Category Archives: Alumni News

Alumni Spotlight: Shane Emmons, Computer Science & Information Systems

Shane Emmons graduated from UM-Flint in 2004 with a BS and 2006 with an MS in Computer Science. After several years of success in his field, he wrote to his home department asking if there was a way to give back to the community that helped him accomplish so much. Dr. Michael Farmer, Department Chair of CSEP, gladly accepted the offer and enlisted Emmons as an instructor for a graduate-level networking course. Read on to learn more about this UM-Flint alum and his place in the world of computer science.

Shane Emmons, alumnus and faculty member of UM-Flint's Computer Science program

Shane Emmons, alumnus and faculty member of UM-Flint’s Computer Science program

Name: Shane Emmons
Degree(s): Bachelors, Computer Science – 2004; Masters, Computer Science and Information Systems – 2006

What are you doing now? 
CTO, TeamSnap. I work as part of the executive team to define, plan, and execute the vision of the company. As the CTO, I also distill the overall company vision into a vision for the engineering organization which we then act upon. I spend time daily mentoring developers, defining our platform architecture and working to create consensus amongst the various groups on how we approach technical hurdles.

According to their website, TeamSnap is an “online sports team management application for coaches, managers and organizers to save time organizing their teams and groups.” Available services from the application include “0nline registration, player and schedule management, [and a] public website.”

How did your University of Michigan-Flint education prepare you for what you are doing now?
[UM-Flint] gave me the background I needed to hit the ground running. I was able to take what I learned in class and apply it directly to complicated problems that would have eluded me otherwise. It also taught me how to work as a team and how to clearly express myself. Communication is extremely important, especially in the highly remote and connected world of technology.

Who made the biggest impact on your UM-Flint career?
Dr. Turner in the CSEP department was my biggest influence. He always pushed me to do my best. He gave my opportunities to do independent research and to also assist him in research. Without his guidance and natural leadership to do something better I may not have strived as hard to reach my goals today.

What is the value of UM-Flint curricula?
You cannot begin to put value on how important the real-world curriculum was to my education. There are things we discussed in class that come up on a nearly daily basis. This approach allowed me to immediately put into action things I learned in class, even before I graduated.

What does UM-Flint do better than any other university?
UM-Flint does two great things you’ll not find at every University. First, they give students great individual focus. If you’re hungry to learn and willing to put in the work, you’ll find the professors there right alongside you giving back as much (or more) than you put in. Secondly, they offer great flexibility for those who are working but still want that university experience. Whether it’s classes at night or a mixed-mode online course, you can bet you’ll get the same University caliber experience.

What advice would you give to an incoming UM-Flint freshman?
Study hard, do the homework. What you put into the classes is what you’ll get out. The harder you work, the more you’ll learn and the further you’ll go.

Describe “the UM-Flint of the future.” What could it be? What should it be? 
An interconnected university that bridges remote and in-class students together in one cohesive experience.

For more information on the computer science program at UM-Flint, visit their website

Alumni Spotlight: Asadullah Siddiqui, B.S. Biology, 2014

Asadullah Siddiqui, B.S. Biology, 2014

Asadullah Siddiqui, B.S. Biology, 2014

Name, field of study, & year of graduation:
Asadullah Siddiqui, B.S. Biology, 2014

What is your current program and/or occupation? Please include graduation year.
Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO), Lincoln Memorial University-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine, 2019

What classes at UM-Flint best prepared you for this career?
Human Gross Anatomy with Dr. Morey was an awesome introduction to the body and the coursework you’ll see in medical school. Biology Senior Seminar was also really helpful in giving the foundation to read and understand scientific papers/studies. Also any class taught by Dr. Sanders; his coursework helps make many classes look like extended review nowadays.

What has been your favorite part of your post-UM-Flint studies and/or work?
Simply learning the subject matter and all about the body. It has always been incredibly interesting to me and it confirms I’m in the right field.

What do you recommend to current UM-Flint students looking to follow in your footsteps?
Get involved. Research, volunteering, tutoring; anything to make your application stronger and give you things to talk about in interviews. I even recommend getting a non-academic job to empathize with others; this drove me to work harder for my goals. Also, try your best to make it to a game in Ann Arbor, you won’t regret it!

For more information on Asadullah Siddiqui’s program, visit


CAS Alums Present Spring Career Panel

UM-Flint alumni speak to current students about career options and lessons they've learned.

UM-Flint alumni speak to current students about career options and lessons they’ve learned since graduation.

In April 2016, two College of Arts & Sciences alumni returned to the UM-Flint campus to discuss their careers and share what they’ve learned since graduation. Those attending were treated to a great conversation, lunch, and raffle prizes.

Life After Graduation

Dawn Demps, 2008 alumna of Political Science and Africana Studies, and Henderson Allen, a 2011 alumnus of the MPA program, sat with Alumni Relations‘ Brent Nickola on the third floor of the UCEN for the informal chat with gathered students. They took turns answering questions like “What is life like after graduation?” “What do you wish you would have known as a student?” and “How do you turn passion into success?”

Demps, who is currently running a non-profit focused on community advocacy, spoke first.


Dawn Demps, graduate of UM-Flint’s Political Science and Africana Studies departments.

After talking about some of the the specific work she’s been doing in the community she noted, “you have to have a passion for the area you go into. You really have to believe.” She also mentioned the importance of flexibility within your job, adding that in her case, her job is “never a 9 to 5 thing.”

Demps also spoke about the skills she felt were most important to her career: the ability to prioritize, being able to communicate effectively with “people on so many levels,” having cultural competency, being open to learning and collaboration, and “putting your pride aside, because someone always knows more than you.”

She noted all of these skills are vital to being successful, and that it’s also important to be clear about your goals, because “passion without any sort of a plan is chaos.”

Henderson Allen, a 2011 alumnus of the UM-Flint MPA program

Henderson Allen, a 2011 alumnus of the UM-Flint MPA program

Henderson Allen came to UM-Flint for his Masters in Public Administration after earning an undergraduate degree in criminal justice from Ferris State University. He currently works with a diverse group of detained youth, ages 12 to 21.

Allen agreed with Demps on the skills needed out in the world, noting “communication is number one.” He also added that one should “be open to new methods; see what’s changing in your industry.”

When asked what he wished he would have known as a student, Allen answered, “take advantage of every opportunity presented to you. Go to seminars, gain knowledge. Network—don’t be afraid to reach out and introduce yourself, be proactive!” He added that students should enjoy the time they have in school and appreciate it for what it is, “have patience; be in the moment.”

Rewarding Careers

In their careers, both Allen and Demps have had a chance to implement what they gained at UM-Flint, but they’ve also been learning new lessons.

When asked about what’s been especially rewarding, Allen said, “Seeing your work and being part of at team; interacting and being effective.” He noted that as a state employee he has excellent benefits, but “there is more than just pay” and that students should be prepared to “put [their] time in.”

Demps added that she enjoys “working with young people, parents, and the community; seeing the change as you build trust and relationships… having your expertise recognized.” She noted an especially rewarding moment came when a group of young men she’d been working with reached graduation. She’s especially passionate about her on-going work in the Flint school system focused on “unpacking the prison pipeline.”

Demps emphasized to the audience that work in non-profits is important to the community, stating, “non-profit work is needed. A lot of times what lies between what the state provides and what people need is non-profits.”

Henderson Allen (left) and Dawn Demps (right) talk about their time at UM-Flint and their careers.

Henderson Allen (left) and Dawn Demps (right) talk about their time at UM-Flint and their careers.

Questions from the Audience

Audience members were given a chance to ask Demps and Allen questions.

One student wanted to know their biggest initial challenges after graduation.

Allen noted the challenge of companies wanting new employees to come with experience, and of new employees needing jobs to get experience. He reassured the students that the skills they learn at UM-Flint will play a part in answering that issue. He added that often volunteer work or an internship is “just as good as work experience in that particular field.”

Demps seconded the value of volunteering, noting, “I created opportunities for myself to build up my portfolio. If there wasn’t something for me, I created it.”

Advice for Students

In closing, the alums were asked for one piece of advice to give to current students.

Said Allen, “The main thing is never lose contact with your UM-Flint instructors. They are resources, vital, and connected to your field. Check in. Say hello.” Demps agreed, noting “your professors today are your letters of recommendation tomorrow.”

She closed by saying, “Never be afraid.”

For more information on the alumni of the College of Arts & Sciences, visit our Alumni Resources page. If you’re a CAS alum, please be sure to update your information so we can feature you in future stories!

UM-Flint Communication Students, Alumni, and LinkedIn

UM-Flint Communication faculty are using social platforms to help their students think more strategically about their time on campus and their careers after graduation.

Said department chair Marcus Paroske, “The Communication faculty recognized we had this network of over 1,000 graduates out there, and new students every semester looking for internships and employment. It made perfect sense to connect the two through our own LinkedIn group. We hope the UM-Flint Communication LinkedIn group will strengthen our own ties with our alumni, and over time generate a massive network that will benefit students for years to come.”


UM-Flint communication students attending a workshop on using social media as a professional tool.

To prepare their current communication students for this project, Assistant Professor Dr. Dan Lair held a workshop titled, LinkedIn as a Platform to Promote Your Professional Self. He noted, “Whether you like it or not, employers are taking advantage of the internet to piece together a story about you as a potential employee. LinkedIn offer students an opportunity to put those pieces together for them and tell your professional story the way you want it told.”

Throughout the short presentation, Lair focused on the idea of each student balancing their personal self with their professional brand. He encouraged them to consider their time at UM-Flint as their current “career” if they weren’t otherwise working. He mentioned the importance of including volunteer work, group activities, and leadership opportunities in addition to making notes of particularly useful or applicable classes. He added that LinkedIn can be viewed as “a resume without limitations” and that it should be used as “one tool among many, one that you can control.”

Dan Lair presents LinkedIn tips to his Communication students at UM-Flint

Dan Lair presents LinkedIn tips to his Communication students at UM-Flint

Lair advised that, at the bare minimum, the students should keep an active profile that can be viewed by potential internship providers and employers. He noted a few key areas that anyone with a LinkedIn should pay attention to:

  • Profile Pic: first, have one! But aim for a professional looking shot that shows your head and shoulders. Avoid selfies, pictures with others, or extreme close-up or faraway shots.
  • Summary: this is the distinguishing feature of your page and the key advantage of LinkedIn. Use it to show your personality, voice, and story. Demonstrate your unique value.
  • Customized URL: take advantage of this feature to have a clean, memorable, URL that reflects your name or personal story.
  • Keep things updated: work histories, certifications, activities, and qualifications should be regularly updated to reflect the current YOU.

After the formal presentation Lair and other faculty members worked with the individual students to get started on their profiles.


Dan Lair works with UM-Flint communication students to perfect their LinkedIn profiles

Looking forward, the communication faculty hope to keep the LinkedIn group growing and adapting to the needs and strengths of their students and graduates.

Already nearly 100 alumni from the program have connected with their former faculty members and have been added to the group. They are sharing job postings, news, and updates about the department.

For more information, or to request to be included in the Communication LinkedIn Group, contact department chair Marcus Paroske at


Opera Outreach Brings “Jack and the Beanstalk” to Area Schools

UM-Flint Music students perform their newest outreach opera: Jack and the Beanstalk

UM-Flint Music students perform their newest outreach opera: Jack and the Beanstalk

The UM-Flint Department of Music is continuing its traveling opera outreach this spring. After the successful productions of The Three Little Pigs and Hansel and Gretel, the department has moved on to John Davies’ Jack and the Beanstalk. The 40-minute opera, set to the music of Gilbert and Sullivan, is fully staged and costumed. Both student performers and teaching artists are involved in bringing the production and music education to area schoolchildren and the community. The leading force of this project is Dr. Joshua May of the music department.


  • Jack: Marada Dahl (Voice Performance, Music Major Sophomore)
  • Giant/Trouble Man: Kevin Starnes (Alumni, Current Grad Student M.A. in Arts Administration)
  • Giant’s Wife: Jhane Perdue (Music Major, Voice Performance Major Freshman)
  • Giant’s Wife: Amanda Rodman (Music Education & Voice Performance Junior)
  • Narrator: Erica Kennedy (Theater & Voice Performance Music Major, Voice, Freshman)
  • Mother: Hannah Wikaryasz (Voice Performance, Music Major Senior)
  • Mother: Vanessa Salisbury (Voice Performance Music Major & Theater Major Freshman)

Teaching Artists:

  • Zachary Smith (Music Education Major, French Horn in Orchestra, Senior)
  • Alesha Akins (Music Education Major, Flute in Orchestra, Senior)
  • Heather Smith (Music Education Major, Voice)
  • Amanda Rodman (Music Education/Voice Performance, Junior)

Jack and the Community

The premiere of Jack and the Beanstalk was held at the Flint Farmers’ Market in fall 2015. Now the students are heading to area schools and community spaces to give free performances and supplemental instruction. Throughout the spring they will visit the Swartz Creek Performing Arts Center, Cook Elementary School, Mason Elementary School, the Flint Public Library, and, in a first time collaboration, the Whiting Auditorium. The May 6th performance at the Flint Public Library is free and open to the public. The school performances will be limited to internal audiences.

Classroom Learning

One of the aims of the opera outreach mission is to connect music to multiple core curriculum disciplines. UM-Flint Music Education students will visit the schools’ classrooms prior to the actual performance to develop lesson plans that teach math, science, reading, theater arts, foreign languages, geography, and storytelling through the elements of music. They will also guide students through a variety of learning activities that engage them with innovative lessons to help prepare them for the opera performance.

Says Karen Salvador, Assistant Professor of Music Education, “This opera outreach provides amazing opportunities for UM-Flint students and children all over Flint. Music education students are gaining real-world teaching experience in Flint classrooms, Flint children are interacting with college students, seeing live opera performed right in their school, and learning more about music in a hands-on, immersive way. Josh’s vision for this outreach is exactly in line with our university’s mission to partner with communities in ways that are meaningful to all parties. I know that this is an experience that will help shape our Collegiate-NAfME students as teachers, and it could also be an inspiration for a child who loves music.”

Supporting Outreach

Opera Outreach is made possible by the James A. Welch Foundation, the Nartel Family Foundation, University Outreach, and the Department of Music. Grants and funding have covered transportation for students, set pieces, costumes, and more.

For information, call 810.762.3377 or visit




UM-Flint’s First Full-Scale Opera, Hansel & Gretel, on Stage February 19 & 21, 2016


Hansel and Gretel spy a gingerbread house in the woods.

Dr. Joshua May of the UM-Flint Department of Music had a vision of bringing opera to his students and the Flint community. He began with small, portable productions of The Three Little Pigs and Jack and the Beanstalk, performing at area schools and the Flint Farmers’ Market. Now he has moved on to a full-scale production of Engelbert Humperdinck’s nineteenth century opera Hansel and Gretel. Held on the UM-Flint Theatre stage for public audiences on February 19th and 21st, the performance will bring to life the classic fairy tale of two children lost in the woods who are confronted by an evil witch with a love of gingerbread.

The major roles in the cast feature UM-Flint undergrads, graduate students, and alumni:

  • Gretel: Marada Dahl (Voice Performance, Music Major, Sophomore)
  • Hansel: Miranda Mooney (2015 Alumni, Music Voice Performance)
  • Mother: Amanda Rodman (Music Education/Voice Performance, Junior)
  • Father: Kevin Starnes (2002 Alumni, Current Grad Student – M.A. in Arts Administration)
  • Sandman: Jhane Perdue (Music Major, Voice Performance Major, Freshman)
  • Dew Fairy: Erica Kennedy (Theater Music Minor, Voice, Freshman)
  • Witch: Hannah Wikaryasz (Voice Performance, Music Major, Senior)

Dr. May notes that this performance opportunity is quite unique for his students, as most music programs do not offer operatic roles to undergraduates. To prepare, he’s been working with them to increase the range and strength of their voices. This is especially important as operas are most often performed without microphones on the singers. The students are embracing this opportunity for artistic and technical growth, and are appreciative of the noteworthy addition an opera makes on their future resumes.

Hannah Wikaryasz of Highland, MI, who plays the Witch says, “This role has helped me to work on expanding my vocal range, has introduced me to working with collaborative artists in a way that I am not used to (orchestra vs. just piano accompaniment), and has given me more experience in this style of music, expanding my abilities as a performer.”

Kevin Starnes of Flint, MI, will be playing the Father. (He grew a beard just for the role!) He has been singing in operas and musical theatre for years, but still found growth under Dr. May’s tutelage. He laughed as he recounted how once daunting notes are now easily within his range.

Opera’s dramatic elements provide additional challenges to the singers. Notes Starnes, “The biggest challenge for me in acting and singing simultaneously is always body mechanics. Sometimes the best way to emote what’s happening on stage might not be the best way to produce the sound that you need. A lot of my time was spent figuring out how I could best communicate the director’s vision while still maintaining the integrity of the sound.”

Wikaryasz is less experienced on the stage, but has come to embrace her role: “At first, I had a hard time stepping out of the box and actually becoming the Witch, instead of being myself as the Witch. Once I was able to let go of any uncertainty, it became much easier for me to get into character. I think the music and lyrics make it easy to get into the acting aspect.”

As Wikaryasz said, this production of Hansel and Gretel has been one of collaboration. Dr. May has received costume assistance from the Kearsley Park Players and the Flint School of Performing Arts; make-up assistance is coming from the Detroit Opera House. The UM-Flint Theatre Department helped with set construction and design. Young performers from the Flint Youth Ballet and the Flint Youth Chorus will join the cast on stage. UM-Flint Music students of the Collegiate Chapter of the National Association for Music Education are acting as teaching artists, visiting area schools and teaching children about the elements of opera. Carol Chaney, UM-Flint Lecturer and Music Department Technology Specialist, has designed an animated element that will wow the audience.

The Music Education students have an especially important role during dress rehearsal on Thursday, February 18th. They will serve as guides to 350 elementary school students who are visiting campus to interact with the vocalists and musicians before the show and then watch the full production. Says Karen Salvador, Assistant Professor of Music Education, “This opera outreach provides amazing opportunities for UM-Flint students and children all over Flint. Music education students are gaining real-world teaching experience in Flint classrooms, Flint children are interacting with college students, seeing live opera performed right in their school, and learning more about music in a hands-on, immersive way. Josh’s vision for this outreach is exactly in line with our university’s mission to partner with communities in ways that are meaningful to all parties. I know that this is an experience that will help shape our Collegiate-NAfME students as teachers, and it could also be an inspiration for a child who loves music.”

The cast is excited for this chance to share the show with a young audience. Says Starnes, “This is by far my favorite part of this production. I’ve loved opera since I was a kid (thank you Bugs Bunny), but I never got the chance to actually learn what opera was until far later. This brings the kids up close and personal so that they can develop an appreciation for the art form early.”

Adds Wikaryasz, “I am ecstatic that children are being involved. I think it is really important for them to be exposed to this kind of music. There are a lot of kids who have never heard or seen an opera before, so giving them a chance to see the opera and learn about it is really special.”

Music lovers of all ages are invited to come see Hansel and Gretel. Shows are Friday, February 19th, at 7:30pm, and Sunday, February 21, at 2pm, in the UM-Flint Theatre (303 E. Kearsley Street, Flint, MI 48502). General admission is only $5; students with a valid ID are free.

For more information please contact the UM-Flint Department of Music at 810.762.3377,, or visit

Funding and grants for the project were provided by the Nartel Family Foundation, the James A. Welch Foundation, UM-Flint’s University Outreach, and the Department of Music.

CAS Staff Spotlight: Gale Glover


Gale Glover – UM-Flint employee, alumna, student, author, and volunteer!

Name: Gale Glover
Title: Administrative Assistant
Department(s): Communication and Visual Arts

Degree(s), Education, or Certification(s):
• Bachelors of Arts in Criminal Justice, Sociology, and Africana Studies
• Masters in Public Administration
• Current student in the Post-Masters Education Specialist Program

Professional or Personal Volunteer Activities:
• Metro Community Development – Project Homeless
• Art 4 Haiti (Haiti Relief Fund)
• Food Drive
• Big Sisters Club, mentored to young girls
• Girl Scout of America, mentored to young girls
• Food Bank of Eastern Michigan
• Girls court project – mentored to young girls in the juvenile detention center

Professional or Community Memberships:
National Multicultural Diversity Institute

Awards or Recognitions Received (UM-Flint or Community):
• Odell Broadway Scholarship
• Edgar B. Holt Scholarship
• Freeman Sociology, Anthropology, & Criminal Justice Scholarship
• Lillian B. & Bruce E. Wright Memorial Scholarship
• 2 Sterling Staff Awards

Ways in which I support or interact with UM-Flint students:
I have volunteered with them and collaborated with them on projects. Sarah Clark, who is a current UM-Flint student, [worked on my] second book which is a activity and coloring book. Jason Jerke, who is an alum, is working on my third book.

Gale is passionate about higher ed and its benefits for students. She’s written two books for children that center on learning about college.

I have [written] two Reach Higher Ed books which are very similar. Both books were designed to try and help the literacy rate in Michigan and both books are meant to be interactive so that young children retain what they have learned.

Reach Higher Ed Thumbnail Coloring Activity book

  • Reach Higher EdStory book, full color, has a glossary, and 10 tips for a successful college experience
    Reach Higher Ed encourages young children to reach for their goals and open their minds to higher education. Reach Higher Ed! Reach Higher Ed! Reach Higher Ed! Parents can share the story-line with their small children and the glossary and 10 tips for a successful college experience with their high school children. This book is for the whole family.
  • Reach Higher Ed Activity and Coloring Book – a 3 in 1, story book, coloring, and activity book, has key terms relating to higher education which can be colored or written. Words that kids would not typically hear such as “scholarship” and “deferment.”
    This book encourages young children to reach for their goals and open their minds to higher education. It gives kids the opportunity to showcase what they have learned from either book. Such as writing the terms, or their numbers.

Gale is also the marketing editor for Qua, the UM-Flint student-run literary publication. 

This is my first semester as the marketing editor for Qua and I absolutely love it. I use a lot of marketing strategies that I have learned from marketing my book and from previous positions that I have held. My goal is to recruit people both inside and outside the university in order to get them to submit their work for review. I also do routine classroom visits, use social media and use word of mouth as a way to get the word out. I think this year they may have received more artwork than in previous years and I already have students inquiring about the fall submission. I think Qua is an amazing magazine and my hope is to try and grow the magazine and make sure that everyone knows our name and that it is the university student run magazine. Being a writer myself, it is the perfect job for me to make my mark as a student while helping others to release their artistic expressions.

Ways in which I support or interact with UM-Flint faculty:
I have participated in events with them. I co-facilitated a writing workshop with Dr. Traci Currie. I’ve spoken to promise scholar students about my experience as a graduate and undergraduate student. I’ve observed faculty classes and gave them feedback about their teaching styles. I’m assisting in the strategic planning process for the new Communication Studies Department. And I’ve volunteered and mentored to young girls in the girls court project with Shelly Spievak.

Ways in which I support or interact with UM-Flint staff:
Collaborate on projects, volunteered with them and Rebecca Zeiss who is an Art instructor, created the illustrations for my 1st book.

Ways in which I am involved with my department or program’s community engagement:
I’ve co-facilitated workshops and assisted with community events.

What I feel my department or program does best for students:
The Communication side does excellent at getting their students involved in community outreach and they also have an open door policy where students can stop in any time to see them and they are constantly advising them to make sure they stay on track. The Visual Arts side promotes creativity and artistic expressions and encourages their students to think outside the box.

What I hope for my time at UM-Flint:
To assist in promoting student success, to encourage students to pursue higher education in a more cost-effective way with as little obstacles as possible.
To receive my doctorate in education.

What I hope for students from my department or program:
That they will reach their academic goals with as [little] stress and financial strain as possible and that they will all complete their degrees.

Three things you should know about me:
• Local Author of two books
• Marketing Editor for Qua
• Everything I do is to promote student success including my books, my educational background, and my profession


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


William Shedd’s senior picture in the 1964 yearbook.

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

Recalls Shedd:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on these upcoming events, please visit

Meet Krysten Lindsay Hager – 2001 English & 2007 MALS Alumna

Krysten Lindsay HagerKrysten Lindsay Hager (Weller)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more about Krysten’s work on her website:

Meet Robert Burack – 2013 Political Science Alumni


Robert Burack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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