Category Archives: Student News

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

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 Communication Major Finds Impact in Internship


When she graduates in December 2016, UM-Flint Communication Studies major Skye Whitcomb will be leaving the university with knowledge of her discipline and the memory of a life-changing internship experience.

Her department began requiring internships for all students in Fall 2016. “The faculty of Communication Studies require internships of our majors because we believe that it is important for students to apply what they are learning in their classes to their careers after they graduate,” said Communication Studies Chair, Marcus Paroske. “We think students should learn by doing as much as possible.”

A Meaningful Internship

Tony McGill, the department’s internship coordinator, contacted Whitcomb with exciting news during her senior year. He had found her a unique 10-week position funded through the General Motors (GM) Student Corps Program in which she would be working with ten Flint Southwestern Classical Academy students and two GM retirees.

“The Student Corps Program was started in GM by one of my past communication students now at GM,” said McGill. “The program accomplishes an amazing amount of positive change within communities and GM’s contribution is significant.”

“The intern’s work is both physically and mentally difficult and they apply the leadership, management, public relations, and problem-solving skills they learned, ” continued McGill. “The interns manage budgets, payroll, and employment records for the students who are GM employees during the 10-week project. The interns are also responsible for setting up media interviews and media coverage.”

Skye Whitcomb (far left) stands with her Flint Southwestern high school students outside GM’S Flint Assembly Plant.

Skye Whitcomb (far left) stands with her Flint Southwestern high school students outside GM’S Flint Assembly Plant.

The program provides significant funding to the high school students so they can complete meaningful projects. “The students chose what community and school projects they wanted to do and then we planned them,” remembered Whitcomb. “We worked on the playground at Broome Park, projects at Berston Field House, library floors, a new mural, and the tennis court at the high school. The retirees and I showed the students how to complete these different tasks since they hadn’t done them before.”

Whitcomb connected with the Southwestern students by sharing her life experiences and involving them in charity work. Said Whitcomb, “I really enjoyed taking the students to my farm and opening their eyes to agriculture and farming. Also working with the students to encourage that they save money, and working with the United Way to donate $10,000 to the Flint Child Health & Development Fund, which was matched by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation for $20,000.”

Skye Whitcomb captures high school students repairing tennis courts at their high school during her UM-Flint Communication internship

Skye Whitcomb captures high school students repairing tennis courts at their high school during her UM-Flint Communication internship

Whitcomb captured the group’s activities in photographs—both a requirement of the internship and one of her personal hobbies. At the end of the internship she and some of the students decorated a board at their high school to showcase their summer of hard work.

When asked what surprised her about the internship experience, Whitcomb responded, “How much I bonded with the students. I also learned so many things to take to my professional career. Working with such an age range, high school students and two GM retirees, I think really prepared me for many different types of people I may have to work with in a future job.” She also noted that learning to facilitate conversation between the two groups was a significant takeaway from the experience.

The bond between intern and the high school students also surprised Dr. McGill: “One notable thing I did not really expect when we started the program was that the interns also serve as role models for the students who often don’t get to personally know working college students or see themselves as college students. They often grow very close and form longtime friendships.”

UM-Flint Communication major Skye Whitcomb (far right) and students from Flint Southwestern Classical Academy

UM-Flint Communication major Skye Whitcomb (far right) and students from Flint Southwestern Classical Academy

The lessons learned during Whitcomb’s internship are exactly why the UM-Flint Communication Studies department has moved toward requiring internships for their students. Said Dr. McGill, “I find the GM Student Corps internship to be like many of our Communication Studies internships, if the interns are willing to work hard and learn, it can be a major experiential stepping stone for them, a networking opportunity, and an important entry on their résumé. Honestly though, this one is special to me because I get to watch them grow and apply what they have learned.”

Choosing UM-Flint Communication

Whitcomb originally chose UM-Flint Communication as her major after researching career interests and the associated degrees. And she appreciated that the campus was close to home.

“Every class I was in, I was intrigued. I also enjoyed many of my fellow classmates, and my teachers made coming to class awesome and something I looked forward to,” recalled Whitcomb. “The professors were always so willing to help the students with anything and were always wanting what was best for us. This was the right choice for me because I found the jobs that were associated with the degree were where I wanted to work for my life career.”

Whitcomb is looking forward to graduation, and has advice for the UM-Flint Communication Studies students who are following in her footsteps: “Take advantage of everything that is offered to you. Get involved in clubs and get to know your professors. Make connections, and spend time researching and looking for an internship that is right for you and where you want to go with your future career. I believe that an internship is necessary, helpful, and will give you the experience you cannot get in a classroom.”

For more information on UM-Flint Communication Studies visit or contact Dr. Tony McGill with questions about their internship program:

UM-Flint Music Selects Soloists for 2016 MusiCollage

Each year, the UM-Flint Music Department presents a non-stop immersive musical experience known as MusiCollage to the campus and community.

This year’s show featured three soloists: Jhane Perdue, vocalist; Ben Cunningham, piano; and Elizabeth Schultz, flute. The soloists’ performances blended into those presented by UM-Flint’s Wind Symphony, University Chorale, University Orchestra, Jazz Ensembles, Chamber Singers, and more.

The format of MusiCollage is different from any other concert on campus. Wind Symphony Conductor Chris Heidenreich explained, “We ask the audience not to applaud, and take it all in from the beginning to the end, so that each selection leads itself into the next one.”

“MusiCollage is a great opportunity to hear a whole lot of music in one hour,” added Brian DiBlassio, conductor of the Jazz Combo. “You’ll hear large ensembles, small ensembles, different types of music, too. Even within the jazz performances you’ll hear a variety of music, some fun genres, and some exciting songs.”

Read below as this year’s soloists share their thoughts on being a part of UM-Flint Music and the MusiCollage experience.

Jhane Perdue – Vocal Soloist

Jhane Perdue, UM-Flint Music Vocalist and soloist in the 2016 MusiCollage

Major: Music Performance
Hometown: Flushing, Michigan

I will be performing “Daddy’s Son” from Ragtime—a musical by Stephen Flaherty based on the novel Ragtime by E.L Doctorow. “Daddy’s Son” is a slow, heart-wrenching piece. In the show, Sarah is basically grieving the death of her new born son.

I have been performing since I was 11 years old. Throughout middle and high school, I was very involved with the music and theatre department. I was involved with Michigan School Vocal Music Association (MSVMA) solo and ensemble, MSVMA 2014 and 2015 All-State honors choir, my high school a cappella choir, my high school’s after school choirs (Beta Chi Theta and Madrigals), and a member of International Thespian Society. I also sang in my church’s choir.

[Outside of the department] I am the worship leader at Trinity Episcopal Church in Flushing, Michigan.

What do you love about vocal performance?
I love that I have a way to express myself. I love that music brings people together from all walks of life. I love the connection between performer and audience. I love how you can get a new piece of music and at first glance it’s just lines, spaces, and notes, but when you’re done with it becomes a part of you.

What do you love about the UM-Flint Music department?
The faculty. We are a small department, and because of it you get one- on-one attention. Our department is full of faculty that want you to succeed. I can personally attest to the outstanding work of our faculty, because of my voice teacher Kisma Jordan-Hunter. She has raised the bar on what it takes to become an amazing musician and leads by example.

What challenges you as a vocalist?
Two things: taking care of yourself and trusting the process. As a vocalist your body is your instrument, so constantly reminding yourself that the voice is constantly changing and if you just keep taking care of your instrument and make a daily commitment to practicing and self-care, you will reach your outcome. My mantra is “The strive for quality is not the same as creating the illusion that our work is perfect.”

Why should people come to MusiCollage?
To see all the talent UM-Flint music department has to offer.

Ben Cunningham – Piano Soloist

Ben Cunningham, UM-Flint Music major and soloist in the 2016 MusiCollage

Major: Music Education with a focus on Piano; Minor in Horn
Hometown: Hartland, MI

I’ve been playing piano since age 6.

The piano is unique in that I have the colors of a symphony and yet the control of a soloist. To be this connected to such a palate of musical timbres is a unique privilege.

The music department at UM-Flint has provided me with access to some of the best professionals in the field of music today, as well as the opportunity to experiment with an enormous variety of musical styles and genres at a consistently high level. In particular, having had the opportunity to be in every ensemble on campus has allowed me to become familiar with a much wider variety of music than the average student at a larger school.

I can’t single a single professor out as having provided more inspiration or mentorship to me. Rather, I will say that each has brought their unique experiences and outlooks to help shape my musicality.

Without a doubt, memorizing is by far the biggest hurdle as a pianist.

The best thing to come out of being a UM-Flint music student is the chance to participate in so many unique experiences with such a diverse group of people. I have come to appreciate many more styles of music through my time here, and have made close relationships with many people and faculty who I know will remain part of my life forever.

As I said before, the Department of Music at the University of Michigan-Flint has an enormous variety of music. People who come to MusiCollage will have the opportunity to see each ensemble perform a few selections, whetting the palate for the full ensemble concerts that take place later this year. This is the only opportunity during the 2016/2017 school year to hear them all in one place!

Music, and music education, are some of the most important things a person can experience. I am proud to be a student at the University of Michigan-Flint, and I am proud that our town of Flint is home to such a great place of higher learning in the arts.

Elizabeth Schultz – Flute Soloist

Elizabeth Schultz, UM-Flint Music student and soloist in the 2016 MusiCollage

Major: Music Performance
Hometown: Flushing, MI

I am playing an unaccompanied flute solo for MusiCollage. I’m also in Wind Symphony and University Orchestra.

I have been performing for 14 years.

I am also a proud member of the Lapeer Symphony Orchestra—our first concert is October 28!

Playing the flute allows me to focus, which can be a valuable thing. I can quiet my mind and spend time working on something I love. When I have a major accomplishment in music, it is the best feeling in the world because I know the work and the passion I have put into achieving this accomplishment.

The UM-Flint Music Department is a fantastic department. We have top notch instructors that care for our success and we have so many opportunities. I have grown tremendously as a musician at their hands.

Everyone should come to MusiCollage because it really shows what we have to offer.


For more information on performances from our UM-Flint Music Department, visit or call 810.762.3377.

UM-Flint Communication Celebrates 30 Years

Dr. Charles Apple of UM-Flint Communication

Dr. Charles Apple of UM-Flint Communication

On October 6, 2016, members of UM-Flint Communication—both past and present—gathered to celebrate the newly independent department and all it has accomplished in its 30-year history.

“In 1986 when the COM degree was first introduced, the catalog noted that communication was both ‘one of the original liberal arts’ and that ‘effective communication is a basic life and career skill,'” said department chair Marcus Paroske. “That same blend of deep scholarly tradition and a healthy dose of applicable, practical skills is still  a hallmark of the department 30 years later.”

Continued Paroske, “Recent changes like the new M.A in Applied Communication degree and requiring internships for all communication majors builds on that tradition of combining theory and practice, of thinking deeply about human communication and also learning how to use that knowledge in speaking, writing, and group discussion, all in a context where faculty know and care about their students.”

Alumni and guests at UM-Flint Communication's 30th Anniversary gathering

Alumni and guests at UM-Flint Communication’s 30th Anniversary gathering

In addition to celebrating the department itself, the October 6 gathering honored Dr. Charles Apple, associate professor emeritus.

Dr. Apple joined the UM-Flint in 1986, quickly becoming a favorite faculty member and serving as its leader from 1987 to 1998.

1988 alumna Sherry Hayden noted, “I took as many courses from him as possible. His enthusiasm for teaching, for people, and for the art of communication has inspired me throughout my life. He is gifted and has freely shared his gifts with this very fortunate community of learners.”

Her sentiment was echoed by Andrea Chirich, a 1989 alumna of the program. She said, “Dr. Apple was my favorite professor! He brought much real-world practicality to the study of communication. The lesson that stuck with me the most was when he had us set up corporations…That exercise had very practical application for me in my corporate career, helping me understand how the chain of command worked, and how I could help it be more effective.”


Members of UM-Flint Communication gather to celebrate the new department and the program’s 30th anniversary

Read on as Dr. Apple shares his own memories of his career and his time at the University of  Michigan-Flint:

What theories or fundamentals have changed in your field over your career? What has remained the same?
This is a tricky one as the focus of the field has changed tremendously. When I was introduced to communication theory in 1965, the field focused on speech and classical rhetorical theory with a few courses at the upper level on other areas or contexts such as persuasion, organizational communication. The essential focus was on the spoken message with some concern for nonverbal theory. As the field moved into the 1970s things took on a broader application of classical rhetorical theory. Studies emerged on the study of social movements with the inclusion of modern forms of rhetorical theory. The field began to examine many other contexts of communication with a blend of rhetoric and modern social science theory—psychology, sociology, semiotics, etc. All of this was very appealing to me as I have always been more of an eclectic than a specialist. This why many of my courses and lectures have included ideas and theories from history, psychology, philosophy, and semiotics. Today, the study of communication continues to focus on speech and debate. However, it now examines such communication contexts as mass communication, film, small groups, interviewing, organizational communication, advertising, public relations, ethics in communication, rhetorical theory, health care communication, and communication and aging.

What were/are some of your favorite classes to teach? Why were/are they important for students?
I have taught a wide range of courses especially during the first 10 years here due to the lack of full-time faculty. Ethical issues in communication, film genre, social movements, propaganda, interpersonal communication, and conflict management [are some] favorites.

I think that ethics in communication is a critical course for any communication major or minor. The world of communication is rife with cases of shady to overtly unethical behavior. Someone once said that if you do not bring your ethics with you, someone else will give you theirs. I have found this to be true when I worked for a Fortune 100 service corporation and in my study of other contexts. Over the past 29 years of my teaching this course, I have found the majority of my students saying that they have never thought of what to do in most of the cases covered. I try to create a climate in the course where each student can find their own ethical beliefs. I rarely stress my own beliefs except for stressing that I believe in the dialogical approach to communication at all times.

I also believe that a strong course in interpersonal communication can serve to prepare students for their current and future relationships including personal, friends, worker relationships, and even difficult people. I stress the critical importance of how you talk to yourself. Self-talk has been studied in psychology and makes a cornerstone for me in preparing for how we conduct ourselves in relationships. I also stress the centrality of assertiveness. I have built my course on conflict management as a follow-up to interpersonal communication. Conflict is a basic reality of every relationship and the tools and techniques of handling ourselves in conflict are critical to the creation of any successful relationship.

I believe that my classes on social movements, propaganda, and film genre help my students prepare for how to digest those who change or try to change the culture in which we live. I have been lucky to have participated in the Civil Rights Movement and even marched with Dr. King. I also took part in the anti-war movement in the late 60s and early 70s. So I have firsthand experience with this powerful form of social and cultural change. I did my dissertation for my PhD on the conflict in Northern Ireland, including the history of the entire Irish question (or the English question as the Irish preferred to frame it). Propaganda overlaps with social movements both within the pro-change side and anti-change or governmental side. As Jacques Ellul has argued, there are both political propaganda and sociological propaganda. This connects to my approach to film genre. I try to awaken within my students the need to pay attention to the historical context of each film, the cultural values in evidence, the relative power of the narrative structure and effect, and any ties or connections to our cultural mythology. I have them watch films in three genres: mysteries, westerns, and adventure epics. Such films are seen by most audiences and I feel can have a profound impact on society.

What are some highlights of having been a part of the communication program/department at UM-Flint?
I have been able to see over 500 or 600 graduates grow during their coursework and after graduation. Our grads have done very well.  We have a grad in public relations who is presently placed in London. Another is a local TV news anchor. Quite a few work in departments of communication for a wide range of organization sizes.  Some have gone into teaching.  A few are out west in the film industry.

Over the years we have grown from a struggling-for-survival, developing program with a minimal faculty. Today there is a solid tenured faculty with a number of lecturers and part time faculty. We have graduated around 1,000 students. We have also had quite a few students who graduated with honors.

What are your hopes for the future of students in your field?
I hope that the field can maintain a balance between theory and practice. We have always been a mix, blending theory from other fields and applying it to a wide range of areas—speech, debate, sales, small group decision making, organizational effectiveness and interventions, TV and film production and critique, and so on. In my opinion we are a blend of liberal arts in terms of rhetorical criticism and practice along with modern social science theory and application.

For more information on the department, visit or call 810.766.6679.

UM-Flint Communication Students Unite for Charity Blitz

UM-Flint Communication 226 students in Fall 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UM-Flint History Heads for Peaks and Valleys of Germany

Chris Molnar, Associate Professor of UM-Flint History and 2016-17 Wyatt Fellow

UM-Flint History and the Wyatt Exploration Program

Since 2009, the Wyatt Exploration Program has allowed History students in UM-Flint’s College of Arts & Sciences to travel the world with their faculty—at almost no cost to the students themselves.

The program is funded from a generous bequest made by Dr. Dorothea E. Wyatt, the first chair of the Department of History and one of the original sixteen faculty members of the University of Michigan-Flint (or Flint College as it was called in 1956).

Each Wyatt journey is led by a History Department faculty member (known as the Wyatt Fellow) and explores a region and topics related to their field of study. Past trips abroad have been made to Poland, Japan, Wales, and London; others have explored topics closer to home, heading to the “Old South” and even staying in Flint.

Both UM-Flint History majors and minors are  eligible to apply for the Wyatt Exploration Program.

When history major Monica Wiggins transferred to UM-Flint from Mott Community College, she was ecstatic to find out about the Wyatt program and its support for students. She said, “When I found out via email that I had been selected, I screamed, cried, and then said a thank-you prayer to Dorothea Wyatt. Having the trip paid for enables ‘broke college students’ to experience another country and culture that they might otherwise not be able to. It makes you a better informed person. You study these places and events, and then getting to see them first hand and in person is completely different.”

A Life-Changing Journey

The Wyatt Program is officially announced each year at a Kick Off Celebration. This year’s event, held in early September, included talks by the 2015-16 Wyatt Fellow, Professor John Ellis; department chair, Professor Roy Hanashiro; and one of the student travelers from the 2016 trip to London, Melissa Ormechea-Smith.

Dr. Ellis described his trip as a transformational experience, and noted how special it was to see London through the eyes of his students, saying “that is an experience as a teacher that is irreplaceable.”

Melissa Ormechea-Smith - Social Studies TCP and English Literature student - speaking on the UM-Flint History trip to London, England, in 2016.

Melissa Ormechea-Smith – Social Studies TCP and English Literature student – speaking on the UM-Flint History trip to London, England, in 2016.

Melissa Ormechea-Smith, a student of education and english literature, was also changed by her three weeks in London, England. It was her first time abroad and she was grateful for the financial support provided by the Wyatt Program. She noted that, while trips to museums, palaces, and the financial district were memorable, it was the chance to visit the resting place of Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey that will really stay with her. Amidst awe-inspiring architecture and while being humbled by the sheer weight of history, said Smith “I was brought to tears by gratitude for the Wyatt experience. In that huge crowd, I had a profound personal experience.”

Smith is working on her secondary teacher’s certificate program (TCP) in social studies. She knows her experience in London will make her a better teacher and that it’s something she’ll share with her students. “I knew I wouldn’t be the same person coming home,” said Smith, “My perspective and outlook are forever changed.”

The 2016-17 Wyatt Exploration Program—titled “Germany: Land of Peaks and Valleys”—will be led by Dr. Chris Molnar, Assistant Professor of European History. Said Molnar, “It is a great honor to have been chosen by my colleagues as the 2016-2017 Wyatt Fellow. Now I am excited to have a chance to share my interest in German history and culture with the campus community and to take a group of students to Germany and Austria at the end of the year.”

Germany: Land of Peaks and Valleys

“When people hear ‘Germany,’” said Molnar at the Wyatt Kick Off event, “they think of two things: beer and Nazis.” With this in mind, Molnar chose his Wyatt Exploration Journey carefully—intent on showing his students that there are many more sides to Germany. He acknowledged the Third Reich and the Holocaust may be the darkest spots in Germany history, but reminded the audience that they are not the whole history.

Chris Molnar, Associate Professor of UM-Flint History and 2016-17 Wyatt Fellow

Chris Molnar, Assistant Professor of UM-Flint History and 2016-17 Wyatt Fellow

Molnar plans to bring students to Nuremberg, Regensburg, and Munich—focusing on the Bavarian region of Germany and its Alpine mountain range. They will also stop in Salzburg, Austria. Said Molnar, “The mountains have shaped German and especially Austrian culture, and so Wyatt explorers will also have a chance to head up into the mountains to take in the fresh air, breathtaking views, and traditional alpine hospitality.”

Students will see the remains of a Roman fortification, visit the favorite seat of the Holy Roman Empire, cruise the Danube, ride a cable car to the peak of Untersberg mountain, and enjoy traditional fare at a variety of eateries.

Continued Molnar, “Those who take part in this year’s Wyatt trip will develop a much deeper appreciation for the complicated history and culture of a fascinating and beautiful country!”

Wyatt Events for Campus & Community

To be eligible for the Wyatt Exploration trip, History majors and minors attend a series of events in addition to the required coursework. The events consist of guest lectures and fun activities—most open to all campus and community members.

The 2016-17 Wyatt events include:

• Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Lecture: “The Many Faces of Munich: The Bavarian capital in the Turbulent Twentieth Century” with Dr. Derek Hastings, Associate Professor in History at Oakland University.
Time: 4pm
Location: 251 French Hall

• Saturday, October 15, 2016
Oktoberfest Celebration featuring a thirty-piece German brass band, a dance floor, and complementary Bavarian dinner buffet. Registration required.
Location: Flint Elks Lodge, 7177 E. Maple Ave., Grand Blanc, MI.

• Thursday, October 20, 2016
Lecture: “Terrorism and Security: or, How Did We Get Here? The Example of 1970s West Germany” with Dr. Karrin Hanshew, Associate Professor in History at Michigan State University.

• Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Wyatt Movie NightAli: Fear Eats the Soul

• Monday, November 14, 2016
Lecture: “The Modern Invention of the Medieval Executioner” with Dr. Joel Harrington, Professor of History at Vanderbilt University.

• Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Krampus: the South German Christmas Devil. Join us on St. Nick’s Day to hear Professor Molnar describe the murky origins, history, and cultural meaning of Krampus, the south German Christmas devil.

Full event details will be posted on the UM-Flint History website. Questions can also be directed to Chris Molnar at

For more information on the Wyatt Exploration Program, visit or call 810.762.3366.

Applications for the 2016-17 Wyatt Exploration journey to Germany open in November 2016 and close in early January 2017. History students interested in being considered should obtain a passport and further details from the UM-Flint History Department office.

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

UM-Flint Engineering’s Off-Road Racer Visits the “Bricks”

Downtown Flint during Back to the Bricks

Downtown Flint during Back to the Bricks

Each August, Back to the Bricks celebrates Flint’s legacy as part of the automotive industry and brings nearly half a million visitors to the downtown area. On the Friday of this famous weekend UM-Flint hosts Go Blue on the Bricks, its annual alumni gathering. This year visitors to both events can get up close and personal with UM-Flint engineering‘s most recent student project: an off-road racer created for a Baja SAE competition.

The racer’s presence will give those gathered a chance to see the level of work being done by current students—more notable, perhaps, as it was completed in their free time outside of class.

The vehicle is student-designed and built. They cut, shaped, and welded steel and aluminum into automotive parts, developed an electrical system, and repurposed brakes from mopeds in the university machine shop. It is a great example of UM-Flint engineering’s dedication to hands-on learning, but it was also fun for the students—especially driving it in competition. Said junior Hassan Freeman, “It was awesome. When you drive this car, nothing exists except you and the track, and maybe the guy you are passing.”

UM-Flint engineering students and faculty with their off-road racer

UM-Flint engineering students and faculty with their off-road racer

On Saturday, August 20, the racer and members of UM-Flint engineering will join other area educators at the Hot Rod High (HRH) display during Back to the Bricks. Noted HRH co-founder Robert Ayre, “This year’s exhibit will feature all of our local colleges, and some of our best high schoolers in the city. We try to give our area youth an opportunity to explore the mechanical side of the automobile. We are encouraging their active participation in our auto-related careers, education, and hobbies.”

The Hot Rod High display will be located on the south side of the flat lot along 1st street.

John O’Brien, UM-Flint engineering technician, hopes that over the two days he and his students will be able to meet individuals interested in pursuing a degree in engineering and community members who want to be involved with the UM-Flint engineering program. Said O’Brien, “The Baja Racer and projects like this show the outside world that we have an engineering program. . . This is a win for the university and a win for the students as well.”

For more information on UM-Flint Engineering, call 810.762.3131 or visit

Alumni Spotlight: Todd Butler, PhD

Todd M. Butler, PhD – Honors Physics, 2010

Todd Butler, Physics Alum

What are you doing now?
Following my tenure at UM-flint, I completed my M.S. and PhD degrees in metallurgical engineering at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. I am currently employed by UES, Inc. and work at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as an on-site contractor in the materials and manufacturing directorate. My current duties include assisting in the analytical characterization of several metal-based AFRL research projects.  This includes the ability to alter the direction of certain aspects of each project. I am actively participating in research related to direct air force related applications. My current goal is to continue to develop into a tenured scientist and remain actively present in the scientific community by disseminating results through conferences and peer-reviewed manuscripts. I’ve also had an interest to potentially return to academia in the future.

How did your University of Michigan-Flint education prepare you for what you are doing now or the career you’ve had?
I owe much of my success today to experiences encountered at UM-Flint, and in particular the honors program. Classes at UM-Flint taught me how to actively think and understand scientific principles. They also provided me with a fundamental understanding of math and science that I found rivaled many other institutions. I was also active in undergraduate research, which taught me how to figure things out (problem solve) and how to properly approach challenges in life. My entire career at UM-Flint more than adequately prepared me for further graduate studies.

Do you have any reflections on your choice of Physics as a major? What do you love about this field?
I am very happy that I chose to learn physics for an undergraduate degree. It was challenging and rewarding at the same time. Interestingly enough, I did not pursue physics for a graduate degree and studied metallurgical and materials engineering instead. However, my time as a physics major provided me with a toolbox of skills for any scientific problem or challenge. The whole idea around physics is to understand the main concepts and be able to apply them to non-ideal problems. This ultimately made my transition to a materials scientist relatively easy. I found that it gave me an edge over other engineering majors and allowed me to think about problems and challenges in a different way.  It also made my graduate classes much easier in comparison to some of the challenging undergraduate physics courses.

Who made the biggest impact on your UM-Flint career?
I would say that two individuals stand out with regards to my experience at UM-Flint. They include both Mojtaba Vaziri, who was my mentor and research advisor, and Maureen Thum, who was my mentor in the honors program. Dr. Vaziri provided a continuous supply of encouragement in both classwork and also scientific research. Through him, I participated in several research conferences as an undergraduate, where I was able to disseminate my own results. I highly value my experience with Dr. Vaziri because he helped shape me into the scientist I am today. In addition, Dr. Thum was definitely the most memorable individual at UM-Flint. She always exhibited a high level of enthusiasm and it was clear that she cared for you. I owe my writing ability to her, since she molded me into a great writer. This has helped me in an immeasurable way as an engineer and scientist who often writes proposals, reports, and peer-reviewed manuscripts.

Describe a firsthand example of an impactful learning experience at UM-Flint.
The most impactful learning experience I can remember is my off-campus study for my senior year in the honors program. We were required to conduct a research project off-site and develop an introductory proposal, conduct the research off-site, and ultimately provide a scientific thesis at the end. I chose to participate in an REU physics program in Alabama, where I worked on a materials science related project with CVD diamond films. This experience opened my eyes to the field of materials science and metallurgy.  Ironically, I ended up at the University of Alabama Tuscaloosa for my graduate degrees in metallurgical engineering. I honestly believe that without such an experience at UM-Flint, I would not be where I am today.

Working with a transmission electron microscope (TEM) during graduate school.

Todd Butler working with a transmission electron microscope (TEM) during graduate school.

What does UM-Flint do better than any other university?
UM-Flint provides a personal sense of encouragement and knowledge that other larger institutions don’t necessarily exhibit. I enjoyed the smaller classes and personal lifelong relationships that I was able to develop with key faculty in my major. I think that these attributes ultimately fostered a higher level of learning and thought. I am quite happy with my choice of UM-Flint for my undergraduate career because I was truly prepared for future endeavors.

What advice would you give to an incoming UM-Flint freshman?
I would tell UM-Flint freshman that they chose the right institution. I would also recommend that they learn as much as possible, since the opportunity is there. It is essential to take advantage of the unique opportunities that UM-Flint delivers, both academically and socially. Specific to science majors, I would also recommend talking with faculty and mentors early on and try to actively pursue research all throughout their tenure at UM-Flint. Lastly, I would tell them to take all of the classes they can, since they will be taught by highly experienced faculty that love to teach. One doesn’t truly realize the opportunity for learning until you graduate and look back at all of the topics and courses that you wish you would have pursued as a student.

What advice do you have for graduating seniors entering the job field?
I would advise graduating seniors to hold their heads high and be confident with the degree that you earned at UM-Flint. As a graduate student, I rivaled the skills of many other students that attended top ten big name schools. In my professional career at the Air Force Research Laboratory, I [work] actively with world experts and have the ability to speak at a high level with them. Don’t be afraid to pursue your dream job or dream school, as I know if you worked hard at UM-Flint you will be ready for anything that comes your way!

What are your hopes for the UM-Flint of the future?
I hope that UM-Flint continues a high level of academic preparation for students that I encountered in my experience. I would like to see the institution grow and develop a reputation similar to the Ann Arbor campus.

For more information on the programs that prepared Todd for his successful career as a scientist, visit our Physics and Honors Program websites. To register for an upcoming semester, visit