Category Archives: English Department

CAS Alumni Spotlight: Marissa Pierce

UM-Flint alumna and Flint resident Marissa Pierce graduated in 2003 with a BA in Communication Studies and a minor in Africana Studies; she later returned to earn her MA in English Language and Literature, graduating in 2009.

Currently, Pierce is the Public & Community Relations Coordinator for the Flint Institute of Arts and a part-time English Instructor at Mott Community College. She also maintains an entertainment and lifestyle website,, and is in the beginning stages of starting Surprise! — a non-profit that will provide mentoring and host “parties for kids and teens that would otherwise be unable to have one.”

Marissa Pierce, UM-Flint alumna, in the FIA's under-construction glassworks studio.

Marissa Pierce, UM-Flint alumna, in the FIA’s glassworks studio.

Pierce’s decision to attend UM-Flint was an easy one. “I had always been a Michigan fan, and being able to get a Michigan degree close to home appealed to me,” she noted. “I also was drawn to the course offerings and small class sizes that made for a more ‘intimate’ educational experience.

“I chose to return for my Masters degree because I was interested in teaching and knew I would need the degree to position myself for that next step in my career,” Pierce continued. “I also consider myself a lifelong learner, and although I had vowed to not step foot in a school again until I took my child to kindergarten, I knew that continuing my education was important and would be worthwhile. It has not only helped my career, but also enriched my personal life.”

Choosing her path at UM-Flint

At UM-Flint, Pierce selected academic programs that gave her room to explore her strengths and interests, and that would allow her flexibility in her future career. “UM-Flint has great programs, committed faculty and staff, and continued growth that not only meets the needs of students, but the community,” she reflected. “Those strengths make it not just a good school, but a great one.

“What I loved about the Communication and English programs was the freedom. I was able to really tailor my college experience to my interests. I would definitely recommend these programs, because they both have a number of options career wise, and I have found that I have been able to ‘write my own ticket’ so to speak. The variety of options that have been available to me with these two degrees is astounding, and in many instances have been things I didn’t even realize I was interested in.”

Pierce found her UM-Flint faculty to not only be supportive mentors, but to be friends as well. She is still in touch with a number of them and they continue to be resources in her professional life. When considering her most influential faculty, Pierce noted Dr. Charles Apple of Communication Studies and Jan Worth-Nelson of English. “They were always available to chat and I knew they were not only committed to the success of the program, but to the students,” she reflected.

Pierce found many valuable experiences outside of the classroom as well. “I was a writer for the M-Times (UM-Flint’s student newspaper) and College Representative for Def Jam Records while in undergrad and those were some of my greatest experiences,” she said. “I began writing about entertainment in high school and continued that at the M-Times and I got to cover some great shows, including Ricky Martin during the ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ craze. And being a college representative for Def Jam was so much fun! I made some lifelong connections and one of my best friends still works there! I returned to write for the M-Times while working on my MA.”

Connecting Coursework and Community

In early 2018, the Flint Institute of Arts hosted Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence. The exhibit showcased bead art created by a community of women in South Africa and was featured as a community event by UM-Flint Africana Studies for their annual Africa Week celebration. It was also a chance for Pierce to connect her undergraduate minor and her career. “I loved learning not only about African American history, but also African history,” said Pierce as she reflected on her studies. “I think being able to make the connection and ‘bridge the gap,’ if you will, is essential to really understanding the history of African Americans in the United States.”

UM-Flint alumna Marissa Pierce at the Flint Institute of Arts

UM-Flint alumna Marissa Pierce at the Flint Institute of Arts

Pierce has found that the impact of her courses still strongly resonates in her life. “I frequently talk about how the classes were some of my favorites during my time at UM-Flint, and how what I learned has shaped me as a person. I think learning about your heritage at the collegiate level is always beneficial, and exciting. I learned things that made a light bulb go off, and had many ‘ah-ha’ moments. In my career, I am able to bring many of the things I learned into conversations as it has relates to working with different cultures and ethnicities in the community.

“Exhibitions like this and the programming in the Africana Studies Department are important because they allow you to see art and the world through a very different lens than many of us are used to,” continued Pierce. “It does really allow us to make connections between the African and African American experience, and see beyond what we already know. Learning, be it at the Flint Institute of Arts or through the Africana Studies Department not only benefits the student, but the people and greater community that student interacts with. It really is a win-win for everyone!”

UM-Flint students can take advantage of the many learning opportunities provided by the FIA through their College Town program that provides free membership to college students. Learn more at

For information on Africana Studies, Communication Studies, and other programs and majors offered through UM-Flint’s College of Arts and Sciences, visit

UM-Flint Students Attend 2017 Michigan TESOL Conference

Thanks to funding from UM-Flint’s University Outreach, Emily Feuerherm, assistant professor of linguistics in the Department of English, was able to bring her TEL 313 class to the 2017 Michigan TESOL conference.

Emily Feuerherm, PhD, (front row, right) and her TEL 313 students at the 2017 MI-TESOL Conference

Emily Feuerherm, PhD, (front row, right) and her TEL 313 students at the 2017 MI-TESOL Conference

TEL 313: Second Language Acquisition, is recommended coursework in UM-Flint’s 15-credit TESOL program. (TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). The program, which culminates in a certificate that shows on one’s transcripts, allows graduates to teach English abroad without additional teaching credentials or special training.

“Students were so excited for this event; for many of them, it was their first experience at a professional conference,” said Feuerherm. “Following the conference, students wrote reflections about the experience and connected what they learned at the conference to the theories in our course readings. Next year, the goal is that they will all present at the conference.”

Feuerherm and her students spell out M-I-T-E-S-O-L while attending the 2017 MI-TESOL Conference.

Feuerherm and her students spell out M-I-T-E-S-O-L while attending the 2017 MI-TESOL Conference.

Attending the Michigan TESOL conference also allowed the students to interact with professionals and educators, and make important network connections. “Thanks to University Outreach’s Civic Engagement Grant for making it all possible,” concluded Feuerherm.

For more information on the UM-Flint TESOL program, and the opportunities it presents to students wishing to work and live abroad, visit


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.


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


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

CAS Alum Reflects on a Life of Liberal Arts


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 For alumni services and information, contact the Office of Alumni Relations at or (810) 424-5450.

To contact Donald Tallman directly, email

UM-Flint Writing Center Welcomes New Coordinator


Vicky Dawson has joined UM-Flint’s Marian E. Wright Writing Center as its new coordinator. Along with years of experience, Dawson brings with her exciting plans to serve the students of UM-Flint as they develop as writers, scholars, and professionals. For example, students can join the Writing Center, and its partners the Women’s Educational Center and the Office of Financial Aid, in scholarship preparation workshops starting on January 23.

Read below to learn more about Ms. Dawson, her history at UM-Flint, and her expectations for her new position.

How do you feel about taking over the positing of Writing Center Coordinator?

I am thrilled to be the new Marian E. Wright Writing Center Academic Support Services Coordinator. The university has given me many incredible opportunities as I’ve pursued my undergraduate and graduate degrees in English. I have worked in the Women’s Educational Center as a project coordinator, as a tutor in the Writing Center, and, recently, as a writing instructor and EHS coordinator for the School of Education and Human Services.

However, when my long-time friend and mentor, Scott Russell, retired from the Writing Center in July 2016, I knew I had to apply for the coordinator’s position. I enjoyed teaching writing for SEHS, but as many of you know, my heart has always been with the Writing Center.

How would you describe the mission of the Writing Center?

To me, the Writing Center has always been more than just helping students through the mechanics of writing, it’s also about helping them find their own voice and emerging academic identity. That journey can be tough if the university culture is unfamiliar, and for many of our students, it is. Our tutors are in a unique position because they too are on that journey. Yet, they are trained to help students begin to see and hear their own writing more clearly. This allows students to gain self-confidence and skills, rather than becoming overly dependent on someone else to just edit their papers for them.

It is exciting to see students develop over time, but it’s not just struggling writers that benefit from our process, even strong writers come to the center. We don’t know what’s possible for a writer until we are willing to listen and wait for what comes to the surface. That’s the beauty of working as a writing center tutor. We serve as a reader and listener first.

What will you do in your new position?

As the coordinator, my focus now is on managing the day to day operations of the writing center, collaborating with other departments, conducting research and statistical analysis, facilitating workshops, overseeing classroom visits, mentoring the professional development of our tutors, and much more. We support students, faculty, and staff from across all disciplines. Our visitors come in with all levels of writing proficiency from beginner to highly advanced—even faculty and graduate students come in to see us. Currently, we have 22 tutors that are uniquely trained to serve all writers. These tutors are also actively involved in research, professional development, leadership roles, and routinely present at regional and national conferences!

What else is new in the Writing Center?

Some of the great work we’ve been doing recently includes up-dating and expanding our online tutoring program. This semester two of our tutors have spear-headed the pilot of a new live tutoring option to better serve our online students. Online appointments can be conducted using a live, video chat. Visitors can learn more about it on our website

We are also continuing to update the website to offer videos and information about our services and up-coming activities. We want students, faculty, and staff to know that we can help with all phases of the writing process for writing assignments, presentations, public speaking, resumes, cover letters, scholarship essays, graduate school applications and more.

We offer many workshops and activities throughout the year. In fact, in January and February, we will have several scholarship workshops we are co-sponsoring with the Women’s Educational Center and Financial Aid. For more information on those and other up-coming activities, visit

Any final thoughts you’d like to share about being a part of the Writing Center and UM-Flint?

The Writing Center is an incredible place to work with an outstanding team of people. Working with the tutors and Director, Dr. Jacob Blumner, is very exciting because of the great ideas, talent, and energy they put into the center to support the writing needs of our campus. I’m very grateful and eager to continue to be a part of the legacy and foundation of the Marian E. Wright Writing Center.

UM-Flint’s Marian E. Wright Writing Center is located on the third floor of the Thompson Library. They offer face-to-face tutoring, e-tutoring, live online sessions, and speaking appointments.

Visit or call (810) 766-6602 to request information or book an appointment.

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 or contact Dr. Emily Feuerherm at or (810) 762-3183.

To register for courses, visit

UM-Flint English Major Shares Study Abroad Experience

Each year, the Education Abroad Office in UM-Flint’s International Center offers students a chance to travel the world through faculty- and staff-led programs. In the summer of 2016, student groups embarked on journeys through Kenya, South Africa, Cambodia, England. Their programs focused on a variety of themes, including art,  theatre, community health, language, and social justice.

Christen Rachow on Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa

UM-Flint english major Christen Rachow on Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa

College of Arts & Sciences‘ student Christen Rachow joined the trip to South Africa. Her program took an interdisciplinary approach to studying social development. Program leader Dr. Otrude Moyo, Associate Professor of Social Work, utilized “literature, film, music, art, philosophy, political science, economics, women studies, African studies, and anthropology to understand social development.” The goal of those in the program was to “enhance understanding of how the these disciplines influence global perspectives.” Rachow is a UM-Flint english major with a specialization in writing, and a minor in Women & Gender Studies; a combination that gave her unique preparation and insight for the trip.

Study Abroad: A Student’s Perspective

Study abroad experiences are about so much more than landmarks and miles logged. They are life-changing learning experiences for our students. Read on as Rachow describes some of the ways in which she was touched by her journey, written as a blog post:

Cape Town, South Africa, The Second City of My African Experience and A Reminder

Immediately below me lies thousands of feet of steep rock, jagged from weathering, yet still standing stick-straight against the sunset sky. The top—where my feet rest—is the place where the world becomes level again, the basically flat terrain giving this gift of nature its name, Table Mountain. Across the way I see the crescent moon that is Cape Town wrapping itself intimately against the Atlantic Ocean, and, just slightly farther out, there’s a small, solitary landmass discernable that I know is Robben Island. The air is as icy as it is windy here, and my eyes sting, but I stand amidst a collection of boulders looking at every angle of my newfound city and its sync against the ocean tides with a sense of blessing only this moment can provide. And the sun is sinking lower and lower, a tale-tell sign for me to pay attention.

So, I do.

While I am amazed at everything my gaze comes to rest upon, there is a festering feeling of unease within me I will only come to recall with more depth after many more days beyond this one. With such beauty stretching out before me, with the buildings and sights of Cape Town standing variously tall and ever-abundant below me, no one would ever think peoples from just two hours by plane and one hour by car would never be able to make it to this same site – a destination in their own homeland of South Africa. And that fact is why, after Healdtown, after a young boy scrolled through my camera fascinated by the magic he didn’t know was Cape Town, after many days of looking back on this one, I know that subconscious feeling was loss. It was sadness and remorse and frustration all at once. How could I, a smalltown, white girl from America – a foreigner in all the sense of the word – have the privilege to stand here and take pictures of a wonder many native South Africans themselves would not? How did I even manage to make the journey here from America when those I’ve met of Xhosa and Zulu heritage may spend their whole lives in the same village? . . . Perhaps then, the setting sun is what set me up for this memory, what asked me to search the dualities and reciprocities of light and dark.

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

One of the very first questions I was asked prior to stepping foot in the plane for Africa was: Is travel political? Well, I remember the boy who loved my cheap, twenty-dollar camera, the boy who had nothing like it, and the boy who didn’t know his country is home to one the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. I remember standing on that Wonder, and I remember the systems that led to me being there, and I remember the systems that didn’t allow that boy the same joys. I remember my hidden distress as my mind blocked the area of District 6 from my so-called perfect view—and so I remember very well the American lot and the African apartheid history, as I’ve learned them. Watching the mountain turn its rusty-gold before night and recede as I take the cable car back down, I’ll know later that this is something paid attention to I’ll always remember.  

To learn more about the Education Abroad Office and the ways in which it prepares UM-Flint students for study abroad opportunities, visit their website. For more on the College of Arts & Sciences and their interdisciplinary approach to education, visit

Phenom Fire 2016 at UM-Flint

PhenomFire 2016 logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phenom Fire 2016 Schedule:

10am: Introduction, UCEN Happening Room

Emcee for the symposium is Leah Bailey.

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

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

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

Special luncheon performances by:

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

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

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

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

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

Phenom Fire finale performer Brinae Ali

Phenom Fire finale performer Brinae Ali

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on Phenom Fire, visit

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

New TESOL Certificate Opens Doors to Work, Travel Abroad

Emily Feuerherm of UM-Flint English, coordinator of UM-Flint's TESOL certificate program.

Emily Feuerherm of UM-Flint English, coordinator of UM-Flint’s TESOL certificate

The University of Michigan-Flint’s English Department has added a TESOL Certificate to its offerings. This 15-credit certificate for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages will allow students to qualify for teaching English in many countries, often without the requirement of additional teaching credentials.

Says Emily Feuerherm, Assistant Professor of Linguistics, “The TESOL certificate is for all undergraduates who are interested in gaining experience abroad after graduation. Employers in all fields like to see job candidates who are able to work with people of diverse backgrounds, are mature and worldly, and have found success outside of their comfort zone. All of these are attributes of people who study or work abroad. As a certificate program of only 15 credits, this program can be tailored to students’ schedules. Students who may be particularly interested in this certificate program are students with an international background or an interest in traveling internationally; students who study foreign languages, English, education, international relations or international communication; and business, economics, or marketing students.”

Students at UM-Flint are already interested in this new program. Senior Morgan Troxell is a double major in English with specializations in literature and professional communications. She notes, “I’m interested in teaching English abroad because I’ve always wanted to teach, and, most importantly, I really enjoy learning, especially about other cultures, languages, and places. My greatest hope is to experience the world, to make friends all around the globe, and bring a little bit of the people and places I’ve met back with me. After teaching English abroad for a few years, I’d love to be a professor of literature and, one day, publish a book. And I feel like my experiences teaching English abroad will both challenge and inspire me and help me to develop my skills as a communicator and educator.”

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

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

Teaching English Aboard

The TESOL certificate at UM-Flint has its roots in Feuerherm’s own experiences traveling the globe: “My first experience teaching English abroad was in Switzerland. I had recently graduated with my BA in anthropology and I found work in Switzerland as a teaching assistant to a high school English teacher. I supported students’ speaking, listening, and conversational skills. I was not trained at all in TESOL, but I had so much fun teaching English that I decided to return to school to pursue a MATESOL degree (which later turned into a PhD in linguistics). To put it another way, I found my passion while living and working abroad, and I know the same is true for many of my friends and colleagues.”

Students interested in teaching English abroad may be surprised to know that they don’t need to know the majority language(s) of the country. Says Feuerherm, “Many English teachers abroad arrive to their post with limited or no skills in the majority language and will learn while they are there. Most English teaching jobs abroad only require that teachers have native-like fluency in English.” Feuerherm is sympathetic to the challenges of living and working abroad as well as the fear of the unknown and the culture shock that can be felt upon arrival. She says, “Everyone experiences this, and it is hard, but the benefits are so worthwhile. Overcoming this hurdle makes you grow and learn so much about yourself and the world.”

Senior Elexis Nelson hopes her own experiences will echo that sentiment. She’s adding the TESOL certificate to her English degree that will have a specialization in linguistics. Says Nelson, “Language, the study of languages, and teaching language has been my passion since I started college. Being someone who is a native-English speaker, I can still see the difficulty in learning such a language that has become the lingua franca in the most advanced corners of the world. English has a global history and the patterns and customs of the language are not easy to master. This is why I chose to teach English as a second language with a linguistics background; because with linguistics it is much easier to explain aspects of the language to non-native speakers. I’m hoping with the TESOL certificate I will be able to teach English as a second language in South Korea. I have begun my fluency in the Korean language as I feel it, plus the linguistics background, will improve my ability to thoroughly teach English as a second language. In previous years studying here at UM-Flint, I was unable to take the TESOL program here. This was unfortunate because I would have to receive the certificate at another institution or online which is not ideal. Fortunately Professor Feuerherm was able to receive approval for this program before my set graduation date and I will be able to have certification to teach right after undergrad.”

Emily Feuerherd discusses the requirements for the UM-Flint TESOL certificate

Emily Feuerherd discusses the requirements for the UM-Flint TESOL certificate

Earning a TESOL Certificate at UM-Flint

Earning the TESOL certificate will take some foresight by students. Notes Feuerherm, “The program takes 3 semesters, and courses are not offered every semester, so students should plan ahead if they want the certificate.” The course rotation is flexible, allowing for classes that will cover the teaching of other languages abroad besides English or for focusing on teaching children.

She adds, “Most TESOL certificate programs are offered by private organizations or trade schools, are online, and do not require that students be enrolled in college. The benefit for our students is that many of the TESOL jobs abroad require at least a BA/BS in some field and prefer that the teachers have some experience in the classroom. Because our program has a practicum component where students will get real experience, and will have a college degree, they will be able to access better positions.”

When asked about the direction she’d like to take with this new program, Feuerherm says, “Looking to the future, I think that once we get this program started we will look into the possibility of teaching some of the courses online. We will also research the possibility of developing an MATESOL program, or getting an endorsement for the teaching certificate for TESOL (the endorsement would allow students to teach ESL at US public schools). This would make the program more accessible (in the case of online courses) and provide access to more jobs in more locations. However, these are big dreams which will take time to work out, so I wouldn’t expect to see this in the next few years.”

For more information on the TESOL certificate, students should speak with their advisors, visit, or contact Emily Feuerherm at 810-766-6613 or