Category Archives: Graduate

Nancy Byers Sprague, Director of Graduate Degree Services

Woman standing outside

I genuinely care about students and I think that comes through the way I interact with students and the way I help some students not only professionally but personally. My spouse and I have a sailboat and we bring students on board all the time. We teach them a little bit about sailing and let them have that wonderful adventure in this beautiful part of the world. And they are always invited over for dinner or we take them out to eat. We have big group meals at Thanksgiving and Easter; we invite just about everybody and we have between 30 and 60 people. We make—mostly my partner makes—13 or 14 different dishes so people don’t have to bring anything unless they really want to; desserts are always welcome! We try to build community with students and other people in the area. My life really does revolve around students. I haven’t been working in the Graduate School my entire time at Michigan Tech, which has been 41 years, but in some ways, it’s been all 41 years that my life has revolved around students. Sailing and meals have been going on for a lot of that time. 

My dad was the head of the math department here for a while. Back that many years ago, 60 years or so, they didn’t have what you would call a robust menu for students who were in the residence halls who were vegetarian. So my dad invited some of the Indian students to our home and asked them to teach him how to cook like their mothers cooked. The students wrote home for recipes, my dad started to learn how to cook Indian food, and we’ve had friendships with Indian students in my parents’ home since I was one. 

Fun is a very good term to describe my life. My life is full of fun. I think—despite all of the philosophers and all of the really deep meanings in life that people propose or discover or realize—I think the meaning of life is to have fun. And my motto is anything worth doing is worth overdoing and my very decorated office is an example of my philosophy in action. It’s a wonderful life. 


Mayra Morgan ‘19 PhD Social Sciences—Environmental and Energy Policy

One day I stopped at a grocery store in Merida, Mexico, and met a man who I would later find out was Dr. Richard Donovan of Michigan Technological University’s Sustainable Futures Institute. He was lost and needed directions. I took him where he needed to go. He asked me about my background and I told him I was completing my master’s in social anthropology while working for an NGO and teaching in a college. I told him I wanted to do my PhD in the environment and human rights someday and he said, “We should talk.” But, he was a stranger! I was just trying to help someone; it’s something I like to do—if a person or an animal needs help and I can do it, I do it.

Two or three days later I got an email from the man introducing himself. His email said, “I’m very impressed with your background. You said you wanted to do a PhD and Michigan Tech just opened this new program called environmental policy, so I would like to talk to you more about it.” I was shocked! We had a first interview and I remember he told me about a project he was working on and asked me what I thought about it. I was very honest because it was something I cared about. He said, “I’ll give you a recommendation letter.” That’s how I heard about Michigan Tech and I started my adventure here. Continue reading


Adewale Adesanya

A man sits behind a drum kit.I like making an impact. I got my BS in industrial and production engineering; as an engineer, I always wanted to do something new, something innovative. And as the fourth of six children, I looked to what my older siblings were doing to make sure what challenged them, didn’t challenge me.
After graduating, I worked in oil and gas, which is serious business in Nigeria. But I started having different feelings about environmental pollution, the global temperature increasing, the vulnerability of some highlands, and the damage being caused by conventional energy, so I felt I couldn’t continue to be a part of that anymore—I don’t want to be part of the problem in energy, I want to go to green energy—so I started reading about that and doing some certificate courses online.

My interest in renewable energy is how I hope to make an impact. I know my strengths and boundaries, and things that really concern me I try to go for. So I think that’s why I care so much about energy policy and sustainability. Perhaps another factor is my religious background. I’m a Christian and am motivated by my faith.

I came to Michigan Tech from Germany where I did my master’s in energy and environmental management; I was involved in several renewable energy projects in Scotland, Germany, Kenya, Ghana, and Uganda. I saw that Michigan Tech faculty were interested in a broader view of environmental policy and so am I.

My family and I moved to Houghton in the summer of 2018. My kids like playing in the snow and eating snow. I’m passionately into music: I play the drums (drum set and local drums), bass guitar, and I sing, too. I play in bands, with locals, and I played at Africa Night. I also attend salsa dancing class where I network with other MTU students and faculty.

Adewale is an environmental and energy policy PhD student.


Jennifer Rachels

I’m a second-semester PhD student in the Department of Social Sciences. I’m also a teaching assistant, but I’m doing more than that—spending a lot of time with students. It’s just the nature of the job experience I’ve had thus far that makes it easy for me. I really enjoy it.

I’m originally from Atlanta, Georgia, but I moved here from Honolulu, where I lived for eight years because of the Army. They sent me there and then I refused to leave. I was a 12N [an enlisted heavy equipment operator]—which in these wars means drive ‘til you hit something—and a chaplain’s assistant. I deployed to Afghanistan and spent a little bit of time in Kuwait as well.

After being in Hawai’i eight years, I was ready to continue graduate school, but they didn’t have the programs I needed. So that’s how I got here. And then here I am. Literally, here I am. Like it sort of happened that way. I applied to a few other programs before knowing about Michigan Tech. I needed a GRE score. I took the GRE and at the end they ask you, “Click the box if you want to hear from other schools.” So I heard from Michigan Tech. And I looked at it and was like, ”Why didn’t this come up in my exhaustive searches for programs? Cuz it hadn’t.” And then it went from being, ”Oh, I’ll apply here, too,” to my top choice in three weeks. And it moved fast, too. With other places I applied, there was this long process, and I had to be approved to even apply. With Tech, I applied and then I knew something about six weeks later. Like, in December I applied, May I got out of the Army, and June I moved here.

I love living here. Love it. I grew up in a combination of Atlanta and the wilderness of Georgia. And then ya know, I was in the Peace Corps as well, and then lived in Honolulu, so I’m like used to being outside doing different, interesting things. I’ve never been in a place like this. It’s not just snowy like it has snowed; no, like it snows every day. And people get outside in it [the snow]. The weather is not your enemy; it’s a huge adventure to me.

I live a blessed life. It is amazing. My grandpa couldn’t read. I’m first generation college student. It’s mind-blowing. I think most of my family has no concept of what I’m doing. “Is she lazy? We don’t know.”

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