• Greg McNeil

"Come to Stevens" Precollege Speech

I wrote this in 2016 as part of a recruitment event. I remember being really into some of the ideas in bold. I also remember screaming (probably partying) hard the night before and not having any voice the day of. Hello everyone, For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Greg McNeil and I’m currently in my 4/5 year student here at Stevens with a major in Mechanical Engineering and Masters in Systems Engineering. If you wonder why I said year 5, it is because Stevens gives students a great opportunity to study abroad, participate in PAID internships, earn a master's degree, or in my case, all three. These programs typically extend one's stay for an additional year or so. In addition to my studies, I have been involved with the Pre-College program staff for the past three years as both a Resident Assistant and counselor. Like you, I participated in the ECOES program - back in 2012. It is good to see so many familiar faces here. Several years ago, when I was in your shoes, debating whether or not I should apply and ultimately attend Stevens. I thought about my experience at Pre-College; things like playing capture the flag – definitely a positive - the academic modules I participated in like Chemical Engineering – which taught me maybe I wasn’t meant to be Chem-E, and Mechanical Engineering – which is the module that is cemented in my mind, and ended up being what I wanted to study. Like most of you are doing - or have done, I thought and thought about my future; I reached out to friends, family, and former Pre-College staff members (points to self) for advice. I ultimately arrived at a fundamental question that some of my residents might be familiar with, “Do you want to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond”? It’s no secret that Stevens is a small school. While steadily approaching 4,000 undergraduates, Stevens is not, and will never be a LARGE school in the Big 10. What Stevens does offer you, is the chance to make YOUR mark and the chance to invent and reinvent yourself over and over again. As a freshman, I was required to take an entrepreneurship class, (which to be honest) is something I initially dreaded. The course required us to do things like 20 customer interviews on the product our team was prototyping. I remember thinking “wow, what am I going to do, I have no idea how to talk to people”. That class ended up changing my life. For our final project, we were asked to get accepted onto the crowdfunding website, Kickstarter. The professor, who was an established serial entrepreneur, had an nontraditional style about him and told our class that anyone who gets accepted onto Kickstarter gets an A. My team was comprised of students from all walks of life. We had a transfer student from Saudi Arabia, a D3 women’s basketball player, a professional super smash bros player - and myself. The common thread between us? We had all met in that class just 2 months before – that’s it. We had an idea to create a modular power strip that had a more ergonomic design than the traditional power strip while still being aesthetically pleasing. It ended up that a lot of people thought this idea was a good one. We decided to submit it to Kickstarter, a website designed to help entrepreneurs find the resources and support they need to make their ideas a reality. My team ended up raising over $10,000. We had complete strangers donating their money to help fund a small idea by a few college kids. I received a lot of publicity – thanks in large part to Stevens faculty and administration being keenly aware of us as students – we were the proverbial big fish at that moment - the small school environment allowed this to happen. Ultimately, after being featured in several newspapers, we sold the engineering and intellectual property to a company in China. This would not have been feasible at another school. Don’t get me wrong, if you decide to attend a “big pond” school, they do offer all of these activities as well. However, there is a big difference if you’re here at Stevens. You’re not competing with 50,000 other students. I would not have 1% of the opportunities I have here had I attended a “big pond” school. At Stevens, I formed a band and am producing a record, joined a fraternity, studied abroad in England, I even write about and review restaurants for the school newspaper. I have close connections with many of the faculty and staff members ---- even this talk that I am giving, is a testament to the opportunity I have been given at Stevens. By attending Pre-College, I had a leg up on the admissions process compared to my friends. Through Pre-college, Stevens got to experience the real ME, instead of the number on the paper marked but mediocrity of my high school grades (pause) especially French. I had already given a potential college a “test-drive.” Pre College was an automatic way that I was able to connect with people. One of the first things Joe Strokusz and I spoke about was how we went to precollege together. Today, we have worked at precollege for the past 3 years together and I consider him one of my closest friends. Additionally, Pre College gave me the confidence to go out and meet new people. When I was in highschool, I didn’t have to meet many new people. I was mostly just friends with the same people I had been with in middle school. This makes college an intimidating experience for some students. With Pre-College, I was able to break that ice and enroll in a community where I already had a somewhat built in family. I could leave for college already knowing I had people excited to see me again. I wouldn’t have gotten that at a different school. So now you’re probably thinking, “wow Greg, I really like countless opportunities to succeed – but what sets Stevens apart from other schools”? I would remind the voice inside your head to draw on your experience - which is precisely what I did when I was applying to Stevens. I thought about the “vibe” of Hoboken – Stevens is part of the community unlike larger schools which are the community – the proximity of the school to NYC – how much I enjoyed ECOES which is all about introducing prospective engineers to the study of technology, the reputation of the school as being for technology and engineering. I thought about what I wanted to gain from my college experience and saw Stevens as a means to their end. Today, as I look to the future, I know that life after Stevens looks bright. I have plans to follow in the footsteps of my idol, Elon Musk and start another company – Granted it may be an admittedly untraditional plan for a Stevens graduate – but it is one that I know I HAVE BEEN prepared for thanks to Stevens -- I know these plans wouldn’t be possible without the education and experiences that I’ve GAINED here at Stevens. I urge you to strongly consider this as a viable choice for your college education.

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