Category: PHC Students

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.


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.


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.


Meet Lexi Steve…

A woman sits on a stone wall overlooking a Spanish town.
Always ready for the next experience, Lexi also spent a term studying abroad in Spain.

By Dean Lahti

The Pavlis Honors College fosters and promotes our future leaders – Lexi Steve serves as an excellent example for the program.

Steve, a fifth-year mechanical engineering student, joined the Pavlis Honors College’s Honors Pathway Program during her second year at Michigan Tech. Steve said that she applied because of the travel experiences and leadership opportunities that the program had to offer.

Leadership is nothing new to Lexi. Steve received an Undergraduate Research Internship Program (URIP) award as well as a scholarship from the Dean of Students. She used her undergraduate research internship to establish a program in hydroponic research. As a member of the Green Campus Enterprise, Steve is involved in designing and building a tiny house that focuses on sustainable living in Bete Grise.

An indoor hydroponic garden
A hydroponic garden in Michigan Tech’s Sustainability Demonstration House, one of Lexi’s environmentally focused endeavors.

She said that her motivation for her endeavors at Michigan Tech comes organically. “Hardly any of these were planned,” Steve said. “I’m a bit of a social butterfly, so it’s easy for me to hear and learn about a lot of events and organizations MTU and Pavlis have to offer.” 

A group of elementary school-aged children in Peru, standing next to planters made of two liter soda bottles.
Working on a vertical gardening system with students in Peru

For her immersion experience through the Pavlis Honors College, Steve was part of a group that went to Peru. During her time in the country, she and her teammate used their training in design thinking to help the community refocus on how to communicate and support each other to the fullest. One of the projects that came out of that was a vertical gardening system that utilized old soda bottles filled with dirt and flowers at a local school mentoring program. It gave the kids something to take care of and added a bit of color to the area they were living.

She said that her volunteer experience in Peru was unique. “We formed a community there and it made me passionate about what Pavlis had to offer.”

These unique experiences through the Pavlis Honors College have allowed Steve to contribute to local and global communities. She is continuing her sustainability efforts at Michigan Tech through starting an organization called Students for Sustainability. The group has established a mini-composting project in partnership with Apple Acre Farms. This project focuses on community improvement through reducing food waste. 

A group completes an obstacle course
From classes like HON 2150 (pictured here), to exploring the world, Pavlis will help you find and build your community.

With graduation in the near future, Steve said that the networking opportunities that she has experienced through the Pavlis Honors College have prepared her for the future. “The staff at Pavlis is there to support students,” she said. “They give you the tools that you need for success.”

Steve recommends the Honors Pathway Program because it “is a great space to open up your mind and take advantage of the experiences that the program offers.”

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.


Congratulations, Pavlis Honors College class of 2020

Spring 2020 Medallion Ceremony – Pavlis Honors College at Michigan Tech

Congratulations to our graduates! Watch our virtual medallion ceremony as we celebrate Adison Cook, Brad Dahm, Becky Daniels, Samantha Dertinger, Lucinda Hall, Lianne Novak, Clara Peterson, Cameron Philo, Brenna Rosso, Emily Rutledge, Addie Saltarelli, Joshua Undlin, and Amanda Vermeer.

Transforming a Michigan Tech Program into an Honors Program

Every Michigan Tech graduate has accomplished something amazing — Michigan Tech has prepared them to create the future in their fields. So how did our Honors graduates go above and beyond?

They had once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Took action. Learned and led. Developed relationships in the Michigan Tech community and around the world. Take a look at this photo essay to see how the Pavlis Honors College’s class of 2020 created their own definitions of success.

Spring 2020 Pavlis Honors College graduates


Student Feature: Addie Saltarelli on School Greenhouses and Gardens

“When I was growing up, I could walk fifty feet out my back door and pick a fresh tomato to eat as an afternoon snack. Another fifty feet, I would find farm fresh eggs and beyond that there were blueberry bushes that our bee hives were pollinating. My family survived Michigan winters from persevering the food we grew in the garden from the summer before. I was fortunate enough to grow up watching my food grow and being a part of the system of planting, picking, and processing. I quickly realized not every kid grew up like this. …”

Sometimes the best way to teach really does involve getting your hands dirty. Read “Planting a Seed for Generations to Come: School Greenhouses and Gardens,” by Honors student Addie Saltarelli, on the Western Upper Peninsula Food System’s blog.


Meet Tessa Steenwinkel…

By Amy Karagiannakis

Within one year of undergraduate research at Michigan Tech, Tessa Steenwinkel went from assisting in Dr. Thomas Werner’s genetics lab to co-authoring his book. Tessa started at Michigan Tech in the fall of 2017. She is majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology-Biological Sciences with a minor in Pharmaceutical Chemistry. Originally from the Netherlands, Tessa has lived in the United States since she was 12 years old. Growing up with a brother who has Down Syndrome drew Tessa to science at a very young age. Her desire to explain to her peers why and how her brother was different led to a later interest in fertility and early development.

She met Dr. Werner as a high school student visiting Tech during Preview Day weekend. He opened up his genetics lab for tours, and Tessa knew then that she wanted to be a part of his research team. She followed up the campus visit with an email to Dr. Werner requesting a copy of his book and inquired as to if there was possibly an opening on his research team for the 2017-18 academic year. Tessa has been part of Dr. Werner’s research team since her first day on campus as a husky.

She started in the fall of 2017 washing lab equipment, quickly transitioned to a research assistant, and then laboratory manager. Biologists use fruit flies to study wing spots, metabolism, and aging. This is important because the same genes and major metabolic pathways in fruit flies affect cancer and other diseases in humans. Dr. Werner’s book, Drosophilids of the Midwest and Northeast, is a field guide to the drosophilid species of fruit flies in the region that provides some insight into their biology and importance. His intention was to introduce researchers, teachers, and young students to these amazing flies and the diversity of their potential use in research. That’s where Tessa’s contribution to the book comes in.

From left to right: Thomas Werner, Tessa Steenwinkel, and John Jaenike

The second version of Werner’s book was published in 2018 with an interesting new chapter. Tessa wrote a children’s bedtime story about fruit flies that is now included at the end of the book. Now, rather than just being a scientific field guide, Drosophilids of the Midwest and Northeast includes a significant outreach component that hopefully speaks to young children and gets them excited about science and nature. The book and a beautiful poster can be downloaded for free here.

Tessa became the first recipient of the Soyring Foundation Scholarship last Spring. John Soyring, Tech alumnus and Pavlis Honors College External Advisory Board member, established the new scholarship through a generous gift that awards one deserving student $1000 each year. The scholarship is available exclusively to Pavlis Honors students expressing interest in research and innovation related to water quality management, renewable energy, or solutions to prevent and cure cancer. Tessa was awarded the scholarship this past fall semester for her research in Dr. Werner’s lab.

Tessa is a Pavlis Honors student in the Research Scholars pathway. Last summer, Tessa completed her immersion experience here at Tech on a research project that focused on the evolution of color patterns in animals. Researchers study this because the genes that control the pigmentation are also some of the key players in cancer growth. The focus of Tessa’s research this past summer was to perform transgenics, where they inserted pieces of foreign DNA into fruit fly embryos in order to control those genes. This would give them real causative evidence that these genes play a role in pigmentation in fruit flies.

This past fall, Tessa became the first undergrad in Dr. Werner’s lab to start her own research. She was given the autonomy to develop and set up the project for this academic year herself. Over the last few decades, we have seen a dramatic increase in diseases such as obesity and diabetes, which have long been linked to misregulation of what is known as the metabolic mTOR pathway. Currently, Tessa is looking at four diverse fruit fly species all with their own feeding patterns and preferences and the effect of different types of nutrition on their fecundity (number of offspring) and life expectancy.

When Tessa is not hard at work in Dr. Werner’s genetics lab, you can probably find her at Mont Ripley teaching local elementary school kids to ski, or in her dorm with a book or a knitting project and some tea. Tessa also enjoys playing tennis with the Michigan Tech Tennis Club and going on walks along the Portage.


Pavlis Students Recognized at 24th Annual Student Leadership Awards

By Amy Karagiannakis

The 24th Annual Student Leadership Awards were held Friday, April 20 in the Memorial Union Ballroom. The Student Leadership Awards celebrate and reward the individual and group efforts of students involved in organizations across campus. There are awards for student employees, student organizations, programs and more. Among the awards that were presented and announced at this year’s ceremony, three of the winners and 14 of the nominees were Pavlis Honors College students.

Aaron Dean, Magann Dykema, Sarah Jo Martens, Logan McMillan, and Christine Wood were nominated for the President’s Award for Leadership. Sarah Jo Martens was presented with this prestigious undergraduate award. Pavlis Honors College also presented Martens with the Departmental Scholar Award which in turn allowed her to be considered for the Provost’s Award for Scholarship. Martens is a key member of the Pavlis community, not only by academic standards, but also for her motivation, creativity, and leadership. Martens plays flute in the Michigan Tech Huskies Pep Band, serves as President of the Blue Key Honor Society – Michigan Tech Chapter, and is very active in Michigan Tech’s theatre community.

Sarah Jo Martens (center) performing in Tech's West Side Story in 2017
Sarah Jo Martens (center) performing in Tech’s West Side Story in 2017

Logan McMillan was presented with the Percy Julian Award earlier this month at the annual Percy Julian Graduation Reception. This award is given each year to a Tech student who actively promotes diversity, social equality, and cultural competency. McMillan’s award was announced at the Student Leadership Awards.

Percy Julian Award winners from 2016, 2017 and 2018. Left to right, Neffertia Tyner, Jimmie Cannon, and Logan McMillan
Percy Julian Award winners from 2016, 2017 and 2018. Left to right, Neffertia Tyner, Jimmie Cannon, and Logan McMillan

Gi West was presented with the Rising Star of the Year Award. Several Pavlis Honors College students were nominated for Rising Star, including Maya Geiselhart, Cameron Philo, and Lexi Steve. Nominees for this award are undergraduates in their first or second year who show great potential for leadership and strive for personal development in everything they do. West will be taking over as The Alley director next year.

Gi West (front row, second from right) with Alley makerspace coaches
Gi West (front row, second from right) with Alley makerspace coaches

Pavlis Honors College students Emily Lilla and Laura Schimmel were nominated for the Vice President for Student Affairs and Advancement Award for Service. This award is designed to recognize students demonstrating leadership, engagement in community, and a commitment to service. Pavlis alum, Erin Richie was presented with the 2017 Service Award and gave the welcome address at this year’s award ceremony.

The Undergraduate Research Symposium winners were also recognized at Friday’s Award ceremony. Erinn Smith (biochemistry and molecular biology) took first place for her research, Refining the Purification Process of Histone Proteins. David Ross (biomedical engineering) placed second for his research entitled, Bioactive Polydimethylsiloxane Surface for Optimal Human Mesenchymal Stem Cell Sheet Culture. Third place was awarded to Alex Baker (civil and environmental engineering) for Multiobjective Optimization of Cost and Strength for Various Lengths of Doubly Reinforced Concrete T-beams.

Undergraduate Research Symposium 2018 at the Rosza Center for Performing Arts
Undergraduate Research Symposium 2018 at the Rosza Center for Performing Arts

The Pavlis Honors College would also like to recognize other Honors student nominees: Clara Peterson, nominated for the Exceptional Enthusiasm as a Student Leader Award and Peter Beach and Rachel Chard, both nominated for Outstanding Future Alumni. A list of all other 2018 Student Leadership Award winners can be found here.