Experiential learning; exceptional success

Friday, March 24, 2023

Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,

Happy Friday!

This was an extraordinary week! I had extraordinary interactions with extraordinary people. People who have made a difference, those who will make a difference, and many who are making one of their lives’ most critical decisions now.

You see, recently I received an email from an inquisitive high school senior who wrote to me with the following inquiry:

Dear Chancellor, I'm a senior at Collinsville High School in Collinsville, Illinois. I've already been accepted into Missouri S&T for Aerospace Engineering, and I've received my financial aid package. Now I have the difficult task of committing to a college, and to do that, I want to step back and reevaluate everything. Essentially, I'm asking for you to remind me exactly what makes S&T my best choice. Any answer won't make my decision, it's just to help me straighten things out. Thank you for your attention and input.”

Needless to say, I responded and was so impressed with the student that I invited him to campus. He accepted my invitation, we met, and I answered a few more of his questions.

Subsequently, I was invited to speak with our graduating mechanical engineering seniors about “life after S&T.” Almost to the person, they had multiple job opportunities and the good challenge for them was deciding which offer they would accept. I highlighted that they should walk into their careers with eyes wide open and I mentioned that great inventors and innovators are, first and foremost, possibility thinkers. They are trailblazers who create their own futures as they walk along their careers’ nonlinear paths. They are problem-solvers who navigate the twists and turns of life and welcome events as challenges rush to them, slow them down or, at times, derail them to unknown places. They welcome ambiguity, respond accordingly, and create new opportunities and realities. Then, these extraordinary people become creators and rainmakers who, in the process of going from me to we, build teams and benefit from the collective genius of "we."

Later in the week I met with several of these ultimate differentiators who have followed their dreams of “life after S&T” and have formulated and achieved extraordinary success in leadership, business, finance, invention, technology, philanthropy and public service. I met with Ellis ShortRich WackerBill Patton and Richard Stegemeier, every one of whom have traversed their own nonlinear and unconventional path to remarkable success. Then there is Gary White, who founded the nonprofit, WaterPartners, in 1990. He then created Water.org and, working with 155 partners around the world, helped mobilize “over $4.1 billion in capital to support small loans that bring access to safe water and sanitation to millions of people in need.” A terrific achievement for Gary on the occasion of World Water Day, which we celebrated this week.

The continuum of success became vivid for me when I received the note from the inquisitive high school senior, then met with our graduating seniors, and then visited four remarkable alumni of our university. When finding themselves on the scary diving board, the successful Miners find others already in the water encouraging them, guiding them and supporting them to take the leap of faith. The most common characteristic of our successful alumni, students and soon-to-be Miners is that they are team players who, early in their education and careers transition from me to “we” and always seek ways to help others succeed. They place the success of others before their own interests and, as a result, find the recipe to achieve their own objectives.

For 150 years, this wonderful university has educated and created career-ready engineers and scientists who have provided critical contributions to critical challenges. Our students and graduates have recognized that the path to success, just as in life, is not linear, and their S&T true experiential education, albeit rigorous, prepares them to learn, lead and succeed.



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Mohammad Dehghani, PhD
mo@mst.edu | 573-341-4116

206 Parker Hall, 300 West 13th Street, Rolla, MO 65409-0910