Missouri S&T is known as a university that prepares students for a great life after college – whether that involves getting that great first job, furthering their education in graduate school or equipping them to pursue their passions as entrepreneurs. Miners are resourceful and inventive, and they leave S&T armed with an education that will prepare them for whatever lies ahead.
On Dec. 16, just over 800 new graduates in fields as diverse as business, the humanities, engineering and science will head out into the world to find success. Below are nine examples. Read on to meet these soon-to-be Miner alumni and see where their degrees are taking them.
Six Missouri S&T’s graduates are heading into the workplace at some of America’s premiere employers.
Taylor Copeland: Getting her dream job
If Taylor Copeland could have any job in the world, she would choose to be a nuclear reactor engineer. And, thanks to the bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering she will complete this December at Missouri S&T, that is exactly what she’s going to be.
After graduation, Copeland will start work as an engineer at Exelon Generation’s Byron Generating Station in Byron, Illinois, monitoring the reactor core systems and fuel performance. She interned in a similar position with Exelon last summer. She credits S&T for giving her the skills she needs to succeed.
“S&T has given me knowledge and confidence,” Copeland says. “Every person I’ve met here has influenced me in some way.”
In her spare time, Copeland loves to paint, especially landscapes. She always uses the same towel to clean her brushes.
“That towel has a little bit of paint from every project I’ve worked on since I was 10.”
Folabomi Opakunle: Building on a strong foundation
Four internships and a co-op position gave Folabomi Opakunle a good foundation as a chemical engineer even before he completes his bachelor’s degree in that field in December.
“The quality of education that I have received here at S&T has beyond prepared me for the career that I hope to have with ExxonMobil,” Opakunle says. “My overall experience at S&T has been remarkable, and I have been able to develop both personally and professionally.”
Opakunle had his first internship before he came to S&T. He worked as a process engineer intern at a cement company called Lafarge in his home country of Nigeria. He interned at another cement company during his sophomore year at S&T and then held a co-op and two internship positions with ExxonMobil’s Baytown, Texas, refinery and olefins plant.
After graduation, he begins work as a chemical engineer at ExxonMobil’s Baytown Complex.
“The challenging course load at S&T helped me to develop a foundation that has helped me to thrive out there in industry, and I am sure it will continue to be my backbone as I progress throughout my career.”
Jesse Cureton: Shaping lives
Jesse Cureton has had four internships – two with his future employer – that allowed him to apply his classroom learning to real-world engineering. He also gained valuable experience as a member of the Solar Car Team, and by conducting research through the Opportunities for Undergraduate Research Experiences program.
“The combination of these opportunities here at S&T really helped me decide the path I want to follow professionally,” Cureton says.
After he completes his bachelor’s degree in computer engineering this December, that path will lead him to Garmin International in Olathe, Kansas. As a firmware developer in the marine division, he will build software for high-end marine electronics.
“Everyone’s lives have already been changed by electronics,” Cureton says. “I hope that with my S&T degree and the leadership skills I’ve gained here, I can be on the forefront of the next wave of electronic innovation that will shape the lives of future generations.”
Cureton gained much of those leadership skills through his work as electrical lead, chief engineer and president of the S&T Solar Car Team.
“To build our car and team from the ground up gave me so much experience, both technically and personally, that helped me gain an advantage moving into my future.”
Elizabeth Hollen: Solving problems
Elizabeth Hollen has a passion for analyzing data.
“I would love to become a data analyst or data scientist,” she says. “My work would help companies with logistics and optimization.”
Armed with a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics, she will soon put her passion to use as an electronic design and analysis engineer at Boeing in St. Louis.
“I love to solve problems,” Hollen says. “That’s why I decided to become a mathematics major. I wanted to attend a university where my major would be well respected. Missouri S&T was the obvious choice for me.”
At S&T Hollen experienced many ways a degree in mathematics could translate into a career. Last summer, she held an internship as a financial analyst with Tradebot in Kansas City. And as part of an undergraduate research project, she worked with Dr. Gayla Olbricht, an assistant professor of mathematics, on the statistical analysis of DNA Methylation data in a cervical cancer study.
Before she starts work at Boeing in January, though, she’s first helping to solve a different kind of problem.
“Through Christian Campus Fellowship here on campus, we are working with an organization called Rapha House in Cambodia,” she says. “At the beginning of January, we will travel to Cambodia on a mission trip to minister to girls who have been victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.”
Matthew Dorsey: Challenging expectations
Matthew Dorsey wants to help people, eventually as a university professor, and he says his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering is the first step in a long path to achieve that goal.
“My Missouri S&T degree has prepared me for my next steps in a lot of ways that I would not have expected when I arrived here just over four years ago,” Dorsey says. “I leave Missouri S&T confident in how I want to continue forward with my career as an engineer.”
Dorsey’s next step will be graduate school to get his Ph.D. in chemical engineering starting next fall. In the meantime, he will spend the spring working as a fermentation engineer in the Advanced Biofuels Process Demonstration Unit at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, where he will study the process development and scale-up of E. Coli fermentation.
Dorsey says his internships, a co-op position, and involvement with Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity have transformed the timid freshman into a confident graduate, but he has a hard time choosing one defining moment.
“My diverse experiences challenged the expectations I have for myself,” Dorsey says. “Ultimately it was the ability to take on a position where I assumed responsibility of other students that helped guide me to the right pathway. I really learned so much about what I want to do after I leave Missouri S&T through my work at the Burns & McDonnell Student Success Center.”
Elizabeth Sotolongo: Improving the standard of living
Elizabeth Sotolongo hopes to be a source that provides a higher standard of living to people around the world, and her petroleum engineering degree will help her do just that.
“Petroleum engineers are at the heart of all hydrocarbon production across the world, and those hydrocarbons are turned into the energy and products the world runs on,” she says. “I hope that becoming an engineer will allow me to travel the world and help those around me.”
Sotolongo says that caring faculty, leadership opportunities and camaraderie of her peers have all made her college experience a valuable one. She says the atmosphere at S&T is unique, and it’s the students that make it that way.
“My peers are never the type to sit back while others struggle,” she says. “Here everyone helps everyone, and everyone wants to learn. It’s really amazing to be at a university where everyone wants to help each other achieve their goals.”
Riley Grennan: Bridging the gap
Information science and technology graduate Riley Grennan believes that companies sometimes lack efficiency because of communications gaps between business leaders and information technology experts. He plans to bridge that gap.
“Even in our technologically advanced society, there is still plenty of room for big innovations,” he says.
Grennan chose Missouri S&T because he wanted an education that would challenge him.
“S&T provides the perfect balance between challenging courses and rewarding results,” he says. “If I could do it over again, I would still be right where I am today.”
Grennan credits a recent internship at AT&T in St. Louis for putting his leadership, communication and technical skills to the test.
“Even on the second day I was teaching managers who had 30-plus years of experience how to use different software tools to improve the company’s operation efficiency,” Grennan says.
After completing HR training, he was assigned to a team responsible for reducing expenses in the company.
“In my short time there, my team and I were able to reduce operational expenses by more than 50 percent,” Grennan says. “This life-altering experience has taught me that the workplace can be fun, teamwork is the key to success and you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.”
After graduation, Grennan will return to AT&T in Dallas as part of a three-year development program.
“I will cycle through several management positions in order to get more breadth of experience within the company.”
Li Guan: Finding a home in Rolla
Rolla, Missouri, may be a long way from Li Guan’s home city of Dalian, China. But the transfer to Missouri S&T – by way of another university – has led to even more extensive travels for Guan.
“Here I wanted to explore volunteer opportunities,” says Guan, who will earn her bachelor of science degrees in electrical engineering and computer engineering in December. So she signed up for Miner Challenge, a program that involves S&T students in short-term service-learning projects across the U.S. and in Central America.
Her first Miner Challenge trip took her to Montgomery, Alabama, in 2016, where she and other students helped construct homes for impoverished families. The next year, she was part of a team that went to Anchorage, Alaska, to construct a viewing tower and hiking trail in a wildlife refuge.
Guan originally came to the U.S. to study international business at another university in Missouri. But when a faculty member there discovered her talent for physics and suggested she study engineering, Guan transferred to Missouri S&T.
She decided on electrical and computer engineering because of her interest in integrated circuits. Over the past two years, she has also conducted research in the Electromagnetic Compatibility Laboratory on electrostatic discharge of electronic devices.
“The EMC Lab is like a big family,” she says. “We work hard, but we have fun.”
Guan was also involved in the student chapters of IEEE and Eta Kappa Nu, serving as the latter organization’s vice president last spring. She worked over the summer as a camp counselor for S&T’s Jackling Introduction to Engineering, It’s a Girl Thing, Cyber Miner and Aerospace camps.
When she’s not busy in S&T’s labs or classrooms, Guan loves the outdoors. She is a member of the backpacking and longboarding clubs on campus.
Her advice to prospective students, international or domestic, aligns with her own philosophy.
“Try as much as you can, and don’t be afraid of failing,” she says. “Make some good friends and have fun.”
Dajae Williams: Tuning in to STEM success
For Dajae Williams, no dream is too big. And no failure is insurmountable.
The graduating senior in engineering management came to S&T on a full-ride basketball scholarship. But when she was offered an internship with Anheuser-Busch, she made the tough decision to forgo her basketball scholarship for that job opportunity.
After the internship, she transferred to St. Louis Community College for a year to cut costs, but she focused on returning to S&T, convinced that the career outlook for Rolla graduates made it worthwhile.
“When I interned at Anheuser-Busch, the university’s name held so much weight with people there,” she says. “When I tell people I attend this school, they are impressed.”
Her involvement with the National Society of Black Engineers – she’s currently president of the S&T chapter – paired with her S&T education also opened doors for internships with Dot Foods, John Deere, Toyota, Apple and NASA.
“These experiences have taught me the importance of building genuine relationships – how to work on a team and accomplish things despite road blocks,” she says. “I’ve learned about persistence and to never give up. Apple turned me down twice before giving me an opportunity.
“I’ve also learned that no dream is too large,” says Williams, who also a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
Now preparing to work for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California, after graduation, Williams is also working on her next big dream: Using her passion for hip hop to encourage other minorities to pursue STEM degrees.
“I witness every day how much music influences people,” says the budding producer. “I see music as a great platform to display the benefits of being and engineer or scientist.”
Can a soon-to-be NASA engineer rap? Watch Missouri S&T engineering management graduate and commencement speaker Dajae Williams rap about the quadratic formula. Williams plans to use music to teach students math concepts and get more minorities into the STEM field after she heads to California to work for NASA.
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