10/10/17

Faculty Spotlight: Biplob Barman of UM-Flint Physics

Biplob Barman, PhD, joined the UM-Flint College of Arts & Sciences in Fall 2017 as an assistant professor of physics.

Biplob Barman, PhD, Assistant Professor of Physics

Biplob Barman, PhD, Assistant Professor of Physics

Read below to learn more about him and the field of physics, or join him in one of his Winter 2018 classes:

  • PHY 143-01: College Physics I
    (held MW, 11:15 a.m. – 1:25 p.m., with Friday lab)
  • PHY 143-02: College Physics I
    (held MW 4 p.m. – 6:10 p.m., with Friday lab)

Students can register at sis.umflint.edu or find more information about upcoming semesters at umflint.edu/register.

In which area of physics are you most interested?
I am interested in experimental condensed matter physics, especially optical spectroscopy of semiconductor nanostructures.

Why are you passionate about your field? 
I am passionate about optical spectroscopy because it is one of the most fundamental fields of physics wherein one can study interaction of light with matter. Using this technique, one can use light of varying wavelengths to probe various properties in different types of nanomaterials, which are extremely important from a technological point of view.

How did you fall in love with your discipline?
Travelling down memory lane, I believe it all started while working on physics labs in high school where a prism was used to separate white light into its constituent spectrum of colors. That was the beginning of this journey towards a PhD and I am glad I undertook it, because all along I have always been intrigued by the effect of light on different materials.

What are your favorite courses/subjects to teach? 
Besides introductory physics classes, I would love to teach the following courses:

  • Semiconductor Physics
  • Solid State Physics
  • Optics
  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic properties of Materials

What is your latest or favorite research project?
One of my favorite research projects has been the study of magnetic quantum dots, particularly their behavior as a function of the location of the magnetic dopants. Another area of research that I worked on was using Terahertz (Electromagnetic radiation between Microwaves and Infrared) time domain spectroscopy to study semiconductor charge carrier (electrons and holes) dynamics.

What do you hope for your time at UM-Flint? 
As a Physics faculty member, I hope to be able to nurture a sense of curiosity among the students and enhance their analytical and technical skills. As an educator and a guide, I would like to help the students reach a level where they are competent enough to choose between employment or further studies upon graduation. I hope to secure external funding to start an undergraduate research program wherein I can integrate material science engineering and Physics thereby imparting relevant technical skills necessary for success in their respective careers.

Why were you excited to join UM-Flint and the Flint community? 
I have always dreamt of bringing various aspects of cutting edge research accessible to the general public as a means to inspire them. UM-Flint, and the Flint community as a whole, provides the perfect platform to jumpstart a movement wherein I can get together with high school teachers of the community to incorporate STEM at a very early stage. More significantly, the demographics of the community brightens the prospect of organizing workshops in collaboration with local high school teachers to enhance STEM education in the community.

What do you hope for students in your field? 
I hope the students can utilize their skillset to excel in whichever career path they opt for and at the same time enlighten every individual they come across with the knowledge they acquired so as to create a society based on the pillars of science and reasoning.

What are three things you think people should know about you? 

  • Hard-work and honesty
  • Never say die attitude
  • An avid soccer fan
03/22/17

Pursuing Passion: Adam Dill of UM-Flint Theatre & Dance

Adam Dill of UM-Flint Theatre working in the university's Costume Shop

Every UM-Flint Theatre & Dance production is a chance to teach something new. Adam Dill, lecturer and Costume Shop Supervisor for the department, specializes in connecting his students to each project while creating pieces that build their skill sets and portfolios.

The final theatrical production of the 2016-17 season is The Importance of Being Earnest—a classic satire set in Victorian England. Said Dill, “This production is set in the 1890’s, so we are constructing silhouettes we have not made in this shop before.” He also noted that special considerations have to be made in fabric choice and construction—so the costumes function for the actor while looking the part—and in adapting older styles to modern bodies.

“We used historical patterns that are actually from the 1890’s on this production,” added Theatre Design & Technology student Alli Switalski, “so it was definitely a learning experience to adapt the pattern of a teeny tiny garment from the turn of the century into garments that our actors could wear.”

A dress for the production is Switalski’s first large-scale project: she completed the garment’s entire drape, pattern, and construction process. And, she admits, it’s this start-to-finish project that she’s most excited to see on stage.

Dill is the production’s Costume Shop Manager and Lead Draper, and also charged with being the faculty advisor for the Wardrobe Crew. “As the shop manager,” said Dill, “it is my responsibility to budget and price out the show, to make sure all of the clothes are produced in a timely fashion, and the clothes are properly fit to each actor. Acting as the lead draper, I have taken on the creation of Miss Prism and Lady Bracknell.”

Adam Dill of UM-Flint Theatre working with a student in the university's Costume Shop

Adam Dill works on a bodice with UM-Flint Theatre Design & Technology student Alli Switalski.

Teaching in UM-Flint Theatre

Switalski transferred to UM-Flint to study with Dill—her previous institution didn’t provide a supportive teaching environment like the one she found on a visit to UM-Flint Theatre. “It’s like a little family in the theatre department,” she noted. “Collaboration makes our world go round, so I really love that we are all so close.”

When asked about Dill as a teacher, she said, “Adam has taught me to laugh. To ‘just do it’ and have fun in the process. He challenges me to push my limits as a designer and technician and to trust my instincts in the process.”

Lydia Parker VanTol, a senior Theatre Design & Technology student, echoed her sentiments, adding, “Not only have I learned how to pattern, drape, and sew, but I’ve also learned a lot of life lessons like how to handle working under a deadline and learning about a balance between perfection and time management. I love our sense of teamwork and community. It’s great to work with people who understand and respect your craft and who are also learning at the same time as you.”

Taylor Boes works on a boa for "The Importance of Being Earnest." She's also an actress in the production.

Taylor Boes works on a boa for “The Importance of Being Earnest.” She’s also an actress in the production.

 

Switalski and Parker VanTol are just the kind of students Dill enjoys teaching at UM-Flint. “I really appreciate that the average student has an open mind and a willingness to learn,” he said. “Regardless of background, upbringing, or circumstance—our students are constantly committed to pursuing their best self.”

Currently, Dill teaches Introduction to Stage Costuming, Patterning, and Draping, Textiles and Costuming, and a Stage Costuming Lab. His students often get a chance to assist on production costumes, adding finishing touches like hems and closures.

Bringing Experts to Campus

Part of Dill’s teaching philosophy involves bringing experts to campus. “I’ve previously hosted a tailoring workshop, a lighting technology workshop, and most recently a wig workshop,” said Dill. “For the future, I have workshops planned specifically for working with thermoplastics in theatrical costumes, a workshop on creating/recreating parasols, and hopefully a two-day workshop on working with theatrical millinery.”

The wig workshop, held on a Saturday in late February, brought Heather Fleming from the Custom Wig Company to campus. Seven UM-Flint Theatre students and one alum attended.

“In the workshop, we discussed how to properly style wigs using different roller sets, how to properly prepare the actor for wearing a wig, how to make/take a wig wrap, and how to ventilate and create our own custom wig products,” recalled Dill.

Participants in UM-Flint Theatre's recent wig workshop.

Participants in UM-Flint Theatre’s recent wig workshop.

 

“We decided to host this workshop so students could actively learn the art of wig styling on a practical application for one of our productions,” he continued. “Several of the students from the workshop are on the wardrobe crew for Importance of Being Earnest, so having direct access to the wig stylist benefits the wig work you will see in this very exciting production!”

Alli Switalski at the UM-Flint Theatre wig workshop.

Alli Switalski at the UM-Flint Theatre wig workshop.

 

Switalski was one of the student participants. When asked what she enjoyed most, she responded, “It’s a fascinating art form that most people don’t even know exists. I enjoyed diving right in and playing with wigs to get a hands-on experience of styling and maintenance techniques.”

A Life of Creativity

Dill is an excellent example for students who are unsure about pursuing a career in theatre. “I previously started my education in Pre-Dentistry,” said Dill. “One day while sitting in a molecular biology class, I realized how much I missed being in the theatre. I eventually withdrew from school, moved back home, and prepared myself for a life in the arts. After a few months at home, I enrolled at the University of Texas at Arlington as an Acting major. I was assigned to the costume shop as part of my practicum. I was given the task of decorating hats. Once I realized that working in theatrical costumes was a viable career path, I changed my major again and have never looked back.”

Adam Dill of UM-Flint Theatre working in the university's Costume Shop

 

Switalski is ready to follow in his footsteps. “I have two semesters left before completing my degree,” she noted. “This involves my capstone project which will probably be a draping project, so keep an eye out for my name in next season’s programs. After graduation, I plan on moving to where the work is to get some experience before graduate school. I’ve also started my own business that I’d like to expand, taking more costume commissions for Halloween, Cosplay, and Renaissance Festivals.”

Dill hopes all of his students “leave here with a renewed sense of self confidence, and understanding of how to overcome challenges, and an open mind to potential that life presents to us!”

As for his future? Dill replied, “Right now, I am in the process of designing one of the dance pieces in our dance concert—A Midsummer Night’s Dream—choreographed by Adesola Akinleye. At the same time, I am remounting a previously designed production of Cat in the Hat for the Flint Youth Theatre. Because I don’t have enough going on, I am also managing the Colorado Shakespeare Festival costume shop this summer.”

After graduation, Parker VanTol will also be working at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, where she’ll no doubt continue learning from Dill.


Learn about creative opportunities for all majors, both on and off stage. Visit umflint.edu/theatredance.

03/22/17

Shakespeare Inspires CAS Students to Connect with Flint, World

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

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

Why Shakespeare?

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

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

Projects for UM-Flint Students

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

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

The "cast" of the Lear Reassembled project.

The “cast” of the Lear Reassembled project.

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

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

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

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

Shakespeare Beyond UM-Flint

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

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

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

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


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

Visit umflint.edu/english.

03/22/17

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

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

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

Visiting Biology at UM-Flint

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connecting Students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Impact of Experience

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

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

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

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

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

01/30/17

UM-Flint Theatre Brings ‘Big Love’ to the Stage

biglove1

What does “love” mean? Student actors, and their director Janet Haley, will explore this question in BIG LOVE, the second production of the UM-Flint theatre seasonThe play opens on January 27 and runs through February 4, 2017. It is a contemporary revision of one of the western world’s oldest plays, The Suppliant Women by Aeschylus.

“This piece is so unlike what people may think what a ‘play’ is,” said Haley. “[It] features song, dance, poetic language, gorgeous costumes, and a stunning scenic landscape. BIG LOVE examines and celebrates love, in all its manifestations.”

More Than Just Love

BIG LOVE is the story of fifty brides on the run from arranged marriages—and what happens when they take refuge in an island villa with their fifty grooms in pursuit.

“It’s called BIG LOVE for a reason. These characters have real epiphanies about themselves and the world. It’s not a romantic comedy, a little romp in Italy, it’s not Under the Tuscan Sun,” noted Haley. “This play is giving our students a wide and diverse set of opportunities to be involved in—it’s a very diverse composite of character perspectives, gender and sexual identities, age and experience range.”

Make-up, costume, and hair for the UM-Flint Theatre production of BIG LOVE.

Make-up, costume, and hair for the UM-Flint Theatre production of BIG LOVE.

Layla Meillier, a Geneseee Early College student, English major, and Women’s & Gender Studies minor, agrees. “Since I often study gender and communication,” she said, “I have been thinking a lot about traditions and binary stereotyping and how this show enforces and challenges gender roles.”

Meillier has found herself exploring themes of the play in her own life: “love in a large sense and how it manifests and conquers. Romantic love, sister love, humanity love. I have a sister and I think about how I would do anything for her when justifying the plot and text.”

Computer Science major and actor Matthew Statson added, “Every character in this show searches for a ‘comfortable’ state that they might find in another person. It’s important to remember that no matter what our intentions or goals are in life, how we accomplish it and treat others in the process may be the most important thing than actually achieving the overall goal.”

A Collaborative Work

The staging and movement sequences of BIG LOVE were devised in collaboration with the student company and students hold leadership positions on the production team as Dance Captain, Fight Captain, Stage Manager, and Costume Designer, among others.

“It’s a highly collaborative endeavor,” said Haley. “[The students] were inventing, creating, and devising something together as a group. That’s different than there being a script that tells you all of the words to say and where you are in space. This collaborative way of working ultimately helps our students learn how to have confidence in their ideas, to risk, to experiment, to research, to test. To know that not everything is going to be the right answer; it’s kind of scientific. They are going in to try stuff—as you would in a lab—and some of it’s not going to work, and we’re okay with that, and we’re going to keep trying things. Because whatever doesn’t work puts us one step closer to discovering what will work.”

Set and stage construction for UM-Flint Theatre's BIG LOVE.

Set and stage construction for UM-Flint Theatre’s BIG LOVE.

The production style also reinforces lessons of effective communication and listening, respect for others’ points of view and values, and a willingness to try new things. “I think this helps their citizenship skills,” noted Haley, “their personal responsibility. We talk about teamwork a lot, it’s a pretty complex thing.”

Meillier appreciates the intense experience. “I have gained so much from this production,” she said. “I have made so many friends and deepened my understanding of theatre. This piece has opened my mind to so much newness. I have been challenged in frequently incredible ways.”

Something for Everyone

Both cast and crew members believe BIG LOVE will appeal to a wide audience.

“Love is such a universal entertainer,” said Meillier. “Many in this community will be able to relate to what we have created no matter their sexuality or gender identity/expression. So much is considered and presented to the audience, every character is working from a different place and it is difficult to see clearly who may be in the wrong.  [Playwright] Charles Mee really gets you to think about your values and reaccess your ideas of good and bad.”

Added Statson, “In the extremes that this show goes to explain how love affects people, we hope it shines a light in your own life on where love hits you, and what you choose to do with that.”


BIG LOVE is recommended for ages 18 and up. Mature content and strong language. Strobe lights. Stage violence. Running time is approximately 100 minutes with no intermission.

Tickets are available by calling (810) 237-6520 or at the UM-Flint Theatre Box office (buy ahead or at the door). Show times start promptly as stated below, please arrive early to purchase tickets.

UM-Flint Theatre Performances of Big Love:
  • Friday, January 27, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, January 28, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, January 29, 2017, 2:00 p.m.
  • Friday, February 3, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, February 4, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, February 5, 2017, 2:00 p.m.

The UM-Flint Theatre is located at 303 E. Kearsley Street, Flint, MI 48502. Free parking is available. For full details, visit the UM-Flint Theatre & Dance Department at umflint.edu/theatredance.

01/30/17

CAS Alum Reflects on a Life of Liberal Arts

Tallman_Office

A Liberal Arts Foundation

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

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

Donald Tallman as a UM-Flint Junior in 1976.

Donald Tallman as a UM-Flint Junior in 1976.

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

Leading A Life of Variety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Power of UM-Flint

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

12/21/16

UM-Flint Grad Heading to South Korea to Teach English

Elexis Nelson - UM-Flint TESOL and Linguistics graduate

Elexis Nelson – UM-Flint TESOL and Linguistics graduate

Elexis Nelson had always planned to teach English abroad after earning her linguistics degree from UM-Flint. However, there was a significant obstacle in her path: she did not have access to a TESOL certificate program (TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)—an important credential that would allow her access to better jobs and higher benefits.

“My education has, thankfully, been paid for through a full-ride scholarship I received through U of M’s Educational Opportunity Initiatives office,” explained Nelson, “but obviously it wouldn’t cover any classes that I wanted to take outside of the university. The TESOL courses nearest me were on campuses too far away.”

Things changed when Emily Feuerherm, PhD, joined UM-Flint English and began establishing a TESOL program on campus. “Feuerherm was in the works of creating this course when I was doing research about off-campus options,” recalled Nelson, “and the day she told me that the TESOL program got approved was the best day of my academic life.”

Emily Feuerherm speaks with students about the new UM-Flint TESOL certificate.

Emily Feuerherm speaks with students about the new UM-Flint TESOL certificate.

The UM-Flint TESOL certificate is earned in 15-credits and is intended for any UM-Flint undergraduate student hoping to teach English abroad. While a certificate is not always necessary to teach abroad, the professional TESOL organization notes that it can serve as a gateway to the field and profession. The TESOL certificate does not certify students to teach in US public schools.

“By far the best part about being a TESOL certificate holder is that I now have the documentation I need to do what I love for the rest of my life,” said Nelson. “The TESOL certificate opens so many doors and windows for me to pursue positions globally.”

Shortly after graduation, Nelson will begin her first TESOL position. “I have been hired by EPIK (English Program in Korea) and I start in February! I’ll be teaching in Busan (I qualified for a higher pay grade due to the above-average amount of TESOL course hours I’ve accumulated in the UM-Flint TESOL program). I hope to continue my passion as a global ambassador in South Korea for at least three years. I want to teach English and further encourage globalization.”

Elexis Nelson will be one of the first to hold a UM-Flint TESOL certificate

Elexis Nelson will be one of the first to hold a UM-Flint TESOL certificate

Students who want to follow in Nelson’s footsteps can start earning their TESOL certificate in the Winter 2017 semester by joining one of the required core courses:

  • ENG/LIN200 Introduction to Linguistics
    (online or TR, 2:30pm-3:45pm)
  • ENG/LIN244 The Structure of English (online)

Other courses and the TESOL seminar and practicum are available in varied semesters.

“If you’re passionate about making a difference abroad or becoming a global ambassador,” said Nelson, “TESOL can be your ticket . . . It is a rigorous program but it really can open a world of possibilities for you. At least it did for me.”


To learn more about the UM-Flint TESOL certificate, visit umflint.edu/english or contact Dr. Emily Feuerherm at feuerher@umflint.edu or (810) 762-3183.

To register for courses, visit sis.umflint.edu.

12/13/16

Faculty Spotlight: Fadi Mohsen of UM-Flint Computer Science

Fadi Mohsen, PhD, joined the UM-Flint College of Arts & Sciences in Fall 2016 as an assistant professor of computer science.

Fadi Mohsen, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at UM-Flint

Fadi Mohsen, PhD, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at UM-Flint

Read below to learn more about him and the field of computer science, or join him in one of his Winter 2017 classes:

  • CIS 363 – Commercial Applications of Web Programming
    (MW, 2:30pm-3:45pm)
  • CSC 370 – Intro to Information Security
    (MW, 11am-12:15pm)
  • CSC 570 – Cyber Security (M, 6pm-8:45pm)

Students can register now at sis.umflint.edu or find more information at umflint.edu/register.

Why are you passionate about your field?
Every day a massive amount of data is being generated, the data can be utilized to enhance our lives, but it can also be misused. In my field, we investigate the malicious ways of collecting personal data and propose solutions to defend against them.

What are your favorite courses/subjects to teach?
I prefer to teach upper level courses in information security and privacy, particularly in the network and mobile computing domains. Moreover, I have a particular interest in teaching application development courses in which students are inquired to develop complete desktop, web, and/or mobile applications.

What is your your latest or favorite research project?
My latest and favorite research project is called “The Danger of Android Broadcast Receivers.” There are two typical assumptions made regarding permissions and mobile applications security and privacy. The first one is that malicious applications need to retain dangerous permissions. Secondly, smartphone users assume that installed applications access data if they are only in the foreground. In this project, we show how malicious Android applications are able to orchestrate their attacks and collect users’ data with minimum permissions and while running in the background.

How did you fall in love with your discipline?
Well, when i started my graduate studies i wanted to specialize in data mining. So, in my first semester,  I took a security course with a professor who then became my thesis advisor. He showed a lot of enthusiasm about the topic, the course also was very interesting and exciting. In my second semester, i took another course with the same professor, by the end of that semester i decided to specialize in security.

What do you hope for your time at UM-Flint?
I am interested in creating socially relevant computing courses that helps students develop skills in communication, leadership, and planning community outreach. I am also looking forward to integrate my research ideas into the curriculum of the courses that I teach. Finally, I am hoping to develop multiple online courses.

What do you hope for students in your field?
I hope for them to engage in real open source software and research projects, which would get them ready and well-equipped  for the job market

What are three things you think people should know about you?
Soccer is my favorite sport, I love road trips, and I have lived in three different states: Colorado, North Carolina, and Michigan.


To learn more about engineering at UM-Flint, visit umflint.edu/computer-science. To register for courses, visit sis.umflint.edu or umflint.edu/register.

12/9/16

Faculty Spotlight: Na Zhu of UM-Flint Engineering

Na (Linda) Zhu, PhD, joined the UM-Flint College of Arts & Sciences in Fall 2016 as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

Na (Linda) Zhu, PhD, of assistant professor of mechanical engineering

Na (Linda) Zhu, PhD, of assistant professor of mechanical engineering

Read below to learn more about her and the field of mechanical engineering, or join her in one of her Winter 2017 classes:

  • EGR 315 – Machine Element Design (TR, 2:30pm-3:45pm)
  • EGR 466 – Engineering Design II
    (W, 9am-11:30am, + (5) Friday meetings)

Students can register now at sis.umflint.edu or find more information at umflint.edu/register.

Research Interests:
Acoustics, vibration and noise control, signal processing, sensor and controls, automotive engineering

Why are you passionate about your field?
Acoustics, vibration and noise control in mechanical engineering has been a very practical yet challenging problem in the engineering area for decades, including applications not only in machine design, structure analysis and de-noising, but also in signal detection, acoustic emission for non-destructive evaluation, quality control, etc. In recent years, while media players, hearing-aid related devices, and cell phone industries rapidly grow, the demand of the de-noising, or say, audio/music extraction from background noise, becomes a new topic for mechanical engineers.

What are your favorite courses/subjects to teach?
Noise and vibration, sensors and signal processing, machine design, introduction to automotive engineering, and hybrid vehicle design

What is your latest or favorite research project?
My research is emphasis in the areas of noise control  and signal processing. I am now working on development of innovative technology for extracting specific acoustic features from mixed signals that may be contaminated by various unknown interfering signals and random background noise. The technology can be used on audio related devices and structure health monitoring.

How did you fall in love with your discipline?
Brought up in a family surrounded by engineers and academic professionals, I have always dreamed of working in the engineering field. I selected mechanical engineering as my major because it fit my interest and skills best.

What do you hope for your time at UM-Flint?
I hope I can bring new research projects to UM-Flint and make the mechanical engineering discipline stronger and more attractive. I want to share my knowledge and experience with students and help them be well prepared for their future career, which will also benefit the community and industry.

What do you hope for students in your field?
Engineering is a traditional yet fast growing field. I hope the students in engineering have a solid background of engineering knowledge as well as an open mind for creative ideas and innovative designs, and that they are always updated with the latest technologies.

What are three things you think people should know about you?
I want to be a friend to my students, not just somebody giving lectures and exams to them.
I practice yoga every day.
I am a big fan of manga (comic books). If you want to talk about Naruto, One Piece, Attack on Titan, etc., you can always come to me.


To learn more about engineering at UM-Flint, visit umflint.edu/engineering. To register for courses, visit sis.umflint.edu or umflint.edu/register.

12/9/16

Faculty Spotlight: Justin Massing of UM-Flint Chemistry

Justin Massing, PhD, joined the UM-Flint College of Arts & Sciences in Fall 2016 as an assistant professor of organic chemistry.

Justin Massing, PhD, assistant professor of organic chemistry at UM-Flint

Justin Massing, PhD, assistant professor of organic chemistry at UM-Flint

Read below to learn more about him and the field of organic chemistry, or join him in one of his Winter 2017 classes:

  • CHM 330 – Organic Chemistry
    (MW, 2:30-3:45pm + (4) Friday test dates)
  • CHM 331 – Organic Chemistry Lab
    (T, 8am-12pm; R, 12:30pm-4:30pm; + (2) Friday test dates)
  • CHM 452 – Biochemistry II (TR, 11am-12:15pm)

Students can register now at sis.umflint.edu or find more information at umflint.edu/register.

Why are you passionate about your field?
I firmly believe that chemistry has the potential to address environmental and health issues on a global scale.

What are your favorite courses/subjects to teach?
I’m most excited to teach spectroscopy of organic compounds (CHM 468) next fall. This course examines how different wavelengths of light can be applied towards elucidating organic structures. The spectroscopic techniques to be covered in this class are frequently employed in diagnosing disease and monitoring human health.

What is your latest or favorite research project?
My current research is focused on creating chemical probes that can detect molecular events associated with disease progression. Specifically, I want to noninvasively visualize epigenetic modifications known to influence DNA organization, and therefore how our genes are expressed.

How did you fall in love with your discipline?
I fell in love with chemistry thanks to my 7th grade science teacher, whose genuine eccentricity made learning the subject an engaging experience.

What do you hope for your time at UM-Flint?
To share my passion for learning, and to meaningfully impact students’ lives.

What do you hope for students in your field?
I hope that all students at UM–Flint would pursue independent research at some point during their college career.

What are three things you think people should know about you?
My wife is also a chemist.
I do the cooking and cleaning at home.
My wife and I brew our own beer.


To learn more about chemistry and biochemistry at UM-Flint, visit umflint.edu/chemistry. To register for courses, visit sis.umflint.edu or umflint.edu/register.