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

Deborah ChoszczykDeborah Choszczyk, Recipient 2013

A Lake Superior State University dance professor, who has left an indelible mark on the university and the community in her short time here, was chosen by LSSU students, faculty and staff to receive this year's LSSU Distinguished Teaching Award.

Deborah Choszczyk, who started at LSSU as a part-time instructor in 2007, was cited for her passion for teaching and her abilities to convey her contagious enthusiasm and love of dance through innovative and resourceful teaching methods. In doing so, she creates an inviting learning environment that engages students both inside and outside the dance program.

The award, which is the university's most prestigious honor for faculty, was kept secret until it was announced during LSSU's graduation ceremony on Saturday. A committee of outstanding graduating seniors and past recipients of the award chose Choszczyk, who has been nominated for the award repeatedly since 2010, from a list of LSSU faculty nominated by students, employees and alumni.

Shortly after her arrival on campus, Choszczyk proposed a dance program of her creation that has grown quickly, attracting students from all fields of study. Her productions bring great crowds to the LSSU Arts Center. She gets everyone into the act, and in 2011 recruited LSSU President Tony McLain and his wife, Melissa, for parts in the first LSSU-produced ballet, "Coppelia." She followed up in 2012 with a ballet that she wrote, choreographed and directed, titled "Les Fees de la Nuit," or "Fairies of the Night," a production that she said was inspired by her nights of camping in northern Michigan.

"Professor Choszczyk is an inspiration to her students, colleagues, and audience," said LSSU Provost Morrie Walworth in announcing the award. "She sets the standard for excellence, demonstrating professional integrity and communicating the appreciation for dance and expression to those she teaches and mentors."

Immediately upon her arrival in the community, Choszczyk became well-known not only for her enthusiasm for her art, but also for the way she throws herself into community and national causes. She has raised funds for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, helped storm victims in the South, helped provide relief efforts for Haiti, and has undertaken many other charitable activities, including coaching community members and students who were competing in the Hospice of the EUP's annual Dancing with the Stars fundraisers. She also brings her students to area schools to inspire youngsters to pursue dance and the arts in general.

Walworth said, "Prof. Deb demonstrates a passion for teaching and consistently serves as an excellent role model for her students as well as her colleagues, enabling her students through her support, encouragement and acceptance to push themselves to levels of achievement they would not have thought possible."

Her encouragement, thoughtfulness and creativity are well known. Choszczyk told those she was coaching in Hospice's Dancing with the Stars that "Miracles can happen in eight weeks!" and then proved it by turning them all into competent performers.

Choszczyk accepted her teaching award with the humility that her students and colleagues have come to expect from her.

"I just teach dance here at Lake State and I love it and I love the kids," she said. "I love what I do and I could not have done it without the support of the administration, my colleagues, my students and the parents of my students.

"If I have any success at all, it's because of the love I receive here at Lake State. It's because of the love I receive here. I try to return it to my students, and I hope you know it. Thank you so much."

A native of Midlothian, Ill., Choszczyk holds a bachelor's degree in dance and theatre from Alma College and a master's degree in education from Hamline University, St. Paul, Minn. Prior to coming to Sault Ste. Marie, she was active in the Marquette community in dance and choreography.

Choszczyk's husband, Dan, shares her enthusiasm for dance and the arts and is a valuable backstage assistant at LSSU, working on props and creating production sets both for dance and theater productions.

Find out more about dance at LSSU online at

Personal education...

Caroline Demary-Elliott

Caroline Demary-Elliott
Mathematics - Secondary Education

"Not only is LSSU close and convenient to my home in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, but the atmosphere is very welcoming. All of the staff and students seem to be really open, and the teacher-to-student ratio is very personal, unlike larger universities." [ more ]

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