One Graduate's Advice: When the Road to Success Gets Bumpy, Keep Driving

Written by: Tracey Regan,
Student Senate President Mark Neubauer talked of grit, resilience and traffic cones at Commencement.

In a commencement speech that mixed humor and practicality, Student Senate President Mark Neubauer* described the road to success as navigable, if bumpy at times. As his classmates prepare to embark on it, he urged them to emulate the “traffic cones found on campus" and “be resilient.”

“Being passionate about what you do is amazing. Being excited to change the world is fantastic. But passion alone will only get you so far,” he warned. “You can’t be passionate about all the dull, exhausting, and unpleasant things life will throw your way. But you can be resilient and keep on moving forward despite them. With enough grit, with enough determination, you can overcome these obstacles and achieve the success you’ve always wanted.”

The orange cones that now dot the NJIT landscape are “not only a sign of ongoing construction and campus improvement, but a source of inspiration,” he observed, to appreciative chuckles. Noting the unusual places they are sometimes found, he added, “Sometimes you might feel all alone, like you’re dangling on a branch. Sometimes you might feel flattened, like a car just ran you over. Like the traffic cone, we must straighten up and be ready to face the next day of challenges.”

Grit and determination are clearly part Neubauer’s own story; add to that a seemingly boundless energy to wade into new experiences and test out options.

Mulling a career in health care, he “tried every scenario: nursing boot camp, premed, speech therapy. I shadowed a physical therapist in her office and got my EMT certification,” he recounts. “But I decided that rather than working one-on-one, I preferred to be a biomedical engineer, working on devices that could potentially help many more people.”

In class, he has modeled the cardiovascular system and helped develop an award-winning smartwatch application to help autistic children in the classroom. At an internship at Ethicon, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson that creates surgical products, he worked on sutures and meshes. That internship turned into a full-time job that starts in June, when he will work in research and development on testing apparatuses to evaluate the performance of surgical sealants before they hit the market.

On campus, Neubauer also left few stones unturned. Besides serving as president of the Senate, he was president of the student Honor Council, an ambassador for the Honors College, a writing tutor and member of the fraternity, Sigma Pi.

He’s satisfied that he and his peers have left a tangible legacy: new lounges and library study spaces, outdoor seating and gym equipment, as well as resources to support the growing number of student clubs and constitutional reforms that will encourage more student engagement in years to come.

“It’s gratifying to walk across campus and see your proposals in action, things that students use all of the time,” he said, adding that he has encouraged more undergraduates to get involved in student government by joining committees as a Student-at-Large and making it easier for all students to bring their ideas and problems to the Senate.

The next step, he says, is for NJIT students to join with other New Jersey public universities to make themselves heard in Trenton. “We students should be at the forefront in forming and improving policies that affect us, such as tuition rates, federal grants and meal plans."

*Neubauer is a member of the Albert Dorman Honors College