Monthly Archives: May 2019

Shayne Mishler: MPA in Educational Administration Alumnus

Shayne Mishler earned his MPA in Educational Administration (WebPlus) in 2018. The program offers certified educators a path toward a School Administrator Certificate. Built with working professionals in mind, the program provides a flexible, part-time format (over two years, 36 credits) that blends online coursework with monthly classes on the UM-Flint campus the second Saturday of each month.

Read on to see what Shayne had to say about his experiences earning a MPA in Educational Administration from UM-Flint.

What was your motivation for enrolling in the WebPlus Program?

The program was recommended to me by administrative colleagues that previously obtained this master’s degree for an administrative position.  The WebPlus program was enticing because of the mixed mode style of learning. Being the Athletic Director of a district, the time spent at events can be overwhelming.  This program allowed for me to have face to face interaction with professors and peers once a month, and work independently from my office to work on graduate course work.

What has your path been since completing your degree?

I was previously the district Dean of Students for the Montrose Community Schools middle and high schools, but have transitioned to the Assistant Principal/Athletic Director of the Hill McCloy High School.  I continue to run athletics for the district, and have also taken on the duties of being the ALICE Trainer for my district, Emergency Operations Administrator and Security Advisor.

What sorts of experiences were the most meaningful for you during your studies?

Meeting each month with our professors and colleagues was far and away the best part of the program. Developing relationships, partnerships, and friendships that have continued after graduation with peers from many different types of educators. Each course offered its own unique view of educational administration. The program evaluation experience has provided the most concrete change in my district. The research, review and modifications to my program review have enhanced and energized the district’s CTE programming. The design and implementation was built upon week by week allowing for small incremental moves that revealed great results by the end of the school year. Sharing our thoughts, feelings and ideas with each other, and supporting one another through tough situations made the course work more than graduate work, but working on life together. Each and every professor gave of themselves in class, on Blackboard, and through emails and phone calls to provide the best advice or answer they could during the process. 

Would you recommend that your fellow educators enroll in the WebPlus program?

I would absolutely recommend the WebPlus program for graduate work.  Coming into the program, I thought back to my other degrees and the experiences that I had during undergraduate and master’s work previously. The first day of classes, I felt like I was being treated as a professional that was bringing my experiences with me to add to the course. The materials and course work were robust, but not overwhelming.  Setting timetables and managing weekly assignments was advised and provided structure. The old saying is, “You will only get out of it what you put into it!”, and that is so true. I absolutely enjoyed every time we got together as an entire group. A wealth of knowledge and experiences being able to share and compare. 

Ultimately, this degree is educationally specific, but is diverse enough for me to apply it towards a career beyond my time in education. I was able to take advantage of the library on main campus and celebrate graduation in the “Big House” with the other graduates from the University of Michigan. I was supremely blessed to share this experience with my peers and continue working with the students in my district.

Ready to take the next step? The application is available online. If you’d like to learn more, contact the program director, Dr. Patrick O’Donnell, at or 810.766.6628.

Jason Leppelmeier: From Philosophy Undergrad to Data Engineer with the MS in Computer Science & Information Systems

Jason Leppelmeier earned his MS in Computer Science & Information Systems in April 2019

Jason Leppelmeier only applied to one program when he was ready to earn his master’s degree—The MS in Computer Science & Information Systems at the University of Michigan-Flint.

Two factors stood out to Jason when he was making a decision:

  • He could to complete his coursework online or in-person, which was important since he often traveled for work.
  • The UM-Flint program offers a “fast track” option for learners who don’t have a Computer Science/Information Systems bachelor’s degree.

Jason originally studied philosophy, with designs on philosophy graduate school. But, as Jason relates, “life happened” and he worked on factory floors for several years after graduating. He knew that a master’s degree would help him grow in his career, and Jason was able to complete the UM-Flint MS in Computer Science & Information Systems while working full-time servicing scientific laboratory equipment around the country.

Cyber Classrooms record every lecture and allow distance learners to get the full classroom experience.

“Since Computer Science courses are offered both for distance-learners and on-campus students, I liked that I could tell prospective employers that I did exactly the work remotely as on-campus students,” Jason says.

Jason earned his master’s in April 2019, but he took the next step in his career before even finishing his degree. In November 2018, Jason started as a Data Engineer at Aunalytics, a data consulting firm based in South Bend, Indiana. He develops data pipelines that are used in AI and machine learning systems. His experience with the MS in Computer Science & Information Systems was instrumental in gaining this position.

“When I started interviewing in industry, employers were most concerned with my understanding the fundamentals and the deeper theory behind them,” Jason says. “If I could show that I had some experience with applying my learning, they felt like I’d be able to do that with their systems.”

Jason had plenty of opportunities for applied learning while completing his master’s. In his artificial intelligence class, Jason developed a speech recognition system for Arabic digits which was 94% accurate. In a data mining course, Jason developed a system which could identify whether the sentiments of a tweet toward an organization are positive or negative. Professors that are available for questions and brainstorming—like Dr. Michael Farmer in artificial intelligence and Dr. Halil Bisgin in data mining—were invaluable resources for Jason.  

“In interviews, the first thing employers wanted to know was about what projects I completed and what my role was, so having professors that can guide you was very important,” Jason says. “The class sizes and accessibility of professors were always positive things for me. I was surprised at how much my professors were willing to help.”

Interested in getting started on your own path to success? The application for the MS in Computer Science & Information Systems is available online. You can also contact the Program Manager, Susie Churchill, at or 810.762.0916.

Art Students Create Pop-Up T-Shirt Business on MLK Ave.

During the Spring-Time Pop-Up Celebration on Flint’s Martin Luther King Avenue, students in the College of Arts & Sciences Art & Art History Department held a pop-up of their own. “The Change Machine,” a t-shirt screen printing storefront, was created by students in ART 379: Community Design Studio, directed by Associate Professor Benjamin Gaydos.

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

The Community Design Studio Collaborates with community organizations such as King Avenue Plus to create projects like The Change Machine.

With “The Change Machine,” students demonstrated the accessibility of starting a small business like a screen printing shop. Creating t-shirts was just one event in a long line of projects done in collaboration with the City and the MLK Pasadena Business District, however. In March, Gaydos and his students participated in a mapping workshop with the Flint Department of Planning and Development and King Avenue Plus. The studio collaborated with King Avenue Plus and the city’s planning team to develop a set of surveys and co-creative mapping tools. Community members were able to share their expertise in improving walkability in the city and assist in designing the final outcome. For example, if a community member felt that more streetlights were needed in a given area, they could indicate that with a designated sticker on a map of the neighborhood.

The Community Design Studio helped to develop maps showing the needs of Flint residents.

“We were there to help contribute best practices to the process, Gaydos says. “Simple things like having stickers that don’t have anything on them, which gives folks in the neighborhoods an opportunity to say that they want things that maybe the city hasn’t even thought about.”

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.

Junior Art & Design major Stephanie Streeter applying vinyl decals.

Though this particular event is over, the collaboration between the Community Design Studio and community partners doesn’t stop. Building and maintaining those relationships is intentional, and something that Gaydos feels is essential.

“Though this course is scheduled once a year in the Winter semester, we are able to maintain our community partners over many years,” Gaydos says. “We hold a lot of workshops and brainstorming activities with our community partners to really understand their needs. That’s an important way of designing when you’re trying to create a sustainable impact in communities.”

Dalton Sink is Advancing his Aquatic Biology Career With the MS in Biology

After earning his bachelor’s in Biology from UM-Flint, Dalton Sink accepted a position as an environmental biologist at the Holly-based company Aqua-Weed, where he conducts water quality testing and lake consulting. In particular, he is concerned with the development of safe—and effective—plant control methods. To take his work to the next level, Sink continued his education with the MS in Biology at UM-Flint. His thesis project explores the efficacy and environmental impact of industrial products on the common problem of algae and nuisance plants in lakes and ponds.

Working full-time and completing his MS in Biology creates a demanding schedule, but Sink has found a supportive community in the master’s program.

“My faculty advisor, Dr. Heather Dawson, has been really great. Anytime I have new content or revisions for my thesis, she sends me feedback shortly after,” Sinks says. “I’ve had to change my project objectives since beginning, but Heather and my thesis committee have been very open to making this program work for me.”

In addition to his area of focus, Sink appreciates the broad look at biology the master’s program offers him. In BIO 587: Forest Ecology, he learned more about the growth cycles of trees, which also informs what the environment will be like at the water’s edge. Making connections between different areas of biology has been beneficial for aquatically minded Sink.

Sink has also participated in an on-going aquaponics experiment with the department, in which students are growing vegetables using the waste produced by freshwater prawns. You can watch a short video on the experiment here. This project also necessitated a shift in thinking for Sink.

“Normally I’m trying to manage vegetation, not necessarily trying to grow it. So this was an interesting change of pace,” he says.

With one more course to complete and his thesis to defend, Sink is nearing the end of his master’s program. While juggling time at work, classes, and thesis research has not always been easy, he has found success in all with help from the UM-Flint community.

“You get to see and work with people who aren’t in your specific field, but that is helpful when it comes time to collaborate academically or professionally. You’re going to have a great support system around you with the professors and even other students in this program.”

Contact Dr. Joe Sucic for more information on the MS in Biology at You can also start your application online.

Jessica Kitchner Took Her Life in a New Direction With the Master of Public Administration

Jessica Kitchner earned her MPA from the University of Michigan-Flint in 2016.

Jessica Kitchner is passionate about English literacy. She spent years teaching English in Japan and Russia, before working with immigrant and refugee families with the Genesee Intermediate School District. She was making a difference, but her bachelor’s degree in political science meant she lacked the formal credentials to be a teacher in Michigan.

Jessica knew her positive impact on literacy could be made greater by working for a non-profit that focused on systemic solutions to English literacy education. But without skills like grant compliance, volunteer management, or fund development, how could she gain a position that fully realized her passion?

The Master of Public Administration at UM-Flint provided Jessica with the knowledge and opportunities to take her career in a new direction. After earning her MPA in 2016, Jessica became the Operations Manager at the Flint & Genesee Literacy Network (FGLN), which works to improve the life outcomes of local children and families by improving literacy levels in Genesee County. The Network’s Executive Director, JaNel Jamerson, is also a UM-Flint graduate.

“Every class in the MPA program could be linked to my passion of literacy. You can connect whatever your interests are to the curriculum in this degree,” Kitchner says.

 In her first year of the program, Jessica was researching literacy rates in Genesee County for one of her classes. This research led her to attend public meetings, where she would make the connections to eventually be hired by FGLN. Jessica is a self-professed introvert, but she came out of her shell with the opportunity to apply an interest in literacy to her MPA coursework. It also helped that her professors were always open and available.

“I had a standing weekly meeting with my statistics professor. He probably thought I was crazy, but he always listened and made time for me,” Kitchner says.

Jessica sees the opportunity to utilize her learning on a regular basis at work. Outside of the standard curriculum, Jessica believes the MPA program shows students more than what’s in the textbook.  

“The MPA program introduced me to the possibilities of Flint. Your classes are taught by people who are leaders in key fields. They talk about their real-life experiences and they bring in community partners. I didn’t know about most of these opportunities before coming to UM-Flint.”

MPA Program Director Kim Saks-McManaway, sees the opportunities that Jessica took advantage of as standard for UM-Flint MPA students.

“Whether it is within a specific content-based course, an independent study, or our practicum course, students are exposed to the real work of public administration from their first semester to their last,” Saks-McManaway says. “Students like Jessica can take advantage of those opportunities to change their career paths in a way that provides them with experience and credit toward their degree.”

If you’d like to learn more about how you can gain the right experiences to shape your career, Kim Saks-McManaway can be contacted at You can also start your application online.

CAS Faculty Had a Great 2018-19

Professors in the College of Arts & Sciences made the 2018-19 academic year great for our students, campus, and community. Whether it is teaching, research, or collaboration across departments and campuses, it seems like our faculty can do it all.

The following are just a few of the accolades our teacher-scholars have received for their work over the past year. Many of these awards were part of the Celebration of Teaching & Research, held by the Thompson Center for Learning & Teaching and the Office of Research & Sponsored Programs.


Of the seven 2019 Faculty and Staff Achievement Awards, CAS faculty across six departments earned them all. These seven recipients will be honored at the Fall Academic Affairs Convocation scheduled for Thursday, August 29, 2019 in the UM-Flint Theater.

  • Distinguished Service Award: Shelby Newport (Theatre/Dance)
  • Teaching Excellence Award: Stephanie Roach (English)
  • Scholarly or Creative Achievement Award: Terrence Horgan (Psychology)
  • Dr. Lois Matz Rosen Junior Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award: Halil Bisgin (Computer Science & Information Systems)
  • Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Junior Faculty Award: Emily Feuerherm (English)
  • Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Senior Faculty Award: Jessica Tischler (Chemistry & Biochemistry)
  • Dorothea E. Wyatt Award: Jennifer Alvey (Sociology, Anthropology & Criminal Justice)


Four faculty members received this award, which recognizes those who have developed a creative or innovative project that enhances student learning. Projects include:

-Helping Computer Science students make the connection between academics and business, engaging the community in a first-year experience course,

-Using cloud-based collaboration software to increase student engagement, collaboration, and learning.


This program assists faculty in creating high-impact, engaged learning opportunities in their courses. Four CAS faculty made their classes more engaging with this grant in Winter 2019.


This program provides financial support for professional development activities that enhance the teaching of lecturers. Eight CAS faculty members received funding to improve their educational practice.

New for this year, awards were available from the LEO Inclusive Teaching Professional Development Fund. Four CAS faculty members were granted this award to make their classes an even better learning environment for all.


Six faculty members were participants across three learning communities, which are interdisciplinary and cross-institution outlets for professional growth. CAS professors were involved with Critical Inclusive Pedagogies, “Engagement of Students in Undergraduate Research,” and “Service Learning Across the Disciplines.”


Four CAS professors received TCLT Faculty Development Grants to enhance their coursework, attend conferences, or carry out research projects


A total of 93 Golden Apples were awarded to the CAS faculty in 2018-19. Students nominate professors for their work in teaching, advising, and mentoring.


MCubed provides seed funding across all three UM campuses to self-organized, multi-unit, faculty-led teams. Fifteen CAS faculty members are working in eight cubes, on topics ranging from “Iron transport across the blood/brain barrier” to “Using social media to understand public perception of the Flint Water Crisis.”


Four CAS faculty members received funding to lead projects that foster cooperation across campus and provide research opportunities for students. Some examples include:

-Organic Farming Duration and its Relationship to Soil Health

-US and the War on Terror in Sub-Saharan Africa: Paradox and Prospects


Ten CAS faculty members who were invited to participate an international conference received this award.


Three faculty members received CAS Opportunity Fund Grants. They are using this funding to attend professional conferences and purchase equipment for use in research.

We can’t wait to see what our faculty will accomplish next year!