At Michigan Tech, the faculty know my name.
No matter which undergraduate degree they pursue in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan Tech, students value the Michigan Tech commUNITY.
“We know that the shared experience and valuing differences make us stronger,” says Audra Morse, department chair. “At Michigan Tech we believe in commUNITY, with an emphasis on unity,” adds Morse. “Community is one of the top reasons our students pursue their education at Michigan Tech. Our students, faculty and staff make this a commUNITY where students feel safe and motivated to excel in their studies.”
Kaitlyn Wehner, a junior majoring in civil engineering, says she feels comfortable talking with faculty about coursework, her future, and her campus involvement.
Support of peers within the department is awesome, too, says Wehner. “I feel at ease talking with fellow students in my classes about coursework even if I barely know them. Everyone supports each other and is always willing to help!”
Kelton Czyzio echo’s Wehner’s praise of the program’s built-in support system. Czyzio cites personal growth as a result of the many positive interactions with his classmates and professors. “There are so many unique people on campus and the mixture of these people leads to some cool experiences,” he says.
A senior majoring in civil engineering, Czyzio says he values those times when his views have been challenged by another student. “It’s a great experience, as I walk away with a different outlook on a policy, subject, law–whatever it happens to be.” Along with that, adds Czyzio, “it’s great that there’s a group of people for every incoming student to be around.”
Environmental engineering PhD student Kenny Larsen, agrees. “What I like best about Michigan Tech are the other students,” he says. “I like being part of a larger community. Students ask difficult questions and become involved in finding solutions. Students are part of the community and the experience is more than just a classroom.”
Additionally, Larsen notes “My advisor and the faculty/staff is one of the best parts of getting a degree at Michigan Tech. Getting a graduate degree is difficult and takes hard work. It is made a lot easier when you know that everyone wants to see you succeed as a student and person.”
What Dongzhao Jin–who goes by Kobe in honor of his favorite basketball player–loves best about Michigan Tech are its “friendly and patient faculty, staff and students.” Originally from China, Jin is pursuing a PhD in civil engineering. He enjoys the “sense of community” in the civil and environmental engineering department, a feeling he attributes to the “positive energy and comfortable and supportive learning environment.”
He recalls a specific time that made him feel welcome as an international student new to the U.S. “The first time I ate lunch at Memorial Union Building, and I do not know where the trash can was. I asked for help from an undergraduate student and he patiently led me to a trash can.”
Jin is now leading others by serving as a Civil and Environmental Engineering representative in Graduate Student Government. As a GSG representative, Jin shares the interests of CEE graduate students with other GSG representatives to influence policies and programs impacting graduate students. More importantly, GSG hosts professional development opportunities such as the 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, grant writing session, and fun activities, such as volleyball tournaments and hiking excursions in the Keweenaw, to provide value to the graduate student commUNITY.
Jin also values the research commUNITY his advisor Dr. Zhanping You creates for students in his research group. Jin notes “I am very happy to be a student and work with my advisor Dr. You. His humor, lifestyle, rigorous academic attitude, and profound understanding of the asphalt pavement field impact me a lot.”
In addition to a unifying spirit embodying the educational experience at Michigan Tech, students each create their own unique commUNITY experiences that support their personal educational mission.
Czyzio’s community includes participation in the Steel Bridge Team, a student team that participates in AISC Steel Design Competition. Wehner participates in the Built World Enterprise, a student organization turned classroom experience. Both groups allow students to plan, design and build their future by honing knowledge gained in their classwork through hands-on design experiences.
To participate in the AISC Steel Bridge Competition, student teams from all over the US design, construct and build a steel bridge on campus, which is then built all over again under time constraints at regional competitions and depending on the outcome of the regional competition, again at the national competition. Bridges are evaluated using criteria such as aesthetics, construction speed, lightness, stiffness, and construction economy. The Michigan Tech team takes this competition very seriously: they’ve placed among the top 15 in this national competition three times in the last three years.
Czyzio highlights he was treasurer of the team in his second year, and his favorite part of Steel Bridge is the time spent in the shop. “I love welding and the fabrication process in general.” Czyzio adds “Another great part of the steel bridge team is meeting other civil engineering students. Many of the students I do homework with are members of Steel Bridge.”
Wehner has a passion for aviation and airport planning. Through Built World Enterprise, she pursues her passion by participating in the Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP). It’s sponsored by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to prepare the next generation of aviation planning professionals. Wehner and her team took first place this past summer at the 2020 ACRP student design competition in the Airport Runway Safety/ Runway Incursion/Runway Excursions category. She is preparing and excited for the chance to win again in 2021.
To take her passion for civil engineering and aviation even further, Wehner is Secretary of the Aviation Club at Michigan Tech, a new student organization she helped establish. The Aviation Club hosts events such as drone certifications. Drones are an important tool used in the civil, environmental and construction industry. Geospatial engineers also use drones routinely in their work. Wehner’s extracurricular activities are another example of the possibilities and flexibility to pursue passions at Michigan Tech.
As President of Michigan Tech’s student chapter of the Society of African American Men, Jemel Thompson participates in extracurriculars to support his own character development and that of his classmates. The Society of African American Men promotes cultural diversity, inclusion, and awareness throughout the Michigan Tech community.
Other students, like Avery Barlett, a construction management major, find community within the beautiful Keweenaw Peninsula, where Michigan Tech calls home. The Keweenaw Peninsula is located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, surrounded by beautiful Lake Superior.
Barlett participates in extracurricular activities– snowboarding, skiing, snowmobiling, paintball club, and the Piston Bike Racers club, where he and his friends race bicycles modified with 2-cycle motors. “The Upper Peninsula offers students the ability to explore other passions, too, in addition to their studies,” he says. “This leads to some stellar experiences that friends of mine at other institutions do not have.”
Larsen adds “ I have learned how to downhill and cross country ski, as well as sail.” Larsen is an avid road biker and kayaker and he notes all of those activities are easily accessible at Michigan Tech.
Larsen believes the best part about all of these activities is that he is able to include his partner and daughter in these activities. “I often take my family hiking and rockhounding, as well as visiting the many great beaches in the area.”
Barlett knows a Michigan Tech education creates a community that extends beyond the Keweenaw. Creating friendships and networks enables him to leverage the rest of his career. “I especially value the connections our instructors have with industry,” he says. “ I appreciate their efforts to make the students aware of these opportunities and help us build our own connections, too.”
“I love the fact that companies love Michigan Tech students” he adds. “We have many internship and job opportunities and there’s a lot of choice.”
In addition to network connections sparked by faculty and staff in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, students are encouraged to check out Michigan Tech’s Career Services programming as well as attend the University’s Career Fair, offered each fall and spring semester.
Thompson likes that Michigan Tech is a “blank canvas” for your experience. “There are so many different opportunities and resources available to students. If you’re looking for any type of experience, you can find it.”
What does he like best about the curriculum? “That great mix of engineering and social sciences, combined with real-world application,” he says. “At Michigan Tech, I learned what it meant to be an engineer.”
As a first-year student pursuing a bachelor of science in environmental engineering, Thompson had the choice to study civil engineering, geospatial engineering or construction management. However, he found his passion for environmental engineering, which was cemented in a first-year environmental engineering seminar course. His passion for environmental engineering is affirmed each day and Jemel is now a third-year student considering his options of graduating and entering industry or going to graduate school.
Thompson adds “Michigan Tech truly offers a different experience, unlike anything I’ve ever heard of. The campus is in a location where it is easy to focus on your education, but still have the opportunity to have a college experience full of new things and adventure.”
“Community has a distinct meaning in the students in the Department of Civil and Environmental Department,” adds Morse. “We welcome you to be part of our commUNITY.”