Category Archives: Uncategorized

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!

Recent Graduate Contributes Advice and Humor about his Time at UM-Flint: November’s aMAIZEing Alumni

By Alexis Menard On November 5, 2019 1:10 pm

Casey Lester, BBA ’19 in General Business

Alumnus, Casey Lester, received his BBA in General Business in April 2019 from UM-Flint’s School of Management. During his time at UM-Flint, Casey worked full-time at Huntington National Bank and gave back to his community by serving on the board of Flint Community School Board of Education during the Flint Water Crisis. As our featured Alumnus, Casey answers questions on his favorite experiences from UM-Flint, accomplishments, and advice about pursuing a career in business.

Where are you currently working and your title? How long have you been working there?

I work for Huntington National Bank and I am a Treasury Management Advisor.  I have been there for 3 years.

Why did you choose UM-Flint for your BBA?

I live in Flint and have a strong passion for my city.  My wife went to U of M for her undergrad and her graduate degree.  She was very insistent that it was the best school around. Also, I don’t know if you know this but there isn’t nearly as many delicious options as there are for food in the pavilion.

What is one of your favorite experiences at UM-Flint?

I met some amazing people during my time at the university.  Faculty and students were all amazing and created an incredible and remarkable experience.  Also, Dr. Simon had this event and there was free pizza…it was one of the most rewarding things I received in my adult life.

Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?

Initially, I fell into it.  I had worked at a restaurant that went out of business and needed a new direction, I started working at Chase and got some really good experience then transitioned into a position with a better fit organization.

What is one of your proudest accomplishments so far?

The cliche and truthful answer is going to be my son, he is hands down the coolest person I have ever met.  Outside of that, I would say I am most proud of being able to have given a little bit back to the city I live in. I volunteered during the water crisis and serve on the Flint Community School Board of Education. Being able to give back is an amazing feeling and something people should experience.

What advice would you give students that are thinking of pursuing a career in Management or Business?

Understand that you are going to be terrible at it for the first few years.  You will annoy people and you will make their job harder and you will be the reason someone goes home and drinks.  THAT IS OK. Every great manager or business owner or influencer absolutely sucked at it when they first tried, the trick is not giving up while you are still trying to figure it out.

What would you like to see happen to UM-Flint/Flint within the next five years?

I would like to see UM-Flint eliminate third party websites/programs being required for classes.  My degree was a 70k investment that I am comfortable paying to the school, but the idea that we allow things like MYACCOUNTINGLAB.COM profit from the education of our future is extremely disturbing and all of our classes should stand alone without adding additional cost onto the student.

Fun Facts! Other random advice?

I learned more about how to act in business settings playing Dungeons and Dragons and video games than I would like to admit.  I still think about how much of my success is a direct result of how I reacted to a dice roll.

Talk to everyone, and remember them.  Learn how to associate people and one random fact about them, people are usually impressed when someone has not only listened to what they are saying but paid attention to it as well.

Austin’s summer in 10 words back to school count down! Financial Aid Intern. Social Media Management. Taking initiative. New experiences.

By Alexis Menard On August 24, 2019 9:15 am

Greetings, my name is Austin McIntosh and I am a junior studying for a Finance Major.

During the 2019 Summer, I interned for the University of Michigan – Flint’s Office of Financial Aid. This internship was a mixture of finance, accounting, and analysis, three critical skills required to go into the Financial Analyst field. Throughout this internship, I worked with the office accountant with payroll, payroll reconciliation, and communicating on reconciling outstanding issues. I also took the reins on the office’s social media accounts and helped bring it back to relevance. Among my responsibilities I also created the budgets for the 2019-2020 Study Abroad trips. Taking on projects that taught me new skills in Microsoft Excel and even Access was critical for me to prepare for the future.

For the upcoming Fall Semester, I am very excited about taking actual in-depth BBA courses because I am now taking that classes where I hope to learn the skillset to take into my future career – Financial Analysis. I am also very excited about lifting the Financial Management Association off the ground and making it more relevant than what it used to be.

Since I have been in the Financial Aid world for a good chunk of time, my biggest suggestions are to complete your FAFSA as early as you can, take advantage of on-campus employment, and over budget yourself for upcoming semesters. Preparing and having a larger expected tuition and book expense will pay its dividends later on down the road. GO BLUE!

Nichols and Dimes – August 2019 Interview

By Alexis Menard On August 13, 2019 12:00 pm

The interview below is in first person from the viewpoint of Larry Nichols, Lecturer of Management and Executive-in-Residence, held with Alexis Menard, Web and Social Media Assistant on August 6, 2019. The views stated below are the opinions of Mr. Nichols. Nichols and Dimes is intended to be a monthly advice column, and we are accepting questions or interview topics here. If you have any questions or concerns, please email almenard@umich.edu.


Three reasons why every person can’t have a million dollars when they retire: irrational decisions, uncontrollable misfortunes, or a missed opportunity.

Every person has access to the world market. When the internet became popular in the 90s, a friend and I decided to sell boat anchors. We established a website and sold boat anchors. To our amazement, we sold anchors to every continent in the world, except Antarctica. We discovered penguins don’t need boat anchors. I sold my anchors from Flint, Michigan and I didn’t know anything about the boating industry but we had the power to be able to connect to global markets and utilizing this new technology.

It was overwhelming to learn that there is a market for everything. To be successful, learn how to tap into that market. Use tools you already have like your cell phone or community resources, like a local computer lab. Do the research and figure out a way to get your idea or business into the market. Attend an event with the Innovation Incubator ([IN]) or have your idea assessed at 100K Ideas.

We have one of the most remarkable business economies in the world currently. People have more resources and opportunities now than at any time in the history of our world. I only see better things from here for those entering the marketplace unless they make irrational decisions.

An Entrepreneur within a Corporate Setting: July’s aMAIZEing Alumni

By Alexis Menard On July 19, 2019 11:15 am

Madison McCrum, BBA ’18 in Business Management with a focus in EIM.

Alumna, Madison McCrum, graduated from UM-Flint’s School of Management with a BBA in Business Management with a focus in EIM in 2018. Madison was involved with the Entrepreneurs Society and the Hagerman Center during her undergraduate studies. At the age of 22, Madison now works for a Fortune 500 company and has moved out of the state to work in North Carolina and Florida. She credits her decision to concentrate in entrepreneurship to her strong-willed personality. Having the go-getter attitude has impressed employers she has met. As our featured Alumna, Madison answers questions on why she chose UM-Flint, life after college, and advice for students interested in management. 

Why did you major in BBA Management with a focus on Entrepreneurship?

I chose a BBA with a focus in Entrepreneurship because as a strong willed individual I knew I would need the knowledge to one day pursue my own company. As a recent graduate however, employers have commented on how they love grads with an Entrepreneurship focus because they are impressed with our confidence and willingness to be a self starter! 

Why did you choose UM-Flint for your BBA? 

Initially, I would have to say I chose UM-Flint because my mother is a nursing professor there. However, what made me stay was how much I was challenged, particularly in the Entrepreneurship Society, Business Law class, and the multitude of business competitions I participated in, which later on impressed employers. 

What is one of your favorite experiences at UM-Flint? 

One of my favorite experiences I would have to say is just the day to day banter I could have with professors on an academic and personal level. They helped me achieve awards (Hagerman’s Zillion Solutions: University Improvement) and question why I was choosing the path I chose. Was I going to be challenged or become bored? Where did I see myself in 5-10 years? How do I better others by bettering myself?

Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?

 I chose to work supply chain in corporate retail because I worked full time in retail all throughout college. I am given pretty much free reign of how I want to own my departments and manage my staff. I have to make the calls on inventory management, product shipment windows, and seasonality time frames. My boss calls it, “an entrepreneur within a corporate setting.”

What is one of your proudest accomplishments so far?

So far, my proudest accomplishment is not the fact that I have landed an amazing corporate job at 22 years old at a Fortune 500 company, nor moving to NC and FL for improving my career. My proudest accomplishment is that I can still call my favorite professor on campus, Dr. Witt, throw a scenario at him, and get his opinion. It’s the ties I have back home that make me most proud, that and Urban Meyer retiring. 

What advice would you give students that are thinking of pursuing a career in Management? 

My biggest words of advice would be to stay humble and hungry. No matter what goes on in your career, don’t burn bridges -including in college. Also, pursuing a management degree is phenomenal if you are willing to work very hard for it -stay hungry! You will only get what you put in for it. UM-Flint has more than enough opportunities for you to succeed. 

Fun Facts 

Since graduating, I have moved to North Carolina and Florida. I have adopted two black labs and love to go hiking! I am currently living in Florida and snorkel, go kayaking with manatees, or play beach volleyball with friends any chance I get! The coolest professor on campus is still my mom, Toni L. LaRocco (2nd place goes to Dr. Witt)! I am truly grateful for the memories I made UM-Flint -Go Blue!