Author Archives: ALEXIS MENARD


Alexis Menard joined the UM-Flint School of Management as full-time staff in August 2021 as the Marketing & Communications Coordinator. Within her role, she develops and implements marketing plans, maintains SOM's presence on social media and university websites, writes for the SOM blog, and organizes events to engage business students.

SOM Alumna’s Enthusiasm for the Outdoors becomes a Career: September’s aMaizeing Alumni

Danielle Mauter earned her Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Marketing with a minor in graphic design from the University of Michigan-Flint in 2014. During her time as a student, Danielle had multiple internships, was a co-founder of the Marketing and Advertising Student Professionals club, and participated in other off-campus activities like coaching for a high school color guard squad and competing in the Genesee County Fair open exhibit classes. Danielle is currently the Chief of Marketing and Communications at the Huron-Clinton Metroparks which serves five southeast Michigan counties. She oversees marketing staff, improves media relations and partnerships in the region, and implements future-facing goals for the Huron-Clinton Metroparks. As our featured alumni of the month, Danielle describes her career path, her favorite memories as a student, why she went into the marketing field, and gives advice for those who want to pursue a career in marketing!

Q: Degree(s) and graduation year:
A:  Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Marketing with a minor in graphic design, 2014

Q: Where are you currently working and your title? How long have you been in this position or at this organization? What is your job like day to day?
A: I am currently the Chief of Marketing and Communications at the Huron-Clinton Metroparks. I have been here since February 2019 (2.5 years). One of America’s premier metropolitan park systems, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks have served the people of Southeast Michigan since 1940. Managed by the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, the Metroparks are made up of 13 properties in Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties.

As much as I hate a cliché – it’s true that my job is different every day. I manage a small team and together we are responsible for promoting the Metroparks brand and communicating with the public and partners about activities, programs, events, and the general park experience. We maintain all the social media and web presence as well as communication pieces in print, digital, TV/Video, radio, and out-of-home spaces. Some days I spend time with my graphic designs reviewing and brainstorming ideas for ad artwork to fit our brand identity and then I shift to answering media phone calls, completing interviews, and writing press releases. Then other days I spend time in our parks capturing photos and generating content. Still other days I may spend with our organizations’ leadership team creating the “big picture” ideas of where the organization needs to be or go in the future and putting together our budget and ideas for the upcoming year. It is a truly rewarding job that always keeps me on my toes.

Q: Describe your career path.
A:  My career path started while I was still in college. I consider the five years I spent working part-time at Menards during school to really be the start of it. I was a shy kid in high school, but working in retail forced me to talk to customers and brought me out of my shell. I saw how merchandising worked and developed sales pitches to help customers finish their home improvement projects.

From there, all but one of my positions have been the first of their kind. I have stepped into roles that organizations have just created and have spent the majority of my career building brands and campaigns for organizations that created marketing departments or roles to help grow their business.
At the end of my second year of business school, I scored an internship with a small local business that organized and promoted fine art and craft shows and was looking to grow into new types of events. This was my first real-world experience in marketing where I was responsible for managing business social media accounts, booking and creating ad campaigns, organizing event details, and helping with bookkeeping. There were times that I was doing a lot of self-teaching, but it was a job I loved and really excelled at. I ended up staying with the company part-time for about 2 years.
After my first year with the show promotion company, I applied for and was offered a second internship at Nexteer Automotive completing marketing research for their future engineering department. It was a new role at the time and I was being supervised by engineers to find the possible market share for a possible future use of their technologies. It was a very self-guided project that resulted in me actually presenting my findings to members of their board. The presentation was a success and they continued to work on that project for a couple of years (as far as I know) after I left the organization. This is where I determined that marketing research wasn’t the only thing I wanted to spend my days on. I needed a mixture of marketing tasks to keep me happy.
After graduation (well actually slightly before), I took my first full-time position in marketing. I was the marketing professional at Wolverine Fire Protection Co. – a specialty contractor that designs and installs fire suppression systems across the country. I was the very first marketing staff person they had hired in their history. Here I had the chance to rebuild a brand from scratch. I took their existing logo and built a much more modern identity around it that includes a website overhaul, new letterhead and templates, new report and RFP style and format, building social media presence, new trade show materials, etc. I did spend a lot of my time working on proposals to win new projects because this is a B2B business. It was a great experience, but I quickly discovered I wanted to get back into the B2C world and a role where I was working on ad campaigns and more traditional marketing channels.
That is when I found the posting for a Marketing Specialist at Genesee County Parks. In this role, I was able to come in at the front of a brand refresh project in a B2C organization. I was able to work through updating all branded brochures, social media presence, and website AND create true marketing campaigns. I managed a marketing budget and a small staff of 1-3 (1 full-time and 1-2 interns at a time). I also got to do some event organizing and marketing utilizing the skills I earned in my first internship. I was hooked on the field of parks and recreation after my first six months there, and although I wasn’t the first person in that role, the role offered a lot of room for modernizing and making it my own with a fresh start.
I was at Genesee County Parks for almost 4 years when I took on my current role. It was a shift from a county park system to a regional parks system and managing a larger staff with more responsibilities. At the time I took my position at Huron-Clinton Metroparks, the role of Chief of Marketing and Communications was new and the Metroparks hadn’t had a consistent and organized marketing plan in over 30 years. I once again had the opportunity to come in and rebuild a brand starting with the brand refresh process and working through updating the brand identity and then working to build brand campaigns to improve brand recognition in Southeast Michigan and increase attendance. Additionally, I’m working to continually improve media relations and partnerships in the region and focused on public-facing storytelling to get our brand message across. As part of the executive leadership team, I also have the opportunity to be a part of the team the develops and guides the future-facing goals and plans for the organization.

Q: Why did you choose to attend UM-Flint for your degree(s)?
A:  I originally started college with a much different career path in mind. I chose UM-Flint at the time because I wanted to complete my prereqs while I worked toward transferring into UM-Ann Arbor’s Architecture program. While I did accomplish that – after two years at UM-Flint and one semester in Ann Arbor’s Architecture program, I decided it wasn’t actually making me happy and that I needed to change majors. When I did, I decided to come back to UM-Flint because the smaller campus was a much more personalized experience for me. The teachers were able to give individual students more attention and I felt like it was a better place for me to gain the education I needed to prepare for my career while still being more affordable than other big universities.

Q: Were you involved in any clubs or extracurriculars during your college experience? If so, what organizations/clubs?
A:  I was a co-founder of Marketing and Advertising Student Professionals at the time. Was involved in other activities off campus including coaching for a high school color guard squad, riding four-wheelers, and competing in the Genesee County Fair open exhibit classes and queen pageant.

Q: How did your education at UM-Flint prepare you for what you are doing today?
A:  In my business classes I had a diverse set of students. Unlike some universities where everyone is fresh out of high school and living in dorms, my classes were a mix of “traditional” college students, older return-to-learn students with careers and full-time jobs already and students from abroad. Being paired up in group projects and discussions with those unique perspectives allowed me to think differently and really discuss what we were learning in class. That combined with the internship and hands-on experiences that I gained through the career center and the student org we started helped propel me into realizing what my career could be. I’ll admit I didn’t really know what type of marketing role I wanted to be in while I was in college. It was really helpful to take two very different internships over the course of my four years. The first one was in event marketing and allowed me to use my creativity and graphic designer minor and I loved being on the B2C side. The second was in marketing research which I thought would make more money and I would love the numbers side. I discovered that I didn’t love it as much as I loved creating B2C campaigns and using my creative side. That helped me determine that I ultimately wanted to end up the head of a marketing department somewhere.

Q: Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?
A:  I weaved my answer to this into my career path answer. It had a lot to do with my experience at each role I’ve had in showing me the pieces I did and didn’t like in each of my roles.

Q: What is the most important thing you learned while you were at UM-Flint? 
A:  I would say that the most important thing I learned during my time at UM-Flint is the benefit of applied experience. I had teachers and internship opportunities through campus resources that allowed me to work on real-world projects. That type of experience can’t be read in a textbook. Those hands-on experiences allowed me to apply what I was learning in class (and do a little research and self-teaching along the way) and propelled me further into career options that I never expected. Had I not taken the chance on those opportunities, I don’t think I would be as far in my career as I am today. I learned that you have to put the work in, but when you do, everything starts to click and it makes it all worth it.

Q: What is one of your favorite events you attended or classroom experiences at UM-Flint? Why?
A:  I remember my classroom experiences more than events, and it’s hard for me to pick one. I actually have a few that stick out in my mind. I had professor Laurence for organizational behavior and I always found his lessons really interesting. It really brought the concepts of inter-office relations and management into a realistic perspective. He was also always willing to help outside of class or give advice and he wrote me a great letter of recommendation that helped me land my first job. I also really enjoyed my international business class (although I don’t remember my professor’s name). At the time, I thought I wanted to end up in an international business and his lessons often brought a hands-on component. One specific time is when he brought in silkworms for us to eat. I originally felt I could be brave and try it, but ultimately ended up chickening out. But it was still a really impactful lesson for other cultures.

Q: What advice would you give current students or recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in your professional field?
A:   I have a couple pieces of advice. First, treat every job like a great opportunity. What I mean is open your eyes and ears and soak up as much experience as you can. A lot of students don’t consider their part-time retail jobs as “experience” on their resumes and in interviews, but it is! When I’m talking to students I remind them to think about those jobs differently and decide what those jobs have taught them that they can carry into an organization. Maybe it’s communication skills or sales skills or merchandising ideas from someone who has actually had to stock shelves before. It’s all valuable in different ways.
Also, graphic design experience today is really important. Even if you can’t do it yourself, you should have an understanding of the principles, terminology, and technology used. In my role, I supervise graphic designers, but in previous roles, I’ve had to be both the marketing person and the graphic designer. A lot of companies are looking for dual roles and even if they aren’t, you need to understand the principles of what works and looks good to consumers when your reviewing and approving billboards vs print ads vs social media content. So I recommend taking some graphic design courses while you’re still in school or in some other capacity after school. It will make you more marketable in the job force.

Q: What is a long-term career or professional goal you have for yourself?
A: When I think a few years back, my long-term goal was to become a chief marketing officer (CMO) somewhere. I had no idea that I would have the opportunity to realize that goal by the time I was 30. Now I’ve been so busy building that role for 2.5 years and through a pandemic that brought record attendance to parks everywhere, that I haven’t really stopped to think what my next long-term goal should be in my career. My goal is always to continue growing and improving the organization I work for. Professionally, in the parks and rec field, there is a certification called CPRP (certified parks and recreational professional). I do have a goal for myself to obtain that one day and to stay in the parks and recreation field.

Q: What is something people may not know about you?
A: In the professional world people tend to see a petite, fair-skinned, young, blonde woman and generate certain assumptions about me. However, I have often surprised people when they discover my hobbies include riding four-wheelers, and side by sides, getting dirty, fishing, hunting, photography (I even had my own business for a short period of time) and all things outdoors. My honeymoon trip to Alaska was my absolute favorite vacation. I listen to all types of music from rock to hip hop to country, I’m a dedicated dog mom and I’m not afraid to roll up my sleeves and help with projects of all kinds including tending to my small flock of chickens and home renovation projects at my husband and I’s house in the country or cabin in the woods.

Accounting (MS) Alumni Transitions from Student to Future Instructor: July’s aMaizeing Alumni

Alumnus, John Schlaack, received his Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) in 2019 from the University of Michigan-Flint. John currently works in the IT/Accounting field in the automotive industry for the last 30+ years and is now starting his journey on his “second career” as a university instructor. He is currently enrolled in a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program. As our featured Alumni of the month, John comments on how his MSA degree will influence his future teaching career, advice for students or recent grads interested in the accounting field, and more!

Q: Degree(s) and graduation year:
A:  Master of Science in Accounting (MSA), 2019

Q: Pursuing another degree?
A: Currently enrolled in a DBA program.

Q: Where are you currently working and your title? How long have you been in this position or at this organization? What is your job like day to day?
A: I am employed at Martinrea International as the Global IT Director. I have been employed in this position for the past 2 1/2 years.

I am responsible for the implementation, development, and support of Global ERP systems. This includes the creation of new functionalities to meet company or customers’ requirements.

Q: Describe your career path.
A: I have worked in the Accounting and IT functions in the automotive industry for over 30 years. Earlier I had the opportunity to teach at the university and am now completing my doctoral program in accounting to start my “second” career.

Q: Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?
A: Always favored subjects that were analytical and have enjoyed the opportunity of being on global projects implementing financial systems.

Q: Why did you choose UM-Flint for your degree?
A: After graduating, I enrolled in a doctoral in accounting program. This MSA at UM-Flint and this doctoral program will help me prepare for my second career as a university instructor.

Q: What is the most important thing you learned while you were at UM-Flint? What is the most important thing you learned while you were at UM-Flint?  
A: The need to interact with faculty and classmates to get a fuller picture of the subject matter.

Q: Who influenced you most during your time at UM-Flint and why?
A: Each professor was excellent and added to my education.

Q: Share your best college memory.
A: Each class initiated coursework online, and filled in the blanks when I got to attend class time and interact with instructors and fellow classmates.

Q: How did your education at UM-Flint prepare you for what you are doing today?
A: After graduating, I enrolled in a doctoral in accounting program. The MSA program at UM-Flint and this doctoral program will help me prepare for my second career as a university instructor.

Q: What is one of your favorite events you attended or classroom experiences at UM-Flint? Why?
A: In the Accounting Systems course, the professor gave an overview of setting up databases needed for the course final project. I was missing a few important steps. After sitting through his instruction, a light bulb went off!

Q: What is a long-term career or professional goal you have for yourself?
A: As I near completion of my first career in manufacturing accounting and information systems, I am finalizing my preparation for my second career in teaching the skills I have learned over the past number of years.

Q: What is one of your proudest accomplishments so far?
A: Completion of my MSA at UM-Flint, and the attendance of my family at the graduation.

Q: What advice would you give current students or recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in your professional field?
A: Having a strong understanding of accounting and system logic (i.e., database management) is crucial in all fields of business. Understand that education does not stop when you graduate. Continuing education and skill development never stops!

Q: Fun Facts!
A: Favorite vacation was a trip to Arizona for college and Cactus League baseball!

SOM Student Club recognized as 2021 Outstanding Student Organization at UM-Flint

While the past academic year was full of challenges and unknowns, a student organization at the UM-Flint School of Management rose above these obstacles to meet their goals in a virtual environment and received recognition at the University of Michigan-Flint.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) UM-Flint student chapter received two awards at the 2021 Celebrating Wolverine Excellence ceremony on Thursday, April 8, 2021. 

The ceremony is hosted by the Department of Student Involvement and Leadership and recognizes the contributions of a student organization that exhibits strong leadership skills, mission fulfillment, and quality contributions to the campus. 

SHRM received the Outstanding Student Organization Award. The co-advisors for SHRM, Brian Blume, Professor of Organizational Behavior & HR Management, and Gerald Knesek, Lecturer IV of Management, were awarded the Outstanding Student Organization Advisor(s).

Brian Blume (left) & Gerald Knesek (right)

The former SHRM President, Alexis Menard, BBA ‘21 in Organizational Behavior and Human Resources Management and Marketing, reflected on how SHRM built up to their success in 2021. 

“In Fall 2019, we focused on building a foundation for SHRM and in February 2020 we hosted our largest in-person event with 40 attendees at the Unconscious Bias in the Workplace event with Dr. Luke, Director of the Intercultural Center. Students from across campus came together to identify how bias and the processes of the unconscious mind can impact your decision-making,” said Menard. 

“This was the moment where we realized how much of an impact a student organization can have and we found a niche to fulfill at UM-Flint,” said Menard. 

SHRM’s mission is to help students at UM-Flint by providing educational, networking, volunteer, and leadership opportunities to their members. SHRM also assists all UM-Flint students with resumes/interviewing, offering student professional development, and more to help students efficiently prepare to get an internship or career opportunity while in college.

“One of the goals of SHRM is to help students make connections and advance in their professional/personal development. SHRM has the best faculty advisors helping us meet our mission. I’m delighted Brian and Gerry received the Outstanding Advisor Award because they really deserve it. They are both educators who go above and beyond to support students in and outside of the classroom. They are great mentors and I have been inspired and impacted by both of them,” said Menard.

The organization hosted seven monthly events in the 2020-2021 academic year, ranging from networking, panel discussions, speaking engagements on hot topics, and resume improvement. UM-Flint students and SHRM members also participated in their first SHRM case competition at SHRM UMICH and Greater Ann Arbor SHRM chapters. 

“Although COVID-19 has impacted many student organizations at UM-Flint, I strongly feel as though more people that weren’t originally able to commute to the campus have now been able to be involved,” said Blume, SHRM’s co-advisor. “SHRM has new members from around the nation and have seen engagement from students that lived one or more hours away from campus joining our virtual events.”

The SHRM officers will continue to cater to all members of the UM-Flint community when the University returns in-person in the fall. The organization also has more plans to engage online with members at the UM-Flint campus. 

SHRM Treasurer, Erik Johnson, BBA ‘23 in International Business and Organizational Behavior and Human Resources Management, is working on an all-inclusive podcast that will anonymously interview people of all occupations about their careers in a tell all format. SHRM will use the stories of students and alumni to help guide members of the UM-Flint community. 

Another SHRM officer, Secretary, Elayna Moore, BBA ‘23 in Marketing and Organizational Behavior and Human Resources Management, made great strides to improve SHRM’s online presence. She worked with the Office of Online & Digital Education to create a Blackboard group so the organization can collaborate and connect with each other in between meetings and offer more networking opportunities. In fall 2021, they plan to roll out more planned content such as discussion boards, videos for new members on the missions of SHRM, and post recorded events or meeting notes. 

“Overall, we were able to accomplish a lot being remote. We hosted our first annual HR Alumni Panel and invited UM-Flint alumni to present their experiences. We had two alumni present from out of state in California and New York and that’s something we couldn’t have done without the technology resources the campus has provided us,” said Menard. 

The SHRM faculty advisors, Brian Blume and Gerald Knesek, actively give the responsibility to the students in the organization for the daily operations, such as lining up speakers for events or advertising. The co-advisors give freedom to the members to pursue what interests them, but they also provide ideas or suggestions based on their combined expertise. 

In previous years, SHRM members would host a Rapid Resume event where SHRM offers detailed critiques and comments on resumes before career fairs. Blume suggested SHRM members host the event virtual during the Winter 2021 semester. The SHRM officers previously mentioned along with Vice President, Allison von Daggenhausen, BS ‘21 in Communications and minor in Human Resources Management, devised a plan to review resumes for two weeks in March 2021 with the help and guidance from Antonio Riggs, School of Management Career Planning Counselor. The SHRM officers reviewed 31 resumes of UM-Flint students from all disciplines and directly supported SHRM’s initiates that students are career-ready. 

In addition, Gerald Knesek suggested that SHRM officers attend a Civility Project session to see if this would be a good fit to bring to UM-Flint. The Civility Project features two journalists with opposing viewpoints on how to be more civil in your own life.

“The idea behind SHRM is to create better workplaces where all employees thrive. The Civility Project is a forum for modeling respect for each other and opposing viewpoints,” said Knesek. This turned out to be the largest SHRM event of the year to conclude the 2020/2021 academic year. 

“We had a great year thanks to the leadership provided by Alexis, the officers, and great participation from all the members. It really is the students that make the club successful,” said Blume and Knesek reflecting on SHRM accomplishments.

Alum Invests and Overcomes Everyday Challenges: June’s aMaizeing Alumni

Alumnus, Edward F Walterhouse II, graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with his Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Finance. He was a member of Beta Alpha Psi- National Honors Fraternity and the Treasurer of the National Honor Society of Leadership & Success during his time as a student. Edward is a licensed financial advisor in Grand Blanc, MI, and maintains client relationships while researching market trends and running marketing campaigns. As our featured Alumni of the month, Edward gives insight on his favorite classroom experience, his long-term career goal, and his proudest accomplishment as a Financial Advisor.

Q: Degree(s) and graduation year:
A: Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) – Finance 2018.

Q: Pursuing another degree?
A: Currently studying for Certified Financial Planner Certification

Q: Where are you currently working and your title? How long have you been in this position or at this organization?
A: I am a Financial Advisor with the Walterhouse Faris Group at Ameriprise Financial Services, LLC in Grand Blanc, MI. I have been in this industry for six years; four years as an intern and two as a fully licensed financial advisor.

Q: What is your job like day to day?
A: Each week brings new opportunities and challenges. I research investments while monitoring current market environments including equity, fixed income, and alternatives. I act as a fiduciary and contacting clients to discuss rebalancing their portfolio. This is an important objective in my role as of lately. I also create personal financial plans through our software by inputting client’s quantitative data. I present and share that financial plan with them in a meeting discussing their qualitative data, goals, and aspirations.

Our team meets with clients annually/bi-annually, and sometimes quarterly to review their portfolios and track their progress towards their financial goals/retirement goals. Networking and running marketing campaigns is also a part of my role to create awareness of the capabilities of my financial team and expand our fiduciary imprint to future potential clients.

Q: Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?
A: I chose this career path because of the need for financial literacy as the world becomes more and more technology-driven, especially in the finance world. The finance sector is also becoming more complex for consumers requiring a need for financial guidance and help.

Q: Why did you choose UM-Flint for your degree?
A: I transferred to UM-Flint to experience a University of Michigan education and the close proximity to my home. I also was able to work and get a great education while not accumulating too much student debt.

Q: Who influenced you most during your time at UM-Flint and why?
A: My small group of friends was a large influence through my years at UM-Flint. We worked on projects together and studied for tests together at Riverfront and sometimes the library. They held me accountable and vice versa. In hindsight, this is something I think is crucial for college students to develop within their classes, not only to do well in that class but to retain information and hear different perspectives on class topics.

Q: Were you involved in any clubs or extracurriculars during your college experience? If so, what organizations/clubs?
A: Treasurer of National Honor Society of Leadership & Success 2017-2018, Beta Alpha Psi- National Honors Fraternity of Finance 2017-2018

Q: What is one of your favorite events you attended or classroom experiences at UM-Flint? Why?
A: I truly enjoyed working and meeting with the group of individuals on the board of the National Honor Society of Leadership & Success during my time as Treasurer. I also enjoyed a late project in my academic career for an investment class where we had to pitch a stock to the Dean of the School of Management. This project was truly engaging and to this day it has influenced my approach to researching investments for clients.

Q: What is a long-term career or professional goal you have for yourself?
A: My long-term career goal is to make an impact in people’s financial lives and on our local communities as a whole. Spread financial literacy throughout Genesee County and help fuel this Flint Michigan comeback. This will take time and consistency but right now time is on my side.

Q: What is one of your proudest accomplishments so far?
A: My proudest accomplishments are when I am able to input quantitative data into our financial planning software and present the results to the clients showing them that their hard work, savings discipline, and investing early in their life has paid off. The looks on their faces when they recognize they are able to retire comfortably, spend time with family, travel, and enjoy their hobbies is the best part of my job. I’ve learned in my few years in the industry that financial peace of mind is priceless.

Q: Fun Facts!
A: My bucket list includes a trip to Greece or Lebanon to visit the roots of my family tree.

Screenshot of CAS Student: Alyssa Norris Video Submission

The Entrepreneurial Spirit was in full force during the UM-Flint Zillion Solutions Competition

Zillion Solutions recently ended their idea competition at the end of the winter 2021 semester which had a huge turnout. There were 495 ideas submitted to the Hagerman Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation by UM-Flint students. In the previous year, the Hagerman Center received 346 submissions. 

Zillion Solutions is a campus-wide competition where students make a short video or Powerpoint describing their unique idea for a new product or service that will solve a problem.

One of the major ways the Hagerman Center increases the UM-Flint community members’ general interest and awareness of entrepreneurial activities is through the annual idea competition, but also through workshops, networking, programs, and events. 

The 2020/21 Zillion Solutions was revamped due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the center had to rethink all angles of how to promote the competition to students in the new virtual environment. 

“Marketing and promotions was a huge headache at first,” said Dr. Mark Simon, Hagerman Center Director and Hagerman Endowed Professor of Entrepreneurship, “A lot of things were up in the air with COVID regulations and the stress and anxiety students felt from the pandemic and returning back for school in the fall.”

As the Fall 2020 semester was approaching, the Hagerman Center team knew they would be facing many unknowns in planning logistics for a major competition, but they didn’t want it to be a wash of a year. 

Zillion Solutions officially kicked off the campus-wide competition for submissions from graduate and undergraduate students of all majors, including undecided majors and Deep/Early College students, on October 1, 2020. 

The Hagerman Center team was made up of entrepreneurial-focused students and Hagerman Center Director, Mark Simon, Ph.D. and Associate Director of the Hagerman Center and Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources Management, Brian Blume, Ph.D.

The UM-Flint students on the planning team were Erik Johnson, BBA ‘23 in International Business and OBHRM ‘23 as the Lead Project Coordinator, Alexis Menard, BBA ‘21 in Marketing and OBHRM, Angela Longbucco, BBA ‘21 in International Business and Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, Trevor Bennett, BBA ‘21 in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, Neil Kagerer, BA in Sociology and Minor in Entrepreneurship ‘21, Tim McGlinchey BBA ‘21 in Accounting and Finance, and Sumer Wascher, BBA ‘21 in Marketing. 

The team also had help from Madeline Rasberry, BSN ‘21, a student serving as the first-ever Student Ambassador representing the School of Nursing that advocated for Zillion Solutions in her cohort and to SON students. Rasberry was also the $2,000 grand prize winner of Zillion Solutions in 2019 and used her expertise to help mentor her peers.  

“It was a team effort. We were also able to get support across campus from staff and faculty members. They are the ones that also made this year a success by talking about Zillion Solutions in their virtual classrooms or posting about it on Blackboard,” said Simon. 

One of the ways the Hagerman Center team further developed the competition was to expand submission requirements. In the past, students would have to make a short video under two minutes that describes their unique idea for a new product or service that will solve a problem. The submission requirements were changed to allow Powerpoint presentations to lower the barriers of entry for students. 

“This change to our submission process made it a lot easier for students to participate and avoided the discomfort some students feel when recording themselves. This process also made it easier for students to submit multiple ideas,” Simon continued, “Students started to realize there were problems all around them that they could solve. It sparked more entrepreneurial thinking. We would talk to a student about the competition and their original idea and then next week get an email that they are submitting another idea.”

The biggest increase in participation was seen in Early College and Dual Enrollment Educational Partnerships (DEEP). Erik Johnson facilitated more than a dozen virtual workshops on Zoom with dual enrolled students to help fine tune their ideas and walk them through the submission process.

“The main issue was that students didn’t know how to get started. We created a Powerpoint template that included everything we were looking for such as stating the problem, giving examples of existing solutions, and how their solution clearly solves the problem,” Johnson said. 

“We received a lot of great comments on the process and looking back at this year, these [high school] students have been through a lot. Zillion Solutions was an outlet for them to be creative,” Johnson continued, “I’m delighted that we were able to have such a successful year and impact so many students.”

The 2020/21 Zillion Solutions competition was sponsored by the Mott Foundation and supported 53 awards ranging from $100 to $2,000. It also supported the daily operations of the center and smaller prize incentives to students.  

The Zillion Solutions Virtual Award Ceremony took place on April 7th where nine finalists from each academic unit, undecided student category, and early college/DEEP, went head to head to compete for four prizes additional prizes; $2,000 – Grand Prize, $1,000 – 1st Runner up, $500 – 2nd Runner up, $500 – Fan Favorite Award. The following students were recognized at the ceremony:


  • Jamie Beebe, CAS-Arts & Humanities
  • Meredith Sheatzley, CAS-Arts & Humanities and Jessica Nadrowski, SEHS
  • Ryelle Conley-Dankert, CAS-Social Sciences 
  • Katelyn Stuck, CAS-Social Sciences
  • Lancine Doumbia, CAS-STEM
  • Olusola Atoyebi, CAS-STEM
  • Felicia Baldassare, CHS
  • Scott Maki, CHS
  • Kennedy Lyons, DEEP/EC
  • Rameira Davis, DEEP/EC
  • Jillian Stieb SEHS,
  • Sherrion Peyton, Renee Stachowiak, Brian Donovan, and Cornel Lynch, SEHS
  • Katelynn Walter, SOM
  • Jacob Ross, SOM
  • Tiffany Schlegel, SON
  • Megan Snyder, SON

Finalist & University Wide Awards:

  • Alyssa Norris – Sustainability Store, CAS-Arts & Humanities Finalist and Fan Favorite Award
  • Elizabeth Warden – The Senior Picture Project, CAS-Social Sciences: Finalist
  • Alyshia Fkye-Jolly – O2 Tube, CAS-STEM Finalist
  • Quinn Hanses – Adaptive Equipment Lending Library, CHS Finalist
  • Lillian Longdrigian – Volunteer Program for Spanish Speakers, DEEP/EC Finalist
  • Meghan Bobrowski – Multisensory Children’s Books, SEHS Finalist
  • Mark Miller – Ventilator Disconnection Identification Device, SOM Finalist and 1st Runner Up
  • Stephen Downs – IV Access Stabilization Tray (IVAST), SON Finalist and Grand Prize Winner
  • Evan Johnson – The Love Button, Undecided Finalist and 2nd Runner Up

“This was our biggest year yet and we are already laying down the foundation for the fall 2021/2022 academic year competition. We want to encourage entrepreneurial thinking when they aren’t in the classroom, so students that are currently enrolled in spring/summer courses or will be enrolled in the fall semester can submit their ideas to Zillion Solutions over the summer,” said Simon. 

“If you have an idea at any point during the year, you want to submit to Zillion Solutions, you don’t have to wait! We are here if you need help,” said Simon. 

The center is planning in-person events in the fall focusing on entrepreneurship and innovation and will be helping students with their Zillion Solutions submission online or with in-person office hours.  

For more details go to  and contact the Hagerman Center at

BBA Alumnus turned Corporate Controller: May’s aMaizeing Alumni

Alumnus, Erik Sims graduated in December 2012 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from the School of Management. Erik received his MBA from Walsh in 2019. He recently began a new position at Ocuphire Pharma, Inc as their Director, Corporate Controller. As our featured Alumni of the month, Erik gives insight on why he went into finance/accounting, his interests in crypto, and more!

Q: Degree(s) and graduation year:
A: BBA – Finance in Dec 2012.

Q: Where are you currently working and your title? How long have you been in this position or at this organization? What is your normal day to day?
A: Ocuphire Pharma, Inc. – Director, Corporate Controller. Member of the management team, handle oversight of all accounting and finance activities for the company. 

Q: Why did you choose UM-Flint for your degree(s)?
A: It was close to home and has a great business school!

Q: What is one of your favorite experiences at UM-Flint?
A: I loved being able to meet and work with other students from the area, still have relationships with some of the people I met at UM-Flint.

Q: Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?
A: I have always liked numbers and so that was the motivation behind pursuing a finance degree. I ended up more on the accounting side in my career, but finance and accounting go hand in hand.

Q: What is one of your proudest accomplishments so far?
A: Financial freedom, not having to live paycheck to paycheck and being able to really enjoy the career field that I chose.

Q: What advice would you give students that are thinking of pursuing a career in your field?
A: Look at job postings for positions you might be interested in post-college, work to gain experience or knowledge in the job skills that the position requires.

Q: Fun Facts!
A: I am really into cryptocurrency right now; I think it would be amazing to create my own crypto – super fun and interesting goal right?

Two UM-Flint Grads earn Big Four Career Opportunities after College: Q&A with Jay’la Rivers and Za’Taia Shelby

Jay’la Rivers, BBA ‘21 in Accounting and Finance, and Za’Taia Shelby, BBA ‘21 in Accounting and Finance, studied together and were both members of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) during their time as students at UM-Flint School of Management.

Rivers and Shelby graduated with high honors in April 2021 and were awarded multiple awards.

Shelby received the Outstanding Student Award in Accounting which is given to the top student majoring in accounting from the School of Management. This award is chosen by area faculty and is only given to one or two students per semester that have excelled in their studies.

Rivers received the Maize and Blue Distinguished Scholar Award, the most prestigious and highest academic award bestowed to no more than 26 graduates per year that have shown great character, talent, and service to the university and community.

Both graduates excelled during their time at UM-Flint and received internships at Big Four Accounting Firms during their undergraduate career. We invite you to read a Q&A about these shining examples of perseverance and dedicated students from our UM-Flint SOM community.

Q: Were there obstacles you had to overcome to attend UM-Flint? How were you able to do that?

Rivers: My biggest obstacle was my lack of funds. I applied to the university just a few months before classes started so getting everything situated was a challenge from the beginning. I made sure to constantly call the university and check in with financial aid to make sure everything was in order to start the semester.

Shelby: I did not have to overcome any obstacles to attend UM-Flint. The toughest decision was just making the final decision on whether to attend the university or not. I graduated high school as valedictorian and I was offered the Chancellor Scholar Award to attend UM-Flint. After that, it was no doubt that I would be completing my undergraduate degree here.

Q: What are your plans after graduation? How/when did you know that is what you wanted to do or major in?

Rivers: After graduation I plan to work part time for PricewaterhouseCooper (PWC) while attending graduate school. I knew I wanted to major in accounting in high school. I have always had an interest in math and being challenged so once I took an accounting class the dots connected.

Shelby: After graduation, I will be working full-time as a Forensic Accountant at one of the big four accounting firms, Ernst & Young (EY). I figured out that I wanted to become a Forensic Accountant once I took a career test senior year of high school. My high school had to reduce our budget, so all of our accounting classes were cut my freshman year of high school. Since I had no prior experience in accounting, coming to college I was a little weary about still choosing accounting as my major. However, once I took my first accounting course with Professor John Stephens, I fell in love with accounting.  

Q: What professional development activities did you attend offered by your student organization?

Rivers: I always attended career fairs. Rather I knew the companies that were going to be there or not I made sure to show my face and socialize. I also attended a variety of student organization events as well as the CPA 101 events.

Shelby: I attended multiple career conventions that included interviews with top Fortune 500 companies, interview advice workshops, internship advice workshops, meet and greets with these companies, and CPA seminars/ workshops. Moreover, this included us networking with people we have never met and building long lasting relationships.

Q: Did these professional development activities prepare you for future career goals?

Rivers: Every professional event helped me prepare for my future career goals in some way, big or small. Each event highlighted something about the professional world or accounting in general that I used to get me where I am today. A number of events introduced me to different people that presented me with great opportunities. If I didn’t learn something about the professional world at an event, I learned how to adjust something in my life to success in the professional world.

Shelby: Yes! One of my number one goals coming to college was learning how to network and this group taught me just that. In addition, I was able to gain insight from top companies to see what they actually sought in interns/new hires, and I was able to grow these skills along with my current skills. In addition, I was able to receive 7 internship offers, and build a relationship with Ernst & Young.

Q: What did you learn or value most from your internship?

Rivers: I valued the experience of working in an accounting firm as well as working during a busy season. Busy season is always introduced as something almost impossible or scary to be in but working an internship during busy season helped me realize it is not what it is made out to be. Yes, it is very time consuming and challenging but it’s also a great learning opportunity and an even better growing opportunity.

Shelby: The number one thing that I learned from my internships was to be hungry. To further explain, they did not want to just give me the work and I just be satisfied. They wanted me to ask more questions, dig more into the ‘why’ of things, contribute my ideas, seek out more work, and grow comfortable communicating with anyone on any level of the company.

Q: How did your internship help you or help you prepare for the ‘real world’?

Rivers: My internship allowed me to do a test run in my future job. I was treated no different than a first-year associate. The firm made sure I was well trained and prepared to work on clients at intern level as well at an associate level. I was given responsibilities and was expected to work through them in a sensible way. Working at my internship allowed me to develop into a better professional and an extra glance into ‘real world’.

Shelby: My internships taught me not to settle for what is just handed to me if I know I deserve more. This is a very valuable life lesson because it taught me that I should not settle for a good opportunity, but always strive after a great opportunity. For example, a lot of companies either did not have a Forensic Accountant position or the position was for someone who had at least been with the company 4+ years. As a result, many companies would just offer the options to go into audit or tax, but I did not settle which resulted in me obtaining a Forensic Accounting position at Ernst & Young right after I graduate college.

Q: How did the internship contribute to what you learned in the classroom?

Rivers:  Every firm is different and has different systems. So, I learned many new concepts, software’s, and techniques that I was not introduced to in the classroom. Going back into the classroom after each internship gave me an advantage. I was able to relate actual client work back to the textbooks and work to understand it better.

Shelby: The more knowledge I had from school, the more beneficial it was for the company I was interning with. Furthermore, I would always ask co-workers from the company’s that I interned with for advice on courses to take to help me further reach my goals.

Q: How did the internship give you an advantage when looking for a full-time job after graduation?

Rivers: My internship gave me a huge advantage when looking for a full-time position because they offered me one after the internship was over.

Shelby: When companies saw my experience coupled with my academic background, it made me stand out. By doing multiple internships, it helped me determine the type of accounting that I did or did not want to do after graduating college. So, by learning what I did or did not like about certain positions in accounting, I was able to determine which accounting position would be most beneficial to me before even graduating college.

Q: Anything else you would like to add about your undergrad experiences, UM-Flint, profs, favorite courses, etc.

Rivers:  It is important to take advantage of every opportunity given. Everything that the school of management does is for the students’ benefit and to give the students the resources they need to go forward in their career. Never be afraid to ask for help and never tell yourself no first.

Shelby: Along with your major courses, the technology courses will give you an advantage on the computer skills sought by companies. Taking additional entry level courses in computers will be beneficial because the more you know about technology, the more of an asset you are making yourself for the company. Also, make sure you do as many internships as you can because they will give you hands-on experience plus let you compare the actual course work to the actual position you will be working. Oftentimes, the course work can be very immense, but once you experience the actual position you can learn that there is some type of technology that makes it easier to do the course work that you were doing by hand. Lastly, UM-Flint is a great place to complete any degree. UM-Flint is very well-known and is able to offer/ create opportunities that will be very beneficial for its students. Unlike huge institutions, it isn’t very competitive to join organizations, which makes it even better to grow an abundance of experiences! Your college experience is all about what you make it, and UM-Flint gives you the opportunity to make it amazing!


Jay’la Rivers started her academic career at the University of Michigan-Flint in the Fall of 2017. Beginning her academic career, she quickly gained a liking towards accounting and declared a double major in Accounting and Finance. Jay’la was an active student leader on campus holding executive board seats within Block Club, Black Student Union, Beta Alpha Psi and the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA). She was also a prominent student ambassador with McGraw-Hill Connect and Becker Professional Education. While she spent her time as a full-time student and student leader, she obtained multiple internships at prominent accounting firms and nonprofits such as: Integrity First accounting, Metro Community development, Plante Maran, and Pricewaterhousecooper (PwC). Through her dedication, hard work and persistence she will be graduating this Spring of 2021 with her bachelor’s in accounting and Finance. Jay’la took advantage of each opportunity that came her way and in return was able to obtain a full ride scholarship for her master’s degree at Northeastern University as well as a fellowship through PwC. There she will obtain her Master of Management degree as well as her Certified Public Accountant license. Outside of her community and academic engagements she loves to travel, grow new foods in her garden and play sudoku. Jay’la is dedicated to fulfilling her purpose in her daily life and within her community. She plans to one day open her own accounting firm and program geared towards exposing high school/college students to the many different pathways within the field of accounting. One motto she continues to live by is “If you can’t do it out the kindness of your heart then don’t do it at all.”

Za’Taia Shelby enrolled at the University in September 2017 as a freshman aiming to pursue a BBA in Accounting. After being informed about double majoring and the benefits she decided to pursue a double major in both Accounting and Finance. After graduation Za’Taia plans on becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and she has accepted a full time Forensic Accountant position at one of the big four accounting firms, Ernst & Young, in Miami, FL. Currently, she is finishing her last semester of college while working part time at a Credit Union. Outside of course work, Za’Taia is a member of a few organizations on campus. Za’Taia is the treasurer of The National Association of Black Accountants (NABA), a member of Phaze Out, and a member of The National Society of Leadership and Success. Her interests include gaining and improving skills associated with accounting, finance, leadership, business, and networking. Za’Taia’s passions are being successful, traveling the world, and spending time with loved ones. Za’Taia came into college with high honors which led her to win the Chancellor Scholarship Award from the University, and due to her hard work and dedication she will finish her undergraduate degree with high distinction as well.

Specialty Pharmacy Professional Reflects on MBA Experience: April’s aMaizeing Alumni

Alumnus, Mohamed Gothamy, received his Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the UM-Flint School of Management in 2015. Mohamed is a Manager of Specialty Pharmacy Services at Comprehensive Pharmacy Services. He oversees specialty pharmacy operations and works closely with reimbursement specialists from drug companies to secure financial assistance to patients in need.

As our featured Alumni of the month, Mohamed gives advice for students thinking about pursuing graduate school, why he went into the pharmacy field and his favorite memories about UM-Flint!

Q: Degree(s) and graduation year:
Bachelors of Pharmacy, Cairo University, 2008
MBA, University of Michigan-Flint, 2015
Doctor of Pharmacy, Shenandoah University, 2018

Q: Where are you currently working and your title? How long have you been in this position or at this organization? What is your normal day to day?
A: I work for Comprehensive Pharmacy Services. CPS is a national leader in providing Pharmacy solutions to independent hospitals, Healthcare systems, and specialized healthcare facilities. CPS partners with Memorial Healthcare in Owosso, MI to provide Specialty Pharmacy Services. In my role as Manager of Specialty Pharmacy Services, I supervise all aspects of specialty pharmacy operations that are offered to Memorial healthcare patients system-wide.

My daily tasks are diverse in nature and wide in scope. I hold meetings with practice managers, physicians, and medical assistants to expand specialty pharmacy services to their clinics and work with pharmaceutical companies to gain and maintain access to limited distribution drugs. Along with my team members, I also work with reimbursement specialists from those drug companies to secure financial assistance to patients in need. Staffing for the specialty pharmacy program is another core component of my daily routine to guarantee efficient workflow and a timely dispensing of those expensive medications to patients who need them.

With the guidance of our Director of Accreditation, our specialty program has achieved a dual specialty accreditation from ACHC and URAC. Maintaining both highly regarded certifications requires a lot of work to stay abreast of all quality metrics, hence, I chair the quality management committee to keep track of the quality of services provided. Meanwhile, I serve as the senior clinical leader of the specialty pharmacy program.

Q: Why did you choose UM-Flint for your degree(s)?
A: The University of Michigan name has a gravity to it. It’s synonymous with high academic standards coupled with a world-class education and offered by professors who are experts in their given fields. It was a privilege to be a graduate student at UM-Flint and learning from its esteemed faculty.

Q: What is one of your favorite experiences at UM-Flint?
A: I’ve had so many positive experiences, it’s hard to pick just one. I really enjoyed having one-to-one discussions with my professors to further enhance my understanding of the subject matter. The Recreation Center resources helped me stay fit at no extra cost. Utilizing the swimming pool along with cross-fit classes was such an advantage. The Thompson library’s extended hours allowed me to focus and complete my studies in a timely manner.

Q: Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?
A: Since a young age, I had a clear passion for medicine and chemistry. Pharmacy incorporated both and is also an applicable science. I see it in action affecting people’s health outcomes on daily basis.

Good management can make positive change that eventually benefits all stakeholders of any enterprise. I was deeply influenced by one of my professors of pharmacology who was an expert in his field and a gifted leader. When he became the dean of the school, I could see progress, vision and how good management can make an impact. Advancing my career to pursue pharmacy management is inspired by a vision of promoting positive outcomes in my own circle.

Q: What is one of your proudest accomplishments so far?
A: Choosing the best life partner. My wife is the biggest support I have. She stood by me every step of my career.

Q: What advice would you give students that are thinking of pursuing a career in your field?
A: Follow your passion and always understand, analyze and keep track of your market trends. Before you invest in a graduate degree, be true to yourself in outlining what you want to accomplish with that investment. Also, listen to people who have achieved what you strive toward, particularly those on the same path as you but 5-7 years ahead.

Q: Fun Facts!
A: I’m a committed Wolverine. I have U of M shirts, socks, pants, hats, gloves, hoodies, jackets, and notebooks. My son’s teddy bear has a Michigan shirt.

Fall Career Fair leads to a full-time career opportunity for a SOM student

Jason Bellant is graduating with high honors in April 2021 with his Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting. During his time at UM-Flint, he was able to apply this knowledge at three different accounting positions. His current position was secured after networking with Yeo & Yeo at a School of Management Fall Career Fair hosted by Antonio Riggs, Career Planning Counselor. 

Bellant is from the Fenton/Linden area and chose UM-Flint so he could live at home but still obtain a rich education. Although he’s now married and a homeowner, UM-Flint was still the best and most convenient option in the area. 

A common obstacle most students face in college is how to tackle study habits; specifically, finding the time to learn and process the content of the course material can present a challenge. Bellant suffered from this issue in high school and knew he needed to create a strategy on how to learn better in his college courses. “I started by tracking how much time I put into my studies. I’d plan my weeks around how much time I would have to put toward my classes each week,” said Bellant. 

After trial and error, Bellant excelled in his studies and went into his last semester with a 3.79 GPA. He says his accounting classes drew him in more than his other curriculum. “I’d never clicked with a class that way before. I knew after my first class in accounting that this was what I wanted to do,” said Bellant.     

Bellant became so comfortable and confident with his courses that he would teach classmates the same study practices that helped him succeed. Part of the reason Bellant helped his peers so much is because he was often on campus pre-COVID. “The abundance of places to study helped me a lot. I found it easier to study at school rather than at home,” said Bellant.

Early this year, Bellant started a new position at Yeo & Yeo after having a one-on-one with Cara Newby, Talent Manager, at the fall SOM career fair. “In previous years, I have never had my schedule allow me to attend any of the other career fairs. With the career fair being online hosted on Handshake it was perfect that I was able to network with employers,” said Bellant.

At Yeo & Yeo, Bellant is an Assurance Staff Accountant and performs audits for clients. Bellant began his new position earlier this year and has already learned new information from his job, such as escheat laws, the audit process, and how to prepare financial statements, while applying what he has learned from his previous courses. Important concepts Bellant took from the classroom that prepared him for his position are the ALICE trick, general rules and overview of financial statements, being a critical-thinker, comprehending new information, and learning a steadfast work ethic.

Bellant was also about to use his excel and bookkeeping skills in his personal life such as the financial side of a wedding and honeymoon and undertaking a house renovation.  

“Advice I would give my younger self or a student thinking about the accounting field is to practice the basics of accounting in your everyday life in order to understand the principles and apply the knowledge to your life. I also recommend that you seek employment, like an internship, in the accounting field ASAP. It can really help you with networking and getting your foot in the door so when you’re about to graduate, you’ll have 3+ years of experience,” said Bellant.

Other advice Bellant mentions to understand is 

  • Income to expense ratios and debt to income ratios.
  • Compound interest, amortization schedules, and other financial tools to help you start saving for your future.
  • Lastly, never stop learning and be a lifelong learner! Read as much as you can about life skills; you will not regret it.

After Bellant graduates in April, he will be continuing his education to get his CPA by taking the additional course credits to have the 150 credits to be eligible for the exam over the next two years. During this time, he will be preparing for the exams and continuing to improve his accounting skills at Yeo & Yeo. 

“I love it here at Yeo & Yeo and everyone is so kind and helpful. It is beyond clear that everyone wants to help any new hire become as proficient as possible. I also value the clear path for growth with the company,” Bellant continues, “There are incentives for me to grow with the firm. I have wanted to be a CPA for a few years now, but I want it more than ever now that I have a clear path to the CPA exam and a clear path after getting it.”

“I’m excited to spend my career auditing clients and helping them in every way I can. Most of my clients are nonprofits and schools, so it is really easy to take an interest and care about helping them,” said Bellant.    

Bellent is one of the many students finishing his degree during the pandemic, he was still able to excel in his studies and seek opportunities that would help build his future.

By Alexis Menard On March 24, 2021 11:50 am 

Entrepreneurs Society Graphic with various pictures and icons

Entrepreneurs Society at UM-Flint: A Story of Growth and Perseverance

By Alexis Menard on March 5, 2021, 1:30 PM

In celebration of the 2021 Giving Blueday event on Wednesday, March 10, the School of Management is highlighting the growth and perseverance of the Entrepreneurs Society and their faculty advisor, Dr. Witt over the last 13 years.

The Entrepreneurs Society (ES) is an academic student organization at the University of Michigan-Flint. By design, it is nimble, flexible, and serves the useful role of supporting students who wish to pursue creative new ideas. The organization began in 2008 and since then has rapidly expanded across campus to most academic disciplines. Through hard work and discipline, the Entrepreneurs Society has earned many prestigious awards based on student projects and efforts, and has also supported the Flint community in many ways.

The pillar of the organization is founder and faculty advisor, Michael Witt, PharmD, JD, Entrepreneur in Residence, and Lecturer IV in Business Law and Entrepreneurship at the UM-Flint SOM.

Background about Dr. Michael Witt, PharmD, JD

Dr. Michael Witt, PharmD, JD
Photo provided by Helena Schutt

Prior to joining the University, Dr. Witt had extensive experience in new company formation, especially in the drug and medical device development arena. His academic training includes a Doctor of Pharmacy degree (PharmD) from the University of California San Francisco, and a law degree (JD), from Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland.

At CWRU, and along with Prof. Duncan Neuhauser, they started Health Matrix: A Quarterly Journal of Health Sciences Management. This journal continues today at CWRU School of Law and is presently the leading law medicine publication of its kind.  After law school, he practiced corporate health care law for seven years at Warner & Stackpole, a large Boston law firm, representing hospitals, biomedical research institutions, universities, and pharmaceutical companies.

Dr. Witt taught courses on Food and Drug Law, and Health and Hospital Law, at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Sciences.  While practicing law and teaching, he published a book entitled AIDS: Legal, Ethical and Social Implications, and was also published in the American Medical Association Journal on public health research guidelines. He was instrumental in establishing hospital policies on managing the AIDS crisis across the nation and was a frequent lecturer on this topic in numerous venues.

After seven years in Boston, Dr. Witt and his young family moved to Sacramento, where he started a technology company that specialized in commercializing university-derived medical research. Over the next ten years, his company worked to develop nine drugs and fourteen medical devices using institutional and venture capital resources in California. The company worked on projects around the globe, including Helsinki, Mexico City, Alberta, Truro, and Japan.  He also developed and taught a course for five years at the Harvard School of Public Health (“Commercializing Biomedical Technologies”).

After years of travel, Dr. Witt and his wife decided to move to Michigan in 1997 to raise their children in his wife’s town of Flint, Michigan. After managing MichBio, Michigan’s life science trade association, in Ann Arbor, and practicing law at Cox, Hodgman, and Giarmarco, in Troy, Dr. Witt decided to settle into teaching full-time.

“Teaching is a lifelong passion of mine,” said Dr. Witt. In 2008, he began as a Lecturer in Business Law and Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan-Flint School of Management (SOM).

History of the UM-Flint Entrepreneurs Society (2008-Present)

During his first year of teaching at UM-Flint, Dr. Witt began to realize that his undergraduate students had a few things in common: Students worked on average thirty hours per week, and they were often first-generation college students. “Our students are driven to succeed and passionate about their careers. They typically are very serious and diligent,” said Dr. Witt.

Dr. Witt lecturing in Bus 110 course

A UM-Flint student, Laurie Matheny, approached Dr. Witt about a potential project she had and didn’t know where to find resources. “The university can be a difficult place to navigate and find solutions,” said Dr. Witt. 

From this experience, Matheny knew that other students could benefit from guidance and assistance. As a result, she and Dr. Witt founded the Entrepreneurs Society alongside support from Dean John Helmuth and Associate Dean Yener Kandogan. It was recognized as an academic student club at UM-Flint, in 2008, as a way to facilitate students accessing the complex university environment and to help them succeed at their career goals. Dr. Witt was named Entrepreneur in Residence for the UM-Flint SOM and given the broad mandate of encouraging creative activities and teaching entrepreneurship and business law.

The first ES President was Laurie Matheny and the first task of the new student organization was to recruit like-minded students to be a part of its activities. “It wasn’t hard,” Dr. Witt continued, “Students were excited and on-board with a club dedicated to fulfilling their passions and dreams.”

“Many of our students need something special going for them if they are to compete and succeed in getting into graduate programs, in various disciplines, into companies which interview at many fine institutions, and in focusing their career plans effectively,” Dr. Witt continued, “The Entrepreneurs Society is a way for students to get help in building their careers and pursuing their dreams.  I don’t push them—they push themselves.  Perhaps I might nudge them a bit.  But generally, if they want to succeed, it is a lot of fun to help them.”

In 2011, Dean John Helmuth, Ph.D., pushed for the Entrepreneurs Society to join the National Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO), a network of more than 250 colleges and universities and 8,000 students. This would give more opportunities for students to network and broaden students’ perspectives while representing UM-Flint globally. Two years after joining CEO, the Entrepreneurs Society placed 2nd in two categories: Best Fundraising Event, and Best Chapter Leadership. The Entrepreneurs Society solidified its structure and started growing at a tremendous rate.  Students of all majors joined, with interests in engineering, computer science, pre-med/healthcare, fine arts, and music.

Entrepreneurs Society 2012 at CEO

The Entrepreneurs Society evolved to become focused on community outreach and building connections with outside organizations. ES conceived and helped to establish Habitat for Humanity’s Work-Live Program, a now-internationally recognized activity where a home is built for a low-income entrepreneur with the business on the first floor, and a residence upstairs.  “This has been done for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and we helped to bring it back to Flint—four of such homes have been built so far,” said Dr. Witt.

Entrepreneurs Society’s members have done work with numerous other organizations over the years and facilitated the development of many careers. Students have worked with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Genesee County Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Catholic Communities of Flint (St. Matt’s), the State of Michigan’s DEEP Program, the State of Michigan’s Rural Development Agency, the Economic Development Agency of the Small Business Administration, to name a few.

“Needless to say, these activities are expensive and time-intensive,” said Dr. Witt. Recognizing this need, 2014 ES President, Bryon Killin, BBA ’15 in Accounting, helped to start the Entrepreneurs Society Endowment Fund. This fund, approved by the University, has the sole purpose of using its investment returns to fund ES projects and activities. It has grown over the years and is beginning to generate some modest support for student activities. “Donations from students like Bryon and local donors have been graciously received and accepted.  It is still very modest, and we need funding in the worst way,” said Dr. Witt.

The Endowment Fund has been important in providing funding to student projects, and, along with the School of Management support from Dean Scott Johnson, it has also funded networking opportunities and trips like the CEO conference attended by six to ten students each year.

In 2018, Entrepreneurs Society was ranked top five in Chapter Advisory and Chapter Leader under the leadership of ES President, Michael Engle, BBA ‘18 in Finance and International Business. “Michael is an amazing, organized, and dedicated young professional and his efforts laid the groundwork for solid growth,” said Dr. Witt. During Engle’s tenure, the student group also completed an EDA-funded research project and presented a report on the need for eldercare facilities in Flint and surrounding communities.

Entrepreneurs Society 2019 at CEO; Global Chapter of the Year. Pictured left to right:
Front: Elijah Madar, Raymond Kusch
Middle: Timothy McGlinchey, Ashlyn Summers, Giorgia Pasqui, Elisabeth Hamilton, Todd Fridline, Carryn White, Ashley Hardacre, Kayla Emmendorfer, Helena Schutt
Back: Dr. Michael Witt, Jacob Berg

His successor, Todd Fridline, BBA ‘19 in Finance, capitalized and extended these diligent efforts, culminating in winning the 2019 Global Chapter of the Year award. This received wide recognition in the UM-Flint community. Todd Fridline also led an extraordinary team to research, design, and launch a new innovative program in Genesee County: Flint Green. Elisabeth Hamilton BBA ‘20 in Marketing and Entrepreneurship, Sean Tabor BBA ’17 in Entrepreneurship, Elijah Madar, BS ‘22 in Mechanical Engineering, and Caryn White, BBA ’20 in Marketing, worked together to research, design, build and install a novel wind/solar roof-mounted system designed to generate clean and cheap energy to a low-income residential home.

Flint Green Project
Pictured left to right: Elisabeth Hamilton, Todd Fridline, and Dr. Michael Witt

At the end of the 2018/19 academic year, the Entrepreneurs Society was recognized at the Celebrating Wolverine Excellence (CWE) banquet, an annual event for honoring and celebrating UM-Flint student contributions hosted by the Department of Student Involvement and Leadership. ES won four UM-Flint student organization awards: UM-Flint Student Organization of the year, UM-Flint Most Outstanding Community Contribution, UM-Flint Most Outstanding Student Leader (Fridline), and UM-Flint Most Outstanding Faculty Advisor (Dr. Witt).

Current Entrepreneurs Society Operations

The latest students, headed by ES President, Garrett Prince, BBA ’22 in Finance, (last semester recently graduated ES President, Giorgia Pasqui, BBA ’20 in International Business and Entrepreneurship & Innovation Management) are still striving and persevering post-COVID.

“No step for a stepper,” said Dr. Witt, channeling his Texas roots, “They continue to dip, dive, duck and dodge challenges as they arise.”

The other students in charge of ES leadership are Vice President, Helena Schutt, BBA ’22 in International Business and Marketing, Treasurer, Evan Johnson, BBA ’22 in General Business, Communications Coordinator, Drew Ferrari, M.S. in Computer Science & Information Systems, Marketing Director, Tracy Pemberton, BBA ’21 in International Business, and Ryan Hicks, MBA.

“I am most proud of their work with each other in cross-campus disciplines and with other student groups, including a session with six African-American entrepreneurs from the Black Student Union and hosting a guest lecturer in small business tax preparation with Beta Alpha Psi. Several new members are working on a Mentoring Program (Theo Ellis, Marketing), a PSA encouraging vaccine use (Christina El Zerka, Biology), and an Art Gallery project (Marquise ‘Mia’ Medal, Arts Administration). Several community businesses are being advised by other students, writing business plans, as well as a winter lecture series, featuring a noted venture capitalist from Hearst Ventures and author, Kunal Mehta, on Tuesday, March 9, 2021,” said Dr. Witt.

The three business students (Ryan Hicks, Evan Johnson, and Garrett Prince) investigated how supply chains in Flint, MI were affected by COVID-19 and how it impacts local residents. They used software from Tealbooks, a supplier intelligence company based in Toronto, ON, Canada, to evaluate the operational disruptions of shipping goods and products coming from around the world to Michigan. The end result of the survey and report was to help local businesses address supply chain disruptions while assisting in providing resources and guidance for financial relief.

Presently, Christina El Zarka, a UM-Flint CAS Biology freshman student has developed a public service announcement to educate and encourage Flint residents to take the COVID-19 vaccine in a campaign called Save Summer 2021. She is working with a number of groups, including the Genesee County Health Department, to create and distribute this public service announcement and informational video about the effectiveness of the vaccine.

In addition to student-focused projects, the Entrepreneurs Society is also involved with hosting speaker series, faculty and student spotlights, business plan training sessions, and offering professional headshots to UM-Flint students during the 2020/21 academic year.

“In reflecting on the last year and the challenges presented by the pandemic, it has been remarkable to watch the campus and community unite to help one another through this difficult time,” said Dr. Witt. Despite COVID-19 having made it harder to collaborate in-person, the Entrepreneurs Society continues to work on multiple projects with community-focused initiatives.

“It’s been a busy last few years. It’s been fun, but it’s been a challenging environment to navigate. We are still improving and have made a lot of headway, but a lot of work needs to be done,” Dr. Witt continued, “Giving Blueday at the University of Michigan-Flint is March 10th and we could use any financial support you are able to provide. Any amount is helpful, and just knowing that you are out there and willing to acknowledge these students’ efforts with your contributions is meaningful and will directly support the Flint community as well.”

To make a gift to the Entrepreneurs Society on March 10th for Giving Blueday, bookmark this website.

To make a gift right now, visit the Entrepreneurs Society Endowment Fund page.