There Are No Wrong Answers: My Decision to Attend Montana Tech

After moving camp from my Couchsurfing host’s house to a motel down on the flatlands, my second day in Butte, Montana—Friday, April 15th, 2016—was all about visiting Montana Tech.


Montana Tech campus, looking out towards the flatlands

I showed up for my scheduled tour at 12:55 PM and checked in with Enrollment Services. Then, I met with an Enrollment Specialist, followed by a Scholarship/Financial Aid Specialist. I remember nothing from these two meetings, and only vaguely remember the subsequent campus tour, provided by a current student whose name escapes me, but starting around 3:00 PM, when I met with a faculty member from the Geological Engineering Department, my brain recorded everything in extreme detail.


At 3:00 I walked into the office of Professor Mariah McLaren. (That isn’t her real name, I made it up, but let’s keep it that way for privacy purposes.) Her office was small, but well-stocked: floor-to-ceiling bookcases lined the walls, the shelves bowing under the weight of ancient textbooks and reference volumes; plants, green and exploding from their pots, all but blotted out the only window on whose sill they were arranged; rocks and minerals adorned every surface, some eye-catchingly glimmery, but most plain, cylindrical hunks with glittering veins cutting through them (these were called core samples, as I’d come to learn). Behind a paper-piled desk, in an outdated, plastic, oversized elementary school chair, with her glasses slid all the way to the end of her nose as she squinted at a computer screen from underneath a mop of dark brown hair, sat the Professor. She turned when I walked in, and an infectious smile split across her face. “You must be Alexandra,” she said, standing up with her arm extended for a handshake. “I’m Professor McLaren, but you can just call me Mariah.”


Mariah cleared off a chair for me in the corner. We talked for over an hour—it was starting to get dark outside by the time I was leaving campus—and I learned that she went to graduate school at UC Berkeley. We talked about Berkeley and Oakland for the first fifteen minutes at least, and our conversation then shifted with ease into more pertinent topics, like what Geological Engineering is, why I wanted to study it, Mariah’s role in the Department, my research interests and how they aligned with hers, et cetera.


I really enjoyed talking to Mariah. She seemed to think I was a valuable asset for the Geological Engineering program—she offered to be my advisor, and also mentioned something called the Mitchell Scholarship, which she said I might qualify for. Later on, once I was back at the motel, I received an email from her saying:


Hi Alexandra,

It was great meeting you today!

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation in case you want to share it with your parents.

It’s only one person’s perspective (mine) of what geological engineering is, but it should give the flavor of what it’s all about.

Good luck deciding which school to go to—there are no wrong answers!

Mariah


Naturally, by the end of the night, I came to the decision that I would attend Montana Tech in the Fall of 2016. I felt desired by, useful to them, and it gave me this massive ego boost. Unfortunately, that ego boost would carry through to the next day, my final day in Butte, during which I would once again put myself into a sketchy situation.


Looking down Park Ave from Montana Tech campus

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