By Nic Custer

After working closely with the Innovation Incubator to develop her business plan and refine her final presentation, UM-Flint student Ashley Knific won the 2015 School of Management Business Plan Competition and a $5,000 prize in March.

Ashley’s non-profit organization, Jobs 4 Moms1517493_678782812241098_6523167721083925809_n, will provide opportunities for parents and other caregivers to work flexible hours from home while raising their children. According to research, up to 43% of highly qualified women risk their careers when they take leaves of absence to raise their children. Jobs 4 Moms would like to change that statistic.

By using specifically designed software, the company will pair businesses with these skilled workers to generate personal income and reduce resume gaps. Businesses get qualified workers who can still take care of their children or loved ones.

Ashley will use the prize money to launch a viable website.  It will allow the company to develop its online platform to meet the needs of both its employers and parents. Full launch of the company and its services are expected later this year.

As the Incubator’s most recent qualifying not-for–profit client, Ashley also will begin receiving free office space in the Northbank Center this summer.

Communication Department Chair Heather Seipke (right) stands with Professor Tony McGill as he accepts the award.

Congratulations to Professor Tony McGill, Lecturer IV in the Communication and Visual Arts Department, for being the recipient of the 2012 Community Leadership Award presented by Richfield Public School Academy (RPSA) & the City of Flint as a result of his service-learning classes!

For many years, Tony has challenged his senior-level communications students to apply what they have learned in their Professional Communication concentration to real-world service-learning projects with 3-4 community partners each semester. In each of the Fall 2011 and Winter 2012 semesters, a team of students in his capstone Senior Seminar in Professional Communications (COM 426) class mentored 7th and 8th graders in the RPSA Girls and Guys Leadership Club, building their skills and confidence.

Kathryn Hoover, the RPSA School Counselor, developed the nationally recognized mentoring program which involves peer mentoring, after-school youth clubs, and positive reward structures. In 2011, she asked University Outreach about the possibility of working with UM-Flint students in order to help her students see college as a possibility for their futures. Tony’s class was the perfect fit! Kathryn has been an energetic community partner and provided guidance to Tony’s students throughout the COM 426 service-learning project.

According to Kathryn, “Dr. McGill’s students represented the University of Michigan-Flint with the utmost of professionalism and integrity. They taught the material by also sharing personal experiences about themselves to help inspire our students. One of our students in the program has struggled greatly in the past and has even felt like life is not worth living. This student grew by leaps and bounds and said that their outlook on life completely changed and now looks forward to what the future holds. This is some powerful stuff! This program also enhanced the leadership ability of the college students.”

Upon receiving the 2012 Community Leadership Award, Tony shared this reflection: “It always surprises me when a student or alumnus tells me that the greatest learning experience they had in their undergraduate or graduate program was when I required them to do a service learning project. It does not surprise me that they found the experience so rewarding, what surprises me is the frequency with which I hear this. After well over 20 years of doing these projects I have come to believe that service learning projects are an integral part of higher education and an important responsibility of  each University of Michigan-Flint student, faculty, and staff employee.”

University Outreach thanks Kathryn Hoover and Mayor Dayne Walling for bestowing this award on Professor McGill, and appreciates the students who made such a difference at RPSA (Kevin Galloway, Ryan Garland, Dan Lynch, James Murphy, Randy Owens, and Julius Taylor).

Faculty members of UM-Flint involved in K-12 education are invited to a Discovering PLACE celebration dinner, to be held 5-7 p.m. Dec. 14, 2011 at the Harding Mott University Center. Registration starts at 5 p.m., and the event kicks off with a 5:30 p.m. hors d’oeuvre reception in the University Center lobby, followed by a 6 p.m. buffet dinner by Fandangles’ , served in the Happenings Room.

What are we celebrating? An outstanding group of Flint-area teachers and community partners who have been working with Discovering PLACE, a University Outreach program that launched in 2009.

This year, the group helped local students learn through several hands-on projects that involved growing their own food, creating an outdoor trail and removing an invasive species to preserve a pond. In the process, students developed a sense of stewardship.

Local schools face a host of demands, making it especially challenging to carry out projects that exceed everyday curriculum requirements. These tasks also require the backing of school administrators and organizations such as the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative and the Great Lakes Fishery Trust, which support the efforts of Discovering PLACE.

Dr. Don Hammond, a Beecher High School science teacher involved in the projects, was recently named one of 20 Chevrolet GREEN Educators in the nation. Nominated by representatives of Earth Force, Hammond drew media attention when GM staff awarded him the use of a Chevy Volt for his classroom to study.

The Dec. 14 event is also a rare opportunity to hear Matthew Washington, Executive Director at the Friends of the High School for Environmental Studies in New York. Along with addressing diversity in the environmental field, Washington will bring firsthand insights on the benefits of exposing students to a range of settings.

“People talk about diversity, and that’s typically associated with race or gender,” said Washington. “Certainly racial diversity is important, but diversity of the mind is also important, a diversity of experiences.”

Matthew Washington

While most of Washington’s childhood was set among the concrete structures of New York City, he grew comfortable outdoors during trips to the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Washington was one of the early graduates of the High School for Environmental Studies, one of the first schools of its kind in the country. Later, he served as a mentor for the school’s Friends program. After earning his bachelor’s degree from Alfred University in Comparative Cultures, with a concentration in Cultural Anthropology, Washington became heavily entrenched in the area by serving on community boards.

Before being named Executive Director of the Friends, Washington served as Deputy Director of the Friends of Hudson River Park, a group that transformed an old pier into a flourishing public park. Washington is also part of an effort to create an open-air market in Harlem.

Childhood exposure to diverse settings can be life changing. For Washington, it impacted his career choice. Washington sees a profound effect in others too, including the students of the High School for Environmental Studies who participate in the school’s extended outdoor trips. The students has been so affected by the experience that it became part of each student’s college admission essay.

Tickets for the celebration dinner are free but limited. If you have an interest in the Discovering PLACE program and would like to attend, please RSVP by Dec. 9 to Barb Urlaub at urlaubb@umflint.edu or (810) 424-5486.

University Outreach staff are always looking for new, fun ways to approach life. Our Innovation Incubator is all about helping people change the world and make it better. A great place to start is right where you are, right now. An upcoming leadership development workshop will help you examine your circumstances and look at them from a slightly different perspective – the place where all change begins.

Wendy Shepherd wants to help you restore your energy and increase your productivity. In her workshop Light the Fuse and Spark Workplace Creativity, she presents studies that show Americans are suffering from a “creativity deficit” due in part to increased workload and pressure. Encouraging creativity is a way to diminish burnout, she says. When you can invigorate your own morale, you’ll help yourself and others work to their best potential. In this free workshop, you will learn to re-ignite your creative flame to restore your drive and increase your productivity!

Join us Friday Nov. 11, 2011: (12:30 – 4:30) for the second in the fall series of Professional Development workshops by University of Michigan’s Human Resource Development. It is another way the UM-Flint University Outreach Innovation Incubator [IN] fosters creativity and innovation on our campus and throughout our community.

My Flint is a series of orientation events that provides UM-Flint students with information about recreation, food, transportation, volunteer opportunities, and daily necessities needed for life in the City of Flint. These attractions are sure to add to their educational experience at UM-Flint! For those who are new to our campus and/or our community and for those who need or want to rediscover the city, we offer this series of events and resources to assist you in making Flint a great place to live, work, play, and go to school!

Taste of Downtown is one of our most popular My Flint events. On Wednesday, August 31 approximately 250 students had the opportunity to explore Flint’s amazing downtown eateries! Stops included Tina’s Sweet Delites, The Lunch Studio, Soyla’s Mexican Cuisine, Rolls-R-Ready Pastries and Things, Witherbee’s Market and Deli, Hoffman’s Deco Deli and Cafe, Jilly’s Pizza, Blendz, Subway, Oriental Express, Churchill’s, Wize Guys Pizza, 501 Bar and Grill and Blackstone’s Grill. This guided walking tour featured free food and free gifts! Students were able to discover their community; meet new students, faculty, staff and community members; make new friends; and have some fun! It was a great way to explore the city in a new way and learn fun facts about Flint. University Outreach staff also spoke with students regarding all the opportunities we provide for them to get involved with our community. Students were especially interested in Commitment to Service, Alternative Spring Break and Flint Corps.

Want more information? Visit the My Flint website!

The University of Michigan-Flint has created a promotional video highlighting the array of community partnerships our students, faculty and staff have cultivated over the past year. Much of Outreach’s work is featured in the video including the Cass River Greenway project.

Outreach staff and community partners Bill Zehnder and Bob Zeilinger, were interviewed on location along the Cass River at Beyer Road. Our community partners were asked to share their story on what it means to be a partner with the University, and the importance of partnering to achieve a common goal.

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