Jeffery M. Coller, Ph.D.: Class of 1994

JDr. Jeffery Coller is currently an Assistant Professor in the Center for RNA Molecular Biology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He received his Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2000 and was a Post-doctoral Fellow in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Arizona-Tucson from 2000-2005. “The Honors Program at UM-Flint was a quintessential experience in my life both personally and professionally,” Dr. Coller asserts. “Personally, I met many brilliant people, some of whom I’m still friends with to this day. In fact, my best friend at that time is still my best friend today and we keep in touch constantly. The Program helped me meet people that inspired me to reach my career goals. It was like a geeky support group.”

His interest in RNA took root from his off-campus study project, which he conducted on group I introns in Dr. Britt-Marie Sjöberg’s lab at Stockholm University in Sweden. He believes that his experience overseas was professionally critical. “It opened my eyes to a big world of culture and opportunity. In fact, I can honestly say to this day that I would simply not be in the position I am in without the overseas experience.”

Dr. Coller is a principal investigator of a federally funded research lab comprised of 10 people, undergraduate and graduate students and research technicians alike. His work focuses on understanding fundamental aspects of cellular function, specifically the decay of messenger RNA.

In the future, he plans to continue to develop his lab’s research program and do the science that he loves. His advice to current and future Honors students: “Take advantage of your opportunity in this program. Dare to take a risk and do something you never thought you could do. It is a rare and golden opportunity to test your abilities. Also, make friends. The people you are surrounded by will one day be the leaders of our society. You can learn much from each other.”


Little Shop of Horrors

“The most important thing I learned during my off-campus trip is how significant the very act of going on an off-campus trip is.” Kelly’s topic for her Off-campus Project was “Designer Research Methods and Outside Influences, and Specific Scenic Design Research for Little Shop of Horrors, at the University of Michigan –Flint, Fall 2013”

Kelly Skyline

Kelly Burge, Theatre Major

Kelly and Assistant Professor Shelby Newport traveled to Chicago to see three plays, visit the Chicago Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. The objective was to gather research for the fall 2013 University of Michigan-Flint Theatre production of Little Shop of Horrors. Kelly has been given the honor of designing the set as part of her Honors Thesis. “Student design opportunities are very serious in our department, and must be earned, so being given this opportunity is tremendous for me, and was sparked and made possible by my need for a thesis project in the Honors Program.”

“We chose Chicago, because I had never been there, and it was a great place to see a lot of art and theatre all in the same place. It also allowed for primary research of physical elements that could be included in my set design.” Kelly was able to see the contrast between an elaborate set with many expensive mechanical elements, and a simple set with limited props, and few design elements. She learned the importance of paying attention to every detail in order to get her point across to her audience.

“We also took the time to explore the neighborhoods of Chicago as an opportunity for first hand research. I took a lot of pictures of store front windows, signs, awnings, and of the decay of buildings, and other textural elements that I might include in my project.” Included in their trip were an architectural boat tour on the Chicago River and a tour of the midcentury masterpiece Farnsworth House in Plano, IL that directly linked Kelly’s off campus research to her in class work in one of Professor Newport’s courses, Modernism (THE 241).

Not only was Kelly able to gather artistic data for her project, but she was able to meet with professionals in her field. Professor Newport introduced her to friends and colleagues from the various theatres, and Kelly was able to talk with them, ask questions, and learn about their work and life. “It made me think differently about what I will do when I graduate next year.”

Spending time with Professor Newport was invaluable as well. “Everything I did on this trip, I did with her, and so was able to ask every question I could think of, and get her professional opinion/insight on everything we saw. Not to mention, when we were in the car together, I was able to talk through my project with her, from my ideas to my struggles, and she helped me come up with a lot of new ideas, and get through some mental obstacles I was having in this, the earliest stage of my project development.”

Professor Newport added, “My time with Kelly in Chicago was shelbykellyboat tourequally as enlightening and exciting for me as a professional designer; teaching a student to open their eyes to the world around them, and then to use all that visual stimulus for design inspiration is what I strive to do, so to watch it all come together for Kelly was really rewarding.  I also took tons of research photos and gained new ideas from the productions we saw; as designers we are always learning and always looking!”

Regarding her off-campus experience, Kelly stated, “I am so grateful for this opportunity and for the support of the Honors Program and the Department of Theatre and dance for making it possible.” See Kelly’s off-campus research at work on the stage of the University Theatre November 1-3, 9, 15, 17.


Paula Nas, J.D., Lecturer IV, Economics

Paula Nas

Paula has been involved with the Honors Program long before she began teaching part time at UM-Flint in 1992. She was an Honors student herself in the early years of the program beginning in 1983. Her cohort was only 18 students, in contrast to the over 70 students in today’s freshmen cohort. Paula began teaching full time at UM-Flint in 1995. She received her B.A. from UM-Flint, her M.A. from Michigan State University, and her J.D. from Wayne State University.

When looking back at her personal experience, Paula said, “The Honors Program gave me my first opportunity to travel abroad, to appreciate other cultures, and to see the world. It gave me a well-rounded education.” Writing her Honors thesis helped teach her research methods. “It’s what made me want to go to grad school.” Paula went to Brussels and Germany for her Off-campus study project where she studied the migration of labor in European countries.

As an Honors Alum, it was a natural progression for Paula to start working with Honors students as an Honors Representative/Mentor, and as an Honors Council member. Her work with Honors students involves reading Economics student theses, advising students on their Off-campus study proposals, as well as some cross-disciplinary advising when students need economics data for papers, theses, or reports.

Where she enjoys working with Honors students the most is at World Fest. Paula is the Director for the Department of Economics’ Center for Economic Education, which hosts the annual event where upwards of 400 4th and 5th grade students come together to research topics such as economics, geography, culture, and political systems that they relate to a nation they choose. Paula recruits Honors students to supervise groups of children at the event. The Honors Students are able to bank needed service time, and Paula gets reliable ambassadors for the university to help her with the event. It’s a win-win.

Paula said, “The Honors students have always been a tight group who keep in touch even years after graduating from UM-Flint.”  She still keeps in touch with a few of her Honors cohort. She looks forward to continuing her work with the Honors Program.


Elizabeth A. Jordan, Ph.D.

Elizabeth JordanClass of 1993: BA, Elementary Education
Independent Early Childhood Consultant and Lecturer 1
University of Michigan-Flint & Mott Community College, Flint, MI

Dr. Jordan said, “I feel that being in the University of Michigan-Flint Honors Program exposed me to wonderful professors who helped me to expand my thinking and my goals. The program also exposed me to research and world-renowned researchers.” She is currently an Early Childhood Consultant and a Lecturer 1, teaching EDE & ECE classes at the University of Michigan-Flint. She also teaches ECE class for Mott Community College. Dr. Jordan consults for Great Start Readiness Programs in Michigan and for the National Association for the Education of Young Children in the Midwestern states. She attended Michigan State University where she obtained a Masters Degree in Child Development and Ph. D. in Family and Child Ecology. In the future, she intends to continue working with programs to help them raise the level of quality offered by assessment, coaching the staff, and providing professional development as needed. She would also like to extend her work internationally. Dr. Jordan’s advice to future Honors students: “I found the program demanding and hard work, but if you immerse yourself in the tasks it is an unparalleled learning experience that gives a great foundation for the future. A side benefit to the whole experience is that I was able to share what I learned with my children as they navigated the college path.”


Rachel Lewis

Rachael LewisClass of 1994: BS, Computer Science
Senior Software Engineer
Par-Tech, Inc., Lake Orion, MI

Rachel said, “The Honors Program provided an advantage over other graduates. While colleges were pumping out programmers back then, it was unusual to have a graduate with the background that the Honors Program offered. The experience of writing a thesis and doing the off-campus research made my resume stand out among the rest. It allowed me to research and learn the latest technology that was not yet offered in the Computer Science curriculum.” Rachel currently lives in Grand Blanc, Michigan with her husband and two children. She works for a small automotive service engineering company in Lake Orion as a senior software engineer. The company develops hardware and software used to diagnose and reprogram modules on vehicles (cars, trucks, semi trucks, motorcycles, etc.). She was the engineering manager for a time, but decided she would rather “do than manage those who do.” “We get to do some pretty neat things for the automotive industry, like work with Harley-Davidson motorcycles.” Rachel’s has work has allowed her to travel all over the US (Pennsylvania, Missouri, California, Nevada, etc.) and internationally (Germany, Japan, etc.). Rachel was hoping to retire by age 35, but didn’t make it. She would be happy to stay with her current company until retirement, as she watches her children grow. Rachel’s advice for future Honors students: “Do your work with integrity, don’t cheat. You won’t get away with it… at least not long term. Be a good person, even when people aren’t watching. Don’t go into a company and act like you know everything, because you don’t. There will always be people who know more than you do. In the software development field, we want to know that you are trainable. Each company does things a little differently and it’s your job to learn the established processes and products at your company and do the job for which you were hired. When you have some experience at that company, look for ways to improve current processes. We’re not just looking for good programmers. We look for someone who has experience with design, writing proposals and design documents and validation. We also look for someone with good communication skills (oral and written), someone we can put in front of a customer that exhibits professionalism, someone who is a team player with a small ego, and someone who works with honesty and integrity. Consider the feelings of others before you open your mouth. Be careful what you put on social networking sites because potential employers may be looking too.”