10/25/16

Pursuing Passion: Stephanie Dean, UM-Flint Theatre

In the University of Michigan Flint’s College of Arts and Sciences, faculty, staff, and students combine their passions with academic excellence as they participate in coursework, research, and creative pursuits. We are proud to spotlight some of these individuals in our new series: Pursuing Passion.

Stephanie Dean of UM-Flint Theatre

Stephanie Dean of UM-Flint Theatre

A Rock Musical with Feeling

Assistant Professor Stephanie Dean is the director of Next to Normal, an award-winning rock musical about a woman’s struggle with bipolar disorder. The show is the first production of the UM-Flint Theatre & Dance Department’s 2016-17 season and will run October 28-30 and November 4-6.

Next to Normal began as a ten-minute play called Feeling Electric that explored the medical field’s approach to mental illness. But, noted Dean, “they began to realize that they story they wanted to tell wasn’t about the treatment, it was about the people, and they began to morph it into the Off-Broadway production that opened in 2008.” By 2011, the musical had enjoyed three years on Broadway and earned numerous awards, including three Tony Awards and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The musical suited both the talent pool at the university and Dean’s desire for material that would challenge her students and herself.

She began work on the production long before students stepped on stage for auditions. Her spring and summer months were filled with research about the show’s sensitive subject matter. Recalled Dean, “I wanted to know: What is fact? What is fiction? And how was the production received by audiences when it came out? There was a lot of research that went into the research that [the writers] did.”

UM-Flint Theatre's Stephanie Dean talks with cast members during a rehearsal of "Next to Normal."

UM-Flint Theatre’s Stephanie Dean talks with cast members during a rehearsal of “Next to Normal.”

This is Not a Case Study

Dean wanted to be sure she was both respectful and accurate when representing the journey of someone being treated for bipolar disorder. The musical touches on a wide variety of topics related to the mental health field, including prescription drug use, electroconvulsive therapy, hallucinations, depression, and suicide.

“When I was doing the research, I read an interview in which the composer and lyricist had said they had not written the show to be  a case study,” said Dean. “Next to Normal takes dramatic liberties; everything that can happen to this woman does happen, and it not only affects her, but everyone around her. It’s important to understand that the writers wanted to create a story that people could relate to from many different viewpoints, depending on their own life experiences. Because of that, I truly believe that you cannot be an adult or even a teenager and not relate to something in this show.”

Dean consulted with Dr. Tom Wrobel of UM-Flint Psychology for insight on the script, and to learn about the validity of the portrayed treatments in today’s fields of psychology and psychiatry. She also talked with practicing therapists.

Stephanie Dean and the "Next to Normal" cast rehearse in the UM-Flint Theatre

Stephanie Dean and the “Next to Normal” cast rehearse in the UM-Flint Theatre

Now that the show is in rehearsals, the preparation is paying off: “I feel like I have command of the material, and am well prepared to address the issues in the script in a way that is effective and within the scope of reality. I also feel prepared to work actors through these difficult topics and the emotions that come with that. Understanding the content and context at a deeper level allows me to find subtleties in the script and makes me better equipped to guide the actors to more nuanced performances and to speak to the designers about a unified vision.”

Working with a Student Cast

During the summer, Dean also spent time considering the emotional toll the production could have on its student actors and stage crew. “When you are working on a musical, it is not an exaggeration to say the music does not exit your head for the entire two months,” said Dean. “Between rehearsals, memorizing lines, working on music, etc., the actors and I are spending four to eight hours a day with this material. I had to ask myself, ‘how do I bring the students in and out of rehearsals in a way that is mentally healthy for them?'”

Dean works with UM-Flint Theatre student Shelby Coleman on the set of "Next to Normal."

Dean works with UM-Flint Theatre student Shelby Coleman on the set of “Next to Normal.”

Part of Dean’s work to answer that question took place during the summer in North Carolina where she studied a method of evoking emotion using breathing, posture, and facial expressions, rather than actual emotional stimuli. Dean has used this to inform her work with students, when she has had to help them be comfortable with difficult emotions like anger, fear, and sadness. She hopes it will also help her student cast process the heavy emotions that come with the Next to Normal script. “I’m interested in focusing the actors energies in rehearsals,” said Dean. “It is important to step into rehearsal as a group, leaving personal problems at the door, and to develop a supportive ensemble that can talk about problems if this story is hitting too close to home. Likewise, the actors have to be able to leave the characters and their problems in the theatre to avoid having an ’emotional hangover’ when they leave rehearsal.”

“Maybe the songs will be stuck in our heads, and some days it will be harder than others to put the show away outside of rehearsal; I recognize that,” continued Dean. “Alice Ripley, the actress who played the lead role in this musical on Broadway, talked in her interviews about having a very difficult time living this story night after night and not feeling it during the day.”

Dean hopes that what students are learning as UM-Flint Theatre performers will serve them well after graduation. “Part of my job as a teacher and as an acting teacher is to teach students to be physical and vocal vessels for the tough emotions their characters experience on stage without tying that too closely to their personal lives. Theatre reflects humanity. Humanity is messy. Therefore, the actors face this challenge throughout their entire professional career. I’m excited for this challenge.”

Her cast has responded very well to Next to Normal, and embraced its difficult themes. “On the first night I asked each of the cast members why this show was important to them,” remembered Dean. “I got some really interesting answers about how they each related to the material. Lots of stuff I wasn’t expecting. They each bring a lot of insight to this show.”

Stephanie Dean sits with Assistant Director Michaela Nogaj and Stage Manager Taylor Boes during rehearsal

Stephanie Dean sits with Assistant Director Michaela Nogaj and Stage Manager Taylor Boes during rehearsal

Connecting with the Audience

“It’s important to me to help people understand that theatre doesn’t always have to be about entertainment. It can make you think about life and help you to relate to others and still be an incredibly wonderful, fulfilling, and positive experience that you want to have again.”

Because of its relatable material and high entertainment value, Dean hopes that Next to Normal can entice audiences to the UM-Flint Theatre. “This show has a profound and immediate purpose. It’s a show that invokes conversation about a topic that our society is afraid to address, and yet mental health effects everyone to different and varying degrees on a daily basis.”

During the October 28-30 and November 4-6 weekends, performances will be held Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets may be purchased online or at the UM-Flint Theatre box office (please arrive early if purchasing tickets at the door). The Sunday, November 6, performance will feature a talk-back session with the cast, crew, and director. All are invited to attend.


For more information on showtimes, ticket sales, and performances, visit umflint.edu/theatredance/season-information or call (810) 237-6522. To reach Director Stephanie Dean, email scdean@umflint.edu.

10/25/16

UM-Flint Political Science Explores Voter Rights

Why does voting in an election matter? What does it mean to have the right to vote? How does the United States Constitution affect the rights of voters?

The UM-Flint Political Science Department held a discussion to answer these questions and more as part of their annual recognition of Constitution Day.

Faculty, staff, and students gathered for “Voting Rights in a Brave New World.” This discussion and question-and-answer session aims to get voters thinking about their rights in preparation for the upcoming presidential election.

“The Department of Political Science regularly hosts thought-provoking events on issues of relevance to the Constitution and its modern interpretation and historical roots,” said lecturer Kim Saks-McManaway. “This year being an election year, the topic of voting rights in a modern context seemed appropriate. This is especially true given the myriad of voter rights cases in the courts.”

UM-Flint Political Science faculty at the 2015 Constitution Day event

UM-Flint Political Science faculty at a Constitution Day event

 

UM-Flint students are excepted to play an active role in the event, and to make full use of the Q & A session with department faculty.

Andrew Roth, a dual enrolled student from Flushing, MI, is expecting to take part. Said Roth, “Voting is about more than helping to elect your candidate of choice; voting is about being a socially conscious citizen. If we allow our voices to go unheard now, then we eventually sign away all of our power. No longer do we have the ability to be a part of the discussion of issues that affect our day to day lives.”

Jordan Tiffany, a graduate student from Davidson, MI, added, “I vote because that is the only way to get change. We may not immediately get the change that we want, but nothing will ever get better just sitting out and being apathetic towards the process.”


For more information on the Political Science Department and the ways in which they are engaging the campus and community, visit umflint.edu/polsci or call 810.762.3470,

10/25/16

UM-Flint Music Selects Soloists for 2016 MusiCollage

Each year, the UM-Flint Music Department presents a non-stop immersive musical experience known as MusiCollage to the campus and community.

This year’s show featured three soloists: Jhane Perdue, vocalist; Ben Cunningham, piano; and Elizabeth Schultz, flute. The soloists’ performances blended into those presented by UM-Flint’s Wind Symphony, University Chorale, University Orchestra, Jazz Ensembles, Chamber Singers, and more.

The format of MusiCollage is different from any other concert on campus. Wind Symphony Conductor Chris Heidenreich explained, “We ask the audience not to applaud, and take it all in from the beginning to the end, so that each selection leads itself into the next one.”

“MusiCollage is a great opportunity to hear a whole lot of music in one hour,” added Brian DiBlassio, conductor of the Jazz Combo. “You’ll hear large ensembles, small ensembles, different types of music, too. Even within the jazz performances you’ll hear a variety of music, some fun genres, and some exciting songs.”

Read below as this year’s soloists share their thoughts on being a part of UM-Flint Music and the MusiCollage experience.


Jhane Perdue – Vocal Soloist

Jhane Perdue, UM-Flint Music Vocalist and soloist in the 2016 MusiCollage

Major: Music Performance
Hometown: Flushing, Michigan

I will be performing “Daddy’s Son” from Ragtime—a musical by Stephen Flaherty based on the novel Ragtime by E.L Doctorow. “Daddy’s Son” is a slow, heart-wrenching piece. In the show, Sarah is basically grieving the death of her new born son.

I have been performing since I was 11 years old. Throughout middle and high school, I was very involved with the music and theatre department. I was involved with Michigan School Vocal Music Association (MSVMA) solo and ensemble, MSVMA 2014 and 2015 All-State honors choir, my high school a cappella choir, my high school’s after school choirs (Beta Chi Theta and Madrigals), and a member of International Thespian Society. I also sang in my church’s choir.

[Outside of the department] I am the worship leader at Trinity Episcopal Church in Flushing, Michigan.

What do you love about vocal performance?
I love that I have a way to express myself. I love that music brings people together from all walks of life. I love the connection between performer and audience. I love how you can get a new piece of music and at first glance it’s just lines, spaces, and notes, but when you’re done with it becomes a part of you.

What do you love about the UM-Flint Music department?
The faculty. We are a small department, and because of it you get one- on-one attention. Our department is full of faculty that want you to succeed. I can personally attest to the outstanding work of our faculty, because of my voice teacher Kisma Jordan-Hunter. She has raised the bar on what it takes to become an amazing musician and leads by example.

What challenges you as a vocalist?
Two things: taking care of yourself and trusting the process. As a vocalist your body is your instrument, so constantly reminding yourself that the voice is constantly changing and if you just keep taking care of your instrument and make a daily commitment to practicing and self-care, you will reach your outcome. My mantra is “The strive for quality is not the same as creating the illusion that our work is perfect.”

Why should people come to MusiCollage?
To see all the talent UM-Flint music department has to offer.


Ben Cunningham – Piano Soloist

Ben Cunningham, UM-Flint Music major and soloist in the 2016 MusiCollage

Major: Music Education with a focus on Piano; Minor in Horn
Hometown: Hartland, MI

I’ve been playing piano since age 6.

The piano is unique in that I have the colors of a symphony and yet the control of a soloist. To be this connected to such a palate of musical timbres is a unique privilege.

The music department at UM-Flint has provided me with access to some of the best professionals in the field of music today, as well as the opportunity to experiment with an enormous variety of musical styles and genres at a consistently high level. In particular, having had the opportunity to be in every ensemble on campus has allowed me to become familiar with a much wider variety of music than the average student at a larger school.

I can’t single a single professor out as having provided more inspiration or mentorship to me. Rather, I will say that each has brought their unique experiences and outlooks to help shape my musicality.

Without a doubt, memorizing is by far the biggest hurdle as a pianist.

The best thing to come out of being a UM-Flint music student is the chance to participate in so many unique experiences with such a diverse group of people. I have come to appreciate many more styles of music through my time here, and have made close relationships with many people and faculty who I know will remain part of my life forever.

As I said before, the Department of Music at the University of Michigan-Flint has an enormous variety of music. People who come to MusiCollage will have the opportunity to see each ensemble perform a few selections, whetting the palate for the full ensemble concerts that take place later this year. This is the only opportunity during the 2016/2017 school year to hear them all in one place!

Music, and music education, are some of the most important things a person can experience. I am proud to be a student at the University of Michigan-Flint, and I am proud that our town of Flint is home to such a great place of higher learning in the arts.


Elizabeth Schultz – Flute Soloist

Elizabeth Schultz, UM-Flint Music student and soloist in the 2016 MusiCollage

Major: Music Performance
Hometown: Flushing, MI

I am playing an unaccompanied flute solo for MusiCollage. I’m also in Wind Symphony and University Orchestra.

I have been performing for 14 years.

I am also a proud member of the Lapeer Symphony Orchestra—our first concert is October 28!

Playing the flute allows me to focus, which can be a valuable thing. I can quiet my mind and spend time working on something I love. When I have a major accomplishment in music, it is the best feeling in the world because I know the work and the passion I have put into achieving this accomplishment.

The UM-Flint Music Department is a fantastic department. We have top notch instructors that care for our success and we have so many opportunities. I have grown tremendously as a musician at their hands.

Everyone should come to MusiCollage because it really shows what we have to offer.


 

For more information on performances from our UM-Flint Music Department, visit umflint.edu/music or call 810.762.3377.

10/25/16

UM-Flint Physics and Hubble Telescope Research

Dr. Rajib Ganguly of UM-Flint Physics

Dr. Rajib Ganguly of UM-Flint Physics

In late June, 2016, Dr. Rajib Ganguly, Associate Chair of UM-Flint Physics and Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Sciences, Engineering and Physics, received some exciting news: his proposal to use the Hubble Telescope to observe eleven objects in deep space was approved.

Dr. Ganguly’s research will claim 19 of the spacecraft’s orbits during the next year. Over 891 proposals, requesting 25,600 orbits, were submitted this year–while only 3764 total orbits are available.

Dr. Ganguly’s successful proposal was a first for him and for UM-Flint.

In the UM-Flint Physics and Astronomy programs, Dr. Ganguly is known for his research on quasars–or, as he describes them, growing super-massive black holes that reside in the center of galaxies.

Read below as Dr. Ganguly shares more information on his upcoming work with the Hubble Telescope and other areas of research:

In everyday terms, what is your field of research and study?
I’m interested in the understanding the biggest, most massive black holes in the Universe, how they grew to be that size, how that growth affects its surroundings, their relationship to the galaxies in which they reside. To do that, I combine both an empirical and a theoretical approach, using data from a wide variety of telescopes (including Hubble!) and computer simulations.

What do you find fascinating about this work?
That’s a loaded question that could be answered in a many ways! I once posed a somewhat related question to an group at a recent outreach event: What do you think is the most awesome thing about space? I got lots of interesting answers mostly naming specific objects, like black holes, or phenomena, like the expansion of the Universe. Then I told the audience my answer. I find it completely amazing that, using only information encoded in the light that we get here on Earth, and our own ingenuity, we can figure this out about things in space. It is striking that the Universe appears to obey certain rules and that we humans can have the audacity to try to figure out what those rules are. That might be a more generic answer for any us doing research in the physical sciences.

Without getting too esoteric, the current research effort is interesting on several levels. We (the astronomy community) are trying to tell the story of how structure emerged in the Universe, how galaxies formed from that structure, and how they evolve. The growth of supermassive black holes in the nuclei of galaxies appears to have a connection with that evolution. Furthermore, we observe that, in some of these actively growing black holes, there is a substantial amount of matter being expelled from the system, which seems counter-intuitive. How does matter escape from the vicinity of a black hole? There is interesting, and extreme, physics that is needed to explain what is going on.

By testing our ideas about how those rules of nature work in the extreme environment of a black hole, we can hope to improve our understanding of those rules. And with greater understanding comes a greater power to help ourselves.

Dr. Ganguly working with UM-Flint Physics students

Dr. Ganguly working with UM-Flint Physics students

What is your history with the Hubble Telescope?
I have a long history with the Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble was launched in 1990 and I began graduate school at Penn State in 1996. My first task before classes even started in my first year was to help my to-be-advisor finish preparing proposals for, if I recall correctly, the fourth cycle of Hubble observations. (We’re heading into the 24th cycle now.) By the time I was in my fourth year of grad school, I was writing my own Hubble proposals. I actually wrote one to fund my PhD dissertation research which repurposed existing Hubble data. I defended my PhD in 2002, and my first post-doctoctoral position was as a research scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD. That is basically ground-zero from where Hubble is operated, and the data are archived.

There are many divisions at the institute: a division for each of the instruments, a division for archiving the data, a division for conducting outreach, etc. My supervisor was connected to one of the instruments that was to go up with the fourth servicing mission. Of course, 2003 saw the tragic loss of Space Shuttle Columbia and the astronauts on board, which then grounded the remaining shuttle fleet, and the cancellation of that mission. That was not a happy time, and many of us had to reinvent our research goals/methodology, which I did during my second post-doctoral position at the University of Wyoming. Fate can be rather twisted, though. Eventually, the shuttle fleet was brought back for a time, Hubble was serviced again and those instruments brought new life to the observatory. My then-supervisor, Ken Sembach, is now the director of the Institute. And the new proposal that will see UM-Flint’s first Hubble observations will be taken with the very instrument that we were going to use back in 2003.

Who are you working with on this project?
For my sabbatical this past Winter semester, I went back to my old stomping grounds at Penn State. There, I continued working with my dissertation advisors, Professors Jane Charlton and Michael Eracleous. They are my primary collaborators on this project. I am also collaborating with Professor Charlton current graduate student (my academic brother), Chris Culliton, as well as Professor Eracleous’ post-doctoral researcher Dr. Jessie Runnoe. Dr. Runnoe actually did her PhD at the University of Wyoming, and worked with me while I was there. She will recently moved to the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

How will the data from the Hubble help advance your particular research?
There are a number of questions regarding the matter that is being ejected by black holes that are growing in the cores of galaxies. How much is there? How does that compare with how much is falling in? How does it get ejected? The inflow likely takes the form of a thin disk accreting onto the black hole. What shape does the outflow take? What governs that shape?

In a previous study, we identified targets in the existing archive of Hubble observations that were also luminous in the radio band. Radio emission arises from jets of material travelling at relativistic speeds along the rotation axis of the black hole. As a by-product, we can use radio maps to gauge the orientation of these systems. We found two things from that study: (1) nearly all of the radio-luminous objects are viewed with the jet pointing roughly toward us, and (2) none of them show evidence for outflowing material. So, the question is: Are these two things related? Is this telling us something important about the geometry of the outflowing gas? Or is there something more fundamentally, and subtly, heinous about growing black holes with jets that prevent them from having the types of outflows we observe in other objects. [I should note here that the jet itself does not include a sufficient amount of material to provide an explanation for the ejected matter that we observe.] So, we identified a sample of radio-luminous objects where the jets are not directed toward us and convincingly proposed to observe them to test the hypothesis that this is just an orientation effect, that we are getting at the actual geometry of the outflowing gas. A “null” result – that we don’t find any outflows in the proposed sample – will indicate the latter option, which might be even more interesting in terms of understanding what physics is important in driving outflows.

How will UM-Flint students be involved in this research?\
There are a number of aspects of this particular project that my students will assist me with. As the data are collected by Hubble and transmitted down the Earth and archived, we will need to download the data, and to process it so that we can make measurements of it. (The processing has to do with accounting for the ways in which the telescope and camera behave, and calibrating the data.) Since our primary goal is a fishing expedition, our first step will be to count the fish and to compare the statistics of outflows with other samples of objects. Furthermore, for any outflows that are detected, we want to use the high resolution afforded by the Hubble Space Telescope to make measure how much gas there is, and the characterize its physical conditions. This will shed clues as to the nature of the outflowing gas, and the relevant physical processes that affect/drive it.

What value can the general public find in attending your outreach events?
Science is fun, and exciting, and important, and necessary. There isn’t really a price tag on the scope of human knowledge about how nature works, and the rigorous means we use to expand both the breadth and depth of that knowledge. Our primary vehicle for public outreach is a massive event that we call AstroNite, offered once during each of the semesters (October for Fall, April for Winter).  During those events, we have activities that cover how we use information that is encoded in light to learn things about the Universe, what kinds of tools and machinery (e.g., telescopes, Mars Rovers) we use to explore other places, and how we can use observations to infer the story of planets, stars, galaxies, and the Universe as a whole.

This is the boldest and most audacious application of scientific principles – learning about no less than the entire Universe with just what we have figured out here on our tiny, precious Earth–and we use it to help inspire the next Carl Sagan, or Richard Feynman, or Stephen Hawking.


For more information on UM-Flint Physics, visit umflint.edu/physics.

10/25/16

UM-Flint Communication Celebrates 30 Years

Dr. Charles Apple of UM-Flint Communication

Dr. Charles Apple of UM-Flint Communication

On October 6, 2016, members of UM-Flint Communication—both past and present—gathered to celebrate the newly independent department and all it has accomplished in its 30-year history.

“In 1986 when the COM degree was first introduced, the catalog noted that communication was both ‘one of the original liberal arts’ and that ‘effective communication is a basic life and career skill,'” said department chair Marcus Paroske. “That same blend of deep scholarly tradition and a healthy dose of applicable, practical skills is still  a hallmark of the department 30 years later.”

Continued Paroske, “Recent changes like the new M.A in Applied Communication degree and requiring internships for all communication majors builds on that tradition of combining theory and practice, of thinking deeply about human communication and also learning how to use that knowledge in speaking, writing, and group discussion, all in a context where faculty know and care about their students.”

Alumni and guests at UM-Flint Communication's 30th Anniversary gathering

Alumni and guests at UM-Flint Communication’s 30th Anniversary gathering

In addition to celebrating the department itself, the October 6 gathering honored Dr. Charles Apple, associate professor emeritus.

Dr. Apple joined the UM-Flint in 1986, quickly becoming a favorite faculty member and serving as its leader from 1987 to 1998.

1988 alumna Sherry Hayden noted, “I took as many courses from him as possible. His enthusiasm for teaching, for people, and for the art of communication has inspired me throughout my life. He is gifted and has freely shared his gifts with this very fortunate community of learners.”

Her sentiment was echoed by Andrea Chirich, a 1989 alumna of the program. She said, “Dr. Apple was my favorite professor! He brought much real-world practicality to the study of communication. The lesson that stuck with me the most was when he had us set up corporations…That exercise had very practical application for me in my corporate career, helping me understand how the chain of command worked, and how I could help it be more effective.”

com-alum-2

Members of UM-Flint Communication gather to celebrate the new department and the program’s 30th anniversary

Read on as Dr. Apple shares his own memories of his career and his time at the University of  Michigan-Flint:

What theories or fundamentals have changed in your field over your career? What has remained the same?
This is a tricky one as the focus of the field has changed tremendously. When I was introduced to communication theory in 1965, the field focused on speech and classical rhetorical theory with a few courses at the upper level on other areas or contexts such as persuasion, organizational communication. The essential focus was on the spoken message with some concern for nonverbal theory. As the field moved into the 1970s things took on a broader application of classical rhetorical theory. Studies emerged on the study of social movements with the inclusion of modern forms of rhetorical theory. The field began to examine many other contexts of communication with a blend of rhetoric and modern social science theory—psychology, sociology, semiotics, etc. All of this was very appealing to me as I have always been more of an eclectic than a specialist. This why many of my courses and lectures have included ideas and theories from history, psychology, philosophy, and semiotics. Today, the study of communication continues to focus on speech and debate. However, it now examines such communication contexts as mass communication, film, small groups, interviewing, organizational communication, advertising, public relations, ethics in communication, rhetorical theory, health care communication, and communication and aging.

What were/are some of your favorite classes to teach? Why were/are they important for students?
I have taught a wide range of courses especially during the first 10 years here due to the lack of full-time faculty. Ethical issues in communication, film genre, social movements, propaganda, interpersonal communication, and conflict management [are some] favorites.

I think that ethics in communication is a critical course for any communication major or minor. The world of communication is rife with cases of shady to overtly unethical behavior. Someone once said that if you do not bring your ethics with you, someone else will give you theirs. I have found this to be true when I worked for a Fortune 100 service corporation and in my study of other contexts. Over the past 29 years of my teaching this course, I have found the majority of my students saying that they have never thought of what to do in most of the cases covered. I try to create a climate in the course where each student can find their own ethical beliefs. I rarely stress my own beliefs except for stressing that I believe in the dialogical approach to communication at all times.

I also believe that a strong course in interpersonal communication can serve to prepare students for their current and future relationships including personal, friends, worker relationships, and even difficult people. I stress the critical importance of how you talk to yourself. Self-talk has been studied in psychology and makes a cornerstone for me in preparing for how we conduct ourselves in relationships. I also stress the centrality of assertiveness. I have built my course on conflict management as a follow-up to interpersonal communication. Conflict is a basic reality of every relationship and the tools and techniques of handling ourselves in conflict are critical to the creation of any successful relationship.

I believe that my classes on social movements, propaganda, and film genre help my students prepare for how to digest those who change or try to change the culture in which we live. I have been lucky to have participated in the Civil Rights Movement and even marched with Dr. King. I also took part in the anti-war movement in the late 60s and early 70s. So I have firsthand experience with this powerful form of social and cultural change. I did my dissertation for my PhD on the conflict in Northern Ireland, including the history of the entire Irish question (or the English question as the Irish preferred to frame it). Propaganda overlaps with social movements both within the pro-change side and anti-change or governmental side. As Jacques Ellul has argued, there are both political propaganda and sociological propaganda. This connects to my approach to film genre. I try to awaken within my students the need to pay attention to the historical context of each film, the cultural values in evidence, the relative power of the narrative structure and effect, and any ties or connections to our cultural mythology. I have them watch films in three genres: mysteries, westerns, and adventure epics. Such films are seen by most audiences and I feel can have a profound impact on society.

What are some highlights of having been a part of the communication program/department at UM-Flint?
I have been able to see over 500 or 600 graduates grow during their coursework and after graduation. Our grads have done very well.  We have a grad in public relations who is presently placed in London. Another is a local TV news anchor. Quite a few work in departments of communication for a wide range of organization sizes.  Some have gone into teaching.  A few are out west in the film industry.

Over the years we have grown from a struggling-for-survival, developing program with a minimal faculty. Today there is a solid tenured faculty with a number of lecturers and part time faculty. We have graduated around 1,000 students. We have also had quite a few students who graduated with honors.

What are your hopes for the future of students in your field?
I hope that the field can maintain a balance between theory and practice. We have always been a mix, blending theory from other fields and applying it to a wide range of areas—speech, debate, sales, small group decision making, organizational effectiveness and interventions, TV and film production and critique, and so on. In my opinion we are a blend of liberal arts in terms of rhetorical criticism and practice along with modern social science theory and application.


For more information on the department, visit umflint.edu/communication or call 810.766.6679.

10/25/16

Presidential Visit Sparks UM-Flint Conversations

Former President Bill Clinton will visited the University of Michigan-Flint campus in early October, bringing another opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to witness this year’s presidential election up close.

Clinton’s visit came one week before Michigan’s Oct. 11 deadline to register to vote. Clinton spoke on behalf of his wife, Hillary Clinton, and her presidential campaign. Campus also hosted a Democratic presidential debate earlier this year and Republican nominee Donald Trump visited Flint last month.

UM-Flint has also created its own events to engage participants in election conversation–hosting presidential and vice-presidential debate watch parties and an event to recognize Constitution Day. As an institution of higher learning, the University of Michigan-Flint supports the free exchange of ideas and welcomes opportunities to provide a forum for speakers with a variety of political, social, and religious views. The University does not engage in any political campaign activity, including endorsing or opposing any candidate for political office.

“By exposing our students to a wide variety of opportunities to be engaged, listen, and share their own voices, we are helping to create the informed citizens that make communities and countries strong. It is my hope that they are facing this election season, and all facets of life, with the multidisciplinary perspective we so value in the College of Arts & Sciences. We encourage them to think broadly and deeply in class, and that’s a lesson that will serve them well when considering the future of our nation,” said Susan Gano-Phillips, dean of UM-Flint’s College of Arts & Sciences.

Traci Currie, Ph.D., collegiate lecturer of communication in the College of Arts & Sciences, noted, “I would say that the presence of Clinton or anyone running for this office allows us as students, faculty, and staff to talk. We cannot be afraid to talk about the issues that are glaring us in the face. Our students must learn to voice their thoughts, deconstruct the language that is used to describe their environment, and share their stories. This is engagement.”

Currie’s public speaking courses include high schoolers, first year freshmen, older, and non-traditional students; all from a wide variety of backgrounds. She finds many communication lessons within the political processes of the election: “It is important that my students engage in this process whether they can vote or not, because they shape the dialogue and help society, as a whole, think about the communication process. This election moves beyond voting. It is about awareness.”

“Being aware of Clinton’s presence in Flint is linked to being aware of how people strategically and structurally think about Flint’s placement in the fabric of this U.S. quilt,” continued Currie. “Flint is like many U.S. cities working through its issues. So it is important to be a part of that presidential discussion. I tell students, ‘Your job is to actively listen and think about what’s being said about the city you are in.'”

President Clinton will speak at 3:15 p.m. on Monday, October 3, 2016. UM-Flint’s Northbank Center is located at 432 S. Saginaw Street, Flint, MI. The university is not involved with the distribution of tickets for the event. The Northbank Center will remain open for regular business throughout the day. No parking will be available on the street in front of Northbank or in the lot behind the building.


For more information on the University of Michigan-Flint, and the ways in which our students engage on campus and beyond, visit umflint.edu.

10/25/16

UM-Flint Career Center Welcomes New STEM Advisor

Emily Bank of the UM-Flint Career Center

Emily Bank of the UM-Flint Career Center

Get to know Emily Bank, a career advisor in the new UM-Flint Career Center. She’s here to help students and alumni with career preparation, internships, interview skills, employment opportunities, and more.

What work will you be doing in the UM-Flint Career Center?
As a Career Advisor, I am available to meet with current students and alumni to discuss career exploration, interview techniques, internship and job opportunities, and alumni volunteer events. I want to learn about what internship and job experiences students are having during their time at [the] University of Michigan-Flint and after graduation. We will also host a number of events each semester to help prepare students for the workforce, like career fairs, alumni career panels, and workshops.

What experience do you bring to this position?
I have a background in student affairs and higher education leadership. I love working with students and learning about the experiential learning they do both on and off campus.

Who will you be serving?
I am available to assist all students and alumni at the University of Michigan-Flint, but I will be focusing specifically on meeting with students in STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Myesha Cannon, the other Career Advisor in the Career Center, is also available to meet with all students, and she is the Career Advisor for students in the liberal arts.

Why are you working specifically with STEM students and alumni?
We are finding that employers are looking for students who possess a high level of technical skill to intern and work for their companies. STEM students have that technical talent, and I hope to help students present those skills effectively to employers. STEM faculty have knowledge about where their students are getting jobs and internships, so they are great resources to help place students at a job that’s right for them.

What do you hope for your time at UM-Flint?
My ultimate goal as a Career Advisor is to meet with every student on campus to learn about their goals, their passions, and how we can help them now and after graduation. I want to build relationships with students that will help them succeed throughout their time at UM-Flint and beyond. Additionally, I hope to teach students about job and internship avenues they may not be familiar with. I also hope that we can increase job and internship postings for students on Career Connection.

What advice about career preparation do you have for all students?
Career preparation is all about confidence. Be confident in your skills and experiences. Be confident in your world class education from University of Michigan-Flint. Be confident when walking up to an employer and shaking their hand for the first time at an interview or career fair. And be confident that you have what it takes to be successful in whatever occupation you choose. Also, attend as many events as possible starting as a freshman.


If students or alumni would like to schedule and appointment to meet with Emily Bank, contact her at 810.424.5244 or email bankemil@umflint.edu. For more information on the new UM-Flint Career Center, visit umflint.edu/careers.