A senior goodbye like no other

Six students share insights into life after May graduation

On May 16, the College of Science and Engineering will graduate more than 1,300 students. Although commencement won’t happen in typical fashion, the event—hosted by the University of Minnesota as a system-wide virtual ceremony—will be memorable nonetheless.

“It feels like a very anticlimactic goodbye to the University, the student groups I was involved in, and the friends that I made,” said Mackensie Schuster, a civil engineering graduating senior and recipient of scholarships including the Al Johnson Construction Company Scholarship.

Schuster was offered a full-time position with Alliant Engineering, a month before her senior year. She was set to begin work this summer, but the company, based in Minneapolis, has postponed her start date as the peak of COVID-19 still looms in Minnesota and because of difficulties in orienting new employees remotely.

“[Despite the uncertainty,] I am fortunate enough to still have a job lined up post-graduation,” said Schuster, “and for this I am very thankful.”

Although Trygve Eggen wasn’t as lucky, he is staying positive. The pandemic has resulted in hiring freezes and canceled interviews at many of the companies he was eyeing.

“I am still monitoring job boards and trying to maintain contacts at companies,” said Eggen.

“However, I am also thinking about what to do over the summer if I don’t have a job,” added Eggen, a mechanical engineering graduating senior and president of the University of Minnesota Robotics team. “Right now, I am planning to take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, and also potentially starting coursework for a graduate certificate or master’s [degree].”

Additionally, he will continue to lend his robot-building skills to the fight against the current coronavirus outbreak.

Eggen and other members of the robotics team are collaborating with the College of Science and Engineering’s Minnesota Robotics Institute to develop a robot for healthcare workers to monitor COVID-19 patients from up to 300 feet away.

East Coast will have to wait

After graduating in May, mathematics senior Taoheed Bayo was looking to land an internship in the actuarial field and then move to New York to pursue fashion and modeling. However, he has switched plans—with the threat of COVID-19 and New York City being the epicenter of the disease in the United States. 

"It’s tough," he said, “as a lot of companies have had to cancel their internship programs for this summer, mostly for financial reasons. I’m just going to play it by ear and see what the insurance industry or job market looks like later during the year."

Either way, he won't forget the motivation behind his limited-edition sneakers. Bayo was among the 37 finalists in the Nike By You x Cultivator competition last fall. Nike produced his winning design—dubbed the Afro-Yute, an amalgamation of “African” and “youth” to encourage young people to learn more about their heritage.

“Maybe I won’t design another pair of sneakers,” Bayo said, “but maybe I can participate in other things to give back to the community and bring people together.”

Kat Fransen will also pack her bags for the East Coast—when the pandemic ends.

The chemical engineering graduating senior and recent recipient of the University’s Donald R. Zander Alumni Award for Outstanding Student Leadership, secured a National Science Foundation research fellowship to pursue a Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) this fall.

“I just feel very fortunate that I have the opportunity to attend graduate school and have concrete plans in my future,” said Fransen. “Compared to my classmates who are facing the uncertainty of job offers and prospects, and those whose health has been impacted by the virus. I think a little strangeness on my part [of a possible, fully virtual first semester and meeting my new classmates online] is nothing to complain about.”

Readjusting for the future

For Samantha Kroc, the days ahead are “a little scary.”

The chemistry senior who finished up her last semester virtually in Gurnee, Ill., was planning on grad school to fulfill her dream of becoming a physician’s assistant, but now she’s facing two gap years instead of one—not knowing how the pandemic will play out.

She hopes, though, that her Class of 2020 can one day come together for an in-person commencement to celebrate their accomplishments.

“I still got all of the opportunities I wanted to get out of [CSE],” she said.

Logan Karls, a materials science graduating senior, would certainly agree. In fact, he would say he got more than he expected.

“Being on [the University of Minnesota] campus has really opened my eyes to different possibilities and things that are going on in the world,” Karls said.

“I think if I would have gone to a smaller school,” he said, “I wouldn’t have had that sort of experience.”

Although he’s disappointed with the way the novel coronavirus has upended his senior year—specifically, preventing him from completing much-needed lab work to co-author his second scientific paper—Karls is pleased to call himself a Gopher.  

“I’m proud to be a part of a university that’s been really progressive about addressing the situation,” said Karls, who recently received a President’s Student Leadership and Service Award for his work with the Science and Engineering Student Board and the National Association of Engineering Student Council.

“I’ve been really impressed by the number of professors who have tried to readjust the curriculum and schedules to try to make this as least stressful as possible,” he said. “They all just want what’s best for us.”

Read each student's full story in our 2020 Senior Series.

MacKensie Schuster: Bring on the internships, says SWE president
Trygve Eggen: From the 'sandbox' to the real world
Taoheed Bayo: Math senior designs limited-edition sneakers
Kat Fransen: A bright future in academia awaits
Samantha Kroc: The road less traveled
Logan Karls: Breaking through the comfort zone

If you’d like to support students at the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering, visit our CSE Giving website