Full-Circle Moment: MLK Day Speaker, Alumnus Reflects on Husky Experience

Speaker Donzell Dixson stands before an audience
Dixson Dynamics founder, Donzell Dixson, got his first speaking experience as a Michigan Tech business student.

Heading back to campus as the keynote speaker for the 30th annual Michigan Technological University Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration banquet was a pinch-me moment for 2014 finance graduate Donzell Dixson. It wasn’t that long ago, where instead of inspiration and confidence, Dixson waded through self-doubt.

“At times as a student, I felt inadequate. I felt less than. In class, I wasn’t the smartest. Other students seemed to be more prepared for college than I was,” Dixson says. “But my professors in the School of Business and Economics seemed to recognize I had a willingness—an eagerness—to learn.”

Michigan Tech alumnus Donzell Dixson
Today, Dixson resides in Minneapolis and is employed by Target Headquarters.

The Saginaw, Michigan, native first experienced campus by way of the MiCup Scholars Program, a collaboration between three Michigan community colleges and Michigan Tech, which encourages low-income and first-generation college students to continue to follow their dreams of higher education. The initiative is specifically geared toward students interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

“MiCup was really the first and only time I got to see firsthand what Michigan Tech was all about. That’s how I knew it could be for me,” he recalls.

Coursework was rigorous and with support Dixson rose to the challenge. “Getting connected with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion was critical for me. My relationships there helped during times of struggle,” he says.

In his senior year, Dixson applied and was accepted into the competitive and nationally recognized Applied Portfolio Management Program (APMP). “It is a hands-on trading experience that really opened my eyes to possibilities in business. The thought processes and strategies I learned in APMP apply to just about every facet of my career and life now. I tend to approach everything a little bit differently—asking, ‘how can I be a producer instead of a consumer’?”

A college internship with Target headquarters has evolved into a diverse technical career for Dixson. “Colleagues will often assume that as a business graduate I might not have a handle on the highly technical aspects,” Dixson explains. He became even more motivated to learn, challenging himself to master coding and develop mobile apps. Management took notice. He has thrived in software engineering roles with the company and is now a business analyst.

In 2017, Dixson, who recalls his first-ever public speaking experience as an APMP student, founded Dixson Dynamics, whose mission is to educate, motivate and guide others to achieve their goals through a plan. He and his business partners have spoken to schools, colleges, organizations and businesses about how to not only create a plan but to put it into action.

Donzell Dixson poses with Dean Johnson, dean of the Michigan Tech School of Business
Reconnecting—Donzell Dixson stands with his former finance professor, Dean Johnson, now dean of the School of Business and Economics.

Dixson calls Minneapolis home now, but he still has family back in Michigan rooting for him, just as they have since his days as a Husky. “In a lot of ways my mom barely recognizes me. I was a kid who at one time was expelled from school. She is proud of me. And she is proud that my success is centered on serving others.”

Just as Donzell Dixson has evolved, campus continues to, too. Dixson believes in President Koubek’s leadership and his mission to diversify Michigan Tech, providing more opportunities and experiences like his to even more students.


Spend Your Spring Break in Silicon Valley

Aerial view of Silicon Valley

Aspiring student entrepreneurs and innovators are invited to apply for the Michigan Technological University Silicon Valley Experience, a spring break tour of California Bay Area companies that includes meetings with entrepreneurs and Michigan Tech alumni who are leaders in their field. The deadline to apply is February 10, 2019; the application form can be found at SVE Experience 2019 Application. Up to 15 students will be selected for this experience. Major funding for the trip is provided by Michigan Tech alumnus Kanwal Rekhi, as well as the Pavlis Honors College Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship and the School of Business and Economics in collaboration with 14 Floors.

Silicon Valley is known for its software giants, high-tech startups, Fortune 1000 companies, innovative culture, and entrepreneurial ecosystem–the environment that affects local/regional entrepreneurship, such as culture, policies, talent, entrepreneurial organizations, regional resources, and networks.

The Silicon Valley Experience will showcase multiple perspectives of a day-in-the-life of successful entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, and business leaders. This tour provides an interactive opportunity for students to discover more about a variety of industry settings, to sample innovative corporate cultures through tours and presentations, and to meet and talk with successful alumni entrepreneurs.

Image of bicycle outside Google headquarters

Students who apply and are accepted will have the opportunity to:

  • Tour companies like Google, Netflix, Hewlett Packard, Facebook, Ford, Clari, BYTON, Twilio, Autodesk, Waymo, the Porter Vineyard, as well as recent Michigan Tech startup, Handshake
  • Meet with entrepreneurs and innovators
  • Talk with Michigan Tech alumni who are leaders in their field
  • Get answers to your real-world business, innovation, and leadership questions
  • Gain firsthand knowledge of the enterprises that are revolutionizing global business

Lodging, some food, and ground transportation to and from toured companies will be covered. Students will be responsible for arranging and paying for their own air travel. As part of the student application, students will create a two-minute video describing how they will share their experience with the Michigan Technological University community upon completion of their travel in order to positively contribute to our entrepreneurial ecosystem. Students who have a demonstrated financial need can apply for a limited travel scholarship. If you have any questions, please contact Lisa Casper (lcasper@mtu.edu).



Professor Dana Johnson Retires

After more than 22 years at Michigan Tech, Dr. Dana Johnson, Professor of Supply Chain and Engineering Management with an affiliate appointment in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, retired from Michigan Tech at the end of fall semester.

Johnson’s time at Tech dates back to 1976 when she was a freshman. After completing her MBA and PhD, Johnson returned to Michigan Tech as an instructor of accounting and finance in the School of Business and Economics.

Her career in industry spanned General Motors Corporation, General Physics Corporation, Grant Thornton, and Competitive Advantage, a consulting contract firm she owned.

At its regular meeting on December 14, the Michigan Tech Board of Trustees granted Johnson emerita status.

Earlier in the semester, Johnson served as opening keynote speaker for the 21st Excellence in Services International Conference (EISIC) held in Paris, France. In “Impact of Service Quality on Overall Patient Satisfaction,” Johnson summarized the culmination of multivariate modeling of psychometric variables as predictors of patient satisfaction. She was the first woman keynote speaker in the history of the conference.


2018 Bob Mark Business Model Competition

The Bob Mark Business Model Competition provides a venue for students of all majors to pitch their entrepreneurial ideas before an audience and a panel of judges. Prior to the competition, students receive coaching from business professionals to hone their ideas and improve their pitches.

The 2018 Bob Mark Business Model Competition took place Wednesday, Dec. 5. More than 20 participants making up 15 teams pitched business plans for ideas ranging from hypothermia-preventing life jackets to a web-based stress management program.
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