Category Archives: Alumni Spotlight

Business Huskies Travel to Silicon Valley for Spring Break

Image of bicycle outside Google headquarters
This spring break (March 11-15), the School of Business and Economics (SBE) is sending five undergraduate Huskies to the hub of innovation—Silicon Valley. Sarah Anderson (accounting and finance dual major), Hannah Badger (engineering management), Jacob Mihelich (accounting and finance dual major), Kalli Hooper (engineering management and marketing dual major), and Haley Hall (engineering management and marketing dual major) applied and were accepted to the Silicon Valley Experience (SVE), an annual trip.
As part of the application process, students created a two-minute video describing how they will share what they learned with the Michigan Tech community to contribute to the on-campus entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“I had been wanting to go on this trip since my first year on campus,” says Hannah Badger, who along with other business students, will also be sharing their travels live via the School of Business and Economics’ Instagram account (follow at @mtubusiness). She adds that her parents are proud of the professional experience she’s getting. 

Aerial view of Silicon Valley
The trip offers emerging business leaders an opportunity to go inside some of the world’s largest corporations including Netflix, Google, Facebook, Ford, Byton, Hewlett Packard, Twilio, and Capella, as well as Handshake, a Michigan Tech alumni startup. The tour showcases perspectives of a day-in-the-life of successful entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, and business leaders. It is 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 network with successful Bay Area-based alumni entrepreneurs.

In total, 15 students across campus were accepted. Lodging, some food, and ground transportation to and from toured companies is provided. Students arranged and paid for their own air travel, although some limited scholarships were made available.

“The Silicon Valley Experience is Michigan Tech’s unique learning opportunity that helps students realize the formula of success = technology + business. Michigan Tech alumni currently working at companies in Silicon Valley escalate our students’ passions as entrepreneurial thinkers,” says Junhong Min, professor of marketing and SVE chaperone.

The opportunity is made possible in part through major gifts from alumni Rick Berquest, Tom Porter, and Kanwal Rekhi, and is a collaborative effort between SBE, Pavlis Honors College, the Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship, and the 14 Floors initiative.


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.


Alumni Spotlight: Tim Spehar at Therma-Tron-X, Inc.

Last year during Career Fair, Tim Spehar ’17 was an engineering management student. This year, he’s back on campus—as an alumnus and recruiter for Therma-Tron-X, Inc. (TTX), a custom industrial finishing systems manufacturer with locations in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, and Chicago, Illinois.

Photo of alumni Tim Spehar at Career Fair
Student to recruiter is an eye-opening experience, Tim Spehar ’17, says

Tim serves as a project engineer, managing the design, fabrication, installation, and startup of equipment. “Our organization is flat, so I report to the VP of Engineering, the VP of Special Projects, and our CEO.” At any given time, TTX project engineers like Tim are in charge of 10 mechanical designers during the engineering phase, up to 20 fabricators who assemble subsystems, and 10 on-site installers who erect the system for customers.

Husky Work Ethic on the Job
Once the machine is assembled, Tim’s team travels to the client facility, working multiple rotations as field engineers to start-up and test the equipment, training the customer through the entire process before handing the keys over.

“A rotation is a two-week stint where we work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., or until we decide to leave,” Tim says. “Some nights have been midnight or later to troubleshoot and stay on schedule. We fly in on a Monday (with our own planes—super sweet perk!) and work through the weekend until the following Friday.”

The rigor doesn’t phase Tim.

 “The rotations are my favorite,” he says. “While we work very tough hours, it is the most rewarding part of the project process. We get to see what was once on paper, become a physical machine. It’s our baby—it’s really cool to see it through beginning to end.”

Back in the office, Tim works with every facet of the organization to see that the project progresses on time, working with the lead designer to manage the drawing release schedule; working with the shop manager to discuss workflow; and working with accounting, shipping, and purchasing, coordinating equipment deliveries to customers. “And through all of this, we interface directly with the customer, helping them get ready for their new paint line, working with chemical coaters to discuss system capabilities and limitations.”

For Tim, getting the job done well is the number one goal—but it hasn’t come easy.

Michigan Tech’s Business Degree Prepared Me
In fact, he admits it was challenging to size the equipment for his first machine project. “But now after three machines it feels like old hat,” Tim says. Having an engineering background and project management experience through Michigan Tech’s engineering management degree has paid off. “Working on a few special projects and standardization projects in-house, I have become one of our go-to foundry systems installers and hydraulics applications engineers.”

“Having opportunities to work with and teach others is so rewarding. Some days feel like day 0, where I’m learning or teaching myself something new to solve problems quickly and creatively, but other days I find myself being pulled in to assist others on the team because I can problem solve so effectively. I really enjoy what I do. It has become a rewarding passion.”

 


Mentoring Opportunity for Entrepreneurial-Minded Students

Michigan Tech campus in the fall.
The Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship, a collaboration between the Pavlis Honors College and the School of Business and Economics, announces a mentoring opportunity for students to meet with successful Michigan Tech alumni.

During Innovation Week (Oct. 15-18), Kanwal Rekhi ‘69, along with other 14 Floors members, have generously offered to meet one-on-one with entrepreneurial-minded Huskies. Students who have an innovative technology, solution, idea, and/or prototype that they would like to get in front of an experienced entrepreneur to talk market assessment and commercialization potential, should apply for the mentoring opportunity. Limited times are available.

This initiative is part of Michigan Tech’s 14 Floors. 14 Floors is a series of events and activities designed to build momentum and enable culture change on campus. Core initiatives focus on fostering entrepreneurship and high-tech innovation within a global culture and economy. Cross-disciplinary activities led by faculty and staff focus on students and are held on and off campus. The effort is made possible through alumni support.