Fall/Winter 2020 Newsletter
Even in the midst of a pandemic, our alumni have been doing some amazing things. We wanted to get perspectives on how the pandemic was affecting our alumni. We hope you enjoy these profiles and stories.
Reach for the Sky
Mark Rosenberger (T’18), first lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, is former president of the Purdue Cooperative Council and an alum of Circle Pines Cooperative House. Mark currently lives in Pensacola, Florida, where he is studying to become a Marine Corps pilot.
Why are you training to be a pilot in the marines? What led up to this decision?
Since I was little, I dreamed of becoming a pilot. Little did I know that training to be a pilot costs a lot of money. I didn’t have the money and wasn’t willing to go into further debt.
I studied mechanical engineering technology at Purdue, but shortly into my first internship, I decided that I didn’t want to work as an engineer after college. I needed a little more adventure and I felt the military calling my name. I found an opportunity to earn a commission as a student naval aviator in the Marine Corps. After Officer Candidates school and the Basic School in Quantico, I reported to Pensacola, Florida to begin flight training. I’ve almost completed primary flight training learning to fly the T6B Texan II. From here, I’ll select a fleet aircraft and learn to fly jets, helicopters, tilt rotors, or large cargo/tanker aircraft. I absolutely love my job and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me.
How did Purdue and your experience in the cooperative community help prepare you?
Attending Purdue was the best decision I ever made — second only to choosing to live in cooperative housing. I was the last of seven siblings to graduate from Purdue, and all of us lived in cooperatives. So it wasn’t too hard of a decision for me!
In my second semester living at Circle Pines, I was elected to the executive board and I stayed on the board until I graduated. Being part of the leadership of my house really taught me about how to lead and make decisions with your peers. As a young guy in the house, it taught me to lead for those senior to me. That really helps now being a Marine Corps officer.
I had so many amazing opportunities at Purdue, including being elected president of the Purdue Cooperative Council for my senior year, completing a three-term co-op work rotation, and working for the football team. I look back fondly at my time at Purdue. Not only did it teach me the skills of being an engineer but also the skills of basic leadership and life skills.
What is training like?
Initially, training to be a Marine officer is one of the toughest ways to enter into the armed services. I started training with 240 peers and only 180 completed the 10-week course. The training can be summarized by the phrase “learn to get comfortable being uncomfortable.” The Marine Corps is “any clime and place,” so the training was in mud, heat, freezing rain. You get the idea. At the Basic School, all Marine officers learn the tactical skills necessary to be a rifle platoon commander. From there, we all go our separate ways: artillery, aviation, infantry, intelligence, etc. I have been in Pensacola training to be a pilot for about a year, and I’ve got a couple more years of training left.
As aviators, we learn how to fly the plane then how to employ it in a military sense. I haven’t trained on the latter yet, but I’ll get there at some point. Each flight is about two hours long and it consists of several parts, including maneuvers, communication, and — the most important part — landing practice!
What are your goals once you make it in?
A lot of people ask what type of aircraft I want to fly for my military career. I really don’t have a good answer. I just want to serve my country, work with the enlisted Marines, and have fun doing it. Every aircraft allows me to do that, so I’ll be happy with whatever I am given. As far as goals, I hope to be at the top of my class no matter what I do and never stop having fun. There are a lot of colleges represented in Marine Aviation. Purdue has an incredible track record, and my goal is to live up to that.
Perspective from May Grad, Abigail Voegel (M’20)
The pandemic has affected all of us, especially our jobs. The class of 2020 had no idea they would be participating in a virtual graduation ceremony or facing an economic downturn. However, students like Abigail had a leg up because of their community involvement at Purdue.
What was it like to graduate and look for a job during the pandemic?
To say the least, starting a job during the pandemic has been interesting. I am unable to make in-person connections with members of the community and even some of my coworkers. I have quickly learned to innovate ways to make virtual meetings as interesting as possible.
How did being a member of the cooperative community prepare you for your job and life after graduation?
From the moment I first moved into Shoemaker Cooperative, I could see that the cooperative system was like its own little community. Everyone knows everyone. There is always an opportunity to get involved — whether in your house or in the community. Cooperatives taught me leadership and life skills, but I think the skill that prepared me the most for my job was being able to meet and interact with such an array of different people — especially on such a personal level. The cooperative community hosts events that allow students to meet each other, which helped prepare me to feel comfortable networking and interacting with new people and clients.
What kinds of leadership skills did you learn from being president of your house?
As with any leadership position, I developed basic skills like time management, conflict resolution, and communication. I had to quickly learn to be adaptable — not only in different situations, but to different personalities as well. One communication technique was not always effective across the board for different people.
Having been out of college for less than six months, what have you learned?
Since starting my new position, I have learned to take every chance you can to meet someone new. You never know what knowledge they can pass down to you. Networking has definitely been the key to the start of my new position.
Describe your best college experience.
Purdue gave me an array of experiences, from camping out for the Purdue vs. IU basketball games to attending service trips with the Purdue Cooperative Council. However, I would have to say studying abroad was one of the most unique experiences. I spent four weeks in Florence, Italy as part of a cohort of students from the Krannert School of Management. We got to explore Italy and learn about their social and business culture. The trip was eye-opening; it helped me understand and appreciate some of the differences in the ways people live around the world.
Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
I am not exactly positive where I see myself professionally in 10 years. I am just considering all possible opportunities as they come my way. However, I do know that I plan to be heavily involved in the community. And I’ll also still be attending Purdue football and basketball games. Boiler Up!
What is your best piece of advice for current Purdue students?
Purdue is filled with thousands of opportunities to develop and thrive both professionally and individually. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your box to see what you can learn or who you can meet.
Michael Pastko (T’07) Finds Passion for Writing During Pandemic
For some of us, the pandemic has given us space to explore and pursue interests that aren’t typically part of our daily routine. For Michael Pastko, that meant writing to bring families together during this tough time.
What was it like writing your own book? Take us through the process.
In some ways, it came naturally since it was about something affecting me and my family — along with most everyone else in the world! The story is loosely based on my own family and a few families we’re close to. The most challenging part was knowing the illustration work — which came out great — was going to take significant time to produce. On top of that, the effects of the pandemic have been constantly changing since I wrote the first draft this spring. So I faced a challenge: how could I keep the story relevant and timely while knowing that by the time it would be published the bigger picture would likely shift? As it turned out, that’s exactly what happened.
Did you ever think you’d be writing a book, let alone a children’s book?
Actually, yes. A few years ago — even before becoming a dad — I had an idea for a kids’ book series, but it wasn’t something I had planned to take up for a little while longer. Having that inclination to write a kids’ book likely did plant the seed for this project, though, and the pandemic was definitely a catalyst to make my first book a reality. I felt the urge to help and contribute in some way, and I was also inspired by others who were expressing creativity in response to trying times.
What do you hope people kids take away from the book? What message does the book have for adults?
It’s not always easy to talk about tough issues with your kids, especially at a time like now when we don’t have many definitive answers. It seemed vital to at least make it a shared experience between parents and their kids — to acknowledge that we’re in this together.
For kids, I’m hopeful it helps them connect the dots a little bit in why things have been different this year — even if they’re too young to understand what was “normal” before. There is a feeling of tension in the air many places you go, and there needs to be some way to talk about what that is and why that is.
For adults, I hope they have this book as a means to facilitate that conversation, and also a reassurance that what they’re going through as parents is normal and OK and they are not the only ones experiencing these ups and downs.
How did Purdue prepare you for this process? Your fraternity?
I’m a big fan of the Makers campaign. I love to make things and create things. My time at Purdue encouraged me to learn new things and have confidence doing so; researching and using self-publishing tools is no different. Practically speaking, as a computer graphics technology major, it’s also where my foundation as a designer comes from — I did not produce the book’s illustrations, but I did conceive of them and produce the layout and visual storytelling. Human service is the motto of my fraternity, Acacia Fraternity, and this book is meant to be more of a service to others than a creative expression of my own. In addition to the story itself being of some help to families that read it, proceeds from book go to benefit organizations helping families impacted by the pandemic.
Do you think you will continue writing in the future? If so, what kinds of projects interest you the most?
I do! Very likely another kids’ book. Living in New York City, I love seeing the water towers on the tops of buildings and wondering what adventures they go on together at night after we’re all sleeping. I especially enjoy kids’ books that teach lessons while being fun.
Spring 2020 Semester Report Highlights
Each fall and spring semester, the Fraternity, Sorority, and Cooperative Life office publishes a report that covers service hours worked, philanthropy dollars donated, GPA, and graduation rates for the entire community. Below are some snapshots of this past spring semester. Our community has never been stronger.
- The All fraternity, sorority, and cooperative semester GPA is a 3.55, which surpasses the undergraduate GPA (3.30) for the 13th consecutive semester.
- Eighty-eight organizations earned a GPA of a 3.00 or higher. Generally, the number is around 60.
- The FSCL 4-, 5-, and 6-year graduation rates continue to surpass the University average.
- The Fraternity, Sorority and Cooperative Community contributed $187,522.59 ($31.67/member) to philanthropic organizations and participated in 13,463 (2.16 hours/member) community service hours.
- Top chapter/house GPA for each council:
- IFC: Beta Upsilon Chi — 3.69
- MGC: Delta Phi Lambda — 3.66
- NPHC: Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity — 3.70
- PCC: Marwood & Ann Tweedale — 3.75
- PHA: Kappa Alpha Theta — 3.7
View the entire report (PDF)
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We Need You
Want to find a way to give back? We’re always on the lookout for new volunteers, and there are plenty of opportunities to work with students and alumni. Learn more, and let us know if you’re interested!
If you have questions about the community or your chapter/house, please contact Brandon Cutler at firstname.lastname@example.org or 765-494-4880.
If you have questions about alumni involvement or serving as a chapter adviser, please contact Jimmy Cox at email@example.com or 765-496-6549.