Lake Superior State University
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Alum Success

Ben Mitchell

Ben Mitchell
Mechanical Engineering '06

Ben Mitchell grew up in a devout household in the central Upper Peninsula of Michigan where emphasis was placed on helping others. He traveled with his father to places such as Kenya and Peru on short-term medical missions. When he was in Kenya, a missionary explained that engineers have the greatest potential to influence the largest number of people. During high school, Ben participated in a youth mission trip to Tijuana. A result of the mission trips, his family decided to adopt three Vietnamese children when he was a junior.

All of these experiences had a great influence on Ben’s outlook on life. He decided to major in mechanical engineering and enrolled at Lake Superior State University. Near the end of his senior year, he decided to volunteer for the Peace Corps to help others.

His two-year commitment began in the fall of 2007 and took Ben to Burkina Faso in western Africa. He resides in the village of Tansila, population 3,000, approximately 10 km from the Mali border. His host organization is the local cotton growers union. It works cooperatively with other villages to improve and expand their production techniques. He serves as an agribusiness advisor as a part of the Small Enterprise Development program which helps create market linkages and assists with the advancement of business skills.

Distinguished Teaching Award

Kevin Shmaltz, 2001 Recipient

Engineering professor Kevin Schmaltz received Lake Superior State University's Distinguished Teaching Award during annual commencement ceremonies on May 5 at Taffy Abel Arena.

Schmaltz, a native of New Jersey who began teaching at LSSU in 1997, was selected by a committee of former recipients of the award and 12 graduating seniors with the highest grade point averages in their class. Recipients of the award are nominated by LSSU students and employees.

"He is not only an excellent teacher, he is known for his dedication and service to students," said Don McCrimmon, LSSU executive vice president and provost. "He has mastered the ability to explain often complex material and complicated concepts. He is widely respected. Those who nominated him included traditional students, older students, student athletes and his colleagues."

Schmaltz's students noted that he strives to be well prepared for class and works to improve his teaching skills. They applauded him for his availability to his students and co-workers.

His fellow faculty members noted that Schmaltz loves new ideas and responds to challenges of leadership with a team-oriented approach.

The four-year professor has made a distinct impression since arriving at LSSU from Carnegie Mellon University, where he received his doctoral degree in mechanical engineering. He quickly became chair of the department of mechanical engineering and has served as coordinator of the department's Introduction to Engineering and Senior Projects courses. He has worked to continually improve the mechanical engineering curriculum and the assessment process for engineering.

In accepting the award, Schmaltz thanked his colleagues and especially his wife Pam, an adjunct faculty member in the LSSU College of Engineering and Mathematics and faculty advisor for the Society of Women Engineers student group.

"I'm really only the second-best teacher in my family," he said.

This isn't the first time Schmaltz has been singled out for his excellence in teaching. In April 2000, he received the Michigan Association of Governing Boards award for teaching at a ceremony in Lansing.

Besides his CMU doctorate, Schmaltz holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Virginia Tech and a master's degree, also in mechanical engineering, from Tulane University. Prior to coming to LSSU, Schmaltz worked for eight years at Shell Offshore Inc., New Orleans, as a production engineer, surveillance engineer and senior facilities engineer, and for FMC Corp. and Leeds and Northrup Consulting, both in Pittsburgh.

Also during Saturday's commencement ceremonies, in which more than 700 students received degrees, Richard Barch of Ann Arbor was presented with an honorary doctorate, Sault native Tracy Haller West was honored with the Paul Ripley Young Alumna Award, and student Maja Pusara of Sarajevo, Bosnia addressed her graduating class.


Jessica Hirt

Jessica Hirt

"One of my favorite things about LSSU is its size. The classrooms, especially as you get to the upper levels, get smaller, so you not only have a chance to discuss your ideas in an honest, supportive manner, but you also get to know your professors and classmates. The upper level courses really allow you to focus on what you love, and the small class size allows you to have time to share and to discuss your ideas."

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