Category: Commencement

Cruz is Fall 2023 Undergraduate Commencement Speaker

Excerpt from Michigan Technological University blog by Cyndi Perkins.

Undergraduate student speaker Aerith Cruz, management information systems, enjoys skiing at Mont Ripley. A northern lights chaser and Keweenaw explorer, she carried out her goal to create and expand access to opportunities for others across campus by serving as a mentor to prospective students, an Orientation team leader and an ExSEL peer mentor at MTU’s Waino Wahtera Center for Student Success.

She also served on the Center for Diversity and Inclusion President’s Council, helping guide CDI initiatives and advocating for the needs of students across campus.

The Leading Scholar program brought Cruz to Tech. She’s been a proponent ever since, volunteering at 11 scholarship events and supporting prospective students as a Tech Pal mentor.

“My journey to Michigan Tech began in my junior year of high school, when I met an alumna while leading a FIRST Robotics demo at my former elementary school,” said Cruz, who hails from Chaska, Minnesota. “Her passion for Tech sparked my curiosity. When I explored what Michigan Tech has to offer, I discovered the Leading Scholar program. The application deadline was less than a week away! I challenged myself to pursue the opportunity. As a result, I was one of the six winners of Tech’s most prestigious and competitive full-ride scholarship award, which recognizes exemplary leadership and academic excellence.”

Cruz began paying the opportunity forward from the moment she arrived on campus, continuing to be involved in activities that challenge and nurture prospective Huskies competing in the scholarship program. 

“One of my Tech Pals from a 2020 Leading Scholar event recognized me in the dining hall years later,” Cruz said. “He acknowledged that I encouraged him to attend Tech and helped him be successful during his Leading Scholar event. It’s highly rewarding to see the impact of my leadership through the achievement of others.”

Cruz continued to challenge herself while at Tech, earning the 2023 President’s Award for Leadership and the Rising Star of the Year award.

As president of Michigan Tech’s section of the Society of Women Engineers, which has more than 200 members, Cruz presented at national conferences in 2021 and 2022, and was one of 10 students nationwide who received the Outstanding Collegiate Member Award at the 2023 SWE national conference. Cruz is only the second Michigan Tech SWE member to receive this award since the organization was established at MTU in 1976. 

Other highlights of Cruz’s term included hosting the event “Breaking Stereotypes for Women Engineers” and establishing the SWE Endowed Scholarship, which will award funding annually to a SWE member beginning in 2026. 

“I’m thrilled to leave a legacy in support of the future generations of women engineers at Michigan Tech.”Aerith Cruz, undergraduate student speaker, 2023 Midyear Commencement

-Aerith Cruz, undergraduate student speaker, 2023 Midyear Commencement

Cruz has also helped to further the cycle project, which provides menstrual products on campus at no charge, and created fundraisers for local Keweenaw organizations. She remains involved in FIRST Robotics, mentoring a team that advanced to the 2022 world championships semifinals, volunteering as a supervisor at competitions and serving as an executive board member of Copper Country Robotics.

Her philanthropy and leadership extends to her recreational activities. The former high school varsity fencer and coach became president of Michigan Tech’s Fencing Club, introducing beginner’s lessons, teaching at community events and creating a competitive training regimen. 

“Since then, more than 250 students and community members have tried the sport for the first time and active membership in the group has increased by 500%,” she said.

Cruz, who is completing her degree work in three and a half years, will begin her career as an associate technical project manager at 3M. “I look forward to moving with my family to Houston, Texas,” she said. “Our family — mom, dad, and younger sister — travel together. So far, we have traveled to 21 countries outside of the United States. I’m excited to continue our travels, exploring more of the world with my family.”

Cruz also credits faculty, family and friends for her success, including two particularly important influences. 

“My mother, Joana Cruz, is my inspiration and role model. She motivates and coaches me to strive to be the best version of myself. She supports me in every opportunity, activity and involvement I’ve pursued. I would not be who and where I am today without her,” she said. “I also extend my deepest gratitude to Dr. Gretchen Hein — the SWE advisor, my mentor and friend — who nominated me for the national SWE award and many others. She is my biggest advocate at Michigan Tech.”

“I am incredibly grateful to be selected as the undergraduate student speaker,” said Cruz. “With every opportunity that has been presented to me, I have always challenged myself with a simple question: ‘Why not? Let’s just go for it.’ I hope to inspire my fellow graduates to continue challenging themselves in their future endeavors, and that there can be a lot of impact within that simple question.”