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Local Residents on Team Helping Vets

HOUGHTON (May 1, 2014) - A project management team from Michigan Technological University's School of Business and Economics took runners-up honors in a recent competition downstate. More importantly, they are trying to help veterans all across the state.

Included on the team were the following students from the local area:



Destin'e Clark, Operations and Systems Management

Iron Mountain

Cole Smith, Management


Angela Barr, Marketing/Management


Robert Strobel, Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Management

THE Project 2014, this year's installment of the Project Management Collegiate Competition, is sponsored by the Western Michigan Project Management Institute (WMPMI) and held at Davenport University. Michigan Tech routinely does well, and this year was no exception, according to advisor Dana Johnson, professor of operations and supply chain management.

"They did great," she said. "It's the culmination of a semester-long project, and it's a lot of hard work." The team of six received $3,000 from WMPMI or their efforts.

The team's mentor, Tom Conquest of GE Aviation, agreed that the entire project was "pretty intense."

"From January 1 to April 14, they had a lot of deliverables," he said. "It's good experience to develop a project plan and present it in front of judges, twice, since they made the final four. They were very professional, and their project was meaningful."

Smith agreed that they worked hard. He also said the judges told the teams that choosing the winner this year was the toughest decision they had made in the competition's history.

The Michigan Tech team was called Keweenaw Consulting Services and their project?

"We want to make it easier for veterans to get their state and federal benefits," Smith said. "The project plans were actually passed on to Jeff Barnes, director of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, a cabinet position with Governor Snyder."

The team had lofty goals, and they are needed.

"Michigan is the fourth lowest state in terms of compensation of benefits for veterans," Johnson said.

The team attacked the problem through weekly meetings and a lot of input from Johnson, who admits she was tough on them.

"I did say, early on, 'Back to the drawing board,'" she said. "They had to improve on their first deliverable."

Those deliverables drove the project, Smith said, and they came up with five, including measurable metrics, at the end.

"We wanted to reduce the amount of days it would take to process a claim, increase enrollment into a veterans' training program by 20 percent, decrease unemployment to 5 percent with a 'Translation Guide' (matching military skills with civilian jobs), and increase applications 10 percent via an advertising campaign," he said.

Smith said he enjoyed the competition, comparing it to an internship.

"We had to be highly organized, and it was great working with a team on a real problem with the state of Michigan," he said. "We got to meet real veterans who said, 'I'm affected by this. My family is affected by this.'"

Perhaps the loftiest goal was attacking unemployment, nearly 30 percent for post 9/11 veterans.

"We wanted to match skill sets," Smith said. "If they were a mechanic in the military, what comparable jobs could we come up with as civilians?"

Their final presentation, which Johnson insisted had to be professional, turned out to be well received.

"We included a photo of Tech alumna Niki Lopez, Class of 2011, who is on active duty," Smith said. "It made it feel real and reminded us of what it was all about."

Other members of the team were Robert Strobel, majoring in mechanical engineering and engineering management; Destin'e Clark, operations and systems management; Min Li, operations and systems management; Shivaram Viswanathan, master's in electrical engineering; and Angela Barr, management and marketing.


(Contact: Dennis Walikainen, PhD, Senior Content Specialist, University Marketing and Communications, Michigan Technological University, Administration Building G20,
Houghton, MI 49931-1295; 906-487-3510 office;
906-487-3553 fax; 906-281-7625 cell;


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Front row, left to right: Destin'e Clark, Angela Barr, and Robert Strobel; back row, left to right, Cole Smith, Min Li, and Shivaram Viswanathan.



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