02/26/18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Students in UM-Flint's MTH 272 class

Students in UM-Flint’s MTH 272 class

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

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


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

02/13/18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

02/7/18

UM-Flint Computer Science students win SpartaHack IV at MSU

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

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

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

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

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

About the Competition

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

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

Making Music and the App

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

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

Winning SpartaHack

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

Team SonicPlayers demonstrates their app at SpartaHack IV.

Team SonicPlayers demonstrates their app at SpartaHack IV.

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

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


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

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

 

02/5/18

Alumni Spotlight: Brandon Taylor of UM-Flint Psychology

Brandon Taylor, 2017 UM-Flint Psychology alumnus

Brandon Taylor, 2017 UM-Flint Psychology alumnus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12/14/17

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

Artists Treading Water: Defining the Flint Water Crisis Through Art

Artists Treading Water: Defining the Flint Water Crisis Through Art

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

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

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

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

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

10/25/16

Presidential Visit Sparks UM-Flint Conversations

Former President Bill Clinton will visited the University of Michigan-Flint campus in early October, bringing another opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to witness this year’s presidential election up close.

Clinton’s visit came one week before Michigan’s Oct. 11 deadline to register to vote. Clinton spoke on behalf of his wife, Hillary Clinton, and her presidential campaign. Campus also hosted a Democratic presidential debate earlier this year and Republican nominee Donald Trump visited Flint last month.

UM-Flint has also created its own events to engage participants in election conversation–hosting presidential and vice-presidential debate watch parties and an event to recognize Constitution Day. As an institution of higher learning, the University of Michigan-Flint supports the free exchange of ideas and welcomes opportunities to provide a forum for speakers with a variety of political, social, and religious views. The University does not engage in any political campaign activity, including endorsing or opposing any candidate for political office.

“By exposing our students to a wide variety of opportunities to be engaged, listen, and share their own voices, we are helping to create the informed citizens that make communities and countries strong. It is my hope that they are facing this election season, and all facets of life, with the multidisciplinary perspective we so value in the College of Arts & Sciences. We encourage them to think broadly and deeply in class, and that’s a lesson that will serve them well when considering the future of our nation,” said Susan Gano-Phillips, dean of UM-Flint’s College of Arts & Sciences.

Traci Currie, Ph.D., collegiate lecturer of communication in the College of Arts & Sciences, noted, “I would say that the presence of Clinton or anyone running for this office allows us as students, faculty, and staff to talk. We cannot be afraid to talk about the issues that are glaring us in the face. Our students must learn to voice their thoughts, deconstruct the language that is used to describe their environment, and share their stories. This is engagement.”

Currie’s public speaking courses include high schoolers, first year freshmen, older, and non-traditional students; all from a wide variety of backgrounds. She finds many communication lessons within the political processes of the election: “It is important that my students engage in this process whether they can vote or not, because they shape the dialogue and help society, as a whole, think about the communication process. This election moves beyond voting. It is about awareness.”

“Being aware of Clinton’s presence in Flint is linked to being aware of how people strategically and structurally think about Flint’s placement in the fabric of this U.S. quilt,” continued Currie. “Flint is like many U.S. cities working through its issues. So it is important to be a part of that presidential discussion. I tell students, ‘Your job is to actively listen and think about what’s being said about the city you are in.'”

President Clinton will speak at 3:15 p.m. on Monday, October 3, 2016. UM-Flint’s Northbank Center is located at 432 S. Saginaw Street, Flint, MI. The university is not involved with the distribution of tickets for the event. The Northbank Center will remain open for regular business throughout the day. No parking will be available on the street in front of Northbank or in the lot behind the building.


For more information on the University of Michigan-Flint, and the ways in which our students engage on campus and beyond, visit umflint.edu.

09/29/16

UM-Flint Communication Students Unite for Charity Blitz

UM-Flint Communication 226 students in Fall 2016

Assistant Professor of Communication, Christopher Kowal, jumped right in to his first semester at UM-Flint. He came up with a creative project for students in his advertising class, splitting students into five groups and then challenging each to raise $150 for a charity of their collective choice. He noted that the assignment was meant to “challenge the groups’ urgency, strategy, and communication” in preparation for their final projects that involve working with local businesses.

Kowal was happy to report that, “They all met and exceeded the goal, raising just shy of $1,500 for a variety of charities. When I announced the challenge it was [met] with anxiety and resistance, today they were full of pride and confidence.”

The COM 226 students created a press release to share news of their success in their own words:

Students typically spend the second week of classes familiarizing themselves with syllabi, textbooks and the hallways on campus–not the case for Dr. Christopher Kowal’s COM 226 Advertising class who were recently charged with raising $150 to benefit a charity of their choosing…in just one week!

The charity assignment, part of a larger theme in Dr. Kowal’s class, was designed to teach students how to actively engage in team work and group projects–something that is “critical for success and survival in the advertising world,” according to Kowal. What better way to test a team’s functionality than to hold a charity fundraising blitz?

 All five groups of UM-Flint students met the goal to raise $150 and surpassed it, ultimately raising $1,456 for five different charities. The charities benefited were Flint Child Health and Development Fund for Water Crisis Victims, St. Jude’s Research Hospital, The Wounded Warrior Project for Veterans, Genesee County Animal Shelter, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

After reaching their goals, the teams reflected in class about how hard they thought it would be to raise $150 in one week. “Everyone has a different schedule and different responsibilities, so it seemed like an impossible task and we weren’t sure if we were going to reach our goal at first,” said Michelle Cardillo, a junior at UM-Flint. The teams came together to benefit a cause they believed in and in turn, ended up exceeding their goals and testing the dynamics of their groups. The teams were left with the feeling of pride and accomplishment, which is a great start to any semester–and may just be the beginning of a new tradition for UM-Flint Communications students.


To learn more about the College of Arts & Sciences’ Communication Department, visit umflint.edu/communication or call 810.766.6679.

09/21/16

Women of STEM: Bev Smith

The College of Arts & Sciences at UM-Flint is proud to recognize some of the exceptional women of its STEM disciplines. As leaders, mentors, and educators, these women bring passion and talent to students in classrooms and the world of science, technology, engineering, and math.


smith2

Unearthing a Passion

When Dr. Beverley Smith, archaeologist and associate professor of anthropology in UM-Flint’s College of Arts & Sciences, was a little girl, she would show up early for her piano lessons to look through her teacher’s collection of National Geographic magazines. Recalled Smith, “I learned about the search for human ancestors in Africa and exotic sites in places like Peru, Cambodia, and North America. I also found the articles about animals fascinating. It wasn’t until much later I found that I could integrate these two interests into a wonderful career. As an aside, I didn’t know my piano teacher knew I was coming so early to read, but when she moved, she dropped off all the magazines in our garage. My parents were shocked but I was thrilled.”

Years later, as an undergrad at the University of Toronto, Smith took courses in both biology and anthropology. “I came to realize that, while I would have to specialize in a targeted area of study in biology, whether fish, birds, mammals, or invertebrates, as an archaeologist I would have the opportunity not only to study the bones of all of these animals, but to make them meaningful by considering how the various species were procured, how they contributed to human survival, and what they symbolized in ideology and ritual to the people who relied on them within their environments.”

As a student with potentially disparate interests, Smith was fortunate to find a mentor in Dr. Howard Savage, described as a “pioneer in the field of zooarchaeology.” Remembered Smith, “this extraordinarily kind and patient professor taught me the analytic tools for my future work.”

Her unique path was further defined when she was recruited to Michigan State University by Dr. Charles Cleland for her graduate studies. His “work on fishing techniques and the application of his research to a pivotal court case in Michigan, which supported Indian people with the right to use gill nets, made me realize that my research could benefit Native people in contemporary concerns,” said Smith. “I have, ever since, worked closely with Native communities to facilitate their interests in their past, their concern for the destruction of archaeological sites, their struggle to repatriate ancestors, and their efforts to challenge restrictive jurisdictional and subsistence related laws in the courts.”

Smith is now an established expert who specializes in the study of bones. Her work involves “identifying, quantifying, and analyzing the various animal species used by people [which] helps us to better understand the food sources, seasonality, and technologies used to hunt and fish.”

Added Smith, “My work also extends to the analysis of human bones, which can tell us a great deal about the health, activities, origins, and belief systems of the population. Consequently, my work overlaps considerably with more traditional STEM fields, such as biology, chemistry, and environmental studies as well as with the social sciences and the arts.”

Teaching and Research at UM-Flint

At the University of Michigan-Flint, Smith’s teaching interests lie in introductory archaeology, Mesoamerican archaeology, historical archaeology, biological anthropology, and Native Americans. She is consistently lauded as a favorite faculty member by her students, noted for her caring and excellence.

Student Jonathan Henneberry described her as, “a dedicated educator who has enlightened me in the practices of anthropology and archaeology through lecture as well as practice. In addition, she possesses great knowledge within the field of anthropology as well as being a wise counselor and steadfast mentor.”

UM-Flint students on an archaeological dig with Dr. Bev Smith at Flint’s Stockton House.

UM-Flint students on an archaeological dig with Dr. Bev Smith at Flint’s Stockton House.

Smith’s archaeological digs and expeditions have been the subject of both UM-Flint News stories and those by the wider media. To her, they are an important way to connect her students to lessons. Said Smith, “The most effective tool for engaging students in archaeology and biological anthropology is to talk about my own experiences and research in the field. When students engage in a course in which the material is a shared experience, it becomes a powerful tool for learning and opening up possibilities for their own future of inquiry. This is one of the many reasons an active and diverse research agenda by professors is essential to our legitimacy and success in a place of higher learning.”

Alumnus Thomas Steele agreed: “Dr. Smith used text, supplementary readings, and videos that provided engaging, real-world experience to augment her instruction. She expected a great deal of academic maturity in order to grasp the complex cultural concepts of each course, particularly that of the Mesoamerican civilization and Native Americans . . . I carried this level of expectation, cultural appreciation, and connection to community with me throughout my studies, which in no small way helped play a role in my academic success.”

Outside of the classroom, Smith is currently “working on an National Science Foundation funded project that involves a group of scholars concerned with understanding the changing use of aquatic resources identified from inland eastern Woodlands archaeological sites during the Archaic period—about 8,000 to 3,000 years ago.” She and the other researchers are “using a program called, tDAR (the Digital Archaeological Record) to integrate our datasets and to make this data available for other scholars in the future.”

Using Expertise to Inspire

Smith’s work as a mentor and teacher continues in the community. She is a part of the American Association of University Women’s annual Explorathon—a spring event aimed at helping girls develop science literacy while being inspired by a dynamic selection of scientists and fields of study. According to the AAUW site, the event’s “focus on women in science prepares and inspires girls by giving them role models and by showcasing state-of-the-art careers for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

Dr. Beverly Smith, anthropologist, archaeologist, and associate professor at UM-Flint

Dr. Beverley Smith, anthropologist, archaeologist, and associate professor at UM-Flint

Added Smith, who presents on the popular topic of Forensic Anthropology, “This is an extraordinary opportunity for girls to learn that senior women in their aspired professions are approachable, interesting, and, hopefully, not nearly as nerdy as they expected. They value our advice which is, of course, to study and excel in as many sciences as possible in their high school coursework, and that sacrifices and hard work will reward them in their future endeavors. It is only with a broad range of knowledge and experiences that they may find something as interesting and wonderful as, for example, zooarchaeology.”

Smith’s expertise will be available to community members in the Flint area on September 22, 2016, as she presents Archaeology in our Backyard at the Sloan Museum. Her special lecture will “provide an overview of the prehistoric past in the Flint region and will be geared to a general audience.” She’ll discuss methods and tools of archaeologists and the ways in which artifacts help reconstruct the past. Highlights from recovery efforts at a local ancestral burial site will be included.

For event information visit sloanlongway.org or call (810) 237-3450.


To learn more about anthropology and archaeology at UM-Flint, visit the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice’s website at umflint.edu/SAC or email bevsmith@umflint.edu.

08/24/16

Women of STEM: Samantha Grathoff

The College of Arts & Sciences at UM-Flint is proud to recognize some of the exceptional women of our STEM disciplines. As leaders, mentors, and educators, these women bring passion and talent to our students, classrooms, and the world of science, technology, engineering, and math.


A Leader in the Curiosity Academy

Samantha Grathoff is a lab coordinator, community engagement liaison, and adjunct lecturer for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in UM-Flint’s College of Arts & Sciences. She’s also one of the directors of the Curiosity Academy: a community club that engages middle school girls, mostly 6th to 8th graders, who have an interest in STEM subjects.

The Academy aims to reignite the girls’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and math at an age when they may be moving away from such disciplines. Through fun projects and activities, the students are connected to educators and professionals in various STEM fields. Noted one recent student, “Curiosity Academy has been an amazing experience and I love that I got to do cool science projects with my friends. My favorite activities were sending the remote controlled cars down a zipline, doing the plant scavenger hunt, and, of course, going on cool field trips!”

Sam Grathoff works with students in a Curiosity Academy session at UM-Flint

Samantha Grathoff works with students in a Curiosity Academy session at UM-Flint

Grathoff works “in all aspects of the program, from writing grant applications, developing lesson plans, advertising, and recruiting students, to recruiting speakers, coordinating field trips, developing a peer mentorship program, and, of course, working with the girls during their time with us.” She shares duties with fellow program directors Monique Wilhelm and Essence Wilson.

The Curiosity Academy’s mission closely aligns with Grathoff’s personal interests. Said Grathoff, “I believe that far too many people are intimidated by science, think that it’s only for ‘nerds’, or think that it’s a secluded community. I love to break those stereotypes by providing fun and interactive activities that explain scientific concepts and engage people.”

Grathoff’s desire for an inclusive community and increased confidence for her students is already being realized. Fifteen-year-old Alexis was asked what she likes about Curiosity Academy. She replied, “The sense of community it provides for all those in the program.” Her mother echoed the sentiment, saying, “It’s not about the exclusion of boys, that has not been an issuse for Alexis, she can and does speak out in class. It’s more about my daughter learning a sense of community with other females. . . I found a program that embodies that.”

Added Grathoff, “Curiosity Academy has transformed girls from being reserved and quiet to outspoken and confident. It’s incredible that a program that meets only two hours per week can so strongly influence the participants.”

Curiosity Academy students conduct an experiment in the UM-Flint lab

Curiosity Academy students conduct an experiment in the UM-Flint lab

A Love of Learning

When asked how she knew a career in STEM was right for her, Grathoff replied, “I was interested in math and science by elementary school. I recall doing workbooks for fun during the summers and having my parents quiz me on math at stores. It wasn’t until high school, however, that my true passion developed. I enrolled in physics, honors chemistry, and almost every biology class my high school offered. The material didn’t come naturally to me, but I loved learning it.”

Grathoff credits both her high school teachers and her parents for fostering her love of the STEM disciplines: “My high school science teachers shared their passion and enthusiasm with me and developed wonderful projects that really engaged me. I loved to see how much they enjoyed their careers, and how much fun STEM could be. My parents also inspired me. They helped me pursue my interests and gain experiences that would help advance my education.”

Grathoff’s role in the Curiosity Academy as a mentor is one that’s appreciated by both her students and their parents. Angie, one of the Academy parents, noted, “I think that the time and energy that these women put into our young women is remarkable and ‘grateful’ is really the best word to describe my feelings. The role models and examples they are [is] truly a blessing for my daughter and all of the girls.”

Sam Grathoff with one of her Curiosity Academy students.

Samantha Grathoff with one of her Curiosity Academy students.

Connecting with the Future

The Curiosity Academy is open to its participants for a small but important window of time in their lives. “My hope is that after Curiosity Academy, the girls’ perseverance, passion, and enthusiasm for STEM continues, regardless of roadblocks that they may encounter,” said Gratthoff. “Even if they decide that STEM isn’t the career for them, I hope that they can take what they’ve learned from Curiosity Academy and apply it to their personal and professional lives.”

For some of the girls, the Academy has already made a difference in their plans. Seventh grader Madison said, “Curiosity Academy has really changed my ideas on what I would like to major in college or what I would like to do for my career. I now would like to possibly go for a chemistry major or maybe even math!” She’s also found that it’s had a positive effect on her time in school: “Curiosity Academy really expanded my knowledge of science. I learned a lot more about plants, fossils, robotics, and so much more… Because of it, I learned a lot before it was even discussed at school, which helped me understand the topic a lot more.”

Madison has also absorbed the example of mentorship that Grathoff shows every day: “I love being a girl who loves STEM! it helps other girls at school see that girls can love topics like science and math, too!”

Whether they are interested in STEM disciplines or not, Grathoff believes “young girls should do what they enjoy doing, not what others think they should do.” She advises students to “try activities that you’ve never tried before. Put effort into every subject in school, even if you don’t think you like it. You never know what you’ll end up liking. Finally, don’t stop exploring. Ask questions, foster new friendships, and stay busy! It’s never too late to explore a new interest, whether it’s academic or for fun.”

2015-16 Curiosity Academy students at UM-Flint

2015-16 Curiosity Academy students at UM-Flint

Join the 2016-17 Curiosity Academy

Applications are now being accepted for this year’s Curiosity Academy class. The deadline is October 10, 2016. Admission is based solely on program interest and is limited to 24 participants. Partial and full tuition assistance is available.


To learn more about the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UM-Flint, and their opportunities for students of all ages, visit their website at umflint.edu/chemistry. To connect with Samantha Grathoff, email sgrathof@umflint.edu.

06/21/16

Phenom Fire 2016 at UM-Flint

PhenomFire 2016 logo

On Friday, June 24, 2016, the University of Michigan-Flint will host Phenom Fire: A Talk About Feminism, Womanism, and Female Fusion. This symposium aims to be “intentional about cross cultural conversations. A dialogue about intersectionality.”

The event will feature break out sessions, a lunch with performances, a panel discussion, and end with a finale performance in the UM-Flint Kiva. Phenom Fire is free and open to the public.

Says organizer and faculty member in the UM-Flint Communication Studies program Dr. Traci Currie, “This event comes out of a lunch conversation with two colleagues who are passionate about the work women do and the way we as women and men define ourselves (i.e. womanist, feminist, neither, both, activist, ally, so forth). With the support and encouragement from so many like the Women’s Educational Center and community partners, this symposium wonderfully [came] together. This event is a labor of love.”

Dr. Erica Britt, Assistant Professor of Sociolinguistics in UM-Flint’s English Department added, “I’m basically looking forward to the chance to have real conversations about our different experiences of race and gender (among other things) and the ways that our personal insights can influence a broader movement for social change within our institution and in the community.  I am particularly eager for this given that women, men, and queer people of color are often marginalized in institutional structures.  This symposium will allow us to really amplify voices that are often not ‘heard.’  Overall, I’m looking forward to having uncomfortable but deep and healing conversations, because I really believe that these types of conversations are key for building solidarity and stimulating our collective desire to create lasting social change.”

Dr. Erica Britt, Assistant Professor of Sociolinguistics at UM-Flint

Dr. Erica Britt, Assistant Professor of Sociolinguistics at UM-Flint

Dr. Britt will be speaking in Breakout Session 1: Race & Feminism at 10:30am in Michigan Room A.


Phenom Fire 2016 Schedule:

10am: Introduction, UCEN Happening Room

Emcee for the symposium is Leah Bailey.

10:30am-11:50am: Breakout Sessions, UCEN Michigan Rooms

  • Session 1, Michigan Room A: Race & Feminism – Drs. Rushika Patel & Erica Britt
  • Session 2, Michigan Room B: Men as Feminists – Jeff Bean, Tom Moore & Delma Thomas-Jackson
  • Session 3, Michigan Room C: Socio-Political Activism and Spirituality – Do They Mix? – Natasha Thomas-Jackson
  • Session 4, Michigan Room D: How to Heal & Create Solidarity between Women  – Ayanna Jordan

12pm-1:15pm: Luncheon, UCEN Happenings Room.

Special luncheon performances by:

  • Speed Painter Martina Hahn
  • UM-Flint Poets: Linda Samarah, Jordan Johnson, Jessica McLone, Tiffany Harris,

1:25-3pm: Panel Discussion, UCEN Kiva

Panelists include: Kristin Lindsey, Mama Sol, Muna Tareh-Sahouri, Jia Ireland, Lilianna Angel Reyes, and Elena Herrada

3:30pm: Finale Performance, UM-Flint Theatre

Finale Performers: Crystal Turner, Cherisse Bradley, Brinae Ali, La Shaun Phoenix Moore, Mama Sol, and Closing Out with Raise It Up. Emcee Amber Hasan

Phenom Fire finale performer Brinae Ali

Phenom Fire finale performer Brinae Ali


Jordan Johnson, a pre-med student in the Psychology Department, will be one of the Phenom Fire luncheon performers. Says Johnson, “My poetry/performance’s main themes are being happy with who you are, enjoying your personal journey, and not allowing anything to get in the way of your self worth, especially [as] a woman. It will show that women are strong beings and that we must give ourselves credit and the freedom to live.  My performance will display my own story as a young woman who had struggles with these things.”

Additional luncheon performers include Tiffany Harris – Health Care Administration Major; Jessica McLone – Social Work Major; and Linda Samarah – Communication Studies Major.

Johnson continued, “I believe events like this are a great way for the UM-Flint Campus & Flint Community to come together and love on each other. With all the negative things that have been happening in our city and our world, events like this are reminders that not all are bad and that there is hope and love in our communities. Events like these keep me encouraged and grateful.”

In closing, Dr. Currie noted, “It’s is key that we not only own our voices but that we also share our personal narrative as a way of helping people understand how we live out our activism in our local, national, global communities, especially in the 21st century where we are inundated with 20 second sound bites and endless digital catch phrases.”


Phenom Fire is brought to the Flint community by its partners/sponsors: UM-Flint’s Women & Gender Studies program, Women’s Education Center, Black Student Union, and Communication Studies program and 3W Beyond Words and a Share Art Flint grant.

Additional gratitude goes to Shon Norman for the Phenom graphic art AND to Brittini Ward for creating the programs.


For more information on Phenom Fire, visit facebook.com/PhenomFIRE.

The University of Michigan-Flint University Center (UCEN) is located at 400 Mill St, Flint, MI 48503. Parking is available in the Mill Street Parking Ramp.