Like a teacher, Joe Mileski, BS ’12, BSME ’20 wanted to change the world. As an engineer, he just might.
Mileski recently returned to campus to thank those who had a major influence on his education and career and to donate to the Dean of Engineering’s Innovation Fund. He values the UN’s leadership, faculty, and culture of supporting traditional and non-traditional students. He was both.
A recipient of a President’s Fellowship, Mileski first entered the UN as an engineering major in 2008. He changed his major to math education in his second year; and reflected on the reasons for the change.
“We had a big engineering project coming up and about eight of us were stuck on campus one weekend because we didn’t have the software we needed at home,” he recalls. “I thought to myself, do I really want to do this for a few more years?”
After graduating in 2012, he began teaching at a parochial school in Toledo, Ohio. After five years, he became disillusioned with teaching.
“I wanted to change the world, but the world didn’t want to change,” he said. “I loved what I was doing but felt like I was getting by.”
Because he had no particular ties to the Toledo region, he decided to complete his engineering studies even if it meant moving. He spoke to a few universities and didn’t find much encouragement to return to graduate.
“When I got to Ada and walked into the admissions office they let me know within five minutes that I was accepted and I could speak with the College of Engineering. given the opportunity and did not hesitate for me to come back for a new diploma.
Admittedly, he was not happy at first to be on the other side of the desk “with students I could have taught”. After getting used to being a student again, he got down to business, becoming a student ambassador for the President’s Club as well as a member of the Dean’s team at the College of Engineering. Ambassadors represent the student body at events and work closely with the Office of Advancement. Joe remembers attending many alumni events and learning the importance of continuing to support the UN after graduation.
inspiration and motivation
Mileski’s mentor and supporter throughout his undergraduate studies was John Murphy, his grandfather, now 90 years old.
“I should call him ‘Doctor’ John Murphy,” Mileski added. “He earned his Ph.D. in aeronautical and astronomical engineering in 1970. He’s an Air Force veteran, a math genius, and he really enjoys higher education.”
Dr. Murphy placed such importance on a university education that he provided financial support for his seven grandchildren while they graduated. He researched tuition fees for private and public universities in Ohio, then calibrated how much he thought Mileski would need to graduate with an undergraduate degree. If Mileski came in “under budget,” he would receive the rest as a gift 10 years after graduation. Murphy continued to provide support when Joe returned to the UN to complete his bachelor’s degree in engineering.
With a grandfather with a doctorate, parents who work in the health sciences, and six cousins who all earn degrees, many of them in the sciences, Mileski thinks an aptitude for math and science could be genetics?
“As a former math teacher, I don’t believe you were born with an aptitude for science or math,” he said. “Everyone has the ability to solve problems.”
He admits he was the typical budding engineer growing up. In eighth grade, he went to the regional science fair. His project involved wind tunnels and although he didn’t understand the science behind it, he found it interesting.
“The only advice my grandfather had was to tell me to straighten out the air coming from a box fan I had installed. Otherwise he gave me no help on the project,” Mileski laughed. .
Everything leads back to the north
After graduating from engineering in 2020, Mileski began working on a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He credits his UN advisers for helping him get a graduate assistant position. He laughed that they “didn’t push me so gently in that direction” and used endorsements and referrals to help bolster his case.
“Again, it all comes back to the North,” he said. “I think that’s why I had to come back and thank everyone and give my present.”
Joe completed his Masters in Mechanical Engineering in 2022 and is now employed in the private sector in the Dayton area. Following somewhat in the footsteps of his grandfather, his position involves working with the Air Force.
Aerospace engineering is unique in that it is such a niche that there are fewer open positions than in other engineering specialties. Mileski credits the UN’s rigorous engineering curriculum with giving him an edge in his graduate studies and job search. As a teacher, he felt he had a better understanding of content with a math degree, as well as a focus on education.
“Yes, the UN definitely prepared me, compared to my friends who went to other schools,” he said.
Today, even elementary schools have emphasized STEAM education to teach problem-solving and critical-thinking skills through science, technology, math, and the arts. There is a demand for qualified people in these fields, including engineering. Mileski believes there is a need to replace many talented engineers who have now reached retirement age.
“We need people who know this area and we lack them,” he added.
This is Mileski’s first gift to the UN. Why now? His answer was honest. It’s the first time he doesn’t have to worry about where his living expenses come from. He’s on an upward trajectory, possibly changing the world, and he credits his alma mater with much of his success.
“Of course, I’m incredibly biased,” he confessed. “I spent seven years at the UN.”