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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

Deborah Stai, 2003 Recipient

Biology professor Deborah Stai received Lake Superior State University's Distinguished Teaching Award during annual commencement ceremonies on May 3, 2003 at Taffy Abel Arena.

A biology professor known for her abilities to challenge and instill confidence in her students is the recipient of Lake Superior State University's Distinguished Teaching Award.

Deborah Stai Ph.D., professor of biology, received the award during commencement ceremonies on May 3 at LSSU. She was nominated by students and employees and then chosen from a group of nominees by a committee of the five most recent recipients of the award and graduating students with the highest grade point average in their colleges.

Stai, hired at LSSU in 1991, has a background in microbiology and medical technology. She holds a doctoral degree in clinical microbiology from Union Institute and a master's degree in biology from Mankato State University. She earned bachelor's degrees in biology and medical technology from Mankato, also.

Before coming to LSSU, she was clinical instructor of microbiology and immunology at University of Wisconsin's School of Veterinary Medicine. She also taught for six years as an associate professor in the Clinical Laboratory Sciences Department at Ferris State University and worked for several years at Arkansas College and Mercy Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She has worked as a medical technologist and enzyme research technologist.

"One of the hallmarks of an LSSU education is personal attention and the relationships that are built through the years between teachers and their students," said Bruce Harger Ph.D., vice president for academic affairs and provost. "Dr. Stai exemplifies that and is able to convey her knowledge with a personal style and delivery that nurtures the student's desire to learn and explore…All recipients of the Distinguished Teaching Award believe in the power of ideas and in the power of the individual. They truly make a difference in the lives of their students."

This isn't the first time Stai has been nominated for the award. She has been nominated several times in the past at LSSU and was also nominated in 1988 at Ferris State.

"Dr. Stai is always challenging us to be our best and has more confidence in students than we do in ourselves," said one student nominator. "Whenever I think something can't be done, she gets behind me, pushes a little, and before I know it, I've accomplished something that I didn't think I could."

Another student said alumni have credited Stai for putting them ahead of their graduate school classmates by the preparation she provided for them.

"Dr. Stai not only provides students with a vast amount of information, but she always presents the most current research, which is not an easy task in this rapidly changing field. She also presents additional information specific to a student's particular career track," said another student.

Other students said Stai's enthusiasm and interest in her profession and fields of study show in her presentation.

"She makes learning fun and always tries to keep students interested by choosing different teaching methods, such as playing "Jeopardy" as a review before tests."

"Dr. Stai and her colleagues represent the heart of our university," said LSSU President Betty J. Youngblood Ph.D. "They are fully committed to our students."

The announcement of the Distinguished Teaching Award was one of the highlights of the 2003 commencement ceremony, which saw more than 750 graduates receive degrees. The program included presentation of an honorary doctorate to Sault Ste. Marie's W.W. "Frenchie" LaJoie, chairman of the board and CEO of Central Savings Bank, as well as remarks from student respondent Alice Duesing, LSSU women's basketball standout and co-recipient of the outstanding mechanical engineering student award. Also during the ceremony, LSSU's Board of Trustees formally installed Youngblood as LSSU's fifth president.

The distinguished teacher is chosen from nominations submitted by LSSU employees and students by a committee of the top graduating students and past-recipients of the award. The recipient is kept secret until he or she is named at commencement.

Psychology Driven...



"LSSU is a relatively small school and I believe for this reason I have received a better education. The close atmosphere as opposed to a larger university has provided me with an opportunity to become acquainted with my professors. The professors therefore have an opportunity to assist with problems fairly easily, especially in upper level classes. The classes are fairly small also which provides one on one conversations which is very helpful."

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