Tag Archives: Flint

Dayne Hopkins: Communications Strategist & U-M Alumnus: April aMAIZEing Alumni

Dayne Hopkins, a graduate of the University of Michigan-Flint with a BBA in Marketing and an MA in Applied Communications, currently serves as a Communications Strategist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. With a career path evolving from college admissions to communications and marketing, Dayne’s journey reflects a blend of passion and professional growth. His day-to-day responsibilities encompass overseeing social media strategy, internal and external communications, and marketing efforts for the U-M Concussion Center and the Human Performance & Sport Science Center. Drawing from his college experiences, Dayne emphasizes the importance of internships and exploring diverse interests. Beyond his professional pursuits, Dayne finds fulfillment in his photography business and indulges his passion for cycling across Michigan. With aspirations for top roles in communications and marketing, Dayne’s journey embodies a fusion of career ambition and personal fulfillment.

Q: Were you involved in any clubs or extracurriculars during your college experience? If so, what organizations/clubs?
A: I did not take part in extracurriculars because I ended up working around 30 hours/week at the school while completing my education.

Q: Where are you currently working and your title? How long have you been in this position or at this organization? 
A: My official title is Communications Strategist. I currently work for two centers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (the U-M Concussion Center and the Human Performance & Sport Science Center). I’ve been in this role since June 2023.

Q: What is your job like day to day?
A: My day-to-day is dependent on what projects I’m currently working on and changes constantly. I oversee our social media strategy and content, all internal and external communications for the two centers, and our marketing efforts around the university system. There is plenty of writing for the web and news, interviewing, some graphic design, and planning involved in the majority of my work.

Q: Why did you choose to attend UM-Flint for your degree(s)?
A: I chose UM-Flint because it was close to home and allowed me to easily live off-campus and commute. It was also very affordable and has a great reputation as part of the U-M system.

Q: Share your best college memory
A: One of my best memories was spending 3 consecutive years at the intercultural leadership seminar that was hosted by the UM-Flint International Center at the time. It was a week-long program that brought together students from all over campus and the world (exchange students, international students, and domestic students). The program really opened my eyes to my strengths and weaknesses as a student and an individual and was a fantastic growth opportunity for young professionals. Hopefully something similar will be brought back to campus someday!

Q: What is the most important thing you learned while you were at UM-Flint? 
A: I think one of the greatest skills I took with me was being able to comfortably give presentations and present information. This came from numerous opportunities to present in classes and also in the jobs I held while at the college.

Q: How did your education at UM-Flint prepare you for what you are doing today?
A: My professional career started at UM-Flint and so I like to think every step I took and every person I met along the way contributed in some way to where I am. I grew up professionally at the university and learned almost everything I know from my formal education, to putting things into practice once I got my first permanent position.

Q: Who influenced you most during your time at UM-Flint and why?
A: I think the individuals that influenced me most were those that I saw doing the work that I hoped to one day be doing myself.

Q: What is one of your favorite events you attended or classroom experiences at UM-Flint? Why?
A: I always liked attending the Day of Service events for MLK Day. I used to go to the Habitat for Humanity and help out on those days. I love woodworking and so it was both fun and rewarding.

Q: Describe your career path.
A: I started working in the area of college admissions and then moved into roles that brought me to the communications and marketing space, which is where I wanted to end up ultimately. I always liked the idea of putting your formal education into practice when it came to your career and so I was set on working in the communications and marketing field from the start. It did take a few years to get into a role that really aligned with my larger goals, but I got a lot of great experience along the way.

Q: Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?
A: It started back when I used to play music and had the opportunity to travel all over the Midwest performing. I spent a lot of time thinking about how to get people to come to shows and I guess at some point after the group I played with broke up, I decided that marketing aligned closely to what I already enjoyed thinking about. I can’t say that was the only thing that started my journey down this path, but it played a significant role. The funny thing is, I started college thinking I was going to pursue music in some way but ended up finding out that I was more interested in playing it than I was in learning about it! I guess it all worked out in the grand scheme of things.

Q: What advice would you give current students or recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in your professional field?
A: I would say to make sure and intern while you can. Soak up as much information in your field of interest as you can before it comes time to graduate. I like the advice of finding a position that you would one day want to end up in and look at the path it takes to get into that role (skills, years of experience, etc.). I think that is a great way to approach a career if I were to be able to go back and do it again. College is the perfect time to explore interests before making a decision. It’s kind of like dating before getting married. Try some things out for a while and see if they’re a good fit.

Q: What is a long-term career or professional goal you have for yourself?
A: I’m still aiming for a top communications/marketing role in an organization that I enjoy working for and believe in. I’d love for that to happen at Michigan, but we’ll see where things go in the next 3 to 5 first!

Q: What is one of your proudest accomplishments so far?
A: Starting my photography business. It’s more of a passion project turned business, but it keeps me happy and occupied in what I used to call my “free time”!

Q: Fun Facts! (Examples: sports fan, long term goals, favorite vacation, future travel plans/ideas, or come up with your own!)
A: I love cycling and have raced all over Michigan.

Accomplished Alumna, Anna Church, Takes Leadership Role at Hagerman Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation: February aMAIZEing Alumni

In April 2023, Anna Church, a distinguished graduate of the School of Management with a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, transitioned seamlessly into the position of Program Manager at the Hagerman Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation upon completing her academic journey. During her tenure as a student at UM-Flint, Anna actively engaged with the Center, demonstrating a profound commitment to fostering entrepreneurial initiatives among her peers and the local community.
Anna’s extensive involvement extended to various roles, including positions with 100K Ideas and the university’s Rec Center. Notably, her association with 100K Ideas, a key ecosystem partner of the Hagerman Center, has proven invaluable in shaping her professional trajectory and contributing to her future endeavors.

Q: Were you involved in any clubs or extracurriculars during your college experience? If so, what organizations/clubs?
A: I was involved in and president of Women’s Club Soccer, along with being a member of the Entrepreneurs Society, InterVarsity, and a Hagerman Scholar. Outside of that, I own(ed) my own portrait photography business.

Q: Where are you currently working and your title? How long have you been in this position or at this organization? 
A: I am the Program Manager for the Hagerman Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, within UM-Flint’s School of Management. After being a student employee, I was offered a full-time position in July of 2023.

Q: What is your job like day to day?
A: As a program manager, a typical day includes coordination, project management, and goal achievement. In this role, I work closely with the Center’s director and associate director. I often plan, market, and execute events that ignite a passion for entrepreneurship. Also, I play the role of a mentor, overseeing six talented student scholarship recipients who bring fresh perspectives and invaluable assistance to our programs and events. It’s a rewarding experience to witness their growth and contribution to the Center’s shared goals.
In the broader scope of my responsibilities, I engage in strategic dialogues with various organizations within Flint’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. It’s about building bridges that strengthen the foundation of the shared entrepreneurial mission.
So, as a program manager, my days are a whirlwind of creativity, coordination, and collaboration.

Q: Why did you choose to attend UM-Flint for your degree(s)?
A: Choosing UM-Flint for my degree wasn’t just a decision; it was a convergence of my passions and purpose. As a budding photographer, I found myself at a crossroads where my artistic inclinations intersected with the world of business.
During orientation, I engaged in insightful conversations with various individuals who opened my eyes to the possibilities within the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The more I delved into the program’s offerings, the more convinced I became that it aligned seamlessly with my aspirations.
The encouragement and support I received from the university community solidified my decision. It wasn’t just about earning a degree; it was about crafting an educational experience tailored to my passion.

Q: What is the most important thing you learned while you were at UM-Flint? 
A: During my time at UM-Flint, the most crucial lesson I learned was the importance of application. While education serves as a valuable asset, its true power is unleashed when applied in the real world. Recognizing this, I made a conscious effort to not only absorb knowledge in the classroom but to actively integrate it into my professional experiences.
One of the key strategies I employed was holding a job during each semester I pursued my degree. These employment opportunities weren’t just a means to make ends meet; they were invaluable learning environments that provided real-world contexts for the theories and concepts I studied in class. Each position became a stepping stone, contributing significantly to my journey and shaping the trajectory of my career.

Q: Who influenced you most during your time at UM-Flint and why?
A: Throughout my time at UM-Flint, Dr. Mark Simon had the biggest impact on me. He emerged as more than just a favorite professor – he became a mentor while I was a student scholar and, eventually, became my supervisor. He went beyond the role of an instructor, actively seeking opportunities to offer guidance, support, and, most importantly, avenues for personal and professional advancement.

Q: What is one of your favorite events you attended or classroom experiences at UM-Flint? Why?
A: Attending the Flint City Bucks game with the School of Management was a highlight of my time at UM-Flint. It was more than just a soccer match; it was a fantastic opportunity to network with fellow students, faculty, and staff in a dynamic and enjoyable setting.

Q: What advice would you give current students or recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in your professional field?
A: To current students and recent graduates eager to embark on a career in business, I would encourage the following:
1. Take Chances: Embrace opportunities that might seem daunting at first. Whether it’s a new project, a challenging assignment, or an unfamiliar role, taking chances is often where you discover your true potential. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone – that’s where growth happens.
2. Prioritize Your Goals: Define your professional goals and prioritize them. Whether it’s climbing the corporate ladder, starting your own venture, or pursuing further education, understanding your objectives helps you make strategic decisions that align with your aspirations.
3. Take Breaks: Burnout is real, and it’s essential to prioritize self-care. Take breaks when needed, recharge your mind, and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Sometimes stepping away for a moment allows you to come back with a fresh perspective and renewed energy.
4. Build a Network: Cultivate meaningful relationships within your professional network. Attend industry events, connect with professionals in your field, and seek mentorship. Networking not only opens doors to opportunities but also provides valuable insights and guidance.
5. Continuously Learn: The professional landscape is ever-evolving. Stay curious, embrace a mindset of continuous learning, and be open to acquiring new skills. This not only keeps you relevant but also positions you as an adaptable and valuable asset in your field.

Q: What is a long-term career or professional goal you have for yourself?
A: One of my long-term career and professional goals is to establish and lead one or more small businesses with a strong focus on social impact and community involvement, all while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Q: What is one of your proudest accomplishments so far?
A: Securing a new, full-time position right out of college stands as one of my proudest accomplishments to date. This opportunity not only opened the door to a fulfilling professional journey but also introduced me to an exceptional team. Recently, our collective efforts were honored with the prestigious Excellence in Co-Curricular Innovation award, marking a significant milestone in my career.
The remarkable experience of accepting the award on stage was the culmination of countless hours of dedication. Stepping into the spotlight, I felt an immense sense of pride not just for my individual achievements but for the collaborative effort that earned our team this prestigious honor. It was a moment to celebrate not only the award but the journey and camaraderie that made it possible.

Q: Fun Facts! (Examples: sports fan, long term goals, favorite vacation, future travel plans/ideas, or come up with your own!)
A: I enjoy taking trips and exploring the great outdoors with my boyfriend. We often go to the great lakes or local trails to enjoy the outdoors.

Q: What is something people may not know about you?
A: I’m really into coffee and visiting new coffee shops! My first gig was slinging drinks as a barista at Biggby Coffee, and ever since then, I’ve been hooked. Lately, I’ve been loving a hot hazelnut oat milk latte – it’s my current go-to pick-me-up!

UM-Flint’s Hagerman Center Receives USASBE’s 2024 Excellence Award

One year after being named one of only four finalists, the University of Michigan-Flint’s Hagerman Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation has earned the 2024 Excellence in Co-Curricular Innovation Award from the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Founded in 1981 and with more than 700 members, USASBE is the world’s largest organization devoted to collegiate-level entrepreneurship education, making this one of the most prestigious awards a university can receive.

The center’s mission is to spread entrepreneurship throughout the university and beyond.  Participation in its activities has gained momentum throughout the university.  For example, last year 595 students, including 82 from area high schools, and dozens for each university academic unit, submitted more than 630 ideas to the Center’s innovation competition.  UM-Flint’s faculty members played a pivotal role as more than 40 actively influenced their students’ decision to enter the competition. 

Being named the 2024 USABE award winner is not a standalone achievement; it serves as a testament to the continuous and impactful support from Phil Hagerman, The Mott Foundation, and alumnus Steve Whitener. Their investment reflects a shared vision for cultivating innovation, creativity and transformative educational experiences within the entrepreneurial landscape of UM-Flint and the Flint community.”

You can view the video that was prepared as part of the school’s award selection process here or read the article posted by UM-Flint here

Authors : Anna Church, Alexis Menard, Brian Blume, Mark Simon

Navigating the Maze: From Coaching High School Football to Financial Business Systems Analyst. Alex Okopien is our January aMaizing alumni. 

Alex Okopien, a 2020 graduate, is a Financial Business Systems Analyst at MillerKnoll, with a year and a half of experience specializing in collaboration with the Accounts Payable team. During college at UM-Flint, Alex balanced two jobs while pursuing an affordable and flexible degree, choosing UM-Flint for its flexibility and cost-effectiveness. The career path included roles in manual labor, accounts payable, project control, insurance sales, and cost accounting before finding a fulfilling position at MillerKnoll. UM-Flint’s education, particularly a supply chain management course, provided valuable skills for problem-solving using technology. The SOM advising office played a crucial role in guiding Alex’s course scheduling. Alex advises aspiring professionals to emphasize their uniqueness and acquire basic coding skills. Outside of work, Alex enjoys board games, heavy music, mountains, dogs, and coaching high school sports. The diverse experiences have led to a contented and fulfilling present for Alex Okopien.

Q: Were you involved in any clubs or extracurriculars during your college experience? If so, what organizations/clubs?
A: I worked two jobs for the majority of my time in school, so free time was at a premium. However, I did coach football at my high school alma mater, which was a fantastic experience.

Q: Where are you currently working and your title? How long have you been in this position or at this organization?
A: I am a Financial Business Systems Analyst for MillerKnoll (formerly Herman Miller). I specialize in working with our Accounts Payable team, and have been in the role for about a year and a half.

Q: What is your job like day to day?
A: My job is a lot of troubleshooting on system issues for users, as well as testing changes and upgrades prior to implementation. Essentially, I am the problem identifier and liaison between the IT team and users. The vast majority of my time is spent working in our ERP systems, with some work being done in Excel. My work calendar is primarily my own, and most meetings occur when there is an urgent issue needing a fix.

Q: Why did you choose to attend UM-Flint for your degree(s)?
A: I loved the idea of an affordable and flexible Michigan degree. After 2 years at Oakland Community College earning credits and figuring out what I wanted to do, I needed to spend time at a school where I could tailor my schedule. UM Flint allowed me more flexibility in my schedule and with the best University tuition I could find the in area – this allowed me to graduate without student loan debt.

Q: How did your education at UM-Flint prepare you for what you are doing today?
A: This is extremely specific – I took a supply chain management course where a big focus was problem solving using modern technology. In that class, we learned about project management calendars as well as how to use Excel’s Solver add-on, both of which helped me greatly early on in my career path.

Q: Who influenced you most during your time at UM-Flint and why?
A: Honestly, it was the SOM advising office. Everyone was so incredibly helpful in helping me navigate my course scheduling, and from the first semester we were able to plan out a year-to-year schedule based on their recommendations and normal scheduling. I absolutely insist that if you want to get ahead early, the best way to do it is meet with them and create your own plan.

Q: Describe your career path.
A: My path went all over the place before settling where I am now… During college, I worked at Home Depot and Dayton Freight doing a lot of manual labor. About halfway through my degree, I transitioned into accounts payable for a 3rd party management company (Common Sail Investment Group). I moved to Colorado with my now-wife, and there I worked for a couple of different defense contractors as a project controller. After a couple of years I needed a change of pace, and ended up in insurance sales/financial planning – and quickly discovered that is not a good space for me to be in! I found a job in cost accounting for a manufacturing company, spent some time there, and then finally was introduced to MillerKnoll and my current position. It took a lot of time and caused more than enough frustration, but I’m very happy with where I’ve ended up.

Q: Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?
A: Really, it found me. I don’t think I would’ve known a role like this existed until I interviewed for it. I found that following my intuition has put me in the right spot almost every time, and not trusting my gut in making a career move has been to my detriment every time.

Q: What advice would you give current students or recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in your professional field?
A: You’re not going to find many small companies that have a role/field like the one I’m in. You’re going to have competition for roles, so highlight what makes you different. Specific knowledge that would have been incredibly helpful for me going in would be basic coding, most functionally in SQL.

Q: Fun Facts! (Examples: sports fan, long term goals, favorite vacation, future travel plans/ideas, or come up with your own!)
A: I’m a lover of board games, heavy music, mountains, dogs, and coaching high school sports.

Melanie Scheitler: A Journey from UM-Flint to Student Enrollment Supervisor: December aMazeing Alumni

Melanie Scheitler, a 2008 graduate of UM-Flint with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing, is currently the Supervisor of Student Enrollment at Rochester Community Schools. Her diverse role involves assisting families with school enrollment, collaborating with school principals, aiding exchange students, managing her team, and handling daily tasks. Melanie’s UM-Flint education equipped her with the skills to excel in this dynamic position, where she seamlessly transitions between customer service, spreadsheets, and management. Her advice to students and recent graduates considering a similar career is to find personal fulfillment in contributing to the success of students in K-12 education. Despite starting her role during a global shutdown, Melanie’s adaptability and commitment have been among her proudest accomplishments. An interesting tidbit about Melanie is that she went skydiving with her grandmother to celebrate her grandmother’s 70th birthday, showcasing her adventurous spirit.

Q: Where are you currently working and your title? How long have you been in this position or at this organization? 
A: Melanie is the Supervisor of Student Enrollment at Rochester Community Schools. She started in 2020.

Q: What is your job like day to day?
A: There’s something different everyday. Tasks and focus transition throughout the year. At any given time, Melanie could be helping a family to enroll in the school, discussing a sensitive with a building principal, assisting exchange students with their entry in to the country, guiding her team, or completing her daily tasks.

Q: Why did you choose to attend UM-Flint for your degree(s)?
A: Melanie chose UM-Flint because it was a local university that provided a wonderful opportunity to receive an excellent education from a highly ranked university.

Q: How did your education at UM-Flint prepare you for what you are doing today?
A: My education gave me the tools that I needed to succeed. I’m able to transition easily between customer service, spreadsheets, and management.

Q: What is one of your favorite events you attended or classroom experiences at UM-Flint? Why?
A: Melanie enjoyed Dan Lake’s marketing class and the variety of real life scenarios that the class delved into.

Q: Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?
A: Melanie was looking for a new opportunity to diversify her experience while utilizing the skills she obtained in her career path.

Q: What advice would you give current students or recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in your professional field?
A: Melanie believes that working in a K-12 education setting provides a deeper sense of personal fulfillment. She indirectly contributes to the success of roughly 15,000 students.

Q: What is a long-term career or professional goal you have for yourself?
A: Her advice is that no matter the career field or job that you choose, you should your personal best and strive towards continued improvement.

Q: What is one of your proudest accomplishments so far?
A: Melanie started in a new field at the same time that the world was shutting down. She had to learn the job in a remote fashion that didn’t allow for a close connection to her new colleagues.

Q: What is something people may not know about you?
A: Melanie went skydiving with her grandmother to celebrate her grandmother’s 70th birthday!

Tyra Stowe, Passionate HR Professional and Advocate for Others: November aMaizeing Alumni

Tyra Stowe, a dedicated Talent Acquisition Specialist at the Genesee Intermediate School District, has a dynamic career journey marked by her commitment to helping others. A first-generation college graduate, she earned her BBA at UM-Flint, solidifying her foundation for a successful career in Human Resources. Her love for people and advocacy led her through various roles, including a stint in recruitment and talent management, before finding her true calling in HR. Tyra’s advice to aspiring HR professionals emphasizes the importance of hands-on experience and the ability to remain composed in high-pressure situations. Outside of work, she’s an enthusiastic Detroit Lions fan, relishing her first year as a season ticket holder.

Q: Where are you currently working and your title? How long have you been in this position or at this organization? 
A: I currently work at the Genesee Intermediate School District as the Talent Acquistion Specialist. I started with the GISD in November of 2020 as a Human Resources Assistant II, and shortly after moved in my Talent Acquisition Specialist role.

Q: What is your job like day to day?
A: Working in Human Resources is unpredictable, I don’t usually know what I’m going to get day to day! My primary role is welcoming our new staff and conducting orientation on their first day of employment with us, and making sure their paperwork is processed. Day to day I could be getting visited my employees, emailed, or called with any issues or needs they may have – I am there to support and advocate for them in the best way I can. I also attend public events, job fairs, etc. and represent the GISD and the openings we may have within the district, or the service we provide, so if you see me come say hi!
In addition to those responsibilities, I also work with colleges for Student Fieldwork Placements, Internships, and Observations, along with all other HR responsibilities (benefits, interviewing, hiring, professional development, etc.)

Q: Why did you choose to attend UM-Flint for your degree(s)?
A: I chose UM-Flint because I had played around with the idea of going away to a 4-year university, but I had already started my career path in business, and UM-Flint had allowed me to go to school and work full-time. I didn’t want to lose the progress I had already made, so I stayed local and continued to work as well.

Q: Share your best college memory
A: My best college memory was honestly graduating. Of course, I have met amazing people during my journey at UM-Flint, but I am a first-generation college graduate, so completing my Bachelor’s degree was such a huge accomplishment and the best feeling!

Q: What is the most important thing you learned while you were at UM-Flint? 
A: I learned a lot while attending UM-Flint, but I think the best thing I learned while in the BBA program was how interactive business has to be. I went into the avenue of Human Resources, and my classes taught me a lot. How to manage people, how to work with people, how to negotiate, how to advocate for others, and so much more. These are all skills that are so important just in everyday life, not just business, and I truly apply them in everything I do. The most important thing to remember is treat others the way you’d want to be treated.

Q: How did your education at UM-Flint prepare you for what you are doing today?
A: Like I had mentioned, I worked full time while attending UM-Flint, so it was really cool to attend class and then apply what I learned in class into my day to day at work. I feel like it gave me the hands-on experience that is missing from just taking classes. If I didn’t stay local and attend UM-Flint, I truly don’t think I would be as successful in my career as I am now.

Q: Who influenced you most during your time at UM-Flint and why?
A: This is a tough question; I don’t think anyone specifically did. If anything, probably just myself. I was learning and growing both educationally, but also professionally, which leaked into my personal life too – I was learning to live authentically and used classes I took to help guide me into what I wanted to do in my career. I’m thankful to say I do love my job, and I love the people I get to work with and for.

Q: What is one of your favorite events you attended or classroom experiences at UM-Flint? Why?
A: By far my favorite class was with Mark Simon – he is funny, and he brings so much fun and real-life experience into the classroom. He is extremely interactive and wants you to have fun while you’re learning. I took a class of his my last semester of my degree and I wish I had taken more of his courses!

Q: Describe your career path.
A: When I first started at UM-Flint I was working as a Membership Coordinator at a local gym in Flint. I ended up landing a job with a Recruitment company working as their Talent Acquisition Specialist, finding internal employees to recruit for them. After a short stint there, I started as a Talent Manager for Talent Agency where I managed employees all over the US working as brand ambassadors for my clients. After 5 years there, I worked as a Recruiter for nurse placements for about a year. I knew that’s what I didn’t enjoy, and I eventually accepted the positions as the HR Assistant II at GISD. I was then promoted to the Talent Acquisition Specialist, and I have been with GISD for 3 years this month!

Q: Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?
A: I realized I am very emotionally driven, and I love people. I love meeting new people, and I love helping people, and HR allows me to do both. My favorite thing about HR is advocating for people that maybe don’t have the resources to do it themselves. When I am presented with a problem, I will strategically plan some way to fix it.

Q: What advice would you give current students or recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in your professional field?
A: Get hands-on experience! HR can be stressful sometimes, and it’s very fast-paced, with multiple interruptions throughout the course of your work. You might see the happiest employees or the most frustrated employees, but you need to keep your cool, and do what you can to help. Hands-on experience will help you understand what avenues of HR you might like most, and it will give you the exposure you need to work with all different kinds of employee-related needs.

Q: Fun Facts! (Examples: sports fan, long-term goals, favorite vacation, future travel plans/ideas, or come up with your own!)
A: This is my first year as a Detroit Lions season ticket holder and as you can tell, it’s been awesome… Gooooooo LIONS!

Alum Ron Williams shares advice to current students and his unique career journey: September’s aMaizeing Alumni

Ron Williams graduated in 2022 with a MBA from the School of Management. His career path started in banking, then the army and finally Senior Vice President and Controller at Printwell Acquisitions.  As our alumni spotlight, Ron talks about the importance of mentors, some of his favorite classes and his long-term career goals.

Q:Were you involved in any clubs or extracurriculars during your college experience? If so, what organizations/clubs?
A: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., The Strategy Institute

Q: Where are you currently working and your title? How long have you been in this position or at this organization? 
A: I accepted the role of Senior Vice President & Controller at Printwell Acquisitions Incorporated in July 2022. Before assuming the position with Printwell, I served as Chief Financial Officer of WGS Global Services from 2017 – 2022.

Q: What is your job like day to day?
A: My daily tasks include working in collaboration with other Senior Leadership Team members to create short and long-term business goals leading to increase profitability and sustainability efforts.

Q: Why did you choose to attend UM-Flint for your degree(s)?
A: Convenience and value.

Q: Share your best college memory
A: Easy, my best memory was graduation as I have been adequality prepared to lead and provide value in any business climate.

Q: What is the most important thing you learned while you were at UM-Flint? 
A: Negotiations and organizational behavior are among the most importance things learned in the program as they helped me develop a more objective management view.

Q: How did your education at UM-Flint prepare you for what you are doing today?
A: UM-Flint helped me learned to complete and manage projects, think more critically, solve complex organizational problems, and gave me the capacity to learn new things.

Q: Who influenced you most during your time at UM-Flint and why?
A: Difficult to say, each Professor in my program provided a unique view and challenged me academically which culminated in a rewarding experience. I can add though, Professor Blume’s course provided the most insight into organizational culture and how I may affect change as a business leader.

Q: What is one of your favorite events you attended or classroom experiences at UM-Flint? Why?
A: My favorite classroom experience was the weekend class meetings as it facilitated professional interactions with my classmates and professors which enhanced my understanding of certain material.

Q: Describe your career path.
A: My professional career began in banking with Comerica following an honorable discharge from the United States Army. Upon completion of their credit college and successful rotations in commercial leasing, traditional small business, and middle market as a credit analyst, I held numerous industry positions ranging from staff account to my current role as Senior Vice President.

Q: Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?
A: I worked as a 92Y while in the army which is a position close to accounting. With my assignments in 13th COSCOM and JTF160, I grew to understand financial management and the skills necessary for budgetary cohesion. These skills were transferable to the business community on the civilian side, so I continued the progression leading to an accounting degree and subsequently an MBA.

Q: What advice would you give current students or recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in your professional field?
A: Mentors. No matter where you are in life, mentors are essential in growth and development. They can offer valuable insights and advice simply not found in textbooks.

Q: What is a long-term career or professional goal you have for yourself?
A: In pursuit of a Ph.D., my ultimate professional goals include working as an FSO (Foreign Service Officer), business ownership and ultimately teaching collegiate-level courses.

Q: What is one of your proudest accomplishments so far?
A: My proudest accomplishments include being awarded the meritorious service medal in the army, being conferred with the ROAR (Recognition of Outstanding Achievements and Results) Award from Comerica in serving on the AML (Anti-money Laundering) project and obtaining the MBA as a working professional.

Q: Fun Facts! (Examples: sports fan, long-term goals, favorite vacation, future travel plans/ideas, or come up with your own!)
A: I enjoy golfing, nature walks, and museums.

Q: What is something people may not know about you?
A: I’m a first-generation college student with a son whose a graduate of the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor (Justin). Justin now works in public policy with the District of Columbia and is a current graduate student at George Washington University.

Jania Torreblanca shares her unique career path and her skills at adapting to change: March aMaizeing Alumni

Jania Torreblanca graduated in 2021 & 2022 in the dual degree master’s program receiving MBA and MSLOD degrees. Her college career started in high school which led her to the US Navy allowing her the opportunity to learn a trade, travel, and be independent. Jania explains her education took a longer path but that she does not regret the choices. As our alumni spotlight Jania talks about valuing your connections, the resilience of her and her classmates during covid, and her future goal to teach at the college level.

Q: Where are you currently working and your title? How long have you been in this position or at this organization? 
A: I am the Senior Director, Sterile Processing for The Resource Group, Spend Management Solutions, a subsidiary of Ascension. I have been with The Resource Group since December 2021. As the Senior Director, Sterile Processing, I lead one arm of the Sterile Processing Community and work in sync with our Sterile Processing Operations leaders. We currently manage the Sterile Processing departments across 12 states where Ascension operates.
In my role, I am in charge of leading a team who is creating and driving a national strategy, in a standardized, clinical integration approach for the Sterile Processing department’s education, quality, best practices, and regulatory compliance initiatives.

Q: What is your job like day to day?
A: My day-to-day job varies by week and project we are working on, however, I can group it into two different types of work: strategy development/support and clinical support. For perspective, we currently have 101 workstreams we are working through.
A typical day consists of meeting with our national teams, creating/supporting the work of an initiative, removing barriers, and providing guidance. The other half of my day is spent meeting with our local leadership teams and helping them through action items, Joint Commission visit work plans, and providing them the connections, tools, and documents they need to address an issue.
The fun part of my work week is when I am able to travel to one of our hospitals and I get to interact with our front-line staff and leaders. I enjoy meeting them and learning about them and their passion for the work we do. The dedication and energy I hear from them motivate me, even more, to continue to complete our national work so I can help them have a more satisfying work environment.
I can honestly say that I love my job and I love the people that I work with, I cannot imagine doing anything other than what I am doing today.

Q: Why did you choose to attend UM-Flint for your degree(s)?
A: I chose UM-Flint, because of the smaller class sizes and the way the courses are taught. In today’s business world, the work is conducted in teams- there are rarely projects that are accomplished alone and as an aspiring executive, I needed to make sure that my course of study was taught in the same manner. UM-Flint did an awesome job in providing that framework, I never imagined that an accounting project and a finance project could have a team project deliverable!

Q: Share your best college memory
A: My best college memory is about meeting people for who they are as individuals and not by their titles. I met hospital executives, physicians, and other business executives who did not bring their titles to the classroom. They were personable and students just like me or they were professors who were sharing personal learning experiences of what worked and didn’t work for them.

Q: What is the most important thing you learned while you were at UM-Flint? 
A: I started the Master’s program, a year before the pandemic and was deep in my studies when the COVID-19 pandemic started. Most importantly though, I learned how resilient my classmates and I were for not giving up when things became really hard. At the onset of the pandemic, I was working 10-12 hours a day, on-site at the University of Michigan Health, and yet I continued powering through work and school. The assignments and projects didn’t ease up, so I learned how to balance my time and attention appropriately to family, work, and school and NOT give up on either one. I am so grateful for the time-management and organizational skills I learned during my studies at UM-Flint and I have carried those on to my work today.

Q: How did your education at UM-Flint prepare you for what you are doing today?
A: The varied course work and case study analysis in the dual degree program MBA/MSLOD helped me prepare for my current role and for my future roles. Learning about strategy development, organizational behavior, change management, talent and recruiting, negotiation and so many other courses has helped me as I perform my current work. Truly, every single course I enrolled in, has helped me become a better leader.

Q: Describe your career path.
A: My career path has not been a straight line and I changed directions several times throughout my initial years after high school.
When I was in high school I actually started attending college classes in the evenings during my junior and senior years. While other kids were working or doing extracurricular activities, I was attending classes and learned about philosophy, art, and politics. It doesn’t sound like fun, but I truly enjoyed learning about Socrates and Descartes’s “Discourse on Method,” and at that point, I wanted to become a philosophy major! However, I learned about the US Navy, and the opportunity to learn a trade, travel, and be independent, convinced me to put my bachelor’s degree on hold and go on a journey.
I spent 5 years in the US Navy as a Hospital Corpsman and learned that I actually loved healthcare. During my years in the Navy, I listened to my recruiter and volunteered for every training program possible. So, I was a certified EMT-B, Food Inspector, Sterile Processing Technician, Medical Assistant (MA), Nursing Assistant, etc, etc. I also led a team on the USS O’Kane and realized I liked leading people. When my 5-year military term was over, I moved to Michigan, to support my husband’s career and that is when my Sterile Processing career took off. I began working as a Sterile Processing technician and then quickly moved into progressive leadership roles (supervisor to Sr. Director).
Since 2014, I have volunteered my time to be a part of the development of AAMI Sterilization Standards, which are the industry standards for Sterile Processing.
In the last 18 years, I have only worked for three organizations, but each of these three organizations has provided me the opportunity to progressively grow my skills as a leader and lead bigger teams with each growth opportunity. In my first role as a supervisor, I led a team of 15 technicians on the afternoon shift. In my first role as a manager, I led a team of 35 people, in my next role as a manager I led 84 people and in my first role as a director, I led a team of 150+ people. Today I lead a smaller, national team of 9, who influence 60+ hospitals across 12 states.
I continued to slowly work on my bachelor’s degree throughout my Navy career and graduated with my Bachelor’s in Healthcare Services from the University of Phoenix in 2005 (3 years after I left the Navy). I started my Master’s program in January 2020, after much deliberation on what I wanted to do in the next phase of my career. Continuing my education and obtaining my Master’s degree has always been a goal, however, I wanted to be 100% sure about which program I chose to pursue.
I probably took a much longer road to get to where I am today, but I do not regret my choices. I truly believe that each of the roles I have held, the life experience of the Navy, and returning to school when I did, provided me the opportunity to soak in what I was learning and afforded me the chance to apply what I was learning to my current position.

Q: Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?
A: As I am typing this synopsis of my career path, I am laughing at the fact that for a long time, I did not think that leadership and healthcare were my future. Yet, every time I have had the opportunity to leave this industry I have not left it, instead I continue to grow in it.
A couple of years before I committed to the MBA/MSLOD program, I truly believed I wanted to leave healthcare and leadership all together. I explored many programs outside of these two disciplines, yet, every path kept leading me to this exact one. It wasn’t until I took the Enneagram Personality Test last year that I learned why I am so drawn to the career path and work I do today AND why I find my job satisfying.
As it turns out I am a Type 1 on the Enneagram, I am the Reformer (perfectionist and idealistic type). I have a sense of duty and commitment to create perfect things and I will continuously search to find the ideal state. In Sterile Processing, we have to have high-quality standards and create products that will help surgeons perform surgery to improve patient outcomes. If we don’t meet those quality standards, a lot of issues can arise. In my current role, I have to create these best practices and help our front-line associates reach these goals. What drives me and keeps me on this road, is the opportunity to help others, and of course search for the perfect state. In this journey though, I have also had to learn how to balance this “search” and create realistic goals and expectations.

Q: What advice would you give current students or recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in your professional field?
A: Value your connections and the people you meet along the way because you never know who will end up being your boss or co-worker in your next opportunity. Healthcare is spread out across the nation, but it is also a small community and now with so many mergers and acquisitions the healthcare world is getting smaller. Make connections, make a first impression, and keep in touch, because one day you will need to reach out to them for advice, a referral, or just a discussion.
For example, I obtained my first job as a supervisor because (unbeknownst to me) the manager of the Sterile Processing department of another hospital, worked per-diem at my hospital and she saw my work ethic and the way I connected with people. We made a connection, I sent her my resume and since the skill sets she had observed matched what was on my resume, she referred me and hired me at her hospital. I still keep in contact with her today. Several positions I have been hired into after that, have been as a referral.

Q: What is a long-term career or professional goal you have for yourself?
A: Towards the end of my career, I would love to teach at a college level. I am still working on the details and pathway to that goal, but that is where I am headed.

Q: Fun Facts! (Examples: sports fan, long-term goals, favorite vacation, future travel plans/ideas, or come up with your own!)
A: I love to travel and visit new places with my family. Since my husband loves to drive, we drove to Guatemala a couple years ago and had so much fun. From Michigan, that is about a 3-day trip each way- that is the furthest we have ever driven. In a couple of years, our goal is to drive to Alaska.

Q: What is something people may not know about you?
A: Although I was living on a Navy destroyer ship for 3 years in the Navy, I do not know how to swim! I can float, but I just cannot coordinate my hands and feet to be able to swim. It happens with Zumba or any other hand-and-foot coordination activities.

From a BBA to a CFO, Robert shares his passion and investment in Flint: February aMaizeing Alumni

Robert Widigan graduated from UM-Flint School of Management in 2014 with a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) with a concentration in Accounting. He has been the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the city of Flint, Michigan for over a year and explains that some of the most important things he learned while at UM-Flint were the core skills he uses every day. Such as, working on a team, handling big projects, staying organized, and managing stress. As our featured alumni of the month, Robert gives advice on working for the city, his path to becoming a CFO, and his favorite memories about UM-Flint!

Q: Where are you currently working and your title? How long have you been in this position or at this organization? 
A: I am the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the city of Flint, Michigan. I have been here for over a year now

Q: What is your job like day to day?
A: Every day brings its own set of challenges. Therefore, it is crucial to understand clearly and have the department’s critical long-term, mid-term, and short-term goals in focus as you’re pulled in numerous directions. Day-to-day includes overseeing all aspects of the City’s finances, including preparation and administration of the City’s budget and financial reports, as well as accounting payroll, grant reporting, and purchasing. In addition, the CFO also oversees Fleet Management, IT Services, and Facilities. Recently, the day-to-day has primarily consisted of working with our partners in Lansing to find a solution to subsidizing the City’s underfunded pension fund. That goal was achieved recently with the newly adopted state budget, which included a $220M lump-sum infusion into the City’s pension fund, bringing it up to 60% funded, as required by state law. This funding will help ensure the City of Flint is financially sound for generations.

Q: Why did you choose to attend UM-Flint for your degree(s)?
A: It was clear that UM-Flint had amazing resources for students to be successful both academically and in their careers. To me, UM-Flint was a great opportunity to earn my degree while also remaining involved in my hometown.

Q: Share your best college memory
A: Attending home games at the Big House, Go Blue!

Q: What is the most important thing you learned while you were at UM-Flint? 
A: Some of the most important things I learned while at UM-Flint were the core skills I use every day. Such as, working on a team, handling big projects, staying organized, and managing stress.

Q: How did your education at UM-Flint prepare you for what you are doing today?
A: Well, there is not much that can truly prepare you for being the CFO of the City of Flint. However, I will say the relationships I made and the passion for this community that I developed while at UM-Flint made it easy to say “yes” when asked to take on this role. When your hometown calls, you go.

Q: Who influenced you most during your time at UM-Flint and why?
A: Professor Chris Douglas. I had Sports Economics with Professor Douglas, one of the best classes I have ever taken. The class examines the economic issues pertaining to professional and college sports – such as labor relations and how franchises impact the local economy. I still talk about what Professor Douglas taught us in that class today. We have stayed in touch over the years; he has even presented at conferences I planned while working at the State of Michigan.

Q: Describe your career path.
A: Before joining the City of Flint’s Team as CFO, I served as the Finance Director for the City of Lansing. There I managed the Finance Team, oversaw short and long-term financial planning and financial operations of the City, prepared revenue projections and debt service requirements, and evaluated department operations, among other tasks related to the City’s financial health.

   Previous to Lansing, I served as the Village Manager for the Village of Shelby in Oceana County, Michigan. In this position, I oversaw the day-to-day operations of the Village. Leading a small local government required me to wear many hats, including budgeting, community engagement, economic development, forging public-private collaborations, and working with local, regional, and state partners.

   Prior to that, I was with the Michigan Department of Treasury for over four years. There my responsibilities included:

   – Analyzing trends.

   – Compiling local government data.

   – Preparing reports for long-range strategic planning and recommendations for state support directly to local governments.

   Throughout my career, I’ve developed substantial expertise in calculating and managing risk, cash flow projections, economic development, and planning, facilitating communications and decision-making between departments and administration, financial and operational management, labor negotiations, long-term financial planning and financing strategies, policy and ordinance development, and an understanding of State reporting requirements. This experience also taught me excellent skills in building lasting relationships with individuals and community members.

Q: Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?
A: I have always been interested in government, finance, and economics, and I have a high drive and desire to help people and communities progress toward further success; this role as Flint City CFO allows me to do just that!

Q: What advice would you give current students or recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in your professional field?
A: First, Take your time and be patient. Second, it’d be helpful to earn your Bachelor’s in Public Finance alongside a Bachelor’s in Business Administration. That will open many doors for you, from CFO to City Manager. Lastly, take an internship somewhere, like with the City of Flint!

Q: What is a long-term career or professional goal you have for yourself?
A: I would like to go back to school for my MBA.

Q: What is one of your proudest accomplishments so far?
A: My proudest accomplishment was helping carry the football across the goal line: pension reform in Michigan. It is unmistakable that Flint has had its share of disinvestment over the years.

   Upon taking the role of CFO with the City of Flint, the City faced unrealistic annual pension contributions. FY2022 and FY2023, the pension contribution was about $32 million and was projected to increase to $40 million in FY2024. This drastic increase made pension contributions our most significant expense in the City’s budget.

   While facing this reality, under my leadership we engaged in numerous meetings with state legislatures and our partners in Lansing.

   All these meetings led to $750 million being set aside in the state of Michigan’s Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget to support underfunded municipal pension plans, helping to ensure a promise made is a promise kept to hardworking local government employees across the state.

   This is a historic moment in Flint; thanks to the countless meetings and hard work, we helped ensure the City of Flint is financially sound for generations to come with this cash infusion of up to $220M into our pension fund. Based on recent analysis, $220M deposited into the pension plan will reduce our pension contribution for that following fiscal year to approximately $18 to $19 million, ensuring we fulfill our promise to retirees while maintaining City services.

   Links:

https://bit.ly/3yVSwoU

https://bit.ly/3sdl9Kx

https://bit.ly/3eKZvKO

Q: Fun Facts! (Examples: sports fan, long-term goals, favorite vacation, future travel plans/ideas, or come up with your own!)
A: I really enjoy golf (although I am really bad at it). Future travel plans include Puerto Rico in January, Mexico in February, and Honduras in the spring.

Q: What is something people may not know about you?
A: I was a paid-on-call firefighter for seven (7) years.

Q & A: UM-Flint Hagerman Center Director Mark Simon

Mark Simon, PhD became director of the Hagerman Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation this fall. The University of Michigan-Flint School of Management center was created in 2015 thanks to a generous donation from Phil and Jocelyn Hagerman. Simon was recognized in his new role October 10 at an investiture ceremony. At the event, Simon said, “I can’t overstate how honored I feel.  I am truly humbled. But I know that with all the wonderful support I am receiving from so many, including the Hagerman’s, administration, faculty, staff, and students, I believe that together we can truly make a difference.”

Prior to Simon’s official investiture, he shared his thoughts about the center, its benefit for students, his impressions of the university community, and more in this Q&A with University Relations.

Read the full article HERE.