Category: College of Sciences and Arts

Chris Wilson ’19 (Sound Design)

Chris Wilson ’19 at his home in Plymouth, Michigan. Wilson majored in sound design while at Michigan Tech and minored in music composition.

After graduation, I applied to nearly every cruise line and was hired by Norwegian Cruise Line as a lounge technician. My main task was to set up the musicians for performances in the shipboard lounges. 

The COVID-19 pandemic started affecting shipboard operations on our last cruise from Australia to French Polynesia, after which we were supposed to head to Alaska for summer. Before guests even got on board, some ports were closed to all cruise ship traffic so immediately our itinerary changed. We were no longer traveling to Samoa and no one would be allowed to get off in New Caledonia. This initial change angered some guests but the rest were understanding. Midway through a three-day journey in French Polynesia, the captain informed us that all of French Polynesia closed their ports and we were heading back to Fiji. This infuriated a lot of the guests, made some happy, and confused the rest. This would be a recurring theme.

Since the cruise had essentially been canceled, our main objective was to disembark the 2,400 passengers safely in New Zealand. A day later, New Zealand closed their ports as well. 

Our ship was bouncing around the Pacific Ocean with nowhere to go. It seemed like we were at the mercy of the sea with no one reaching out to help. No one knew how much fuel we had left and those that did were told to keep their mouths shut. Food and water are easy enough to ration, but without fuel we would have had no navigation, limited communications, no electricity, and no ventilation. 

Guests started contacting their own governments. I guess they thought their government would be able to overrule the local government’s rules and let them leave before the other guests. This didn’t happen. 

Through all this, on-shore operations worked tirelessly to convince governments to open up their ports so we could at least refuel. We got word that American Samoa would let us in to refuel, but, strictly no one was allowed off the ship. 

I cannot tell you how beautiful the island looked when we first caught sight of it. I almost cried when I saw land. It was just so surreal to finally be there after all the uncertainty. It was the first time that we had hope. 

Shoreside operations formed a very detailed plan for us. From American Samoa, we were to sail to Hawaii. Once we arrived, the guests would disembark and take chartered flights provided by NCL. Very specific procedures were in place to minimize all contact between guests and officials on land. 

After 12 days at sea and countless changes to our plans, we made it to Honolulu. We were docked for five days and disembarked all the guests. This was our main goal. Employees would be fine staying on the ship as long as there were no guests to tend to. We left Hawaii for a  six-day journey to Los Angeles. 

We closed down all the restaurants, lounges, and other guest areas in preparation for an unknown amount of time, which meant, we finally got something rarely seen on cruise ships—a break. 

When we arrived in L.A., lists were posted detailing which crew members would be going home. At this point, most countries were closed so a majority of the crew had to stay on board. Fortunately, most U.S. citizens were able to leave the ship.

The adventure that began Feb. 27 finally ended with I arrived home in Plymouth, Michigan April 6.


Cacie Clifford, (third-year bioinformatics major, Blue Key Honor Society)

My decision to come to Michigan Tech was made superficially at first—I fell in love with the area, surroundings and how the campus looked—but as I started my freshman year I was drawn in by the classes and traditions at Tech. I am a bioinformatics major, with minors in computer science, psychology, and microbiology. Bioinformatics is at the intersection of statistics, biology and computer science, which is why I chose it. It’s an up-and-coming branch of science that will give me a great foundation for my career. Not many schools offer it and I’m thankful Michigan Tech does. One of the reasons I love being a coach in the Biological Sciences Learning Center (BLC) is that I can help others and teach my favorite subject: biology.

Involvement outside the classroom comes naturally to me. In high school I was active in most of the clubs and even helped start a couple. At Tech, in addition to the BLC I’m on the Blue Key E Board, I’m a mentor in the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and I volunteer at the local animal shelter. There were so many people who helped me get to college and so many who have helped since I’ve been here. I really want to give my all to make them proud. Coming from a small community (and school) to a larger place like MTU, I want to do what I can to help others be their best. Huskies help Huskies.

Being active outside the classroom while pursuing my education helps take my mind off the hefty workload here at Tech. It helps me gain new perspectives and connect with other students and faculty. Activities outside of the classroom or lab also allow me to participate more deeply in Tech traditions, especially Winter Carnival.

As an MTU Blue Key Honor Society member, for the past two years I served as chair of Alumni and Membership Relations. Michigan Tech’s Winter Carnival connects our alumni to their alma mater. It’s such a deeply rooted tradition and we try super hard to give people new experiences and stories to tell. I connected with EchoTrek, a local humane society fundraiser in memory of Blue Key member Alec Fisher, who died in an automobile accident in November 2018. Currently we’re working on gathering alumni donations to help make a small scholarship available to our members based on their leadership and volunteering service while serving with Blue Key.

Looking beyond Michigan Tech, my goal is to earn a master’s degree and become a genetic counselor, a person who meets with  people to determine their or their children’s risk of genetic diseases and other health care issues. I’ve had this plan for some time, as my father passed away from cancer when I was nine. I want to help people be less afraid and to do what they can do to prevent diseases. 

My Blue Key involvement, and all my other activities, give me the experiences I need to be a great genetic counselor and to be a great friend to people. –Cacie Clifford, future genetic counselor #mtuhumans


Sydney Skalski ’19 (BS Sports and Fitness Management)

I didn’t plan on transforming an ambulance into a tiny home, but I love living in it. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done and I’m proud of it. The idea began when I made friends with a few “van-lifers,” who had gone to Tech and I became intrigued by the lifestyle. I liked the sustainability, minimalism, and frugality of it and especially the freedom that accompanied having a home on wheels.

I originally wanted a van for the project and looked at a variety in online market places. I came across an ambulance for sale and immediately thought, “Wow! This is luxurious. I could stand up in that, and it’s in my budget.” I looked at it the next day, took it for a test drive and soon made the decision that it was going to be my home. My goal was to be as self-sufficient as I could. That included building it pretty much by myself.

It took me all summer to complete, finishing the Sunday before the start of the fall semester. I had never built anything in my life before and I wanted everything to be just the way I wanted. My aim was to prove to myself and to those who thought I was crazy that I could make a beautiful home for myself and that I could live well in a non-traditional setting.

Google became my best friend throughout the process. I did almost everything myself, except for the foam insulation. My boyfriend taught me how to do the electrical wiring.  I learned so many useful skills like plumbing, setting up a solar system and how to use power tools.

I’ll admit that living in a portable home may not be as simple or as glamorous as people portray it to be. I heat with a woodstove so when I’m not home everything freezes, including my food. Not having a bathroom can be a little tricky at times but I have a sink and a travel toilet so I’m not fully without. I shower at the SDC and it works perfectly. Michigan Tech has been amazing and so supportive of my lifestyle. I could not have picked a better place to start my adventure.

Soon I’ll be moving to Rhinelander, Wisconsin (where I built my tiny home) and work at my summer job providing in-home care for the elderly and people with disabilities, before pursuing a graduate degree in Dietetics. I love the freedom of going wherever I get a job without question. I can be my own boss and won’t have to deal with landlords.

Without question, the coolest thing about living in an ambulance is the people I meet and their reactions to learning that I built it. To be honest, I really enjoy the shock factor. I only wish I had done it sooner.


Mayra Morgan

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.


Gabriela Shirkey

Gabriela Shirkey

I‘m really excited [about the National Science Foundation (NSF) fellowship]. The key to NSF applications is stressing how your pursuit of science and contribution to the scientific community is going to have a broader impact, particularly those not involved in your immediate research. You write a personal statement on how you build community and demonstrate leadership, as well as a research proposal, three letters of recommendation, and your transcripts. Thanks to Tech, I had STEM outreach examples from the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers’ Noche de Ciencias and prior research experience as an undergraduate in the social sciences department. With the NSF fellowship, I get three years of full funding and opportunities to have internships, so I am thinking of connecting with the Department of Energy or Argonne National Laboratories to work on biofuel research.


Sarah Calvert

Sarah Calvert

I’m a sound design major and I’m minoring in music composition. This is my third year at Tech; I transferred from a community college downstate. My grandfather is an alumnus, and I saw the visual and performing arts department and thought, “These are the careers I want to do.” I applied, I was accepted, I drove up here in the fall, I saw an apartment, signed a lease, drove through town, and drove back home. I moved in December during a snowstorm. A nine-hour drive took us 12.


Jarett McClanahan

There are going to be times where you are going to need to try to figure out how to make ends meet financially, or figure out how you are going to save time to do homework, or just take care of your own mental health and well-being. One of those things you always have to put on the back burner and it can get really exhausting. But if you remember it’s only a couple of years, it can be hard in the moment, but as long as you work through it, it will be okay. I work as a student custodian in the ME-EM. I really like my job. I work 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday. I don’t have to clean bathrooms. I just go around and vacuum rooms, wipe whiteboards off, and other stuff. Other than that, I TA a few classes and I’m the vice president of the Society of Medical Laboratory Scientists club. So when I get home, I make food, shower, go to sleep, wake up, and start it all again. I have to wake up super early, but I have weekends and nights off. And I get to listen to music and podcasts while I’m working. I also do work study for the biology department, so I work on average about 30 hours a week.

My degree has a required fifth-year practicum, if you want to take the board exam to be certified to work in a hospital. I’ll be doing my practicum in July at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in my hometown of Iron Mountain, Michigan. Then I can sit for my boards and go on to work in a hospital. For our senior capstone, we meet twice a week to prepare to take an old version of the board as the final exam. Jobs for my major after graduation typically entail working in a hospital lab, doing research, or working for a corporation in the private sector; but it’s mostly doing patient sample testing to diagnose diseases. A lot of microscopes and machines.

I remember my senior year of high school, I was looking around at different schools and there was nothing super specific about Tech that drew me in, but I liked the location (two hours from home), and I had heard that it was a really good school. A lot of my friends told me it was too expensive and too hard, which made me want to go here even more.


Tanna Windham and the Women’s Rugby Club at Michigan Tech

Five women in rugby shirts pose for a group photo.

I’m president of the Michigan Tech Women’s Rugby Club and I’m a third-year exercise science major minoring in psychology. Before I came to Michigan Tech, I participated in cross country and track, both for about seven or eight years. But at Tech, I wanted to expand my viewpoint on different sports and join a club team. I first heard about the rugby club through the Orientation Week packet given to incoming students. The team was putting on their annual cookout. Once I was able to meet the team, I instantly fell in love with the people on the team and how welcoming they were. I have officially been on the team for two years and have loved every minute of it.

Our team began in 2012 with only a small handful of girls. We would play games with Northern Michigan University’s women’s team. Once the club grew, we became part of the Great Waters Women’s Rugby Conference in 2016. We vary to having between 12 to 20 girls on our team and are always looking for more. Last year we had about 18 girls when we went down to NashBash, a rugby tournament in Nashville, bringing rugby teams from around the country.

Our biggest season is in the fall, which is when we compete against teams in our conference—Northern, and University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, LaCross, Platteville, and Stout. During both our fall and spring seasons, we practice two times a week for a total of about four hours each week. Outside of practices, our team continues to keep the family atmosphere by having team dinners before games and hanging out with each other as much as we can.

If I hadn’t joined the rugby team here at Tech, I don’t know where I would be, and I know many of the other girls would say the same thing. We all would be lost without this wonderful sport. 

Follow the Michigan Tech Women’s Rugby Club on Instagram.

#rugby #mtuwomensrugby #mturugby#ladyruggers #mtuwc2019 #mtuwc#michigantech #rugger #rugby🏉


Adam Loman

A young man in a Captain America shirt stands in a fitness center.

I chose Michigan Tech because it is close to home—I’m from Ishpeming—and the Air Force ROTC program offered something other schools didn’t. I like being close to my mom and five sisters. I came in knowing I wanted to do Air Force ROTC because I have a lot of service members in my family and I want to do something I care about. Right now I’m kind of in the dark about where I’ll go after I graduate and commission into the Air Force. It’s exciting I guess. It’s hard to say if I’ll be career (military); career is typically 20 (years), but I’m 22, so I can’t really fathom that right now. I have a four-year commitment and I’ll see what happens after that.

I run a Physical Training (PT) program five days a week to prep other cadets for Phase I and Phase II exercises (Air Force programs). Exercises, like a Phase I, prepare airmen for battlefield positions. It takes a much more capable individual to be qualified for those positions. I like training people. I like pushing people and helping them become the best versions of themselves; a lot of times, people won’t push themselves until they get a little exposure to training at that level and then they’ll just fall in love with it. Most people don’t enjoy being at that level of discomfort but some do. I like getting people to that point, and you know once they hit that point because I don’t have to check in with them and make sure they’re coming to PT in the morning because they’ll be there five minutes early; that’s my favorite thing to see—somebody that’s killing it all the way. I picked exercise science (as my major) because I was an athlete in high school and I always enjoyed physical fitness. Exercise science is really useful. I’m able to help out a ton of my friends, the cadets come to me for health programming, and I’ve made a bunch of programs for them to help them prep for different PT tests and that sort of thing.

#afrotc #mtuhumans #exercisescience #tenacity