Connecting with literature, Flint, and ourselves

During a nine mile pilgrimage around the city on December 5, UM-Flint students reclaimed public space while considering important questions about the city’s – and our own – history and future.

The event was the culmination of the First-Year Experience course Finding Your Way: The Literature and Practice of Walking, taught by Associate Professor of English Mary Jo Kietzman. She developed the course to provide a unique way for students to dive deeper into literature, explore the community in which they study, and take time for self-reflection. Throughout the semester, students “tried on” the ideas of different authors while walking. Just as Thoreau found inspiration from literature while living and working at his cabin, so too would UM-Flint students build their own literary ideals while in motion.

Timothy Jeffery (Human Biology major) poses next to an art piece while on his pilgrimage through Flint.

Once that analytical and self-reflective groundwork had been laid, it was time to take those skills into the Flint community. While exploring the city, students would think deeply about the history of the city in which they study. “How would the university experience change if students began by seeing themselves as pilgrims?” Kietzman explains, “searching for what is sacred to each of them…Wouldn’t their learning mean more?”

The highlighted destination of this year’s pilgrimage was the Buick City brownfield, which was once a huge complex of factories employing upwards of 28,000 people. Students in the course suggested that the route take them around the perimeter of the brownfield, and that they walk that portion in silence. One student was overwhelmed with emotion seeing the brownfield, thinking about her grandparents and great-grand parents who worked in the auto factories.

Despite looking bleak, new life is emerging in Buick City. The Lear Corporation and American Spiralweld Pipes have opened plants in the former automotive manufacturing hub.

The midpoint of the pilgrimage was St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Flint’s East side. There, students reflected by “Mary, Mother of Flint” – a black madonna painted in response to the water crisis. The class was also greeted by Father Tom Firestone, affectionately known as “the Pope of Flint.” Firestone described the simple importance of being present in the city, stating that “we aren’t leaving.”

Mary, Mother of Flint at Flint’s St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

For Guido Marasco, an undecided major, the pilgrimage was an opportunity to find familiarity in the unknown.

“Through our class lectures and our walks together, I’ve realized that Flint isn’t as unknown of a place as I thought it would be. I chose UM-Flint because I wanted to be close to home, and what’s funny is that I never had to leave it to begin with … I was always here, it just took some getting used to.”

Students created painted rocks with inspirational messages to leave along the course of their journey. This rock was painted by Melissa Crown.

Kietzman says that her students felt like walking together made a huge difference to their sense of place and their feelings of connections to the city and to one another. One student explains, “I had one other face to face class, and I knew who the other students were, but I didn’t know them like I know the students in this class. In this class, I know the stories of my peers and my teacher.”

In reflecting on his experience after the pilgrimage, Marasco concludes powerfully that, even in different surroundings with different people, things aren’t so different after all – and comfort can be found in the simplest of places.

“When we walked, I looked around a lot, and found that the city is flooded with things I feel most comfortable around: colors, expressions, nature, symbols of perseverance. All of these things hold a special place in my heart, and through mapping Flint I was able to re-discover and re-experience some of the initial emotions I had when I realized what made me comfortable.”

How the CAS Opportunity Fund helps students

Would you like to help a UM-Flint Anthropology student attend archaeology field school? What about assisting a Physics major with a research project? Or maybe you would like to help a student attend a language immersion program to help them gain skills in conversational Spanish?

You can make a difference in a student’s education by contributing to the CAS Opportunity Fund. Small gifts to the Opportunity Fund empower students in the College of Arts & Sciences to take part in transformational projects as part of their studies. These unique experiences make an immeasurable impact for students as they prepare for the next steps after graduation. The CAS Opportunity Fund helps students gain research experience, network in their industry, build new skills, and much more.

Read on to see four examples of the CAS Opportunity Fund in Action.

Studying the Flint River

Led by Associate Professor Heather Dawson, a team of undergraduate students is studying the biology of the Flint River. With the removal of the Hamilton Dam, students and faculty have teamed up to study how the Flint River ecosystem is changing. CAS Opportunity Fund dollars were used to purchase a sonar device to track how the morphology of the river is impacted by the dam removal.

“I am getting the experience I need for graduate school. I’m also learning from Dr. Dawson how to approach my goals for that next step [in my career],” Daniel Victor, (Wildlife Biology ’20) says. “It’s about learning as much as you can from an experienced and capable mentor, plus I get to work outside and fish. What’s better than that?”

Archaeological Dig in Cape Cod

For students like Genevieve Rainey (’21), studying Anthropology creates many possibilities for a future career. The hard part is finding the right specialization in such a broad field.

Genevieve received assistance from the CAS Opportunity Fund to attend archaeological field school in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. She worked to excavate the Doane Family Homestead, a family of original settlers who separated from Plymouth Colony in 1644.

“Taking part in an archaeological field school was a great experience; it helped me to decide the particular field of archaeology I want to pursue, gave me hands-on training, and allowed me to meet some amazing new friends,” Rainey says.

Pop-up T-Shirt Shop in Flint

Art & Design students get ample opportunities to turn theory into practice with the community mindset embraced by the program. One recent example is “The Change Machine,” a pop-up t-shirt shop that was on display during a spring celebration on Flint’s Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

To help bring their talents to the community, students were awarded a CAS Opportunity Fund grant, which provided funds for supplies like blank t-shirts, silk screens for printing, and vinyl for signage.

“It is easy in design classes to make things that don’t actually impact anyone and just get a grade. This class is great because you get to see the results of your work in the community,” Stephanie Streeter (Art & Design ’20) says.

Internship with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival

Quill Neuville, (Theatre Design and Technology ’18), spent a summer as an assistant in the costume shop of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. While there, Neuville was part of a team that completed costumes for five shows in just nine weeks. It was an intense experience that took all of Neuville’s creative stamina – invaluable preparation for a career in professional theatre.

“I feel very grateful that I was afforded such an opportunity. It makes me want to work even harder to live up to the incredible gift I was given, in order to show that the faith put in me by my professors and CAS was not misplaced,” Neuville says.

The CAS Opportunity Fund helped defray travel costs for Neuville, just as it has helped dozens of other students across the College take ownership of their education and achieve things they didn’t previously believe possible. To help create more stories like those shared above, give to the CAS Opportunity Fund at:!/give/basket/fund/362928.

UM-Flint students experience voting for the first time

For many students studying at UM-Flint and the College of Arts & Sciences, the 2020 Presidential Election was their first opportunity to cast a ballot for their elected representatives. Here are just a few of their experiences.

Jeremiah Johnson, Sophomore

“My mom and I woke up early to vote on election day. We voted at the Secretary of State by my high school and I had to wait in a super long line for about an hour. I gave them my ID and after that they gave me a ballot … I was there for a while, but it felt good.”

Jeremiah decided to vote in-person this election year. He woke up early in hopes of being among the first voters in his area. Despite his efforts, voter turnout was record-breaking this year and he had to wait in order for his voice to be heard. Walking out of the Secretary of State, he felt that the opportunity to cast his vote for our elected leaders was worth the wait.

Lauren Mott, Freshman

“I chose to vote in person for this election. My polling place is the local library and I thankfully didn’t have to wait in any lines! I talked to several people in neighboring townships who had to wait outside for over half an hour before they could fill out their ballot. It felt really empowering to be able to vote in my first presidential election, especially one that has had so much importance placed on it. It was great to finally have a say in what goes on in both our state and our country.”

November 3 was an exciting day for Lauren, a first time voter! Lauren felt a sense of empowerment as she cast her ballot for the first time. This election was an amazing opportunity for young adults to showcase their civic engagement and take part in history. The importance of this election motivated her to get out and vote for the values and solutions she supports.

April Bartle, Sophomore

“When I walked into the station, I actually hadn’t registered yet. Thankfully a family friend of ours was there that day volunteering and she helped me fill out the paperwork so I could get the chance and vote for the first time!”

On the day the polls opened, April went to cast her vote with an in-person ballot. Going to the local polling station, she saw a lot of familiar faces volunteering as poll workers and other community members taking part in the election. This was her first experience voting so she didn’t quite know what to expect. After casting her vote and walking out of the polls, April felt something she didn’t quite expect; a true sense of belonging. She felt pride in being part of something bigger than herself and contributing to her community.

Learn more about the College of Arts & Sciences at

Kobe Champion in front of a Flint Mural

“The Rise and Fall of Flint” mini-documentary by Kobe Champion

UM-Flint CAS students are studying in many more settings than socially-distanced classrooms or in front of computer screens at home. In the course “Finding Your Way: the Literature and Practice of Walking,” students explore their community first-hand.

One student, undecided major Kobe Champion, used this course as an opportunity to document the changing realities of the community over time. In “The Fall and Rise of Flint,” Kobe shows how the declining auto industry impacted the demographics of what was once Michigan’s second-largest city.

He goes on to showcase the numerous ways Flint has battled back against this decline, highlighting museums and educational centers, public parks, and other community investment projects.

Kobe makes particular note of the murals created as part of the Flint Public Art Murals Project.

“Flint has many different artists, from all over the world, coming here to paint … People like to show off their feelings, their emotions, their pasts and futures, through different pieces of art like this,” Kobe says. “That’s one thing that makes Flint very special, in my heart and so many other people’s hearts.”

Fernando next to a UM-Flint sign

Meet Fernando – CAS Student Ambassador

Hey there! My name is Fernando. My pronouns are he/his/him and I’m super excited to be the newest CAS Student Ambassador!

I’m a second-year student here at UM-Flint who’s trying his best to enjoy this v strange year for all of us here on campus. I’m excited for you to get to know me a bit more with Q&A!

Where are you from?
Though I technically live in Dimondale (15 minutes away from Lansing), I like to say my hometown is Charlotte, where I went to highschool. GO ORIOLES!

What are your majors and how did you decide on them?
I am currently double majoring in Political Science and Communications. How I chose these subjects is closely tied with my personal growth.

During my junior year of high school, I took a class that changed my whole trajectory in life. A government course with a fantastic teacher sparked my love (and sometimes hate) of politics that made it clear I’d major in Political Science!

My interest in Communications Studies started during my first year in Flint after training as Hall Council President. Here I am now, trying my hardest to graduate on time as a double major!

What has been your favorite class so far?
My favorite course so far has definitely been POL 261: Intro to Political Theory with Professor Kosnoski. If you have the chance to take the class definitely take it!

What made you choose UM-Flint?
I always knew that I wanted to “Go Blue.” I initially applied for Ann Arbor and got waitlisted, however, fate seemed to intervene, and soon afterward I got a letter in the mail about visiting the Flint campus. I took a chance and I quickly fell in love with UM-Flint, though I still wanted to enroll in Ann Arbor.

After my first year here I was admitted to Ann Arbor, but at that crossroad, I decided that Flint was the place I wanted to be. Sorry Flint, you’re stuck with me!

How else are you involved on campus?
Currently, I am proud to say that I am a Director in Student Government, Co-President of Pi Sigma Alpha, Vice-President of Model United Nations, and a part of Kappa Sigma Fraternity. You could say I’m a little busy.

What do you look forward to most about being a CAS Student Ambassador?

Sharing the best parts of the campus that I love so much! I want to spread student views on our campus as well as growing our community together.

a bookshelf with the title "What Literature Lends"

What Literature Lends: An essay by English major Joshua Schantz

Within the sphere of education, literature finds itself in an awkward place. It is true that even among college English departments, the vast majority of students will not seek higher education for the purpose of becoming a university professor. Rather, most will pursue a career in primary or secondary education as teachers or combine it with another major to enter the business world. That being the case, the question may be posed: exactly what is the value of a literature department except for those who aspire to becoming professors of literature? From my own experience, there is much that I could say in favor of literature in general, and enough to where I believe it ought to be dignified with its own autonomous department in public universities.

A picture of Josh Schantz

For myself, literature was not something I took pleasure in until senior year in high school. In my perception of the subject, reading classics or even contemporary works (fictional or otherwise) was a wasted exercise. In my mind, I would have said that whatever could have been digested through reading could just as easily be introduced through superior media like film or television. And in what does literature consist if not in writing?It was while reading the prologue to Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales in groups in my honors Brit Lit class that the first sparks of passion for literature lighted in me. I became particularly enamored with the heroic couplets with which much of the poem was written, and shortly thereafter I asked for the complete work as a gift for Christmas, received it and ended up reading the whole thing within a month. From that point forward, I was hooked for good. I went back instantly to read Shakespeare’s Macbeth which my Brit Lit class had read and discussed some four months before. At that time, however, I scarcely read the text in depth. I would finish the required readings just minutes before class started and merely try to sound like I knew what I was talking about. It worked for the moment, but I regret that I had not been engaged to the material sooner.

From there I proceeded to read more Shakespeare, starting with Othello, and going to read several other plays in turn. I read some of the great Italian classics: Dante’s The Divine Comedy and much of Boccaccio’s The Decameron. I found myself particularly attracted to Renaissance poetryand theatre, much of which also contained vast amounts of verse dialogue. It is particularly in my appreciation of the classics that I learned reasons for why literature as a whole, with its diverse cultural influences, periods, and perspectives, deserves to be revered in academia, and in public, as well as private, life.

It would be a tremendous injury to literature to think that its stomping grounds ought to be primarily private. On the contrary, literature is, by nature, public. Yet, literature is not merely the creative exposition of philosophical inquiry or communication via fictional narrative. That is to say, it is not merely a vehicle for public debate about contemporary issues, but also about what it means to be a human being. As Neil Gaiman once said, “Without our stories, we are incomplete.” Literature therefore invites us, not only to share our views, but also to see people in new ways. Part of the way it is achieved is to see the diverse characters poets, novelists and even biographers have sketched throughout the history of our species.

There are more than merely experiential merits to literary study, of course. From my own experience reading Shakespeare alone, a rich store of rhetorical power may be distilled by the student who is willing to dissect the speeches delivered by his many characters on any number of issues ranging from political tension to relationship troubles. And even on the topic of personal relationships, literature has the potential to lend emotional intelligence. The personal drama of characters towards each other may be fictional, but how they interact may serve as a model to be followed or avoided. It is, therefore, in experience, expression and emotion that literature thrives.

As a student I find myself indebted to what I have read for much of my outlook on life and human interactions. This has not been achieved to nearly the same effect by reading philosophy or textbooks on politics and sociology in my own experience while attending university. Sufficed to say, literary study has the undeniable potential to build bridges between people in a society, and the more diverse the stories from which we completion through the same, the greater the breadth of understanding from one person to another may become. Furthermore, we can gain priceless lessons on finding ways to express our thoughts and feelings with precision and clarity, as well as becoming more aware of the endless potential interactions we may face and how we might engage in them.

Learn more about the UM-Flint Department of English:

April Bartle and her friends in the crowd at Michigan Stadium

My first experience inside the Big House

You can feel the energy surge through you from your first step inside the stadium. You’re one of 100,000 people in the crowd, together in a sea of Maize and Blue. It instantly feels like home stepping into The Big House.

Since it was announced today that the Big Ten would move forward with an eight game season (without fans in the stadium) I thought it would be fun to remember my first time attending a game at Michigan Stadium.

Like any gameday, the excitement starts well before kickoff. A friend and I were staying in a friend’s dorm at UM-Ann Arbor. We got up, got ready, and headed for the door full of anticipation. 

The cool, crisp air made for perfect football weather as we made the trek across campus. More and more people filled the streets until all you could see was a steady current of football fans. The warm smells of pizza and salty pretzels along with the shouts of prices swarmed in the mix of the parade. 

All that anticipation before the game was nothing compared to that first glance into the Big House. It’s appropriately named; I couldn’t take it all in with one look. I scanned the stadium in awe and suddenly felt like one tiny grain of sand on a beach. As the game started, I learned the chants of the student section and yelled at the top of my lungs. I felt so proud to be a Wolverine. The electricity around me was contagious; it didn’t feel like the game would ever end.

Sadly though, all good things must come to an end. We won the game, as expected, and I left with a new sense of pride in my university. I’m so excited for the day when more Wolverines can feel that excitement inside the Big House!

Myesha Cannon in the library

Career Advisor Myesha Cannon Joins the CAS Advising Staff

Students in the College of Arts & Sciences graduate with skills that are highly attractive to employers, regardless of major. Studying in the arts & sciences provides key preparation in problem solving, communication, collaboration, intercultural fluency and more–all skills that lead to success in a fast-paced and increasingly global workplace. Despite gaining these sought-after skills, students in the liberal arts can sometimes find it challenging to connect their educational experiences with what employers are looking for. After working with UM-Flint Career Services since 2016, Myesha Cannon joined the CAS advising team to help students make those connections, and much more. 

“It’s very exciting to be focused exclusively on the College of Arts & Sciences. It was a privilege to serve the entire university community, but being a resource specifically for CAS brings some exciting opportunities,” Cannon says. “I can be more in-depth and create meaningful partnerships with academic departments and advisors.” 

That collaboration between academic advisors, faculty, and Cannon will create a seamless approach to career readiness for CAS students. Academic advisors will be better equipped to tailor a student’s degree plan to best fit their future career, and faculty will gain additional tools to incorporate career planning in their curriculum and class discussions. 

“We want to make sure all of these different areas–academic advisors, faculty, and myself–have a shared vocabulary so students receive consistent messages no matter who they are talking to. We will make a much bigger impact for students when we are all working together,” Cannon says. 

Just weeks into her new position, Cannon has already developed priorities for the coming year. At the top of the list is ensuring students create their Handshake profile. In this online platform, students can register for career events, search and apply for internships and job postings, and network with fellow students and alumni. Cannon, along with academic advisor Megan Presland, is also leading the 2020-21 CAS Fridays for Success event series; these monthly sessions bring faculty, academic advisors, and career advisors together for discussions on how best to prepare students for professional life after UM-Flint. 

According to College of Arts & Sciences Dean Susan Gano-Phillips, career advisors like Cannon play an invaluable role in ensuring CAS students get the most out of their degree. 

“Our goal is to provide students with an education that will serve them in every facet of their lives; we must prepare students to find a rewarding career after graduation and develop adaptability for our constantly changing circumstances. Attending college is a significant investment, and we have a responsibility to give our students the tools to see a return on that investment. Through strategic initiatives and individual career counseling sessions, Myesha will be a difference-maker, helping CAS students to identify and reach their professional goals.”   

What to expect from Music and Theatre & Dance in their fall seasons

Most classes are remote this semester, but performers in the College of Arts & Sciences are still preparing to entertain audiences while keeping themselves and fans safe.

Read on to learn what’s in store from the Department of Music and the Department of Theatre & Dance.

Music Performances

Look forward to a virtual release of MusiCollage in October. Featuring the University of Michigan-Flint Chorale, Chamber Singers, Jazz Ensemble, Orchestra, Wind Symphony, student soloists, and student chamber ensembles, this fast-paced event will offer both live and recorded performances.

As the semester continues, be sure to check for additional video releases by the Chamber Singers, Chorale, Jazz Ensemble, Orchestra, Wind Symphony, and student chamber ensembles.

Be sure to visit the Department of Music website and the University of Michigan-Flint YouTube channel to enjoy a wide variety of music and our students’ artistry this fall.

Theatre & Dance

Look forward to video productions of scenes from work by African American and female artists, directed by Arts Administration graduate student Kelli Crump. These pieces, each of which will last 20 minutes, will be released in October through December. Release dates:

  • October 23
  • November 6
  • December 4
  • December 18

The Fall Dance Concert will also be delivered in a virtual format. Consisting mainly of solo pieces and duets, you will see student capstone performances and work completed by choreography students. Release date: November 20.

Visit the Department of Theatre & Dance to see performances as they are released.

Meet Jeyoung (Jenny) Oh, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies

The College of Arts & Sciences community grows with the addition of Jeyoung (Jenny) Oh to the faculty of the Department of Communication Studies!

According to department chair Sarah Rosaen, “Not only is Jenny a phenomenal instructor, but she brings expertise in how new technologies like social media impact message strategies and effectiveness in the advertising and public relations industries.”

Read on to learn more about Jenny in this Q&A.

Classes I teach:

Public Relations, Advanced Public Relations, Advertising, and Advanced Advertising

Recent Publications:

Britt, B. C., Britt, R. K., Hayes, J. L., & Oh, J. (2020). Continuing a community of practice beyond the death of its domain: Examining the Tales of Link subreddit. Behaviour & Information Technology.

Oh, J., & Ki, E.-J. (2019). Factors affecting social presence and word-of-mouth in corporate social responsibility communication: Tone of voice, message framing, and online medium type. Public Relations Review, 45(2), 319-331.

Research or Specific Areas of Interest:

Public relations and advertising, new media and emerging technologies, public engagement, and message strategies.


Ph.D. in Mass Communication, University of Alabama (expected)

How I fell in love with my field:

As I grew up, I saw how the rise of social media changed the way people communicate. To better understand the impact that social media and new technologies have on organization-public relationships, I decided to study public relations. The fact that public relations and advertising can make a positive social impact by engaging the public in pro-social campaigns and other initiatives fascinated me.

What I hope for my time at UM-Flint:

UM-Flint provides its students and faculty with great resources, and Flint offers unique opportunities for community engagement due to its revitalization of the downtown area. As a professional communication scholar, I hope to work with organizations based in Flint (especially nonprofit organizations with limited resources) to help them find ways to improve their online presence. It would also be gratifying to have my students participate in these experiences, allowing them to apply their knowledge and make a positive impact on the community.

What I hope for students in my field:

I want my students to become highly competent and to apply the knowledge they learn in class. With my help, they will develop the skills they need to make a positive impact locally and globally. I also want them to be passionate and to believe in themselves. Another one of my goals is to work with students who are interested in learning more about how to communicate with the public effectively.

Three things you should know about me:

  • I like to cook and experiment with new recipes.
  • I have a pet hamster called Ham-Z.
  • I enjoy participating in volunteer work and community activities.