Celebrating the Class of 2020: Makenzie Schroeder

Makenzie Schroeder is interested in people; how they communicate and interact with the world around them. She wanted to explore those concepts in college while making responsible choices for her financial future.

The University of Michigan-Flint allowed Mackenzie to do both of those things—and then the opportunities kept coming.

The Communication Studies and Political Science double major is the editor-in-chief of The Michigan Times, UM-Flint’s campus newspaper. She is the co-captain of the UM-Flint Debate Team and has traveled around the country for debate competitions. She is the co-president of Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honors society. She earned the Maize and Blue award, UM-Flint’s highest academic honor. And after graduation, she will be completing her master’s in communication at the University of Missouri.

Makenzie was able to take advantage of these experiences while remaining debt-free, an achievement she credits in large part to the scholarship opportunities at UM-Flint.

“Sometimes when you apply for scholarships, you never think you’re actually going to get them because you’re going against myriad other students. However, at UM-Flint they give out a ton,” Makenzie says. “It doesn’t feel like it’s out of reach. It’s actually something that students can get and benefit from.”

Makenzie also participated in research with Political Science professors Kim Saks-McManaway and Kevin Lorentz. Here she is pictured presenting their findings at the Michigan Political Science Association Annual Meeting in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Makenzie often learned about resources from her professors, and those connections with faculty would also help her take the next step after graduation. Michelle Silva, a lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies, would meet Makenzie for lunch in order to discuss the graduate school application process.

“I’m a first-generation college student and my first year I didn’t know how to fill out the FAFSA, let alone a graduate application,” Makenzie says. “Sometimes as a first-gen student, it’s easy to feel the imposter syndrome. All of my professors have been there for me and reminded me that ‘no, you are worthy, you can do this.’”

Encouragement and support allowed Makenzie to take on numerous leadership roles within student organizations. With a career goal of becoming a college professor, Makenzie valued how she could help students become better writers and journalists as editor-in-chief of The Michigan Times. She also served as a political science tutor with Pi Sigma Alpha. As co-captain of the debate team, Makenzie engaged in British Parliamentary-style debate competitions around the country. She sees debate as something that brings together every aspect of her educational experience, explaining that “it makes you think deeply about a lot of serious issues that often get ignored in society.”

Once Makenzie completes her master’s in communication, she plans to continue on to a PhD program, researching underserved groups and how they interact with the media. We know you’ll do great things, Makenzie!

Celebrating the Class of 2020: Carly Wykes

Studying Biology with a pre-Physical Therapy concentration worked out well for Carly Wykes. She’s been accepted to the top PT program in the state: UM-Flint’s own Doctor of Physical Therapy.

UM-Flint offered Carly big opportunities to help her succeed in graduate school applications. The summer before her senior year, Carly conducted 8 weeks of research in a zoology lab at the University of Wuppertal in Germany. Working alongside faculty and graduate students, Carly studied the effect of photosynthetic algae in the gene expression of marine slugs (how else would you spend 8 weeks in Europe?). She didn’t spend all of her time in the lab, though—Carly’s favorite weekend trip was to Budapest.

“That experience definitely helped me get out of my comfort zone. I wouldn’t consider myself an adventurous person,” Carly says. “But there were two other girls from UM-Flint working in the same lab as me. Still, it was a big cultural education in eight weeks. I loved the public transportation in Germany…it was so easy and you don’t have to deal with traffic.”

Carly Wykes during her off-campus research experience in Germany.

Back on campus, Carly’s favorite class was BIO 433: Premedical Gross Anatomy. As someone headed for physical therapy school, human anatomy is a natural interest for Carly. The second half of the course provided another unique experience for the Biology major: hands-on dissection in the cadaver lab.

While dissecting cadavers may not appeal to the less-medically minded among us, Carly explains that working in the cadaver lab is a unique experience for UM-Flint students interested in the health professions.

“A lot of physical therapy schools I toured had cadaver labs for their students, but the students didn’t do the dissections themselves, they just watched. And I had that opportunity as an undergraduate at UM-Flint, a smaller school,” Carly says.

Studying at a smaller institution like UM-Flint (which has a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio) meant that Carly was able to form personal connections while gaining new experiences. She valued her time as a chemistry tutor, a position that allowed Carly to work on her communication skills while meeting new students. Most importantly, Carly appreciates how her professors were accessible and approachable.

“I probably had one class in which the professor didn’t know me by name. They were always encouraging us to come to their office hours. I’ve had professors offer to write me letters of recommendation—I didn’t even have to ask them,” Carly explains. “The fact that they know you well enough to do that is really great.”

In addition to being accepted to UM-Flint’s DPT program, Carly earned the Maize & Blue Award, UM-Flint’s highest academic honor. She begins PT school in August. Congratulations, Carly!

How two of my classes have changed during remote instruction

April Bartle talked with two of her instructors about completing the Winter 2020 semester in an online format.

Everyone at UM-Flint has experienced a lot of changes over the past month. That includes my instructors, who have worked hard to help us continue learning despite us being away from campus. I recently had some (virtual) conversations with two of those instructors to see what the experience has been like for them.

Intro to Cultural Anthropology: Dr. Daniel Birchok

My Intro to Cultural Anthropology course was very discussion-based. A typical class session consisted of a short lecture, and then a lot of open dialogue to dive deeper into the topics. I really appreciated how we could offer our own interpretations of the material or ask questions to better understand a concept.

Dr. Daniel Birchok’s teaching style is very expressive—he walks across the room and tries to engage with every student. “I really like to read the room. I like to see, ‘Oh, they look confused here or this person asked this question, so I should talk about that,’” Dr. Birchok explained to me.

He shared how it has been a challenge to transfer that energy to online instruction. Live sessions would have been best to accommodate his teaching style, but he wanted to make sure learning could still be accessible in all of our difficult schedules right now.

“I felt like it wasn’t really fair to expect students to just continue on as if nothing had happened and to show up at a certain time for every class. I decided that I’m going to pre-record everything possible and then open up the window for discussion and ask students to attend those as they can.”

Fun fact: Dr. Birchok conducts much of his research in Indonesia and has led several trips there for students!

Intro to Public Speaking: Kimberly Laux

If you can’t tell already, I’m a bit of a talker, so I was super excited for my Intro to Public Speaking class this semester. So far in this class, we had given ceremonial speeches, written our own speeches, and even narrated children’s books. You can imagine how the class dynamic changed when our class transitioned online.

Before the switch, we recorded practice speeches using a program called Kaltura to prepare us for the actual presentation. Our remaining speeches are now recorded and turned in online to a discussion forum where our classmates can view and provide feedback. 

One of our final projects was scheduled to be a group presentation. My instructor, Kimberly Laux, felt like it was best to be flexible and change that to an individual assignment.

“I didn’t know how many students would have access to collaborative technology – I didn’t even know how long we would be teaching online at that point,” Kimberly says. “I didn’t think it would be fair to expect you to not only complete your work as individuals, but then also figure out how to make it work amongst each other.”

Fun fact: In addition to being an instructor, Kimberly is also the academic advisor for all Communication Studies students, including me!

While this unexpected change to online courses hasn’t been easy, I’ve appreciated how my professors have continued to expect great things from us while making learning accessible in this unpredictable time.

April Bartle is a sophomore Communications Studies major in the College of Arts & Sciences at UM-Flint.

Five CAS Students Share Their Remote Study Strategies

College of Arts & Sciences sophomore April Bartle (and some friends) share some tips for successful studying during remote instruction. 

This is a confusing and stressful time, and adapting to all of the changes can be difficult. Students have had to make lots of changes to their academic life quickly in the Winter ‘20 semester. While some have taken online classes in the past, this is a whole new way of learning for others. Here are some strategies students in the College of Art and Sciences at UM-Flint are using to making this transition a little easier. 

Kassia McEntire

Wildlife Biology major Kassia McEntire stays busy with a physically active routine. She gets up around the same time every morning, starting off her day with a workout to feel energized. After that, she showers and spends time on her classes. Keeping a similar routine each day helps Kassia stay focused.

“Having a set schedule keeps me on track.”  It motivates her to log onto her classes every day and meet deadlines.

More on Wildlife Biology: Students, faculty study the ecology of the Flint River.

Kayla Neal

Kayla is a very determined and focused Political Science major. To ensure she can concentrate solely on her classes, Kayla likes to work in a secluded area. Minimizing the distractions around helps her to really engage with the material without classmates and professors to brainstorm in real-time.

She has plans to further her education in law school after graduating from UM-Flint.

More on Political Science: 2019 Political Science graduates are “Leaders & Besties”

Genevieve Heydt

Even beyond Michigan’s borders (she is back home in Illinois), students like Actuarial Mathematics major Genevieve have figured out systems to be efficient in their classes. Since assignments and due dates have changed after transitioning to remote instruction, she has started a weekly calendar on her dry erase board. This way, she can keep track of her lectures and make changes to deadlines when needed.

“It has all my class times that still meet at designated times and I can add in and remove due dates.” 

More on Mathematics: New programs in data science & analytics at UM-Flint

Immanuel Wright 

Anthropology major Immanuel, known by his friends as Manny, cannot stress enough how important list-making has been for him. He will often check the syllabi for his classes and compose a list of what needs to be done. He then reviews his list and prioritizes which assignments are either due the soonest or what important projects he should get started on. Going through his list every day has assisted him greatly with new online formats. 

More on Anthropology: UM-Flint Anthropology student attends archaeology field school in Ireland.

April Bartle

Last but not least, it’s me. If you haven’t already, my biggest tip to get through online classes would be to keep a planner. My planner has become my second brain. I write in when assignments are due, what I should do for the day, etc. I think it’s best to get organized on Monday and fill out your planner for the week ahead so you don’t miss out on lectures or quizzes. I’m going for my bachelor’s in Communication Studies along with a minor in Spanish

More on Communication Studies: UM-Flint professor discusses research on the impact of media on children.

A CAS Student’s Perspective: Two Weeks Into Remote Instruction

CAS sophomore April Bartle shares her thoughts on the first two weeks of remote instruction at UM-Flint

I was living at the First Street Residence Hall Dorms when it was announced that UM-Flint was transitioning to remote coursework. That night, many students decided to pack up and leave. I took the weekend to figure out what my plan of action would be. I’m thankful that I moved out the following Monday because an email from Housing announced that, for our safety, we should move out by March 22, with requests available for extended housing. It was hard to say goodbye, but I knew it was best for me to move back home for the remainder of the semester.

The sudden move was a mix of sad and stressful. A good friend of mine Fernando, who also lived in the dorms, has been struggling with the transition, “So moving back home saddened me more than I thought. Mostly from the sudden goodbyes of all the friends in school … I’ve enjoyed being with my family so far but I feel a building stress because I’m not really doing anything anymore.”

That was my dorm!

From Faces to Screens

As my first two weeks have passed, my professors have found many different strategies to accommodate their students. Zoom and Bluejeans are a couple of live formats being utilized in classes. Bluejeans has options to allow audio, video, or both to be a part of the discussions. I really like the feature that puts whoever is speaking on the main screen so that everyone’s attention is focused on what they’re saying. My friend Robert (a Political Science sophomore) also had a positive experience.

“I think that with the transition to online classes, Bluejeans is a good choice to have a schedule along with the most possible amount of professor-to-student interaction.” 

Some professors find it more beneficial to provide lectures for students to watch on their own time. If you have a class in this format, you might find this strategy to be helpful: I’ve assigned each class to a different day. For example, On Wednesday I have a quiz due for a class, so on Tuesday, I’m just going to focus on that subject. The next day I’ll take the quiz first thing, and then proceed to do a different class for the rest of the day.

Comforts of Home

Since moving out of the dorms, I’ve unpacked and reorganized all my belongings. Settling back into living with my parents is going to be challenging no doubt, but it feels good to be home.

If you haven’t already, I suggest finding a specific spot in which to do your class work. I strongly advise you to not do online classes sitting or lying in your bed. It’ll be harder to fall asleep at night in the same spot you’ve been for most of your day. Find a spot in the house with the most privacy to be able to focus the best. My spot is in the office in my basement, accompanied by my furry study buddy.

April Bartle is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences at UM-Flint. She is majoring in Communication Studies and minoring in Spanish.  

UM-Flint Psychology students present research at American Psychology-Law Society

The police lineup is a familiar scene to anyone who has watched a detective drama or true crime documentary. A group of suspects are brought into a room with a one-way mirror and the eyewitness picks out the perpetrator. Open-and-shut case, right?

Research suggests otherwise. A study conducted by a team from the UM-Flint Department of Psychology, led by Assistant Professor Peter Molinaro and including undergraduates Sabrina Dougherty and Dahlia Kassel, supports a growing area of study – one that shows that eyewitness testimony is often unreliable.

An Appearance Change Instruction (ACI) is a seemingly innocuous and straightforward statement given by law enforcement before suspects are brought in. “The individual may not appear as they did initially because features such as head and facial hair are subject to change.” While this instruction is meant to increase the number of accurate identifications, the UM-Flint research backs up previous work that states the opposite:  ACI is not a productive instruction because it increases false identification rates.

Sabrina Dougherty (left) and Dahlia Kassel (right) presented their research at the American Psychology-Law Society in New Orleans.

Dougherty and Kassel, both in their final semester as UM-Flint psychology undergraduates, joined Molinaro’s lab as Research Assistants close to a year ago. Their work on this research culminated when they presented at the American Psychology-Law Society (APLS) on March 5-7 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“It was a monumental experience—to go to a national platform and present research with a team that has worked together for so long,” Dougherty explains. “And we were also able to connect with other people in the field—professors, directors, graduate students who can share their own experiences. It’s something that I am so proud to have done in my undergraduate years.”

Dahlia (left) and Sabrina (right) first met working as Research Assistants in Dr. Molinaro’s research laboratory. They have become close friends now – flying to New Orleans was the first time either of them have been on a plane!

With graduation just months away, Dougherty and Kassel are now looking toward the next steps in their academic and professional careers. Dougherty is debating between graduate school and non-profit work, while Kassel is already applying for PhD programs in clinical psychology. She believes experiences like working on research and presenting at APLS will set her apart from other applicants.

“It’s so competitive to get into a PhD program and I think presenting at such a prominent national conference gives us both a competitive edge,” Kassel says. “I think it’s great that UM-Flint gave us an opportunity to be part of a research lab and that was already a big advantage, but attending this conference and being able to network was even more impactful.”

Dougherty and Kassel were awarded the Fran Frazier Travel Scholarship in addition to funds directly from the Department of Psychology to help them attend the conference. It’s just another example of the full support that motivated students at UM-Flint can receive.

“I have no idea how I would have made it to New Orleans if it weren’t for the scholarships I received—I am so thankful. We might not have had this opportunity at a larger college or one that doesn’t have the culture that the University of Michigan-Flint does,” Dougherty says.

If you’re interested in having experiences like Kassel and Dougherty, start your application or request more information.

CAS students are doing amazing things in these student organizations

How do you get the most out of your college experience? There are the basics, like making sure you’re attending class, and you can go the extra mile by visiting your professors during their office hours. But to make close connections with other students, and have experiences that are meaningful now and for your future career, you should join a student club!

The benefits of joining (or starting!) a student organization are numerous. Making friends, developing soft skills such as leadership, networking and resume-building are just a few examples of what to expect. The Office of Student Involvement & Leadership at UM-Flint has a listing of existing student clubs, and resources for students to start their own organization.

Here are five student groups (among many!) in which students in the College of Arts & Sciences are doing amazing things.

Moot Court

Students interested in law and politics can join UM-Flint’s Moot Court team, which competed for this first time this year. Team members compete in regional and national competitions, presenting legal arguments on hypothetical legal cases.

You can read about the experience two recent grads had with the Moot Court team here.

SAE Baja

Students in the SAE Baja Club build an off-road vehicle and test their design skills against hundreds of students from across the country. With contests like hill climbs and time trials, it’s an exciting way for students interested in Engineering to compete.

Read about the SAE Baja Club’s most recent competition in Rochester, New York.

Chemistry Club

If you have an interest in Chemistry and are looking to be part of a winning tradition, look no further than the Chemistry Club at UM-Flint. The Club is designated year-after-year as “Outstanding” by the American Chemical Society and recently won a Green Chemistry Award for their advocacy of sustainable practices.

Oh, and they teamed up with other clubs across the state to create the world’s largest periodic table.

M-Times & Qua

Do you enjoy journalism or creative writing? If so, these campus publications are for you.

The Michigan Times is UM-Flint’s newspaper and digital news outlet. The student team recently started a podcast, called The M-Times Insider.

Qua is the literary and fine arts magazine for campus. Published twice a year, Qua features poetry, short stories, creative non-fiction, and visual art.

Pre-Professional Clubs (Pre-Med, Pre-PT, and more!)

If you’re looking for a professional career in the healthcare field, you can find volunteer experiences and find study buddies with a club devoted to your chosen career path.

UM-Flint students have started Pre-Medical, Pre-Dental, Pre-Physical Therapy, Pre-Physician Assistant, and Pre-Veterinary clubs. Find the support you need to succeed in your preparation for professional schools.

CAS students are involved in nearly every student organization across campus, so be sure to check out all the clubs on offer. And if you have questions about what you can expect as a student in the College of Arts & Sciences, feel free to reach out to Communications Specialist Logan McGrady at lmcgrady@umich.edu.

UM-Flint Design students created a pop-up t-shirt print shop with help from donors

As part of ART 379: Community Design Studio, UM-Flint Art & Design students created a pop-up t-shirt printing storefront on Flint’s MLK Avenue. Named “The Change Machine,” the pop-up shop is just one example of the real-world experiences students in the College of Arts & Sciences can have thanks to donor support.

“The Community Design Studio is a place where students can work on real-life projects with clients,” explains Associate Professor Benjamin Gaydos. Gaydos. “This isn’t a simulation; this is a working design studio.”

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

Video: Creating a T-Shirt

The opportunity to apply her learning is one that junior Art & Design major Stephanie Streeter appreciates.

“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,” Streeter says.

 To help students like Stephanie take their learning outside of the classroom, consider giving to the CAS Opportunity Fund during Giving Blueday on Dec. 3.

Alumna Kelly Coon publishes debut novel, returns to Flint Dec. 4.

Alumna Kelly Coon, ’00, returns to Flint on Dec. 4 to talk about writing and her debut novel, Gravemaidens.

The University of Michigan-Flint wasn’t the first school that author Kelly Coon (BA English ’00) considered. Kelly was expelled from her first college, a very conservative religious institution in South Carolina. She looks back on that expulsion with pride. High tuition costs at another private college prompted the Flint-area native to enroll closer to home at UM-Flint. Third time’s a charm and Kelly graduated with her bachelor’s in English (Specialization in Writing) in 2000.    

“My professors at UM-Flint really believed in me. Dr. Jacob Blumner took me aside and said, ‘I bet you’ll be published before you’re 30,’” Kelly remembers. “I held him in high esteem and kept that memory when I was getting nowhere with my first novels, not being able to get a literary agent.”

The words of her professor proved to be an important motivation for Kelly, as she experienced 106 rejections over ten years while working to get a novel published. She accomplished her goal in October 2019, as Gravemaidens was published by Delacorte Press/Penguin Random House. A sequel is forthcoming.

Kelly wrote several novels before getting a deal for Gravemaidens and its sequel.

Gravemaidens is a young adult fantasy novel set in the city-state of Alu, where beautiful young girls are chosen to go with the dying ruler into the afterlife. The story focuses on sisters Kammani and Nanaea; younger sister Nanaea is chosen to die with the ruler, while Kammani will do everything she can to save her sister by healing the ruler. It’s a tale that draws heavily on themes of sisterhood and feminism—an intentional choice by Kelly, who was raised in a heavily patriarchal environment.

“The church I was raised in was almost cultish. Whatever the pastor said was law and women were meant to stay home and raise children,” Kelly explains. “For me, feminism just means a woman being free to pursue whatever she feels inclined to pursue, whether that is staying home with her children or going out to find a career. It’s important that I reflect that in my stories—girls pursuing their dreams and attaining them.”

On Dec. 4, Kelly will return to UM-Flint for a talk and Q & A from 2:30-3:45 in 301 French Hall. Though the talk takes place during an Intro to Creative Writing class session, all students are welcome. Later that day, Kelly will conduct a reading and signing at Totem Books (620 W Court St.) from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. Kelly, who now lives near Tampa with her husband and three sons, has not been to campus since graduating in 2000.

“I grew up absolutely dirt poor in Burton, Michigan. My mom didn’t graduate from high school. I was the first person in my family to go to college. I’m excited to look at these students and say, ‘If I can do it, you can do it.’ This is thrilling for me.”

Research and Advocacy: M.A. in English Student Bianca Ramirez

Bianca Ramirez presented research at the Michigan TESOL Conference Nov. 1-2.

Tutor. Translator. Advocate. Those are a lot of hats for anyone to wear, particularly when it’s all part of your job description. Such is this case for Bianca Ramirez, an English Language Learner (ELL) Facilitator for Genesee Intermediate School District and student in the M.A. in English program at UM-Flint.

In her role as an ELL Facilitator, Bianca attends classes with students whose English skills range from none at all to being nearly fluent. She translates what the teacher is saying, helps them with assignments, and ensures they have access to the resources they need to succeed. In the course of her work, Bianca noticed that some teachers were uncomfortable when interacting with students who had differing English abilities – if they interacted with them at all.

“With one of my mentors, Melojeane Zawilinski, we came up with the term ‘ghost racism,'” Bianca explains. “You can’t understand, you can’t hear, you can’t teach. Some teachers don’t want these kids in the classroom, and they try to push them out. It happens – it happened to me as a kid – so that’s what led me to my research.”

Bianca with faculty mentor Melojeane Zawilinski

Bianca’s research took the form of interviewing teachers. Some had English language learner students in their classrooms, some never had. When synthesizing her interview results with existing literature, Bianca was able to make several recommendations:

  • Pre-service (student) teachers need to learn from a more culturally responsive curriculum.
  • Current teachers need more direct exposure to the ELL community.
  • ELL professional development should be mandatory.

Bianca presented her year-long study at the Michigan TESOL Conference, held Nov. 1-2 at Grand Valley State University. She explains that presenting her research to educators was important for her.

“I want to put theory into practice. Let’s just start something, I want something to be done. And everyone there felt the same way, they wanted to learn from me and what I found so they can act on it because they have been through similar situations,” Bianca says.

In addition to her position as an ELL facilitator, Bianca also teaches at Delta College and Saginaw Valley while completing her master’s coursework. It’s a lot to take on, and Bianca credits her UM-Flint professors with helping her make it possible.

“I don’t think I could have done it anywhere else, to be honest. I’ve gotten a lot of attention here from my mentors and I think you wouldn’t be able to get that in a lot of places.”

Interested in learning more about the M.A. in English Language & Literature at UM-Flint? The program director, Dr. Fred Svoboda, can be reached at fsvoboda@umich.edu. The application is also available online.