Meet our grads

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On December 7, 2020

Missouri S&T alumni are known for doing bigger and better things after graduation, and this fall’s graduating class is no different. With commencement just around the corner, several of our new graduates reflect on their time at S&T and the hard work, accomplishments and memories they made as Miners.

Read more about these graduates and then join as we celebrate the Fall 2020 commencement virtually on Facebook at 10 a.m. CST Saturday, Dec. 19. Help us congratulate our students as they graduate from Missouri S&T, ready to take on the world. In total, degrees will be awarded to 596 undergraduate students, 149 master’s students and 42 doctoral students. In addition, 140 will earn their graduate certificates.

Innocent Niyibizi

Innocent Niyibizi of St. Louis will begin working for Google as a software (site reliability) engineer for Google Cloud.

Innocent Niyibizi of St. Louis will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

What drew you to your degree program?
I’ve always been a curious person and am always looking for answers to how things work. Specifically, I was always curious about the inner working of electronics, and would tinker around and learn as much about them as possible. The computer science program allows me to take this to the next level by giving me the skills necessary to understand the working of just about any software system.

What was your favorite class at S&T and why?
Data Structures (CS 1575) is by far my favorite class. This is due in part to the way it was structured with simple implementations to the applicability of it going into industry. Though it didn’t teach me each and every possible data structure, it taught me the right thought process to take in order to create more elegant and efficient programs. It also prepared me for simple technical interviews for software engineering positions.

What was your biggest accomplishment at S&T?
My biggest accomplishment was providing mentorship to underclassmen to encourage them to apply themselves to new things and push themselves beyond their comfort zones to really reach their goals in life and in classes.

Beyond the classroom, what extracurricular activities (internships, student organizations, etc.) were you involved with?

  • IT Help Desk (four years): Student worker
  • Multirotor Robot Design Team (three years): Head of autonomous flight and then CEO/president
  • KMNR (two years): DJ Inni
  • Google internships (three summers): Google Maps in New York City, Google Cloud in Seattle, and Google Cloud in Sunnyvale

What’s your next step? Do you know what sort of jobs or graduate work you wish to pursue in your field of study?
The next step for me is to start working in industry. I’ve received and signed an offer to return to Google fulltime in their Seattle/Kirkland offices in Washington as a software (site reliability) engineer for Google Cloud.

Use each and every resource that you have at your disposal to help you succeed in classes and extend your social circle outside of your degree program. Breaking out of your comfort zone can be difficult and scary but you can’t make an omelette without cracking a few eggs.

INNOCENT NIYIBIZI

Rudi Starek

Rudi Starek of Beaufort, Mo., started the accelerated master’s program for technical communication at S&T this fall. In January, she’ll become a full-time graduate student with a goal to graduate in December 2021.

Rudi Starek of Beaufort, Mo., will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in technical communication.

What drew you to your degree program?
I originally enrolled as an engineering student in the fall of 2017. In the fall of 2018, I took Intro to Technical Communication with Lindsey Stratton. After taking that class, I realized technical communication was the place for me. I always loved both my English and science (especially chemistry) classes in high school, so this just seemed like the best way to put my interests and talents to use.

What was your favorite class at S&T and why?
It’s so hard to pick just one! Since I started in engineering and minored in chemistry, I have several favorite classes for a few different reasons. But my all-time favorite is one I took this past semester. The English and technical communication department offered “Writing in the Sciences” and I jumped on it. Turns out, it’s a perfect combination of writing and science to keep me happy. It also taught me some valuable skills about reading and understanding scientific research.

What was your biggest accomplishment at S&T?
My biggest accomplishment at S&T has come through one of my on-campus jobs at the marketing and communications office. While there, I’ve written articles about on-campus events and interviewed students and faculty. One of the articles I wrote about the library archives was published in the Missouri S&T Magazine. The work I’ve done here are some of the pieces I’m most proud of.

Beyond the classroom, what extracurricular activities (internships, student organizations, etc.) were you involved with?

I’ve been a member of Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity since the fall of 2018.

What’s your next step? Do you know what sort of jobs or graduate work you wish to pursue in your field of study?

After I graduate with my master’s degree in technical communication, I would like to work for a science or engineering-centered company doing some form of marketing or communications.

Talk to the professors! All of the Tech Comm professors are so friendly and helpful. They’re also experts in the field and will give 110% to help you understand the topics and projects.

RUDI STAREK

Elizabeth Westhues

Elizabeth Westhues of Liberty, Mo., is looking forward to teaching math at the secondary level.

Elizabeth Westhues of Liberty, Mo., will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics with an emphasis in secondary education.

What drew you to your degree program?
I was originally drawn to S&T for engineering, but worked at a Bible camp after my freshman year. I realized I enjoy working and helping kids grow. I loved S&T, so I found a degree that challenged me and would allow me to work with kids in the future.

What was your favorite class at S&T and why?
My favorite class was either Developmental Psychology or Differential Equations. Developmental Psychology because it was so interesting learning about the development of humans and why at certain points we may do certain things. Differential Equations because it was a challenging class that I succeeded in and really enjoyed the math involved.

What was your biggest accomplishment at S&T?
My biggest accomplishment will be graduating summa cum laude and making the dean’s list every semester.

Beyond the classroom, what extracurricular activities (internships, student organizations, etc.) were you involved with?
I was involved heavily in Christian Campus Fellowship which allowed me to create so many connections and great friendships. Christian Campus Fellowship also allowed me the opportunity to be in STUCO that I wouldn’t have sought out on my own. I was also a member of SMSTA. Every summer I interned at a Bible camp.

Don’t give up, seek out your professor’s office hours if you’re struggling, and get involved!

Elizabeth Westhues

Jack Gibfried

Jack Gibfried of Monett, Mo., will begin working for Associated Electric Cooperative as a planning engineer in January 2021.

Jack Gibfried of Monett, Mo., will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering with a minor in engineering management.

What drew you to your degree program?
I have always been trying to figure out how things worked and electronics were the most fascinating things to take apart. Before college, electrical concepts were always a challenge for me; they were a good kind of challenge.

What was your favorite class at S&T and why?
My favorite class was Intro to Engineering Design, because I really enjoyed working on a good team to solve a problem using engineering.

Beyond the classroom, what extracurricular activities (internships, student organizations, etc.) were you involved with?
I had several summer internships (one engineering firm and one power company which I will be working full-time for). I have been a part of Christian Campus Fellowship throughout my college career and am an RA in the Christian Campus House. I also was a part of the Solar House Design Team, the Phi Eta Sigma honor society and Eta Kappa Nu.

Have a reason for what you do. The classes are hard, but if you have a reason, it is worth it. Also, join organizations, such as design teams. It looks really good on a resume and helps you to have a fulfilling college career.

JACK GIBFRIED

Clara Scotte

Clara Scotte of Lerberget, Sweden, is looking forward to continuing her education in graduate school.

Clara Scotte of Lerberget, Sweden, will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

What drew you to your degree program?
The breadth of the education and the post-graduation opportunities to use my degree for many different applications.

What was your favorite class at S&T and why?
Senior Design since we got to work on a real time and real life engineering project run by a group of students. I found it a very fun and rewarding experience.

What was your biggest accomplishment at S&T?
I am proud to have managed to graduate with a top 5% GPA as a student athlete. I managed to keep my GPA high while taking several 18 credit hours semesters of heavy engineering courses and playing soccer. I am also proud to have been recognized as a distinguished undergraduate research fellow in summer 2019 and to have had a co-op with a company I really loved.

Beyond the classroom, what extracurricular activities (internships, student organizations, etc.) were you involved with?
I was a varsity soccer player, did undergraduate research, was involved with my honor society, and had a co-op with ABB.

Pay attention in class, do all the assigned work thoroughly and utilize the resources available to you. There are LEAD sessions and individual tutoring. Most importantly, go talk to your professors. Get them to know your name and that you’re putting in an effort. You never know when it might come in handy.

Clara Scotte

Christopher Gu

Christopher Gu of Chesterfield, Mo., will begin working for Microsoft in March 2021 as a product manager.

Christopher Gu of Chesterfield, Mo., will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

What drew you to your degree program?
The close-knit community, credibility and value drew me to S&T’s computer science degree program.

What was your favorite class at S&T and why?
My favorite class was CS 4096: Software System Development because I was able to increase my UI/UX skills and re-design Joe’SS.

What was your biggest accomplishment at S&T?
My biggest accomplishment is creating S&T’s first (and now award-winning) a cappella group, called Miner Key, and organizing S&T’s first major hackathon, PickHacks.

Beyond the classroom, what extracurricular activities (internships, student organizations, etc.) were you involved with?
I’m a huge proponent for experiential learning and extracurricular activities, and so I spent most of my time doing those things.

Internships:

  • Union Pacific Software Engineering (2018)
  • Microsoft Product Management (2019, 2020)
  • Out in Tech Social Media (2020)

Student Organizations:

  • Miner Key A Cappella: Founder, president and music director
  • ACM Hack: Co-founder and chair
  • PickHacks: Co-director and finance lead
  • ACM: Vice president
  • SPECTRUM: Public relations

Other:

  • TAVtech: Cybersecurity fellow
  • Out for Undergrad: Campus ambassador
  • Major League Hacking: Community expert and a top 50 hacker
  • S&T computer science department: Student ambassador
  •  Microsoft: Student partner
  • Impact Labs: Sponsorship director
  • Out in Tech: Mentee

What’s your next step? Do you know what sort of jobs or graduate work you wish to pursue in your field of study?
I will start my full-time job as a product manager at Microsoft in March. In the meantime, I’m going to pursue Instagram AR filter freelancing and in the future, I plan on working on my own startup.

Prioritize experiential learning opportunities! You may think that companies and recruiters in the tech/computer science field care about your GPA a lot, but it’s honestly not as much as you think. They really look for students who seek out learning opportunities outside of the classroom.

CHRISTOPHER GU

Julia Hickman

Julia Hickman of St. Louis will join Washington University’s post-baccalaureate pre-med program. She plans to apply to medical schools for the next application cycle.

Julia Hickman of St. Louis will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering with an emphasis in biochemical engineering and a minor in mathematics.

What drew you to your degree program?
The thought of combining chemistry, biology and math.

What was your favorite class at S&T and why?
Probably one of my biology classes. I just really like biology.

What was your biggest accomplishment at S&T?
Getting a 4.0 for multiple semesters.

Beyond the classroom, what extracurricular activities (internships, student organizations, etc.) were you involved with?
I completed a co-op with Ford Motor Co. I was also involved with New Student Programs, Chi Omega, Omega Chi Epsilon (an honor society for chemical engineering students), and Phi Sigma (chapter of the National Biological Sciences Honor Society).

Study hard, go to class and pay attention, ask your professors questions and show them that you want to learn.

Julia Hickman

Cory Chafin

Cory Chafin of Willow Springs, Mo., will commission into the U.S. Space Force as a space operator.

Cory Chafin of Willow Springs, Mo., will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics with a minor in communication studies.

What drew you to your degree program?
I excelled at math above other subjects and needed to obtain a stem major to be competitive for scholarship opportunities in AFROTC and to obtain a desired career within the Air Force.

What was your favorite class at S&T and why?
Intercultural Communication. I really enjoyed the subject matter and had a great professor teaching the course. It was a nice elective to draw my focus and attention away from my more demanding math classes.

What was your biggest accomplishment at S&T?
Being the first AFROTC Cadet from Missouri S&T Detachment 442 to commission into the U.S. Space Force.

Beyond the classroom, what extracurricular activities (internships, student organizations, etc.) were you involved with?
I had a Global Strike Command internship at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and an Air Force Space Command internship at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. I was also a member of the Military Aerospace Society and Koinonia (Student Fellowship of Church of Christ). 

What’s your next step? Do you know what sort of jobs or graduate work you wish to pursue in your field of study?
After graduation from Missouri S&T I will commission into the U.S. Space Force as a space operator. I will then attend Undergraduate Space Training (UST) at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., where I will learn the fundamentals of the national security space enterprise. The course ranges anywhere from six to eight months. Upon completion of UST, I will be assigned to one of four major warfighting functions within the Space Force based on my performance.

My goal is to obtain a position in orbital warfare. In this career field I would monitor and maneuver satellites ranging from GPS, ISR, and military communication satellites. After completing UST, I will then attend a Space Warfighting Follow-on (SWF) course where I will gain more in depth knowledge concerning the major warfighting functions I have been assigned to. Upon graduation I will earn my first assignment and attend Mission Qualification Training, where I will obtain system specific training and be certified to operate my weapon system. I plan to stay in the Space Force for at least four years and while I remain on active duty work towards a master’s degree in business administration

Find an organization on campus that you can become really involved in and dedicated to. Use the connections and friendships you make through this group to help give you support when you really need it.

Cory chafin

Thomas McKanna

Thomas McKanna of Wildwood, Mo., will be joining AT&T as a software engineer in January 2021.

Thomas McKanna of Wildwood, Mo., will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

What drew you to your degree program?
I was mostly drawn to the program because of its reputation and location. I could stay relatively close to my family and also receive a solid education.

What was your favorite class at S&T and why?
My favorite class was the Computer Science capstone course, where I got to work on a software project that ended up being used by a local homeless shelter in Rolla.

What was your biggest accomplishment at S&T?
My biggest accomplishment was becoming the chair of a student organization called ACM Competition, which focuses on competitive programming.

Beyond the classroom, what extracurricular activities (internships, student organizations, etc.) were you involved with?
I interned at Mastercard in 2019 and Boeing in 2020, and both were related to software development. I have been involved with ACM Comp and the Multirotor student design team for my entire time at S&T.

Go beyond your classwork. There are so many paths in software development, and your time at S&T is the perfect opportunity to explore what you might be interested in after you graduate. Find something that you can be passionate about.

Thomas McKanna

Jacob Herbst

Jacob Herbst of St. Louis will graduate with a 4.0 GPA.

Jacob Herbst of St. Louis will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

What drew you to your degree program?
Breadth of job opportunities and hands-on science.

What was your favorite class at S&T and why?
Modeling and Analysis of Dynamic Systems. All of the physics we learned built up to this point, and it was fun to build models for physical systems and find the system response.

What was your biggest accomplishment at S&T?
Being a 4.0 GPA graduate.

Beyond the classroom, what extracurricular activities (internships, student organizations, etc.) were you involved with?
I had a research fellowship, two co-op and an internship. I also participated in multiple design teams and was a member of the Aerial Swing Dance Club and Christian Campus Fellowship.

Be diligent in everything you do. Work hard to get to where you want to be in your academics and career.

JACOB HERBST

Brooke Wiles

Brooke Wiles of Rolla, Mo., had three internship experiences while enrolled at S&T.

Brooke Wiles of Rolla, Mo., will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in ceramic engineering and a minor in mathematics.

What drew you to your degree program?
The combination of chemistry, science and engineering focuses.

What was your favorite class at S&T and why?
So many good ones! Some of my favorites were Statics, Mechanical Engineering Lab and Phase Equilibrium. I would say that my top favorite class was Photography, because we got to go on several fun field trips to take photos and practice our skills, including inside the old power plant.

What was your biggest accomplishment at S&T?
My biggest accomplishment is maintaining a 4.0 GPA at this school.

Beyond the classroom, what extracurricular activities (internships, student organizations, etc.) were you involved with?
I had one internship with Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita and two internships with Toth & Associates in Springfield. I was also involved with the Christian Campus Fellowship as a worship leader, small group leader, and the academic officer for a semester.

Study hard and find the beauty of the challenges at S&T.

BROOKE WILES

Keenan McBurney

Keenan McBurney of St. Louis plans to continue his education at S&T by completing a master’s degree in civil engineering with an emphasis in structural engineering. His goal is to one day work as a structural engineer at a design firm.

Keenan McBurney of St. Louis will graduate with bachelor’s degrees in civil and architectural engineering.

What drew you to your degree program?
I’ve always wanted to design buildings, so I knew since high school I wanted to go into architectural and civil engineering

What was your favorite class at S&T and why?
My favorite class here at S&T was my reinforced concrete design course. I really enjoyed this class, I was very engaged the entire time, and the professor I took it well teaches it very well.

What was your biggest accomplishment at S&T?
My biggest accomplishment here at S&T is finishing senior design this semester. I have put in a lot of time for this class, and it feels great to be (almost) done with the class and graduate!

Beyond the classroom, what extracurricular activities (internships, student organizations, etc.) were you involved with?
I am involved with the Christian Campus Fellowship. Additionally, I am a member of Chi Epsilon and Tau Beta Pi honor societies

Talk with older students in your department! We’re always happy to share our experiences; we’re also happy to give tips about classes, both which to take with others and who to take them with.

KEENAN MCBURNEY

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