Class of 2006
“I learned how to think bigger than myself, how to add value to the projects I am a part of and finally, that what is cool about engineering is making a vision work.”
If you walk around campus with Thor Misko, you will be stopped. You just have to prepare for it. The reason: everyone knows who Thor is on campus, even several years after he has graduated.
Thor comes from a family where engineering wasn’t talked about. He didn’t know what it was in high school until a teacher encouraged him to participate in a drafting competition through SkillsUSA. He would say this was his defining moment. “We didn’t sit around the kitchen table talking about engineering. It just wasn’t what we knew. The experience with SkillsUSA changed that.”
In order to compete, Thor had to fundraise and was directed to R.A. Smith Associates. After a 30- minute meeting, a young Thor walked out of the company with not only the funding he needed but also an internship offer. Through the internship, which lasted into his college career, his love of how buildings come together and function was born.
Thor has always been a driven person. When he wanted to take more courses in high school, he worked with his school district to start Youth Options, a program to take courses at MSOE while in high school. He distinctly remembers working with Brian Burke, director of the Learning Resource Center and meeting with Dana Grennier, director of admission, at his high school. Thor learned that MSOE was the place he wanted to be through his early experiences in the classroom and was thankful to have the right college option so close to home. “Family is everything to me. I wanted to be close but also have a great education. I was lucky that I found that match at MSOE.”
Thor wanted his education to be more than “sit it and get it.” He wanted to experience a full college experience and make sure others did as well. “I wanted to make a difference for students while they were here” and so he became involved in various student organizations on campus – including Student Government Association (SGA), Student Union Board (SUB) and the professional organization, Associated General Contractors (AGC). During his time with AGC, Thor’s project team won a national championship. As he got to know Rick Gagliano, director of student activities, a job opportunity presented itself and Thor became the student life programming assistant.
His time in the classroom is fondly remembered. You can tell by the way his face lights up and a smile comes across as he recalls a memory. “Without Dr. Mahuta, I wouldn’t have the organizational approach to work that I do. He taught me that you have to walk into a room and know what you are talking about.” Thor’s recollection of Professor Lemke advising their senior team that everyone has strengths and that makes the whole, no one person should be the hero. He also remembers an adjunct professor who worked at Johnson Controls who demonstrated so much passion it encouraged Thor to take risks he didn’t think of.
Professionally, Thor has done numerous things from being an intern at several design firms to functioning as the interim CEO for Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a national STEM-related curriculum that reaches over half a million K-12 students. His current role is vice president of engagement for PLTW and he is responsible for corporate, foundation and strategic partnerships that are mutually beneficial to all. “I did not want a student who had the potential I had to not know about engineering. PLTW courses allow students to be exposed to STEM-related curricula and are opening up doors for those students around the country.”
Thor graduated from MSOE in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering. He specialized in building electrical systems and building environmental systems.
For Thor, his MSOE education is what made his career with PLTW possible. “I learned how to think bigger than myself, how to add value to the projects I am a part of and finally, that what is cool about engineering is making a vision work. Engineers don’t have cookbooks. If there was, we wouldn’t have engineers. We have to be innovative, willing to take risks, and above all, we have to be passionate.”
Thor didn’t see attending MSOE as a risk. He saw it as the path to his future and has resulted in him leading the way for others to experience it.