Monthly Archives: January 2016

William Shedd, 1964 Alum, Recalls Malcolm X Visit to Campus


William Shedd’s senior picture in the 1964 yearbook.

The Flint College (as UM-Flint was formerly known) was less than ten years old in 1964, yet it was already fostering an engaged and independent student body interested in promoting cultural awareness. So Political Science student and Senior Class President William C. Shedd considered it to be only natural that he should invite Malcolm X to speak on campus while he was visiting Flint.

Recalls Shedd:

“I was president of the World Affairs Club and I had seen in the Flint Journal that he was going to come to a mosque in Flint. So I got their information and called and said we would like to invite him to come to the university and speak. They took my name and my phone number. About 10 days later I got a call saying he would come. Then, having that confirmation, I thought ‘well, I had better tell [Assistant] Dean Plummer.’ I didn’t think it was particularly controversial, and he didn’t say it was controversial, but he certainly was excited. He said, ‘oh my, we’ll have to get permission for this.’ I said okay and then I left him. I’m sure the phone lines then crackled to Dean French’s office.

It didn’t occur to me that this was monumental; I just thought he would be really interesting.

Within a few days they had approved the program so we set it for one afternoon in room 1040, the auditorium. I was also the electronics person for the science department, so I got some of our wire and some speakers and things and put speakers in [room] 2040 so we could have space for overflow. They didn’t want press and they didn’t want outsiders, only faculty and students.

He came, he spoke for about an hour, and he told us all of the ills.

At the conclusion of Malcolm’s speech he told us how historically we had done a lot of wrong things; you couldn’t fault anything that he said. It was all totally accurate and honest. Even seen through anybody’s eyes in the audience that day, they had to acknowledge this was history. And so the whole room got up and applauded. And that took his breath away! I don’t think he had been in that kind of circumstance where the essentially white audience had said, ‘you’re right.’

So he and his entourage left. It was a great sorrow that later he was assassinated. He had a lot of skills and a lot of things to say; it was unfortunate that he was eliminated from the picture.”


1964 Student Government Council. William Shedd is third from right, back row.

Since Shedd’s undergrad days, the University of Michigan-Flint has grown in size and in dedication to connecting students with political, social, and artistic leaders from around the world.

In February, UM-Flint will host its second annual Africa Week to kick off African American History Month. This week of free public events is hosted by the Department of Africana Studies and the Office of Educational Opportunities Initiatives with support from the College of Arts & Sciences.

Highlights include Detroit poet Jessica Care Moore on Monday, February 1; films from Senegal on Tuesday, February 2, and from Nigeria on Thursday, February 4; and the Oromo Community Youth Dancers at the Flint Farmers’ Market on Saturday, February 6.

Our special guest for the Lunch & Lecture on Wednesday, February 3, is Dr. Rita Kiki Edozie of MSU. She will present, “Malcolm ‘Omowale’ X (Re)Turns to Africa: Pan Africanism and the Black Studies Agenda in a Global Era.”

In March we will welcome poet Niyi Osundare as the 2016 Visiting African/African Diaspora Artist, brought to campus by a collaboration between the Africana Studies Department and the Flint Public Library with funding from the Ruth Mott Foundation.

For more information on these upcoming events, please visit

Africana Studies and Theatre Enrich Actor’s Role in The Call


Kenyatta Brown on the set of “The Call”

Kenyatta Brown is a senior majoring in Africana Studies and minoring in Theatre. He is playing the role of Alemu, an immigrant from western Africa, in the upcoming UM-Flint production of The Call by Tanya Barfield.

Thanks to his courses in Africana Studies, Kenyatta was able to bring unique insight to the role. His own personal experiences from family life and growing up in Flint also helped to enrich his portrayal. Read on as he discusses his role in this new production.

How did you connect with this character?
When you get a character, one of the exercises that most directors will do is have the actors give that particular character a backstory. The backstory is the thing you think the character was doing before this particular box of two hours happened. What was this character doing before this happened? Why is this character like this? What happened in this character’s life? Because we all have a turning point in our lives that makes us think a certain way and act a certain way. So creating a backstory for Alemu—definitely my Africana studies helped me. Because of the genocide in his country, the guilt that he carries because he made it out—it’s kind of similar to how I felt growing up here and then going away to the Navy. I grew up in a rough neighborhood—so my friends were kind of stuck doing the same thing. When I came home to visit, I kind of felt guilty. They would see me and think ‘oh, you’ve got it going on,’ which I didn’t, but to them I did.

Another thing in the backstory, I try to find similarities to me and the person, the character. One similarity is that Alemu’s father had died of sickness and my father died of cancer. There’s a part in the story where he’s wishing he could do something, but there is nothing he can do—same here, you know? So, that allowed me to kind of feel where Alemu was coming from.

How do you feel about this role?
It’s funny because with this role there were so many qualities that I could relate to in him. But then, on another note, it was very challenging because of things like the accent. He’s a little weird, so he brings a little comic relief, but I don’t want him to come off as stupid or just as the ‘funny guy.’ That’s my goal for the character. You have to walk that thin line and you have to be careful. Because you want to portray the right thing—what you want the audience to get.

How do you feel about the ambiguity surrounding some of this play’s characters and situations?
That’s the beauty of this playwright. She doesn’t answer any questions. So I think this particular play is a great play to come and see. Especially if you like to debate afterwards or if you like to have a dialogue with those you’re with when you see it. It’s a good piece for conversation. She leaves it out there, and there are so many issues in this hour and thirty minutes!

I’m excited about the last day that we perform, that has the Q & A session [with the audience] afterwards. I’m curious about what people will ask. All she says is that Alemu is from West Africa; she doesn’t say what country. It’s not just his character that’s ambiguous; there are five characters and for each there are questions that can still loom after the play.

What advice do you have for audience members?
Come with an open mind, because it will benefit you. Be open to things that you don’t agree with—lifestyles you don’t agree with, or cultures that you don’t necessarily get into. Just come open.

What did you take away from this role and this play?
This play made me think about trust. In Flint the term “genocide” is floating around with the water issue. I thought about things like the Tuskegee experiment. When the people don’t trust the powers that be, there’s something happening within that. It’s a scary thing sometimes.

I dug deep into this. I thought, ‘What if I didn’t have the water issues here? Would I have dug so deep?’ Being human, I had to ask myself that. I have to check myself in a way, wondering if I am as sensitive to others as I need to be.

What has it been like being a student of Africana Studies and Theatre?
For me, it’s great and it’s challenging, too, because I’ve been away from college for some years and just came back this year. From the Africana Studies standpoint, it’s great, just learning more about my culture that I didn’t even know, which I love.

It’s learning about the thing that I love and who I am, and then learning about what I love to do. . . Combining the two is perfect. I think this play, for me, it came on time. Opening night is my father’s birthday. I haven’t been on the stage in three years. In LA, I was doing film and TV, too, but I got custody of my daughter three years ago and theatre takes a lot of time. So this is my first play being back on stage, on his birthday. So, I’m excited.

The Call opens on January 29 and runs on select days through February 7, 2016. For show times and ticket information, visit and click “current season.”

There will be a Special Discussion with the Director on Wednesday, February 3, at 2pm in the Thompson Center for Learning & Teaching, 134 Thompson Library. Join in to learn about the play and gain insight into the artistic choices used to present this dynamic story.

Meet Dr. Matthew Spradling, Assistant Professor of Computer Science

spradlingName: Matthew Spradling
Title: Assistant Professor
Department: CSEP – Computer Science & Information Systems

Classes I teach:
CSC 381 – Introduction to Theory of Computation
CSC 575 – Algorithm and Complexity Analysis
At the University of Kentucky: Introduction to Computer Science
Other interests include: Game theory, social networks, and computer science ethics.

Professional Interests, Activities, or Publications:
Spradling, M., Goldsmith, J., Stability in Role Based Hedonic Games, 28th International Florida Artificial Intelligence Research Society Conference, 2015.
Spradling, M., Roles and Teams Hedonic Games, 19th AAAI Doctoral Consortium, 2014.
Spradling, M., Goldsmith, J., Liu, X., Dadi, C., & Li, Z. Roles and Teams Hedonic Game, 3rd International Conference on Algorithmic Decision Theory, 2013.
Also presented without proceedings at 7th Multidisciplinary Workshop on Advances in Preference Handling at IJCAI’13, 2013.

Research or Specific Areas of Interest:
Coalition formation
Cooperative game theory
Theoretical computer science
Preference representation, elicitation and reasoning

Verizon fellowship, University of Kentucky Department of Computer Science, 2015
Nominated, University of Kentucky ACM Teaching Assistant Award, 2014
Duncan E. Clarke Memorial Innovation Award, University of Kentucky Department of Computer Science, 2013

Ph.D. Computer Science, University of Kentucky, 2015
Graduate Certificate in College Teaching and Learning, University of Kentucky, 2014
B.S. Computer Science, University of Kentucky, 2010
B.S. Business Administration: Marketing, Philosophy Minor, University of Louisville, 2005

Member, Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence

How I fell in love with my field:
It is my experience that any sort of “love” tends to be there all the while, only announcing itself in an unexpected moment. My first computer was a Commodore 64 when I was 4; as a result computers have, in my memory, always been accessible. I like being able to make something useful with only time and effort. Things started getting serious when I was introduced to theory of computation; this made me pursue a graduate career. Finding a problem out in the wild, modeling it formally, and publishing the results let me know I was probably “in love.” But all of that pales in comparison to the moment when a student in a class I am teaching “gets it.” That moment is what drives me.

What I hope for my time at UM-Flint:
I hope to give direction and support to students who need it, to discover new research interests though students and colleagues, and to have a lot of fun. I hope to introduce some new courses to the list of “courses I love to teach.” I hope to meet at least a few students who are interested in theory of computation. If at least a few of my students end up pursuing teaching careers, I would be extremely pleased.

What I hope for students in my field:
I hope for our students to maintain and grow their curiosity and thoughtfulness. I hope for them to be actors in their environment; to have confidence and endeavor toward a better world. For each student, I hope that “the world” will only grow more accessible as it grows larger.

Three things you should know about me:
I have been an exchange student to Japan, but I need to study the language.

I am interested in games of all shapes and sizes, be they serious, non-serious, or unintentionally serious.

I enjoy singing, poetry, and a good coffee shop.


For more information on Dr. Spradling’s department, visit

Chazz Irwin, Theatre Major, Wins Recognition for Original Play

Irwin1Theatre major Chazz Irwin recently traveled with members of his department to the Kennedy Center American College Region III Theatre Festival in Milwaukee, WI. Attendees of the festival can compete in various categories, focusing on work both on and off the stage. Irwin’s original one-act play is a finalist for the Region 3 John Cauble Short Play Award and the National Playwriting Program One Act Play Festival.

Following he describes his experiences with UM-Flint Theatre and his recent recognition.

How would you describe your time in UM-Flint Theatre?
I started at UM-Flint in the fall of 2012 and joined the Theatre Department immediately. I have always been interested in Theatre, so it was a natural fit. Janet Haley of the department was actually my first point of contact when enrolling in the University. My primary role has been that as an actor.

All of the faculty have been instrumental in my development as a playwright, most notably Andrew Morton, Janet Haley, and Bill Irwin. Professor Morton has given me the tools I needed, and Professors Haley and Irwin have always enthusiastically read and critiqued my work. Without their help, I would not have made it this far.

This has already helped me professionally, because my work is now being seen by people who work professionally and their feedback will be highly educational. It could help me further because I will be learning from these industry professionals on how to be the most successful I can.

How would you describe your experiences with the ACTF and this year’s recognition?

I first heard about ACTF when I first started with the UM-Flint Theatre department. All theatre majors are encouraged to go by the faculty as it is a great learning experience and is also an important networking resource. I was encouraged by Professor Andrew Morton to submit my plays that I had written for his playwriting course.

My play, More Real Than It Should Be, is a KCACTF Region 3 finalist and is now up for national consideration. I will know if it is selected to be a national finalist sometime in March after all of the regions have concluded their respective festivals. So my play, along with 15 other plays, will be up for consideration, then 6 will be chosen for the National competition in Washington DC.

Tell us a little about the play and how you wrote it:

I first developed my play last year as an assignment for Professor Morton’s class. It was the final project for the course. The elevator pitch, which is how would you describe your idea on an elevator ride, is that two professional wrestlers meet backstage to discuss their upcoming match, and there’s a problem when one of them doesn’t want to do the match as planned.

You’re a senior, what comes next for you?

After I graduate from UM Flint, I plan on attending graduate school to earn an MFA in Theatre so I can teach at the University level. I would also like to see my dramatic work published by a national publisher such as Dramatist Play Service or Samuel French.

I would just like to thank the University and the Theatre department for giving me the tools I will need in my field and a special thanks to Andrew Morton, Janet Haley, and Bill Irwin for all of their help and their encouragement, as I said before, I wouldn’t be where I’m at without them.

For a full list of winners at the Region III KCACTF, including others from UM-Flint, visit their website.

For information on the UM-Flint Department of Theatre & Dance, please visit or call 810.237.6522.

Shelby Newport Wins Innovative Teaching Award; Shares Methods with Campus


Shelby Newport–Chair, Associate Professor, and Resident Costume Designer for the UM-Flint Department of Theatre & Dance–is the recipient of this year’s Region III Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) Innovative Teaching Award, presented at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Milwaukee, WI. The award recognizes Newport’s use of social media in her courses.

In her application’s teaching statement, Newport notes, “Using social media elements in the classroom have allowed me to open up the discussion and classroom interactions between students even before they enter the room. It has also shifted the ownership to the students; I have found that when they feel a responsibility for some of the course material, they are much more engaged.”

She adds, “My hope is that students will thrive in a classroom that puts them in the passenger seat, as a navigator and co-pilot.”


Shelby Newport working backstage with UM-Flint Theatre students.

The previous department Chair, Associate Professor William Irwin, described an example of her approach in his letter of recommendation to the selection committee: “In her Clothing and Western Culture course, all students are required to post images via Pinterest exemplifying specific characteristics of the period they are studying. Shelby skillfully uses a shared Pinterest board which students collectively submit their research/discussion images to. After projecting the Pinterest board images on the classroom screen, Shelby clicks on each student’s submission for that class and asks them to speak briefly on their choice and how it exemplifies the period. This is an effective use of technology in the classroom that not only supports student learning but also in a way that is innovative, relevant and interesting to those in her class. It also supports additional course activities, research, and enhances the provision of information and resources to students, as well as foster interactivity and collaboration among them.”

The adaptability and fluid nature of social media seems to suit her teaching philosophy. Says Newport, “I accept each day as a learning experience, and realize the importance of remaining open-minded and flexible. With this in mind, I too will continue my education; seeking new opportunities, observing the teaching methods of others, taking advantage of extended learning courses, and most of all remaining prepared to grow and change.”

Irwin seemed especially appreciative of the inclusive benefits of Newport’s social media methods. “[Shelby] has been committed and incredibly successful in recognizing each student’s capabilities while providing them with appropriate challenges without ever alienating anyone. This is a significant juggling act that requires her to possess not only an immense sensitivity to each individual’s needs, but also an innovative spirit that makes her classes accessible and meaningful for all . . . Shelby has proven to be expert in integrating students’ own interests and passions into the curriculum and has enabled them to flourish as learners. Going a step further, she has demonstrated a commitment to sharing her talents with her colleagues.”

The UM-Flint Office of Extended Learning (OEL) has also recognized Newport’s talents and willingness to share with others in her field: a new online course based on her methods and experiences will be offered to faculty beginning in February 2016.

Social Media in the College Classroom will introduce key concepts and social media tools that can be integrated into the university classroom. Faculty will learn about the benefits to students and to classroom learning when social media is thoughtfully woven into the course, rather than prohibited from the learning environment. Various social media platforms are covered and faculty will get hands on experience creating accounts and utilizing them.

Newport developed and recorded materials and the online course was created around her lectures and demonstrations. According to Katie Curnow, Marketing Coordinator for OEL, “[Shelby] is the creative and pedagogical force behind it.”

For questions about enrolling or about the course, email

To congratulate Shelby on her ATHE award, visit one of the UM-Flint Theatre & Dance Department’s social media accounts!


Meet Krysten Lindsay Hager – 2001 English & 2007 MALS Alumna

Krysten Lindsay HagerKrysten Lindsay Hager (Weller)

2001 BA in English and 2007 Master’s Degree in Liberal Studies

What are you doing now and how did you get there?

I am the author of the Landry’s True Colors Series, a clean reads YA series and also the new ​Star Series. My current titles are True Colors, Next Door to a Star, Best Friends…Forever?, Landry in Like, and the upcoming release, Competing with the Star. I am a former journalist and I also write humor essays. I write for a variety of age groups from middle grade fiction, young adult fiction, new adult, and women’s fiction. My work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Bellbrook Times, and on the talk show Living Dayton.

How did your University of Michigan-Flint education prepare you for what you are doing now or the career you’ve had?

The professors I had would encourage all of us to play to our strengths. Many of them knew I wanted to pursue fiction writing and I was encouraged to approach some of my papers from the point of view of a writer. I took a class on children’s literature that was meant for students in the educational program, but I had emailed the professor and shared with her why I wanted to be in the class and she immediately let me register. When it came time for the final in that class, the students were going to an educational conference to present a project. She took me aside and said that since my goal wasn’t to become a teacher, but a writer, she suggested I work on a young adult novel and turn in part of it for a critique. That was a wonderful opportunity for me and very encouraging.

Who made the biggest impact on your time at UM-Flint? How specifically did they affect your life?

There are several. In fact, I feel you can “hear” a few of my profs in the voice of the Mrs. Albright character in the Landry’s True Colors Series. I think Dr. Jacqueline Zeff, Dr. Amy Sarch, and Dr. Charles Apple opened my eyes to things in the culture and impacted the way I view things. Professor Tom Foster, Dr. Zeff, and Professor Svoboda’s English classes shaped me a lot. Dr. Robertson was the one who suggested I write young adult fiction and [was] very supportive. Bob Houbeck was my thesis advisor, teacher, and I also did an independent study with him. He was wonderful in finding resources for my work and very supportive of my fiction writing as well. I felt very fortunate to have connected with him. I mention several of my professors in the acknowledgements of my book, Next Door to a Star, as well as in my other books.

What experiences did you find especially valuable during your time at UM-Flint?

Getting to do independent studies and work one-on-one with professors like Dr. Zeff, Prof. Tom Foster, Dr. Robertson and Bob Houbeck was very helpful to me in working to become a better writer. I also did a few internships at difference television stations and that broadened my views and gave me great experience as well.

Can you describe an engaged learning experience personally meaningful for your future? 

I took Advanced Creative Writing with Prof. Tom Foster and we had one-on-one time each week with him in his office to go over what we were all working on for our novellas and novels. Having someone to talk to about my story and where it was going and giving me advice was beyond helpful. So often when we start out we’re writing in a vacuum with no one to bounce ideas off of or ask for advice. He told me to let the characters tell me what they want to do and not the other way around. My first published novel, True Colors, was written as result of that class. He gave a quote in class about writing the novel you want to read and I went home and started what became True Colors.

I also used to write a column for the Michigan Times newspaper. I was not a science major, but Dr. Randall Repic was my environmental science professor and I remember him telling the class to check out my columns in the paper. The fact he not only took the time to read my work, but to mention it to others meant a lot to me. He’d often ask about my writing and the fact he took an interest was such a show of support. I never forgot that. Once Dr. Sarch used one of my columns in one of her lectures—it was a piece about an actress talking about the changing body types in popular culture. To have my work shared like that gave me more confidence.

What does UM-Flint do better than any other university? 

At UM-Flint, you aren’t just a number and you have actual professors and not just teaching assistants. I loved that I had access to meet with my professors for advice and that is what sets UM-Flint apart from other universities. Whenever I talk to people about college experiences I am reminded how lucky I was to have such great lecturers and be able to learn from them. Not everyone gets those opportunities.

What advice would you give to an incoming UM-Flint freshman?

My advice would be to have an open mind when taking your classes. I was set on English as my major and doing journalism as a minor, but I took some extra communications classes (past the requirements) and those ended up inspiring me more than the regular journalism classes, so I made COM my minor. I picked up on things in my communications gender classes that influenced my writing such as my young adult books where the girls deal with self-esteem issues especially after seeing media images of what they think they are supposed to look like. In both of my series, I address how the images you see in the media are not one hundred percent accurate. I grew up thinking Cindy Crawford woke up looking like a flawless magazine cover. The communications and gender classes I took helped me to see things about our culture in a new way and I hope that I can share that with my readers who are bombarded by images of female “perfection” in the media as well as how society often views women. I want future generations to be aware of the stereotypes and not fall prey to those expectations.

Another piece of advice I’d give students is to attend all of your classes. I’ve never understood why some college students would just show up at midterms and finals. Personally, I got so much out of the lectures—invaluable information. Going to class and taking notes will help your grades even more than just reading the book and pulling an all nighter. You short change yourself if you don’t make the most of the education you’re getting.

What are your hopes for the UM-Flint of the future?

One thing I enjoyed as a student was when Bob Houbeck brought in different speakers to talk to us. We heard from someone who worked as a speech writer for one of the former governors, the chancellor came in and spoke to us, and in other classes we had different authors come in to speak to us. It was wonderful getting those experiences and I hope that UM-Flint will bring in more and more speakers to share their experiences with the students. For me it was inspiring having authors come to the university to speak. I would like more students to have those opportunities to talk with professionals who are doing what the students themselves strive to accomplish in the future.

Learn more about Krysten’s work on her website:

Meet Robert Burack – 2013 Political Science Alumni


Robert Burack

B.A. Political Science, 2013, Maize & Blue Scholar
Campus organizations: Alternative Spring Break, Pi Sigma Alpha (Political Science Honors Society), Qua contributing writer

What are you doing now and how did you get there?

Upon graduation, I faced a rather difficult choice as to how to best express my values and priorities. I had been offered a teaching Fulbright (U.S. State Department Fellowship) to Turkey (thanks in part to the diligent support and encouragement of English faculty member Mary Jo Kietzman), as well as a position at Break Away, a national non-profit based in Atlanta, where I had interned the summer between my junior and senior years. There was an immense lure to Turkey. I had spent the year immersed in regional literature in Kietzman’s “Travelers in the Middle East” course, most notably reading Orphan Pamuk’s Snow, a firsthand account of a poet’s visit to Kars in eastern Turkey and whose contents doubled as a sort of ethnic and political dialogue. The book completely mesmerized me — I glided through the chapters as Michigan’s own snow fell — as did the idea of living and teaching in Turkey, and the more cosmopolitan aspects of a Fulbright. But, ultimately, the stronger draw was the Break Away position, where I started as Programs Director a few months after graduation. The organization focused its efforts on fostering active citizenship in college students through alternative breaks, which are short-term service experiences, bookended by months of education and preparation, and a process of connecting the service experience to more local organizational and advocacy efforts. My role involved training and consultation for the service-learning and community engagement centers at 200+ universities and colleges, working with both their student leaders and staff. I felt it was important to commit to work that had a more visible and measurable impact, and personally I was drawn to the tight-knit and uplifting community among the staff. I’m delighted that the University of Michigan-Flint recently joined Break Away as a chapter school.

After two years as Programs Director, I transitioned to Pittsburgh, where I now live and am a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs at the Richard King Mellon Foundation. That’s an impossibly long title, and the work itself is equally far-reaching. I’ve been working since August 2015 on a set of projects aimed to innovate the region’s manufacturing sector, especially for small- to medium-size enterprises, of which there are 6,400.
 This has happened primarily through the scaling up of the Craft Business Accelerator (housed at the city’s community development financial institution, Bridgeway Capital), an effort to connect Pittsburgh’s makers and craft businesses with real estate development projects. Let’s say, for example, you’re a real estate developer building a large apartment building. My work is to convince you to source some of your functional objects (lights, tables, sinks, etc.) through the city’s really vibrant maker scene, and to support makers with working space, short-term capital, and access to business education services. Ultimately, we’re not only localizing the economic impact of development, but also creating new sourcing patterns that won’t need the same facilitation and bring small craft businesses to scale.

I’ve recently taken on more responsibilities at the foundation, working with a Senior Program Officer on her grant proposal pipeline. This looks like reading grant proposals, summarizing them in a write-up, reviewing grantee reports, and assisting with any connected due diligence. Additionally, I’ve been doing research around impact assessment metrics to support the foundation’s 2016-2020 strategic plan — to create ways for the foundation to assess whether its grant-making is effective and ultimately helps realize its program area goals. This has been a great deal of fun. RK Mellon is the 32nd largest grant-making foundation in the U.S. (by asset size), and is essentially equivalent, in the funding it provides, to the Mott Foundation, except that we almost exclusively fund in southwestern Pennsylvania. This is all possible through the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs, which is a rather competitive, nine-month fellowship focused on diagnosing and intervening in the systems of, and issues connected to, U.S. urban centers.

How did your University of Michigan-Flint education prepare you for what you are doing?

I truly feel that my UM-Flint education changed my life. I was an undirected high schooler — smart, yes, but without a visible or imagined path forward. (I would not pay attention in math class, for example, but be reading New Yorker issues instead.) I did not really plan on going to college, and couldn’t fully grasp what it was, as no one in my family had gone before me. I enrolled at UM-Flint rather last minute, and my first time in the city was for freshman orientation. But I quickly and fully found an intellectual and social home, thanks to compelling political science courses, opportunities with University Outreach, and friends who were, smart, funny, and kind, and wanted to talk about what had happened on Rachel Maddow the night before.

So much of my own path has been stumbling into opportunities that turn out to be exactly what I needed, or that challenged and grew me beyond my own vision for myself. The great thing about Flint, and UM-Flint as well, and the thing that likely would have been different had I gone to some walled-off liberal arts college or impossibly large research institution, is that these spaces teach you humility and provide an opening for you to play a part in addressing true community needs. It’s a part of the DIY ethos that’s rich and bold and beautiful across the rust belt.

Last year I had an opportunity to consult for a grassroots organizing effort based in Ferguson, Missouri, and spent some time there throughout the spring and summer. This was personally helpful in deconstructing my own narratives about and around Ferguson, but the bigger takeaway for me was watching the way in which the lead organizers approached their work: their level of proactive action and comprehensive thinking about social, economic, and political systems. There are problems of urgency – that require something, now – and problems of importance – that require long-term, strategic thinking. For me, their approach blended the two. This is something I was first exposed to in Flint. At first I struggled to connect my own learning to some stark realities beyond the classroom. Participating in Andrew Morton’s (Theater) Collective Playwriting class was an important turning point, in that I saw a model for proactive action — we were writing a verbatim-style play about arsons in the city — that wasn’t tangled up, or frozen by, the complexity of a social issue. We weren’t always sure how the end product would turn out, and we learned and adjusted along the way, but we were doing something, creating an expressive form of dialogue, and it’s that approach that makes me think Andrew and the folks I met in Ferguson would like and respect each other. And it’s with that in mind that I would urge UM-Flint students to try to create and experiment and be bold and proactive, but to do it thoughtfully and with a high level of self and systems awareness.

I have days in Pittsburgh now where I feel so lucky to be doing what I’m doing, and I marvel at it, and I think, “how on earth does this trace back to what I’ve learned and done, to my life history?” Sometimes my professional life feels disjointed — as if the scaffolding I’ve begun to leave behind was laid out without a traceable pattern. But I solved this for myself recently, thinking about water. I’ve been immersed in coverage of, and activism around, the water crisis in Flint. As with other and past maladies in this city I love, I started off from a place of frustration and anger. Usually, this veers into temporary action, and then eventually simmers into disenchantment. But this time, I didn’t fall into that familiar cycle. I reached out to friends and colleagues to offer technical assistance. I considered what philanthropy could do, and how to build training around environmental racism. I wrote and wrote and in the end felt hopeful (Dr. West reminds us that hope goes beyond the evidence – hope says “it doesn’t look good at all,” but moves beyond what’s visible to create new possibilities based on contagious vision). I watched as my scaffolding and life history, all its bends and crooks, made sense and provided the basis for sustained action and active citizenship. This is obviously not a perfect example, given that I’m no longer in physical proximity to Flint, but it is proof from the future that, if you’re a current student, some days when you find yourself sitting in a classroom, eyes glazed over or at least unsure about the relevance of the information you’re hearing, you can be sure that, eventually, or at some point, it all matters, it all adds up, and the question is what you do with that summation. I hope you find circumstances that spur to you action, and bring your history of compelling experiences and knowledge to the table, even if that knowledge seemed previously unconnected.

Who had a significant impact on your time at UM-Flint?

I had a number of influential faculty mentors, including Drs. Peggy Kahn and Jason Kosnoski (Political Science), Drs. Thomas Wrobel and Hillary Heinze (Psychology), and Jan Worth-Nelson (English, Thompson Center for Learning and Teaching). I want to say a quick word about each of them, as I stand indebted to their kindness and attention, but first want to say, broadly: mentors matter. A great deal. And UM-Flint faculty were so willing to build meaningful relationships with me because I was interested and willing to build meaningful relationships with them. It’s the reciprocity that grows a mentorship. And it took me a while to learn that. I would have plenty of moments in a professor’s office, where I’d be talking and thought, “I sound so dumb” or “I don’t have much to offer this conversation,” but a mentorship relationship says, you do have something to offer, even if it will take a while for that to be expressed in the world.

Kahn was probably the faculty member I spent the most time talking with. There were many afternoon conversations, an independent study, and extended invitations such as the one to introduce writer Edwidge Danticat at a luncheon before her whole-campus talk.

Dr. Kosnoski was a beautiful, Socratic agitator who taught me the practice of inquiry, and whipped my thinking into shape.

I worked with Drs. Wrobel and Heinze as a peer facilitator for their UNV 100 Intergroup Dialogue course for several years, and their initial recognition of me as a freshman who could elevate into a facilitator role laid the foundation of confidence that become instrumental in the work I would go on to do.

And knowing Jan Worth-Nelson, who has since retired from the university, but by no means from meaningful work in the world (she’s the editor at East Village Magazine) was formative; her Creative Nonfiction course was the creative and emotional highlight of my undergraduate experience. Jan taught and relates with an affecting combination of strength and vulnerability, openness and intent. This class pushed me to contribute to Qua, our undergraduate literary magazine, and to be equally open, vulnerable, and strong. I once stopped into her office, which was on the second floor of French Hall at the time, overlooking the fall foliage, and interviewed her about fire and its resonance in her life. I’ve kept that audio and actually re-listened to it the other week; and started tearing up, just at the beauty and pain of it. And then I got to thinking about how fortunate I was, to find a home at UM-Flint — to have met this wonderful collection of characters who invited me into their stories, and to have had this wonderful collection of challenging and interesting experiences, most distinct to the Flint community and to the campus — and how no where else could all of this have happened.

What are your hopes for UM-Flint’s future?

There are so many verdant possibilities for UM-Flint in the future.

I’ve not met the new chancellor, but from the outside she seems dynamic, inclusive, and just sort of “gets it” when it comes to addressing racial and economic equity, as well as how the institution can be of service to the broader Flint community.

I think it’s misleading to say that rust belt communities are going to return to their previous state of prosperity — even Pittsburgh, which is in the midst of an incredible period of transformation, has only recently stabilized its population and continues to deeply struggle with racial and economic equity. But there’s potential for UM-Flint to be a leader in discovering what new urban forms might emerge in a legacy city, and for every touch point of the university (courses, student life experiences, internships) to connect students with that effort and with the city and its residents. While the Carnegie classification for engagement demonstrates that this has been happening on some level, I’ve learned from work at Break Away and work in Pittsburgh that the institution must work to extend the lifespan of partnerships that are otherwise on the university semester lifecycle.

The success of the city and the university are intrinsically tied together, and in this way I can imagine and get excited about the possibilities for students and faculty to move that success forward, and start from an institutional framework steeped in equity.

Meet Amanda Kahl Smith of Criminal Justice


Name: Amanda Smith
Title: Instructor cum Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice
Department: Sociology, Anthropology, & Criminal Justice

Classes I teach:
CRJ 185: Intro to Criminal Justice
CRJ 385: Elite Deviance

Professional Interests, Activities, or Publications:
I’m a member of the American Society of Criminology and the Society for the Study of Social Problems.

Kramer, Ronald C. and Amanda Smith. 2013. “Death Flies Down: The Bombing of Civilians and the Paradox of International Law.” Book chapter in Towards a Victimology of State Crime, D. Rothe and D. Kauzlarich (eds.). Routledge.

Research or Specific Areas of Interest:
My research focuses broadly on the intersections of class inequality, power, and crime. Currently, I have two active research projects. In the first, I investigate the role of the economy in the major social institutions and how institutional pathways to high crime rates vary in the United States. In my second project, I research the United States’ use of drone warfare as state crime.

All-University Graduate Teaching Effectiveness, WMU, 2013

Sociology PhD Western Michigan University, currently ABD, expected fall 2015
Applied Criminology MS Northern Arizona University 2011
Criminology & Criminal Justice BS Northern Arizona University 2009

American Society of Criminology
Society for the Study of Social Problems

How I fell in love with my field:
In the years leading up to the Great Recession, I worked for a major bank as a mortgage processor. At the time, the mortgage fraud I was seeing concerned me, but I did not understand the larger forces behind it. I chose to focus my studies on criminology as a way to come to terms with these issues. I still have questions.

What I hope for my time at UM-Flint:
I hope to encourage my students to critically think about and engage the world around them.

What I hope for students in my field:
I hope to inspire my students to think about crime as a complex social problem in need of creative solutions that potentially go beyond the criminal justice system.

Three things you should know about me:
I am the oldest of five children.

I am a reformed cat person. My Chihuahua, Commander Sisko, is my world.

I crochet in my free time.

UM-Flint Well Represented & Winning at Kennedy Center Theatre Festival

Shelby Newport, Theater & Dance Department Chair, Associate Professor, and Resident Costume Designer at UM-Flint, is attending the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Region 3 Festival with a number of her students and fellow faculty members. She sent the following update of “UMF’s great involvement” at the event. She notes that “in addition to the students listed below, we also have other students who are here attending workshops and performing in other projects.”

UM-Flint students are competing in the following categories:

Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Nominations: 

  • Shelby Coleman with partner Andrew Eisengruber
  • Britton Paige with partner Lucas Moquin*
  • Mark Vukelich with partner Kyle Clark**
  • George Marzonie with partner Seth Hart
  • Christine Micheala-Kay Nogaj with partner Josh Cornea
  • Paul Docter with partner Gage Webster*
    *Passed on to the semi-final round on Thursday
    ** Passed on to Final Round on Friday

Allied Design & Technologies Award: 

  • Lydia Parker- Mask Design for Romeo & Juliet
Stage Management Fellowship:
  • Madaline Harkema- Romeo & Juliet
  • Corey Boughton- Romeo & Juliet 
National Playwriting Program- One Act Play
  • Chazz Irwin, with his play More Real Than It Should Be
10 Minute Play Festival Director
  • Paul Docter, directing Wandering featuring Shelby Coleman, Nick LaRosa and Andrew Eisengruber

UM-Flint Students participate in the Costume Parade at the KCACTF

Newport added, “Our costumes from Romeo & Juliet were selected to be one of 11 schools represented in the Costume Parade last night at the Pabst Theatre. Chazz Irwin, Farrell Tatum and Christine Micheala Nogaj showed off their costumes; Madaline Harkema was the stage manager for the event and Maria Oakley and Alli Switalski worked wardrobe crew.” (Pictured above.)

During the festival, Lisa Borton, Theatre Lecturer and Resident Scenic Designer, and Newport will be presenting two workshops titled “How to Get a Summer Job in Theatre.”

Andrew Morton, Theatre Lecturer and Director, is busy as the Vice Chair of Playwriting at the festival, coordinating events like the National Playwriting Program.

Nicole Broughton, Theatre Lecturer and Stage Management Advisor,  is coordinating all of the Stage Managers for the KCACTF events.

In addition to her recognition and participation in other areas of the festival, Newport was awarded the American Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) Prize for Innovative Teaching this year for the region.

Congratulations to all of our students and faculty!

For more information on this award-winning and dedicated department, visit the Theatre & Dance Department website.

You can see their outstanding work first hand in their upcoming production of The Call, opening January 29 in the UM-Flint Theatre.