03/14/18

CAS Alumni Spotlight: Marissa Pierce

UM-Flint alumna and Flint resident Marissa Pierce graduated in 2003 with a BA in Communication Studies and a minor in Africana Studies; she later returned to earn her MA in English Language and Literature, graduating in 2009.

Currently, Pierce is the Public & Community Relations Coordinator for the Flint Institute of Arts and a part-time English Instructor at Mott Community College. She also maintains an entertainment and lifestyle website, phashionphish.com, and is in the beginning stages of starting Surprise! — a non-profit that will provide mentoring and host “parties for kids and teens that would otherwise be unable to have one.”

Marissa Pierce, UM-Flint alumna, in the FIA's under-construction glassworks studio.

Marissa Pierce, UM-Flint alumna, in the FIA’s glassworks studio.

Pierce’s decision to attend UM-Flint was an easy one. “I had always been a Michigan fan, and being able to get a Michigan degree close to home appealed to me,” she noted. “I also was drawn to the course offerings and small class sizes that made for a more ‘intimate’ educational experience.

“I chose to return for my Masters degree because I was interested in teaching and knew I would need the degree to position myself for that next step in my career,” Pierce continued. “I also consider myself a lifelong learner, and although I had vowed to not step foot in a school again until I took my child to kindergarten, I knew that continuing my education was important and would be worthwhile. It has not only helped my career, but also enriched my personal life.”

Choosing her path at UM-Flint

At UM-Flint, Pierce selected academic programs that gave her room to explore her strengths and interests, and that would allow her flexibility in her future career. “UM-Flint has great programs, committed faculty and staff, and continued growth that not only meets the needs of students, but the community,” she reflected. “Those strengths make it not just a good school, but a great one.

“What I loved about the Communication and English programs was the freedom. I was able to really tailor my college experience to my interests. I would definitely recommend these programs, because they both have a number of options career wise, and I have found that I have been able to ‘write my own ticket’ so to speak. The variety of options that have been available to me with these two degrees is astounding, and in many instances have been things I didn’t even realize I was interested in.”

Pierce found her UM-Flint faculty to not only be supportive mentors, but to be friends as well. She is still in touch with a number of them and they continue to be resources in her professional life. When considering her most influential faculty, Pierce noted Dr. Charles Apple of Communication Studies and Jan Worth-Nelson of English. “They were always available to chat and I knew they were not only committed to the success of the program, but to the students,” she reflected.

Pierce found many valuable experiences outside of the classroom as well. “I was a writer for the M-Times (UM-Flint’s student newspaper) and College Representative for Def Jam Records while in undergrad and those were some of my greatest experiences,” she said. “I began writing about entertainment in high school and continued that at the M-Times and I got to cover some great shows, including Ricky Martin during the ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ craze. And being a college representative for Def Jam was so much fun! I made some lifelong connections and one of my best friends still works there! I returned to write for the M-Times while working on my MA.”

Connecting Coursework and Community

In early 2018, the Flint Institute of Arts hosted Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence. The exhibit showcased bead art created by a community of women in South Africa and was featured as a community event by UM-Flint Africana Studies for their annual Africa Week celebration. It was also a chance for Pierce to connect her undergraduate minor and her career. “I loved learning not only about African American history, but also African history,” said Pierce as she reflected on her studies. “I think being able to make the connection and ‘bridge the gap,’ if you will, is essential to really understanding the history of African Americans in the United States.”

UM-Flint alumna Marissa Pierce at the Flint Institute of Arts

UM-Flint alumna Marissa Pierce at the Flint Institute of Arts

Pierce has found that the impact of her courses still strongly resonates in her life. “I frequently talk about how the classes were some of my favorites during my time at UM-Flint, and how what I learned has shaped me as a person. I think learning about your heritage at the collegiate level is always beneficial, and exciting. I learned things that made a light bulb go off, and had many ‘ah-ha’ moments. In my career, I am able to bring many of the things I learned into conversations as it has relates to working with different cultures and ethnicities in the community.

“Exhibitions like this and the programming in the Africana Studies Department are important because they allow you to see art and the world through a very different lens than many of us are used to,” continued Pierce. “It does really allow us to make connections between the African and African American experience, and see beyond what we already know. Learning, be it at the Flint Institute of Arts or through the Africana Studies Department not only benefits the student, but the people and greater community that student interacts with. It really is a win-win for everyone!”


UM-Flint students can take advantage of the many learning opportunities provided by the FIA through their College Town program that provides free membership to college students. Learn more at flintarts.org/join-and-give/college-town.

For information on Africana Studies, Communication Studies, and other programs and majors offered through UM-Flint’s College of Arts and Sciences, visit umflint.edu/CAS.

02/26/18

UM-Flint Math class partners with DDA for survey on downtown Flint

Laura McLeman, associate professor of UM-Flint Mathematics, is taking an interactive approach to her Introduction to Statistics course (MTH 272) by incorporating a special class project: her students  are working with Flint’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to create and circulate a survey that will help them better understand users’ interactions in downtown Flint.

Laura McLeman, associate professor of UM-Flint Mathematics (front right) with some of her MTH 272 students

Laura McLeman, associate professor of UM-Flint Mathematics (front right) with some of her MTH 272 students

The statistics course is a requirement for McLeman’s secondary teacher’s certificate program (TCP) students who will go on to teach math to high schoolers. As part of UM-Flint’s education program, the course reflects the TCP’s place-based approach that regularly connects coursework and teaching practices with partners and projects in the community. The approach allows UM-Flint students opportunities to experience teaching, working with diverse groups, and finding community partners they can impact and that can be impacted by their classrooms.

Students work through a problem in MTH 272 with Laura McLeman of UM-Flint Mathematics.

McLeman considers the survey to be a unifying project for this semester’s class, nothing that the students were enthusiastic about it from day one. They’ve been the driving force behind the nature of the project, she added. The survey will help the DDA and downtown businesses learn about community member experiences; its results should be helpful in future grant writing and business planning.

Students in UM-Flint's MTH 272 class

Students in UM-Flint’s MTH 272 class

Once the survey is closed, the class will use their statistics methods to analyze the data; the results will be included in a written report and executive summary that they present to the DDA in April. The class will also participate in a reflective exercise in which they consider how well their survey worked, whether it served the needs of their community partner, and whether it provided the data they were after.

For McLeman, the project is a perfect example of place-based learning: it utilizes the content her students need to learn, while providing a meaningful service and getting her students interacting with the community. “As future secondary math teachers, and community stewards, it is important to me that my students experience how community needs and classroom curricular needs can come together in partnership,” noted McLeman. “Essentially, I want my students to see how all of the seemingly disparate topics they are learning in this statistics course come together in meaningful and impactful ways.”


For more information on UM-Flint Math, visit umflint.edu/math; to learn about the education programs at UM-Flint, visit umflint.edu/teach.

02/13/18

Soloist selected for UM-Flint Music’s winter wind symphony concert

Kimberly Stewart, a freshman majoring in Music Performance, will be the featured soloist at UM-Flint Music‘s winter Wind Symphony concert. Dr. Christopher Heidenreich, department chair, noted the difficulty of selection, her musicianship, and high level of preparation as reasons she was selected for the soloist position. “Kimberly was selected from among eight other outstanding performances,” he said. “I am very excited about [her] musical selection, and it will be a wonderful addition to our program.”

Kimberly Stewart of UM-Flint Music will be the featured soloist at the winter Wind Symphony concert

Kimberly Stewart of UM-Flint Music will be the featured soloist at the winter Wind Symphony concert

Currently, Stewart plays flute and piccolo with the UM-Flint Music Department’s Flute Ensemble, Wind Symphony, and Orchestra. As the soloist, she will be performing Poem by Charles Griffes. “I enjoy the use of colors and the abrupt changes in this piece,” she reflected. Stewart also noted that those attending can expect a fantastic concert experience from the Wind Symphony and Chamber Singers.

In general, Stewart appreciates the music selections of the department. “The pieces that are picked vary in style and are from different time periods. [Another] thing that I enjoy about being a part of the Music Department is the people. Everyone in the Music Department is very friendly and are willing to you help you if you need help.”

“Coming to UM-Flint has been a good experience for me because I have been given opportunities to perform and I have been able to connect with other talented musicians,” concluded Stewart.

To learn more about UM-Flint Music and their performances throughout the year, visit umflint.edu/music.

02/7/18

UM-Flint Computer Science students win SpartaHack IV at MSU

Team SonicPlayers, including UM-Flint Computer Science students Cole Rauh and Alex Latunski, at SpartaHack IV.

Team SonicPlayers, including UM-Flint Computer Science students Cole Rauh and Alex Latunski, at SpartaHack IV.

In January 2018 UM-Flint Computer Science and Mathematics student Cole Rauh led a team of coders to victory at SpartaHack: an annual student-run event hosted by Michigan State University that brings together “500 students of all skill levels and disciplines to get creative with tech, connect with peers and professionals.” His teammates included Alex Latunski, a fellow UM-Flint Computer Science major; Karl Zhu, a high schooler from Canada; and Michael Lin, an MSU Computer Science freshman.

The team won first place overall in the competition for their application that allows a user to play video games by producing notes on a musical instrument.

Read on as Rauh describes the competition in his own words.

About the Competition

Spartahack is a weekend-long coding competition. You are given 36 hours, from midnight Friday to noon Sunday, to build a piece of software. You aren’t given a topic, the only real stipulation is that your entire project must be coded that weekend, no bringing in a partially finished project to work on. At the end of the 36 hours, all projects are presented science-fair style, with each team getting a table to set up your project. Judges and other attendees walk around during this time and your team demonstrates your project to them. After the expo, judges choose a top 10, as well as winners for several side prizes, such as most creative, best android app, and so on. The top 10 then give a short 2 minute presentation in an auditorium in front of everyone in attendance. After the top 10 presents, the winners of the side prizes are announced, followed by the winners of 3rd, then 2nd, then 1st place.

Leading up to the event, we had no idea what we were going to make. While I was packing for the weekend, I saw a couple recorders that I had from elementary school. I thought maybe we could do something with them, so I tossed them in my backpack. During the drive there I thought about how we could use them. The first thing we’d have to do is read in the note being played into the microphone. Then we would have to process that to figure out which note is being played. From there I realized the number of notes you can play is pretty similar to the number of buttons on a classic video game controller, so I thought we could try using the recorders as controllers for old video games. I figured it had a pretty good shot at the most creative award, although I didn’t think it could get any more than that.

Making Music and the App

When I got to the event I met up with Alex, who was the other student from UM-Flint, and shared my idea. He was a little hesitant about it but decided to go along with it. We had room for 2 more people on our team so we took on Karl Zhu, a highschooler from Canada, and Michael Lin, an MSU freshman. We set up in one of the work rooms, which quickly cleared out after we started squeaking the controllers. After a few hours we had it working well enough to play single player games such as Kirby or Pokemon. We decided that the next step should be multiplayer. If you plug headphones into a microphone port, they will function as a microphone (although not a very good one). We found that we could play one recorder into the left headphone and another into the right microphone and process the two ears separately. We taped a headphone to each recorder, using plastic fork tines to get them positioned just right. With this set up we were able to get multiplayer games like Bomberman working.

Around this time, the constant recorder noises in the hallway were starting to attract several curious people. One of those people was Whitney, an employee of one of the event’s sponsors, Auto Owners Insurance. After speaking with her for a while, she offered to bring in her violin, so we could show that our technology can work with any instrument. Early Sunday morning she came in and worked with Alex to get the pitches set up and to teach him the basics of holding and getting a sound out of it. I came in about a half hour later and spent the entire morning just practicing the violin and just working on getting good enough at it to get enough of a sound out of it to move a character in a slow game.

Winning SpartaHack

When it came time for the expo, we were given our own room to demo in, since our project was sound based and needed a relatively quiet space. We set up two tables, one with the recorders to show off single and multiplayer games there, and one with the violin to show our project can work with any instrument. Our project turned out to be pretty popular, with a near constant stream of people stopping in to check out the source of the squeaks.

Team SonicPlayers demonstrates their app at SpartaHack IV.

Team SonicPlayers demonstrates their app at SpartaHack IV.

After the expo, top 10 was announced, which included us! We were psyched, as we never expected to do that well. We really only saw our project as a small toy, especially compared to the other brilliant projects being shown off. Each team in the top 10 is given 2 minutes to present and demo their projects. I started our presentation by saying that our project was to play video games using music. I then apologized for all the squeaking we made with the recorders throughout the event, before handing the mic to Alex. Alex briefly detailed what our project was and what it did, while Michael and Karl played the recorders to show off Kirby and single round of Bomberman. The audience got a kick out of watching them die to their own bombs in Bomberman. I then took the mic back and explained that our project works with any instrument, and thanked Whitney for providing us with a violin. We were closing in on two minutes, so I ended our presentation there.

After all of the presentations finished, The organizers started awarding the side prizes. The only prize we felt we had a chance at was Most Creative, so we got our hopes up when the organizers got to that prize. They were quickly dashed, however, when the prize was awarded to a team called Fidget Skirmish, who made a game involving fidget spinners. At that point we believed we wouldn’t win anything, but were still proud to make top 10. Imagine our surprise when it got to first place and the announcer said “And first place goes to, drum roll please… SonicPlayers!” We were all in disbelief, with Karl even asking if it was a mistake. When it finally sunk in that we had won we were on top of the world!


Congratulations to Cole Rauh, Alex Latunski, and their teammates!

For more information on UM-Flint Computer Science, and the ways in which it prepares its students to make their mark in the world, visit umflint.edu/computer-science.

 

02/5/18

Alumni Spotlight: Brandon Taylor of UM-Flint Psychology

Brandon Taylor, 2017 UM-Flint Psychology alumnus

Brandon Taylor, 2017 UM-Flint Psychology alumnus

Brandon Taylor graduated from UM-Flint’s College of Arts and Sciences in April 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Research Psychology and a minor in Substance Abuse Treatment. He was co-president of the Psychology Club, a member of the psychology honors society, a work study in the Department of Anthropology, Sociology, and Criminal Justice, and served as his class commencement speaker. After graduation he became a research assistant for the MSU College of Human Medicine in downtown Flint.

Brandon is fondly remembered by both his department faculty and those who were involved on his journey through UM-Flint.

Professor of Psychology, Terrence Horgan, PhD, reflected that Brandon, “was committed to excelling in school in a number of ways. He displayed a very positive attitude toward his education, and he always did his level best in class. His seriousness in class benefited his peers tremendously because it motivated them to demonstrate the same. Brandon was a role model in this regard because he elevated the quality of education that other students got in class.”

Jennifer Alvey, associate professor of anthropology and women’s and gender studies (WGS) and director of the UM-Flint WGS Program added, “When I think of Brandon, I think of a very hard working and dedicated person – someone who gives his all to everything he does. He is kind, funny, and light-hearted, but he also has a serious side, is very committed, and truly patient. Brandon had to cultivate these qualities or perhaps confidence in them, but somehow he found the courage and even desire to do so, which inspires those around him to give it a try, too. He’s the kind of person who makes us and the work we do – whether in the classroom or in an office – better. I miss seeing him every day, but am so happy to know that he is pursuing his Master’s degree and enjoying his research-based work.”

Brandon Taylor (left) joins fellow UM-Flint Psychology alums at a career panel for current students

Brandon Taylor (left) joins fellow UM-Flint Psychology alums at a career panel for current students

Read on as Taylor reflects on his time at UM-Flint, gives an update on life after graduation, and shares advice for current students.

What are you doing now and/or where are you heading next?
I’m a full-time research assistant for MSU at The College of Human Medicine in downtown Flint. I’m part of the SPIRIT Study, which stands for Suicide Prevention Intervention for at-Risk Individuals in Transition. Essentially, we’re investigating whether or not a suicide prevention program is clinically effective and cost effective. Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, we’re tracking suicidal ideation and behavior of people reentering the community from jail in Michigan and Rhode Island.

I’m also a part-time graduate student at MSU, pursing a master’s degree in clinical social work. Conveniently, my courses are held in the evening at Mott Community College, so I have the easiest work-to-school commute that I could hope for. After graduate school, my hope is to go wherever I feel I’m needed in the realm of social welfare, though I’d prefer to find initial employment doing clinical work in Flint.

How did your UM-Flint education prepare you for what you are doing?
UM-Flint was instrumental in giving me a space to explore my interests. Though I have love and appreciation for psychology, my heart resides in social work. Funny enough, my First-Year Experience course, Intergroup Dialogue, heavily influenced the trajectory of my interests. My professors always provided constant encouragement, support, and guidance that truly boosted my once-low self-esteem. This, in conjunction with the numerous opportunities they provided, empowered me to reach beyond my perceived limits.

Who made the biggest impact on your time at UM-Flint?
I can’t pick just one. Drs. Alvey and Laube [of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice] always provided praise and encouragement. Drs. Heinze and Stein [of Psychology] always gave positive feedback and introduced me to working with groups via peer facilitation. Dr. Horgan provided innumerable research opportunities, both in-class and in his lab. Dr. Kassel [of the Student Success Center] constantly challenged me to leave my comfort zone. Wendy Carpenter [of the Student Success Center] helped me find courage when I doubted myself. Lynne McTiernan [of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice] was always so kind, generous, and considerate when I was her work-study… I am forever indebted to the faculty and staff at UM-Flint for going above and beyond to help me academically and personally.

Brandon Taylor serving as UM-Flint commencement speaker in April 2017

Brandon Taylor serving as UM-Flint commencement speaker in April 2017

What value did you find in UM-Flint’s approach of including hands-on learning and applying lessons to real world situations?
I found this priceless. Both my clinical internship and my research involvement prepared me for this current job, which I consider to be the beginning of my professional career. I wouldn’t be where I am without these keystone experiences.

Describe a firsthand example of an engaged learning experience you had at UM-Flint:
My clinical psychology internship involved observing the therapeutic process for highly depressed and highly anxious individuals. Though this was extremely challenging at first, I walked away with finally knowing what I wanted to do as a career.

For more information on UM-Flint’s College of Arts and Sciences and its many departments and programs, visit umflint.edu/CAS.

12/14/17

UM-Flint Community Helps Create, Publish New Book on Art and the Flint Water Crisis

Artists Treading Water: Defining the Flint Water Crisis Through Art

Artists Treading Water: Defining the Flint Water Crisis Through Art

Gale Glover, a staff member in the departments of Art & Art History and Communication Studies, is a UM-Flint alumna, entrepreneur, and passionate Flint community member. She’s also part of a large group of university and community members who created and published a new book — Artists Treading Water: Defining the Flint Water Crisis Through Art.

“This was a collaborative project between students, alumni, faculty, and staff of both the University of Michigan-Flint and Mott Community College and artists and children from the local area,” noted Glover. “The project tackled a tragedy that happened in my hometown that affected not only myself but family, friends, and colleagues. These amazing artists were also able to voice their concerns through artistic expressions. Therefore, the project included five things that I am extremely passionate about which are the city of Flint, art, education, children, and community involvement.”

The book is a collection of written word and visual art. Glover is enthusiastic about both its creation and about increasing its readership.

“I hope this book brings continued awareness to the Flint Water Crisis and sparks conversations about what happened here and solutions that will not only help us recover but keep this from happening again,” she said. “We are building future leaders who will one day become our political leaders so it important to have those tough conversations so we may educate our children who will one day lead our nation.”

Artists Treading Water is available in both print forms and as an e-book on Amazon.com.

12/14/17

Faculty Spotlight: Besa Xhabija of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Besa Xhabija, PhD, joined the UM-Flint College of Arts and Sciences in Fall 2017 as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Read below to learn more about Dr. Xhabija and her field of biochemistry or join her in one of her upcoming class:

  • CHM 350: Fundamentals of Biochemistry
  • CHM 382: Environmental Toxicology
  • CHM 451: Biochemistry Laboratory I
  • CHM 453: Biochemistry Laboratory II

Admitted students can register at sis.umflint.edu or find more information about upcoming semesters at umflint.edu/register.


What is your background and education?
I completed my Bachelor of Science with Honors in Biochemistry from York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada and my Doctorate in Chemistry and Biochemistry from the University of Windsor (also in Canada) under the supervision of Dr. Panayiotis Vacratsis. I then continued on to a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University School of Medicine in the Department of Oncology, where I worked with Dr. Benjamin Kidder. My work there focused on studying stem cell and cancer epigenetics, specifically evaluating the functions of chromatin modifying enzymes in self-renewal and genome stability.

Why are you passionate about your field? 
I absolutely adore Biochemistry. It was my first love! I believe that it is the science that will open a window of understanding about how life has evolved from a one cell organism to becoming a well-oiled intricate organism. Understanding that living things are just bags of chemicals that can function in order to think, remember, behave, walk, run, talk, read, write, is absolutely fascinating to me. I am amazed at how basic elements, such as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen can make up a bacterial cell, yeast, skin cells, muscle cells, neurons, retinal cells, and organisms generally. This is something that I still find mesmerizing to this day.

How did you fall in love with your discipline?
This is an easy one. I fell in love with biochemistry when I was a junior in high school when we covered the principles of DNA and nucleic acids. I remember myself being very excited about the topic. I started reading on my own and learning the most that I could about how a disease is caused at the genetic level and how to solve biological problems—not realizing that I just scratched the surface of the biochemistry field. Later on, I started reading about the human body on my own and trying to understand, with very little scientific background at that time, how it functions at a molecular and cellular level. I am very glad to have chosen biochemistry as my field of expertise because it truly is my passion and not only it drives my discovery-based research approach in my lab, but also helps me teach with the passion to inspire others to do the same.

What are your favorite courses/subjects to teach?
It probably is not a surprise, but any level of Biochemistry.

What is your latest or favorite research project? 
Currently, I am in the process of setting up a system in my laboratory utilizing embryonic stem cells to study the effect of various toxins and drugs in embryo development. I am very excited about this project and I find it very informative for students and for the Flint community. Moreover, it offers students a large number of research techniques that are essential in any research laboratory.

What do you hope for your time at UM-Flint?
I hope to play an important role as an educator, in particular to sharpen students’ aspirations and allow them to develop their own branch of research or thoughts. I believe that only by pushing and supporting our students to perform to their full potential via promoting collaboration makes them succeed in their future academic paths.

Why were you excited to join UM-Flint and the Flint community?
I consider myself fortunate to have been a member of the UM-Flint Community prior to joining as a full-time faculty member now. I served as lecturer at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the Fall of 2016 and I was really pleased to see how strong the bonds between faculty, staff and students are.

What do you hope for students in your field? 
I hope for them to become good citizens and follow their chosen path with dedication, passion and strong ethics. I hope for them to inspire and motivate future generations and make this world a better place. I want to encourage those who choose to educate, to educate with passion, I want the health care professionals to serve their patients with care and go the extra mile. Finally, regardless what path they take, I hope that our students find their niche where they love what they do and do everything with passion and dedication. I believe that mediocrity is the enemy to success and that is something that I fight every day and encourage students to avoid avidly.

What are three things you think people should know about you? 

  • I live in Canada.
  • My door is always open and students should feel free to discuss things with me.
  • I enjoy biking.
11/29/17

Faculty Spotlight: Rebecca Tonietto of UM-Flint Biology

Rebecca Tonietto, PhD, joined the UM-Flint College of Arts and Sciences in Fall 2017 as an assistant professor in the Biology Department.

Rebecca Tonietto, PhD, of UM-Flint Biology

Rebecca Tonietto, PhD, of UM-Flint Biology

Read below to learn more about Dr. Tonietto and her field of biology or join her in one of her upcoming classes:

  • BIO 111: Organismal Biology
  • BIO 327: Ecology

Admitted students can register at sis.umflint.edu or find more information about upcoming semesters at umflint.edu/register.


In which area of biology are you particularly interested?
I study native bee communities – how their diversity and structure are related to plant communities, surrounding land-use, and management – for pollinator conservation. With those interests, I am at the intersections of a few different fields, but consider myself a community ecologist interested in conservation and restoration biology.

Why are you passionate about your field?
I love bees! They are so incredibly diverse and beautiful. Did you know we have around 400 species of bees native to Michigan? The honeybee is not one of those, we don’t have a native honeybee in North America. Some of our native bees are metallic green, metallic blue, and range from big and fuzzy to tiny and shiny. They provide an important ecosystem service by pollinating many of our crops and wildflowers, though also deserve conservation attention in their own right. I love talking to people about bees, and investigating how we can best support them. In general, providing habitat for native bees really means making places more beautiful – with more flowers and more species of flowering plants.

How did you fall in love with your discipline?
I loved my entomology and ecology classes as an undergrad at Kalamazoo College, and my senior project there involved aquatic insects. I kept working with insects in any capacity I could afterward, but after my first research assistantship observing bees I never looked back!

What are your favorite courses/subjects to teach? 
My favorite courses to teach are the ones closest to what I do, ecology and my currently-being-developed upper-level biology course will probably be my favorites here at UM-Flint. These courses tend to get students outside in nature, making observations and trying to figure out how to explain or investigate patterns.

What is your latest or favorite research project? 
My latest project was an investigation into the value of urban agriculture for pollinator conservation support in three shrinking cities across the Midwest: Detroit, Chicago and St Louis. We found urban agricultural sites (community gardens and urban farms) supported greater bee species abundance and diversity than open lots. The urban gardens and farms were amazing and inspiring places to work, and I met some wonderful people doing incredibly cool things.

What do you hope for your time at UM-Flint?
I hope to be an effective and inspirational teacher, I hope to do research meaningful to the community and pollinator conservation, and I look forward to getting to know the students.

Why were you excited to join UM-Flint and the Flint community?
I’m a fourth generation Michigander who was thrilled to move back home after over a decade away for research assistantships and graduate school. It means the world to me to be doing meaningful research that would benefit local conservation and the local urban agriculture movement in the region I have, and will always, consider home.

What do you hope for students in your field?
I hope that students remain optimistic and creative, and embrace their inner tenacity and grit, as all are assets in finding out-of-the-box solutions to conservation challenges.

What are three things you think people should know about you? 

  • Though I have studied bees for over 10 years, I have only been stung 2 or 3 times.
  • I love knitting, though lately I design more than actually knit patterns.
  • I come from a family of engineers – my mom, dad, sister and many other relatives are engineers, too!
11/14/17

Faculty Spotlight: Daniel Hummel of Public Administration

Daniel Hummel, PhD, joined the UM-Flint College of Arts and Sciences in Fall 2017 as an assistant professor of public administration in the Political Science Department.

Daniel Hummel, PhD, Assistant Professor of Public Administration at UM-Flint

Daniel Hummel, PhD, Assistant Professor of Public Administration at UM-Flint

Read below to learn more about him and the field of public administration, or join him in one of his upcoming classes:

  • PUB 311: American State and Local Government
  • PUB 500: Politics, Policy, and Public Administration
  • PUB 502: Public Sector Management
  • PUB 518: Budgeting and Finance in the Public Sector
  • PUB 578: State and Local Public Finance
  • PUB 596: Intergovernmental Relations

Admitted students can register at sis.umflint.edu or find more information about upcoming semesters at umflint.edu/register.

Why are you passionate about your field?
Public administration is a central aspect of civilization. Despite the popularized hatred of government, it is hard to imagine any modern society functioning without one. I strive to understand the interconnections between local economic activity, the optimal functionality of government, citizen engagement and participation, the response of citizens to taxes and regulation and the response of government to human behavior. This is my passion.

This field is the nexus of multiple fields. There is economics, psychology and political science. I find myself reading journals from multiple fields to understand a phenomenon in public administration. It is for this reason that I have published in diverse journals. It is also the reason I have found myself on panels at conferences with historians and sociologists. I received my degree from the College of Design and Social Inquiry at FAU where I rubbed shoulders with scholars in public administration as well as planning. My dissertation was on fiscal health and right-sizing cities which combined public finance with planning practice. My first academic position was in the College of Arts and Letters at Idaho State University in a political science department and my last academic position was in the College of Business at Bowie State University in a management and marketing department. This field is vibrant and growing.

How did you fall in love with your discipline?
Interestingly, I had no interest in public administration before my final year of my Bachelor’s degree in International Politics. I was more into the study of religion and culture than how to balance a government’s budget. I wanted to study Central Asia and I wanted to work closely with Tom Gouttierre at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in their Center for Afghanistan Studies. Tom recommended that I get my MPA at UNO since the Center did not have a degree program. I was not enthusiastic about it, but I gave it a try.

My first semester I met Dale Krane and John Bartle. Both professors were exceptional, especially Dr. Bartle. It was Dr. Bartle that showed me that public budgeting and finance is an amazingly interesting topic. When I finished my MPA I decided that I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. in the field. My time at Florida Atlantic University solidified my love of the field and my interest in public budgeting and finance. I also became increasingly interested in local government, especially in the wake of the Great Recession. I grew up in the shadow of industrial decline in northwestern Pennsylvania and, after reading about the Youngstown 2010 Plan, I decided that I really wanted to focus my research on declining cities. This entire experience has been immensely rewarding for me.

What are your favorite courses/subjects to teach?
My favorite course to teach is public budgeting and finance. I am teaching a class at UM-Flint called State and Local Public Finance (PUB 578). I am really looking forward to this class as it combines my dual interests of local government and budgeting / finance. I also enjoy teaching public policy. I am [also] teaching PUB 500 which is titled Politics, Policy and Public Administration. I will enjoy this class because half of it will be on the foundations of public administration in the United States and the other half will be on public policy.

What is your latest or favorite research project?
Currently, I have one paper in revision that is focused on the relationship between urban population and housing density and urban productivity. I am interested in this dynamic because one of the central assumptions of smart growth and smart decline is that urban productivity is a function of urban density. In shrinking cities this would mean consolidating the population in healthy centers which is a highly controversial thing to do. So far, my research is indicating that low density development is more closely associated with higher productivity values than high density development at least for the United States in the years selected.

In addition to this project, I am presenting a paper on the relationship between student debt levels and housing vacancy this year at the Northeastern Association of Business, Economics and Technology conference. So far, I am noticing that many neighborhoods in historically declining areas of cities are attracting recent college graduates for many reasons, reducing vacancy in these places. One of the reasons is the housing affordability in these places as recent grads are unable to afford homes elsewhere due to high debt-to-income ratios.

What do you hope for your time at UM-Flint?
I want to make an impact not only in the classroom with my students, but on the community of Flint and the region. My research has implications for practice in declining regions and I want to be a part of that discussion. My hope is to continue building on my prior research in this area and defining myself within the field. I also want to see our MPA program continue to be successful as we plan for the future. Obviously, this entails the proper education of current and future public administrators who are increasingly subjected to more constraints along with higher expectations. Ultimately, my goal is to get tenure and be a permanent fixture of this program as I work with my colleagues within the department as well as across the university on important projects.

Why were you excited to join UM-Flint and the Flint community?
My research necessitates access to public officials in places like Flint. Being in the middle of my research provides me incredible opportunities to see these projects really bloom. In addition, the university and my Department are great. The people I have met along with the resources available indicate to me that this is a good place to call home.

What do you hope for students in your field?
My hope for our students is that they are personally successful, however they define that. Obviously, I want to see them achieve higher positions and higher pay as a result of completing the MPA degree. These are important indicators for a successful academic program in general. I also want them to feel fulfilled in their careers in public service. I want to provide them with out-of-the-box ways of thinking about public problems that will push them to think innovatively. I want them to do their jobs in ways that improve their own wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of the communities in which they work. I want people who work with our graduates to see the quality of our program through their actions.

What are three things you think people should know about you?

  • I am very friendly, but I am thinking about stuff all the time, so if you see me on campus and I walk by you without saying something please don’t be offended. If you see me grab my attention and I will definitely greet you.
  • I love spicy food. I can eat non-spicy food, but I usually do so only to survive. When I want to truly live I ask for the Ghost Peppers.
  • I have a little boy going to Kindergarten (first and only kid) this year. Big event!!
11/10/17

UM-Flint Computer Science students demonstrate apps at Ann Arbor celebration

The University of Michigan celebrated the finale of its bicentennial celebration with the Third Century Expo—a public fair with a focus technology, innovation, and what’s to come in the university’s next 100 years.

UM-Flint’s Association for Computer Machinery (ACM) student group, and their faculty advisor Mark Allison, PhD, assistant professor of computer science, attended and demonstrated some of their student-created digital and web applications to the crowd.

UM-Flint students at the University of Michigan's Third Century Expo in Ann Arbor

UM-Flint students at the Third Century Expo in Ann Arbor

The UM-Flint students were especially proud to feature the MyWater-Flint app, which allows users to access reported lead levels in Flint neighborhoods, connect with resources, and track updates on service-line replacement. Their work accounted for a good portion of the offerings at the event’s tech/app bar inside the “Creating and Inventing” tent.

Their second app, noted Allison, was also a big hit. Still unnamed, the app helps pinpoint a user’s location indoors. “You may have noticed your phone’s GPS is useless inside buildings,” explained Allison. “This graduate research project addresses this problem. When completed, we envision students being able to navigate indoors as floormaps automatically pop up onscreen as they enter buildings and move from floor to floor.

“Users also will be able to access  the schedule of their classrooms and professors by  swiping their phone by the respective doors. This concept was a big hit in Ann Arbor as students thought it would be helpful on their large campus.

“I am still amazed that our students rise so quickly when challenged to solve the unsolved problems,” Allison concluded.

For more information on the Department of Computer Science, Engineering, and Physics at UM-Flint, and the engaged learning opportunities it offers students, visit umflint.edu/CSEP.