Becoming Husky: Nature or Nurture?

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette More than 1,000 Michigan Technological University students received their degrees at Saturday’s commencement ceremony at the Student Development Complex.

HOUGHTON — Michigan Technological University was a rigorous environment, graduating students said Saturday.

But they would do it all over again.

One of more than 1,000 students who walked across the stage during Saturday’s ceremony was student commencement speaker Monica Brechting of Grand Rapids, who is the 12th member of her family to attend Tech.

The mechanical engineering major was active on campus, being part of St. Albert the Great University Parish, playing piccolo in the Huskies Pep Band, was team lead of Robotics System Enterprise and president of Tech’s chapter of Silver Swings, a national community service organization.

Brechting’s speech, “What Makes a Husky?” took fellow graduates through a host of common experiences: the first K-Day, “when you signed up for 15 student orgs and joined none of them,” realizing pasties taste better with gravy than ketchup (“a hill I’m willing to die on,” she said), all-nighters before exam, bonfires, or even switching majors.

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Monica Brechting, student speaker at Michigan Technological University’s graduation ceremony, speaks about her experiences.

“Are average people forged into Huskies through all these experiences that we’ve shared, or or maybe we were just born crazy smart,” she said. “Maybe the world has been calling for us to be Huskies since birth, just waiting for us to holler back.”

Rebecca Spencer, a mechanical engineering major, got her first exposure to Tech through the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP), which brought students up for the Summer Youth Program. Upon graduating, she also got a scholarship from DAPCEP to come to Tech.

“This is an engineering school,” she said. “It’s more about academics than anything. I knew coming here I would get the most for my degree education-wise.”

Her time at Tech has given her relationships with friends, faculty and staff.

“I don’t feel like I’m a number here,” she said. “I think that’s the most important thing, because that’s a better way to excel in life, because you’re more connected to your university.”

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette In his commencement address at Michigan Technological University’s graduation ceremony, Col. Gregory Johnson said a Tech pedigree will give the graduates an advantage in the real world. Seen behind Johnson are MTU faculty and administration, including MTU President Richard Koubek, sitting to the right of Johnson.

Her biggest memory was being an Excelling the Student Experience of Learning (ExSEL) mentor for incoming freshmen.

As for advice to students coming in, she told them, “Work hard.”

“Don’t let one bad grade stop you,” she said. “You can always improve.”

Max Sexauer, a computing networking and systems administration major, came to Tech after a high school teacher recommended he check out the technology program. His love for the dining hall food has faded, but the love of Tech stayed.

Tech taught him how to work with other people, whether an Enterprise team or in student government, where he served as undergraduate president.

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette A Michigan Technological University student wears a “Game of Thrones”-inspired graduation cap Saturday.

“I liked learning how to work with people that you need to get things from, and they need to get things to you and making sure everybody’s happy at the end,” he said.

His fondest memories aren’t of coursework, though it did contribute to his most memorable moment.

In the space of one week last year, he had three large homework assignments, student government elections and personal stuff back home.

“It made for an incredibly stressful week, and then the next week was great,” said Sexauer, who will be working for computer hard drive manufacturer Western Digital as an engineer. “That’s how I would describe my time at Tech. Stressful, but rewarding.”

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Army Spc. Scott Stockreef, right, points to the Jumbotron showing his reunion with brother and new Michigan Technological University graduate William Stockreef during Saturday’s ceremony at the Student Development Complex.