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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.)

Negotiating Outcomes: Book Review by Francine Cullari

Written by Francine Cullari on November 25, 2019. Posted by Alexis Menard on December 10, 2019 at 12:50 pm

Negotiating Outcomes (Harvard Business School Pocket Mentor Series, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA, 2007)

Among the plethora of business advice books and articles, the Harvard Business School Pocket Mentor Series provides the most complete albeit concise advice on ten topics ranging from leading teams to managing projects to negotiating outcomes.  Negotiating Outcomes has 94 pages of cogent steps to having success in any type of negotiation process.  Alumni have on occasion contacted me to report favorable results using the recommended techniques in purchasing a car, being interviewed for employment, and investment club policy.

The booklet first distinguishes between distributive negotiation, in which a gain by one side is made at the expense of the other (win-lose), and integrative negotiation, in which joint and individual is the goal for both sides (win-win). Tactics for each type of negotiation are explored.  Steps prior to negotiation, including various preparation forms, the first meeting of negotiators, and negotiation itself are identified and explained. 

Specific steps are recommended to deal with barriers to agreement, such as lack of trust, saboteurs, differences in gender and culture, communication problems, irrational escalation, partisan perception, overconfidence, unchecked emotions and unreasonable expectations.

There are numerous books on how to negotiate, but it unlikely you will find an easier-to-read, easier-to-use, thoroughly clear, and inexpensive aid.

-Francine Cullari, MA, MBA, JD

School of Management Student Receives Prestigious Women in Defense Award

By Alexis Menard On December 4, 2019, 10:15 am

Alexandria Thompson speaking at the Women in Defense gala on November 8, 2019

UM-Flint School of Management student, Alexandria Thompson, received the distinguished HORIZONS scholarship from the Women in Defense – Michigan Chapter. The scholarship is given to encourage women to pursue careers related to national security and defense fields in the United States. Thompson is a U.S. Air Force veteran and will be receiving her Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Supply Chain Management in December 2019. She will be graduating with honors from UM-Flint on Sunday, December 15, 2019.

Thompson received the scholarship at the 11th Annual Women in Defense gala on November 8, 2019, at the Royal Park Hotel in Rochester, MI. “It was an incredibly special night because I got to bring my mom as my date,” said Thompson, “My mom is a U.S. Air Force veteran with ten years of active duty service. Being able to celebrate women who are often underrepresented in their defense and military careers, alongside my mom, was an absolute dream.” 

Pictured left to right: Dee Thompson (Mother), U.S. Air Force veteran, and Alexandria Thompson, U.S. Air Force veteran

Previously, Thompson worked combat supply operations for an F-16 fighter squadron in various countries such as Japan, Jordan, Djibouti, and Singapore. Thompson said that the traveling made it difficult to pursue a degree, “I separated and began pursuing my degree at UM-Flint [and] it allowed me to pursue my education from one of Michigan’s top tier schools without having to move again.”  

Thompson said, “The Supply Chain Management program at UM-Flint provides a global perspective on business, logistics, and management that promotes the skills and objectives that directly apply to what is required of a civilian to support our military members on the front lines.” Thompson added, “Courses such as Project Management, International Management, and Operations Management have taught me abilities in planning and developing strategies outside of national boundaries.”

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/SW7og2Lj3My15Q3Eo_DRNuGf4X5OgFtwGoNLFRIW2ayFCyci8BA_bC1VQEBUp5Qk5gOWlBPiEThqVIqfU6Q9TyhwDelicWzQLaZ6e5Nv3ThM62EHSgR9HxXV681ZQblI_EsZeye7
HORIZONS Scholarship Award Certificate

One of the obstacles Thompson had to overcome to attend UM-Flint was getting back into the academic mindset after being out of school for so long. “I struggled very much in the beginning, especially in math-related subjects. I spent every spare minute I had in the math tutor lab getting help,” said Thompson. Thompson credits her achievements to Larry Nichols, School of Management Lecturer, for writing her a letter of recommendation for the HORIZONS scholarship. “Mr. Nichols is a rare educator that genuinely cares about his students’ success,” said Thompson. 

Thompson is currently working as a Student Contracting Trainee for the U.S. Army at the Detroit Arsenal. After graduation, Thompson will be working towards becoming a Contract Specialist and will continue her career with the U.S. Army. “I knew after my military service that I would like to pursue a career within the Department of Defense. I think it is important to have pride in what you do and the military offers a sense of pride unlike any other.”

MBA Student Creates New Social Network Geared towards Graduate Business Students

By Alexis Menard On November 13, 2019 11:45 am

If you are a current SOM graduate student or a SOM alumni interested in joining the network, visit www.umf-som.net and click the “Request to Join” button to get started!

With many of UM-Flint’s graduate students only appearing on campus twice a semester for the Net+ program, one student sought out a way to encourage more connectivity amongst his graduate peers and alumni. The idea for the social network was created by a University of Michigan-Flint graduate student, Raymond Pirouz, in the Masters of Business Administration program.  He devised a social network called UMF-SOM Graduate Student Network, that is hosted on the Mighty Network, to seamlessly connect with his classmates. It is a student facilitated network for current School of Management graduate students or graduate alumni.

Raymond Pirouz

Pirouz is a first-year MBA Net+ student with a concentration in Marketing & Innovation Management and expects to graduate in the summer of 2021. The Net+ program is a mixed-mode format with the majority of work being completed online along with two on-site residencies that are held each semester. Pirouz said, “The program is perfect for working adults, however, the flexibility also presents the challenge of keeping in touch with peers who may not follow one another on the same path throughout their experience with the program.” Pirouz has been the first to come up with an interactive platform for UM-Flint graduate students to connect outside of the classroom.  

This idea to start a social network came to Pirouz when he attended orientation. He asked faculty and administration how the cohort functioned given that many of the students were not on campus due to the flexibility of the program. UM-Flint lacks a graduate business cohort and “it signaled an opportunity to develop a means by which a cohort – even if a virtual one – could be established through a shared environment like a private social network” said Pirouz.

Pirouz states that the UMF-SOM graduate student social network can help students in three ways: 

  1. Provide graduate students with a persistent space containing peers with whom they can connect and remain in contact with throughout their time at UM-Flint SOM, thereby creating an experience otherwise unavailable. 
  2. Give graduate students the ability to network and share tips, strategies for success at UM-Flint SOM and keep them abreast of get-togethers and networking opportunities and events. 
  3. Serve as both an in-school social network as well as a professional alumni network beyond graduation.

Pirouz explains “My core motivation for launching the UMF-SOM graduate student social network was to create a persistent space for graduate students of all backgrounds and area concentrations to connect and remain connected no matter where their educational and future professional journey might take them.”

Pirouz also aims to make UM-Flint students and alumni more UM-Flint proud. He is hoping that clothing will soon be available on campus highlighting different departments so that students can showcase their academic unit. Pirouz believes this will strengthen the ‘brand’ at UM-Flint and spark new discussions on how many experiences can be improved. 

Overall, Pirouz would like the UMF-SOM graduate student network to act as a persistent space for students to be able to check into for connecting with peers, keeping in touch, sharing tips and techniques for success at UM-Flint SOM, coordinating get-togethers and continuing to stay in touch beyond graduation, and finally serving as an educational as well as professional network.

Pirouz resides in Fort Gratiot, Michigan but grew up in Southern California and earned a BFA at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. He hasn’t been a student since 1996 and chose UM-Flint because of the flexibility of program offering, and knowing he would have access to world-class University of Michigan faculty in a format that best fits his busy life. “One of the benefits of being a graduate student at UM-Flint SOM is the flexibility of the program in that one can mix and match course modalities to fit a busy schedule.”

If you are a current SOM graduate student or a SOM alumni interested in joining the network, visit www.umf-som.net and click the “Request to Join” button to get started!