Congratulations, graduates!

The class of 2021 had their “embrace ambiguity” skills tested during their final year. Even with this unexpected twist, our newest honors students made their mark in labs and Enterprise spaces, in bowling alleys and roller derby arenas, everywhere from Houghton to Peru. Congratulations, graduates.

Ben Neely

During his time at Tech, Ben served as vice president of Phi Kappa Tau, spent part of his research pathway studying grade estimation using dynamic anisotropy interpolation, and is graduating with a degree in mining engineering. Ben’s headed to Lexington, Kentucky after graduation, where he’ll work for RESPEC Engineering.


Brandon Howard

A mechanical engineer on the New Venture pathway, Brandon’s senior design team won first place in this year’s Design Expo, designing an N95-rated filtration system to be used with Stryker’s existing Flyte helmet and hood in order to protect surgeons against COVID-19 and other airborne viruses. Brandon also served as advertising chair for Film Board, and headed several student committees. Brandon is staying at Michigan Tech to work on a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, with a focus on sustainable design and manufacturing.


Chiarra Elkort-Wickboldt

Chiarra graduated with a degree in environmental engineering. During her community engagement pathway, she earned a Peace Corps Prep certificate, mentored in the Young Women’s Leadership Program, worked with the Canterbury House Food Pantry and served as a learning facilitator for HON 1150. After graduation, Chiarra’s going to stay at Michigan Tech for a while longer to finish an accelerated master’s degree in environmental engineering.


Deanna Springgay

Deanna Springgay’s (center-right, kneeling in a purple jersey) roller derby team

A statistics major, Deanna used her custom pathway to improve one of her favorite off-campus activities: she created a recording system for Keweenaw Roller Derby’s internal team development. She also served on the Pavlis Honors College’s undergraduate student advisory board and volunteered as a Pavlis peer mentor. After graduation, she’ll start working for Epic Software as a technical solutions engineer.


Harley Merkaj

Harley graduated with a computer science major and a mathematics minor. As part of his leadership pathway, Harley created a ticketing portal for USG. The website gives all registered student organizations on campus a way to efficiently file forms with USG. He also served on the Diversity Council, the Networking and Computing Student Association, and on the Honors Ambassador team. Harley was also nominated for exceptional leadership in student governance. Harley plans to move to California after graduation.


Joseph Van Linn

Joseph graduated with a mechanical engineering major and a Spanish minor. On his research pathway, he’s done everything from presenting his research at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition virtually in November of 2020 to fighting forest fires in Oregon to a Study Abroad in Spain to giving back to Pavlis as one of our first peer mentors. After graduation, Josephy plans to go back to Oregon for another season of firefighting, and will then go to graduate school in the Netherlands.


Kaylee Meyers

A biomedical engineering major, Goldwater Scholar, and winner of the 2019-2020 Provost’s Award, Kaylee is also a co-director and tutor for Tech Tutors (a free and virtual tutoring program developed in response to schools moving online due to COVID-19). On her research pathway, Kaylee studied ultrasound and tendon wound healing. After graduation, she’s headed to graduate school to work on translating biosensor medical research and technology to clinical settings.


Kenneth Shivers

Kenneth earned dual degrees in computer and electrical engineering. On his enhanced Enterprise pathway, Kenneth served as a project manager for the Wireless Communication Enterprise and the Michigan Tech fall Hackathon. After graduation, Kenneth’s hoping to find a job as an embedded engineer in southeast Michigan.


Jake Grund

Jake Grund (back row, third from the left)

Mechanical engineering technology major Jake Grund is one of Pavlis’ first ETS-IMPRESS graduates. He’s also a fantastic bowler, and used his pathway to teach others the game through a coaching clinic and outreach to middle and high schoolers. After graduation, Jake plans to move closer to his hometown, volunteer, and continue bowling.


Lydia Savatsky

Lydia Savatsky majored in mathematics, minored in global community development partnerships, earned a Peace Corps Prep certificate, received the Dean of Students’ Award for Service (2020-2021), and completed a community engagement pathway for her honors program. On her pathway, Lydia did data analysis with the Appalachia Service Project, and mentored a young women’s leadership program. Lydia is off to the University of Minnesota to work towards a master’s degree in business analytics.


Lexi Steve

Lexi Steve graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in Spanish. Lexi was a member of the Green Campus Enterprise, a founding member of Students for Sustainability, a resident of the Sustainability House, a University Innovation Fellow, a learning facilitator for HON 2150, and interned for Husky Innovate and IDEAhub. On her global and community engagement pathway, Lexi piloted a community project in Peru, hosting design workshops for afterschool teachers, community parents, and a local volunteer organization. What’s next for Lexi? “A few main options: convert a travel van, become a co-world renowned chef, mentor some kiddos in California, or build a greenhouse–nothing is set in stone, but the world is full of opportunities!”


Hosted by the Pavlis Honors College and the College of Engineering as an annual event, Design Expo highlights hands-on, discovery-based learning at Michigan Tech.

At Design Expo, more than 1000 students in Enterprise and Senior Design teams showcase their work and compete for awards. Many team projects are supported by industry, which allows students to gain valuable experience and direct exposure to industry-relevant problems.

Do you have an hour or so to spare? Sign up to serve as distinguished virtual judge at Michigan Tech’s upcoming 21st annual Design Expo, held virtually on Thursday, April 15, 2021.

“No experience or education in engineering is required to be a judge,” says Briana Tucker, Enterprise Program Coordinator in the Pavlis Honors College at Michigan Tech. “In fact, we welcome judges from various professions, disciplines and backgrounds to volunteer to judge at this year’s event.”

As a virtual event, 2021 Design Expo includes a digital gallery of student-created videos that showcase their project work. Judging usually takes about an hour, depending on the number of volunteers.

Sign Me Up!

Visit Michigan Tech’s Design Expo Judges and Guests page for more information and to register to judge by Wednesday, April 7, 2021.

In order to serve as a judge, please commit to the following: 

  1. Attend Design Expo between 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM on April 15, 2021 to interact virtually with assigned teams via Gatherly.
  1. Review and score assigned team videos via RocketJudge prior to the start of Design Expo, April 12-15, 2021.

Note: prior to the event, all judges and attendees will be provided resources outlining use of the Gatherly and RocketJudge platforms.

Who should judge?

  • Community members
  • Alumni interested in seeing what today’s undergraduate students are accomplishing as undergrads
  • Those looking to network with Michigan Tech faculty and students
  • Industry representatives interested in sponsoring a future project
  • Anyone with an interest in supporting our students as they engage in hands-on, discovery-based learning

Questions? 

Feel free to contact Briana Tucker, Enterprise Program Coordinator in Michigan Tech’s Pavlis Honors College, at bctucker@mtu.edu.

“We hope you will join us virtually at the 21st Annual Design Expo. Whether a judge or simply a virtual guest, your involvement in the event is greatly valued by our student teams and makes a valuable contribution to their education.” 

Briana Tucker, Enterprise Program Coordinator, Pavlis Honors College, Michigan Tech


Meet Annalisa Wiesner…

Annalisa Wiesner

“When I joined Pavlis, I was worried that I wouldn’t have time for it and that it would be too stressful. Pavlis actually made my life a lot less stressful because I learned how to manage myself and manage my work. I did things that were really interesting to me and that gave me energy and were creative and exciting and not not just schoolwork. My life felt a lot better once I started with Pavlis. ” Watch Annalisa’s commencement interview, or read more about her Pavlis experience.


Annalisa Wiesner’s “why did you become an engineer?” story is a familiar one. But through her own reflections and a little help from Pavlis Honors College, Annalisa’s personal pathway led her to become an author, an architect, a builder, and a Michigan Tech graduate in mechanical engineering with ideas on how to combine creativity, curiosity, and technical know-how into a career path custom to her interests. Her “What will you do now that you’re an engineer?” story has been shaped by her time in the Pavlis Honors College.

A young woman sitting on the base of the Michigan Tech husky statue and smiling.

“Honestly? I threw the mailer away.”

“My parents always told me that I was good at engineering, and that I was creative, and that I should look into engineering as a career.” After two years at community college exploring engineering courses, Annalisa transferred to Michigan Tech.

“Right before I started at Michigan Tech, I got the mailer about the honors college, and honestly? I threw it away without even opening it. I didn’t want to be an honors student in college. I had been an honors student for a long time [in high school], and I wanted to be done with the stress of being in honors.”

Fortunately, Annalisa had a friend in the Honors Pathway Program. A lot of the things her friend was learning in her honors classes—like personal growth, leadership skills, and incorporating school into her life instead of going to school just because it was the next expected thing to do—resonated with Annalisa.

“When I joined Pavlis, I was worried that I wouldn’t have time for it and that it would be too stressful. Pavlis actually made my life a lot less stressful because I learned how to manage myself and manage my work. And I did things that were really interesting to me and that gave me energy and were creative and exciting and not not just schoolwork. My life felt a lot better once I started with Pavlis. ”

A group of college students stands on the star decal at center field of AT&T stadium
Annalisa’s immersion experience let her see the sights in Texas, including AT&T Stadium.

Fast facts: Annalisa’s Pathway

Annalisa graduated in December 2020 with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Immersion experience: Internship with CommScope, an American global network infrastructure provider company, in their Richardson, Texas office

Honors project: writing a children’s book about her hometown of Traverse City, Michigan.

Academic enhancement: the design/build semester program at Yestermorrow Design/Build School. In the program, she joined a team that researched, designed, and built an architecturally innovative high-performance shelter.

Leadership/mentorship activity: worked in the toddler room at BHK Child Development in Houghton

[Learn more about pathway components]


A young woman laughs in the woods, wearing ear protection and brandishing a chainsaw.
Annalisa’s academic enhancement included chainsaws, customer discovery, and more.

Academics, enhanced (with chainsaws)

Reflection and Design Thinking are two key parts of the Honors Pathway Program. Try something, think about the experience, and base your next steps on what you’ve learned. Annalisa’s immersion experience, an internship, made her realize she wanted to try a self-directed creative project. So she wrote a children’s book for her honors project. After more reflection, she had an idea for an academic enhancement.

By her senior year, Annalisa knew that she wanted to find a career that got her away from a desk, where creativity and dreams and design could come together. “I had this crazy idea to be a treehouse engineer, to design and build liveable, sustainable treehouses as a career.”

Some research led to Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Vermont. Their treehouse class was full, but they did offer a 16-week, 15-credit immersive program that “takes up to 15 students from a variety of backgrounds through an architectural design process to the substantial completion of a single, high-performance, year-round structure. Students, while completing a 15-credit course load, receive instruction in design, assembly and detailing, and building performance while exploring group process, definitions of sustainability, and relevant contexts.” [Source] 

Building an knowledge base in an area that complements the focus of an honors experience? That’s an academic enhancement. After talking to her honors and in-major advisor, the registrar, and more, she had a plan: her last semester of college would be spent in Vermont. Four credits would apply to Senior Design, and the rest would form her academic enhancement for her honors pathway.

The Yestermorrow team designed a building for a customer who needed flexibility. It could be a residential space. It could be a small business space. It could be a short-term rental. And, per the customer’s request, you can keep the front tire of a bike fixed in a center spot and rotate the rest of the bike 360 degrees around that pivot point without running into anything. (And yes, Annalisa got to work on a treehouse while at Yestermorrow.)

Annalisa, wearing ear protection and a face mask, poses for the camera while wearing a shirt that reads "I got my geek on at Michigan Tech."

“My experiences are 100 percent going to impact what I do after graduation,” says Annalisa. “One hundred percent.”

“When you know how things work, you can make things that are really cool and really creative. And that’s what I want to use my degree for.”

Why Pavlis?

Annalisa’s pathway components added a lot to her resume. But Pavlis added more than bullet points on a resume. “I think the biggest benefit that I received personally from the honors college is that I learned how to reflect on my circumstances and my experiences. I’ve gone back to that idea of reflection so many times, and I write reflections now on things that don’t have anything to do with the honors college. I know how to think through my experiences better because I was asked to do that in Pavlis. I’ll go and reflect on a problem or an event, and I’ll come up with some really profound things to help me know myself better and help me to choose a direction for my life. Pavlis taught me the tools that I can use to design my life.”


Student Spotlight: Honors Pathway Program Application by Colin VanderBeek

Honors Pathway Program Application by Colin VanderBeek

“For me, it’s about success, and how I think Pavlis can be a catalyst for my journey.” Accountability. Creativity. Innovation. Learn more about why Colin is joining Pavlis Honors College at Michigan Tech.

Coming to Tech in the fall? Learn more about early admission for incoming first-year students.

Already a Tech student? Learn more about the Honors Pathway Program.


ETS-IMPRESS Scholarship for Transfer Students in Technology Majors

by Dr. Laura Kasson Fiss

Applying to MTU as a transfer student? Interested in engineering technology? Check out the ETS-IMPRESS scholarship program. Open to community college transfer students majoring in electrical engineering technology, mechanical engineering technology, mechatronics, cybersecurity, or computer network and system administration, this program requires participation in the Honors Pathway Program in the Pavlis Honors College as well as mentoring activities. It fulfills unmet need of $4,500. Other requirements are listed on the scholarship website, and the deadline for application is March 5.

I’ve had the pleasure of teaching a number of ETS-IMPRESS students in Pavlis Seminar II, and I’ve learned from them about their work designing satellites, implementing sustainable solutions, and using their industry experience to improve MTU’s curriculum. The community within ETS and Pavlis has helped hone their ambitions and support them through the challenges of college — which have intensified for all of us in the past year.

Check out ETS-IMPRESS scholar Caleb Devonta Rogers’ story, in which he describes his journey to MTU and his plans for his Honors Project, and remember to apply by March 5!

draw my honors presentation

Meet Caleb, an ETS-IMPRESS student who wants his honors project in autonomous vehicles to benefit all drivers, whether they’re in Houghton or his Hawaiian hometown.

Young man leaning against a brick wall
“When I had discovered the ETS-IMPRESS scholarship, it took very little time to understand how helpful it would be to my life both in and out of college. Not only was I able to afford to go to college, but I was also getting more out of my college experience.”
–Brad Gipson, 3rd-year CNSA major

Celebrating our fall 2020 graduates

Congratulations to our fall 2020 graduates! You’re leaders. Authors. Researchers. Global travelers. Volunteers. We’re honored that you chose to spend part of your time at Michigan Tech in the Pavlis Honors College, we’ve enjoyed watching what you’ve accomplished here, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.

Fall 2020 Medallion Ceremony Welcome

Video: A few words of welcome and congratulations to our 2020 Pavlis Honors Pathway Program graduates, from Dean Lorelle Meadows and the PHC team.


Maya Chappell

In addition to her environmental engineering major and global and community development partnerships minor, Maya volunteered with local community organizations, coordinated philanthropy efforts for her sorority, and studied abroad in Accra, Ghana.


Annalisa Wiesner

Mechanical engineering major Annalisa built her custom pathway around an internship, a children’s book, and spending a semester at a design-and-build school in Vermont (including treehouse engineering!).


Michigan Tech University, Pavlis Honors College 2020 Graduate, Tessa Steenwinkel

Tessa majored in biochemistry and molecular biology, minored in pharmaceutical chemistry, and plans to get her master’s and PhD. While an undergraduate, she worked in a genetics lab, co-authored two books, helped kids get excited about STEM, and tested samples for Michigan Tech’s COVID-19 lab.


Amanda Moya

In addition to her mechanical engineering major and certificate in global technological leadership, Amanda’s Global Leadership Pathway culminated in a trip to Ghana in 2017. Amanda spent her last semester completing her degree remotely while working full-time for Georgia-Pacific in Oregon, helping meet the new demand for toilet paper and paper towels.


SURFs open for 2021

SURF Application Workshop

Applications for 2021 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURFs) are now open. Fellowship recipients will spend the summer on an individual research project under the guidance of a Michigan Tech faculty mentor. SURFs are open to all Tech undergraduates who have at least one semester remaining after the summer term. Awards are up to $4,000.

How to apply

Applications are due by 4 p.m. on February 12, 2021. For more information on the SURF application process, watch the workshop video included on this page. To access application materials and instructions, visit the SURF webpage. If you have any questions, contact surf@mtu.edu


Meet Anderson Lind…

By Dean Lahti

Michigan Tech is a community for students who are driven to learn and succeed. Anderson Lind came to Michigan Tech with ambitious goals and has contributed to the Michigan Tech community through the Pavlis Honors College.

Lind, a third-year management student, is currently a resident advisor in the Pavlis Living and Learning Community (LLC), located in Wadsworth Hall and dedicated to about seventy first-year students in the Pavlis Honors College’s early admission program. He said that the Pavlis community has persevered through the COVID-19 pandemic due to their camaraderie and willingness to take on more than what the university requires.

Secret Santa night in the Pavlis Living and Learning Community

He joined the Pavlis Honors College during his first year at Michigan Tech, on the recommendation of one of his friends. “I wouldn’t be here, at Tech or in Pavlis, if it wasn’t for Maddie Thompson,” said Lind.

An RA with Recognition

Lind is also a decorated student. He had recently been awarded a Golden MOWII pin from the Great Lakes Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls (GLACURH) region for his involvement in the 2020 Virtual Regional Leadership Conference. His hall previously won the Residential Community of the Month award for their participation in Michigan Tech’s K-Day event in Chassell, Michigan. Lind also won the annual Exceptional Enthusiasm as a Student Leader award through Michigan Tech. 

“My favorite thing about the LLC is having a space where people can talk to each other, build each other up, and create a community that’s really their own.”

Students in matching jerseys hold broomball sticks in front of a food trailer
Anderson Lind (second from left) is a third-year management student, resident assistant, and broomball pro

Research and Honors Project

In addition to serving as an RA, Lind serves as a research intern with the College of Business, where he is currently researching how to improve college and community engagement with high school students, with support from local organizations such as the Portage Health Foundation and the Copper Country Intermediate School District. Lind said, “Our research team has been speaking with these organizations to see what resources in the community exist for college education and where there could be gaps.”

Honors Project Video: Anderson Lind

See Anderson’s honors project proposal

Why Pavlis?

When asked why students should join the Pavlis Honors College, he said, “Pavlis is hard work, actively seeking your dreams, and finding ways to give back to your community. If any of that appeals to you, then you know you’re on the right track.” 

“We did a lot of reflecting on values in HON2150, and it made me realize that most of my values are around community and building other people up. [Pavlis] made me change my career goals. I came to Tech planning to be an engineer, to make money, and experience life after my 9 to 5 was over. Reflecting made me realize that life is short, and I want to make sure I’m making friends, helping people, and being someone that other people can turn to when they’re struggling. It’s shaped me fundamentally. I don’t mind where I end up, as long as I’ve done good things recklessly and spread joy that way.”

For more information about the Honors Pathway Program, visit www.mtu.edu/honors/pathway.


This piece is part of our student profile series by Dean Lahti, guest writer and current Michigan Tech student.


Darnishia Slade appointed to Michigan Community Service Commission

Darnishia L. Slade has been appointed to a three-year term with the Michigan Community Service Commission, representing fellow experts in the delivery of human, educational, environmental, or public safety services to communities and individuals.

The Michigan Community Service Commission strives to build a culture of service by providing vision and resources to strengthen communities through volunteerism. The Commission develops a three-year comprehensive national and community service plan for the state that shall be updated annually, oversees and submits the state’s applications to the Corporation for National and Community Service and other public and private funding sources, establishes policies and procedures for the use of federal funds, and develops initiatives to promote community service in coordination with existing programs.

Dar Slade

“I am honored to receive this appointment from Governor Whitmer!” said Slade. “I am ready to roll my sleeves up and do the work of continuing to make Michigan one of the nation’s leading state service commissions and a model state for volunteerism. I believe that through volunteerism lives are enriched, cultural understanding is exchanged, and lasting partnerships are established.”

Lorelle Meadows, dean of the Pavlis Honors College, says “Dar is an excellent individual to serve the State of Michigan in this way.  She has the depth of knowledge, experience, and passion to make an impact on community service outcomes so important to our state at this time.”

Slade is an instructor, advisor, and the manager of global engagement programs for Pavlis Honors College. She is a member of the IDEAhub Leadership Team and an organization advisor for the Society of Intellectual Sisters and Canterbury House.