation expenses. During your six week fellowship you will engage in dynamic leadership education curriculum, interact with nationally recognized corporate, government, and military leaders in the nation’s capital, and discover how to change the world through self-reflection, exciting experiential activities, and a community service-focused capstone project.

Apply today and take advantage of this amazing opportunity to develop a network of professional contacts and become a lifelong member of an engaged community of fellowship alumni. The deadline to apply is January 31, 2018. This year’s program runs from May 26 – July 6, 2018. Please visit the Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows site for more information.

Josh Jay and Robert Lambert Named University Innovation Fellows

Congratulations to Josh Jay and Robert Lambert who have been named University Innovation Fellows (UIF) by Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design ( This global program trains student leaders to create new opportunities for their peers to engage with innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking and creativity.

The University Innovation Fellows Program empowers students to become agents of change at Michigan Tech. Fellows work to ensure that their peers gain the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to make a positive impact on the world.

“During training, Fellows gain skills, mindsets and knowledge to face ever-more complex challenges at their schools and in the world,” said Humera Fasihuddin, co-director of the University Innovation Fellows program. “They learn frameworks like design thinking and lean startup, which help them analyze their campus ecosystems, understand the needs of others, and uncover opportunities for change. As a result, Fellows design learning experiences that better prepare peers for their careers.”

Robert Lambert
Robert Lambert
Josh Jay
Josh Jay

Jay and Lambert were sponsored by Pavlis Honors College Assistant Dean, Mary Raber. Michigan Tech’s Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship funded the Fellows’ six week online training. These students, along with Raber and Tech’s other Fellows, will travel to the biannual University Innovation Fellows Silicon Valley Meetup next month. During the meetup, Fellows will take part in immersive experiences at Stanford’s and Google, and work with leaders in education and industry. They will participate in experiential workshops and exercises focused on topics including movement building, innovation spaces, design of learning experiences, and new models for change in higher education.

“In traditional education systems, students have to wait until they graduate to make a difference. We don’t believe that,” said Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, co-director of the University Innovation Fellows program. “Students are uniquely equipped to make a difference while they’re in school; they know best what other students want and need. Our Fellows are working with their peers, faculty and administrators to co-design a different educational experience and bring about change where it’s needed most.”

Tech’s new Fellows will advocate for lasting change by creating opportunities for students across campus to engage in more activities and events that inspire innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking and creativity. If you’d like to learn more about the program, visit