Friday, August 5, 2022
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
Dr. Laura Bartlett, an associate professor of materials science and engineering here at S&T, has gone through a tremendous transformation! She went from working as a waitress in a small Arkansas town in 2005 to an endowed professor in a span of 12 years. How? Through determination, hard work and a promise of a better and more impactive career. You see, a catalytic crossing of the paths between Laura and one of our computer science professors, the late Tom Baird, sparked her interest, as did the promise of a huge ROI, a hallmark of this institution throughout our history. Subscribing to this well-kept promise, Dr. Bartlett completed her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees here. After a short academic faculty position in Texas, she returned to her alma matter where she has had a terrific career as a teacher, researcher and mentor.
Today, Laura is one of our most successful researchers. She leads a nearly $20 million project from the U.S. Army to develop ultra-high-strength yet lightweight steels for military applications. Even with that research load, she continues to focus on mentoring today’s students. “If I see a student is struggling and going down the wrong path, I can tell them my story, that they can turn their fortunes around,” she says.
Dr. Bartlett is not alone in this transitional journey. As I’ve previously shared, countless others have transformed their lives through S&T’s educational programs of solution-minded research and experience-minded education. In fact, a new study on the ROI of higher education, published this week in Forbes, places Missouri S&T among the nation’s top universities such as Princeton, Stanford, MIT and Caltech. The study places Missouri S&T 12th in the nation and sixth among public universities. The ranking is based on two factors: 1) payback, or the amount of time it takes a student to recoup the cost of their education and 2) earnings plus, or how much more or less a graduate earns when compared to a weighted average. This and many other ROI-focused studies routinely highlight the value of S&T’s intentional focus on experiential learning to let experience be the teacher as well.
Going forward, the challenge for us, not unlike many other institutions of higher education, is to keep the promise of changing lives in an ever-changing environment of learning with a dizzying mix of in-person, virtual and all modes in between. Although we are going forward with our normal mode of on-campus, in-person classes this fall, how do we take advantage of new tools to enhance our value proposition and ensure the success of our students? The answer I believe is the recognition that, even though tools of pedagogy are changing, the need for learning is as strong as ever. It is also realizing that Zooming and YouTubing will not get you home without the benefits of having the teacher and the learner together in hands-on, experiential settings to take advantage of the power of first-hand observations.
With our new academic year on the horizon, I want to thank our faculty and staff for their prep efforts, assure our students that we don’t simply default to old approaches to feed their insatiably curious minds and share that we are well aware of keeping the promise of an ROI that is superior to most.
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