‘A lasting impact’

MTU holds commencement for graduate students

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Graduate students file in to “Pomp & Circumstance” during Friday’s commencement ceremony at Michigan Technological University.

HOUGHTON — Graduate students in four colleges received their diplomas at Michigan Technological University’s first of two commencement ceremonies Friday night.

Starting this year, the university is splitting the graduate and undergraduate commencements into separate ceremonies. The undergraduate ceremony is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

Delivering Friday’s student address was Tinuade Ololade Folayan, who is graduating with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering.

Folayan came to Tech from Nigeria after a filtered Google search for top engineering schools.

She had planned to leave after getting her master’s degree in 2020. Instead, she decided to get a Ph.D. after starting research on the direct recycling of Lithium-ion batteries in Lei Pan’s lab in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

She quoted a Nigerian saying: “You should not only pass through your school, you should allow your school to pass through you.” Folayan measured Tech’s influence on her life by considering Tech’s core values: community, scholarship, possibilities, tenacity, accountability and leadership.

“It was the community that gave me the courage to embark on a Ph.D. program at Michigan Tech,” she said. “… The community made me a Nigerian that can say I have swum in Lake Superior, cycled the Tech trails, kayaked on Portage Lake and skied down Mont Ripley.”

At Tech, Folayan gained the confidence to do “awesome” research, mentor graduate students, give talks at conferences, win numerous awards and obtain patents.

Getting up every day in endless winters built her tenacity. And she’s stepped out of her comfort zone to lead student groups.

“Me from five years ago would never be here or never try to be a commencement speaker,” she said. “I am here today as commencement speaker not only because I earned my degree from Michigan Tech, but because in passing through Michigan Tech, I learned so much more than my degree requirement.”

After graduation, Folayan plans to start a new role as a research and development senior engineer with DuPont.

The commencement address for both ceremonies was given by Julie Fream. A Tech alumna, Fream has more than 40 years of experience in the automotive industry. She is the president and CEO of MEMA Original Equipment Suppliers, an association representing automotive suppliers.

Success requires good communication skills, and the ability to adapt to the unknown — like completing their degrees during a worldwide pandemic, Fream said.

What enables them to adapt to those changes is emotional intelligence, or EQ, which she said is just as important as IQ.

“In my current role, I interface with hundreds of people at various events and activities,” she said. “The ability to put myself in someone else’s shoes, to listen and respect their position, even though I may not agree, is pivotal – pivotal – to my ongoing success,” she said.

Fream laid out “three Gs” for students to follow after graduation: “gray,” or embracing ambiguity and life’s complexity; goals, which they should write down to sharpen their focus and increase their motivation; and giving something back.

The latter can mean supporting a social or environmental cause they’re passionate about, or creating a business aligned with their values. It could also be as small as paying for the coffee of the person in line behind them.

“Every person has the desire to be seen and heard at every opportunity,” she said. “Strive to give the person in front of you your complete attention. Let them know they matter and are appreciated. People remember how you make them feel. That is what creates a lasting impact.”


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