Category Archives: College News

Students share details, experience about Wyatt Exploration Trip to Berlin

Some lucky University of Michigan-Flint students embarked on a trip of a lifetime this summer. It was all thanks to the Wyatt Exploration Program, a one-of-a-kind experience focusing on global engagement and learning through experiences. Students traveled to Germany’s capital city, Berlin, along with Wyatt fellow and UM-Flint associate professor of history Christopher Molnar. 

While this wasn’t Casey DeMoss’ first trip abroad, she enjoyed it nonetheless. “I was most excited to simply exist in a new place,” said DeMoss, who graduated this past spring. The Fenton native has also visited England, France, Japan and Taiwan. 

DeMoss added that her favorite part of the trip was visiting the Jewish Museum, which featured a mix of traditional and nontraditional exhibits and presentations. “It was such a unique experience. I was amazed at the multitude of different ways they used to make an impact on the viewer, and I thought their use of multi-sensory experiences was extremely impressive.”

DeMoss said the Wyatt trip made a profound impact because it provided her with the opportunity to connect with the city in the current day after learning about its past. She adds that having an itinerary planned by Molnar added to her overall experience.

“It was like experiencing a week-long live walking lecture,” said DeMoss. 

History and social sciences joint program major Natalie Peck added that the trip allowed her to immerse herself in German culture. “I loved getting to see and try so many different things that just aren’t available in the United States.” This was the Fenton native’s first time outside of the U.S.

Peck said that the trip provided her with multiple benefits, the first being a tangible way to experience history. “I got to experience German history firsthand versus reading about it in a textbook. It made what I was learning about more personal.”

She added that the trip also changed her perspective about world history. “History provides the foundation on which present-day cities are built.”

Peck adds that she was most interested in seeing the Berlin Wall. 

“It seems so crazy that a wall was built to separate a whole city based on a largely fictional line. It was interesting to see what remained and how things around it adapted to it and evolved separately,” said Peck. 

Nick Lee, a ’23 history graduate from Montrose who holds a social studies teaching certificate said the trip was the “cherry on top” of his journey towards a bachelor’s degree and something he’ll never forget.

“I hope that I can teach high school students so that I can share my pictures, souvenirs, and stories from Berlin. I want to teach students that it’s more than a place on a map, and that its culture is alive, thriving and adapting as time goes on.”

Lee’s favorite part of the trip was The East Side Gallery, an iconic display of street art and a historical landmark. “Getting to walk down the gallery and see some of the famous pieces that are on display there was amazing,” he said.

DeMoss, Peck and Lee also talked about their favorite dining experiences during their trip. “[The dining experiences are] something that I personally believe Dr. Molnar did an amazing job at,” said Lee. “To help experience that melting pot culture, Dr. Molnar had us try different cuisines from Turkish to Italian to Vietnamese.” Lee enjoyed all of these experiences, but by far his favorite dining experience was the Turkish barbecue. “The design of the meal, on top of the quality of the food and the company, made it easily one of the most memorable dining experiences of the trip.”

Peck said that she was intrigued to learn that some of the restaurants had special menus devoted to asparagus, which was in season during their trip. “It was fun to try something a little out of the box like that,” she said. DeMoss said she enjoyed trying things like a Turkish lamb dish called döner kebab; currywurst, or a German sausage sliced and covered in a sauce of ketchup mixed with curry powder; and schweinshaxe, which is a roasted ham hock. 

During the 2023-2024 academic year, the Wyatt program will focus on the history of Ireland, with an all-expenses-paid trip taking place in spring 2024. The trip is open to all history majors and minors. The Wyatt Exploration trip is just one example of the opportunities that the UM-Flint History program has to offer to its students. To learn more, visit its website

UM-Flint faculty member DJ Trela

UM-Flint professor reflects on nearly 25 years of service

DJ Trela is retiring from the University of Michigan-Flint and exits knowing that he’s had a robust impact on the university as a whole, in the College of Arts and Sciences and CAS faculty, staff and students. 

In his 24 years at UM-Flint, Trela has had different positions but will be most remembered for serving as    CAS dean from 1999 to 2013. 

“From the moment I first began interviewing for the position, I felt a strong affinity to UM-Flint and the city, which reminded me of a smaller version of my hometown in Chicago,” he said. “I have always been proud to call myself a University of Michigan faculty member.”

Trela says that serving as the dean was a job that never got old because there were always new initiatives to pursue, like expanding the number of graduate programs offered by CAS during the 2000s. In addition, he worked to build a diverse group of staff and faculty members, to refine promotion and tenure standards and to codify multiple processes that mystified many because they had never been written down. 

When Trela’s time as dean came to an end, he shifted his attention to teaching and university service.

“I really enjoyed teaching freshman and senior honors seminar courses. I have also hugely enjoyed gaining proficiency in online instruction in courses like introduction to fiction, science fiction and fantasy, and crime fiction.”

He also began serving on university-wide committees and became chair of the old faculty council and the recently initiated faculty senate. He also served as chair of the Department of Foreign Languages, and recently chaired the task force that devised a revised campus-wide general education program. These are all   points of pride for him because service in these roles required the confidence and support of his faculty colleagues   

“The fact that faculty would entrust a former administrator with such important faculty leadership roles is extremely gratifying for me.” 

Trela also recognized the contributions of university staff. He said that the faculty role is largely focused on instruction and shaping institutional governance, and in some ways faculty are the most visible part of the university. However, Trela credits university staff for carrying out tasks like registration, recording grades, balancing budgets and even admitting students.

“This is a tremendously productive and dedicated group of people who largely work behind the scenes.”

Trela adds the thing he enjoyed most about working at UM-Flint were the relationships he built with staff, faculty and the campus community. 

“In a very real way, Flint became ‘home’ for me. I was surprised at how much I ended up enjoying being engaged with alumni and friends of the university and college.”

Trela also reflected on time spent away from home as well. After completing his undergraduate degree in history at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the early 1980s, he studied abroad and completed his Ph.D. in English literature at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. His focus was Victorian literature, specifically the Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle.

“I wish that everyone could be required to study abroad for at least a semester. Immersing yourself in another culture leads to new perspectives, experiences and friends,” he said. “It was a broadening and enlightening experience, which is the very essence of higher education.”

He adds that studying abroad helped him grow as a scholar and as a person as well.

“At first it scared the daylights out of me, but it turned me into the person I am today.”

Trela’s retirement plans include continuing research on the histories of Chicago neighborhoods like the Gold Coast, where he and his husband have a second home, and Sandburg Village. What became the Gold Coast was originally a Catholic cemetery  during the 19th century, and  Ernest Hemingway briefly lived in the area.

“I am actively researching and will eventually write more about these areas of the city. This is just the tip of the research iceberg.” 

CAS interim dean Douglas Knerr said that Trela  made wonderful and sustained contributions to UM-Flint throughout his career at the institution.  

“We will miss his wise and thoughtful counsel, rapier wit, and steadfast commitment to our students, faculty, and staff.”

Armstrong Park

SNAPSHOTS: FYE Borders and Crossings class trip

Last November, we told you about a trip two University of Michigan-Flint professors were planning as a part of the Vehicles of Upheaval course connected to a program called “Borders and Crossings: Exploring Global Questions at UM-Flint.”

The trip, which took place over Spring Break, was well-documented by students and Ben Gaydos, associate professor of design, as well as Stephanie (Vidaillet) Gelderloos, English lecturer.

Students stepped out of their comfort zone and forged meaningful connections and friendships on a moving, poignant road trip exploring the brutal reality of daily life for African Americans in the South that led to the Great Migration.

Students also enjoyed some down time and fun times together in New Orleans and at the Corvette Museum in Kentucky. 

a group of students collecting fish from the Flint River

$100K goal for Endowed Opportunity Fund is in sight

Several years ago, the College of Arts and Sciences leadership set out to create an endowed fund with the explicit purpose of funding best practices for student growth, supporting projects that foster excellence in education, scholarly or creative activity, community engagement, and service.  Since the fund’s creation, numerous donors have given to the CAS Endowed Opportunity Fund and put the college within $9,000 of reaching the $100,000 goal. 

This fund is a flexible resource that enhances the student and faculty experience by providing funding not appropriated in other portions of the college’s budget. In the past year, funds like these have assisted dozens of students and faculty in conducting such things as:    

  • Phone interviews on health information
  • Research on fish populations impacted by the Hamilton Dam removal
  • Payment for students to have academic work submitted for publication
  • Assistance for students attending virtual conferences
  • Helping a student to develop prototype signage in a Flint neighborhood to improve community connections
  • Purchasing biological materials for use in lab research
  • And more!
A photo of Cam McLeman

Dr. Cameron McLeman is the incoming chair of the Department of Mathematics and Applied Sciences and the Chairperson of the CAS Student Support Committee charged with raising funds for the project. Dr. McLeman is excited about the progress and hopes the goal might be reached by the end of June. When asked about the fund, he said, “This year we made the fund a priority for Giving Blueday and the community responded. This progress represents the coming together of students, faculty, staff, and the community to dedicate funds to support our students’ academic experience at UM-Flint.  Closing the fiscal year by reaching our goal would show such a strong commitment to our faculty and students.”

At the College of Arts & Sciences, we pride ourselves on creating lifelong learners whose college experience outfits them with the skills necessary to succeed in their personal and professional lives.  The skills gained by involvement in the types of projects supported by the Opportunity Fund are critical to that effort. 

Please consider making a gift to the CAS Endowed Opportunity Fund!

two students sitting with their laptops smiling.

Five Resources for CAS Students in 2021-2022

Students in the College of Arts & Sciences at UM-Flint can expect so much more than just attending classes! We love seeing our students have amazing experiences outside of their normal class schedule, and we’re passionate about providing students with the resources to have those experiences.

Here are five opportunities CAS students can take advantage of in the 2021-2022 academic year.

1. Professional Academic Advisors

Psychology advisor Nicole Altheide advising a student

Every major in the College of Arts & Students has a dedicated professional advisor to help students create a personalized degree plan to fit their needs.

Meeting with your advisor helps to ensure that you graduate on-time, meet requirements for your degree, and gain the experiences needed for life after graduation. For example, advisors help students who are preparing for medical school to ensure they meet application requirements.

And don’t miss out on other academic supports like the Writing CenterTutoring, and Supplemental Instruction.

2. CAS Opportunity Fund

The CAS Opportunity Fund helped Art & Design students open a pop-up t-shirt shop.

The CAS Opportunity Fund helps to fund research projects, travel, professional development, and more for our faculty, staff, and students.

Recent projects funded with help from the CAS Opportunity Fund include archaeological field school in Massachusetts, a pop-up t-shirt shop in Flint, and a language immersion program in Cuernavaca, Mexico. We will let everyone know when the application period begins for the next round of Opportunity Funding!

3. Research with Professors

Sabrina Dougherty (left) and Dahlia Kassel (right) presented their research at the American Psychology-Law Society in New Orleans.

Your interaction with professors can be so much more than hearing lectures in class. Many students work directly with professors on research projects, allowing them to explore their interests further and build their resumes while still in school.

And with the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program and Summer Undergraduate Research Experience Program, students can even get paid while gaining valuable research experience.

Biology students are studying the ecology of the Flint River with their professors, and two psychology students studied eyewitness testimony and presented their findings at a national conference.

4. Career Advising

Myesha Cannon is available for career advising for a year after graduation.

Myesha Cannon is the career advisor for students in the College of Arts & Sciences. She offers a number of workshops throughout the academic year, covering topics such as: interviewing, job offers, salary negotiations and online networking.

In addition to one-on-one and small group advising sessions, students also have access to industry resources like Handshake, an online job board that allows you to network with employers both locally and across the nation.

5. Minors and Certificates

The Department of Africana Studies offers both a minor and a certificate.

You’ll learn so much more in college than just your major, and there’s no better way to broaden your horizons than by adding a minor or certificate to your major field of study.

CAS offers six undergraduate certificate programs:

Africana Studies Certificate
Design Thinking & Practice Certificate
GIS & Geospatial Technology Certificate
Interaction Design Certificate
Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages Certificate
Women & Gender Studies Certificate

UM-Flint also offers close to 80 minors, so you’re sure to find something that both interests you and complements your major.

There are plenty of other resources to help you have a great 2021-2022, but this list should help you get started. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact CAS at

Dr. Kimberly Bender speaking in front of the class

Exploring Criminal Justice at UM-Flint!

CAS Student Ambassador April is a Communication Studies major exploring other fields of study offered by the College of Arts & Sciences. For this article, she sat down with Dr. Kimberly Bender to learn more about Criminal Justice.

This is Dr. Kimberly Bender’s fifth year as an assistant professor with UM-Flint’s Criminal Justice program. Her research focuses on corrections–individuals in jail or prison, or those out on parole.

There are three main areas of emphasis for criminal justice students at UM-Flint:

  • Law Enforcement
  • Courts
  • Corrections

After taking the required introductory courses, Dr. Bender explains that students can take additional elective courses relevant to their particular interest. For example, there are class offerings that offer a critical examination of gender, racial, and class implications of criminal laws and criminal justice practices (CRJ 433: Social Inequality and Crime).

After speaking with Dr. Bender, a great intro course to learn more about criminal justice (and the program itself) is CRJ 185: Introduction to the Criminal Justice System. This course gives you a great overview of the program and will help to debunk the myths surrounding crime, courts, and more. Any students interested in pursuing the program further can work towards a minor or a major in criminal justice!

Preparing for the Future

There are many different career options for students studying criminal justice. Some students take their education further by pursuing law school after gaining a valuable understanding of how the system works. Other students start work following graduation in careers working with juvenile facilities, a variety of city departments ( like Flint’s Department of Health and Human Services), or law enforcement positions such as a police or parole officer. With three different focuses, students can select coursework that best prepares them for future careers.

What I found most interesting about the criminal justice program was the real world experiences students can gain while earning their degrees. In Professor Bender’s corrections course, students take a trip to a prison to gain additional insights on what they learn in class. In a course focused on how minors interact with the criminal justice system, students get a similar experience by stepping into a juvenile detention facility. These out of class experiences bring a new level of understanding to what students learn in theory. There is also an optional internship course, allowing students to gain further real-world experiences and to build their resumes while earning course credit.

a physics classroom

Exploring Physics at UM-Flint!

CAS Student Ambassador April is a Communication Studies major exploring other fields of study offered by the College of Arts & Sciences. For this article, she sat down with Dr. James Alsup to learn more about the Physics program.

One of the first tasks of my day is pouring my morning coffee. It’s so routine I don’t even think twice about how it happens, let alone that physics plays a key role in getting the liquid boost to my ceramic cup every morning! We may not realize it, but physics is a part of our everyday lives. From the atoms that compose our genetic makeup, to the forces involved with moving cars, all the way to outer space, the art of physics plays a role in everything. 

Physics is much more than meets the eye, or the atom, or the universe!

I got the unique opportunity to have a discussion with Dr. James Alsup, an associate professor at UM-Flint who researches High Energy Theory, Quantum Mechanics, and Black Holes within the physics program. Having never taken a physics class myself (not even in high school) I had a lot to learn from Dr. Alsup.

Dr. James Alsup

Physics contains a wide range of different specializations, from particle physics (dealing with electrons and photons) to cosmology, the study of the universe. Somewhere in the middle there is Biological Physics; which deals with radiation and nuclear medicine, Electricity and Magnetism; this is where much of engineering comes to play, and classical physics; which dives into how and why objects move. I know what you’re thinking; this all sounds extremely fascinating! Where can I learn more?

A great course for students to learn all about everything physics has to offer is First Year Experience: Tales From The Dark Side. This class challenges its students to be curious about the world around us. Students get to see a lot of different kinds of physics and even get their feet wet with some experiments and calculations! If interested in pursuing a career in Physics, there are many possibilities from which to choose. It’s typical for Physics majors to continue their education in graduate school. From there, they can decide what specialization is most interesting to them. Most graduates will go on to conduct groundbreaking research through studies and experiments.

Students, Faculty, and the Physics Luncheon

One of my favorite aspects Dr. Alsup about the Physics program was how connected they were. Once a month, students and faculty from the department come and have a “Physics Lunch” together, where they discuss current research and all things physics! This luncheon really stood out to me as a clear example of how dedicated and passionate everyone in the department is about learning and growing together. No student has ever been turned away the opportunity to expand further on different aspects of research. Although there may not be a specific class for each physics specialization, the program ensures students will get a taste of each subcategory. Upon beginning their capstones, students get the opportunity to work closely with professors on their final projects. Students have access to advanced scientific equipment to use for their research efforts. They are granted complete access to pursue whichever field of physics they please in their capstones. Dr. Alsup recalled one of his favorite pieces of research conducted with his students on the study of black holes. They closely reviewed the forces involved around two black holes that are stuck next to each other. Dr. Alsup explained to me that their research was closely correlated with planet formation!

What you need to know about the Physics program

If you’re passionately curious about the world and the forces within it, physics might just be the major for you! At the University of Michigan-Flint, you will be exposed to three major branches within physics: theoretical, experimental, and computational. The study of theoretical physics is the use of mathematics to make scientific predictions. Experimental Physics takes those predictions and tests them in the lab. The study of computational physics, as Dr. Alsup puts it, is “sort of its own thing.” To put it simply, it’s a combination of computer science, physics, and mathematics to solve complex problems. I know you must be jumping out of your seat, eager to get started, but there are a few things to be aware of before being a physics major. It is apparent that as a student you have a commitment to yourself, along with your classmates and professors, to learn and grow as a physicist. The physics program is no walk in the park and requires individuals who love the field, and want to be challenged inside and outside the classroom. Dr. Alsup shared that, “Being a little nerdy goes a long way in Physics.”

Giving blueday graphic

A Student’s Perspective on Giving Blueday

CAS Student Ambassador Fernando Ramirez-Medina shares how he is getting involved with Giving Blueday, which takes place on March 10.

So what is Giving Blueday?

In essence, it’s a day that creates new opportunities for students. Supporters of UM-Flint will come together on March 10 by making contributions to initiatives and resources across the campus. Each fund may have slightly different goals or methods in how it supports students, but every gift ensures that UM-Flint remains a vibrant place to study and grow. March 10 will be a great day for us to come together to make great things happen for UM-Flint, as the university has set a big goal of raising $1 million during Giving Blueday this year!

The CAS Opportunity Fund

The focus of Giving Blueday for the College of Arts & Sciences is the CAS Endowed Opportunity Fund. The CAS Opportunity Fund has helped make amazing things possible for students, like archaeological digs in Ireland, language immersion programs in Mexico, and ecological studies of the Flint River. These are fantastic opportunities for students to test themselves and express some creativity while also learning and becoming further involved in their majors.

The Opportunity Fund helped Art students create a pop-up t-shirt shop in Flint. Here, recent graduate Stephanie Streeter applies vinyl decals for the “Change Machine,” the name of the shop.

Student Government

Thanks to my involvement with Student Government, I am responsible for spreading awareness of the Student Government Fund for Giving Blueday. While the money will be used differently by SG as compared to the CAS Opportunity Fund, the goal is the same. To positively impact students on our campus. Supporting Student Government in this initiative has been challenging, but I am excited to see the difference we will make thanks to these resources.

Student Government has remained very active throughout the pandemic – here we are holding a meeting via Zoom.

How to get involved

I urge everyone to make a gift on Giving Blueday (March 10), if they are able to do so. Even just a dollar can make the difference in a student’s experience and the opportunities they can take advantage of. With that being said, COVID-19 has taken its toll on all of us, even financially and emotionally. If you’re not in a position to donate this year, another great way to show your support is to spread the word! Post on social media, tell your friends, anyone who will listen. Your contribution, whether it be financial or otherwise, will be the difference-maker for students.

a screenshot of a zoom meeting with three students

[VIDEO] Students discuss a year of remote learning

Now that we are approaching a year of remote instruction at the University of Michigan-Flint, CAS Student Ambassadors April Bartle (Communication Studies) and Fernando Ramirez-Medina (Communication Studies, Political Science), sat down with Genevieve Heydt (Actuarial Mathematics) to discuss how a year of studying during COVID-19 has presented unique challenges and a few silver linings.

Watch a highlight of their conversation here:

Class formats

The group discussed synchronous vs. asynchronous formats. “Synchronous” means that the online takes place in real-time at a scheduled time. “Asynchronous” courses don’t have a scheduled meeting time; instead, pre-recorded lectures or discussion boards can be completed at a student’s convenience (within posted deadlines). The course format is listed when you are registering for classes.

Getting involved

Fernando mentioned that he has been able to get involved with more student organizations thanks to the ease of scheduling that comes with online events (not having to travel between locations can sometimes be a bonus!). To see opportunities for you to get involved with student organizations, visit the Department of Student Involvement & Leadership.

Burnout & Zoom fatigue

Genevieve pointed out that Zoom fatigue is real. Counseling and Psychological Services produced this video to help you navigate this common challenge. If you are experiencing feelings of isolation or other psychological stressors, CAPS offers no-cost counseling for UM-Flint students.

Academic support

As a student in the College of Arts & Sciences, you have a dedicated academic advisor to help you stay on the right track. Collaborating with your advisor is also important so you can graduate on-time and in the most cost-effective manner.

The Student Success Center offers tutoring and supplemental instruction, so you’re never far from support outside of the classroom.

Blue for You

UM-Flint’s Blue for You campaign highlights resources from across the university, from financial aid to childcare, that will help you succeed and earn your degree. There’s also a form that you can submit with questions – you can expect a prompt response when submitting your thoughts here.

Your success is our utmost concern. If you’re ever not sure where to turn, send us an email at and we will find the answers you need.

Exploring UM-Flint’s GIS Certificate

CAS Student Ambassador April Bartle is exploring the different academic programs offered by the College of Arts & Sciences. Read what April learned about the GIS Certificate in this article.

When I think of the term “map-maker”, the olden days come to mind, when maps were created by quill pens and ink. Maps are an immensely valuable tool that can help scientists find solutions to problems based on spatial data. I had the opportunity to speak with Professor Greg Rybarczyk, Associate Professor of Geography, who talked me through UM-Flint’s Geographic Information Systems Certificate Program.

What is it?

Since 2010, Professor Greg Rybarczyk has been passionate about teaching students the value of maps at UM-Flint. He’s in charge of making the GIS certification curriculum the best it can be for students. GIS stands for geographic information systems, which is essentially using maps to convey data, and then furthermore using that data to solve or understand a problem. It may seem simple by nature, but like every iceberg, much more lies beneath than it appears. Students will learn to be critical thinkers through their use of managing data, manipulating data, and displaying that data on a map. They will be trained in using computer software to aid the visuals and process the information gathered for a cartographic product. By having knowledge of information as it applies to an area, predictions can be made to solve tomorrow’s problems. As Professor Rybarczyk likes to put it, the GIS field is the pursuit of the “whys of the where”.

Basic structure of the program

For those of you itching to get a feel for the field, the course GIS 203, entitled “Mapping and Spatial Data Science” is an excellent first look at geographic information systems. Students get a broad overview of the program, including how to design a map, the ethics of spatial data, and get hands-on using geographic software. If a student is interested in continuing with the program, only four more courses are needed to complete the certification. Students in the program can choose their final course from a variety of seven subject area topics. A popular class among students is the GIS Project Management course. Throughout the semester, students use real-world data to construct a map using geographic software and present their project’s findings. At the end of the course, students will have obtained experience through a GIS project and have pieces to add to their portfolios. Learn more about the GIS certificate here.

Career Possibilities

Careers in GIS geospatial technology are on the rise. Being able to understand and display data for others to utilize is an extremely valuable tool. Stop for a minute and think about those big-name shipping companies. Data is being stored, reporting where levels of delivery are high, and where they are low. Converting that data onto a map can be used to target patterns in areas where delivery levels are lower. More data can be obtained in those areas to determine how to better market and increase delivery usage for that specific region. GIS also makes an appearance in environmental sciences. Viewing levels of temperature changes on a map can help scientists easily compare where more CO2 is being released into the air. Scientists can further use this knowledge to compare what other factors based on geographical features play a role in high temperatures.