Steven Schindler (BSMS ‘03) was the recipient of the Lyle School of Engineering Executive Board’s Outstanding Undergraduate Award for 2003. These are his acceptance remarks.
Remarks by Steven Schindler
To the Engineering Executive Board
May 3, 2003
Good morning, and thank you, Dean Szygenda.
I came to Dallas from Hughes Springs, a small town in Northeast Texas, and I didn’t know much about engineering. The President’s Scholarship brought me to SMU, and all I knew was that I liked
solving problems, and that I had some advanced placement credits in math and science from high school, so engineering seemed like a good fit. Engineering Management Science offered a wide range of courses and
skill development, mixing computer science with business, statistics, and math, and it provided cutting-edge tools for solving public sector problems, my area of interest. While I switched around my secondary
majors no less than five times, (Economics, Public Policy, Finance, and finally to History and Mathematics), I remained an Engineering Management Science major throughout my career, and I can think of three reasons
why this has been the case.
First, SMU Engineering, in the spirit of the Engineering and Beyond philosophy, was FLEXIBLE, enough so to allow me to pursue university-wide opportunities and to develop my leadership skills beyond the
classroom. I have taken on two additional undergraduate degrees. I studied abroad in Oxford for a summer. And I engaged in a number of different leadership positions on campus, beginning with
co-coordinating the Annual Engineering Awards Banquet my freshman year and culminating in my service to the university as the Student Representative to the Board of Trustees. The difficult part of being an
Engineering student has been choosing which opportunities not to pursue. A couple of weeks ago, I asked Dean Szygenda for advice about where to attend Law School, and part of his response was that I was
fortunate to be in this kind of dilemma and that both options were great ones. Thanks to his work and your support in providing new opportunities at the Engineering School such as excellent co-op placements
and the industry scholars program, I have already had some experience in making such difficult choices between great options.
Second, SMU Engineering is a place that values personal relationships. “Networking” is the buzzword in our on-campus career center, but that doesn’t quite capture what goes on at SMU
Engineering. I have already mentioned how good Dean Szygenda has been to me and other students; he is one of the most accessible, student-friendly deans on campus. My EMIS professors, from Dr. Barr, the
departmental chair, throughout the department, have been true mentors and friends rather than merely sources of job opportunities, though they offer that, too. Every one of them is committed to my success and
the success of all their students, and I imagine I will continue to seek out their guidance throughout my career. My fellow engineering students and I also share a special relationship on campus, stemming from
having together survived such courses in the EMIS curriculum as Operations Management and Statistical Design. We are connected by links that non-engineering students cannot understand.
That leads me to my final reason for sticking with SMU Engineering for the past four years: the pure challenge of the degree. Part of what I wanted at SMU was the chance to be stretched and pushed beyond my
limits. No academic discipline matches up with engineering in academic rigor and intellectual demand. Through rising to meet that demand, I’ve developed a work ethic that I expect to rely on
wherever I go.
For providing these opportunities and supporting the Engineering School, I am extremely grateful. Thank you, also, for honoring me with this prize and for allowing me to speak to you this morning. I have
some outstanding engineering colleagues, and to be chosen from among them is truly rewarding.
Since Dean Szygenda arrived on campus my sophomore year, I have heard him recite one fact that supports his philosophy of developing engineering leaders, and that is “80% of engineering graduates are not doing
traditional engineering after graduation.” So, hearing his message, I thought I would up the Dean by five years. I have decided to attend Duke University in the fall for dual degrees in law and
public policy, and I have no doubt that my SMU Engineering experience not only provided me with this opportunity to continue my education but will continue to have an impact on my vocational future. Again,
thank you for all your support.