Michael Welter’s 45 words take up an entire wall at HPU.
They’re right outside The Café, a dozen steps from the sliding doors inside the Slane Student Center, with each letter as big as the palm of an adult’s hand.
The words are taken from an essay Welter wrote this summer on LinkedIn.com. He adds nine more choice descriptions to HPU’s well-known “Choose to be Extraordinary!” phrase, like “Choose to be diligent” and “Choose to overprepare.”
But Welter didn’t write his essay for a wall. He wrote it for himself and HPUminds, a student organization he helped form and now leads.
HPUminds works with Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple and HPU’s Innovator in Residence. Wozniak is helping 22 members of HPUminds build a self-driving golf cart, and Welter has spent the past three years with Wozniak.
Welter is HPU’s Extraordinary Leader for the month of October. But he didn’t receive the award because of his words on a wall.
It’s much bigger than that.
Welter is the only son of a single mother, a retired ophthalmologist. He came to HPU from Toledo, Ohio, drawn by HPU’s physics department. He knew he made the right choice when he met Dr. Aaron Titus, the department’s chair.
He liked Titus’ enthusiasm right away. He also liked the department’s community outreach program known as HPUniverse Day, and since 2014, the on-campus event has taught local students to appreciate science.
Welter believes in outreach. He did it back home in high school. He rollerbladed a mile from his house to a senior center where he played piano and helped its residents put together puzzles and craft projects.
Yet, when he came to HPU, Welter first felt out of sorts. He didn’t know anyone on campus and felt he didn’t belong. So, he went to see Dr. Titus.
That’s all it took.
Dr. Titus offered Welter a chance to be a Student Instructor, or “SI” in campus language. Welter said yes and began tutoring students in a course about how physics helps program video games.
The SI job helped. But Titus’ mentorship helped even more.
“I needed someone to say, ‘You can do this. You can lift yourself up. What do you want to do with your life?’” Welter says. “Dr. Titus became my soundboard.”
Since then, Welter has become one of Titus’ star students.
“Michael is not a student who wants to coast by,” Titus says. “He wants to do significant things, important things that can make a difference and have value.”
The second semester of his freshman year, Welter joined what’s known as The Woz Project.
Welter felt like he belonged at HPU in more ways than one.
Ask Welter about working with Wozniak, and he laughs.
“I was like this ‘fan girl’ at first,” he says. “I mean, he’s The Woz, he’s like some tech god. I even had him sign the laptop my grandma got for me. But the more I worked with him, the more I saw that he was just this humble guy who built Apple with his buddy he met during college.
“He also became a role model for me and helped define my core values. It’s that whole idea about the importance of community involvement and lifting each other up, teaching kids circuits and computer science. That completely aligns with what I want to do.”
“I realized the rich potential HPU offered me as a student when I met Steve Wozniak,” he says. “The opportunity to work with him really showed me how the school could influence my career choice.”
Welter wanted to do more with The Woz Project than just be a once-a-year get together with Wozniak in Cottrell Hall. He helped create a student organization known as HPUminds that helped technically-minded students hone their skills throughout the school year.
Welter has been the group’s president for the past two years. The group’s invention – its self-driving golf cart – should be ready by Wozniak’s next campus visit in February.
Meanwhile, Welter has heard three students tell him The Woz Project is one of the main reasons they came to HPU.
“There is no greater feeling,” he says, “than having someone say, ‘I’ve been inspired by what you achieved.’”
Welter is also president of HPU’s Society of Physics Students, and he’s worked on four different research projects with HPU professors. Those projects included programming his own video game and building a mobile robot.
In his sophomore and junior years, he sang with and arranged the music for The Off-Beats, a co-ed a cappella group on campus.
Welter is now a senior majoring in physics with minors in math and graphic design. For the past three years, he has helped coordinate the HPUniverse Day, and he estimates nearly 4,000 local students have come to campus to do and see practical applications of science.
This summer, Welter interned in Washington, D.C. with the national office of the Society of Physics Students. He wrote social media posts, essays and blogs, and he designed their poster for their nearly 800 campus organizations worldwide.
The poster contains this quote from 19th century American astronomer Maria Mitchell:
“We have a hunger of the mind which asks for knowledge of all around us, and the more we gain, the more is our desire; the more we see, the more we are capable of seeing.”
Those words are Welter. It’s what he values, and it’s what those 45 words outside The Café are all about.
Welter admits he was nervous when he was contacted by HPU about his essay.
On his LinkedIn.com page, he wrote about how he has adapted and expanded HPU’s call-to-action mantra “Choose to be Extraordinary!” in his own way, with his own words. He encouraged readers to do the same.
Welter heard HPU officials liked his essay. They saw it as an insightful treatise that broadened HPU’s idea of extraordinary.
So, Welter’s words are now as big as any billboard. Welter’s friends think it’s “really cool.” It all humbles Welter. Still, it’s what he believes.
Take risks. Over-prepare. Encourage others. Ask for help. Self-reflect. Be active. Be diligent. Be compassionate. Pursue and persevere through challenges.
And thus, be extraordinary.