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IMSE senior motivated by previous failure

Lance Markert leans against a railing inside Lafferre Hall. A window looking outside is behind him.

Senior Lance Markert, who studies industrial engineering, has a nearly 4.0 GPA. At 26, he already left one school, and says that his hard work comes from a desire to succeed.

Lance Markert is motivated by failure. After graduating from high school, he spent two years as a student at the University of Illinois (U of I) before his failing grades caught up with him.

Now a senior at the University of Missouri College of Engineering in the Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering Department, Markert has more than made up for the grades he made in Illinois. He’s earned only one A-minus during his time at MU and holds a nearly perfect 4.0 GPA. The failure was inspirational.

“It’s an added motivation to me; it puts a chip on my shoulders,” he said. “Having failed so horribly and then coming back to being successful in schoolwork is probably something that will never stop motivating me. The lessons learned from that experience reach far beyond the classroom.”

Markert grew up in the small farming community of Camp Point, Ill., a town of about 1,300 people. His parents grow corn and soybeans on a 1,500-acre family farm. It’s a town where everybody knows everybody, Markert said.

He enrolled at U of I directly after high school, where he stayed until 2008 before being expelled from the mechanical engineering program due to his low grades. He spent a brief period determining his next move and then transferred to Western Illinois University in 2010 to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business management, he said.

At 26, Markert partially credits his age and maturity for how well he’s doing well at MU. He also interns at Black and Veatch, a Kansas City, Kan., engineering firm where he applies what he learns in school.

“When I was younger, I did just enough to get the grade I wanted, be it an A or a B,” Markert said. “Now I try to really learn the material and apply it to my job. When you’re doing that, the grades take care of themselves. You don’t have to stress about a grade when you know it [the material].”

For Markert, the IMSE program at MU offered a natural link between his interest in business and his engineering background. His particular interest lies in the Lean Six Sigma program, a managerial concept that strives to eliminate waste and improve speed of industrial processes.

“If you think you can do it better, Lean Six Sigma can apply in some way,” he said.

Markert works with the Lean Six Sigma group at Black and Veatch. One project he’s worked on helped to cut construction costs of structural foundations for electrical transmission lines. The waste reduction in the lines’ design costs saved the company millions of dollars, Markert said.

Markert hopes to work full time at the firm after he graduates in December 2014. He likes the company and the area in Kansas City, he said.

“I think the Lean Six Sigma group has a lot of potential to grow,” he said. “I like the people; they’re a good fit for me. It’s a good opportunity for a work/life balance.”

Outside the classroom, Markert invests time in learning more about his fields of interest through reading and research.

Cerry Klein, an IMSE professor, helped Markert learn about new developments in the area of supply chain research by recommending resources for him to look into. He’s very curious and an exceptional student, Klein said.

“What I’ve enjoyed about Lance is that he’s never satisfied with knowing how something works; he wants to know why it works,” Klein said. “He’s content with learning for the sake of learning. He seems to really enjoy learning to gain knowledge, but he’s practical enough to want to apply it when he can.”

When Markert isn’t focused on academic work, he’s usually golfing or reading business-related books.

“I’m in a better state of mind when I’m doing stuff outside,” he said. “Golf is just fun and it takes my mind off of things.”

Markert is determined to excel whether on the golf course or in class at MU. His early failure will continue to drive him to succeed for the rest of his life, he said.

“Whenever you interact with him, he has a very professional demeanor,” Klein said. “He’s the kind of kid you’d want every student to emulate if you could.”