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.

02/5/18

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.

11/9/17

UM-Flint alumni return to discuss life as pharmacy students

Five College of Arts and Sciences alumni returned to the UM-Flint campus on November 7th to talk to current students about their lives in the University of Michigan pharmacy program—also known as PharmD.

Jessica Tischler, PhD, Chair of UM-Flint's Chemistry and Biochemistry Department (standing, far right), introduces her former students.

Jessica Tischler, PhD, Chair of UM-Flint’s Chemistry and Biochemistry Department (standing, far right), introduces her former students.

The returning alums were Lena Gayar (’16, biology), Devon Stonerock (’17, biochemistry), Derek Linskey (’17, biochemistry), Noah Leja (’14, chemistry), and Lauren Williams (’15, biochemistry). They range from year 1 to year 4 in the Ann Arbor program.

The current UM-Flint students who attended the event all see pharmacy as a possible future career, and were able to ask the alums about their preparation, the application process, and their current studies and schedules.

Devon Stonerock, a first year pharmacy student, discusses his experiences in applying for pharmacy school and the workload of his first semester

Devon Stonerock, a first year pharmacy student, discusses his experience of applying for pharmacy school and the workload of his first semester

Each of the five alums agreed that they had excellent preparation at UM-Flint, and often find themselves to be better prepared than peers from larger institutions. They cited close relationships with faculty, hands-on experiences in labs and in conducting research, and the rigorous academic standards of UM-Flint as being beneficial.

Williams noted that she had almost not applied to the University of Michigan program, as she was intimidated by it being a top school in the country. Happily, her fears were quickly calmed as she found herself walking PharmD classmates through lab procedures and material that were second nature from her time at UM-Flint.

Dr. Tischler and her alumni answer questions about the process of becoming a pharmacy school student.

Dr. Tischler and her alumni answer questions about the process of becoming a pharmacy school student

The alumni also credited “soft skills” such as excellent written and verbal communication, problem solving, and working with with diverse groups as being equal to or more important than course content. The need for such skills in scientists and artists alike lies at the foundation of UM-Flint’s College of Arts and Sciences as a liberal education institution, and is part of what sets its students and alumni apart.

For more information on the College of Arts and Sciences, and its 18 departments, visit umflint.edu/CAS. For information about being a pre-pharmacy student at UM-Flint, visit umflint.edu/prepharm.

 

11/2/17

UM-Flint Chemistry Professor Visits Alumni, Presents Talk at Iowa State University

Professor Jie Song, of the UM-Flint Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, was invited to give a talk at the Iowa State University (ISU) Department of Chemistry on October 27, 2017. Dr. Song did his postdoctoral research at Ames Laboratory US DOE from 2002 to 2004, located on the ISU campus, before he joined UM-Flint as a faculty member.

The talk was titled “Methods Applied in Studying Repellent-Attractant Interactions.” Besides talking to a small group of theoretical/computational chemists/physicists, Professor Song met with three UM-Flint alumni.

From left to right, Viet Nguyen ('17), David Poole ('16), Professor Jie Song, and Kristoper Keipert ('12)

Left to right: Viet Nguyen (’17), David Poole (’16), Prof. Jie Song, Kristoper Keipert (’12)

Since 2004, five UM-Flint undergraduate students who have done research with him have obtained or are studying for their Ph.D. in theoretical/computational chemistry at Iowa State University. They are:

  • Dr. George Schoendorff (Chemistry, ’06), Visiting Professor at Bradley University
  • Alexander Findlater (Chemistry, ’10)
  • Dr. Kristoper Keipert (Biochemistry, ’12), postdoctoral researcher at Argonne National Lab, US DOE
  • David Poole (Chemistry, ’16)
  • Viet Nguyen (Chemistry, ’17)

During the last 13 years, Dr. Song has supervised more than 30 undergraduate research students. Among them, seven have already obtained their Ph.D. in chemistry and three have obtained their MD.

For more information on the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, visit umflint.edu/chemistry.

03/22/17

Shakespeare Inspires CAS Students to Connect with Flint, World

Dr. Mary Jo Kietzman of UM-Flint English with "Lear Reassembled" students

At first glance, the study of Shakespeare can seem outdated in today’s world and university curriculum. But associate professor of English Mary Jo Kietzman, Ph.D., has been successful in teaching Shakespeare as a means for UM-Flint students to think deeply about and connect to their world.

Why Shakespeare?

Kietzman believes in the connection students—not just those majoring in English—make with the language of Shakespeare, and in the connections that exist between his time and ours. “We still have a primal need for a language that will move us–whether to laughter or to tears,” said Kietzman. “[It’s] the language of the imagination, of telling stories, of wrestling with ideas and feelings—the language of real communication, of people wanting to talk about issues that concern them and their community, issues of conscience, ideas, and dreams. Texting cannot fulfill this deeper need, and, as another Renaissance playwright famously wrote, ‘where words prevail not, violence prevails.'”

“The people of Shakespeare’s world lived with a lot less padding between themselves and harsh realities,” she continued. “It can be easy to forget that all the heat in Shakespeare’s language, the coarseness, the violence, the passion, the sorrow, came out of a very basic sense of survival. I believe students in Flint can connect with the immediacy of its impact.”

Projects for UM-Flint Students

In the past, Kietzman had a class “reassemble” Shakespeare’s King Lear to get UM-Flint students out in the community and asking questions about Flint. Noted an article about the project, “students had to overcome their stereotype-bred fears of Flint and venture forth, doing highly unconventional research. They tramped around Chevy-in-the-Hole. They volunteered at soup kitchens. They scanned the Flint Journal, visited the Genesee County Historical Collection, and read books like Gordon Young’s Tear Down to learn about Flint.”

Sarah Swartz, a student who participated in Lear Reassembled, said, “What has impressed me the most about our project is the way we have taken something as classic as Shakespeare and given it a modern purpose. No longer are we studying the themes of the play in the classroom. We have taken it further and found meaning for it in Flint.  That is something I think Shakespeare would be proud of.”

The "cast" of the Lear Reassembled project.

The “cast” of the Lear Reassembled project.

More recently, Kietzman taught a cycle of Shakespeare’s history plays for the first time. “I thought it would be interesting to do in the run-up to the presidential election,” she said. “These plays gave us a lot to think about in terms of what we are looking for in our rulers and how much expressive freedom the citizenry should expect. It seems to me to be easier to approach politics in the classroom obliquely through a safe literary filter. Shakespeare also provides a cross section of the population (rich and poor) and multiple ways of thinking about any given issue. This is so unlike our current divisive political discourse that it almost seems like Shakespeare is better at encouraging critical thinking about all manner of political problems.”

UM-Flint students performing their one-act play exploring gender roles in "Taming the Shrew"

UM-Flint students performing their one-act play exploring gender roles in “Taming the Shrew”

In other classes, Kietzman has had UM-Flint students write short (one act) plays to explore general questions like what gives people power? or why do we fight in relationships? or what are we fighting for? “Scriptwriting forces students to translate and own the issues in a personal way,” said Kietzman. “Because I ask them to draw on their own experiences, collaboration is tricky. Personal histories, pain, struggles, and prejudices inevitably come out and must be embraced by the teacher and the group.”

Shakespeare Beyond UM-Flint

Kietzman knows that those who connect with her class projects will carry the experiences with them long after graduation. “I was amazed to discover how relevant Shakespeare still is and at how little changes about human nature,” said one past student. “All of the issues we are facing today are covered in his plays. Professor Kietzman was brilliant at leading class discussions in a way that made us think beyond the words on the page. I finally understood why Shakespeare still matters and have turned into a passionate advocate for his work.”

Local community groups and publishers have also taken note of Kietzman’s work. She’s been an invited speaker to the St. Matthew’s Speaker Series—a downtown Flint church’s forum for those who are making a difference in the community. She has also written an article on her time spent teaching Shakespeare in Kazakhstan—where her idea to adapt King Lear to Flint was born.

“It’s hard to find a reason to truly care about what is happening in your surroundings,” noted alumni Stephanie Ruddock when speaking to the ways in which the Lear project helped her connect to Flint. “But when you begin to investigate, you begin to crave more knowledge, and, in turn, you become more involved in your community. Suddenly, you feel a desire to take part of the world around you and show the world how wonderful it is.”

Looking to the future, Kietzman said, “I would like to tackle another Flint adaptation. I have to figure out another play that would be a good fit for Flint. It also takes a dedicated cohort of students. I am passionate about this work for the single reason that I think students need to grow roots in Flint. There is a growing sense of alienation that comes, I think, from being displaced from a sense of place. Globalization is great, but what about our shared home—this city? Shouldn’t we know it? Shouldn’t we figure out how to care about and get involved in it?”


Learn about the ways in which linguistics, writing, and literature help UM-Flint students connect to the world around them and thrive after graduation.

Visit umflint.edu/english.

03/22/17

High School Teachers Utilize UM-Flint Resources to Bring Science to Life

Honors Chemistry students from Byron visit UM-Flint labs on a field trip.

UM-Flint students experience hands-on learning, meaningful interactions with their faculty, and access to state-of-the-art equipment in their departments. They also make memories that stick with them for a lifetime and inspire them to come back to campus. Two UM-Flint alumni, Mandi Davis and Theresa Krejci (both teachers for the Byron Area Schools), recently returned to UM-Flint with their own students. They were hoping to show off a little of what made their UM-Flint experiences so special while giving the students access to recently renovated laboratory spaces.

Visiting Biology at UM-Flint

The Byron anatomy and physiology students began their day by visiting the gross anatomy lab with the Biology Department‘s Dennis Viele. They interacted with the university’s cadavers—examining the differing pathologies of hearts, seeing a spinal cord, and even touching an intact brain. “I wanted my students to see that UM-Flint is a great place to get their degree as well as expose them to some new opportunities in the field of science,” said Krejci. “We were able to view parts of the human body that we have or will be studying.”

Krejci graduated in 1993 with a degree in biology, a minor in mathematics, and a general science teaching certificate. “It was nice to return and see that so many improvements had been made,” she said. “The cadaver lab is equipped with lots of technology which allows for better learning for the students.”

Dennis Viele of UM-Flint biology leads students in interacting with a cadaver.

Dennis Viele of UM-Flint biology leads students in interacting with a cadaver.

Krejci teaches physical science and anatomy & physiology. She has also served as a biology teacher, a middle school science teacher, and was the curriculum director at Byron Area Schools for 11 years. She coaches 8th grade volleyball, summer softball, and works with the youth at her church.

Theresa Krejci, UM-Flint alumna and teacher for Byron Area Schools

Theresa Krejci, UM-Flint alumna and teacher for Byron Area Schools

Krejci fondly remembers UM-Flint and appreciates the ways in which her time as a student prepared her for her career. “The class sizes were not huge and you were able to talk with your professors if you needed to,” she recalled. “I enjoyed the lab experiences that I had while at U of M. I particularly enjoyed the field biology course that I took.”

Connecting Students

Byron honors chemistry students also visited UM-Flint, led by teacher and NHS advisor Mandi Davis. They were treated to chemistry demos by UM-Flint Chem Club students Noor Alawwa, Lynnette Harris, and Aaron Hancock, and then conducted their own experiments in one of the newly renovated Chemistry & Biochemistry Department labs.

Davis graduated from UM-Flint in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, a minor in math, and a teacher’s certificate. She completed her MA in educational technology in 2013. “It was great to return to campus,” said Davis. “I want to be able to expose my students to things that we cannot bring to Byron—to instrumentation, to some of the things that can inspire [and] ignite love for science!”

Lynnette Harris and Noor Alawwa of the UM-Flint Chem Club conduct a demo for visiting high schoolers.

Lynnette Harris and Noor Alawwa of the UM-Flint Chem Club conduct a demo for visiting high schoolers.

UM-Flint Laboratory Manager Monique Wilhelm helped coordinate the chemistry students’ visit. “Opportunities like these are extremely important in this day and age when everyone thinks they have all of the information at their fingertips,” noted Wilhelm. “Science is a process, not just a bunch of facts, and this process really needs a hands-on component that not all schools have the opportunity to give. Memorizing facts is not why anyone I know decided to become a scientist. It was the physical things we do and see, and the way we think, that motivated most of us to do what we do.”

UM-Flint alumni and teacher Mandi Davis with her students.

UM-Flint alumna and teacher Mandi Davis with her students.

While their experiments were running, the high schoolers had a chance to talk with current UM-Flint students and ask questions about being in college. “These students can only really learn what our campus is like by interacting with the students and faculty,” said Wilhelm. “Our campus’ biggest assets are its people.”

Students from Byron spend time with UM-Flint chemistry students in recently renovated labs.

Students from Byron spend time with UM-Flint chemistry students in recently renovated labs.

“These opportunities are important for our students,” Wilhelm continued, “as it gives them an opportunity to discuss science with non-scientists, as well as show their pride in what they do. Communication is the most important skill for any scientist and where they generally fall short is communication to the general public. This type of event is one of the things that makes the Chemistry Club such a great opportunity for all of our students.”

The Impact of Experience

Davis’ time as a UM-Flint student left her with a lasting impression of her faculty. “Dr. Virgil Cope, who was my academic advisor, had the biggest impact on my UM-Flint career,” she said. “He was a professor who was available to his students whenever we needed. We could be working on problems in the breezeway and, if we had questions, he had no problem stopping and sitting and answering them for us. He believed in me. I was nominated for the Maize and Blue Award, and he helped me to believe in myself and believe that I was worthy of the award. I won that award as well as Outstanding Graduate from the Chemistry Department. And I wasn’t even a ‘full fledged’ chemistry major—I was an education major!”

Honors Chemistry students from Byron visit UM-Flint labs on a field trip.

Honors Chemistry students from Byron visit UM-Flint labs on a field trip.

“Marina Ionina was another impacting professor,” continued Davis. “I did a lot of work with Marina and she helped me in the TCP (teacher certificate program) part of my experience at UM-Flint. She helped me to understand/explore how to teach chemistry, not just be able to do chemistry.”

Davis has high hopes that the visit to UM-Flint will be meaningful to her students and their futures. “I hope it sparks interest and excites them,” she said. “I want these experiences to be the things they look back on and think, ‘that was awesome—that was when I realized science was something I wanted to pursue.’  We all know that the ‘facts’ students learn on a day-to-day basis aren’t going to be what they remember—it’s going to be these types of experiences.”

01/30/17

CAS Alum Reflects on a Life of Liberal Arts

Tallman_Office

A Liberal Arts Foundation

Alumnus Donald Tallman graduated from UM-Flint in 1977 with degrees in English and History, and with a variety of experiences that have served him both professionally and personally. At the base of it all lies a lifelong belief in the power of a liberal arts education.

“I’ll never forget my introduction to the University of Michigan-Flint. It was the first meeting with my advisor to talk about my interests and set my class schedule,” recalled Tallman. “A very tall, older, birdlike man with shock of white hair dressed in a tweed jacket and bow tie emerged from his office. ‘I’m Dr. Firebaugh and you must be Mr. Tallman,’ [he said]. I wondered to whom he was referring for a moment. Here I was, a very young 17 year old, standing before this imposing figure. He was what I had always pictured as the classic English professor. He invited me into his office, his desk piled with papers and books. I was awestruck. He asked me about my educational goals. I boldly told him I wanted a classical liberal arts education—I wanted to become a Renaissance man. He smiled at my hubris and my audacious statement, peered at me, and said, ‘Well, Mr. Tallman, we can certainly try.'”

Donald Tallman as a UM-Flint Junior in 1976.

Donald Tallman as a UM-Flint Junior in 1976.

“So, Dr. Firebaugh led me, sometimes dragged me, through a curriculum and personal study that included Greek and Roman history and literature, European history and literature, German history, Russian history, African history, political science, art history, music, economics, and psychology,” continued Tallman. “One of the areas that I continued to nurture as a student was vocal music. I participated in the choir, under the direction of Carolyn Mawby. Ms. Mawby introduced me to a wide range of repertoire, from early music to modern atonal pieces. Those musical experiences were powerful, served as a source of inspiration and creativity, and provided me with the foundation for a long career as a professional tenor.”

Leading A Life of Variety

In October 2016, Tallman began his eleventh year as Executive Director of the Colorado Railroad Museum—recognized as one of the foremost, independently-supported railroad museums in the United States. He has the distinction of being the first non-railfan to lead the Museum. Noted Tallman, “the Museum has made great progress during [my time] in terms of care and interpretation of its collections, developing new audiences, expansion of educational programs, and increasing visibility outside the railfan community. Museum attendance has nearly doubled during [my] tenure, and the Museum’s budget has also grown by over 40 percent.”

His work at the museum also involves collaborations with local and state tourism agencies and other cultural organizations.

Before the Railroad Museum, Tallman’s career included operating, marketing, and financial management experience in both for-profit and not-for-profit arenas, with such organizations as Booz Allen Hamilton, an international management consulting firm; the Newberry Library, one of the largest privately endowed research libraries in the world; General Motors; and Wells Fargo Bank. He has also served as a consultant to several emerging organizations.

In his community, Tallman  serves on numerous boards, including the Budget and Audit Committee for the City of Lakewood, the Membership Committee for the National Western Stock Show Association, the Golden Visitor Center Board, and the Board of the Association of Tourist Railroads and Railroad Museums.

Donald Tallman preparing to sing the National Anthem for the Colorado Rockies.

Donald Tallman preparing to sing the National Anthem for the Colorado Rockies.

He has also been active in the arts community, both as a performer and as an administrator for a number of arts organizations in San Francisco and Denver. A professional singer, Mr. Tallman is in demand as a tenor and performs throughout the Denver metro area. He regularly performs the National Anthem at civic and professional sporting events throughout Colorado. In his spare time, Tallman enjoys climbing the mountains of Colorado as a member of the Colorado Mountain Club, as well as cooking. He and several of his favorite recipes are featured in the cookbook Denver Men in the Kitchen.

The Power of UM-Flint

When asked how his time at UM-Flint prepared him for his life, Tallman replied, “the UM-Flint website states that ‘UM-Flint’s pioneering faculty and staff set the tone in 1956—this is a ‘Community of Learners’—to cultivate graduates that will succeed in a changing world. The resulting atmosphere was, and continues to be, rich with curiosity, hard work, and heart.’ That tradition of cultivating graduates that will succeed in a changing world certainly applies to my own experience throughout my career and my life.”

“The faculty of UM-Flint taught me how to think, they inspired me to cultivate curiosity about my world. They reminded me that problems were just challenges to be overcome. They taught me that there are many different and elegant ways to come up with a solution or an interpretation. They taught me the importance discipline and intellectual rigor. They taught me the value of digging deeper, and that the outside readings contain the real gems of learning. They taught me to never stop challenging myself and to settle for anything less than excellence. They taught me to realize the importance of being prepared, of doing your homework, of meeting deadlines. They inspired me to be a lifelong learner. They taught me how to write, how to communicate, and ultimately, how to lead.”

In addition to the advising provided by Dr. Firebaugh and the musical inspiration of Carolyn Mawby, there were many faculty members who had a significant impact on Tallman’s UM-Flint career. He noted, “It’s difficult to narrow it down. Dr. Bruce Rubenstein was a professor and friend who mentored me throughout my undergraduate career.”

In 2013 Tallman was the keynote speaker for UM-Flint History's honors society induction ceremony. Pictured: Donald Tallman (left) with Professor Bruce Rubenstein (center) and Gregory Havrilcsak.

In 2013 Tallman was the keynote speaker for UM-Flint History’s honors society induction ceremony. Pictured: Donald Tallman (left), Professor Bruce Rubenstein (center) and Gregory Havrilcsak.

“When I was an undergraduate,” remembered Tallman, “UM-Flint was a very intimate campus with small class sizes and strong teaching faculty who demanded intellectual rigor, who were accessible, who provided rich subject expertise, and who prepared me for graduate studies at the University of Chicago.”

Tallman hopes that current and future UM-Flint students can have an experience as meaningful as his own. He advises them to, “get involved in the social fabric and extracurricular opportunities that are available to you at UM-Flint. Get out and stay out of your comfort zone. Ask questions and be engaged in your classes. Explore academic areas outside your major. Volunteer your time and give back to your  community. The discipline you develop during your academic career at UM-Flint will carry you through the rest of your career. Take time daily to exercise your body as well as your mind.”

For new graduates, he hopes they will learn to value and share the strength of their liberal arts roots. “History and English provide strong generalist skills and a solid foundation for a career in a wide variety of fields across many functional areas,” noted Tallman. “As an employer, I look for people with solid skill sets and broad interests. Emphasize the transferable analytic, writing, and presentation skills that were critical to your success as a student.”


For more information on the home of liberal arts at UM-Flint, visit the College of Arts & Sciences at umflint.edu/cas. For alumni services and information, contact the Office of Alumni Relations at umflint.edu/alumni or (810) 424-5450.

To contact Donald Tallman directly, email donald@crrm.org.

01/30/17

UM-Flint Writing Center Welcomes New Coordinator

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Vicky Dawson has joined UM-Flint’s Marian E. Wright Writing Center as its new coordinator. Along with years of experience, Dawson brings with her exciting plans to serve the students of UM-Flint as they develop as writers, scholars, and professionals. For example, students can join the Writing Center, and its partners the Women’s Educational Center and the Office of Financial Aid, in scholarship preparation workshops starting on January 23.

Read below to learn more about Ms. Dawson, her history at UM-Flint, and her expectations for her new position.


How do you feel about taking over the positing of Writing Center Coordinator?

I am thrilled to be the new Marian E. Wright Writing Center Academic Support Services Coordinator. The university has given me many incredible opportunities as I’ve pursued my undergraduate and graduate degrees in English. I have worked in the Women’s Educational Center as a project coordinator, as a tutor in the Writing Center, and, recently, as a writing instructor and EHS coordinator for the School of Education and Human Services.

However, when my long-time friend and mentor, Scott Russell, retired from the Writing Center in July 2016, I knew I had to apply for the coordinator’s position. I enjoyed teaching writing for SEHS, but as many of you know, my heart has always been with the Writing Center.

How would you describe the mission of the Writing Center?

To me, the Writing Center has always been more than just helping students through the mechanics of writing, it’s also about helping them find their own voice and emerging academic identity. That journey can be tough if the university culture is unfamiliar, and for many of our students, it is. Our tutors are in a unique position because they too are on that journey. Yet, they are trained to help students begin to see and hear their own writing more clearly. This allows students to gain self-confidence and skills, rather than becoming overly dependent on someone else to just edit their papers for them.

It is exciting to see students develop over time, but it’s not just struggling writers that benefit from our process, even strong writers come to the center. We don’t know what’s possible for a writer until we are willing to listen and wait for what comes to the surface. That’s the beauty of working as a writing center tutor. We serve as a reader and listener first.

What will you do in your new position?

As the coordinator, my focus now is on managing the day to day operations of the writing center, collaborating with other departments, conducting research and statistical analysis, facilitating workshops, overseeing classroom visits, mentoring the professional development of our tutors, and much more. We support students, faculty, and staff from across all disciplines. Our visitors come in with all levels of writing proficiency from beginner to highly advanced—even faculty and graduate students come in to see us. Currently, we have 22 tutors that are uniquely trained to serve all writers. These tutors are also actively involved in research, professional development, leadership roles, and routinely present at regional and national conferences!

What else is new in the Writing Center?

Some of the great work we’ve been doing recently includes up-dating and expanding our online tutoring program. This semester two of our tutors have spear-headed the pilot of a new live tutoring option to better serve our online students. Online appointments can be conducted using a live, video chat. Visitors can learn more about it on our website umflint.edu/writingcenter.

We are also continuing to update the website to offer videos and information about our services and up-coming activities. We want students, faculty, and staff to know that we can help with all phases of the writing process for writing assignments, presentations, public speaking, resumes, cover letters, scholarship essays, graduate school applications and more.

We offer many workshops and activities throughout the year. In fact, in January and February, we will have several scholarship workshops we are co-sponsoring with the Women’s Educational Center and Financial Aid. For more information on those and other up-coming activities, visit umflint.edu/writingcenter/scholarships.

Any final thoughts you’d like to share about being a part of the Writing Center and UM-Flint?

The Writing Center is an incredible place to work with an outstanding team of people. Working with the tutors and Director, Dr. Jacob Blumner, is very exciting because of the great ideas, talent, and energy they put into the center to support the writing needs of our campus. I’m very grateful and eager to continue to be a part of the legacy and foundation of the Marian E. Wright Writing Center.


UM-Flint’s Marian E. Wright Writing Center is located on the third floor of the Thompson Library. They offer face-to-face tutoring, e-tutoring, live online sessions, and speaking appointments.

Visit umflint.edu/writingcenter or call (810) 766-6602 to request information or book an appointment.

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.”

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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.

07/19/16

Alumni Spotlight: Todd Butler, PhD

Todd M. Butler, PhD – Honors Physics, 2010

Todd Butler, Physics Alum

What are you doing now?
Following my tenure at UM-flint, I completed my M.S. and PhD degrees in metallurgical engineering at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. I am currently employed by UES, Inc. and work at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as an on-site contractor in the materials and manufacturing directorate. My current duties include assisting in the analytical characterization of several metal-based AFRL research projects.  This includes the ability to alter the direction of certain aspects of each project. I am actively participating in research related to direct air force related applications. My current goal is to continue to develop into a tenured scientist and remain actively present in the scientific community by disseminating results through conferences and peer-reviewed manuscripts. I’ve also had an interest to potentially return to academia in the future.

How did your University of Michigan-Flint education prepare you for what you are doing now or the career you’ve had?
I owe much of my success today to experiences encountered at UM-Flint, and in particular the honors program. Classes at UM-Flint taught me how to actively think and understand scientific principles. They also provided me with a fundamental understanding of math and science that I found rivaled many other institutions. I was also active in undergraduate research, which taught me how to figure things out (problem solve) and how to properly approach challenges in life. My entire career at UM-Flint more than adequately prepared me for further graduate studies.

Do you have any reflections on your choice of Physics as a major? What do you love about this field?
I am very happy that I chose to learn physics for an undergraduate degree. It was challenging and rewarding at the same time. Interestingly enough, I did not pursue physics for a graduate degree and studied metallurgical and materials engineering instead. However, my time as a physics major provided me with a toolbox of skills for any scientific problem or challenge. The whole idea around physics is to understand the main concepts and be able to apply them to non-ideal problems. This ultimately made my transition to a materials scientist relatively easy. I found that it gave me an edge over other engineering majors and allowed me to think about problems and challenges in a different way.  It also made my graduate classes much easier in comparison to some of the challenging undergraduate physics courses.

Who made the biggest impact on your UM-Flint career?
I would say that two individuals stand out with regards to my experience at UM-Flint. They include both Mojtaba Vaziri, who was my mentor and research advisor, and Maureen Thum, who was my mentor in the honors program. Dr. Vaziri provided a continuous supply of encouragement in both classwork and also scientific research. Through him, I participated in several research conferences as an undergraduate, where I was able to disseminate my own results. I highly value my experience with Dr. Vaziri because he helped shape me into the scientist I am today. In addition, Dr. Thum was definitely the most memorable individual at UM-Flint. She always exhibited a high level of enthusiasm and it was clear that she cared for you. I owe my writing ability to her, since she molded me into a great writer. This has helped me in an immeasurable way as an engineer and scientist who often writes proposals, reports, and peer-reviewed manuscripts.

Describe a firsthand example of an impactful learning experience at UM-Flint.
The most impactful learning experience I can remember is my off-campus study for my senior year in the honors program. We were required to conduct a research project off-site and develop an introductory proposal, conduct the research off-site, and ultimately provide a scientific thesis at the end. I chose to participate in an REU physics program in Alabama, where I worked on a materials science related project with CVD diamond films. This experience opened my eyes to the field of materials science and metallurgy.  Ironically, I ended up at the University of Alabama Tuscaloosa for my graduate degrees in metallurgical engineering. I honestly believe that without such an experience at UM-Flint, I would not be where I am today.

Working with a transmission electron microscope (TEM) during graduate school.

Todd Butler working with a transmission electron microscope (TEM) during graduate school.

What does UM-Flint do better than any other university?
UM-Flint provides a personal sense of encouragement and knowledge that other larger institutions don’t necessarily exhibit. I enjoyed the smaller classes and personal lifelong relationships that I was able to develop with key faculty in my major. I think that these attributes ultimately fostered a higher level of learning and thought. I am quite happy with my choice of UM-Flint for my undergraduate career because I was truly prepared for future endeavors.

What advice would you give to an incoming UM-Flint freshman?
I would tell UM-Flint freshman that they chose the right institution. I would also recommend that they learn as much as possible, since the opportunity is there. It is essential to take advantage of the unique opportunities that UM-Flint delivers, both academically and socially. Specific to science majors, I would also recommend talking with faculty and mentors early on and try to actively pursue research all throughout their tenure at UM-Flint. Lastly, I would tell them to take all of the classes they can, since they will be taught by highly experienced faculty that love to teach. One doesn’t truly realize the opportunity for learning until you graduate and look back at all of the topics and courses that you wish you would have pursued as a student.

What advice do you have for graduating seniors entering the job field?
I would advise graduating seniors to hold their heads high and be confident with the degree that you earned at UM-Flint. As a graduate student, I rivaled the skills of many other students that attended top ten big name schools. In my professional career at the Air Force Research Laboratory, I [work] actively with world experts and have the ability to speak at a high level with them. Don’t be afraid to pursue your dream job or dream school, as I know if you worked hard at UM-Flint you will be ready for anything that comes your way!

What are your hopes for the UM-Flint of the future?
I hope that UM-Flint continues a high level of academic preparation for students that I encountered in my experience. I would like to see the institution grow and develop a reputation similar to the Ann Arbor campus.


For more information on the programs that prepared Todd for his successful career as a scientist, visit our Physics and Honors Program websites. To register for an upcoming semester, visit umflint.edu/register.