Category Archives: Community Engagement

2016 Annual Student Art Exhibition


Janice McCoy, student artist at UM-Flint

The Greater Flint Arts Council (GFAC) Gallery is currently filled with a wide variety of artwork created by UM-Flint students. The exhibit opened in May with a an awards ceremony and reception honoring the student artists. It will remain open until June 6.

This annual exhibition gives UM-Flint students a chance to not only display and sell artwork, but, as a juried show, it allows them to receive critiques and praise from an expert in the field.

Chris Waters, Professor of Art and the Associate Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies at UM-Flint, was instrumental in starting the first Student Art Exhibition years ago. When asked about the importance of such an event, she said, “The ability for students to show their work is vital to their Visual Arts education. It is also vital they understand art as a communication and learn if their work is effective in this regard. 
Having work selected for the exhibition, and then having an independent juror select awards helps students develop critical thinking skills about their own work and that of others while also preparing for what they will be asked to do in their professional careers in art.”

In addition to the juried awards that recognize individual pieces of art at the show, the students are eligible for “choice” awards if their pieces are selected by state government officials or university administrators, and department awards that take into consideration the students’ larger body of work and academic performance.

Senior Janice McCoy, pictured above, is pursuing degrees in Visual Arts Education (B.S.) and General Studio Art (B.F.A.) and a minor in Art History. She is also a member of the University of Michigan-Flint Honors program. McCoy won two awards this year: “I was not only recognized for Exceptional Merit for ‘Carousel in Motion’ by guest juror Donovan Entrain, but I was also awarded the Outstanding Achievement in the Visual Arts by the faculty of the visual arts [program]. Both of these awards were extremely exciting and humbling to receive. All of our students are talented and hardworking, so to be recognized as exceptional among this talented group is something really special. I am overjoyed that my hard work this year has led to this recognition from my instructors and the local art community. Being acknowledged in this way only motivates me to further develop my skills and strive to create more exceptional pieces of art.”


“Carousel in Motion” by Janice McCoy received an award for exceptional merit at the 2016 annual student art exhibition.

Continued McCoy, “I was inspired to create ‘Carousel in Motion’ by a photograph I took during a study abroad program with Dr. Sarah Lippert last year to Paris, France, and surrounding areas. The photograph was of a display mimicking a carousel in the Château de Chantilly’s Museum of the Horse, located in their Great Stables. I loved the drama and movement created by the dynamic poses of the carousel horses, bathed in flickering lights. Additionally, I have some fond memories of riding the carousel repeatedly as a child. These experiences inspired me to research and create an original composition driven by an exciting combination of movement, light and color, divided between two canvases. I love this piece because of my nostalgia attached to the carousel and the trip to France, and the movement that draws the viewer’s eyes across the canvases.”

Pieces at UM-Flint's 2016 Annual Student Art Exhibition

Pieces at UM-Flint’s 2016 Annual Student Art Exhibition

2016 Juried Award Winners:

  • Best in Show: SARAH COULTER “Map” Cast Glass
  • Exceptional Merit: JANICE McCOY “Carousel in Motion” Diptych, Oil on Canvas
  • Artist’s Voice: EMILY LEGLEITNER
  • Patty Morello Memorial Award: NICOLE FENECH “Octavia” Mixed Media Sculpture
  • Best Art-Historical Recreation Award: KERRY ANN MOREY “Cleopatra Recreated” Oil on Canvas

2016 Choice Award Winners:

  • The Arts in the Legislature Award: BREANNA KERRISON “Bits and Pieces” Digital Print
  • Chancellor’s Choice Award: RACHEL PAPPAS “Magical Forest” Stained Glass and Wood
  • Provost’s Choice Award: WENDY BROWN “Imagine, Believe, Achieve” Digital Print Collage
  • Dean’s Choice Award: LINSEY CUMMINGS “Lego Logan” Digital Print
  • Library Collection Choice Award: SARAH COULTER “Map” Cast Glass

2016 Academic Award Winners:

  • Achievement in Research (Symposium Presenters): ANGELA WHITLOCK, LEON COLLINS, MARY KELLY, MARTA WATTERS
  • Excellence in Art Education: CHEYENNE SERRATO
  • Excellence in Civic Engagement: MARY KELLY and LENA GAYAR (tie)
  • Outstanding Overall Achievement: JANICE MCCOY
  • Excellence in Art History Award: TAYLOR FRITZ
  • Excellence in Ceramics: SYMANTHA FOREMAN
  • Excellence in Drawing: KERRY ANN MOREY
  • Excellence in Graphic Design: HEIDI HALS
  • Excellence in Media Design: ALEXANDER THEODOROFF
  • Excellence in Painting: ASHLEY THORNTON
  • Excellence in Photography: ALICIA MUSIC SHAVER
  • Excellence in Sculpture: RACHEL PAPPAS
  • Martin Anderson Excellence in Printmaking: EMILY LEGLEITNER
Pieces at UM-Flint's 2016 Annual Student Art Exhibition

Pieces at UM-Flint’s 2016 Annual Student Art Exhibition

Graduate student Mary Kelly received awards for Excellence in Civic Engagement and a Certificate of Award for Research for her work “Overlooked Ornamentation: Italian Devotional Art as Images of Power” that was presented at the Art & Art History Student Symposium at the Flint Institute of Arts in April 2016. Kelly also works with the Visual Arts faculty to promote department and student work through social media and the Art Scene blog she created.

Said Kelly, “I came to UM-Flint intending to complete a degree that had been delayed through interruption in my education.  Once here, I accomplished not only that goal with my BFA in Painting & Drawing, but I added a second degree with my BA in Art History. The offerings at UM-Flint inspired me to approach art from both of these perspectives and to continue my education with the Arts Administration [graduate] program with the goal of using my knowledge to aid other artists to navigate the many options available to them as professional artists as a bridge between these artists and institutions organizations and venues.”

Pieces at UM-Flint's 2016 Annual Student Art Exhibition

Pieces at UM-Flint’s 2016 Annual Student Art Exhibition

Senior Breanna Kerrison’s digital print “Bits and Pieces” received the Arts in the Legislature Award. Said Kerrison, “I feel very honored to receive an award like this, the past semester has really pushed me into becoming the artist that I want to be and I am ecstatic to have it recognized!”
Breanna Kerrison stands with her photograph "Bits and Pieces"

Breanna Kerrison stands with her photograph “Bits and Pieces”

 When asked about her experience as a UM-Flint Visual Arts student, Kerrison replied, “My experience as a UM-Flint art student has been challenging, engaging, and an incredible journey. There will never be anything else like it and for that I am grateful. The  art professors at U of M not only teach you, but inspire you to become something the world will never forget.”

For more information on UM-Flint programs in Art and Art History, visit the visual arts website or call (810) 766-6679.

The Annual Student Exhibition will be on display at the GFAC Gallery through June 6. The gallery is open to the public and free of charge. They are located at 816 Saginaw St, Flint, MI 48502. Visit their website or call (810) 238-2787 for hours or more information.

UM-Flint’s 2016 Engineering Design Day

Each year, graduating UM-Flint Engineering students design, fabricate, and present Senior Design Projects as a culmination of all they have learned. This year they were able to present their work to the campus during Engineering Design Day and also to their Industrial Advisory Board later the same week.

To decide on projects, each student in the capstone course presents an idea relevant to their personal interests and skills. The class votes and the winning ideas are adopted as final projects. The students break into teams based on project choice.

The projects can be inspired by academic competitions, improvements to existing industry equipment, and social or community needs. Two of this year’s projects were responses to needs or issues at the students’ jobs.

With the projects, the students gain experience in working with clients, staying on budget and schedule, and managing both test results and expectations—all in addition to demonstrating their considerable knowledge of engineering practices and equipment use.

Dean Susan Gano-Phillips of the College of Arts & Sciences attended Engineering Design Day and spoke with students from each of the project teams. She noted, “Engineering Design projects are the culmination of students’ experience in the Engineering Program. It is exciting to see the innovative and creative ideas of our students brought to fruition in these collaborative projects.” Gano-Phillips was impressed to learn that all of the graduating students who were ready to enter the workforce already had jobs lined up.

Following are the 2016 Senior Design Projects:

Gear Test Fixture

UM-Flint Engineering students discuss their senior design project.

UM-Flint Engineering students discuss their senior design project.

Students: James Pung and Brendon Stokes

This project was directly related to student work at Nexteer Automotive. Much of the product development was done on site in Saginaw, MI.

According to the students’ abstract, “The scope of this project is to develop a gear test fixture that will test strength of a weld joint to attach a worm gear to a drive shaft. The worm gear and shaft assembly are used to drive an electric power steering system at Nexteer Automotive. The fixture must be capable of evaluating the reliability and strength of the weld joint to avoid failure. The fixture was designed to apply load on the gear assembled on the shaft. In the event of weld failure with an applied load, the load will decrease and the gear will stop rotating. The applied load and displacement of the gear will be recorded throughout the test in order to compare the load and number of cycles at which failure occurred.”

They concluded that the “new test fixture was able to perform the test efficiently and was able to meet the requirement specified by Nexteer Automotive.”

Portable Water Filtration System

Professor Mojtaba Vaziri of UM-Flint Engineering examines a senior design project.

Professor Mojtaba Vaziri of UM-Flint Engineering examines the portable water filtration system.

Students: John Gagnon and Nathan Calvert

This group set out to create a water filtration system that was suitable for a wide variety of users, from hikers trying to lighten their loads to children in developing countries who need clean water. The group considered “ease of use, weight, size, rate of flow, capacity, and FDA approval” in their design decisions.

The group notes, “Engineering analyses were performed to determine pressure drop, sterilization time, power consumption, and stress due to impact. Most of the components were designed and developed using a 3D printer technology with ABS plastic materials. The filtration system was tested using environmental protection agency guidelines for drinking water quality.”

To meet all of the standards proposed, the project underwent several adjustments during the design process, including material changes, choosing a different pump, and overall design modifications.

Human-Powered Vehicle (HPV)

Members of the Human Powered Vehicle group pose with the UM-Flint Engineering Senior Design Project

Members of the Human Powered Vehicle group pose with the UM-Flint Engineering Senior Design Project

Students: Xingyu Chen, Aleah Pavlicek, Terence Staples, and Brandon Walker

This project was inspired by the Human Powered Vehicle Challenge, an annual competition held by the the American Society of Mechanical Engineering. The competition challenges students to think of new ways to provide feasible transpiration options to rural, underserved, or developing populations.

The UM-Flint students considered maneuverability, stability, load-bearing and cargo space, and speed/stopping in their design choices.

Five Speed Manual Transmission System

Dr. Quamrul Mazumder, Associate Chair and Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, operates the transmission project.

Dr. Quamrul Mazumder, Associate Chair and Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, operates the transmission project.

Students: Kenneth O’Brien, Liwei Zhao, and Yang Zhou

Per this group, “The objective of this project was to design, develop, manufacture and test a five-speed transmission system that could be used for teaching and modeling in engineering classrooms. The gearbox was designed with several clear plastic viewing panels to observe the operation of the system. Furthermore, the components were designed for visual demonstration while running at lower speeds. Finally, a flywheel was added to the gearbox to measure rotational speeds. Most of the gearbox components were designed and manufactured using a 3D printer and computer aided design software. Material properties were verified using a tensile tester, the prototype assembly that was tested has met design specifications and required performances.”

This educational model will “demonstrate features, such as shaft, gear, keyed shafts, bearing, and the interaction of different components in the transmission system. Students will be able to measure the input power, input speed and output speed by using speed sensors or tachometers. The transmission model will also aid classroom labs, as students will be able to make predictions and test maximum speeds of the output shaft.”

The group declared the project a success and a “great learning experience.”

Inspection and Rescue Robot

One of the Rescue Robot group members speaks with Dean Gano-Phillips about their final product.

One of the Rescue Robot group members speaks with Dean Gano-Phillips about their final product.

Students: Erik Leaske, Joshua Wakefield, and Yufei Fan

Students in this group wanted to address the number of employee deaths each year that result from the need to inspect confined or hazardous spaces. Their answer came in the form of a small robot that could traverse pipes and other closed environments like heating or ventilation ducts and sewer pipes.

The robot was built on an aluminum frame with consideration given to protecting the camera and electrical components in places that may be wet. The group explored both Wi-Fi and autonomous capabilities as they tried to prepare for the wide variety of uses for their project. Although future improvements could include a plastic frame, “the robot was successfully tested for mechanical performance and design criterion.”

Tugger Cart for Powder Coating Process

UM-Flint Engineering students pose with their tugger cart project.

UM-Flint Engineering students pose with their tugger cart project.

Students: Dan Larson, Zach Stevenson, and Sandeep Solanki

According to this group, “There are many hazards associated with the industrial powder coating process. Powder coating operations require the use of curing ovens at high temperatures. The high temperature environment exposes employees to many hazardous situations when they remove carts from the oven. The objective of the project was to develop a system to eliminate the need for an employee to enter the oven. The previous system wasted large amounts of energy due to repeated heating and cooling of the oven to allow employees to enter the oven. A remotely controlled tugger cart would eliminate the need for cool down resulting in an increase in productivity while reducing employee risk. The cart was designed to travel under the racks to move the rack out of the oven. Critical performance requirements included safety, reliability, ease of operation and long battery life. The cart design used a modular concept that is versatile for use in different applications. Additional tests were required to test for the robustness of radio communication to ensure reliability. The proposed cart also had to be cost effective compared to similar systems available in the market.”

As with other projects, this one answered a real-world issue at a student’s employer and also has the potential to greatly increase safety for workers.

For more information on the UM-Flint Engineering, visit

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 Communication Student Invited to White House

UM-Flint Communication Major, Tajhae Barr

UM-Flint Communication Major, Tajhae Barr


“I always knew a Communication major from UM-Flint would make it to the White House. I didn’t think it would happen before they graduated though!” said department chair Marcus Paroske. His student, junior Tajhae Barr, was invited by the White House to attend the annual Women’s History Month reception in Washington, D.C. on March 16, 2016.

He added, “Seriously, it is the chance of a lifetime for Tajhae and we are all very proud of her. Even the loftiest goal is attainable by putting yourself in the right position.”

For Barr, being in the right position began with sending a message to the President one September night while she was studying. She had been feeling the pressure of a new semester and thinking about the President’s time in office coming to an end. “I was telling him that with him getting ready to be gone, I was kind of discouraged. I let him know that even though he will be gone, I still am determined to finish the job. But it just kind of made me feel more empowered with him being there, to actually get it done. The intent was kind of just to vent to the President, to tell him what I was thinking and feeling. I was studying and just thought ‘I’m going to write the President.'”

Barr wrote about starting a non-profit organization, and giving back to her community. Her idea involved creating a safe space for adolescents, and specifically girls, where they could feel safe and learn. The aim would be to “Give back to the girls up here as far as having something to do, keeping them off the streets and keeping their heads in the books. Learning more about their history and where they come from.” Barr compared her vision with her own growing up, where she found safety and solace in skating. But she never expected much to come from her note, “It was just regular writing. I didn’t think it would go far, they get so many emails, so many calls.”

But on March 8, 2016, she received an email from the White House requesting her presence the following week. It wasn’t until she arrived at the event that she even learned the source of her invitation. “They read it in the Social Secretary’s office in the White House. And they picked people based on those who thought they would never be there. They read it and decided to pick me . . . I just wrote it from my heart and pressed send. So I never would have thought it would be read or anything would come from it. The original response I received was general, telling me I could go to for funding, etc. But I never would have thought the letter would have landed in the White House, ever. I didn’t think it was connected to that at all.”

UM-Flint Communication Major Tajhae Barr in Washington, D.C., with an intern for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Tajhae Barr in Washington, D.C., with an intern for the National Conference of State Legislatures.


Barr’s evening at the White House opened with a performance by the Spelman College Glee Club as she and the other women entered the East Room. “The party was starting as soon as we were walking in. The room was so lavish and so grand! It was so much opportunity to just connect and network. I met some amazing women! There were women there that were directors of these big orgs from New York, New Mexico, Florida—it was women from everywhere. Everywhere. (And I may have landed an internship in the White House.)”

The President spoke to the group after being introduced by Sana Amanat, a director and editor at Marvel Comics. His speech focused on gender equality at a global scale, noting “What we’ve seen, even in our own lifetimes, is that change is possible. That’s why we have to keep fighting, because there are battles that still need to be won.”

When asked about hearing the President speak, Barr said, “I was very humbled. I couldn’t even be over excited because I was so honored and humbled to be in his presence. I really loved his speech, how he talked about all the differences that he has made in the Office and appointing more women leaders. It was just really humbling. I can’t even explain it. It was so surreal, because that’s history. His speech only lasted about 15 minutes. After that we got to mix and mingle again. It was just really amazing. I wish I could go back to just relive it.”  Barr was able to shake the President’s hand after he spoke.

Other notable guests of the evening, as recognized by the President, included Cecile Richards, activist and president of Planned Parenthood; Dr. Jennifer Welter, the first female NFL coach; and members of Congress, including Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Michelle Obama was not in attendance as she was at South by Southwest speaking about her “Let Girls Learn” initiative.


Tajhae Barr with Congresswoman Candice Miller at the White House


Barr credits her time at UM-Flint for helping her to find the original inspiration to write the White House. “Honestly, this school has made me feel so empowered and like I have the ability to do whatever. When I was a freshman I came into this school with a 2.3 GPA. My freshman year I got a 3.85. This school has been supporting me and having my back since I set foot on campus. Seriously. [UM-Flint] has been very supportive, and I’m not just saying that—I love this school! Even though it’s a big university, it’s still that one-on-one relationship. I didn’t think that I’d even be able to pull off going to D.C. in a day or two, because it was so sudden. I had to come up with money for the flight, the hotel, and the other expenses that came up. I’m honestly amazed and very thankful.”

Barr recognized the university offices that gave or helped her secure the funding needed to travel to the White House, including the Communication program, the Office of Educational Opportunity Initiatives (EOI), Student Affairs, the Women’s Education Center (WEC), the College of Arts & Sciences Dean’s Office, and others.

When asked what impression this experience has left on her, Barr said, “I just want to say that no matter what you are going through and no matter how hard it seems, you have to try your best to stay positive. You never know the next blessing that’s around the corner. You never know. Because I never would have expected this. It doesn’t matter if you get straight As, it doesn’t matter if you are president of this or that, ordinary people do extraordinary things every day, that’s what I’m trying to say. So when you’re feeling down or you’re feeling like ‘this is frustrating, I’m never going to get through this’ you just have to try your best to be positive because you never know. You never, ever know. And your blessing is really in your next breath. Sometimes we take the small things for granted, because I was just huffing and puffing about bills and voila – the White House.”

Watch the President’s National Women’s History Month reception speech:


Bendle High School Students Visit UM-Flint, Downtown to Better Understand Water Crisis

Dr. Marty Kaufman was one of a series of Flint experts and residents who spoke to Bendle High School students about understanding the Flint water crisis.

Dr. Marty Kaufman was one of a series of Flint experts and residents who spoke to Bendle High School students about understanding the Flint water crisis.

UM-Flint’s Secondary Teacher Certificate Program (TCP) has been undergoing a change in focus, moving away from more traditional models to one focused on place-based education. In this new approach, TCP students are spending more time connecting with diverse community populations through community- and school-based fieldwork and projects.

Tiffini Hurley, a current TCP candidate at UM-Flint, is student teaching at Bendle High School where her senior class is reading the novel The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. The book explores struggles of the working class in industrialized cities, including living conditions and work environments. To help her students better connect with the content and themes of the book, Hurley organized a day of activities outside of the classroom focused on “Understanding the Flint Water Crisis.”

When asked about her goals for the day, Hurley said, “I hoped that the students would gain perspective on what a community really looks like in times of hardship and what the need actually is in Flint. By doing this they can enact change in the world around them. Especially since they are about to graduate, I want to send them into the world with a sense of empowerment.”

Danielle De La Mare, one of Hurley’s TCP faculty members at UM-Flint, noted how thrilled she is that the place-based model is already a part of her student’s teaching process: “The work Tiffini has done with her students is nothing short of amazing! Few teachers, let alone student teachers, take on projects this extensive. Hopefully our new place-based teacher education program will inspire more of this in the future.”

Suzanne Knight, another TCP faculty member, added, “Tiffini is our first teacher candidate to do a full place-based project during student teaching. However, these projects are also largely collaborative. It took the efforts of her mentor teacher; two other teachers at Bendle High School (one English, one science); and Leyla Sanker and others in University Outreach.”

Bendle High School students cross campus to sessions focused on understanding the Flint water crisis.

Bendle High School students walk across campus to sessions focused on understanding the Flint water crisis.

The Bendle students arrived at the Northbank Center in downtown Flint early on Friday, March 18. As a full group they listened to Jenny McArdle of the United Way of Genesee County discuss community needs and volunteer efforts as they related to the water crisis response. The high schoolers then split into three groups, organized by topic: Health and Human Impacts, Economic Impacts, and Environment and Infrastructure.

Health and Human Impacts

The first group was led by Ms. Erin Brown from Bendle and Kye Bright of UM-Flint’s University Outreach and AmeriCorps. From the Northbank Center Ballroom they headed to the Innovation Incubator on the building’s second floor.

Bright presented “Exploring the Water Crisis from a Resident’s Perspective,” focusing on politics, media, and the human impact of the situation. The group also discussed responding to the crisis at a neighborhood level.

Mr. Todd Barden of Bendle High School sits with his students for presentations on understanding the Flint water crisis.

Mr. Todd Barden of Bendle High School sits with his students for presentations on understanding the Flint water crisis.

Economic Impacts

Tiffini Hurley led the second group, along with Sara McDonnell of UM-Flint Outreach.

Their first speaker was Janet Van Der Winkle, Executive Director of the Flint River Corridor Alliance (FRCA) and co-owner of Flint’s Tenacity Brewing.

From there the group made their way downtown to speak with local business owners and managers about their experiences and responses to the water crisis. The first stops were Blackstone’s Pub & Grill and 501 Bar & Grill. Each restaurant had their general manager on hand to speak to the students. The group then headed to the newly-opened Local Grocer where Franklin, a co-owner, discussed his business’ perspective on investing in local food systems and Michigan’s economy.

Environment and Infrastructure

Troy Rosencrants speaks to Bendle High School students about using geographic information systems to map lead pipes in Flint, Michigan.

Troy Rosencrants speaks to Bendle High School students about using geographic information systems to map lead pipes in Flint, Michigan.

The third group walked across campus, and the Flint River, to the Department of Earth & Resource Science (ERS) in the Murchie Science Building. They were accompanied by their teachers Mr. Todd Barden and and Ms. Elizabeth Seavey, and Leyla Sanker of UM-Flint Outreach.

While in the ERS department, the students listened to Professor Marty Kaufman speak on lead and Flint’s infrastructure and Troy Rosencrants, Director of the UM-Flint GIS Center, who presented an introduction to geographic information systems and mapping the lead lines in Flint.

Tiffani Hurley, student teacher, and her Economic Impact group on the bus to their next destination

Tiffini Hurley, student teacher, and her Economic Impact group on the bus to their next destination

Late in the morning the students returned to Northbank Center for lunch, reflection, and group discussions. They also made plans for upcoming projects.

When asked for some final thoughts, Hurley said, “The day went better than I could have imagined! There was so much support from the community. Leyla and the Univeristy Outreach were so instrumental in bringing my brain child to life I couldn’t be more grateful. I want to really thank Dr. Knight for pushing me, Dr. De La Mare for teaching me that being in the moment is more valuable than many things, and the teachers at Bendle High School for helping support me in the crazy journey. When we returned to the school there were students coming up to me and thanking me. I am so flattered and humbled by the vulnerability the students have shown, how they’ve embraced this process, and the young men and women I see them becoming.”
A Bendle High School student poses in downtown Flint during a class visit to "Understand the Flint Water Crisis"

A Bendle High School student poses in downtown Flint during a class visit aimed at “Understanding the Flint Water Crisis”

For more information on place-based education at UM-Flint, contact a member of the Secondary Teacher Certificate Program by visiting their website. For information on UM-Flint efforts in the community, contact University Outreach. For information on this specific project, please email Tiffini Hurley at

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.

Giving Blueday – December 1, 2015

Impact students. Start a journey. Fund the future.

On Giving Blueday, Tuesday, December 1, 2015, we are asking you to donate any amount you can to the departments or programs that mean something to you. Even $5 makes a difference if everyone gives!

We also ask that you share the stories of our programs’ requests–so others can give, too!

Read below for specific requests and links for each of our programs.

Give proud, give loud, and GO BLUE!


AfricanaStudies.StampAfricana Studies
The Africana Studies Department is dedicated to diversity and global awareness. To do so they utilize literature, theatre, film, and traditional academic studies. Each year they bring Africa Week to the Flint Community and they work with the Flint Public Library to present a visiting writer or author.
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Dr. Aiyer was an associate professor of anthropology and a passionate researcher and teacher. The Regents of the University of Michigan regarded him as “a valued student advisor [and a] respected leader in his department.” Make a gift to his namesake scholarship and help future students who demonstrate a special commitment to education.
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The Biology Department is celebrating two of its dedicated faculty by requesting gifts to their memorial funds. The Eugene “Doc” Studier Scholarship offers research support to Biology graduate students. The Holly Sucic Memorial Scholarship serves students in the Molecular Biology and Biotechnology programs.
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ChemBio.StampChemistry & Biochemistry: BLECKER CHEMISTRY SCHOLARSHIP
Professor Harry H. Blecker was the founder of the Department of Chemistry and a faculty member from 1957 to 1989. This fund honors him and helps Chemistry students complete their studies at UM-Flint. In his obituary, Professor Blecker’s family said “It was important to him to help future generations. This vision was his passion for working with thousands of students at UM-Flint.”
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ComVisArts.StampCommunication: UM-FLINT DEBATE TEAM
The UM-Flint Debate team has had a winning tradition at national-level debate for the last few years. Gifts made to this fund will allow the team to continue traveling and debating at tournaments near and far. Although housed in the Communication Program, the team is open to all UM-Flint students. Give today and keep them the Victors of Debate!
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ComScience.StampComputer Science & Information Systems
Help fund study and research by Computer Science & Information Systems students by donating to their general gift fund. This ensures donations go to the area of highest need, as dictated by the program leaders.
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CriminalJustice.StampCriminal Justice
Help fund study and research by Criminal Justice students by donating to their general gift fund. This ensures donations go to the area of highest need, as dictated by the program leaders.
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EarthScience.StampEarth & Resource Science
Help fund study and research by Earth & Resource Science students by donating to their general gift fund. This ensures donations go to the area of highest need, as dictated by the department leaders.
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Economics.StampEconomics: SCHOLARSHIP FUND
The Department of Economics awards $500 scholarships every semester to our highest achieving majors. These scholarships allow students to cover any cost associated with attending, such as tuition, books, fees, etc.  Our students are very grateful to the generosity of our donors, as these scholarships make a meaningful impact on their lives.
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Help fund study and research by Engineering students by donating to their general gift fund. This ensures donations go to the area of highest need, as dictated by the program leaders.
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Every student has to buy books, but English majors have to buy a LOT of books! In the department we try to keep book costs as low as we can, but the reading remains essential. We were all cash-strapped English majors ourselves, and that’s why we want to establish the English Book Scholarship Fund. For us, anything we can do to defray these expenses is worth doing, but we can’t do it alone.
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FLLshortForeign Language & Literatures: MONICA KARNES SCHOLARSHIP
Monica Karnes was a student in Spanish at UM-Flint. Although she was seriously ill, she “continued to pursue her education . . . demonstrating a commitment to excellence which is in the best tradition of the University.” Our UM-Flint Chapter of the Phi Sigma Iota Int’l Foreign Language Honors Society established this fund in 1985 in her memory “to benefit students who share Monica’s hopes, her dreams, and her spirit.”
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Help one of our students travel to London, England, for our first international internship! This experience will have a profound effect on their love of history and future studies and career. The student will work at the Museum of London.
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InterGlobalStudies.StampInternational & Global Studies: STUDY ABROAD SCHOLARSHIP
Named for Dr. Matthew Hilton-Watson, associate professor of Foreign Language and the Director of the International and Global Studies Program, this scholarship helps undergraduate and graduate students travel the globe. Give the gift of experience, diversity, and expanded horizons to UM-Flint students while you pay tribute to Dr. Matt.
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Math.StampMathematics: FAMILY MATH NIGHT
Twice each year the Math Department hosts Family Math Night, a free event where young children and their families have fun together with math. The kids learn two important lessons: math can be fun, and they can do it! Help us continue this tradition of community engagement and inspiring future mathematics majors!
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Voice. Instrumental. Classical. Jazz. Contemporary. Music can mean so many things, but, at UM-Flint, each definition has passionate students in common. Your gift to this scholarship will help future Music majors follow their dreams toward a life of making music. Encourage them to embrace creativity! This is an endowed scholarship, so your gift will be continuous.
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Our Candace Bolter Scholarship is $2,500 away from reaching endowment status. Once endowed, the scholarship will always be available to fund future Philosophy students. Says past recipient Thomas Mann, “[scholarships] give the student the sense that someone else believes in what they’re striving for, and for the student, that can mean the world.”
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Help fund study and research by Physics students by donating to their general gift fund. This ensures donations go to the area of highest need, as dictated by the program leaders.
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PoliticalScience.StampPolitical Science
Help fund study and research by Political Science students by donating to their general gift fund. This ensures donations go to the area of highest need, as dictated by the program leaders.
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Help fund study and research by Psychology students by donating to their general gift fund. This ensures donations go to the area of highest need, as dictated by the program leaders.
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Professor Albert Price served as Director of the Master of Public Administration Program for 24 of the its 35 years. He was also one of the program’s best known faculty members and a mentor to many of its graduates. Donations to this scholarship will help future MPA students complete the program that means so much to Dr. Price.
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Gifts to this fund will benefit our students AND our city! Established in 2010 to honor the memory of Professor Wilfred Marston,
this endowed fund supports students who undertake a civic engagement project with a sociologically relevant research component that focuses on the improvement of Flint.
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Official.Theatre.Horz.Sig.png.binTheatre & Dance: FRIENDS SCHOLARSHIP
This fund supports Theatre & Dance students as they cultivate the necessary tools, both artistic and personal, to meet the demands of an ever evolving world and profession. With your support our students will stand ready to take a place of responsibility in the community at large and excel as fearless artists, flexible workers, and compassionate citizens. Thank you for giving!
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Visual Arts & Art History: STUDENT TRAVEL
The Visual Arts and Art History Faculty would like support for students and student travel for Giving Blueday. In summer 2015 our students traveled to Paris, France. They loved the experience and can already see the benefits of their time there. Your gift will allow future Visual Arts & Art History students the chance to expand their horizons and find new inspiration!
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WomenGenderStudies.StampWomen’s & Gender Studies: CRITICAL DIFFERENCE FUND
The WGS would like gifts to be made to the Women’s Education Center Critical Difference Fund. This small grant helps students facing emergency situations stay in school. Says one recipient, “I believe this grant is important because everyone needs help sometimes and even the littlest thing can save a life.” Give today and be a victor for those who need it the most.
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WritingCenterlogoWriting Center: C. SCOTT RUSSELL SCHOLARSHIP
The C. Scott Russell Scholarship helps writing students with the expense of higher education. The scholarship is awarded to students enrolled in English 109: College Writing Workshop based on their writing improvement and financial need. ENG 109 is designed as an independent study in writing. Students focus on writing issues that interest them and are important to their academic success.
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Political Science Department to Hold Constitution Day Event on Sept. 17


2015 Constitution Day event – CLICK TO EXPAND

On Thursday, September 17, faculty of the UM-Flint Political Science Department will answer the question “What did the Supreme Court Say about the Death Penalty in 2015?”

The event, celebrating Constitution Day and coinciding with Common Read 2015-2016, will feature a panel discussion covering different facets of the death penalty question. This academic year’s Common Read book is Dead Man Walking, a memoir by Sister Helen Prejean.

Peggy Kahn, Professor of Political Science and the department chair, will discuss the history of the death penalty in the United States. Kim Saks McManaway, Lecturer in Political Science, will discuss Supreme Court jurisprudence on the constitutionality of the death penalty. Jeremiah Olson, Assistant Professor of Political Science, will talk on the impacts of the death penalty with respect to crime and punishment. Dauda Abubakar, Associate Professor of Political Science, will cover the death penalty in  a comparative and international perspective.

Says Saks McManaway, “A discussion of the death penalty’s position in Supreme Court jurisprudence is not only timely but exemplifies the trajectory of case law generally in the 20th and 21st centuries. The death penalty has had a storied history at the Supreme Court in the last 50 years and that history continues to this day. Just this past term, the Court dealt with an issue of method of execution and did so by relying on 50 years of active and relevant precedent. Few other areas of the law have held such a place in the Court’s jurisprudence over the past century as the death penalty. Few students realize the parameters of the death penalty let alone its history. Even fewer know that there was a period in the past century when the death penalty was temporarily halted by the Court because of concerns over its constitutionality. These are important issues to talk about in an ever-changing legal landscape and the legal definition of one of our hallmark civil liberties deserves regular and robust discussion.”

Kahn added, “In an international era of death penalty abolition, state executions in the U.S. remain a key issue of public discussion. Is the death penalty appropriate in an age when human rights and dignity have become basic democratic standards, and is it necessary in an age of modern prison systems? Is the death penalty applied ‘fairly,’ underpinned by careful and adequate judicial processes and applied consistently in proportion to the severity of the crime? As the University of Michigan-Flint Common Read focuses on Sister Helen Prejean’s Dead Man Walking and prepares to welcome her to campus October 8, the Political Science Department invites students, staff, faculty, and community members to a roundtable on the death penalty in the U.S.”

This event is free of charge and open to the public. It will start at 6:30pm and will be held in the UCEN’s Michigan Room A.

For information, visit or call 810.762.3470.

UM-Flint Helps Support Performing Arts Workshop for Area Youth

TOMORROWs ANSWERThe Shop Floor Theatre Company (SFTC) takes up a small space on the Northbank Center’s second floor, yet it is making a huge impact on the lives of youth in Genesee and surrounding counties. The non-profit organization, affiliated with UM-Flint and led by Theatre faculty member Kendrick Jones, has a mission of “using the arts to engage community” and has been doing so since 2012.

This summer’s project is a seven week cross-cultural, youth driven, performing arts workshop called Tomorrow’s Answer. The workshop is open to students in Genesee and Shiawassee counties at no cost, thanks to scholarships provided by area sponsors. Executive Director Jones says this is to ensure accessibility to all students who want to participate. Transportation for students via bus to workshop sites and performance venues will also be provided at no charge. The workshop will culminate in two free public performances, one in each county.

Tomorrow’s Answer aims to allow youth from urban and rural environments to come together, discuss and express the issues they face in daily life, and learn about the similarities and differences created by their everyday surroundings.

“Bringing Genesee and Shiawassee youth together to explore, create and perform in an artistic manner is a great way to expose these young ones to the different cultural aspects of these communities and learn about one another in an uplifting and positive way. After all, many of these young ones will eventually meet on college campuses in our area. We hope this seven-week cross-cultural program will help to bring about understanding and build lasting relationships for all involved,” says Jones.

During the process, students and community members will learn techniques for encouraging dialogue on divisive issues and explore credible approaches and doable methods to produce positive social impacts.

In addition, students are able to learn transferable skill sets as they work on the production, including: conducting interviews, facilitating and participating in community dialogue sessions, creating scripts, writing lyrics, producing story boards, cinematography, building sets and props, and creating visual art and theatre and dance pieces for the project.

When asked why the Flint area is ideal for such a project, Jones says, “With the renewed commitment and the rebirth of the City of Flint, it is vital that we, as civic leaders, educators, parents, students, and community members, begin to think creatively about how we interact with one another, in an effort to create a culture of positive sustainable working relationships for the betterment of all.”

By allowing the students to drive the dialogue that will become the performances, Jones hopes to ensure that the topics are relevant and honest. He believes in the power the youth will find in having a voice on stage. He also discusses the need for positive stories to come out about Flint and surrounding areas. He says, “If we don’t tell our story, someone else will.”

Jones himself is a part of the Flint story. As the Executive Director of SFTC, he has a chance to give back to the community that he still calls home. Says Jones, “It’s my time to give back; it’s my turn.”

Tomorrow’s Answer is generously funded by the Cook Family Foundation and supported by the Ruth Mott Foundation. A total of 30 full scholarships will be given to Genesee and Shiawassee County teens, ages 15-18. The program will run July 6th-August 22nd. Downloadable applications are available at – click Tomorrow’s Answer. Completed applications can be scanned and e-mailed to For inquiries contact Shop Floor Theatre Company at 810.429.2252.

The Genesee County performance will be held on August 21st at 1:30pm at Randall Coates Auditorium: 1020 W. Coldwater Road, Flint, MI 48505.

The Shiawassee County performance will be held on August 22nd at 7pm at Owosso Community Players: 114 E Main St, Owosso, MI 48867.

Visit the Shop Floor Theatre Company website for more information and to learn about other programs.


Congratulations CAS Staff Award Winners!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015, the UM-Flint Staff Council held their annual Staff Assembly Spring Meeting and Staff Recognition Awards Program. The College of Arts & Sciences was well represented!

Lynn Barbee, Administrative Assistant in the Department of Mathematics and the Staff Council Recognition Coordinator, presented the 2015 Staff Recognition Award Recipients: Suzanne Shivnen, Administrative Assistant of the Department of Economics and Political Science, and Monique Wilhelm, the Laboratory and Classroom Services Supervisor for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Per Staff Council, “The Staff Council Staff Recognition Award was established in 1995 as a way to recognize those members of the Staff Assembly who consistently serve the campus and university in an exemplary manner. The award criteria includes: providing leadership on a consistent basis; nurturing a spirt of team effort and cooperation; performing assigned duties with enthusiasm, competence, and cordiality; and dedication to the university’s goals and mission.”


Suzanne Shivnen receives the Margaret Rogers Award for Excellence from CAS Associate Dean Roy Barnes.

Suzanne was nominated by Peggy Kahn, Professor Political Science, and by Chris Douglas, Associate Professor and Chair of Economics. Peggy presented the award, noting Suzanne’s value for her skills in both the personal and professional spheres. She spoke of Suzanne’s willingness and ability to help both faculty and students, and her compassion and high ethics. Earlier this month, Suzanne was also the winner of the College of Arts & Science’s Margaret Rogers Award for Excellence. She is also a recipient of a Sterling Staff Award.


Chancellor Susan E. Borrego, Staff Recognition Award Winner Monique Wilhelm, and Chemistry & Biochemistry Dept. Chair Jessica Tischler

Monique was nominated by Jessica Tischler, Associate Professor and Chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department. She talked of Monique’s extensive list of responsibilities and proficiencies within the lab setting–both in their department and others. She also discussed Monique’s dedication to both UM-Flint students and community youth as exemplified through her work with the award-winning Chem Club, the demos that are brought to area schools, campus events like Super Science Friday, and her work with the Curiosity Academy – a STEM-focused community club for girls interested in science. Monique was also honored for being a part of the Excel Professional Development Program.


Karri Spoelstra of the Department of Music, Staff Recognition Award Nominee and winner of the 2015 Dr. Mary Jo Sekelsky Staff Appreciation Award

Another award winner recognized during the Assembly was Kari Spoelstra, Administrative Assistant of the Department of Music. She was a nominee for the Staff Recognition Award and the winner of this year’s Dr. Mary Jo Sekelsky Staff Appreciation Award from the Department of Student Involvement and Leadership. As her department page says, “Congratulations to Karri, everyone’s first contact in the Department of Music, by phone or in person. And a great supporter of students!”

Laura Bender, Secretary Senior for the Earth & Resource Science Department and Carol Chaney, Media Consultant for the Department of Music, were also nominees for the Staff Recognition Award.

Sterling Staff Awards were also earned by Linda Blakey of Public Administration, Lesa Callcut of Psychology, Samantha Grathoff of Chemistry & Biochemistry, and Linda Letts of the Department of Theatre & Dance. The Sterling Staff Award  is designed to acknowledge staff members for their contributions to the campus. Staff members are nominated by others who want it to be known that they are making a difference, that what they do is valued, and to recognize them for going the extra distance in their work. All staff members who are nominated receive a certificate via campus mail, and their supervisor is notified.

Many CAS staff members were also recognized for being a part of the UM-Flint Engaged Staff Program which was “designed to help emphasize the ways in which UM-Flint staff contribute to the overall vibrancy of the institution and support the work of faculty, staff and students.”

Jennifer Vincke of the Biology Department was recognized as a December 2014 graduate.

Congratulations to all of our staff members who received awards and were recognized at the Spring Staff Assembly!

For more information on Staff Council, visit their website:

For a list of those recognized at the 2015 Staff Recognition Dinner, visit