U.S. senator and Engineering alumnus Heinrich to speak at convocation
The University of Missouri College of Engineering is proud to host U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico as its 2014 spring convocation speaker.
Heinrich, who graduated from MU in 1995 with a degree in mechanical engineering, was elected as the junior U.S. senator from New Mexico in 2012. He served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives prior to being elected senator and began his career in politics as an Albuquerque, N.M., city councilor.
Speaking from his office in Washington, D.C., Heinrich said that when he received the invitation to present the convocation address to MU Engineering’s graduating class of 2014, he jumped at the chance given the fact that his years at Mizzou were the most important in his life on his way to becoming an adult.
“Going to the university, getting my engineering degree, living in Columbia — those were great years. It was a very meaningful opportunity,” he said.
One of the highlights of Heinrich’s Mizzou experience — in addition to meeting his wife Julie, a 1993 School of Journalism graduate — was his work as a member of engineering’s victorious solar car team. That endeavor gave him his first taste of working together with people from divergent disciplines to arrive at a solution that made them successful as a team.
“The critical thinking skills and problem-solving approach I learned as an engineering student are sometimes missing in the legislative process,” Heinrich said. “Legislative decisions are often process-based, not outcome-based decisions — data driven problem solving differentiates my approach to the legislative process.”
Heinrich is the only engineer in the U.S. Senate.
“A background in engineering helps me ask questions that I wouldn’t necessarily otherwise ask,” he said. “And the more questions you ask, the closer you get to answers.”
Heinrich said his convocation address will focus on how important and how unique an engineering education can be.
When asked about pressing national issues of importance to engineers, he highlighted early science education is an issue relevant to the entire country, not just engineers.
“We need first grade teachers who are teaching science,” Heinrich said. “If you wait until junior high or high school [for this level of engagement], you’ve waited too long. We need more engineers in this country and in our society, but science must be presented to children at an earlier age.”
Heinrich is a lifelong advocate for technology, innovation and clean energy. He currently serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources, Intelligence and Joint Economic Committees.
He began his career at Phillips Laboratories in Albuquerque as a contractor. He later served in AmeriCorps for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and was the former Executive Director of the Cottonwood Gulch Foundation. He additionally led the Coalition for New Mexico Wilderness and founded a small public affairs consulting firm.