Category: Alumni Spotlight

Huskies Engage at Traverse City during Innovation Week


As part of Michigan Tech’s Grand Traverse region initiative, Huskies will be active in Traverse City this week (May 9-15) during a series of events to celebrate innovation and entrepreneurship.

Husky Innovate students Bayle Golden (master’s in engineering management) and Rourke Sylvain (biomedical engineering) will pitch their ideas during the TCNewTech University Idea Showcase tomorrow (May 12). On Sunday evening they will pitch again, competing for prizes.

College of Business alumnus and local business owner David McBride ‘82 will serve as a judge of the showcase. This event will be livestreamed via TCNewTech’s Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn channels beginning at 6 p.m. Register to attend virtually or in person.

Golden and Sylvain have engaged in Husky Innovate events including the Bob Mark Business Model Pitch Competition and the New Venture Competition (NVC), where both took top prizes. At NVC, Golden won first place in the Social Mission category and received $10,000 pitching “SafeRow,” an innovative wearable device designed to keep children safe when every second counts. Together, Sylvain and Ali Dabas (biomedical engineering) won second place in the High Tech High Growth category, receiving $5,000. Their pitch, “imi (integrated molecular innovations),” is an electrochemical biosensor for T4 detection.

Husky Innovate is a collaboration between the Pavlis Honors College, the Office of Innovation and Commercialization, and the College of Business. 

About the College of Business

The Michigan Tech College of Business offers undergraduate majors in accounting, business analytics, construction management, economics, engineering management, finance, management, management information systems, and marketing, as well as a general business option. Graduate degrees include the TechMBA®, a Master of Engineering Management, a Master of Science in Accounting, and a Master of Science in Applied Natural Resource Economics.


Scholarship Spotlight: Ross Roeder Endowed Scholarship

Hillary Prout (left) and Nathan Sodini (right), Michigan Tech College of Business Ross Roeder Endowed Scholarship Recipients
Hillary Prout (left) and Nathan Sodini (right), Michigan Tech College of Business Ross Roeder Endowed Scholarship Recipients

The Michigan Tech College of Business boasts more than 50 donor- and industry-sponsored scholarships reserved exclusively for new and returning MTU business students. These awards are offered in addition to competitive, merit-, and need-based aid. In 2020-21, total scholarships and grants awarded to undergraduate students in the College of Business exceeded $4.6 million.

Today, we’re highlighting the Ross Roeder Endowed Scholarship.

The late Ross Roeder ’60, a Michigan Tech Board of Trustees Silver Medal recipient and an Alumni Association Honorary Alumnus, established an endowed scholarship for the College of Business (COB) to encourage entrepreneurship and leadership. The scholarship is awarded to business Huskies with demonstrated leadership and entrepreneurial skills. The award may be renewed, provided the recipient maintains a 2.5 minimum GPA.

“The Ross Roeder Endowed Scholarship eased the financial burden of achieving my dreams.”

Hillary Prout (accounting), Roeder Scholarship Recipient

Although Roeder graduated from larger institutions, he maintained close ties with Michigan Tech throughout his career. Dean Johnson, dean of the COB, said the College held a special place in his heart. “He and Mary Anne quietly supported COB students with scholarships,” says Johnson.

While Roeder sadly passed away in 2021, his wife Mary Anne continues the couple’s shared mission. Her recent major gift has increased the funding level of the scholarship.

Mary Anne Roeder with her late husband, Ross.
Mary Anne Roeder with her late husband, Ross

“We were both passionate about education, and we both had the opportunity to get a good education,” says Mary Anne. “It’s important to help support talented Michigan Tech students that tomorrow needs.”

“The Roeders’ legacy of supporting Michigan Tech students inspires me to engage in all that Tech has to offer.” 

Nathan Sodini (engineering management and finance), Roeder Scholarship Recipient

Questions related to the Ross Roeder Endowed Scholarship may be directed to business@mtu.edu.

About the College of Business

The Michigan Tech College of Business offers undergraduate majors in accounting, business analytics, construction management, economics, engineering management, finance, management, management information systems, and marketing, as well as a general business option. Graduate degrees include the TechMBA®, a Master of Engineering Management, a Master of Science in Accounting, and a Master of Science in Applied Natural Resource Economics.


Scholarship Spotlight: Management Information Systems Alumni Scholarship

The Michigan Tech College of Business (COB) boasts more than 50 donor- and industry-sponsored scholarships reserved exclusively for new and returning business students. These awards are offered in addition to competitive, merit-, and need-based aid. For 2020-21, total scholarships and grants awarded to undergraduate students in the College of Business exceeded $4.6 million.

This month we highlight the Management Information Systems (MIS) Alumni Scholarship.

MIS Alumni Scholarship

Joseph Gherardi
Joseph Gherardi

The MIS Alumni Scholarship is an endowed scholarship created and funded by College of Business MIS graduates. Selection criteria include being an MIS major (or dual major) with a strong academic standing, a demonstrated commitment to the degree program, and professional communication skills.

One of two 2021-22 recipients of the MIS Alumni Scholarship is Joseph Gherardi. The third-year MIS student is active on campus as the assistant general manager for Sound and Lighting Services as well as a residence counselor for Summer Youth Programs. Gherardi chose MIS in part for its versatility; he says that he’s particularly fascinated by database management and security. “Working in IT for a hospital sounds like a lot of fun to me,” Gherardi says.

“Working in IT for a hospital sounds like a lot of fun to me,”

Joseph Gherardi, student

Two, one-time scholarships are awarded annually by the faculty committee; the sophomore award is valued at $1,000 and the junior-level scholarship is $2,000. Jeff Wall, associate professor of management information systems, says that Joseph’s focus and curiosity in class and involvement on campus helps him stand out. “He is the type of student every professor hopes for—he’s full of thoughtful questions and reflects deeply on complex material. Joseph has a bright future,” Wall adds. 

Management Information Systems at Michigan Tech

Pandemic-related workforce challenges really drove home how crucial information systems and technology are to industry, education, and entertainment. The Management Information Systems major at Michigan Tech helps meet the need—the 10 percent projected job demand through 2029 is much faster than average. In the College of Business, the major has already experienced incredible growth, doubling enrollment since 2012.

Responding to industry demand, recent changes to the MIS curriculum at Michigan Tech deepen the technical nature of the program. Huskies studying MIS can now specialize in cloud computing, data analytics, and machine learning.

Huskies studying MIS can now specialize in cloud computing, data analytics, and machine learning.

To support more future MTU students entering the major, alumni and friends can contribute to and grow the MIS Alumni Scholarship (please indicate fund number 4994 with your gift.) Questions related to the MIS Alumni Scholarship may be directed to business@mtu.edu.

About the College of Business

The Michigan Tech College of Business offers undergraduate majors in accounting, construction management, economics, engineering management, finance, management, management information systems, and marketing, as well as a general business option. Graduate degrees include the TechMBA®, a Master of Engineering Management, a Master of Science in Accounting, and a Master of Science in Applied Natural Resource Economics.


Innovators in Industry: Entrepreneurship, Startups, and Venture Capital

This fall, Michigan Technological University launched Innovators in Industry: a project connecting current Huskies with Tech alumni who are industry experts, leaders, and influencers.

The initial three-part series concludes at 7 p.m. (Eastern) on Monday, November 8 with a session titled, “Entrepreneurship, Startups, and Venture Capital.”

Featured alumni for the session are Kanwal Rekhi ’69, managing director of Inventus Capital Partners, John Rockwell ’79, president, CEO, and director of Accelergy Corp., Chang Park ’73, president, CEO, and founder of Universal Remote Control, Inc., and Rebecca Ufkes ’87, president of Ufkes Holdings.

Dean Johnson, dean of the College of Business, will moderate the session, which will welcome virtual and in-person attendees. Featured alumni will make short presentations with time for Q&A from the audience.

Organized by the Office of Advancement and Alumni Engagement, Innovators in Industry aims to give students direct access to industry leaders to help shape their paths. Future plans for the program include on-location student visits to industry hubs.

All Michigan Tech students, faculty, and staff are invited to join on Zoom (no advance registration required).


Kanwal Rekhi

Kanwal Rekhi is the managing director of California-based firm Inventus Capital Partners. He earned an MS in Electrical Engineering from Michigan Tech in 1969 before achieving honorary doctor of engineering status from the University in 1997. During his undergraduate years, Rekhi studied electrical engineering at IIT-Bombay.

Kanwal Rekhi jumped from engineering to business startups in 1980 by co-founding Excelan, becoming the first Silicon Valley Indo-American founder and CEO to take a venture-backed company public on the NASDAQ in 1987.

Rekhi then became a high-profile Venture Angel while co-founding and leading The Indus Entrepreneurs into the largest global mentoring network for Indian entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and around the world.

He co-invested in and founded Inventus in 2007 to institutionalize high-conviction, early-stage help to build category-defining companies. At Inventus, Rekhi has led the investments or been on the boards of Poshmark, StatX, Sierra Atlantic, Intellivision, GenWi, Espresso Logic, and has actively mentored the founders of redBus. 

He was also the first investor behind both Raju and BV as they founded and built their successful enterprises in the Bay Area.

Michigan Tech Awards, Achievements, and Involvement:

  • Melvin Calvin Award of Distinction 
  • Rekhi Innovation Challenge Founder
  • Distinguished Alumni Award 
  • Board of Control Silver Medal

“The first step is the hardest.”

Rekhi
John Rockwell

John Rockwell is the president, CEO, and director of Accelergy Corporation, producer of low-carbon synthetic transportation fuels, headquartered in Houston, Texas. After earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Michigan Tech in 1979, Rockwell was selected as a member of the US Junior National Hockey Team and the US Select Team that won the Spengler Cup. Rockwell went on to earn his MBA from the University of Minnesota in 1982.

It wasn’t until after he joined 3M’s business development wing that Rockwell discovered his talent for building companies and commercializing technology. He has spent a quarter-century funding, developing, and managing more than 20 companies across clean-tech sectors, including fuels, materials, supply chain, storage, solar, and smart-grid technologies.

Rockwell previously served as founder and managing director of Element Partners, an $800 million venture-capital and private-equity firm focused on “cleantech” investments. Prior to Element, he was a partner for nearly a decade at Advent International Corporation, now a $30 billion global private-equity firm.

Before Advent, Rockwell spent seven years at Materia Ventures Associates, investing in and managing early-stage companies focused on commercializing applications of advanced materials technologies. Before their successful mergers, he also served as CEO of Luxar Corporation, a manufacturer of CO2 lasers for the medical market, and as president of SSC, Inc., a manufacturer of high-performance ceramic-oxide materials used in superconductors, fuel cells, and catalysts. 

Michigan Tech Awards, Achievements, and Involvement:

  • Distinguished Alumni Award
  • College of Business Academy
  • College of Business External Advisory Board
  • Sports Hall of Fame

“I spend my time on the things that are important to me; family first, then business, then community.”

Rockwell
Chang Park

Chang Park is the president, CEO, and founder of Universal Remote Control, Inc., based in New York. Park came to the United States as a teenager with just $200 to his name. He earned bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and business administration from Michigan Tech in 1973 and a master’s in business administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1979. 

In his first job after graduation, Park worked for an engineering consulting firm in Philadelphia, designing and reviewing mass-transit systems. He later joined J.P. Morgan, working in international finance.

Guided by his entrepreneurial spirit, Park started a business in his sister’s garage that provided jobs for impoverished youth in Korea. He steadily expanded the organization, and has been developing and marketing remote controls and home-automation products for more than two decades.

He chairs the Chang K. Park Foundation, an organization that supports human rights, the elimination of poverty and hunger, the implementation of political reform, and economic justice. Park is also a member of the national governing board of Common Cause, a public-interest organization in Washington DC; the board at the Union Theological Seminary in New York; and Bread for the World.

Michigan Tech Awards, Achievements, and Involvement:

  • Electrical and Computer Engineering Academy
  • Commencement Speaker (2011)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy
  • CEDIA Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Society of Women Engineers

“We live in an extraordinary time that offers great opportunities.”

Park
Rebecca Ufkes

Rebecca Ufkes is the president of Ufkes Holdings. Ufkes earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan Tech in 1987 and her MBA from The Citadel in 1994. Currently residing in Sullivans Island, South Carolina, Ufkes co-founded UEC Electronics with her husband in 1995. The company began with five other employees in a warehouse. As engineers with abilities to improve design and processes, the team quickly increased their client base while applying principles of efficiency and innovation to their strategic management and growth.

By 2001, UEC’s work was being well-rooted in the commercial/industrial sector, and the partners set their sights on opportunities within the Department of Defense. Through their diligence and vision, UEC won a lucrative client providing the US Marines with a portable power system called GREENS (Ground Renewable Expeditionary Network System), which gave troops operational-power generation without the vulnerabilities of diesel dependability.

Ufkes and UEC were recognized by Inc. Magazine as being the fastest-growing manufacturer in South Carolina. She was awarded as “Champion of Change” by President Obama’s administration for creating jobs while saving resources.

Michigan Tech Awards, Achievements, and Involvement:

  • Presidential Council of Alumnae
  • Society of Women Engineers
  • Alpha Delta Alpha

About the College of Business

The Michigan Tech College of Business offers undergraduate majors in accounting, construction management, economics, engineering management, finance, management, management information systems, and marketing, as well as a general business option. Graduate degrees include the TechMBA®, a Master of Engineering Management, a Master of Science in Accounting, and a Master of Science in Applied Natural Resource Economics.


Engineering Economics: One Student’s Journey to a Grad School Scholarship

John Ruf and a classmate during a DC trip
John Ruf (left) during a DC trip for winning the iOme Challenge, a national retirement security essay competition

Like many STEM-savvy Huskies, John Ruf came to Michigan Technological University to study mechanical engineering. When he arrived on campus from the Chicago suburb of Orland Park back in 2016, Ruf’s passion for economics was untapped. A series of unexpected opportunities during his time at Tech gave Ruf the chance to dive deeper into a newly discovered field.

Ruf’s initial interest in economics began with Free to Choose, by prominent monetary economist and University of Chicago’s-own Milton Friedman, followed by John Galbraith’s The Affluent Society. Ruf says, “I began to realize that economics is a mathematical and scientific discipline, not just something people argue about; it’s an endeavor to understand how people behave, trade, and make the best for themselves in a complicated world.”

It wasn’t long after that Ruf saw a poster for an MTU Economics Club meeting, and on a whim he showed up.

During that first meeting, Ruf learned from club advisor Emanuel Oliveira, an associate professor of economics in the College of Business, that many club members had graduated, leaving a gap in leadership. Ruf stepped up.

“At the time, I had not even taken an economics course, so I really had to learn on the fly, without any coursework backing me up.”

Ruf

As club president, Ruf reinvigorated the group by hosting regular meetings, moderating discussions of current economics events, and networking with guest speakers from industry. He was building relationships as well as knowledge. “Emanuel always took the time to teach me economic concepts and to introduce me to members of the College of Business,” he says.

Between the four economics courses offered to engineering students (one required and three electives), and his curiosity and club involvement, it was a natural evolution for Ruf to add an 18-credit economics minor to his résumé.

In his junior year, he landed a cost-management engineering co-op at Oshkosh Corporation, which blended econ and engineering. He’d continue that position into his senior year. In addition, Ruf became involved in the KHOB Economic Outlook Report, a research project studying the four-county region—Keweenaw, Houghton, Ontonagon, and Baraga— surrounding Michigan Tech. “We presented to the community and attracted the interest of policymakers—that’s when I knew that studying economics and using the data-driven principles we were learning in class not only mattered, but could make a difference in the world,” he says.

Ruf (far right) meeting with US Senator Debbie Stabenow (Michigan)

Balancing Studies and Leadership

Ruf, who served as VP of finance for Blue Marble Security Enterprise on campus, is the first to admit that managing the opportunities—leadership in student organizations, his co-op, research projects, and studies in both engineering and economics—was a challenge. “I had to master time management skills very quickly.” His econ underpinning helped with that feat, too.

The Blue Marble Security team

“The comparative advantage I learned in Jenny Apriesnig’s [assistant professor of economics] class helped me realize I could spend less time on my strengths—like data visualization and coding—and focus on areas I’m not as efficient at,” says Ruf, who wound up applying what he learned in econometrics everywhere, including his Senior Design engineering project.

During what was the most competitive application cycle in more than a decade, Ruf set his sights on an economics graduate program—and not just any program. “I applied to schools as far away as Italy and also to top US schools like Duke, Clemson, and the University of Chicago.”

​​The vast research Ruf conducted while on campus, he says, prepared him for top programs. With mentorship from Associate Professor of Economics Bill Breffle, Ruff conducted an in-depth study of the impact of broomball referees on game outcomes, producing a paper in the niche field of sports economics. He also was an integral member of Dr. Apriesnig’s research team—a study of local beer brewing: “Berries & Brews: Understanding the Market and Technological Processing Opportunities of Michigan Grown Fruit in the Craft Beverage Industry.”

He helped manage and motivate the team. During the survey stage of the project, John helped develop the questions, contact Michigan brewers, and analyze the results with econometric methods.

“I have never met another student with a more genuine curiosity for answering economic questions. Anyone that meets John immediately knows of his passion for economics.”

Apriesnig

The relationships Ruf developed with College of Business professors both in class and through hands-on research projects supported his grad school application process. “My professors advised me on which schools to apply to and they helped review my submissions, making them as strong as possible. They were also always available for pep talks when I started to doubt myself.”

He did it! Profs Sorcha (left) and Apriesnig (right) help celebrate the big day with John and his fellow 2021 grads!

Ruf earned admission to a University of Chicago PhD-prep program, complete with a valuable and hard-to-earn scholarship. In fall 2021, Ruf began the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences. The economics program accepts up to 36 students on average from a 1,800 applicant pool. Ruf’s scholarship will cover two-thirds of his master’s degree.

His ultimate goal is to become an academic economist. Some of his future research focus areas include using patent and shale reservoir data to evaluate the relationship between process improvements and reservoir productivity.

“At Michigan Tech, my mentors in the College of Business inspired me to use the tools I learned in engineering and economics to really further our understanding of the 21st century economy. At UChicago, I hope to make my mentors proud and showcase the best of Tech,” Ruf concludes.


About the College of Business

The Michigan Tech College of Business offers undergraduate majors in accounting, construction management, economics, engineering management, finance, management, management information systems, and marketing, as well as a general business option. Graduate degrees include the TechMBA®, a Master of Engineering Management, a Master of Science in Accounting, and a Master of Science in Applied Natural Resource Economics.