“The Flint & Genesee Chamber is a determined network of community members. Its efforts bring a wide range of valuable resources to individuals and businesses in Genesee County, all for the purpose of supporting our local economy and community members. The Entrepreneurs Society and School of Management are delighted to work with the Chamber to amplify this effort,” said Dr. Michael Witt, PharmD, JD, University of Michigan-Flint, Entrepreneur in Residence and Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Business Law.
The Chamber is one of four divisions of Flint & Genesee Group, which supports the region through its commitment to developing business, talent, and place. The organization – which also includes Flint & Genesee Economic Alliance, Flint & Genesee Education & Talent, and Explore Flint & Genesee – envisions Genesee County being a top-five community in Michigan based on jobs, talent, livability, and equity by 2040.
The University’s partnership with the Chamber kicks off this collaboration with a new video and podcast series, Genesee County Visionaries.This series focuses on the role local business and non-profit leaders play in growing the Greater Flint area.
“This series is a great way to recognize the business leaders in our community and learn more about their visions and what drives them to succeed,” said Andrew Younger, Executive Director of the Flint & Genesee Chamber.
The first episode, launched on March 8, 2022, highlights Dick Skaff, CEO/President of Skaff Furniture Carpet One. A member of the Flint & Genesee Chamber, Skaff is renowned for its catchy family-orientated TV commercials and high-quality furniture and flooring products. Moderated by Witt, the pair discuss the over 100-year-old company’s roots in Michigan and its extensive philanthropic activities in the Flint Community. Skaff has raised over $180,000 through their Save and Share program to support local charities, which include the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, Carriage Town Ministries, Whaley Children’s Center, and Communities First.
Genesee County Visionaries can be found on Anchor, Spotify, Youtube, and Facebook with future plans of being released on Apple Podcast and Google Podcast.
“The series will also highlight the many opportunities available for our talented young professionals to grow and have a successful career here in Genesee County,” said Younger.
“The Genesee County Visionariesseries is just the beginning,” Witt continued. “In the near future, we want to invite hundreds of UM-Flint students to Flint & Genesee Chamber career fairs to keep top talent in the region, expand areas for student memberships, coordinate expert UM-Flint faculty presentations for Chamber members, and much more. We see this as a win-win for everyone, especially for our students. They are the future leaders of Flint.”
About the School of Management The School of Management, established in 1975, is the oldest professional school on the Flint campus. The school is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. AACSB International accreditation is the hallmark of excellence in management education. The School’s mission is to deliver innovative high-quality programs, intellectual research contributions, high standards of integrity and ethics, and engagement in local and global communities.
About the Entrepreneurs Society The Entrepreneurs Society is an official academic student organization at the University of Michigan-Flint School of Management, founded in 2008 by Dr. Michael Witt, PharmD, JD. The Entrepreneurs Society seeks to offer guidance to students to help transform their creative ideas into productive, new ventures.
About the Flint & Genesee Chamber Flint & Genesee Chamber, a division of Flint & Genesee Group, is a premiere business advocacy entity that helps local business owners and entrepreneurs grow their network and visibility, develop their employees, influence public policy, and works with its partners to foster a strong business climate in Flint and Genesee County. For more information, visit flintandgenesee.org, and check us out on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Alumnus, Raymond Pirouz, graduated with honors in May 2021 from UM-Flint’s School of Management with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and was awarded Most Outstanding MBA Student from his graduating cohort. During his time as a student, he founded a graduate/alumni social network for SOM students. Raymond is an Instructor at the MSU Broad College of Business in the Marketing Department where he’s able to share his passion for learning with others continuing their education. In 2021, Raymond earned four teaching awards including the MBA Faculty of the Year award by the Broad College of Business.
As our featured alumni of the month, Raymond gave insight on what led him to begin teaching, why he chose UM-Flint for his MBA, his favorite classroom experiences, and how his UM-Flint education impacts the courses he teaches as marketing faculty at MSU.
Q: Degree(s) and graduation year: A: Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Marketing and Innovation Management, 2021
Q: Were you involved in any clubs or extracurriculars during your college experience? A: I founded http://www.UMF-SOM.net, a social network for graduate students of the UM-Flint School of Management. Even though it was an unofficial initiative, it was recognized by the School of Management and is currently listed along with other student organizations.
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 a Broad College of Business Instructor in the Marketing Department at Michigan State University. I have taught at MSU Broad now for a little over three years, though I have been teaching for a little over 25 years at a number of universities including the Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California (Irvine) and the Ivey Business School at Western University (London, Ontario Canada) among others.
I love my job because I love learning and I love sharing what I am passionate about with others. So, I get to share my excitement with young people (well, younger people than me for the most part) who are on a journey of growth and advancement.
Q: Describe your career path A: My undergrad was in Graphic & Packaging Design and I began work as an Art Director in an interactive ad agency during the Dot Com Boom (early dinosaur days of the internet). After a year in advertising, I left to write a few books and became a published author who had the opportunity to speak at conferences and be interviewed on the radio. One thing lead to another and I started teaching (which is something I always wanted to eventually do even when I was a student in design school). A little over 25 years later and I finally had the chance to earn my MBA after spending so many years teaching other MBA students.
Q: Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in? A: Teaching is a passion to me. It’s one of the rare occupations in life where I know I am making a positive difference in the lives of other people, no question about it. I also love the idea of higher education: One of the few opportunities we have created as a human species wherein people of various socioeconomic and other backgrounds willingly come together in peace and harmony for the pursuit of self-improvement. There are few things in this life that reach that level of authenticity and purity in my opinion, and I want to be a part of that.
Q: What advice would you give current students or recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in your professional field? A: I actually don’t think that teaching is for everyone, and I doubt most MBA students want to go into teaching. For those who do, however, don’t be like me since I definitely did not follow the prescribed path for a career in academia, nor is my role as Instructor necessarily esteemed within the ivory tower. I am not a Ph.D. researcher, but that is what I recommend young people pursue if they are serious about academia.
Q: What is a long-term career or professional goal you have for yourself? A: I am happy to continue teaching for the next 15-20 years before I retire.
Q: Why did you chooseUM-Flint for your degree? A: I appreciated UM-Flint SOM’s flexible modality that enabled busy professionals like me the opportunity to learn remotely while also having the opportunity to attend in-person sessions during weekend residencies.
Q: How did your education at UM-Flint prepare youfor what you are doing today? A: My experience at UM-Flint was a deep-dive ethnography of the MBA student experience, which has been invaluable to my role as a marketing faculty at Michigan State University, teaching MBA and undergraduate students. The experience enabled me to literally put myself in the shoes of my students and to appreciate their trials, tribulations, expectations, wants, needs, and desires firsthand. One can not put a price on such insight.
Q: 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: What is one of your favorite events you attended or classroom experiences at UM-Flint? Why? A: One of my favorite classroom experiences at UM-Flint SOM was during my final year where I was in a team that competed against other teams in our capstone strategy class, managing an international sneaker retailer brand through an online simulation. The experience afforded a roller coaster of emotions, but we did manage to come out on top and I learned a lot from the team dynamics.
Q: Who influenced you most during your time at UM-Flint and why? A: During my time at UM-Flint, I was most influenced by my peers and friends in the program. We laughed, struggled, and learned from each other and they remain people I can connect with today if I needed to.
Q: Share your best college memory A: Meeting other MBA students during weekend residency and hanging out in-between and after class.
Q: What is one of your proudest accomplishments so far? A: After 25 years of teaching, I miraculously earned the following teaching awards in the same year as I graduated with my MBA:
MBA Faculty of the Year, 2021 Broad College of Business, MSU
Instructor of Excellence, Undergraduate Required Courses, 2021 Michigan State University
Instructor of Excellence, Undergraduate Electives, 2021 Michigan State University
Instructor of Excellence, Full-Time MBA Program, 2021 Michigan State University
Q: What is something people may not know about you? A: As an undergrad, I took advantage of an exchange term opportunity with a now-defunct Swiss campus of my design school. I spend a few months in one of the most expensive and beautiful countries on this planet, touring Switzerland on its pristine and on-time trains. It remains among the highlights of my life.
The University of Michigan Center for the Education of Women (CEW+) will be honoring a UM-Flint School of Management student at the 2021 Center for the Education of Women Virtual Awards Celebration. The event will be acknowledging 85 scholarship recipients and 10 graduate fellows from the three UM campuses including Reva Spikener, who is receiving the Margaret Dow Towsley Scholarship.
The 2021-22 cohort being recognized are student parents and primary caregivers, students who are returning to the classroom after a prolonged interruption, students who are underrepresented in STEM fields, first-generation, international students, and students who have overcome great obstacles in order to achieve their dream of earning a degree in higher education.
Margaret Dow Towsley, one of the named scholarships being awarded at CEW+, has opened countless doors for women and children by paving the way for equality for women. She was the first woman elected to the Ann Arbor City Council, one of the first persons in Ann Arbor to acknowledge the special needs of children and working mothers, a major force in creating a gender-integrated Ann Arbor YMCA, and helped establish the Women’s City Club.
Spikener is widely known as a committed servant leader on the UM-Flint campus, in her church, and as part of her sorority. She consistently inspires others and demonstrates “strong will, determination, and follow-through.”
Spikener became pregnant with her fourth child while completing her bachelor’s degree. She also took on additional caregiving responsibilities during this time. Despite these life changes, she persisted with her education and would frequently bring her daughters with her to class and exams to make it work. She graduated cum laudewith a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in mathematics from Marygrove College.
Over the next 10 years, Spikener worked several jobs to independently support her children. She attempted to return to school in 2015, but lacked the necessary childcare support to complete the program.
Spikener has such determination and persistence at her current employer that she earned four promotions within six years. She one day aspires to reach a director-level position. While working full-time as a human resources manager, Spikener is earning her master’s degree in Leadership and Organizational Dynamics (MSLOD) at the University of Michigan – Flint and is an active member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.
“I believe with God all things are possible no matter the odds, no matter the circumstances, no matter what others believe. Our lives have a great purpose,” said Spikener reflecting on her experiences.
Recently, Spikener was approached to be a board member of the Black Defense Force. This organization aims to provide legal services for black individuals in the community with low socioeconomic status. She is proud to lead by example for her children as a lifelong learner and difference-maker in her community.
CEW+ is proud to name Reva Spikener a Margaret Dow Towsley Scholar. The Margaret Dow Towsley Scholars will be recognized on Thursday, November 11, 2021, from 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. on Zoom. The ceremony will include readings of short excerpts describing scholars’ academic or personal journeys, and break-out rooms to celebrate each scholarship.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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 NationalCollegiate 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 Societyplaced 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.
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.
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.
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, onTuesday, 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 calledSave 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 thiswebsite.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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!
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, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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, email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or Keith Kelley, Ph.D., at email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.”
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.)