CAS students are doing amazing things in these student organizations

How do you get the most out of your college experience? There are the basics, like making sure you’re attending class, and you can go the extra mile by visiting your professors during their office hours. But to make close connections with other students, and have experiences that are meaningful now and for your future career, you should join a student club!

The benefits of joining (or starting!) a student organization are numerous. Making friends, developing soft skills such as leadership, networking and resume-building are just a few examples of what to expect. The Office of Student Involvement & Leadership at UM-Flint has a listing of existing student clubs, and resources for students to start their own organization.

Here are five student groups (among many!) in which students in the College of Arts & Sciences are doing amazing things.

Moot Court

Students interested in law and politics can join UM-Flint’s Moot Court team, which competed for this first time this year. Team members compete in regional and national competitions, presenting legal arguments on hypothetical legal cases.

You can read about the experience two recent grads had with the Moot Court team here.

SAE Baja

Students in the SAE Baja Club build an off-road vehicle and test their design skills against hundreds of students from across the country. With contests like hill climbs and time trials, it’s an exciting way for students interested in Engineering to compete.

Read about the SAE Baja Club’s most recent competition in Rochester, New York.

Chemistry Club

If you have an interest in Chemistry and are looking to be part of a winning tradition, look no further than the Chemistry Club at UM-Flint. The Club is designated year-after-year as “Outstanding” by the American Chemical Society and recently won a Green Chemistry Award for their advocacy of sustainable practices.

Oh, and they teamed up with other clubs across the state to create the world’s largest periodic table.

M-Times & Qua

Do you enjoy journalism or creative writing? If so, these campus publications are for you.

The Michigan Times is UM-Flint’s newspaper and digital news outlet. The student team recently started a podcast, called The M-Times Insider.

Qua is the literary and fine arts magazine for campus. Published twice a year, Qua features poetry, short stories, creative non-fiction, and visual art.

Pre-Professional Clubs (Pre-Med, Pre-PT, and more!)

If you’re looking for a professional career in the healthcare field, you can find volunteer experiences and find study buddies with a club devoted to your chosen career path.

UM-Flint students have started Pre-Medical, Pre-Dental, Pre-Physical Therapy, Pre-Physician Assistant, and Pre-Veterinary clubs. Find the support you need to succeed in your preparation for professional schools.

CAS students are involved in nearly every student organization across campus, so be sure to check out all the clubs on offer. And if you have questions about what you can expect as a student in the College of Arts & Sciences, feel free to reach out to Communications Specialist Logan McGrady at lmcgrady@umich.edu.


UM-Flint Design students created a pop-up t-shirt print shop with help from donors

As part of ART 379: Community Design Studio, UM-Flint Art & Design students created a pop-up t-shirt printing storefront on Flint’s MLK Avenue. Named “The Change Machine,” the pop-up shop is just one example of the real-world experiences students in the College of Arts & Sciences can have thanks to donor support.

“The Community Design Studio is a place where students can work on real-life projects with clients,” explains Associate Professor Benjamin Gaydos. Gaydos. “This isn’t a simulation; this is a working design studio.”

To help bring their talents to the community, Community Design Studio students were awarded a CAS Opportunity Fund grant for this event, which provided funds for supplies like blank t-shirts, silk screens for printing, and vinyl for signage.

Video: Creating a T-Shirt

The opportunity to apply her learning is one that junior Art & Design major Stephanie Streeter appreciates.

“It is easy in design classes to make things that don’t actually impact anyone and just get a grade. This class is great because you get to see the results of your work in the community,” Streeter says.

 To help students like Stephanie take their learning outside of the classroom, consider giving to the CAS Opportunity Fund during Giving Blueday on Dec. 3.


Alumna Kelly Coon publishes debut novel, returns to Flint Dec. 4.

Alumna Kelly Coon, ’00, returns to Flint on Dec. 4 to talk about writing and her debut novel, Gravemaidens.

The University of Michigan-Flint wasn’t the first school that author Kelly Coon (BA English ’00) considered. Kelly was expelled from her first college, a very conservative religious institution in South Carolina. She looks back on that expulsion with pride. High tuition costs at another private college prompted the Flint-area native to enroll closer to home at UM-Flint. Third time’s a charm and Kelly graduated with her bachelor’s in English (Specialization in Writing) in 2000.    

“My professors at UM-Flint really believed in me. Dr. Jacob Blumner took me aside and said, ‘I bet you’ll be published before you’re 30,’” Kelly remembers. “I held him in high esteem and kept that memory when I was getting nowhere with my first novels, not being able to get a literary agent.”

The words of her professor proved to be an important motivation for Kelly, as she experienced 106 rejections over ten years while working to get a novel published. She accomplished her goal in October 2019, as Gravemaidens was published by Delacorte Press/Penguin Random House. A sequel is forthcoming.

Kelly wrote several novels before getting a deal for Gravemaidens and its sequel.

Gravemaidens is a young adult fantasy novel set in the city-state of Alu, where beautiful young girls are chosen to go with the dying ruler into the afterlife. The story focuses on sisters Kammani and Nanaea; younger sister Nanaea is chosen to die with the ruler, while Kammani will do everything she can to save her sister by healing the ruler. It’s a tale that draws heavily on themes of sisterhood and feminism—an intentional choice by Kelly, who was raised in a heavily patriarchal environment.

“The church I was raised in was almost cultish. Whatever the pastor said was law and women were meant to stay home and raise children,” Kelly explains. “For me, feminism just means a woman being free to pursue whatever she feels inclined to pursue, whether that is staying home with her children or going out to find a career. It’s important that I reflect that in my stories—girls pursuing their dreams and attaining them.”

On Dec. 4, Kelly will return to UM-Flint for a talk and Q & A from 2:30-3:45 in 301 French Hall. Though the talk takes place during an Intro to Creative Writing class session, all students are welcome. Later that day, Kelly will conduct a reading and signing at Totem Books (620 W Court St.) from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. Kelly, who now lives near Tampa with her husband and three sons, has not been to campus since graduating in 2000.

“I grew up absolutely dirt poor in Burton, Michigan. My mom didn’t graduate from high school. I was the first person in my family to go to college. I’m excited to look at these students and say, ‘If I can do it, you can do it.’ This is thrilling for me.”


Research and Advocacy: M.A. in English Student Bianca Ramirez

Bianca Ramirez presented research at the Michigan TESOL Conference Nov. 1-2.

Tutor. Translator. Advocate. Those are a lot of hats for anyone to wear, particularly when it’s all part of your job description. Such is this case for Bianca Ramirez, an English Language Learner (ELL) Facilitator for Genesee Intermediate School District and student in the M.A. in English program at UM-Flint.

In her role as an ELL Facilitator, Bianca attends classes with students whose English skills range from none at all to being nearly fluent. She translates what the teacher is saying, helps them with assignments, and ensures they have access to the resources they need to succeed. In the course of her work, Bianca noticed that some teachers were uncomfortable when interacting with students who had differing English abilities – if they interacted with them at all.

“With one of my mentors, Melojeane Zawilinski, we came up with the term ‘ghost racism,'” Bianca explains. “You can’t understand, you can’t hear, you can’t teach. Some teachers don’t want these kids in the classroom, and they try to push them out. It happens – it happened to me as a kid – so that’s what led me to my research.”

Bianca with faculty mentor Melojeane Zawilinski

Bianca’s research took the form of interviewing teachers. Some had English language learner students in their classrooms, some never had. When synthesizing her interview results with existing literature, Bianca was able to make several recommendations:

  • Pre-service (student) teachers need to learn from a more culturally responsive curriculum.
  • Current teachers need more direct exposure to the ELL community.
  • ELL professional development should be mandatory.

Bianca presented her year-long study at the Michigan TESOL Conference, held Nov. 1-2 at Grand Valley State University. She explains that presenting her research to educators was important for her.

“I want to put theory into practice. Let’s just start something, I want something to be done. And everyone there felt the same way, they wanted to learn from me and what I found so they can act on it because they have been through similar situations,” Bianca says.

In addition to her position as an ELL facilitator, Bianca also teaches at Delta College and Saginaw Valley while completing her master’s coursework. It’s a lot to take on, and Bianca credits her UM-Flint professors with helping her make it possible.

“I don’t think I could have done it anywhere else, to be honest. I’ve gotten a lot of attention here from my mentors and I think you wouldn’t be able to get that in a lot of places.”

Interested in learning more about the M.A. in English Language & Literature at UM-Flint? The program director, Dr. Fred Svoboda, can be reached at fsvoboda@umich.edu. The application is also available online.


Donors helped Genevieve Rainey Participate in an Archaeological Dig

What’s Giving Blueday? It’s the University of Michigan’s special day of giving: a one-time-a-year opportunity for you to team-up with the global U-M family and share your love for all things maize and blue. Giving Blueday takes place on Dec. 3, 2019.

Generous donations to the CAS Opportunity Fund allows UM-Flint students like Genevieve Rainey to have impactful experiences that will resonate for years after graduation.

An Anthropology major, Genevieve received assistance from the CAS Opportunity Fund to attend archaeological field school in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Genevieve worked to excavate the Doane Family Homestead, a family of original settlers who separated from Plymouth Colony in 1644.

“Taking part in an archaeological field school was a great experience; it helped me to decide the particular field of archaeology I want to pursue, gave me hands-on training, and allowed me to meet some amazing new friends,” Genevieve says.

To help students like Genevieve take their learning outside of the classroom, consider giving to the CAS Opportunity Fund on December 3.


International Place-Based Education Conference Comes to UM-Flint

Community members like Pastor Robert Sherman McCathern (left) and UM-Flint faculty Jori Reigle (Nursing), Kazuko Hiramatsu (English), and Todd Womack (Social Work) work together to educate students and transform Flint.

Isn’t it easier to learn something when you can relate that subject to your own life? Placing learning in the context of a student’s experience not only makes the content more accessible; it also creates the opportunity for partnerships that prove transformational for both students and their community. This is the foundation of place-based education, an educational philosophy that acknowledges a student’s community as a central resource for learning.

On November 7-9, 340 educators from 77 organizations, 15 states, and 4 countries explored this powerful philosophy at the University of Michigan-Flint during the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative’s Place-Based Education Conference. GLSI promotes place-based education across the Great Lakes region through a network of hubs—UM-Flint’s Discovering PLACE is the Flint-area partner.

UM-Flint has embraced place-based education both in its teacher preparation programs (which range from early childhood to secondary offerings) and as a tool in teaching students of all majors. This cross-disciplinary commitment was on display during a presentation by community member Pastor Robert Sherman McCathern of Joy Tabernacle Church and faculty from the UM-Flint English, Nursing, and Social Work programs.

UM-Flint nursing faculty and students work with Civic Park Residents on health-related issues. Click to watch a video!

The partnership centers around the Urban Renaissance Center (URC), based in Flint’s Civic Park neighborhood. As the social service component of Joy Tabernacle, the URC works with Civic Park residents to address their needs. In a 15-block radius around Joy Tabernacle Church exists The Ubuntu Village, which includes buildings that provide Civic Park residents the resources they need to be happy and healthy. “Ubuntu” is a Zulu philosophy meaning “I am because we are.”

It is in the context of this Ubuntu Village that UM-Flint faculty and students work alongside Civic Park residents. Three faculty members presented on the partnership.

Social Work professor Todd Womack teaches his class SWR 304: Urban Context, on-site in the URC, helping his social work students to create a foundational understanding of issues within the practice of social work in urban environments requiring intervention.

Nursing faculty member Jori Reigle, her students, and Civic Park residents focus on wellness together; they organize family-friendly events like a Costume Walk for Halloween. They also focus on mental health through mindfulness and yoga sessions.

English professor Kazuko Hiramatsu and her students engage with URC through a First-Year Experience course titled “I am UM-Flint.” Students support URC programming and reflect on how their experiences have impacted their lives and informed their understanding of community.

Students in the “I am UM-Flint” First-Year Experience Course create research posters to aid in their reflection of the experiences gained through their work with the URC.

UM-Flint and Civic Park collaborate in many other ways; The Department of History works frequently with residents to preserve the story of the historic Flint neighborhood.

“We asked, ‘What if a university worked alongside one of the most abandoned, underserved areas?’ What if all the resources, skills, and mindsets at that university walked with the community? Today that reality is here,” Pastor McCathern says.  

Interested in learning more about The Ubuntu Village? Visit the Urban Renaissance Center online. If you’d like to explore how UM-Flint can prepare you as an educator in place-based education, see the early childhood & elementary degree programs and secondary teacher’s certificate programs offered by UM-Flint.


Theatre Alumnus Stars in Broadway Tour of The Color Purple

Mon’Quez Deon Pippins, a 2003 graduate of the Department of Theatre & Dance, is appearing in the first national Broadway tour of The Color Purple, a musical revival of the 1982 novel. The production is coming to The Whiting in Flint on November 1-2. Tickets are available online.

Before he took to stages across the country, Mon’Quez honed his craft in the UM-Flint Theatre. He remembers his professors fondly for pushing him to constantly improve.

“Professors like Carolyn Gillespie and Janet Haley, all the professors, they pushed us to use our chops. They didn’t want us to sit comfortably. They wanted us to work hard to make these characters come through,” Mon’Quez says.

Mon’Quez (front center) with fellow cast members of The Color Purple.

He is not sitting comfortably with The Color Purple. Mon’Quez is playing both The Preacher and Old Mister in the production–highly contrasting characters. Where The Preacher is happy and uplifting, Old Mister is a dark role, an abusive father. “I love this kind of challenge, U of M got me doing this,” Mon’Quez says.

Preparing for any Broadway production is an intense experience, but it is particularly true for a nationwide tour. There was a three-and-a-half week rehearsal period. Some people would be tempted to “phone it in” during some of the preparations. Not Mon’Quez.

“To me, it’s always a performance, even in rehearsal. I’m in it 100 percent, that’s how you win,” Mon’Quez explains. “The stage is my safe space, that’s where I leave everything.”

What to expect from the show?

At its core, The Color Purple is a woman’s journey, from being oppressed to being self-actualized, and embracing her faith.

“It’s a breath of fresh air. The show helps you connect with yourself and it helps you to love yourself,” Mon’Quez says. “It’s so close to home that I feel like I’m just reliving a story I’ve already lived. This show is going to change hearts.”

Interesting in learning more about the Fine & Performing Arts at UM-Flint?

Current & prospective students interested in disciplines like Theatre, Dance, Music or Visual Art are invited to join us for our Fine & Performing Arts Showcase on Wednesday, Oct. 30! Join us in the first-floor University Center lobby (campus map).

If you’re a current UM-Flint student: Meet in first-floor UCEN at 6 p.m. Please RSVP here.

If you’re a prospective student considering UM-Flint. Meet in the first-floor UCEN at 5 p.m. Please RSVP here.


Join us for AstroNite on Oct. 25!

Ever wanted to look through a telescope guided by a trained astrophysicist? How about conducting experiments with an infrared camera? Or seeing if you can beat your friends and family in paper airplane competitions?

You can do all of that and more during AstroNite, a free event open to students and the community, hosted by UM-Flint Physics faculty and students.

When: Friday, Oct. 25, from 7-10 p.m.
Where: UM-Flint Murchie Science Building. A campus map is available online.
Who: Anyone! UM-Flint students, community members, kids and their families.
Cost: Free! No RSVP required.

Sneak Peeks

Want to see what you can expect at AstroNite? We made some videos!

Mars Lander

Find the perfect design for your Mars Lander and make sure your cargo (an egg) survives the fall to the Martian surface! Watch the video.

Infrared Camera

See the world in a whole new way by conducting experiments with an infrared camera. Watch the video.

“We are strong believers that science is for everyone, not just those studying or teaching it at universities,” says Associate Chair for Physics Programs Rajib Ganguly, Ph.D. “It is fascinating that we are able to understand much of why the universe behaves as it does, and we want to share that wonder with people of all ages in the community.”  

Questions? Contact Communications Specialist Logan McGrady at lmcgrady@umich.edu. See you soon!


UM-Flint Students Making a Difference with Incarcerated Kids

UM-Flint students David Guster, Meredith Sheatzley, and Hannah Hawcroft work with justice-involved youth in Flint.

Genesee Valley Regional Center is a juvenile detention facility on Flint’s Pasadena Avenue. The kids housed there, aged 10-18, have a structured routine, like attending school every weekday and attending group meetings in the evening.

Youth Arts: Unlocked provides a creative outlet for kids like those living in the GVRC. With a mission of “providing arts and enrichment programming for justice-involved youth in Mid-Michigan,” the organization was co-founded by Shelley Spivack, a Genesee County family court attorney-referee and lecturer in the UM-Flint Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice.

Three UM-Flint students pay weekly visits to GVRC, facilitating classes like dance improv theatre, art and poetry, and more. Read more about their work as Youth Arts: Unlocked interns below.

David Guster

David, a sophomore Theatre Performance major, helps to lead boy’s theatre sessions like “Shakesprov,” where the kids perform guided improv scenes of Shakespeare plays.

“When kids hear that they are learning Shakespeare, they tend to get nervous, and we want this to be positive, not stressful,” David explains. “So we guide them through an improv scene of Shakespeare. We’re not focused on giving them lines to memorize for next week, because the hope is that you get out of the facility and we won’t see you here again.”

David appreciates the opportunity to be a positive male role model during a difficult time in the boys’ lives.

“This program gives at-risk boys the opportunity to experience new things, to be comfortable in their voice and bodies, and play in a stressful environment. It makes me feel good to be helping them.”

Meredith Sheatzley

Meredith uses her skills as a junior Dance & Social Work double major to connect with the girls at GVRC through dance and the visual arts.

Each week, the group learns about a positive, empowered woman, and then the girls translate that new knowledge to art. Sometimes there is a choreographed dance to learn, other weeks they focus on expressive movements where the girls create their own moves representative of who they are.

“The more I get to know them, the more I realized that the girls are so under-credited for what they are capable of,” Meredith, whose internship is funded through the UM-Flint Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, says. “Their work should be shared a lot more.”

Meredith works with her UM-Flint Dance professor Emma Davis (pictured) to help girls express themselves through dance.

Hannah Hawcroft

Unlike David and Meredith, Hannah isn’t a performing arts student. A junior Criminal Justice & Sociology double major, Hannah’s role is to document the activities and interactions that take place during the creative sessions. Are the kids engaged? What kinds of questions are the kids asking the instructors? Were there any behavioral issues?

Hannah’s work is important in helping Youth Arts: Unlocked analyze and improve their programming, as well as in communicating the work of the organization to donors and other institutions who provide support. Her position is funded through the Flint Truth and Action Partnership Project.

Hannah’s career goal is to become a police officer, specifically a detective working cold cases. She values the opportunity to gain experience in the criminal justice system, and working for a worthy cause was enough for her to sign up after she learned of the opportunity while taking one of Shelley’s classes.

“This experience has definitely made me more comfortable in interactions with different kinds of people; the children and teens in the facility, administrators in the GVRC and teachers in the program,” Hannah says.

“They become more engaged as time goes on. There’s a lot of laughter and there’s a lot of just kind of being a kid, which is nice to see,” Hannah says.


M.S. Computer Science Student Samantha Lang presents research at international conference

M.S. in Computer Science student Samantha Lang presented research at the Intellisys 2019 Conference in London.

Samantha Lang is interested in human factors engineering—making sure that products and digital services work optimally for their target market. Imagine an ATM—they are simple and user-friendly so that nearly anyone can use them—which is ideal considering the product’s mass appeal.

Samantha graduated with a UM-Flint bachelor’s in psychology in 2015, but she knew additional expertise was needed to work in such a specialized field. Luckily, the M.S. in Computer Science & Information Systems at UM-Flint was there to help Samantha meet her goals. The program offered her the flexibility to take courses online, and a fast-track gave her the foundational knowledge to succeed despite not having a computer science background.

Now in her final semester, Samantha’s expertise has grown to the point where she is presenting research at international conferences. Along with professor Mike Farmer, Samantha attended the Intellisys Intelligent Systems Conference from Sept. 3-4, 2019, in London, England.

Dr. Mike Farmer speaking at Intellisys.

Their research paper is titled, “Can Human Evidence Accumulation be
Modeled using the Set-Theoretic Nature of Dempster-Shafer Theory?”
It sounds complicated, but Samantha explains it as a game of Clue. Each subject was given a set of information about a fictional crime, and then Samantha observed how the subjects categorized and subcategorized the data to solve the case.

The more we know about how people’s patterns in decision making, the better we’ll be able to design artificial intelligences,” Samantha says. “The goal is to create products that can address a variety of situations before they happen.”

Samantha began working on this research with Dr. Farmer in September 2016. As a graduate student research assistant (GSRA), Samantha earned a stipend for her contributions; as she puts it, “I was getting paid for something I already wanted to do anyway!”

Samantha’s dream job is designing training modules with NASA, and she looks forward to finding a full-time position once she earns her master’s in December. Samantha believes the expertise and experiences she gained through the M.S. in Computer Science will make her stand out in the search process.

“I think it has definitely put me outside of the box. Having research published, going and presenting it, I think it makes me stand out against people who have not had experiences like these,” Samantha says.

The M.S. in Computer Science & Information Systems offers both in-person and online coursework, as well as a fast-track program for students who do not have a computer science background. For more information, contact program manager Susie Churchill at vissers@umich.edu. The application is also available online.