UM System President Mun Choi shares career experiences, advises MU engineering students

He recounted stories from his own educational and occupational journey.

UM System President Mun Choi spoke to engineering students and members of Pi Tau Sigma, the International Honor Society for Mechanical Engineers, about considering a different approach to their education and career.

Choi earned his bachelor's degree in general engineering with a minor in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his master’s in mechanical and aerospace engineering and Ph.D. from Princeton University. Choi was also a member of Pi Tau Sigma and served as its national president from 2008 to 2017.

Rather than focusing on only enrolling in classes pertaining to their majors, he said students should consider taking classes outside of their chosen major.

“If I gave myself some advice back in 1986, I would have told myself to take more classes in humanities,” Choi said. “Take more classes outside of your discipline. Don’t worry so much about getting out in four years. Spend the time while you have the opportunity to explore what a university like this has to offer.”

Along with exploring different options, Choi also suggested that students consider completing a masters and Ph.D. He said that having advanced degrees could enhance a student’s resume and give them a competitive advantage when applying for jobs.

“Ask yourself, ‘what’s going to make my resume or my background more compelling to that employer?’” Choi said. “Think about how you’re going to answer that question face-to-face with an interviewer. [You have to] talk about what makes you unique. Remember, this is a job interview; you’re promoting yourself.”

Choi asked students in the audience to share any concerns they had. Students discussed issues regarding tuition, course fees and financial problems specific to international students. Choi said he would work to try and solve these issues so all students have the opportunity to further their education.

“Having an institutional position that international graduate students enrich our university is very important,” he said. “Making the process of arriving and being acclimated to the university is very important. In securing the visas, it’s going to become harder and harder as we move into the future.”

Senior Kristen Howorka is the president of MU’s Pi Tau Sigma chapter, the Missouri Epsilon chapter. To become a member of Pi Tau Sigma, a student must be in the top 35 percent of their class. In addition members are selected based on personality and probable success in their chosen field of mechanical engineering, according to MU’s chapter guidelines.

Before Choi’s talk, Howorka had never thought about graduate school.

“Hearing [Choi] talk about how life has taken him on a lot of twists and turns and things that he didn’t think were possible were, maybe [graduate school] was something that I should consider for the future,” Howorka said.

Howorka also learned the importance of exploring classes beyond the limits of her major.

“It was invigorating to hear him talk about how his experiences in and outside of college and in the workplace have really lead him to where he is now,” Howorka said. “We are students not just here in the classroom, but outside, too. Taking those classes that weren’t specifically engineering-related can help us find who we are as people and who we want to become in the future.”

Edited by Morgan Smith |

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