Category: Scholarships

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.

Scholarship Spotlight: Global Elite Bridge 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 Global Elite Bridge Scholarship.

For donor Peipei Zhao ’09, giving back to his alma mater was an easy decision, particularly when it helps students make connections. The Global Elite Bridge Scholarship, founded in 2020, is allocated for both undergraduates and graduate COB students with a global or international focus. Both domestic and international students are eligible for this renewable award. The inaugural recipient was Asriel Haines (management major with entrepreneurship concentration), who says it was an important factor in making MTU possible.
Asriel Haines
“Because of the Global Elite Bridge Scholarship I’ve been able to focus more on what I want to do for myself and my career. I’m going to be able to go far—not only because I want to—but because of all the support I’m getting,” says Haines.

The MTU esports competitor is also looking forward to taking on the broomball rink and the slopes of Mont Ripley.

Undergraduate recipients of the Global Elite Bridge Scholarship must earn a minimum 2.75 GPA, while graduate recipients must earn at least a 3.0. Questions related to the Global Elite Bridge 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.


College of Business Student Selected as Gates Scholar

Jaylen Body is no stranger to scholarship applications. The Warren, Michigan, native who attended Chandler Park Academy was a finalist in both the Impact Scholarship and Leading Scholar events on campus earlier this year.

Michigan Tech student Jaylen Body

The two competitive awards served as a warm up for Body who would later learn about the Gates Scholarship from his college counselor.

Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates Scholarship is intended for minority and low-income, college-bound students. Body was one of 300 students to earn a full-ride award out of an applicant pool of nearly 35,000 across the nation. The three-phase scholarship process began back in summer 2020, culminating in a five-day virtual conference in spring 2021.

“The Gates Scholarship is a foundation for my future; putting ‘Gates Scholar’ on my résumé makes me stand out as a driven and determined person, and that makes me feel incredibly proud,” Body says. Michigan Tech student Jaylen Body

Jaylen began his college search early. By the 10th grade he was sold on Tech’s business program and already connected to many faculty and staff on campus. “I knew I wanted to go to a college with an atmosphere that was not only academically innovative but also made me feel comfortable for being different.”

Browsing YouTube, he found “Jack’s Vlogs.” The quick-hitting, student-produced videos gave him a preview of Tech’s atmosphere. “Those videos really made me fall in love with campus,” he adds.

For Body, who is pursuing a dual major in accounting and management, his goals on campus go beyond simply earning a degree. “I truly hope to make as many contributions as I can to help foster the growth of Michigan Tech. It’s my second home and I want it to be the best it can possibly be.”

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.

Chow Recipient of MIS Alumni Scholarship

Congratulations to Fiona Chow, recipient of the Management Information Systems (MIS) Alumni Scholarship. 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.

“Being honored with this scholarship makes my final semesters at MTU much more meaningful. With the support of this scholarship and our alumni, I feel confident in my ability to fully focus on academics while giving back and making an impact through campus involvement,” Chow says.
Fiona Chow
The fourth-year MIS student, who will graduate in December 2022, is interning this summer as a data engineer with Polaris, Inc. Chow is researching and integrating a new weather data source into the powersports leader’s analytics database and creating an application to better understand supplier capacity information, while learning new programming languages including SQL and R.

Jeff Wall, associate professor of MIS, says that Chow is ambitious, focused, and driven—with a bright future ahead. Her career interests include data analytics, data science, brand management, entrepreneurship, and research and development. She says that she is a curious person who is interested in learning about ways to bring people and solutions together through technology.
Fiona Chow
On-campus, Chow serves as project manager of SENSE Enterprise (Strategic Education Through Naval Systems Experiences). She is responsible for overall Enterprise strategy, leadership, direction, and growth. She is also an Orientation Team Leader, a founding member of the MTU Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE) chapter, a College of Business student ambassador, IRHC broomball player, and participant in swing club lessons and Ridge Roamer climbs.

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.

Outstanding Man in Business 2020-21

Fourth-year management information systems (MIS) major Chris Arbuckle is the 2020-21 Outstanding Man in Business.

photo of Chris Arbuckle

The Lake Orion, Michigan, native serves as vice president of the Organization for Information Systems, treasurer of Phi Kappa Tau, vice president of administration for the Interfraternity Council, a member of the Order of Omega Honor Society, and was an Orientation Team Leader. He says that being involved in these campus organizations has given him opportunities to work with others, developing the leadership skills required for the future.

As an MIS student, Arbuckle has applied his classroom knowledge into a company website, consulted for a local business, and created a database for his fraternity to better manage membership information.

One of Arbuckle’s MIS professors, Jeff Wall, had this to say: “Chris is an excellent student and an active participant in the campus community. He demonstrates vision and carefully plans his path toward the future. He’s developing into an amazing leader.”

This summer Arbuckle is interning with 3M in the Transformation, Technologies, and Services program where he’ll be working with cloud computing migration. Upon graduating next spring, he plans to pursue a career in business analytics, using his skills and experiences to find technical solutions for business needs.

Outside of his academic and career experiences, Arbuckle enjoys snowboarding, mountain biking, and being outdoors.

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.