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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.

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:

Semifinalists

  • 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 https://www.umflint.edu/som/hagerman-center/zillion-solutions/  and contact the Hagerman Center at hagermancenter@umich.edu.

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!

Bios:

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.

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.

Kira Rouser BBA '16

Forecasting Her Future: February’s aMaizeing Alumni

By Alexis Menard on February 25, 2021 2:40 PM

Alumna, Kira Rouser graduated with honors from UM-Flint’s School of Management with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting in 2016. Kira is a Senior Financial Analyst and oversees budgeting and forecasting at the company she works for. In her career, she interacts with Sales and department leaders to make accurate forecasting predictions and say’s each day brings something new! As our featured Alumni of the month, Kira gives insight on why she choose UM-Flint and advice for students and alumni considering becoming a Financial Analyst.

Q: Degree(s) and graduation year:
A: BBA in Accounting, 2016

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 have been working at InfuSystem as a Sr. Financial Analyst for a year now. I help support the budgeting and forecasting process for the company, but what that looks like on a day-to-day basis varies (which is part of the reason I love my job). Some days I am spending the majority of my time interacting with our Sales group with a focus on updating the latest revenue forecast, other days I’m meeting with department leaders reviewing expenses from prior periods and updating what the months ahead look like. Each day holds something new!

Q: Why did you choose UM-Flint for your degree?
A:
I picked UM-Flint because of its accessibility; Flint is my home and holds a big place in my heart, so being able to stick close to home while pursuing my bachelor’s degree was great. UM-Flint is a great school and offers so much to its students. The fact that I was able to get a fantastic education in a small community setting was something that helped me more than I recognized at the time I was attending. 

Q: What is one of your favorite experiences at UM-Flint?
A:
My favorite experience was the interaction I had with the people there. The professors, staff and my fellow students were amazing. I made some really good connections there and I know that I would not be where I am in my career without the people that I met at UM-Flint.

Q: Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?
A:
A: I have always loved managing finances so it was a natural fit for me.  

Q: What is one of your proudest accomplishments so far?
A:
Getting promoted to Sr. Analyst was by far my proudest career accomplishment.

Q: What advice would you give students that are thinking of pursuing a career in your field?
A:
Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. I think oftentimes when you’ve committed to a particular area of study (accounting or finance) you think that you should be an expert, but that’s not always true. You should aspire and work towards being knowledgeable in your area of focus, but the reality is that when you first start off you’re not at that expert level. If you ask the right people the right questions you’ll put yourself on track to being successful at what you do. 

Q: Fun Facts!
A:
I love interior design!   

#1 Online Business Program in Michigan

By Alexis Menard on January 26, 2021, 4:15 PM

The University of Michigan-Flint’s Online Bachelor of Business (BBA) program has been named the top online business program in the state of Michigan, and one of the top programs in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2021.

The UM-Flint School of Management’s Online BBA program was ranked 19th nationwide.

“We are very gratified that our Online BBA program is so highly ranked and recognized,” said School of Management Dean, Scott D. Johnson, Ph.D., “Our faculty are knowledgeable in their disciplines and are experienced in providing high-quality online instruction.”

“Our students often have jobs and families. They appreciate the flexibility to learn in a convenient online format,” said Dean Johnson. 

In 2020, the School of Management announced a lower out of state online tuition and offers seven business majors that are fully online, cutting-edge, flexible, and career-ready including; Accounting, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, Finance, General Business, International Business, Marketing, and Organizational Behavior & Human Resources Management.

U.S. News is an independent global publisher of news and education rankings for various higher education institutions. The U.S. News & World Report methodology for the Best Online Bachelor’s Program rankings were determined by the quality of education, time of completion, and affordability of the program for working professionals looking to progress or change careers. Additionally, school rankings were also based on four categories: engagement, service and technologies, faculty credentials and training, and expert opinion. 

Learn more about the #1 Online BBA in MI

Seven SOM Resources that will make you a Better Student

By Alexis Menard On September 28, 2020 12:05 am

UM-Flint School of Management (SOM) provides amazing resources for business students. Students can access a variety of resources, from career preparation to study abroad programs. Check out the top seven resources that will make you a better student!

Big Interview

With this interview preparation tool, you can review different videos on a variety of topics on interviewing, interview questions, salary negotiations, and participate in simulated mock interviews. The tools available on Big Interview can also help you prepare for graduate school interviews. Big Interview caters its questions towards your career field and you can record and send your own personal mock interviews to others to be reviewed for grading and feedback. Start preparing now by going to umflint.biginterview.com and creating your account. For questions regarding Big Interview, email Antonio Riggs, anriggs@umich.edu.  

WSJ

All UM-Flint students have access to a Wall Street Journal subscription. This is a great resource to stay current on business news and happenings across several markets. It can also provide a personalized experience for tracking companies and industries for class projects and interview research. The WSJ offers key features that can be explored here. Get started with your free membership today by visiting umflint.edu/som/wsj and enter your UM-Flint credentials. If you need assistance, email Dominic Fusero, dfusero@umflint.edu

Study Abroad/Exchange Programs

Seeing the world while in college is important because it pushes students outside of their comfort zone, builds confidence, become independent, problem solver, develops networking skills, and develop intercultural understanding, all of which are important skills for a successful business professional. 

For adventurous students wanting to dive right into a culture, exchange programs are offered in 12 countries from around the world. The partnered universities have business-specific programs and courses will count towards your UM degree. UM-Flint scholarships and financial aid are available as well as external scholarships. View programs at goabroad.umflint.edu/. For questions, contact the Education Abroad Office at studyabroad@umich.edu.

For students that aren’t quite ready to take the leap abroad for a semester, each year the School of Management faculty members lead a study abroad program. The faculty member leading the trip is familiar with the region and can relate course concepts to the surrounding areas. Trips are under two weeks long and take place during the spring or summer semester. Study abroad trips count towards your UM degree. Similarly, UM-Flint scholarships are available and financial aid can count towards course fees. Eligible students will receive a $1,000 guaranteed scholarship. For questions or resources, visit umflint.edu/som/study-abroad or contact Professor Greg Laurence, Director of International and Global Studies Program, at glaurence@umich.edu.

Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone is a software platform available to all School of Management students that can be used to learn a foreign language at several proficiency levels. This is a significant benefit for international students, international business majors, business students interested in a foreign language minor, and as well as those who wish to study abroad. Each semester, a limited amount of licenses are available for a six-month period, which at the end can be renewed.

Languages available: Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Dari, Dutch, English (American), English (British), Filipino (Tagalog), French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Pashto, Persian (Farsi), Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Russian,  Spanish (Latin America), Spanish (Spain), Swahili, Swedish, Turkish, Urdu, and Vietnamese

To have access, students can contact international business faculty, Yener Kandogan, Ph.D., at yener@umich.edu or Keith Kelley, Ph.D., at keithkel@umich.edu. Also include the language you are interested in, along with a paragraph explaining your need/purpose for access, current proficiency level, foreign language courses taken, and how you will benefit from access to this language software.

Talking with the Career Planning Counselor, Antonio Riggs

Whether you are looking for an internship, career advice, or attending a professional development event for your Career Development Requirement points, Antonio Riggs, Career Planning Counselor, will have an answer for you! Antonio hosts business career fairs once a semester and invites multiple employers on-campus/virtual for students to network and ask questions about a particular job field. He can help you with your resume, interview skills, professional dress, and overall job hunting advice. Antonio can also help you navigate Handshake and let you know about possible job opportunities with local companies. Lastly, Antonio manages the Student 2 Student mentorship program that connects freshman/transfer students to upper class business students. Learn more about internship/career resources here. To schedule a one on one meeting, email him at anriggs@umich.edu.

SOM Student Clubs

The School of Management sponsors nine student organizations. These organizations welcome UM-Flint undergraduate and graduate students of any major. Many organizations deal with broad business concepts to help sharpen your skills. Each organization focuses on a particular field of business, such as Accounting, Finance, Entrepreneurship, Human Resources, International Business, Marketing, and Supply Chain Management.

Previous Entrepreneurs Society member, Elisabeth Hamilton said, “New students should take advantage of the countless opportunities and resources offered at UM-Flint early on in their academic career. I can’t express how grateful I am for the opportunities I have had through the School of Management and being an active member of student organizations like Entrepreneurs Society. I have gained real-life career experience and made professional connections. I truly believe I would not be as prepared for the real world if it wasn’t for the Entrepreneurs Society.”

To learn more about SOM student clubs, visit the SOM student organization website umflint.edu/som/student-organizations or contact Antonio Riggs, anriggs@umich.edu.

Hagerman Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation

The Hagerman Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation was established in 2015 and since then the center has been known for its successful cross-campus Zillion Solutions pitch competition, the Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurial Speaker Series, and student scholarships. The Hagerman Center’s mission is to encourage entrepreneurial and innovative thinking in students and faculty in all disciplines. The center can help kick start your entrepreneurial passion while also learning business principles and logistics of starting a business. Submitting your idea to Zillion Solutions can lead to you winning one of 50 cash prizes available, connect you to local entrepreneurs for guidance on how to pursue your idea, and add a great line to your resume. For questions, contact Professor Mark Simon at marksimo@umich.edu. 

Dear Professor: Can an employer fire me or refuse to hire me for being a smoker?

Posted by Alexis Menard on February 11, 2020 at 2:15 pm

Dear Professor:

Q: Can an employer fire me or refuse to hire me for being a smoker?

A: First distinguish between smoking at work and smoking off-premises.  Employers can ban smoking, including vaping, at work and on the job site.  Beyond that, some employers wish to refuse to hire or wish to fire smokers for three reasons: smokers impose higher health-care premiums and costs than non-smokers, smokers are less productive on the job (taking smoke breaks), and smokers have a higher absentee rate. 

Protection for smoking off-premises depends on which state your employer is located.  There is no federal law declaring smokers a “protected class” under discrimination laws.  You must look to the local laws for the answer.  Washington, D.C. and 29 states have enacted legislation which provides smokers some protection.  The protection either directly includes smoking or is wrapped in language that protects workers from adverse actions for off-duty conduct, be it smoking or other activities (California, Colorado, New York, North Carolina).  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoker_protection_law for a list of state statutes.

There may be variations in the applicability of the laws, depending on whether the employer is public or private, how many workers are employed by the employer, and whether a union contract addresses the issue.  As with other discrimination protection laws, there are exceptions if safety is involved or if a “BFOQ” exists. A BFOQ is a bona fide occupational requirement that makes a ban legitimate.

Francine Cullari, MA, MBA, JD

 (If you have a question of general interest in any area of business, send your inquiry to fcullari@umich.edu.  An answer will be posted in the immediately subsequent issue. Individual advice is not offered in this forum.  The opinion is that of the professor answering your question and not necessarily that of SOM or UM.)

Finance Student Interns at the State of Michigan Treasury

By Alexis Menard On December 23, 2019 1:30 pm

Barclay (Clay) Davis, BBA ’19 in Finance

Barclay (Clay) Davis graduated with honors from UM-Flint School of Management in December 2019 with his Bachelors of Business Administration (BBA) in Finance. During his time at UM-Flint, he applied his knowledge at an internship at the State of Michigan Treasury. In his role as the student assistant, he supported the Real, Opportunistic, and Absolute Return Division through research and analysis skills to recommend purchases, retention or sale of investments.

Davis is originally from Highland, Michigan and choose UM-Flint because of the high quality of education and affordability of tuition. “The application of the concepts I learned at UM-flint helped me understand my studies more and relate them to what I wanted to do as a career,” Davis continues, “I would have to say nearly all my School of Management courses directly or indirectly applied to my internship as a wide variety of skills and knowledge were required for my internship. This internship gave me the opportunity to show my skills and I am now being considered for a full-time financial analyst position.”

His post-graduation goal is to pursue a career as a financial analyst, one of the most prevalent career paths in finance. “I plan to become a financial analyst for the State of Michigan Retirement Systems pension fund within the State of Michigan Treasury. I have always had an interest in finance and financial markets and enjoy the process of identifying and researching investments,” said Davis. At his position, he gained a variety of skills but mostly valued gaining firsthand knowledge of what a financial analyst goes through on a daily basis and enjoyed meeting with large financial firms. “This experience showed me the level of expertise, attention to detail, and hard work it takes to be financial analysts,” said Davis.

Mr. Nichols, Lecturer of Management, and Dr. Stephens, Lecturer of Finance, informed Davis about the competitive internship program at the State of Michigan Treasury. “I cannot thank both of them enough for their interest in finding opportunities for students that lead to internships and potential careers,” Davis continues, “UM-Flint has given me the opportunity and skills necessary to excel in my future career, and I cannot thank the University enough.”

Dear Professor: Accommodating religious preferences in the workplace

Posted by Alexis Menard on December 10, 2019 at 12:55 pm

Dear Professor:

Q: I am an employer of 110 employees in a retail setting. How far do I have to go to accommodate religious preferences?

A: Religion is one of the five protected classes under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, along with race, sex and national origin.  Employers cannot discriminate against employees or applicants on the basis of being a member of one or more of the five classes.  The law applies to employers of more than 15 employees, including government employers.

Typically, religious bias arises when an employee’s work schedule conflicts with a religious observance or appearance requirements.  But frequently the type of work creates a conflict, such as anti-abortion nurses required to assist in abortions.  Further, pejorative statements by other employees or supervisors can form a basis for a religious discrimination claim.

An employer is required to accommodate religion unless it causes an undue hardship on the employer. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the accommodation does not have to involve more than minimal expense or operational problems.  For example, an employer does not have to incur shift or overtime premiums to cover for an employee’s religious request or change seniority or require others to work a shift to accommodate. On the other hand, an employer would have to allow employees doing the same work to voluntarily switch shifts.

 (If you have a question of general interest in any area of business, send your inquiry to fcullari@umich.edu.  An answer will be posted in the immediate subsequent issue. Individual advice is not offered in this forum.  The opinion is that of the professor answering your question and not necessarily that of SOM or UM.)