With three semesters of their college careers affected by COVID-19, our spring graduating class has had its share of unique challenges. But overcoming obstacles and finding pathways to success are what Missouri S&T alumni are known for.
With commencement just around the corner, nine of our new graduates reflect on their time at S&T and the memories they’ve made during their journey.
Stacy Youngers of Kansas City, Mo., chose S&T because it had a more “personal and academically focused atmosphere” than some of the other colleges she looked at.
“I also liked the engineering management program more than the industrial engineering programs I saw at other schools,” she says. “Engineering management offered me a wider range of career options and had more of a business focus. S&T was also just the right distance from home and overall felt like a great fit for me!”
Youngers credits receiving the highly competitive Chancellor’s Scholarship as well as departmental scholarships for providing the financial support that’s enabled her to pursue her dreams of becoming an engineer, an action that she hopes she can one day “pay forward.”
Now, four years after starting at S&T, she will graduate with her bachelor’s degree in engineering management, internships at both UPS and Mastercard and the experience of working as a summer camp counselor at S&T.
Youngers says she loves working as a PRO leader within the new student programs office at S&T, which runs Advising and Registration days in the spring and Opening Week in the fall.
“I love talking to the incoming students and their families and helping calm some of their anxieties about starting college,” she says. “ I love the administrative side of things as well, getting to help plan and organize programs that will make a difference. Our team is also very much like a family. I know that the friendships and memories I’ve made with my fellow PRO leaders will last me a lifetime.”
She also currently serves as president of the American Society for Engineering Management, the engineering management professional society on campus, and social coordinator for Tau Beta Pi, which is the engineering honor society.
After graduating, Youngers will join Mastercard as a customer technical services analyst.
“ I fell in love with the company culture and values during my virtual internship with them last summer and am so excited to start my career there,” she adds.
Her advice to other students?
“Don’t give up, ask for help early, and get involved,” she says. “Getting involved is especially important because it helps you build a support network and really makes the university feel like home. There is something for everyone here at S&T, you just have to find it!”
Yitian Luo grew up in Chengdu, the capital of China’s southwest Sichuan Province, and transferred to S&T in fall 2017 after completing her sophomore year of college.
“I had always wanted to study in the United States since I was young,” says Luo, who launched her own clothing business during her senior year at S&T. Luo, who earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2019, will receive her master’s degree in information science and technology this month.
She says one of the things she loves most about the campus is its friendly atmosphere.
“People here – no matter if they are classmates or professors – are all kind and friendly,” she says. “They gave a lot of help to me when I first came here, with no family and friends. It was absolutely a warm welcome.”
As a graduate student, Luo focused on how artificial intelligence could be applied in the fashion industry as well as how it could help with managing emergencies, like COVID-19.
Outside of class, Luo says she enjoyed participating in the many campus events and traditions, from the St. Pat’s parade to the annual Celebration of Nations activities, with her friends.
“Celebration of Nations was amazing to me because I could experience cultures from different countries,” she adds.
After she graduates in May, Luo plans to return to China and work as a marketing analyst in the fashion industry. She encourages other international students to find co-op or internship opportunities while they are students.
“Do not use your vacation to visit your home country, although you really miss your friends and family,” she says. “Also, if you ever have questions, don’t be afraid to reach out to your professors and advisors in the department. They are nice and would like to listen and give useful advice.”
When Elaine Kratz of Tucson, Ariz., graduates in May with her master’s degree in engineering management, she will complete a journey she began in 2009, when she took her first post-graduate course.
“When I started taking graduate courses, I was taking them out of curiosity,” says Kratz, who earned her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in 2007. “My undergraduate program was very demanding and didn’t have much room for exploring the world outside of mechanical engineering.”
After graduation, Kratz worked as a corrosion engineer for the Naval Research Laboratory before serving as an engineer in the Naval Sea Systems Command. Her career path would eventually take her to B/E Aerospace, Honeywell, SanDanzer Refrigeration Inc. and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before she joined Raytheon in 2015 as a senior systems engineer and program manager.
Currently a captain in the Army Reserves, Kratz says she chose to complete her master’s degree online with S&T because of the university’s connection with the Army’s Engineering Captain’s Career Course.
Her favorite course?
“Advanced Personnel Management –it was like peeking behind the HR curtain, and a great change from my typical project management type classes,” she says.
She encourages other prospective graduate students to experiment with their course load and work load.
Mikel Serralde grew up in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, before moving to Plano, Texas in 2010. While attending a STEM-focused high school there, Serralde was encouraged to include Missouri S&T in his college search.
“I ended up being very interested in design teams on campus and I was also offered some great scholarships,” he says. All in all, I chose to come to Rolla because of the design teams, the scholarships, and the different geography.”
Serralde will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering with a focus on digital signal processing. He says the scholarships he’s received has allowed him to focus on his education “first and foremost.”
“The school offers an education that challenges students and encourages them to become better engineers (or whatever major),” he adds.
Today Serralde serves as president of the Formula Electric Student Design Team, an experience he says has “taught me a lot and prepared me for my career.”
His favorite place on campus is the library.
“It is a nice building and has great study rooms,” he says. “I can always meet there to study with friends.”
After he graduates, Serralde hopes to work in the audio or music technology industry to develop audio hardware or musical instruments. He also plans to further his education by attending graduate school in the near future.
Ben Kilper of St. Louis, will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in history, a minor in psychology and his certification to teach social studies at the secondary education level. After he graduates in May, he plans to return to his hometown to teach at St. John Vianney High School in Kirkwood, Mo., where he attended high school.
Although Kilper began his first year at S&T as a civil engineering major, after a few courses he realized that wasn’t the right career path for him. He credits Phyllis Blackwell, an academic advisor in the teacher education department, for providing guidance about the education program.
“I decided to stay at S&T for my degree because I am passionate about teaching,” he says. “I love my classes and how interactive my teachers are with me if I need help in their class.”
Kilper says scholarships have made it easier for him to attend S&T.
“As a teacher, I won’t be making as much as my engineering counterparts,” he says. “Having this financial support means I can worry about money less and more on my academics and college experience.”
Outside of the classroom, Kilper has been a member of the Ultimate Frisbee team.
“My best experience was having a frisbee tournament in Rolla,” he says. “ I got to play on fields I am familiar with and my girlfriend who lives in St. Louis was able to come and watch me play.”
If there was one word to describe S&T, Kilper says it would be “welcoming.”
His favorite place on campus?
“The library,” he adds.
Justin Hackmann of Wentzville, Mo., a senior in civil engineering, will be the first in his family to earn a college degree when he graduates in May 2021.
“I decided to attend S&T because it was the best school in the Midwest for engineering and offered the most options,” he says. “I love how S&T challenges me and continues to push my limits to make me grow as an engineer. S&T will challenge you more than just academically, it will challenge you to grow as a person as well.”
While a student, he spent a semester on a project engineering co-op for Ameren Missouri.
“My scholarships have allowed me to pursue my career without having fear of financial issues coming and stopping me, taking another piece of stress off of my shoulders,” he says.
Hackmann has been active in many student music groups on campus, including serving as drum major of the university’s marching band, and performing in the Wind Symphony and Orchestra.
His favorite place on campus? Butler-Carlton Hall.
“I like sitting in the atrium and doing homework,” he adds.
After he graduates in May, Hackmann will start working as a structural engineer with Burns and McDonnell.
When senior Anne Simpson of St. Louis graduates in May, she’ll be leaving with a bachelor’s degree in information science and technology and minors in German, technical communication, enterprise resource planning, and business. She also will have completed three internships, a research experience and a wealth of experience as a student athlete.
“My brother attended this school and I saw how many opportunities he received and networking opportunities at a great price so I wanted the same thing,” says Simpson, a member of the track and field, and cross country teams.
She credits scholarships with allowing her to focus on her studies instead of “making money to afford school.”
Simpson says what she loves most about the campus is the people.
“All of the people on campus are very determined to be successful,” she says. “My favorite campus experiences are because of the leadership opportunities and ability to meet so many different, driven people.”
In addition to being a student athlete, Simpson has served as a student ambassador, Student Success Center coach, and a member of Chi Omega, Christian Campus Fellowship, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Association for Computing Machinery Hack.
She is also currently working on her master’s degree in information science and technology, with a graduate certificate in business analytics and data science, which she plans to complete this summer.
After she graduates, she plans to work as a software development engineer at Mastercard. But first, she’ll travel to Ethiopia for a month to volunteer with a nonprofit called the Selamta Family Project.
Growing up in Brighton, Ill., Kaeden Kessinger knew he wanted to study engineering, but wasn’t sure what field. He says he chose S&T because of its reputation, distance from his hometown and value.
“I knew that I could get a good job, with the education I would receive,” says Kessinger, who will graduate in May with bachelor’s degrees in both chemical engineering and engineering management. “It’s great to think that my choice has paid off!”
Kessinger served in Student Council for four years at S&T, serving as president during the 2019-20 academic year.
“My best experience was when I served as student body president,” he says. “I enjoyed solving problems across campus for all of the students and working with some great individuals on campus. I learned so much from the staff and faculty I worked with, even if we had different viewpoints. I feel very lucky to have had such a great team around me and to have had the chance to advocate for our students.”
Before becoming student body president, Kessinger worked as a resident assistant in Thomas Jefferson Hall and the Residential Commons. While he has received a few awards, he says one that he’s very proud of was a superlative during that time called “Most Likely to Brighten Your Day.”
“Looking back, I’m super proud of the connections I’ve made and how I’ve grown as a person,” he says. “My biggest accomplishment is making someone’s day better, whether it’s by cheering someone up today or working to eliminate obstacles for them in the future. I came to S&T very academically driven, but I know that I leave much more well-rounded.”
Kessinger says he loves the community at S&T.
Kessinger says that the scholarships he received allowed him to focus on his education and not stress about debt that he may have when he graduates. Although he currently works as a student ambassador on campus, he has completed two internships, one at Mississippi Lime Company and the other at Prince International Corp. This last year, he completed a co-op with ICL Group.
“I have been able to enjoy my time at S&T more, because I wasn’t worried about money all the time,” he says.
After graduating, Kessinger will start his career as a manufacturing engineer in the Baby Care Division at Procter & Gamble’s Paper Products Plant near Cape Girardeau. The facility is one of the largest Procter & Gamble plants in the U.S., and he’ll work specifically on the company’s Pampers and Luvs brands.
His advice to students?
“First, it’s a lot easier to stay ahead than catch up – so stay on top of your workload,” he says. “Next, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The hardest thing is going through college alone. Make friends and study together; have fun together. I am a better student (and person) when I have my friends and family there to support me!”
When Lisa Peterson of St. Louis graduates from S&T, she’ll be leaving with a bachelor’s degree in history, a minor in psychology and her certification to teach social studies at the secondary education level.
A first-generation college student, Peterson came to S&T because of the opportunity to earn a dual degree. Currently a senior, she credits the Max Weiner Scholarship with providing financial assistance that has helped her to pursue her education.
“I want a history degree and the certification to teach. It is fantastic that S&T offers that opportunity.”
As president of S-MSTA and member of the National Society of Leadership and Success, Peterson says the university offers many opportunities to students. She enjoys studying on the library’s quiet floors.
“I love that S&T has a superb history faculty that engages and advances my learning experience,” she says. “I plan to graduate and share my love of history by teaching students.”