Six Win Maize and Blue

Six Honors Students won the Maize and Blue Distinguished Scholar Award this Spring, which is the highest academic award available to graduating seniors. Imad Aljabban will receive a B.S. in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology; Simran Bhatti will receive a B.S. in Biology; Amanda Kaspar will receive a B.S. in Elementary Education; Emily Krueger will receive a B.S. in Health Sciences; Erika Trigg will receive a B.A. in Communication; and Heather Workman will receive a B.F.A. in Studio Art along with a B.A. History.

Within the next five years, Imad hopes to begin medical school following the completion of a master’s degree in Immunology at Harvard Medical School while Erika intends to complete a master’s degree in Student Affairs Administration at Michigan State with the possibility of pursuing a Ph.D. Erika also plans to get married next summer.

Both Imad and Erika have enjoyed the opportunities that the Honors Program have made available to them. Being encouraged to research topics outside of his discipline has helped Imad gain insight and respect into fields unrelated to his own and has taught him to appreciate the value of diversity. Erika believes she benefitted the most from the off-campus study and thesis requirements as they allowed her to thoroughly explore the topic of new student programs and learn about the role that support networks play in first-year student retention and success. This knowledge has been used to enhance the development of UM-Flint’s new two-day, overnight orientation program.

Congratulations to our May 2014 Maize and Blue winners and good luck with all of your future endeavors!


Chris Houston, Ph.D.: Class of 1994

Chris Houston with his family.

Chris Houston with his family.

Dr. Chris Houston is currently a Senior Principal Scientist for Bausch + Lomb who specializes in problem solving, particularly involving trace analysis and identification of unknown chemical entities. He received his Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry with a minor in Biochemistry from Indiana University-Bloomington. “One of the greatest things about the Honors Program, for me, was the peer group,” said Dr. Houston. “Starting college as a shy teenager, I immediately met and became close with a variety of bright, interesting people that really enriched my college experience.”

Dr. Houston entered the Honors Program as a Freshman in the 1989 cohort alongside his future wife, Kristy. He is fond of his cohort and the interesting discussions and debates they had during class. He believes that he “could not have asked for a better support system through the trials of college.” To this day, he remains in close contact with several members of that cohort.

He is also grateful to the Honors Program for helping him to develop his writing. Though he does a lot of technical report writing as part of his job, the enjoyment he received from writing in Honors courses has led to a hobby of blogging about his experiences as a private pilot.

In the future, Dr. Houston intends to continue to hone his skills and become the scientific equivalent of a master craftsman. His advice to current and future Honors students: “I have done a lot of interviewing of scientist job candidates over the years. The resumes that drift toward the top of the pile are those that describe a unique or differentiating experience from all the others. The Honors Program, with its amazing off-campus study opportunity tailored directly to you as an individual, is an amazing way to differentiate yourself from your peers. Take full advantage of it!”


Dr. Amy Gresock, Assistant Professor of Management

Dr. Amy GresockDr. Gresock received her B.S. and M.S. degrees from the Pennsylvania State University and her Ph.D. in Business Administration with concentrations in Strategy and Entrepreneurship and a minor in Research Methods from the University of Central Florida. She has also earned a graduate certificate in Teaching with Technology. Currently, she is Assistant Professor of Management in the School of Management. She has been involved with the Honors Program for two years and is a member of the Honors Council.

Dr. Gresock has taught business courses at the university level for 10 years, the last four being here at UM-Flint. She typically teaches capstone courses (Strategic Management) and Introduction to Entrepreneurship both at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

When asked what she enjoys the most about working with Honors students, she said, “Our Honors students love learning! They have a desire to go above and beyond because of the passion they have for their subject areas. It’s very exciting to work with students who have the level of dedication and creativity that they do! They exceed expectations, and I learn so much from them!” These interactions are what encouraged her to run for Honors Council. “I’ve met some incredible students who have tremendous potential. Working with them beyond the classroom… and having the chance to contribute to make the Honors Program even more beneficial to the students, was something that I was extremely interested in.”

She brings previous professional experience as a Strategic Consultant, a Business Plan editor, and an entrepreneur to her students. She guides them by monitoring their progress and by offering advice and insight on business and research issues. Her own research, which is conducted on resource accumulation processes prior to firm launch, has been presented at conferences such as the Babson Entrepreneurship Conference and published in outlets such as the Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development.

Dr. Gresock looks forward to continuing her work with the Honors Program and working closely with Honors students. She had this to add: “Many students in our program truly enjoy it, and they can see the value added. I’ve had students mention that the program has been of particular benefit when applying to graduate programs. Graduate schools appreciate that extra effort put in to be part of the program. Also, I have witnessed lasting friendships evolve between students and research collaborations with faculty. Yes, the program is extra work, but students find that it is ‘worth it’, and I definitely agree!”


Honors Student Presents at the 2014 APS March Meeting

Ayana Ghosh in ColoradoAs a physics student, Ayana dreamed of presenting her research at the American Physical Society March Meeting, which she learned about from her professors. Each year, it brings together nearly 10,000 physicists and students from industry, universities, and major labs throughout the world.

During her off-campus study at New Mexico State University in 2013, Ayana worked on two experimental condensed matter projects under the supervision of Dr. Stefan Zollner. Although her main task was to determine different optical properties of Germanium (Ge) grown on Silicon (Si), she was also able to build a theoretical model to support her experimental data. Similar work was completed for a Nickel Oxide (NiO) sample in order to explore the band structure of this material. She later obtained approval from Dr. Zollner to submit the abstracts of her work to the 2014 APS March Meeting. They were accepted, and she traveled to Denver with the help of the Honors Program; the Department of Computer Science, Engineering, and Physics; and the Fran Frazier Student Travel Scholarship.

Ayana gave two oral presentations at the APS March Meeting, which was held at the Colorado Convention Center from March 3rd to March 7th. The first, titled “Strain measurements of Ge epilayers on Si by Spectroscopic Ellipsometry”, introduces a theoretical model used to explain the different optical properties of the semiconductor Germanium, which is widely used in electronics such as cell phones. The second presentation, “Dielectric function of NiO and Si from 25 meV to 6 eV: What’s the difference?”, discusses how full-zoned band structure can be used to explain the small absorption peaks detected by a second derivative analysis of the NiO spectrum conducted by spectroscopic ellipsometry.

For Ayana, this experience was one of the best so far from both an academic perspective and a career perspective. She thoroughly enjoyed her time in the picturesque Rocky Mountains and looks forward to presenting her research at another APS conference in the future.


International Business and East Asian Culture – Fatima Qureshi, Honors Business Major, Japan and Taiwan

Fatima QureshiOur first day was packed with tours and site-seeing. We received a rundown of the entire Taiwan experience as well as pointers and tips. We took a tour of the National Palace Museum and also went to the Taipei 101 Observatory. Both places were absolutely stunning and the information we received was fantastic. In Taipei, we were using public transportation or our feet. Even after going to only two or three places we were exhausted. In the days that followed, we attended several lectures on the Taiwanese economy and the booming business sector in Taiwan at the National Taipei Public University. We also visited the Tarako Gorge and the Tarako National Park in eastern Taiwan. At the park, I and three other participants climbed a hundred stairs to get to a temple in the mountains. It was breathtaking. On the last day of our trip, we went to visit the Bunun Tribe and the Kuanfu sugar plant. The day we headed back to Taipei, we were exhausted from three days of nonstop adventures.

Being a business student, I observed the marketing strategies all around me. The advertising was nothing like I had seen before. What I noticed was the use of bright colors in most of the advertisements, the cartoon-like mascots for practically everything (especially electronics), and their emphasis on the youth as spokespeople for some items. Because Taiwan is a leader in technology innovation and production, I saw a large variety of computers, cell phones, PDAs, etc. One unique aspect was the amount of customization available.Fatima Jumping

The next day, we were off to the airport to fly to Osaka, Japan. Here, we were staying in Hikone where the Japanese Center for Michigan Universities (JCMU) is located. We attended a Survival Japanese class where each one of us was called on to answer a Japanese question in Japanese; the experience was full of laughs and embarrassment. The next day, we went on a day trip to Kyoto. We visited Nijojo and the United Nations World Heritage Site and we went to Kinkakuji. That night, we went to Gion Corner where we saw geishas and I was part of a tea ceremony, which was very cool. We were also part of the JCMU 20th Anniversary celebration where we met a lot of students and were exposed to many different cultural things. We also took a day trip to Nagoya where we took a tour of a Toyota plant. On our last day, we visited Hikone castle and attended a lecture on Japanese culture and history.

I am amazed at the experiences I had, the people I met, and the things I took back. Truly a lifetime experience.


Mass Transportation and the New “Informal” Regional Government – Adam Zettel, Honors Public Administration and Political Science Major, Scotland

Adam Zettel, EgyptI was fortunate to locate and liaise with members from the University of Glasgow’s Urban Studies Department. My primary contact and later advisor, Dr. Iain Docherty, aided me with developing my proposal. Dr. Docherty’s dissertation was an analysis of the regional governing deficiencies of the fragmentized southern cities in the UK with a comparison to the regional council of Glasgow. This would later be a great help concerning my project. With the counsel of Dr. Docherty and another contact from the University of Aberdeen, Dr. Jon Shaw, I was able to develop a project which would coincide with Dr. Shaw’s. This project was to be an analysis of the effectiveness of European transportation sustainability movement on UK cities. My function was to be primarily that of a research assistant.

During the first week, I became familiar with the city of Glasgow, shopped for necessary supplies, settled in at my flat, spent some time in the library, and consulted with my advisor. It was at this time that I realized that the project that I set up with Dr. Shaw would not be feasible because of new circumstances affecting Dr. Shaw’s responsibilities. I had to develop a project that was not dependent on anybody else’s work, and I had to do it fast. Dr. Docherty and I were then able to set up a completely new project that would be my own. Dr. Docherty’s advice and assistance were still a great help as well as the services of the department even though my project became an independent one.

I spent the next couple weeks completing a new bibliography and theoretical framework. Most of the books were recommended and even loaned to me from my advisor. These works and lunches with Dr. Iain helped give me the insight and knowledge that I would need later to complete the interviews successfully. The project was now to take place solely in Glasgow, studying the effects of the new, “informal” regional government using the sustainable transport issues as a guide to assessing the government structure and governance of those involved.

After a month or so of preparing and reading, I sent formal letters requesting interviews with public officials at the direction of my advisor. I had a good response rate due to the relationship these people had with my advisor. I performed the interviews over the next four weeks and transcribe them into electronic text. These interviews were very productive and contributed greatly to my project.

Cairo was a completely different experience with its own acquaintances and experiences. This I did with my own resources as a side trip that I had always wanted to take. The climate change was very extreme, going from sixty degrees Fahrenheit for a high in Glasgow to over one-hundred in Egypt, was quite extreme. I was able to take in many of the typical tourist attractions including the pyramids and the Egyptian museum. I was also lucky to meet a family from Giza that invited me to stay with them to see life in the countryside and even an Egyptian wedding. I was glad that I took the time to experience such a trip because it was unlike any other European destination that I have encountered.

I had a most excellent and academically beneficial time. I feel that I was able to find a good balance between enjoying the different opportunities offered by studying away from home; such as meeting new people, and developing and executing a successful undergraduate thesis project. I cannot think of a better way to spend three months. I was given the chance to perform research with the guidance of experienced and brilliant minds as well as see part of the world culture and the people that compose a large international community. This experience has undoubtedly changed the way I view life, people, and even my academic studies in planning, pubic administration, and politics. I am very grateful that the Honors Program at the University of Michigan-Flint has given me the opportunity to broaden my horizons and prove myself academically for the betterment of myself and the public which I will one day serve.


History and Medieval Studies – Desirée Sharland, Honors History and Spanish Major, Great Britain

Desiree Sharland, StonehengeI was thrilled when I received my acceptance letter for the International Summer Schools Programme at Cambridge University. I could not have been more excited when I decided to research an aspect of the King Arthur legacy as I have always loved reading about him. One of the classes in the Medieval Studies Programme was on King Arthur and I was extremely interested in finding out what the British thought about him.

While studying at Cambridge University, I spent much of my free time collecting material that I could use for my research, either from books I found in the Summer School’s library, or directly from the professors of my classes. In addition to the information I learned in my King Arthur class, I also learned interesting facts that I did not know, such as the presence of a round table at Windsor Castle at one time. I learned this in a plenary lecture titled “Searching for King Arthur from Windsor to Tintagel” by Julian Munby.Desiree Sharland, Norwich England Cathedral

Studying in and traveling around the British Isles for two months was a fantastic experience for me. I not only learned a great deal from the classes I took, but I was also able to gather a lot of necessary information for my thesis. I discovered that King Arthur is an integral part of British culture. His legacy would have crossed my path many times, even if I had not been searching for it. This opportunity has without a doubt changed my life. While traveling around and in Cambridge, I met many people from all over the world. I learned a great deal about other cultures, and in the process I made some very close friends. This experience also gave me the ability to learn more about myself; I became more independent and extroverted, and I discovered a couple of careers that I am highly interested in. I also experienced the British school system and now I would love to pursue graduate school in the UK. I hope that I will someday be able to return to Britain.


Internet Marketing in the United States in Comparison with China – Danielle Linker, Honors Business Major

Danielle Linker, Great Wall Before my trip to China, I had little idea of what my experiences would hold. I set off with an open mind and a mission to compare marketing strategies used in China, particularly the internet, to those of the United States. To accomplish my goal, I began by asking a Chinese marketing teacher about his idea of internet marketing in China in comparison to the US. He felt that China has a long way to go to compare to the quality of the United States, but they are on their way. I feel they make up for their marketing in different ways. From catchy commercials and alluring advertisements, China still has a strong marketing field. During my studies, I saw many of the typical Billboards and posters in subways and bus stops. Marketing is still highly prevalent in China, but I feel their stronger powers are still in ways different than the internet.

Overall, the attitude in the workplaces in China was very positive. Workers seemed happy and thankful for their jobs. The work ethics exhibited were very good. I did not see anyone standing around waiting for things to do. People at work seemed to have well-defined tasks. I respect that the workers seemed to have a mind-set that working is a fact of life, and they were simply doing what they need to do, and happy to be doing it. I was also very impressed with how our group was welcomed into the businesses that we visited. Everywhere we went, we were greeted with warm smiles. I never felt that we were a nuisance or intruding on their workday. Instead, I felt as though it was a highlight in their day to be able to host us.

I was expecting a language barrier to pose a problem in my travels since I do not speak Chinese. The language could pose a problem at times, especially when communicating with taxi drivers, but overall, it wasn’t too bad. People were very helpful in communicating. It was very refreshing that the people were not impatient or annoyed with me for not speaking their language. I never felt unsafe in Danielle Linkerany of the places I visited, and if we ever got turned around and didn’t know how to navigate the area, it was easy to find people who were willing to help.

Something that is undeniably prevalent in China is their strong culture. It is obvious that Chinese culture plays a role in everything they do. I find it admirable that important cultural aspects are still being passed down from generation to generation. I could tell just from observing that there is a very collective culture. From the workplace, to the schools, to just watching people on the streets, you can see their collective nature. People are very close to each other, all around. Maybe it comes with their high population, but people are not afraid to be near one-another, even complete strangers. I feel that everything relates back to respect toward others and working together as a whole. Most people even talk to complete strangers as if they know them. Since the United States is very individualistic in most ways, this was something very different for me to see.

My trip to China had a big effect on my attitude and knowledge about international diversity. I can genuinely say that it opened my eyes to a new way of living. Going into this trip, I knew that things would be different, but it was a whole new experience to actually live it. I now have a great appreciation for Chinese culture. I admire their ability to hold onto their culture throughout many generations, and keep their focus on their desire for peace and harmony.


“Communicating Culture” – Elizabeth LeBlanc, Honors Spanish Major, Salamanca, Spain

Elizabeth LeBlanc and Elizabeth Houbeck, Salamanca CastleI went to Spain in the hopes of examining the influence of Spain on the Latin American countries. Using Carlos Fuentes’ illustration of “The Buried Mirror”, I planned to examine the roots of the cultures of the Latin American people I had come to know through my work in Rhode Island. Not only was I able to observe the influence of Spain on Latin America, but I was also able to see the influence of Spain on the culture of the United States.

It was Spain’s far reaching influences into my own culture that surprised and fascinated me. My fascination was fed by the excellent and comprehensive courses that I took over my six-week stay in Spain. I attended courses at the University of Salamanca five days a week for four hours a day.

In addition to daily classes, I also participated in daily cultural activities throughout the city of Salamanca. These included touring the Salamantine art museums, cathedrals and runes; viewing plays about the history of Salamanca; attending jazz and classical concerts throughout the city; and visiting various market places around the city. But the truest taste of the culture came from walking. I walked everywhere around the city until my feet were covered with blisters and my city maps were falling apart with frequent use. It was while walking that I was able to slow down my stay in Spain and take in every sight, taste and smell. It was also while walking that I was able to practice my Spanish more, speaking with local merchants, asking for directions and inquiring as to the importance of local statues, cathedrals and museums.Elizabeth LeBlanc and Elizabeth Houbeck, Spain

My studies, the cultural activities, and travel all added richly to my experience and served as endless material for the blog that I was working on. The blog was part of my final project for Honors, but also served as a way to really digest and understand the Spanish culture. “Communicating Culture,” the travel blog, examined the culture and history of Spain especially as it applied to Spain’s influences on other cultures.

In Segovia, there is a castle called the Alcazar that served as the inspiration for Disney’s castles in Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. The story of the Alcazar made me realize the influence that Spain had on the culture of the United States and spurred a blog post about it. Living down the street from the site where Columbus asked for permission to go the New World allowed me to again touch on the significance of Columbus’ discovery on American culture and identity.


Influences of Synthetic Colloids, Both Oncotic and Haemostatic, in Normal Horses – Ariel Fray, Honors Biology Major, Sydney, Australia

Ariel FrayMy off campus study was an experience of a lifetime. I did not grow up in a family of travelers, and I assumed that my travels as an adult would take me no farther. I had never gone farther away from home than Florida, and the only foreign country I had ever visited was Canada. However, with the help of the University of Michigan-Flint Honors Program, I was able to go out and see the world as I assisted in research in Australia. With the help of Dr. Darien Freary and the vets at the clinic, and the friends I made on campus, this trip turned out to be a terrific adventure that will forever hold a place in my memory.

The first thing I noticed as I landed in Sydney and made my way to what I would be calling home for the next month was the hospitality and kindness of each and every Australian I met, Ariel Fray, Aussie Blue Mountainsespecially Dr. Darien, the vet I would soon be assisting. She picked me up at the airport, and with a big hug took my luggage and walked me out to her vehicle. She drove me to the University of Sydney’s Camden campus and got me started on the work that I would be doing for the research project. Right away I felt as if I were an important part of this study. After my work for the day was finished, I was introduced to some of the students who lived in my dorm. I quickly made friends with my dorm mates who, throughout my stay, always gave me company and allowed me someone to talk to.

All of the experiences I had were of a once-in-a-lifetime caliber. Even simple things like seeing a wallaby on an evening run around the campus were so enjoyable I had to constantly stop and thank God for having this opportunity. I would highly recommend any student at the university to get out and live in the world if only for a month of your life, because it will be a month you will remember for your entire lifetime. I feel so much more well-rounded and cultured and I am sure that I am a better person for having taken my off campus trip.