Blog - Category: Academics
Originally posted at https://calvin.edu/news/archive/calvin-students-place-in-top-10-of-worldwide-programming-competition.
Written by Matt Kucinski.
For Calvin University students Kai Arbogast, Zach Clark, and Kris Miedema, October 24 was a day full of problems.
Every hour brought with it a new challenge. It was a new experience for the students.
Challenging the world
“No one [at Calvin] had done this competition before, we weren’t even sure how many teams were in it, and that they’d be from all over, all these major universities,” said Arbogast, an electrical engineering student with a Japanese minor.
The trio of electrical engineering students represented Calvin University in IEEEXtreme’s global challenge—a virtual competition in which teams of IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) student members compete in a 24-hour time span against each other to solve a set of programming problems.
Calvin’s team, named DreamTeam, was competing against the likes of UC-Berkeley, North Carolina State, and Milwaukee School of Engineering, to name a few. In all … 3,704 schools from 73 countries competed.
Prepared to tackle many problems
With each hour, came a new problem to solve.
“You were judged on a combo of things, from how fast you completed the challenge to how fast the program itself runs, so on two aspects of speed,” said Clark, an electrical engineering student with computer science and mathematics minors. “Also, how much memory the program uses, and how correct the solution is.”
And while the competition was unlike anything this trio had experienced, the problems were much more familiar …
“I was impressed with how much looking over the problems and practice materials I’d recognized it from a computer science class or Zac and Kai would recognize it from an engineering class that I haven’t taken yet,” said Miedema, a junior electrical engineering student with a computer science minor. “Everything we saw was part of course material at Calvin. We felt very well prepared to use what we learned to solve the problems they gave us.”
And so any trepidation the three had about this uncharted terrain was soon brushed away.
Scoring high marks
“Once we got in and started rolling, we started realizing we were doing really well,” said Miedema.
The team was able to see a scoreboard as they were going, and finished the competition with a strong surge that placed them in the top 10% worldwide, and 14th among all participating colleges and universities nationwide.
“I didn’t expect to do that well,” said Clark.
“I’ve already been impressed by the quality of education at Calvin and how I’ve been able to use the knowledge I’ve gained here in my internships,” said Arbogast, “but I also recognized in this [challenge] that Calvin can be competitive with any schools in the nation. The material we’re learning is both current and valid, and we can use it.”
Ready for anything
The competition was a testing ground of sorts for the three. And for the two seniors who will graduate this spring, it was confirmation that they are ready for their fields.
For Clark, his career pursuit is fulfilling a childhood dream he first verbalized at a Lego convention in eighth grade. “Someone had built a machine that would take colored balls and sort them and it had a whole bunch of robot arms and stuff. I remember thinking ‘that is so cool, I want to do that someday,’” said Clark.
Several years later after having taken a domestic and an international flight, his wonder turned to the sky. “I was amazed that this gigantic metal tube could keep itself in the sky and fly, and so my interest started to point toward aerospace engineering.”
He’s still passionate about aviation-related engineering and may continue to pursue that path. For now, an internship at Calvin has already led to a job offer from DornerWorks, an engineering firm in Grand Rapids.
For Arbogast, he’s always enjoyed his STEM-related classes. And he likes designing and building things. He also has an interest in working in Asia in the power grid. His internships at Calvin are power-related, and combined with his engineering courses, he’s gaining much relevant hands-on experience in his field. But he says classes outside his major are also helping set him up for long-term success.
“It’s all the things that we need to be successful engineers that don’t just lie inside of engineering,” said Arbogast. “But, the writing skills especially. The skills I developed in classes not in my major, but through core. This summer those skills were super helpful as I had to document a lot (for my engineering internship) and so those writing classes helped with accurate documentation and with good grammar.”
At Calvin, he was also able to combine both his love for engineering and Japanese culture, by having a Japanese minor.
And while Miedema is only a little over halfway into his time at Calvin, he’s already gained a lot of experience.
“I did the engineering summer program in Germany and to have that cross-cultural experience where we learned so much about engineering in a different culture, that element helped prepare me as I look into what I want my work experience to look like,” said Miedema.
Perhaps Clark summarizes their paths through Calvin best: “The things we’ve learned at Calvin are able to help us with a range of things. It’s easy to take what we’ve learned here and apply it elsewhere.”
So, when another problem arises. This trio will be well-equipped to find a path forward.
At Michigan’s 14 independent colleges and universities students forge success by following their own path. The colleges are purposefully smaller and emphasize community over crowds. Classes are taught by award-winning faculty rather than TAs, allowing students to forge tight bonds with professors. Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates and smaller class sizes for a truly unique and affordable experience.
To learn more about Michigan’s top 14 private colleges and universities, visit our Colleges page.
Scholarships are available! Enter the We Are The Independents scholarship drawing.
Sarah Hirschmann, the 2020 University of Detroit Mercy valedictorian and former women’s soccer goalie, just earned another impressive accolade. She’s a nominee for the 2020 NCAA Woman of the Year Award.
The award was established in 1991 to recognize graduating female student-athletes who have exhausted their eligibility and distinguished themselves in academics, athletics, service and leadership throughout their collegiate careers. The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics will name the 2020 NCAA Woman of the Year this fall.
Sarah graduated from Detroit Mercy with a Bachelor of Arts in Literary Arts in Primary Education, specializing in Language Arts with a minor in Leadership, with a 3.97 GPA. She was a member of the women’s soccer team from 2015-18, a four-year member of the Detroit Mercy Athletic Director’s Honor Roll and a three-time member of the Horizon League Fall and Spring Academic Honor Roll.
Away from athletics, she started a non-profit group, volunteered and played a key role in a number of University events.
In 2015, Sarah started “One Kid At A Time”, a non-profit organization sponsoring the education of two students in Kenya, and distributing funds throughout Detroit. She also spent two summers with the International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ), teaching children ages 1-16 in Nairobi, Kenya and Faridabad, India.
Locally, Sarah volunteered with Ford Community Corps Partnership, working at Detroit Public Schools with fifth graders and students with behavioral disabilities to improve mathematics and social skills through educational card games. In addition, she worked with the Zoe Counseling Services of the Detroit Public Libraries, tutoring students in and out of foster care and those who have fallen behind grade level and need extra help.
One of her big efforts on campus saw her take part in the National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference (NJSLC), where she helped lead a committee of 20 students to create the conference with Detroit Mercy serving as host for the first-time ever in 2019. Sarah also was part of the Ignatian Family Teach-In For Justice (IFTJ), a national social justice conference in Washington, D.C., where students gather from around the country to learn about more ways to fight injustice and advocate for themselves and others.
Sarah is indisputably a model scholar-athlete. Her commitment to excellence in the classroom and on the field is strong and her dedication to her community–both locally and around the world–is unwavering. It’s an outlook that’s prevalent at the University of Detroit Mercy and Michigan’s top 14 private colleges and universities. Purposefully smaller, the colleges and universities pride themselves on helping students follow their own path, engage in the world around them, and find their passion. They emphasize community over crowds and a spirit of togetherness and cohesion.
Be bold. Be different. Go independent.
Real-time strategy, teamwork, mental agility, split-second decision-making – these are some of the skills it takes to succeed in one of the fastest growing athletic programs in the country – esports.
Esports is a massive, global series of video game competitions, that is making serious inroads in the college sports arena.
The Aquinas College esports team just completed its first season and already one team member is making waves. Jon Schneck, an AQ freshman, was named an All-American by the National Association of Esports Coaches and Directors (NAECD)—one of only eight in the country.
“It was a little bit of a surprise that I would be an All-American because I don’t think of myself that highly,” Schneck said. “But it is great that I got recognized.”
Jon may have been caught off guard by the recognition, but head coach Adam Antor says it is well deserved because of his hard work and knowledge.
“He is kind of like the master knowledge base for the game,” Antor said of Schneck. “He knows more about the game than most other competitors in our program and across the country so he brings the brains and the work ethic.”
Jon competes in League of Legends. It’s a game he said he’s been playing since before he got to Aquinas. Next season, Jon plans to continue his streak. “I am looking forward to just winning in any league I’m going into,” Schneck said. “Building a better team and making sure that we can compete at the highest level against all the other teams.”
Aquinas, Alma and Siena Heights – and all of Michigan’s top 14 private colleges and universities – share a commitment to helping students succeed by following their own path. The colleges are smaller and emphasize community over crowds. Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates and smaller class sizes for a truly unique and affordable experience.
Be bold. Be different. Go independent.
Experience is everything. And Alma College is committed to making sure you have an opportunity to put what you learn in the classroom to work in a meaningful way. The College’s Center for Student Opportunity is committed to providing support services and access to practical experiences that enhance your education. In fact, the Alma Venture gives you the financial support to not just study your field, but experience it firsthand. As part of the Alma Commitment, the Alma Venture program provides up to $2,500 to offset the cost of your personalized experience.
Where will you Venture?
Your Alma Venture could take place on campus, or on the other side of the world. It could be credit-bearing—or not. The opportunities are endless!
You could travel abroad for an off-campus study program, see what it’s really like to work in your field through an internship, delve deep into a research project or, get hands-on clinical experience. Alma offers other experiential learning possibilities for students interested in leadership and service.
- See examples of the types of Alma Venture experiences you can pursue.
- View an overview of past experiences by academic area.
- Consider which type of experience is right for you and find YOUR Alma Venture.
The Alma Venture is another example of Alma College’s unwavering commitment to the success of their students and graduates. It’s the reason that Plaid Works!
No one should forgo education as a result of heightened financial duress stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why Albion College announced a new and substantial scholarship program – the Michigan 2020 Promise.
This scholarship will assist Michigan families who have college affordability concerns due to COVID-19. Exclusive to graduating high school seniors and transfer students, the Michigan 2020 Promise will cover 100% of tuition and fees for Michigan students’ whose families make under $65,000 annually, after the Michigan Tuition and Federal Pell grants are applied. Families making over $65,000 at minimum will receive $92,000, or as high as $136,000 in Albion College scholarships over the course of 4 years.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has not only denied graduating seniors with the opportunity to walk in a high school graduation ceremony, it has evoked anxiety and concern for the financial and educational future of Michigan families,” said Dr. Mauri Ditzler, President of Albion College. “Now more than ever, Albion College is committed to making higher learning accessible through this substantial scholarship, waived entrance exams and unrivaled value. Even in the face of uncertainty, Albion provides the hope, help and resources to empower Michigan students and families to reclaim ownership of their educational future, and the power to make quality, life-advancing decisions on their own terms.”
The program is a testament of Albion’s incredibly generous alumni, loyal donors and board of trustees. In fact, the Michigan 2020 Promise was made possible by a single, benevolent donor whose gift inspired the decision to offer the Class of 2020 this support.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, entrance exam testing dates were postponed to the fall. To lessen this undue stress and make the hope of higher education more readily attainable, Albion College will also be waiving ACT and SAT scores as a prerequisite for admissions—exclusive to the fall 2020 incoming class.
The opportunity to apply for a Michigan 2020 Promise scholarship expires on May 1.
Visit albion.edu/MI20promise for more details!
The first-time pass rate of University of Detroit Mercy accounting graduates who take the Certified Public Accounting (CPA) exam is the best in the nation, according to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). NASBA reported the new rankings in the 2018 edition of Candidate Performance on the Uniform CPA Examination.
Data released this week by NASBA indicate that Detroit Mercy students and alumni achieved a 95% pass rate and an average test score of 87.5 on the 2018 CPA exam. The University was one of only two institutions in the nation to achieve a pass rate of at least 90%.
The first-time pass rates of Detroit Mercy students have ranked among the best in the United States for three straight years. NASBA’s full report is available at https://www.nasbareport.com/
Joseph G. Eisenhauer, dean of the College of Business Administration, said, “Having the top pass rate in the nation on the CPA exam reflects the excellent academic preparation and personal attention that our Accounting students receive from our outstanding faculty. Our graduates enter the job market ready to succeed as professionals in their chosen careers and the consistency with which we’ve been nationally ranked demonstrates that our quality never waivers.”
Among all 63,088 first-time test-takers, covering institutions of all sizes nationwide, the average pass rate was 57.5%, and the average test score was 72.9.
Holly McCartney, ’17, MBA ’18, who passed all four sections of the CPA exam last year and now works as a financial advisor at Plante Moran, said, “The Accounting Program at University of Detroit Mercy does an incredible job of preparing its students to pass the CPA Exam. The University recognizes the value of the CPA certification, but also how challenging it can be. The professors are dedicated to equipping students with the technical knowledge required to pass the exam and also providing motivation and support along the way.”
For the past five years, Michigan Colleges Alliance (MCA) has fielded a team of four students from its member schools with engineering programs to compete in the annual Stryker Engineering Challenge. For the first time this year, the MCA team won against competing teams from Michigan Technological University, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Western Michigan University, Purdue University, and University of Notre Dame. The winners of the competition received a $1,000 scholarship (each) and an interview opportunity for a 2020 internship.
The Stryker Engineering Challenge is an overnight challenge where teams are given materials and approximately 12 hours to build a robot vehicle designed to navigate the challenge. Each robot is remote-controlled and tested in a 30-minute competition. During the competition, the robots are challenged to pick up Legos and race through an obstacle course. This year marked the ninth annual challenge with teams representing eleven different schools.
This is the fifth year that MCA has fielded a team. In 2015, the MCA team came in second place, and this year they won. The team was comprised of Devin Garcia & Jeremy Barrett of Andrews University, Denise Roorda of Calvin College, and Joshua Cormier of University of Detroit Mercy. The team took first place with 204 points and Michigan Technological University was a close second place with 203 points.
The students from the Michigan Colleges Alliance team had never worked together before the Stryker Challenge as they each attend different schools. Their victory is a testament to the high-caliber MCA schools and students, and their ability to work collaboratively in new situations.
Michigan Colleges Alliance is very appreciative of Professor Gunnar Lovhoiden, professor of engineering at Andrews University, who has served as the faculty mentor each year for this competition. Each year, he has generously donated his time during spring break to take on this role demonstrating an example of the strong student-faculty relationships valued at MCA schools. “The MCA team worked really well together and maximized their performance by making good design decisions,” he says.
Hyun Kwon, chair of the Andrews University Department of Engineering, adds, “I am so proud of our students. They have proven the ability to successfully compete at such a high level and against much larger schools.”
Michigan Colleges Alliance (MCA) is collaborating with Harvard Business School (HBS) Online to offer students at participating MCA campuses a blended learning program, and an opportunity to earn an HBS Online course credential. In the first phase, nearly 70 students from five MCA member colleges and universities completed the HBS Online’s Sustainable Business Strategy course in the spring.
“When we built this course, one of my hopes was that it could be utilized to educate young people about the important role that business has in tackling some of the challenging issues of our time,” said Harvard Business School Professor Rebecca Henderson . “The students and faculty from the MCA campuses who participated in this pilot are pioneers, and I look forward to seeing how they will apply the learnings from our course in their own communities.”
The participating colleges created a blended learning offering where students registered for the “sustainable business” course led by local faculty and featuring the HBS Online course led by Professor Henderson. Students then applied their learnings through projects with businesses that were facing sustainability challenges, including Wolverine Worldwide, Merrill, Adrian Steel and Thetford Corporation.
“This was by far the most interactive course I have ever taken,” said Mya Oleksiak , a sophomore at Adrian College . “I loved that the modules and field work put me in real-life situations, and the meetings with my professor and classmates tied it all together. It was a privilege to be part of it.”
“This was a huge opportunity to reinforce what I learned as a Sustainable Business major and to take it into the real world,” said Tyson Marsh , a senior at Aquinas College . “The conversations with people in my group, from Bangladesh and Australia , helped me see different ways to apply and approach sustainability, and it is really amazing to be able to help a big global company like Wolverine solve a real sustainability problem.”
“The HBS pilot is a perfect illustration of why MCA has become a national leader in private higher education collaboration,” said MCA President Robert Bartlett . “It embedded content from the most prominent business education brand and a global learning network into existing classes offered by our member campuses. It then connected student classroom experiences to real projects in local communities. This best practice, active pedagogy model has produced tangible outcomes for both students and local businesses throughout the state.”
MCA plans to extend the program with another Sustainable Business Strategy offering in the spring and other HBS Online courses in the future. MCA represents 14 of the top independent colleges and universities in Michigan. Participating colleges included Adrian College, Albion College, Andrews University, Aquinas College, and Spring Arbor University.
Emma Hagel is passionate about the public policy concepts involved in civil engineering. University of Detroit Mercy’s educational environment — from encouraging professors to an array of professional opportunities — helped that passion blossom into a life-changing experience.
Hagel, a senior studying civil engineering at Detroit Mercy, recently participated in a legislative fly-in for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). This annual public policy program in Washington, D.C., — called a “fly-in” for the primary method of transportation to attend the event — provided Hagel an opportunity to combine public policy and civil engineering, network with professional engineers and engage elected officials on infrastructure issues.
But the overall experience proved to be much more — she says it has opened a new professional door.
Rather than work in engineering as planned, she has decided to pursue a legislative career and hopes to further her education through public policy master’s programs.
“I believe that Detroit Mercy encourages students to pursue interests outside of their field to create well-rounded professionals,” said Hagel, whose English literature and philosophy minors embody just that. “Because of the learning environment at Detroit Mercy, I felt comfortable and encouraged to look into the policy side of engineering and to pursue this opportunity.”
Representing Detroit Mercy in the nation’s capital, Hagel was just one of eight students throughout the country selected to participate in the fly-in and the lone student in Michigan’s five-person delegation. She interacted with an array of people, from engineers who share similar passions to politicians, including her congressman, U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Township).
The purpose of this year’s fly-in, Hagel said, was to lobby elected officials “to act on our nation’s infrastructure funding crisis.”
“We advocated for an increase in the federal gas tax and the approval of infrastructure-related, fiscal year 2019 appropriations,” she said.
During the first day of the event, attending delegations underwent lobbying training sessions and learned about ASCE’s stance on infrastructural issues. By the second day, state delegations were prepared to make congressional visits and present information to legislators and their staff.
Hagel has taken full advantage of Detroit Mercy’s extracurricular offerings, which led to her participation in the event. She finds herself ingrained in student life, holding leadership roles in three organizations—president of the Society of Women Engineers, vice president of ASCE — both Detroit Mercy chapters — and captain of ASCE’s concrete canoe team.
Hagel discovered the event through ASCE government relations emails and was urged to apply by James Lynch and Utpal Dutta, professors of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at Detroit Mercy.
“The unique environment they have created for civil engineering students at Detroit Mercy has helped me succeed academically and professionally,” Hagel said.
ASCE offers a limited amount of travel grants to help offset costs for fly-in participants. Hagel received one of those grants; the civil engineering department helped cover the rest of the costs.
Hagel’s experience with the event goes well beyond her two days in Washington — it has changed her perspective on civil engineering and paved the way to a boundless future.
“While one can design and implement infrastructure while working in the private or public sector, all projects rely on government funding,” she said. “The way one can create the biggest impact on our nation’s infrastructure is by implementing policy that adequately funds the repair, replacement and creation of it.”
To learn more about Detroit Mercy’s College of Engineering & Science, please visit https://eng-sci.udmercy.edu/index.php.
There is an incredible world out there ready to be explored and experienced for the college student willing and eager to find it. And nothing should stand in their way. The new Albion College Stephen I., ’74, and Susan Brochu Greenhalgh, ’75, Endowed Student Experience Fund will help make that happen. The $250,000 gift will support travel costs for students with financial need who wish to participate in faculty-sponsored academic trips.
“The stigma that attaches to students who can’t go because of financial issues, that bothered me,” said Greenhalgh, a Pontiac native who earned his bachelor’s degrees at Albion in anthropology and sociology, then earned his law degree from Washington & Lee University in Virginia in 1977. “Other students would come back to class and talk about their experiences and there were students who couldn’t go. I thought the stigma was very unfortunate.”
The gift is intended for travel only when a faculty member is present and purely for academic purposes. It should benefit multiple students each year.
Now retired and living in Boulder, Colo., after a career with the Bodman Law Firm in Detroit (where he was a corporate attorney for the Detroit Lions among other clients), Greenhalgh was first intrigued by the idea of helping deserving students on faculty-sponsored travel several years ago after talking with Albion religious studies Professor Jocelyn McWhirter, who for years has sponsored the biennial Holocaust Studies Service-Learning Project trip to Poland.
“There were students who were missing out,” he said.
When McWhirter learned what the Greenhalghs were working on to help these students, she was pleased.
“It broadens their horizons,” she said. “I think these trips take students into an unfamiliar world. And when they enter an unfamiliar world, whether it’s in the U.S. or a destination outside the U.S, I think it gives them a new perspective on the world. It fosters skills of adjusting to another culture, adjusting to how to move within another culture, even learning a strange language. I think in the case of my trip, and other trips, it introduces students to new people and new history.”
And that’s exactly what the Greenhalghs were hoping for with this fund.
“This does two things,” said Greenhalgh, who has also served for 11 years as a member of the College’s Board of Trustees. “It helps the faculty and it provides more immediate opportunities for students from less affluent families. And I hope it provides life experiences by going to places like Europe and Africa for students who otherwise might not have that opportunity. It all falls under the rubric of experiential learning, and I believe that experiential learning can make all the difference in a liberal arts education.”
And not only will the new gift sustain current travel projects, it could lead to opportunities for more trips to different areas for more students.
“It’s great for students who don’t have the money,” McWhirter said. “These trips are an experience that can’t be had by staying where you are.”