MSOE Air Force ROTC Cadet Mark Nelson isn’t afraid of a little sweat equity. During the school year, two mornings a week, Nelson would work out in the required ROTC physical training. Then after he’d finish classes for the day, he’d grind through two more hours of physical labor with the MSOE cross country team.

“I felt like I was cheating my team if I didn’t go out and practice again and get the right mileage in.” Nelson did the same during track season when he competed in the 800 meter or mile.

From the start, Nelson pushed himself during training and classes, and encouraged fellow cadets to do better. ROTC officers took notice of Nelson’s hard work, and he was selected for the Type I Scholarship which includes full tuition plus monthly stipends.

Nelson says he had originally planned to go into the Air Force right after college like his older brother had done. However, that changed when his dad—a Navy man—steered him toward the Air Force ROTC booth at an MSOE open house.

“They said I could get my degree, and then right after, go into the Air Force as an officer,” says Nelson. “Then the benefit of being able to receive a scholarship just made that decision so much better.”

Nelson, a sophomore, is a mechanical engineering major. While growing up, he says he was always told he should be an engineer. “I liked to take things apart to figure out how they worked, and then I could put them back together and make them work again.”

While his father and older brother inspired Nelson to go into the armed forces, it was his mother who influenced his decision to go to MSOE, where she earned a degree in industrial engineering. “She said MSOE was a challenge, but it was a good challenge for her,” says Nelson, “And that’s what I was looking for.”

One of the things Nelson likes most about his MSOE classes is the collaboration with other students. “We’d all look at this project and add our own things to it, and in the end, it was so much cooler than any one of us thought it could be.”

Nelson was named to the NCAA Scholar-Athlete list in 2017-18, an honor given to students competing in the conference who maintain a grade point average of 3.25 or higher throughout the academic year. 

Between academics, athletics and ROTC, Nelson made time to meet weekly with a small group through InterVarsity of Christian Fellowship. “To me, that was a nice wind-down from the high-strung days that I would have,” he says. “I would be able to relax and have a nice conversation with my floormates.”

Eventually, Nelson hopes to get into the research and development division of the Air Force to work on the design of airplanes and aircraft. He says he’d also like to further his education and earn a degree in aerospace engineering. “So I can be even more of a help to the Air Force.”