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High Marks

U-M is one of the top public institutions in the country, and regularly appears on the lists of the most prestigious rankings. Its remarkable faculty, staff, and students receive top awards honors, both within and outside the university.

  • Awards

  • Anne McNeil is named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor

    Gets $1M grant to improve undergraduate chemistry education


  • Golden Apple winner announced

    Lieberman will lecture on all of human history


  • Video on game-inspired, engaged learning system wins competition

    Tool is collaboration involving schools of education, information


  • Professor wins national innovative teaching award

    Honored for "gamifying" courses


  • U-M professor Susan Murphy earns prestigious MacArthur Fellowship

    Statistician honored as one of 24 exceptionally creative individuals


  • Distinguished University Professors

    Regents name nine for one of U-M's top honors


  • Grants for Excellence

    Gilbert Whitaker Fund Supports Excellence in Teaching and Learning


  • UM-Flint Professor Receives Top Honor

    Vaziri is Distinguished Professor of the Year


  • Regents Announce Arthur F. Thurnau Professorships

    Six U-M faculty members have been honored for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education


  • Third Century initiative funds first project


  • Rankings

  • U-M a top university in World Reputation Rankings

    One of three publics in the top 20


  • U-M No. 10 in schools with most students abroad

    Moves up from 16th last year


  • U-M rises in latest Times Higher Education world rankings

    One of 14 U.S. universities in top 20


  • U-M remains strong in U.S. News & World Report rankings

    No. 4 public; 28 in the nation among all universities


Passive greenhouse project

Bringing hope to Detroit neighborhood

In a Detroit neighborhood shared by Bangladeshi, Polish immigrants, longtime African-American residents and young artists, something is happening.

Neighbors come out of their houses to watch, and even to help.

“I didn’t think it would be so powerful,” U-M’s Steven Mankouche says of the Archolab-Afterhouse project he and his partner, artist Abigail Murray, are leading. Its goal is to repurpose a burned-out house as a semi-subterranean, passive geothermal greenhouse that will serve the neighborhood.

The project won’t be complete until spring. But the activity at 3347 Burnside Street, just north of Hamtramck, already creates excitement among residents — and hope.


“They see people fixing up houses, painting, but nobody here builds something new. I think it shows a certain investment, a commitment to the place,” says Mankouche, associate professor of architecture, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

In contrast to urban agriculture projects that require lots of space, Afterhouse is discreet, almost hidden, because it maintains the scale of the original house. Further, the growing climate in the house does not require the expense of active heating in the winter or cooling in the summer.

“We see Afterhouse as a provocative/proactive response to blight and community grown food,” Mankouche says.

Chance Heath, a second-year Taubman graduate student, says architects traditionally take a hands-off approach to projects: They create designs offsite and pass them on to builders on the street. Not here. “There’s something I find really valuable with this project. I have the ability to do hands-on work, and my work is valued.”

Minutes after Heath first laid eyes on the site, he and Mankouche were designing and building a rack to hold reclaimed, repurposed wood for later use. “We found a scrap of paper and started doing sketches, both Steven and I, and we started working,” he says.


Hand demolition work began last spring. Soon, neighbors were coming by to ask questions — often in foreign languages — and offering advice or tools. They’ve even helped with the work. Willie, an African-American neighbor and mason, happened by at the perfect time one Sunday.

“We had never experienced pouring concrete from a ready mix truck. He said you have to add two gallons of water to make sure it flows right. He suddenly shows up and basically helps direct the entire operation,” Mankouche says.

A Bangladeshi man picked up a trowel and helped smooth the cement being poured into foundation blocks. Meanwhile, a Domino’s Pizza restaurant contributed $500 “Pizzavestment” in free pizza over several weeks, to share among project workers.

The cement-steadied foundation now serves as the base for an upright frame of repurposed structural lumber. The sturdy wood studs were salvaged from the 1920s home, then de-nailed this past summer. Plans call for covering the frame with clear polycarbonate plastic sheeting this fall, among other finishing touches. The basement will be filled with dirt for planting. Current floor drains are perfect to serve the greenhouse project, Mankouche says.

“The idea is to grow crops in a climate comparable to a northern Mediterranean climate. Olive trees, pomegranates, rosemary, certain citrus, kiwi, pistachio — we may try mangoes,” he says.

From Milan to the Motor City

As a boy in Milan, Italy, Mankouche had a passion for taking photos of the buildings around him. He decided to study architecture — but not just the classic architecture he knew in Europe. His studies took him to Japan, where he also learned to appreciate bare, concrete lines found in contemporary architecture.

“I like the idea of being able to form environments,” he says.

Mankouche and Murray, in 2009 attended a fundraiser promoting hoop houses where they met someone that had visited some Peruvian subterranean passive solar greenhouses. On their way home that night, Murray suggested they build one.

“She said we should look into constructing one in Detroit where there are so many abandoned foundations,” Mankouche said. That night the project was born.

Their Archolab group, which oversees Afterhouse, raised $14,838 through Hatchfund, a non-profit, crowd-source funding organization. The pitch to backers described the project as one in where students and faculty would collaborate with artists and urban farmers. The goal is to have a positive impact on a small Detroit community.

To get the project underway this past spring, the group also won $7,500 through a joint U.S. Department of Economic Development-Michigan State University Regional Economic Innovation grant, Taubman College seed funding as well as support from Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program students. They include Travis Williams, senior architecture major from Detroit. Williams had worked on a previous project with Mankouche, and sought to join the Afterhouse project.


Sunday in the ‘D’

In a charcoal colored T-shirt speckled with sawdust under the Sunday sun, Williams reaches toward a nearby sawhorse. He hands a repurposed wood plank to Jonathan Sturt, a Taubman College lecturer who also works on the project. Sturt guides the wood into the jagged, chop saw blade. A stream of sawdust shoots into the air. The portable chop saw sits in the street, yards from a dead end. An orange extension cord trails from a nearby garage to the saw.

“After it’s a house, what then?” Williams asks. “Being a native Detroiter, the most important aspect for me is the opportunity to tackle a major problem which is blight, and also connecting it to use in the neighborhood. And also, people here can see some progress being made.”

A dirt-streaked green wheelbarrow rests tilted in shade near the sidewalk. A broken cinderblock bakes in the sun. Mankouche and Murray work in the street as their son Ezra, 2, plays in Kate Daughdrill’s sun-drenched garden, growing up to the sidewalk.

Daughdrill, also an artist, owns the Afterhouse property and supports the project, which in turn supports her neighborhood produce-growing Burnside Farm project. She will oversee Afterhouse once building and planting are completed.

Eddie Sachs, a Taubman College senior and Detroit native who grew up near the project site, joined at the beginning as a UROP student. He contributed in the design phase as well as fundraising, publicity and designing the website. He also learned how to secure permits and negotiate.

He says a standout moment came at a conference, when attendees approached the Archolab group to congratulate them on the project. “It was a pretty surreal moment. That’s when I realized that what we were doing was actually much bigger in scale and can make a big difference,” Sachs says.

Other project collaborators include Michael Palmer, lead collections specialist at Matthaei Botanical Gardens. He has suggested trying a dwarf variety pomegranate, and how to prepare the greenhouse as a growing space.

Mankouche says planting is scheduled for spring.

Written by Kevin Brown, University Record


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New graduate program teaches real-world design

U-M Stamps School of Art & Design offers a Master of Design in Integrative Design

A new two-year graduate program in integrative design at the University of Michigan represents a paradigm shift as designers address unpredictable and fast-changing real-world problems and situations in society.

The first cohort of students in the U-M Stamps School of Art & Design’s Master of Design in Integrative Design program will address the umbrella issue of 21st century health care, an open-ended, ambiguous “wicked problem” with no easy answers, multiple stakeholders and multipronged systems.

Working alongside health care professionals, industry partners and other experts from across the university, the students during the intense two-year M.Des. program will address issues such as hospital productivity and efficiency, aging populations, doctor-patient relationships and more. Each new cohort will address a different “wicked problem.

The U-M Stamps School of Art & Design is one of the few graduate programs in the country to focus design training on future-proof, collaborative design processes rather than individual, product-based skill building. With its emphasis on the design process, cross-disciplinary teamwork and problem-based learning, the project-based Stamps M.Des. program will bring together a select team of experienced designers from a range of backgrounds to grapple with a single “wicked problem,” while engaging with top-tier researchers at U-M and around the country.

“Most design education is still focused around individual disciplines—industrial design, graphic design, etc., but in actual practice, most designers work in teams, solving problems using an integrative design process,” said John Marshall, director of the Stamps M.Des. program. “What we are providing is hard to find yet also very much in demand—deep, rigorous training in the broad principles and foundations of design thinking and research methodologies and hands-on experience in the integrative design process.”

Though a handful of other schools around the country have recently launched transdisciplinary or multidisciplinary design programs, few offer the context and resources of a world-class research university

“Now more than ever, designers are being asked to play a leading role in addressing unpredictable, fast-changing and ambiguous conditions in nondesign settings,” said Guna Nadarajan, dean of the Stamps School. “With unparalleled access to literally hundreds of experts and researchers in fields such as law, public policy, economics and more, the Stamps School is uniquely situated to lead the conversation in the role that design can play in contemporary society and to transform the way design is taught and practiced around the world.”

The first class of the program will begin in fall 2015. Students will be experienced designers wishing to transform their career path or professionals in other fields who want to transition to a design-engaged practice.

Written by Kate West, School of Art & Design


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MCubed program impact revealed

Bold research funding experiment pays off

In a one-of-a-kind funding program designed to spark innovative research without traditional peer review, University of Michigan professors spun their MCubed seed money into millions more.

MCubed, which launched in 2012, is a grassroots effort to jumpstart daring, boundary-crossing work. At its annual conference today, organizers released data from the first look at the program’s impact and announced that MCubed would renew for another two-year cycle.

“I want Michigan to be a place where faculty can do their best work, where they can fulfill their ambitions as scholars, researchers and teachers, where students can learn from the very best professors and be involved in their quest for new knowledge and understanding,” said President Mark Schlissel. “The enterprise of research at a place like the University of Michigan must be innovative and forward-looking, and MCubed has blazed a new trail in this regard.”

MCubed has led to new grants, studies, inventions and other scholarly work.

  • The $14-million initiative brought in $20 million in additional grants from 31 projects, or 15 percent of the total so-called “cubes.” Thirty-two other grant proposals are pending.

  • More than 60 groups have either submitted or published studies in peer-reviewed journals and many more are being written.

  • Forty-two cubes have achieved other scholarly products, such as conference presentations, interactive websites, digital archives and artistic performances.

  • Eleven teams filed invention disclosure reports.

  • The program has employed more than 880 graduate students, undergrads and postdocs who gained experience working on an interdisciplinary team.

In today’s harsh research funding environment, MCubed organizers say the program has demonstrated a new way to break an old cycle that can stymie innovation. The traditional competitive grant review process involves long proposals followed by long waits and short lists of winners. Funding agencies decide which ideas move forward. Often the grants go to those who already have preliminary results or who have a history of working together. That can make it difficult for new collaborators to try untested approaches.

“It’s a Catch-22,” said Mark Burns, MCubed director and the T.C. Chang Professor of Engineering. “To get the grant, you need results and history, but how can you get results and history without the grant? With MCubed, we wanted to sidestep all that and trust the faculty to pursue the projects that they, rather than funding agencies, believe in.”

MCubed organizers cite several examples of success. A chemical engineer, a biologist and an ecologist developed a specially etched glass slide called a microfluidic reactor to quickly find algae combinations that efficiently make biofuel. MCubed gave them enough data to show that the device could work. The team rolled it into a $2 million National Science Foundation proposal. It won, with high marks for the high-risk/high-reward nature of the microfluidic reactor concept.

“MCubed was instrumental in bringing us together to start a collaboration we had been discussing for some time. That made a difference—a huge difference. It showed NSF that we were already working together,” said Nina Lin, assistant professor in chemical engineering and a member of the biofuel team.

A cancer biologist, an epidemiologist and a mathematician looked into links between HPV, which is the virus that causes cervical cancer, and head and neck cancers. It’s a complex problem at the intersection of infectious disease and cancer, and the professors had never worked together before.

“You really need an interdisciplinary, out-of-the-box team to tackle this and try to understand how sexual behavior can lead to the transmission of HPV, and how that eventually shapes the trends we see in cancers that occur many years after the transmission. There are a lot of questions and we’re trying to fill the gaps in understanding,” said Rafael Meza, assistant professor of epidemiology. “MCubed gave us the momentum to take our small project even further.”

Professors of theater, social work and art worked to build a broader creative class in Detroit. Creativity, the researchers say, creates a sense of optimism and opportunity in communities. They built a portable kiosk to carry exhibits and workshops around the city. With it, they held a Mexican paper art workshop at a bus stop. At a flea market, they’ll showcase the work of local bakers in photos and samples.

“When we got the MCubed funding, we didn’t even know what form our project would take,” said Nick Tobier, associate professor of art. “But we were able to work those details out once we got started. You can’t normally do things in that order.”

The program gave $60,000 early-stage grants to more than 200 trios of professors. To get the money, qualifying faculty members only had to agree to work with collaborators outside their disciplines on a brand new project. No application was required. Participants had to contribute matching funds.

And while the review process wasn’t traditional, the program used a form of peer review. Each qualifying professor received one token and had to choose which project to join. Three tokens made a “cube.” In a separate, public MCubed Diamond Program, individuals, organizations and faculty members can fully fund cubes and find collaborators.

“One of the reasons MCubed has been successful is that it builds on the excellence across the full breadth of our 19 schools and colleges,” said S. Jack Hu, interim vice president for research. “This is complemented by our culture of interdisciplinary cooperation and our commitment to translational research.”

Funding for MCubed was provided by the Provost’s Office, the individual schools, colleges and units, and investigators who participated in the program. MCubed, conceived of by a trio of engineering professors, is the first program of U-M’s Third Century Initiative, a $50 million, five-year plan to develop innovative, multidisciplinary teaching and scholarship.

“MCubed has given our faculty a tremendous opportunity to connect across disciplines,” said U-M Provost Martha Pollack. “As we move forward, professors, the university and society at large will reap benefits from the networks MCubed has made and will continue to make possible.”


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“Into the Wind” draws upon the expertise, creativity of many

Unique performance captures the wind and the spirit of a resilient community

U-M Dance Professor Jessica Fogel is no stranger to multifaceted, multidisciplinary collaborations, but when she first proposed her latest project called “Into the Wind,” even she did not anticipate it would include so many individuals, institutions and moving parts.

“‘Into the Wind’ has been one of the most wide-ranging and complex projects I’ve ever taken on in terms of the diversity of the collaborators and the cross-regional connections. There have been many strands to integrate,” Fogel said.

What started as a U-M effort involving faculty and students from several U-M departments, including the School of Music Theatre & Dance, the School of Natural Resources & Environment, the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, and LSA, grew to include partners from Grand Valley State University’s dance and natural resources departments, and members of the Muskegon, Michigan community.

The August 22 and 23 performances in Muskegon that featured dance students, alumni and faculty from the two universities, sought to do more than entertain.  They were designed by Fogel to inspire dialogue about wind as a source of energy.

The complexity of the production and the importance of the issue were what attracted some students to the project.

“It’s not just navel gazing or just history. It’s information that is relevant to now. Finding renewable energy sources is hugely important,” said Nola Smith, recent graduate from New York.

Shawn Bible, U-M alumnus and Grand Valley faculty member, said he was drawn to the project because of his experience working as a student with Fogel, and the many possibilities presented by creating wind-inspired choreography.

“Allowing my students to work closely on a project like “Into the Wind” is an enriching experience on all levels,” Bible said. “Being inspired through movement and directed by scientific research that could someday save our planet was a direct bridge between academia and life beyond.

“Engaging students in research that speaks to their lives as people inspires and sparks an imagination that I am thrilled to help guide.”


How the “Wind” blew in

Three years ago Sara Adlerstein-Gonzalez, an aquatic ecologist, began working with the College of Engineering, U-M Energy Institute and a number of other collaborators on a project to look at offshore wind in the Great Lakes. She was invited to do the environmental assessment to determine if wind turbines, when placed in the water, had any impact on aquatic life.

Although her research continues today, preliminary results showed the turbines would not disturb plant and animal life in a significant way.

While doing the work, the associate research scientist in the School of Natural Resources & Environment figured out that most of the opposition to the huge oscillating, modern day windmills was about the way they look, not about the environment.

So Adlerstein-Gonzalez decided to change the conversation. She wanted to ask: What is beauty? Is it purely aesthetic or could it be about finding alternative solutions to current ways we obtain, manufacture, store and use energy?

It was her questions that inspired Fogel to conceive of the “Into the Wind” project.

During a Winter 2014 sabbatical, Fogel planned a multidisciplinary Spring Term course that led to the performance. The thought was that the presentation could offer a way to enter into dialogues within local communities about alternative energy. She received School of Music, Theatre & Dance support and also was awarded funding from the Third Century Initiative.

An unlikely yet inspired site

Pulling up to the Muskegon location of the dance performance feels as though one has taken a wrong turn somewhere.

Overgrown dune grass covers the ground surrounding the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center (MAREC) building. A large turbine on the property spins with the wind. Across a body of water is a large coal plant, with its towering 600-foot smoke stack.

The performance begins indoors with remarks and a wind turbine-inspired dance, choreographed by Bible and performed by Grand Valley students. It then moves outdoors, through the dune grass, and onto the shores of Muskegon Lake.

The audience members are led throughout the lakeside brownfield site Pied Piper style, stopping to take in scenes featuring dance, music and poetry. The backdrop is a unique combination of picturesque landscape, raw nature and the remnants of a once-bustling industrial area.

Not your typical space for a dance performance but the right place for an arts presentation focused on wind energy, and the opportunity it may present to a city that has suffered great economic hardship over the last two decades.

MAREC was created to explore alternative energy opportunities for the community hard hit by an economic downturn, following the closure of its largest employer, Continental Motors, in 1991. That slump has continued and now threatens to deepen with the impending shutdown of the coal plant by 2016, costing the city more jobs and $1 million in lost annual tax revenue.

Dance students took a field trip to Muskegon in May for an initial exploration of the MAREC site where they would perform in August, and met with economic development and other community leaders.

“I now understand the nuances that go into environmental politics, especially at a local level,” said Alayna Baron, Ann Arbor. “There’s a lot of national coverage about environmental issues, and you hear the right and the left talk about their stances. It’s a lot more about economics than I thought. It’s about Muskegon and the people there.”

The performance not only was designed to inspire dialogue about wind energy. It also served as a time to reflect on the community’s past and future.

“I want the audience to see the possibilities for wind energy and industry, and potential innovations. I also want to acknowledge Muskegon’s spirit of resilience,” Fogel told collaborators at an early planning meeting for the event.


The local story

For one scene in the performance dancers don coveralls to pay homage to the former occupant of the site, Continental Motors, an airplane and auto parts manufacturer that ran three shifts a day with up to 10,000 employees.

While conducting research for the project Fogel and composer Dave Biedenbender interviewed four former workers from the plant. The men told stories of Muskegon’s heyday and what happened as the factory wound down.

Recognizing the power behind the men’s stories, the interview became part of the sound score.

One of the men interviewed came to the performance.

“I thought it was wonderful. I am real pleased that Jessica brought this to Muskegon. It was very touching,” said John Jolman.

The director of MAREC, Arnold (Arn) Boezaart, was a major collaborator who helped Fogel and the students with background, community connections, and facilities for the event. He served as emcee for the performance, and helped with a community discussion that followed each presentation.

“There is a profound dimension to all of us being here. Just feel the wind,” Boezaart said prior to one performance. “The profound dimension is that for 80 years this was a massive, massive industrial site. Here we are 80-90 years later reflecting with a member of Continental Motors.

“There is a certain magic and melancholy to being here.”

Channeling the wind

Just as the testimonies from the workers were integrated into the soundtrack and narrative, so were the words of people on both sides of the issue of offshore wind turbines.

The wind itself also was heard as Biedenbender and colleague Robert Alexander took data recorded on a buoy in Lake Michigan and used a process called sonification to create some of the musical score.

“It’s the world’s coolest and most complex wind chime. This is one of those examples where science is enabling us to experience art,” Biedenbender said.

LSA faculty member Keith Taylor wrote a poem for the event, and associate dance professor Robin Wilson performed a solo inspired by a painting that hangs in the Muskegon Museum of Art. Wilson’s dance invokes the four directions of the wind, a tribute to an even deeper history of the Muskegon site as former Native American territory.

Following the performances, which met with standing ovations, the performers and collaborators conducted dialogues with audience members.

David Gawron, whose father and uncles worked in Muskegon factories similar to Continental Motors, commented on the performances: “I was moved beyond words as the dancers raised the spirits of workers who once worked at Continental Motors, as they created visual sculptures in motion of work and celebration to the spoken words of retired workers, and created visions of wind power to recreate our community.”

Written by Laurel Thomas Gnagey, Michigan News






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Students get up-close, hands-on look at history

Israel/Palestine course allows unique access to ancient artifacts

The students were like detectives, lining both sides of a narrow room in the basement of the Kelsey Museum, gloves on, gingerly examining ancient objects.

They created sketches and drew upon what they learned in lecture and from readings to answer a series of questions, on the way to figuring out what purpose these treasures once served.

“We saw that there was a hole in it so would be hung on a wall,” student Sarah Cunningham said about the object she and her class partner examined. “We knew it was in the shape of a shrine, and we learned about columns in class so we could tell that it had Greco-Roman influence.”

The professor, a post-doctorate research fellow and a graduate student made their way around to each group, probing to help the students figure out what they were examining and offering a few hints, but only volunteering information about the object’s history or purpose when the trail went cold.

“The issue is the question of usage; what did they use it for?” Yaron Eliav, associate professor for Rabbinic Literature and Jewish History of Late Antiquity at the Department if Near Eastern Studies, College of Literature Science & the Arts, asks one group that looked at a bowl-shaped object. “Why put so much effort in having someone, a scribe, writing all the way around?”

This is The Land of Israel/Palestine Through the Ages, a course Eliav has taught for 13 years, but seldom the same way twice.

“It’s a course about that region that is so volatile and so important, even in current affairs and world politics. We survey the history of that region from early times to the present,” Eliav said, describing his approach to the course as experimental and evolving, as he tries to move beyond the stereotypical history course that is heavy on lectures.

“We want to engage students more in producing the data and the information in the course, and turn them away from being passive listeners and observers and note takers, and into active participants.” The course website describes it as an exploration of geography, literature and archaeology from “the dawn of writing until the mid-20th century,” using various readings, videos from the region, and the museum experience.

Back at the Kelsey Cunningham and her classmate figured out they were looking at an amulet that once held a mirror, designed to ward off evil spirits.

“Every week for our readings we get to go and maybe look at a sarcophagus or an inscription, and the questions help us and push us to connect with the material—again, to think like an archaeologist. We have to think of why things may have been portrayed as they were, or what it might have said about the people in power and who made the objects,“ she said.

Jared Robins and his team first thought they were looking at a planter or container for something that had been wet. There was a line a little more than half way up on the inside of the 24 X 12.5-inch rectangular, open-top box, and the stone below the line was darker.

Justin Winger, post doctorate research fellow at the Kelsey Museum, agreed that something wet had been inside but likely it was dirt from the object being buried for thousands of years.  After probing the group about the intricate etchings that were on only one side, and the container’s possible uses, Winger filled in some gaps. The pot was a burial container that would hold bones of the deceased, once flesh and other organs had decayed.

Unprecedented access.  That’s how Eliav describes the opportunity the students have in his course.

“This is a huge risk. As far as I know something like this does not take place anywhere in the world. Museums—and for right reasons—are very guarded of their treasures. Here, hundreds of students every semester get to touch the real objects with their hands.”

But not bare hands. The list of rules reviewed before class begins is long but necessary: Gloves must be worn at all times and don’t touch your face or hair while wearing them to avoid transferring oil to the objects. Pick up the artifacts as little as possible, make sure they are returned securely to the white pad that cushions them from the hardness of the table, and never pass the pieces one to another. Don’t grab them along any obvious cracks or around potentially fragile edges.

The privilege is not lost on the students.

“It’s one thing to read a book and see some images but, really, anyone can do that from home. It’s another thing when you’re getting access to videos and being able to actually touch artifacts from that time, and it really helps you understand that time more,” Robins said.

Students have been given access to these ancient treasures because of a 1964 U-M alumnus who wanted to share his collection of pottery, glass, coins and jewelry.

“We then decided it was time for something like this to be accessible to the general public,” Lawrence Jackier, a Bloomfield Hills attorney, explained in a video that announced his pledge of The Lawrence and Eleanor Jackier Collection to the museum and a loan of 30 pieces for use in the course.

“I said to myself: ‘it’s obvious. I graduated from the University of Michigan. Why wouldn’t I want my collection to go there?’ “

The couple also has sponsored a Jackier Prize, awarding cash and book prizes to students who write the best essays about the artifacts.  The inaugural awards event was held April 27 at the museum.

One of the five winning essays, ‘Narrative Vase Painting of the Classical Period,” focused on a couple of pieces, including a decanter style of vessel that had a handle, was round at the bottom, narrow at the neck and then opened up a bit more at the top. An ancient wine bottle was the first guess of students in the most recent class.

“I think you’re in the right direction because we would drink wine like that, but people in the ancient world were drinking wine from open cups. Wine was more like water,” Eliav told them.

“It needs to be something you want to pour in very small portions,” he said, adding that the narrow neck likely meant the contents were something to be poured slowly. One option might be olive oil, used for anointing the body and for food.

Beyond its use, the professor asked, what does the art suggest? Who is the man-like being on the front with no clothing, a tail and uniquely shaped ears?

“That’s a clue, absolutely.”

Written by Laurel Thomas Gnagey, Michigan News


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U-M African Presidential Scholars

Unique program brings African scholars to U-M

When Mariam Boakye-Gyasi was 3 years old, she caught a severe case of malaria that caused her small body to convulse so violently that her parents were afraid she would break her teeth. She was lucky to survive because every minute, the illness kills a child in the world—mostly in Africa.

Boakye-Gyasi wants to fight the disease, so the lecturer and doctoral student from Ghana is spending the fall semester at the University of Michigan researching new ways to administer antimalarial drugs that could save millions of lives.

“It’s so sad. Malaria is killing a lot of people in Ghana, and it shouldn’t be,” said Boakye-Gyasi, who is studying pharmaceutics at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.


Boakye-Gyasi is part of the U-M African Presidential Scholars program, which each year brings a group of early-career African faculty to U-M for four-to-six months. They do research, write, take classes, give talks, work with mentors and expand their professional networks.

U-M is the only major Western university that has such a program for African scholars from a wide variety of fields. The 15 academics in this year’s group have interests that range from distance learning and midwifery to water scarcity and the development of mining towns.

One of the fellows is Ignatius Ticha, who is interested in the depiction of poverty in African and Irish literature. During his time at U-M, the senior lecturer from Cape Peninsula University of Technology in South Africa hopes to write journal articles based on his dissertation, which focused on novels by Kenya’s Meja Mwangi and Ireland’s Roddy Doyle.

“The common perception associates poverty with India, Africa and other places,” said Ticha, originally from Cameroon. “I want to look at how poverty is a universal phenomenon, not just African.”

Another fellow, Linda Fondjo from Ghana, wants to spend her time at U-M building her research potential, learning methodologies in molecular biology that will advance her future research in female reproductive health.

“Not a lot of places in Ghana have the equipment that I need,” said Fondjo from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. “At Michigan, I’ve got the impression that everyone is so willing to help and share information. People don’t hold back.”

Launched seven years ago, the program has helped several U-M professors establish collaborative relationships with African colleagues, said Kelly Askew, director of the African Studies Center.

When the fellows return to Africa, they become valuable resources for U-M faculty and students, helping to anchor the university’s education-abroad and research relationships in Africa, said Oveta Fuller, associate director of the African Studies Center.

“It makes a huge difference for researchers to know people on the ground with a network of contacts,” Fuller said.

Fellows in the UMAPS program have traditionally come from Ghana, Liberia, South Africa and Uganda. But beginning next year, scholars from other African countries who have established a relationship with a U-M faculty member can be nominated by that professor for the program.

During her months at U-M, Boakye-Gyasi, the malaria expert from Ghana, wants to develop a more affordable way to treat patients with severe malaria who can’t swallow pills because they’re convulsing, unconscious or throwing up.

One approach is to administer the drugs intravenously or intramuscularly. But this is impractical in rural areas in Ghana because there is a shortage of skilled medical workers who can administer injections. Midwives with limited training often treat malaria in the countryside, Boakye-Gyasi said.

“You don’t want to be given an injection from someone who doesn’t know the difference between a vein and an artery,” she said.

Another approach is administering the drugs through the rectum with suppositories. But suppositories are made with expensive synthetic “bases”—substances mixed with the medicine that help release it safely into the body, she said. The rural poor can’t afford the suppositories.

Boakye-Gyasi thinks the best solution is developing an antimalarial suppository with a base made from fat extracted from cocoa beans or nuts from the shea tree. Both are cheap and abundant in Ghana, and they melt at body temperature. She has already created a formulation and plans to do quality-control tests at U-M.

“Unfortunately, I don’t have all the equipment that I need in Ghana to assess the quality of my formulations,” Boakye-Gyasi said.

If she’s successful, the new suppositories could have a huge impact on treating malaria among the rural poor, making the drugs cheap and easy to use.

She said, “Even a mother would be able to administer the drugs for her child.”

List of current scholars and their mentors: http://bit.ly/Zh3dzf

Map of U-M’s engagement in Africa: http://global.umich.edu/worldwide/map

Written by William Foreman, Michigan News


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Massive open online courses

U-M faculty encouraged to create more MOOCs

Leaders from the new Office of Digital Education and Innovation are calling on faculty to submit proposals to develop massive open online courses, known as MOOCs.

Saying these courses enable “engaged, personalized and lifelong learning for the Michigan community and beyond,” leaders say the office is prepared to support interested faculty with expertise and funding to create innovative courses.

“At this time, we are eager to expand our experimentation both in volume and diversity,” James Hilton, vice provost for digital educational initiatives, and James DeVaney, assistant vice provost for digital education and innovation, wrote in a memo earlier this month.

“In particular, we are interested in involving more academic units across U-M, showcasing multidisciplinary expertise, engaging alumni, and experimenting with modularity, learning analytics, and other novel approaches to digital instruction.

“Importantly, all new proposals must describe how the MOOC will lead to enhanced residential learning at U-M.”

Since the university began offering MOOCs two years ago, U-M faculty members have designed 19 of them that have been offered more than 50 times to reach 1.5 million students of all ages around the world. They have involved 22 faculty members from seven academic units.

One of these faculty members is Gautam Kaul, the Fred M. Taylor Professor of Business Administration and professor of finance. His Introduction to Finance course is one of the most popular MOOCs delivered by any institution.

“The digital format for sharing knowledge has forced me to think much more about the purpose of my teaching,” Kaul said.

“MOOCs are a platform that allow you to start experimentation and, if done with some care and deliberation, are a great way to think about your teaching the same way as you do about your research,” he said, explaining it is like focusing on the long-term nature of the research process, not just looking at individual papers as they are published.

“Inquiry-based teaching is what will eventually differentiate us from all other educational institutions and, I am quite convinced, empower our students. Also, technology is only going to get better and will challenge us to make F2F (face-to-face) time all the more dynamic and rich,” Kaul said.

Kaul, who also serves as special counsel for the Office of Digital Education and Innovation, has taken what he discovered teaching the MOOC to enhance other courses.

“The MOOC experience forced me to think about all the richness of finance and its applicability across just about anything. I have, therefore, begun to use both the digital and F2F formats, if you may, to enrich the learner experience regardless of which class I teach — from MBAs in a Fast Track Finance class to executives in our ExecMBA class. The main objective is to help individuals think critically in an otherwise very noisy world.”

U-M’s original MOOCs were featured on Coursera, an online learning platform that started in 2012 with three universities, including U-M. More recently the university has partnered with NovoEd, another similar online platform.

“U-M will continue to experiment across platforms as it designs and builds upon a loosely coupled digital ecosystem that favors content reuse, data analysis, collaboration and faculty control,” Hilton and DeVaney wrote.

Current MOOCs have taken a variety of forms and functions.

Dr. Caren Stalburg, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and clinical assistant professor of medical education, wanted to create a course that answered her own concerns about working at a teaching hospital.

“One of the things that we as health care providers struggle with, especially in teaching situations, is that we’re required to teach but we actually don’t have any specific training,” Stalburg said in an introductory video on her MOOC site.

She went back to school to earn a master’s degree in higher education at U-M and now shares what she discovered about learning theory, instructional design, using technology, and other teaching strategies. One of her goals in the Instructional Methods in Health Professions course is to create materials that others can remix and reuse.

Another faculty member who encourages others to take and use what he presents is Charles Severance, clinical assistant professor of information, who teaches a MOOC called Programing for Everybody.

In his opening video, Severance says anyone who can add, subtract, multiply and divide can learn the basics of computer programing. His goals for those who take the course are to prepare them to enroll in additional programing courses, to help them learn to teach others how to do it, and to provide them with a toolkit for sharing what they learned.

Severance often uses the MOOC platform to test new tools and pedagogical assessments. His research is in building learning-technology software, creating tools that help teachers do their jobs better. Through MOOCs he has been able to test auto-grading tools that he now employs in his on-campus classes as well.

“If you teach a MOOC with 70,000 students, you can’t hand-grade their assignments,” Severance said.

“You can take risks to try something different in a MOOC that you might not try in an on-campus class.  I can experiment and learn better ways of doing things and then bring that refined tool or strategy back into my class of 125 students.”

Severance not only has used auto-grading in his campus classes, freeing his graduate student instructors to teach, but he also has employed the MOOC concept of self-pacing, students learning at their own speed.

“This allows me to use class time working on homework, answering questions and solving problems, and having guest speakers come in.”

A team from the Institute for Social Research has developed a MOOC that reaches a broad constituency. Frederick Conrad and Frauke Kreuter, professors in the Joint Program in Survey Methodology, teach a course called Questionnaire Design for Social Surveys.

They have found the course popular with students in journalism, public health, criminology, marketing, communications, sociology, psychology and political science because, they note, “questionnaires are everywhere” and designing good questions is “harder than it looks.”

 Written by Laurel Thomas Gnagey, Michigan News


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Common Reading Experience

Engagement program inspires engineering students, faculty

From the Diag to Pierpont Commons, Michigan Engineering has installed a series of posters featuring the cover of a book, “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.”

The posters ask engineers across campus one very important question: “What chapter are you on?”

This is the question posed by the College of Engineering’s new first-year reading engagement program, the Common Reading Experience.

“As students move into careers in the 21st century, they need skills in a broad range of areas beyond technical knowledge, and they need to be thinking about an engineer’s role in society,” explains Stacie Edington, CoE Honors and Engagement Program officer.

“We wanted to get students thinking in that context more broadly, what it means to be an engineer in the world, from their first day on campus.”

CoE, with assistance from a Transforming Learning for a Third Century Quick Wins grant, piloted the Common Reading Experience for all incoming freshmen in the 2013-14 academic year.

Over the summer of 2013, the entire first-year class and faculty teaching first-year engineering classes received a free copy of “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade” by Pietra Rivoli. By September, students and faculty were ready to engage in a lively discussion with their community.

“Literary discussion” and “engineering” might not seem like a logical match, but the Common Reading Experience begs to differ. “We wanted to shake up the stereotype that engineers don’t like reading,” Edington says.

It is very important that the common read is “not an engineering book,” Edington adds. The themes in the selected book spark conversation between students and faculty about the broader international context of a career in engineering.

Some engineering professors have used “The Travels of a T-Shirt” posters in their offices as “icebreakers” for discussion with students, Edington says. “With the Common Reading Experience, faculty know that students have the common ground to continue that conversation.”

For the 2014-15 school year, a panel of engineering faculty and students selected “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer.

This book “has an engineering component to it,” Edington says, “but it’s really about the protagonist’s community. It raises the right kind of questions about the broader role of an engineer in society.”

Over the summer, students are invited to react to the book by using the Twitter hashtag “UmichEnginRead.” When engineering freshmen arrive on campus this fall, more than 1,000 students are expected to attend the program’s peer-facilitated group discussions.

Engineering faculty have many opportunities to use themes from the Common Reading Experience in the classroom.

Nancy Love, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering asked students in her “Engineering 100: Engineering Solutions for Global Water Issues” class to create a water footprint of the t-shirt in the “Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” using information derived from the book.

In the 2014 winter semester, David Thompson, adjunct assistant professor in entrepreneurship programs, invited guest speaker David Merritt to his class, “Entrepreneurship Hour.” Merritt, a local entrepreneur and U-M graduate, spoke about the connections between engineering, entrepreneurship and “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy.”

Thompson says that the Common Reading Experience has an important role to play in the U-M Engineering community.

“It is not enough just to be excellent at the principles of engineering. A Michigan engineer must also excel in applying these principles in a rapidly changing global environment. The Common Read is a unique way to bring all freshmen together to consider, debate and learn about how important engineering can be when applied in our interconnected and diverse society and world.”

 Written by Erika Nestor, University Record


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U-M helps Detroit’s comeback

Students lend a hand to non-profit community organizations

As Detroit seeks to rebound from bankruptcy and other issues, University of Michigan students are tirelessly using their research skills and enthusiasm to help the city’s nonprofit agencies.

These students participate in the Detroit Community Based Research Program, spending 10 weeks with organizations on projects addressing issues such as urban development, environmental justice, food security, community assessment and sustainability.

Their efforts culminate with presentations Aug. 8 at a symposium at the U-M Detroit Center Orchestra Place, 3663 Woodward Ave., Suite 150. The event, which begins at 1 p.m., is free and open to the public.


U-M has maintained strong ties with Detroit, which is the school’s birthplace, since its founding in 1817. From the health sciences, education and social work to admissions and alumni activities, the university has worked alongside Detroit residents to strengthen the community.

DCBRP started in 1998 and served all of Southeastern Michigan. In 2013, officials decided to shift the focus to Detroit. Twenty students live in the city and volunteer at 15 community partners.

“The DCBRP allows students to complete a project identified as a need by the community they’re immersed in and to see the great work being done by organizations in Detroit,” said Jenna Steiner, assistant director and the program’s coordinator.

Students attend weekly seminars to develop skills for working in a community setting and conducting research. They work 35 hours per week at their placement, earning $3,500 for the summer.

As part of the program, students often work in small, underfunded and understaffed organizations, which gives them a great deal of autonomy and responsibility.

“While this can be a challenge in the beginning for many students, it also provides a taste of what the working world is really like and allows them to develop communication, interpersonal and critical thinking skills,” Steiner said.

Students also see firsthand the obstacles community leaders face, such as unexpected news that changes efforts to assist the community and not being able to immediately reach government officials for information needed for their projects, Steiner said.

Freida Blostein, a junior from Royal Oak, Mich., originally collected data for the Food and Water Watch to combat the threat of privatization of the municipal water system. However, her duties unexpectedly shifted to helping the organization cope with the recent onslaught of water shut-offs for Detroit area residents who lagged in their bill payments.

What Blostein has had to reconcile is water as a human rights issue versus the cost to consumers.

“This has been a hard issue for me to process. It certainly wasn’t what I expected coming into the organization,” she said. “I was thrown into a complex and immediately relevant situation altogether different. Did I believe, at the very core, that water is a right and should be available at a reduced cost? I’m still fighting over the answer to that question.”

After graduation, she will pursue her master’s degree in epidemiology or health services/administration through the U-M School of Public Health.

“This experience has given me a tremendous amount of insight into how public systems and services can intersect with public health,” she said. “It’s also opened my eyes to the immense amount of work it takes to implement community organizing.”

Another student, Kali Aloisi, is interning at Nortown Community Development Corp., a northeast Detroit nonprofit that promotes economic development and a better living environment in District 3. She has researched the history and photographed parks in the district, including Lipke, which might be sold to the Salvation Army.

“This internship has now become a part of my story and a part of me,” said Aloisi, a junior from Westland, Mich. “I’ve loved the opportunity to share my experiences in this space with my loved ones.”

Detroit Community Based Research Program is coordinated by U-M’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, which celebrates its 25th year.

Written by Jared Wadley, Michigan News


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We Make Health Fest

Attendees will explore participatory design to tackle health care needs

His name is Insaman.

This virtual superhero’s mission is to help diabetic children manage their blood glucose levels. The masked crusader began as crude drawings on paper. Once a U-M Art & Design student and someone experienced in app building finishes with him he’ll be the star of a program to help children understand how much insulin they need to balance their blood sugar.

Insaman, short for Insulin Man, is the brainchild of a patient. He is representative of the kind of innovative thinking organizers of an upcoming We Make Health Fest hope will surface from the campus and larger community.

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“We need to tap into the brilliance of our community to create and promote health,” said faculty organizer Dr. Joyce Lee, research director, Pediatric Diabetes, U-M Medical School, and associate professor of environmental health sciences in the School of Public Health. “It’s about coming together and promoting participatory design of tools and technologies for health.”

We Make Health Fest will take place 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 16 in the Great Lakes Rooms, 6th floor of Palmer Commons. People from the campus and greater Ann Arbor community are invited to attend the free event but advance registration is required.

Modeled after the Maker Faire movement that is increasing in popularity, the idea behind the We Make Health Fest is to bring together those who have an idea for how to use technology to advance health care with the people who know the nuts and bolts of how to create it.

Organizers bill it as a full hands-on day of health themed design and maker activities for the whole family to share their personal stories, Do-It-Yourself technologies and creations for managing health.

“The difference between this and another type of demonstration is that presenters will talk about the skills you have that can equip you to use this type of technology—and not just tell people about an invention but show them and promote hands-on activity,” said Emily Puckett Rogers, special projects librarian at University Library and organizer of the Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire through an organization called A2Geeks. “We hope it will be a point of inspiration and collaboration.”

Two stars of the Make Health Fest will be featured presenters: Jose Gomez Marquez from the Little Devices Lab at MIT, and John Costik, type 1 diabetes hacker, father, community collaborator, and innovator for the #wearenotwaiting movement. The organizers welcome volunteer presenters on Maker topics as well.

The event also will feature a screening of “Maker,” a feature-length documentary on the Maker Movement and its impact on society, culture and the economy in the United States.

Supported by a Third Century Initiative Global Challenges Team Development grant, the overall aim was to spur the campus community to improve health and well being by creating a pipeline to “ideate, plan, and conduct a behavioral change intervention.”

To that end, Lee said this event has three goals:

  • To encourage “design for health” at a grassroots level; even children should think of themselves as designers
  • Learn about new tools and technologies that could be used to promote health (wellness or chronic disease management)
  • Bridge the gap between a technical and design community whose members want to work on health projects but need a health partner, and health partners (patients, caregivers, researchers) who have ideas but need a technical collaborator to bring them to life.

“With the latter, we become sort of a health design cupid,” Lee said, noting a website created to match makers.

In a blog she created on design and health care, Lee wrote about her first venture into this arena, which she admits is a very basic educational video. She needed to help staff at school know how to respond to her children’s severe food allergies. She and her son took an overly detailed written emergency response card and translated it into a video, narrated and illustrated by the child.

“How do I know it was effective?” she writes in her blog. “We use it! Successful design is defined by the user. We haven’t scaled this, made money off this, or distributed this as a consumer product. But it’s the tool we use every time we start a new school, meet a new teacher or begin a new summer camp.”

A tool like Insaman, who will take on Evil Boss Pizza, making sure children know they need to take a little more insulin prior to eating that bad boy.

By Laurel Thomas Gnagey, Michigan News



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UM awards $3M global sustainability grant

Will fund collaborative energy, food problem-solving on three continents

Electricity for rainforest villages in Gabon.  Tent fabric that harvests solar energy for nomadic people in Kazakhstan.  A modular greenhouse and fish farm in an unused industrial building in Highland Park, Michigan.

These are some of the goals and possibilities a team of 17 researchers will pursue with a new $3 million Third Century Initiative Global Challenges grant from the University of Michigan.

The Third Century Initiative is a $50 million, five-year program that is leveraging the university’s interdisciplinary expertise to tackle some of society’s most pressing problems while creating learning opportunities for students.

The REFRESCH project, which is short for Researching Fresh Solutions to the Energy/ Water/Food Challenge in Resource-Constrained Environments, involves researchers from across campus. The project is based out of the University of Michigan Energy Institute.

The team aims to develop and apply thoughtful solutions to problems involving access to clean water, reliable energy and fresh food in both developing and developed nations. It will begin in Gabon, Kazakhstan and Michigan.

“We have all this wonderful technology, but we can’t just rely on that,” said Johannes Schwank, a professor of chemical engineering who leads the project. “This is going to be a very different process of interacting very carefully with the communities, learning from them what already works, and figuring out how we can improve things that are already working, without disrupting the core experience of what it means to live in that place.”

In Gabon, for example, a rainy and dry season make consistent large-scale hydropower unrealistic for villages, and rainforest canopy would be sacrificed to build transmission lines. However, a simpler, more easily modifiable system could prove transformative for small villages.  In Kazakhstan, traditional power sources would deal a fatal blow to some residents’ nomadic way of life, but a yurt made of photovoltaic fabric could allow access to electricity virtually anywhere.

In Detroit, unused factory spaces could not be repurposed in the traditional sense without investing millions in refurbishment costs.  But using the space for simple shelter from the elements, a fish-farming pod could produce both fish and nutrient-rich water, which could in turn be used to nurture a separate pod housing an indoor hydroponic vegetable farm.

REFRESCH aims to catalyze good ideas to travel not just faster, but smarter. A particularly unique aspect of the project is that researchers envision that approaches developed for one setting can be tweaked and applied to other places in what they call “reverse innovation.”

A Detroiter out hiking on a long weekend could one day fire up a portable, biomass-powered cookstove invented for Gabon, for example. A Gabonese villager could drape the roof of her hut with a photovoltaic fabric invented for use on yurts in Kazakhstan. And a Kazakh businessman might tend his fish farm in an abandoned cannery near the shore of the Aral Sea, using modular pod technology developed for a disused factory space in Detroit.

“You’re taking a creative engineering approach to resource constraints in three places but you’re also finding a dialogue between each of the three,” Schwank said. “The idea is to have this multidirectional flow of information.”

Schwank emphasizes that though the Gabon project is moving forward rapidly, many of the project’s interconnected aims are still in the idea stage – right where they should be.

“The REFRESCH project is a perfect example of what we were looking for in Third Century Initiative proposals,” said Provost Martha Pollack. “It is bold, innovative, and brings together a broad range of disciplinary perspectives to address an important constellation of problems.”  

The REFRESCH team will serve in an advisory role for the community leaders of Highland Park and the Michigan government as they develop a workspace for what Schwank calls “multidirectional innovation.” This site will become the focal point for the conceptual design and prototype demonstration of a “water-neutral community.”

Administered by the University of Michigan Energy Institute, the REFRESCH group includes investigators from the College of Engineering, the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, the School of Natural Resources and Environment, the Ross School of Business, the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, the Stamps School of Art & Design, the Graham Sustainability Institute, and the Erb Institute.

Written by Nicole Casal Moore, Michigan News







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Resolving cases online

U-M initiative transforming what it means to ‘go to court'

The University of Michigan is spearheading the development of what is believed to be the first-of-its-kind technology to help people who have been charged with minor offenses interact with courts online, without needing to hire an attorney.               

The technology was invented by J.J. Prescott, a professor at the law school, and Ben Gubernick, his former student. Their goal was to increase and equalize citizen access to courts by creating an alternative to physically going to court, a process that can be time-consuming, confusing, and often intimidating.                     

The software provides a way for litigants with issues ranging from unpaid fines to minor civil infractions, including traffic tickets, to communicate directly with judges and prosecutors to find mutually agreeable ways to resolve their cases.

“When you look at how many cases courts process, you realize online interaction and resolution is the next frontier. Courts have so much potential to influence people’s lives for the better,” Prescott said.

“The challenge is removing barriers to access while making the most of judicial and prosecutorial wisdom and experience. We wanted to make sure the software wouldn’t interfere with everything good that courts are already doing.”

 Gubernick said the technology won’t replace courts.

“In-person interaction is necessary for a lot of work courts do,” Gubernick said. “This technology targets only those cases where online interaction can be faster, fairer and less costly for everyone involved.”

The project is part of the Global Challenges arm of U-M’s Third Century Initiative, a $50 million, five-year program that is leveraging the university’s interdisciplinary expertise to tackle some of society’s most pressing problems while creating learning opportunities for students.

 “The on-line courts project is a wonderful example of the type of work for which the Third Century Initiative’s Global Challenges program was created:  work that provides an innovative and promising approach to a pressing problem facing our nation,” said Provost Martha Pollack. Prescott presented the work today at the monthly meeting of the U-M Board of Regents. 

The technology is currently being piloted at the 14A District Court in Washtenaw County, Mich. Another pilot is scheduled to launch in Bay County, Mich., in August.

Response from the technology’s users has been positive. Robert Ciolek, court administrator at 14A District Court, said the program has saved time for citizens, police officers, and court staff.

 “It seems to be a win-win-win for all the participants,” Ciolek said. “Processes that used to take whole days now take only minutes.”

With funding through U-M’s Third Century Initiative in place for the next two years, Prescott’s team is preparing to scale the technology.

However, the team is thinking far beyond the next few years. Prescott has already worked with U-M Technology Transfer to create Court Innovations Inc., a startup that will provide support and maintenance for the software during the project and grow the business opportunities generated going forward.

The developers and U-M believe the technology can go national. “Court Innovations was founded to ensure post-project sustainability,” said MJ Cartwright, the company’s chief executive officer. “Our job over the next two years is to work with courts and state government groups to lay the foundation for the technology’s complete transition from U-M-based research and development into a commercial solution that can continue to scale and grow in Michigan and across the nation.”

Ken Nisbet, associate vice president for research at U-M Technology Transfer, said the company has leveraged Venture Center resources, including the Venture Accelerator, to create a compelling value proposition to improve our court system.

“This new venture is proof that entrepreneurial ideas are flourishing at Michigan Law,” Nisbet said.

Written by Jared Wadley, Michigan News



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U-M, GVSU collaboration

Brings alternative-energy inspired arts performance to Muskegon

University of Michigan dance professor Robin Wilson—tonight a performer—licks her index finger and then lifts it to check the imaginary wind’s direction. This opening gesture is symbolic of the issue being explored during a special Ann Arbor Dance Works preview of a performance called “Into the Wind.”

Wilson and six students and alumni from the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance shared the multifaceted story about the potential transformation of Muskegon, Mich., from a once-thriving manufacturing community to one that is working to regain economic prosperity, in part by exploring alternative energy industries. Like that finger in the air, those who are leading this effort are trying to determine which way the wind will blow on the somewhat controversial prospect of harnessing wind energy in the Great Lakes region.

The June preview was to share with an Ann Arbor area audience the dance, music and poetry performance that will take place in Muskegon later this summer. The free event at 7 p.m. Aug. 22 and 23 will be held at the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center on the shores of Muskegon Lake. It is the site of the former Continental Motors factory in the West Michigan community, and overlooks a coal plant that may close in 2016, costing the community more jobs and tax revenue.


The Muskegon Museum of Art also will feature a “Talk and Dance Demonstration,” 2 p.m. Aug. 21. Jessica Fogel and Robin Wilson will discuss and demonstrate the ways visual art images have been transformed into dance. Muskegon Museum of Art, 296 W. Webster Avenue, Muskegon, Michigan 49440, (231) 720.2570.  http://www.muskegonartmuseum.org/

The collaboration among faculty, staff, alumni and students from several U-M departments, Grand Valley State University and the Muskegon community is led by U-M dance professor Jessica Fogel.

“The dance looks back at the legacy of the site and looks forward to the hopes and dreams of the future,” Fogel told members of the June 12 preview audience. The score for the performance includes voices of those who worked at the plant.

“When that factory closed it was a real blow to that community,” Fogel said. “In the music for the performance, not only are you hearing the factory workers’ voices, but you are hearing a sonification of wind data collected by a buoy launched off of Lake Michigan, near the site. This data was then transformed into music by composers Robert Alexander and David Biedenbender.

Alexander is a NASA Jenkins Pre-doctoral Fellow, sonification specialist and design science doctoral candidate at U-M, and Biedenbender was a U-M instructor who recently accepted a faculty position at Boise State University.

The event will include a new work choreographed by Grand Valley dance professor and U-M alumnus Shawn Bible and performed by Grand Valley students. Grand Valley music professor Nate Bliton will compose music for the piece, which will incorporate sounds of wind turbines. A community dialogue led by project collaborators and area alternative energy leaders will follow the performance.

“This project is not only a great way to link the performing arts with our renewable energy efforts at MAREC (Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center) and in the region, but it’s also a nice opportunity to link Grand Valley and the University of Michigan in a collaboration that will allow students, faculty and the community to engage and learn from each other,” said T. Arnold Boezaart, director of Grand Valley’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center.

In recent years, Fogel, director of Ann Arbor Dance Works, U-M’s resident dance company, has become interested in using the arts to provide stewardship for the environment. She was inspired to look into wind energy after hearing about what visual artist Sara Adlerstein, an associate research scientist at the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment, was doing to measure the impact of wind turbines on the Saginaw Bay aquatic ecosystem. Those who oppose turbines believe they negatively impact fish and other wildlife, and therefore, food supplies. But her research shows otherwise.

“From the models I have been doing, the impact is next to nothing,” Adlerstein said, of the research in water. “People opposed to them are doing so because they think turbines are ugly—not because they aren’t good for the environment. I wanted to explore the question of beauty. How do you confront people with the idea of aesthetics?”

Recent U-M dance alumna Nola Smith hopes the performance will open that dialogue.

“We’re trying to invoke the aesthetic of wind, and of these turbines, and show how using renewable energy is beautiful, and these objects are beautiful, when viewed in the context of sustainability. So I hope that will come across to people,” she said. “More generally, I just hope people will come and see what we are capable of doing, and I hope that people have a greater appreciation of dance and the arts through this project.”

Other collaborators include: Sarah Mills, doctoral candidate, U-M Urban and Regional Planning Program; Erik Nordman, associate professor of natural resources management, GVSU; poet Keith Taylor, coordinator of undergraduate creative writing in the U-M Department of English and director of the Bear River Writers Conference; and Nate Bilton, music and dance equipment and stage manager, GVSU. Community partners include Judith Hayner, Dan Henrickson, Eric Justian, Amanda Shunta.

The project received funding and support from the U-M Third Century Initiative; U-M Office of Research; GVSU’s Office of the President and the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center; U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance Faculty Research Fund; U-M Gay Delanghe Endowment; U-M Department of Dance; GVSU Department of Music and Dance; U-M Office of the Vice President for Global Communications and Strategic Initiatives; and the Muskegon Museum of Art.

 Written by Laurel Thomas Gnagey, Michigan News; Photo by Dykehouse Photography, Grand Rapids, MI


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Students take on book scanning challenge

Mechanical engineering class builds prototype scanner

Book scanning technology has seen many advances in the two decades since the U-M Library began to digitize its collection. But the world has yet to see a low-cost, automatic page-turning scanner that would be within the reach of small libraries and cultural organizations seeking to preserve local collections.

Students in Mechanical Engineering (ME) 450, taught by Dan Johnson during Fall semester and Wei Lu during Winter semester, decided to take on this challenge.

ME 450 enables students to apply the knowledge acquired in their coursework by developing creative approaches to real-world engineering problems. Over two semesters, students worked in collaboration with U-M Library staff to build a linear book scanner from an open-source Google design.


The design originated with former Google engineer Dany Qumsiyeh, who sought an alternative to the high-end, high-volume scanners that Google deploys in its mass digitization work. A vacuum cleaner, an inexpensive Canon document scanner, and some sheets of aluminum made up the core of Qumsiyeh’s prototype scanner. But in a presentation at the U-M Library, he acknowledged that there were some wrinkles to work out, and that the $1500 he spent on materials could surely be reduced.

ME 450 student Ryan Snyder said, “The linear book scanner intrigued me from the start because I knew it would provide value for the university and further educational resources.” Teammate Lauren Staszel said she was particularly interested in the creative challenge of improving the design to make it a viable product.

A team of librarians including Kat Hagedorn, Meghan Musolff, Jim Ottaviani, and John Weise set out the desired modifications: the scanner should accommodate books of different sizes, operate with an acceptable noise level, provide industry-standard image quality, and dependably turn each page without damage. In order to maximize the class effort, the team narrowed the focus to making substantial improvements to the page turning mechanism. The library team provided support and attended design reviews, and Qumsiyeh tuned in remotely to answer technical questions

Students rebuilt the body of the scanner, using a slippery plastic to reduce friction and a steeper angle for the book so that the tough book spine would absorb more force than the delicate pages. They also worked on the perfect balance of vacuum suction to turn a single page – plus a sensor to indicate when a page wasn’t turned, when multiple pages were turned, or when a page had existing damage.

One of the library’s requirements was that prototype designs be released as open source. “This is one of the first officially open-source projects in the class,” said Johnson. “This type of project is very attractive because we want the students to be able to make an immediate impact and be able share their work with as many people as possible. It also ensures that future teams, and people from around the globe, can access the project files and continuously improve it; a win-win for everyone.”

The resulting prototype scanner cost approximately $1000, making it an exciting advance toward the creation of an affordable and scalable book scanner for small libraries and the cultural heritage community.

John Weise, manager of the library’s Digital Library Production Service, said, “This project has the potential to result in a scanner that will make preservation book scanning affordable for libraries of all sizes, around the world. It’s great to engage students in the process, and give them an opportunity to make such an impact. The results have been amazing so far.”

Written by Mary Morris, University Library


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Anne McNeil is named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor

Gets $1M grant to improve undergraduate chemistry education

A University of Michigan professor of chemistry and engineering is among the 15 scientist educators selected as Howard Hughes Medical Institute professors, the institute announced today.

With a five-year, $1 million grant for science education, Anne McNeil will revamp a chemistry prerequisite, start a research partnership with Washtenaw Community College and launch a summer science program for high school students.

McNeil, an Arthur F. Thurnau professor, is an associate professor of chemistry in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, as well as macromolecular science and engineering in the College of Engineering.

“I was fortunate because I entered college with a passion for science and I had an amazing professor for my first semester chemistry course,” McNeil wrote in her HHMI proposal. “As a professor of introductory chemistry courses, I have both the opportunity and responsibility to excite and nurture a similar passion for science in the approximately 300 undergraduates I teach each year.”

Anne McNeil

She plans to bring the real world into the classroom to help engage students in Chemistry 211, a requirement for those majoring in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields. Roughly 2,000 students take 211 each year in large lectures, smaller discussion sections and lab periods. While McNeil sees this as an “extraordinary opportunity to nurture and transform how these students view science” she believes it’s falling short. She found that 37 percent of those who sign up for a sequence of courses required for many STEM majors discontinue the sequence after they take the class

“National trends show this can happen in response to uninspiring intro classes,” McNeil said, “but I was shocked at the number.”

The course is the first lab experience for many students, so it has to cover a lot of basics. “You can’t exactly set up a complicated reaction from the start,” McNeil said. “They have to learn how to pipette first.”

Her plan is to come up with simple but interesting experiments that utilize crowdsourcing and focus on renewable resources. Instead of running chromatography on a Sharpie marker, for example, they might convert waste vegetable oil from a local restaurant into biodiesel for an area farmer’s machinery. Students will help design and tweak the experiments. They can share their data and look for patterns. That’s where the crowdsourcing comes in.

Transforming the U-M class will be McNeil’s initial focus. In future years, she’ll work to attract more Washtenaw Community College students to pursue chemistry-related degrees at U-M through summer research experience programs, advising and other means. She’ll also start a summer polymer science program for high school students. The two week course will involve a hands-on lab.

McNeil’s efforts and those of all the researchers selected for HHMI professorships aim to drive more students into science, engineering and math to maintain American leadership in those fields.

“Much of the responsibility for sustaining excellence in science falls on the nation’s research universities, home to some of the world’s best scientists, and attended by some of the nation’s most talented students,” HHMI’s news release states.

“These scientists are at the top of their respective fields and they bring the same creativity and rigor to science education that they bring to their research,” said HHMI President Robert Tjian. “Exceptional teachers have a lasting impact on students.”

Written by Nicole Casal Moore, Michigan News




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Students help Indian villages with water problems

Their work begins with an assessment of needs, concerns

More than 100,000 people die in India each year from waterborne diseases, but a group of University of Michigan students is hoping to make a difference.

The students, who call themselves the BLUElab India team, traveled to India’s western state of Gujarat in early May to survey water needs to help them design filtration and storage technology.


“It involves going to different villages and mapping their water needs,” said team co-leader Mike McGahren Clemens, a junior in chemical engineering. “Where does the water come from? What are its uses everyday and how is it disposed?”

The groundwater in a third of India’s 600 districts is not fit for drinking because the concentration of fluoride, iron, salinity and arsenic exceeds the tolerance levels.

BLUElab India got its start a year ago after connecting with College of Engineering alumnus Harish Sheth, who encouraged the students to think about a project in India. He also offered to help with his SETCO Foundation, which focuses on health care, education and empowerment.

The group was in India during a hot and noisy time of the year. May is wedding season in India, and the festivities usually include a loud boombox belting out songs. The students saw a few weddings in the village and soon got used to the music as they went about their daily work

The heat was another matter.

“One day we were surveying a well in someone’s backyard and it was the hottest day in our stay. I was jumping from shadow to shadow the whole time we did the water survey,” said team co-leader Erica Dombro.

A key component for the survey was building relationships with the local townspeople.

“We had to overcome a language barrier. Even their English was different,” said Jon Minion, a sophomore in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts.

They spent time with the village kids playing Frisbee and even picked up some cricket skills along the way

“This really helped us to be seen less as a novelty and more as a member of the community. The crowd that followed us around in the beginning went away,” Minion said.

They also met plenty of inspiring villagers, including Moongo Behn, a widow who built her life as a small businesswoman after her husband died. When the students organized a town hall in the village, she was the first one to welcome them.

“She is an incredible force and a positive role model for the women of the village,” Dombro said.

The team also tried to overcome the class barrier that usually divides Indian society.

“Whenever we went to someone’s house, hosts offered us chairs and sat on the floor. We decided to sit on the floor with the hosts,” said Dombro, adding that it helped them build bridges with the villagers.

The villagers were also very generous with the students. They were invited to various mango farms where they had their fill of mangos.

“It was so delicious, we couldn’t stop eating them,” said Zoha Momin, an economics major, who speaks Hindi and Gujarati and has been helping the team navigate the language barrier.


As they gathered information, it became clear that along with water filtration, there were a range of issues that needed attention. Primary among them were sewer drainage and women’s health.

“Even though we were thinking of water filtration initially, we will revisit it as a group,” said Dombro, a mechanical engineering major.

In the fall, the students will regroup in Ann Arbor with the analysis and conclusions from their survey. After they decide which problem to focus on, they will spend the next year building a concrete technology and then implement it in summer 2015.

The group also has another plan—connecting kids in Ann Arbor with children in Gujarat.

“We want to expose kids to different cultures and have them interact with each other,” Dombro said.

Written by Mandira Banerjee, Michigan News


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U-M receives $1.5M from Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Grant will expand undergraduate research opportunities

More than 3,700 additional U-M undergrads will get real-world research experience over the next five years through a $1.5 million science, technology, engineering and math education grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Initially, the grant will let professors restructure the lab sections of two introductory science courses — Biology 173 and Chemistry 125/126. More courses will be involved in future years.

Rather than playing out textbook exercises, students in these classes will work with a U-M faculty research lab to design and carry out experiments that make new knowledge and could lead to published scholarship.

“We want students to see the whole process of discovery, from when we don’t know the answer to when we get an answer. That’s the real excitement of science,” said Deborah Goldberg, the Elzada U. Clover Collegiate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology who leads the program.

University leaders have learned through the 25-year-old Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program that exposing students to research early leads more of them to degrees in STEM fields.

“In the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, for example, we’ve found that more than half of the students who initially say they’re interested in these fields don’t go on to graduate in them,” Goldberg said.

“As someone who cares deeply about liberal arts, I have to say that we’re not trying to keep students from their passions. But we don’t want to lose people because they weren’t engaged in their introductory classes and therefore miss out on studies that they could be passionate about.”

The new program will dramatically increase the number of students who are able to have research experiences. UROP, which individually pairs students with labs, served more than 1,400 students this year and involved hundreds of faculty members. But still, there’s a waiting list, and it’s hard to expand quickly, Goldberg said.

“Eventually, the grant from HHMI will allow us to engage a similar number of students each year, with the involvement of only eight faculty research groups,” Goldberg said.

Beginning in fall 2015, the chemistry course will partner with Stephan Maldonado, associate professor of chemistry, on projects in solar power and batteries, and Kerri Pratt, assistant professor of chemistry, on projects in snow chemistry and climate change.

The biology course will work with Thomas Schmidt, professor of internal medicine, microbiology and immunology, ecology and evolutionary biology, and civil and environmental engineering.

Schmidt studies the human microbiome — the countless microscopic organisms that live on and in our bodies. It’s a frontier in medicine and science, as researchers are coming to understand the role these germs have on evolution and health.

Schmidt says the students will help steer his research agenda. In the class, they’ll help determine which microbiome to focus on — perhaps the mouth, the skin or the digestive tract — and what questions to ask about it. They might chose to see how changing diet can influence gut bacteria, for example, which have been found to play a role in obesity, cancer and mental health, to name just a few conditions.

“They’ll be participating in research on contemporary projects,” said Schmidt, who majored in biology at U-M years ago. “We won’t be repeating experiments where the outcome is known. They’ll be engaging in cutting edge work that they can read about in the New York Times.”

Written by Nicole Casal Moore, Michigan News


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A lesson in sustainable nourishment

U-M students will learn about 400-year-old tradition of serving community

A group of students from University of Michigan will travel to Golden Temple in northern India to learn about sustainable nourishment and to bring lessons back to their own communities.


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Sayles Pitch

Student archivists immerse in the genius of maverick filmmaker John Sayles

Author, Auteur, Independent

Imagine allowing a class of undergraduate students — perfect strangers – to comb freely through your entire life’s work: childhood school papers, magazine articles, drafts of your novels and short stories, contracts, financial records, legal documents, personal letters, candid snapshots. . .

Oh, and then there are those journals, journals, and more journals — jammed with everything from profound artistic insights to the daily business of writing, directing, and releasing independent films.

This spring maverick filmmaker John Sayles and his producing partner, Maggie Renzi, opened their massive archive to students enrolled in Screen Arts & Cultures 455, “American Independent Cinema.” Housed at U-M’s Special Collections Library, the artists’ archive comprises more than 230 boxes of material spanning a four-decade collaboration in independent cinema. It offers rare insight into the director as actor, screenwriter, playwright, and novelist.

“We chose the University of Michigan over other excellent archives and libraries because we wanted to see John’s work studied as part of the curriculum at a great university,” says Renzi.

From her lips to the students’ ears.


Declarations of independence

In spring 2014, the Screen Arts & Cultures students collaborated to produce an exhibit titled “Sayles Pitch: John Sayles, Author, Auteur, Independent.” The walk-through display is open to visitors of the Hatcher Graduate Library through July 10. The exhibit complements the John Sayles Symposium June 4-5, held at U-M in conjunction with Ann Arbor’s annual Cinetopia International Film Festival, where Sayles will appear in person.

Developing an exhibit to be experienced by a mainstream audience infused the course with palpable energy, says Katherine Sherry, who just completed her junior year.

“It creates another level of involvement,” she says. “It’s not simply going to class, listening to a lecture, writing a paper. You’re actually learning about this person through their own documents. These are primary sources. It gives you a sense of ownership. It’s exciting and rejuvenating.”

A voice of social consciousness

Laura Caruso, intrigued by the business of filmmaking, found Sayles to be a very “teachable” person. For nearly every concept covered in the classroom she discovered a tangible example in the archive. His unique approach to financing, for example, was a huge revelation. In the late 1970s Sayles worked for infamous low-budget producer Roger Corman, and soon learned he could finance his own independent films through earnings as a screenwriter.

Sayles has penned about 100 screenplays, and has written and directed 18 of his own films. He garnered near-unanimous critical acclaim with his directing debut, the self-financed character study Return of the Secaucus 7, which he also wrote. His 1992 movie Passion Fish earned Academy Award nominations for best original screenplay for Sayles and best lead actress for Mary McDonnell. The Oscar-nominated Lone Star, set in a Texas border town, earned Sayles a best screenplay nod in 1997. He’s also published books, short stories, and plays.

What is particularly striking about the archive, says Phil Hallman, film studies librarian at the U-M Library, is “John Sayles’ dedication to being John Sayles. And by that I mean his willingness to sacrifice other things in order to commit to his vision of what a filmmaker should be, what his role as an independent voice of social consciousness in America could be. He’s had many chances to be more commercial but he’s chosen not to and I really respect that.”

Caruso admits she didn’t know much about Sayles prior to enrolling in the course. “That may have been a benefit, because I could approach the project without any bias,” she says, before breaking into a huge grin. “But I’m biased now — because I love him.”



Since acquisition of the material is relatively recent, the library staff has yet to process everything. Sometimes students were the first “archivists” to open a box and identify its contents. “It was kind of like Christmas morning for them,” Hallman says. “They often had no idea what they’d find.”

Melissa Gomis, instructional technology librarian in the graduate library, worked with the students to compile selected assets into a compelling narrative. The resulting exhibit covers a few key highlights that convey the creative, technical, and logistical processes that define the Sayles oeuvre:

•          The first section examines the film Honeydripper as a case study in Sayles’ outside-the-system process.

•          The second documents some of Sayles’ work across genres as a writer, credited and uncredited, on films ranging from the monster movie Alligator to Apollo 13.

•          The third considers his approach to the social, political, and economic realities of the people and places so intimately portrayed in his films.

•          The fourth is a video display of multiple scenes, overlaid with an audio commentary track.

In addition, props, costumes, and other artifacts are displayed in the library’s Audubon Room.

Getting to know you

For aspiring screenwriter Audrey Weiner, Sayles’ handwritten notes, storyboards, and journals were especially revealing.

“There’s definitely a kinetic energy to reading his handwriting,” she says. “I think you can learn a lot about someone from the way they write — the actual way they write.”

Over time Weiner developed a detailed and nuanced portrait of both Sayles and Renzi.

“It’s really cool that you can take someone’s life, their journals and pictures, and make your own impressions of them without even meeting them,” she says. “I found a thank-you note from one of [Renzi's] actors, and he said seeing her work inspired him to be more of an open person.”

Absorbing the contents of letters and notes — even college papers that were not relevant to the exhibit — helped students understand how aligned the partners always have been in their personal ideals and approach to storytelling. Sayles and Renzi often explore political unrest, class warfare, racial discrimination, and other provocative themes on the screen.

Mind over minutiae

It was important for the students to immerse slowly and completely in the minutiae of the archive to understand the complexity of independent filmmaking, Hallman says.

“So often I work with students whose first instinct is to Google something,” he says. “This is definitely the anti-Google approach. It’s a great opportunity to make the library come alive for students of the 21st century.”

It was “honestly weird,” says student-director Matt Birnbaum, to get the first look at what was going on behind the scenes of a particular Sayles film. Contributing to the exhibit has impacted how Birnbaum will approach his own work in the future. The sheer breadth and depth of the archive illustrates the diligence it takes to conceive, produce, market, and distribute independent films, he says.

“It’s incredible to see how much thought and effort [Sayles] puts into everything he does,” Birnbaum says. “There are thousands and thousands of pages in each box and you realize how many people contribute to every single location, every single shot, every single movie. It excites me to see how hard people work, and I’m excited to work that hard on films.”

Found in translation

Translating the students’ commentary and found artifacts into a series of exhibit panels was a unique storytelling challenge for librarian Gomis.

“An exhibit is a visual medium, and an archive is not,” she says. “You have to decide what to highlight, how to create a layout and flow that presents the entire story as a whole.”

The exhibit is designed to demystify the archive and make the library relevant to people who enjoy film and the arts, Gomis says.

“It gives members of the community a chance to learn about [Sayles] and understand why the University collects these things, and why a researcher would use them,” she notes.

Promoting the archive through the exhibit opens a window into the vast treasures students and others can find in the library system, Hallman says. During a recent follow-up meeting regarding the exhibit, one student discovered some assets he hadn’t yet seen, including photos and storyboards related to Sayles’ Bruce Springsteen videos “I’m on Fire,” “Born in the USA,” and “Glory Days.”

“He said, ‘Wow! We have this?’” says Hallman. “And you see how it becomes an avenue for him to come back and explore the archive some more. It’s like you just want to fill up on it. There’s never enough. And you hope this is the beginning of a lifetime commitment to being interested in this kind of material. That’s exactly what we want.”

Written by By Deborah Holdship, Michigan Today


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Launch Committees

help new assistant professors navigate the first year

New assistant professors, particularly those who must set up labs and build teams to conduct their research, need to learn fast how to work within the academic culture in their new departments and take advantage of available resources.

Those who are starting their careers in the LSA Natural Sciences Division and in the College of Engineering now receive an individual boost in negotiating these matters during their first year through the ADVANCE Launch Committee Program.

The program, which was modeled after a successful effort at Case Western Reserve University, began with a pilot of eight committees — five in CoE and three in LSA – during the 2012-13 academic year.

Last fall it expanded to assist 28 new assistant professors. Each launch committee is tailored to the needs of each new faculty member — the “launchee” — and meets regularly, usually monthly, with the assistant professor from the moment of hire until the end of his or her first academic year at Michigan.

A Launch Committee consists of:

• A senior faculty member in the new faculty member’s department who has related research interests.

• The department chair.

• A senior faculty member from outside the department, in a field related to the new faculty member’s interests.

• An committee chair, known by a faculty convenor, prepared by ADVANCE for that role.

• The newly hired faculty member.

Committee members are identified and invited by ADVANCE, with input from the department chair.

ADVANCE began as a five-year, National Science Foundation-funded project promoting institutional transformation with respect to women faculty in science and engineering fields. With the university’s commitment to continue funding through June 2016, the program has expanded to promote other kinds of diversity among faculty in all fields.

Launch Committees provide a structure that not only supports new faculty, but also makes it easier for departments to ensure that nothing is overlooked.

Guided by an initial set of questions provided by ADVANCE, they educate the launchee about policies, procedures and issues related to lab space and equipment, students and other lab personnel, funding, teaching, service, and integration into the university.

Launchees from the pilot year commented that the committee was “a huge jumpstart” and “a great idea,” a source of critical information and perspective that helped them to feel a part of the department from the beginning of their arrival on campus

“We dealt with issues that were real, substantive, bothersome issues for the new faculty member. This was a very systematic way of getting questions answered,” said one Launch Committee convener.

Department chairs said they enjoyed being part of a team, working together for the welfare of a new faculty member. “It’s definitely in the department’s best interest” to do this, one chair said.

The program’s success has been based on the participation of many senior faculty members throughout the university. Twenty-three faculty members and department chairs (from biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, chemistry, and molecular, cellular and developmental biology) participated during the pilot year.

During the 2013-14 academic year, 28 new faculty members in 16 departments had committees. These committees were staffed by 117 faculty members, including department chairs and committee conveners.

Written by Chris Whitman, Office of the Provost





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Call for engaged learning plans

UM poised to award funds for programs that transform education

The University of Michigan’s investment in engaged education is about to get much bigger as leaders prepare to award faculty and staff grants of $100,000 to $3 million for new approaches to teaching and learning.

This is the amount of money potentially available in the latest round of funding through the university’s Third Century Initiative.

U-M announced today that it seeks proposals for the first Transformation Grants, which were established to fund programs that represent “large-scale changes to instruction and/or infrastructure.” Eligible programs will enable faculty and staff to implement new learning approaches that are sustainable and replicable.

“As a large residential institution and a place of discovery, we believe that the U-M provides an outstanding platform from which engaged student learning experiences can be launched, in which students learn to wrestle with complex, ambiguous and authentic problems, and in which they come to embrace working in teams, wherein diverse perspectives are the key to finding good outcomes in attacking that problem,” said James Holloway, U-M’s Vice Provost for Global and Engaged Education.

“Our goal is to develop these opportunities at large scale, with experiences ranging from engagement within existing classroom structures to civic engagement in Detroit, to educational experiences all around the globe. All of this for literally thousands of students annually.”

Following the success of two other grant programs for the development of engaged learning courses and opportunities, the Transformation phase is focused on department, division or college-level changes that evidence shows will favorably impact the education of students.

“We have already seen faculty and staff embrace this concept with more than 75 smaller projects funded over the past two years,” said Melanie Sanford, Moses Gomberg Collegiate Professor of Chemistry and chair of the steering committee for the initiative. “We are now ready to move to the next level of large scale engaged education projects.”

The president and provost announced the Third Century Initiative in 2011, as leaders began to plan for the university’s 2017 bicentennial and set a course for teaching and scholarship in the new century. They allocated $25 million to fund student learning under a program called Transforming Learning for the Third Century (TLTC).

To further cement the commitment to transforming the student learning experience, Holloway was named to direct the global and engaged education effort within the Office of the Provost. U-M leaders also made engaged learning a goal in the current $4 billion Victors for Michigan campaign, announced in the fall.

To date, the TLTC team, comprised of faculty and staff from across campus, has awarded five rounds of Quick Wins and three rounds of Discovery grants. Quick Wins are small-scale, easily ready courses or programs eligible for funding up to $25,000. Discovery grants provide up to $50,000 for projects that allow a general education hypothesis to be explored and planned or piloted.

Written by Laurel Thomas Gnagey, Michigan News


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IBM Watson at U-Michigan

Students to use technology in class

Software engineering students at the University of Michigan this fall will use IBM’s Jeopardy-winning Watson system to develop apps that help children with special needs.

The artificially intelligent Watson is designed to process language more like a human than a machine, and to interact with people in ways that seem more natural than other systems.

Michigan is one of seven universities IBM is partnering with to give students access to the technology. Others are Carnegie Mellon University, Ohio State University, New York University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of California-Berkeley and University of Texas.

Each school will focus on a different industry or topic. Students will input relevant data into Watson and train it. Then they’ll break into teams and develop not just prototype apps, but also business plans to bring their ideas out to society. IBM will provide support from experts, guest lectures and technical mentors.

“It’s going to be fun,” said instructor David Chesney, U-M lecturer in computer science and engineering. “This is a wonderful tool for our students to get to experiment with. This is the generation that watched Watson win Jeopardy and I’m sure the opportunity to interact with it will really have an impact.”

The focus on special needs is unique to U-M and reflects Chesney’s longstanding practice of putting software engineering in a social context. His course is always popular. Already 70 students have signed up for the fall, with 50 more on the waiting list.

Two years ago, Chesney had students develop tools to help people with autism. Last year, the class focused on one person—a 13-year-old with cerebral palsy. They programmed devices and made apps that could help her communicate, play games and act more independently at home and at school.

This new collaboration gives the class a chance to take yet another perspective. They’ll put the technology first and see where it leads, Chesney said.

The idea for the course came out of U-M, when IBM Watson group vice president and alumnus Michael Rhodin was visiting campus to discuss an unrelated research project. On a whim, Eric Michielssen, U-M associate vice president for advanced research computing, floated the idea of giving students access to Watson.

“It was an instant hit and we kept talking about it,” Michielssen said. “It’s a win-win situation. For our students, it’s a fantastic opportunity to tap into their creativity and gain exposure to this innovative AI system.”

And for IBM, it’s helping to prepare the next generation of cognitive computing specialists.

“By putting Watson in the hands of tomorrow’s innovators, we are unleashing the creativity of the academic community into a fast-growing ecosystem of partners who are building transformative cognitive computing applications,” Rhodin said.

“This is how we will make cognitive the new standard of computing across the globe—by inspiring all catalysts of innovation, from university campuses to start-up offices, to take Watson’s capabilities and create apps that solve major challenges.”

The explosion of data-driven content has sparked a new wave of career opportunities for today’s college students, from business analytics professionals to chief data officers, according to IBM’s news release. Expertise in natural language processing, machine learning and managing content across its lifecycle will be valued.

These skills are the building blocks for a new class of cognitive apps and services that “deliver fast, evidence-based advice, by combing through millions of pages of data within seconds for discoveries that fuel smarter decisions and unleash creativity,” according to IBM.

U-M’s Business Engagement Center played an important role in enabling this partnership. The center was established in 2007 to strengthen the university’s ties to business and community partners and to help revitalize and diversify the state of Michigan’s economy. It connects organizations with talent and resources at U-M.

Watson Goes to College (a blog post by David Chesney): http://bit.ly/1noaQej

Written by Nicole Casal Moore, Michigan News


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5 honored for teaching innovations

Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prizes Awarded

Five U-M faculty projects that demonstrate fresh approaches to advance student learning will be recognized May 5 as winners of the sixth annual Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize.

The award is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, and the U-M Library.

“These projects offer effective new ways to increase student engagement with and mastery of course material,” said Provost Martha Pollack. “The faculty’s commitment to improving student learning is a real strength of the university.”

The U-M community is invited to meet the innovators at an 11:30 a.m. poster fair and strolling lunch in the Michigan Union, before the TIP awards are presented at 12:30 p.m. in the Rogel Ballroom on the opening day of Enriching Scholarship 2014.

In addition to TIP posters, the fair will feature projects by teams who received CRLT Investigating Student Learning grants, Learning Analytics Fellows projects, and technology projects from Teaching and Technology Collaborative members.


A faculty committee selected the winning TIP projects from 49 nominated by students, staff and faculty peers. The winners will receive $5,000. The winning projects, with descriptions drawn from material provided by CRLT, are:

• CaringWithCompassion.org: A Comprehensive Training Portal for Clinicians Serving At-Risk Populations — Dr. Davoren Chick, clinical assistant professor of internal medicine, Medical School; with April Bigelow, clinical assistant professor, School of Nursing; F. Jacob Seagull, assistant professor, Department of Medical Education; Heather Rye, certified case manager and complex care management specialist; Dr. Pamela Davis, assistant professor of pediatrics, Medical School; Dr. Brent Williams, associate professor of internal medicine, Medical School; and staff at Michigan Creative.

Many health care professionals lack formal training regarding social determinants of health, public healthcare systems, or special care needs of the medically underserved. Supported by a Graduate Medical Education Innovation grant from the Medical School, the Caring With Compassion team developed a curriculum regarding public healthcare systems and bio-psychosocial care for the underserved. It stressed innovative adult learning methods through an online, modular curriculum supplemented by a novel, game-based learning tool.

Student learners have repeatedly expressed their appreciation for Caring With Compassion, describing it as practical and highly relevant to their learning needs.

Danielle Stegena, a graduate student in the Family Nurse Practitioner program caring for homeless patients at a federally-funded health clinic in Grand Rapids, wrote, “If I hadn’t completed the Caring with Compassion curriculum I would have been over my head in terms of how to care for these patients, make a difference and impact their care to improve their health.”

• Dancing with Steel Girders: Interacting with 3-D Representations of Buckling Columns in Virtual Reality — by Sherif El-Tawil, professor of civil and environmental engineering, who is accepting the award on behalf of the project team: Julie Fogarty, Ph.D. candidate, and Jason McCormick, assistant professor, both in civil and environmental engineering; Theodore W. Hall, advanced visualization specialist, UM3D Lab; and Eric Maslowski, UM3D lab manager and technical creative consultant, Digital Media Commons.

Educators in the structural engineering field who struggle with depicting three-dimensional figures in two-dimensional space have resorted to physical models that are cost prohibitive and cover only some configurations. The project team’s solution has been to develop a virtual reality environment to help structural engineering students and other engineering and science students gain an appreciation for complex spatial arrangements.

VR is an immersive environment. Users wearing the proper equipment can “climb” up a model, “squeeze” through an opening, or “fly” up for an overview. The team has developed the necessary software and deployed it in the Design of Metal Structures class, CEE-413. There, students can see various examples of local and global buckling behavior and appreciate how complex modes of structural response occur.

• Trailblazing with Wikipedia: Improving Student Learning and Easing Implementation — Anne McNeil, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, associate professor of chemistry, LSA, and associate professor of macromolecular science and engineering, College of Engineering.

In 2008, McNeil began developing a class project for students to edit science content on Wikipedia to enhance learning, build collaborative skills and improve scientific information available to the public. The Wikimedia Foundation became aware of the project, consulted McNeil, and created the Wikipedia Ambassador Program and the Wikipedia Education Program to support faculty-guided student contributions.

The project was highlighted as a case study on the Wikipedia Global Education Program website, where McNeil’s course materials are freely available. The broader impact of this project extends beyond the classroom, as 60 science-based Wikipedia sites have been edited (or created) by the students in her courses.

“These impact-driven projects are innovative because they push the boundary between learning in the ‘Ivory Towers’ and fulfilling real-world needs of accurate and accessible scientific information; because they challenge students to develop fundamental understanding of concepts by finding, digesting and synthesizing relevant information with the general public as the audience in mind; and because it’s a lot of fun for students to publish their work conveniently and engage in global conversations on their topics,” wrote Ye Li, chemistry librarian, Shapiro Library.

• Doing Science Firsthand Through Dorm-Room Labs — Mark Moldwin, professor of space sciences and applied physics in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences, College of Engineering. Dorm-room labs engage students in large lecture, introductory science and engineering courses that do not have labs to broaden their appreciation of the content of the course and the process of science.

Moldwin first developed the concept at the University of California, Los Angeles. He was trying to impress upon students that tracking sunspots offered observational evidence that the sun rotates. The next year, he assigned as a dorm-room lab a series of images of the sun, a latitude-longitude grid, instructions on how to measure the sunspots location and to track them in time.

Questions on the mid-term dealing with sunspots and solar rotation disappeared from the list of concepts that students struggled with, he said, because giving students the opportunity to discover or demonstrate for themselves some physical concept often has positive impact on learning.

“Based on my experiences grading lab/exam questions, the dorm-room labs were effective: students performed well on exam questions pertaining to lab concepts,” wrote Michael Hartinger, postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences.

• Dropping Lecture and Summative Exams to Accelerate Deep Learning — Steven Yalisove, professor of materials science and engineering, CoE.

Lecture can be dropped by creating environments that promote peer instruction by using digital technology, small group work, bringing one’s own device, audience response systems, problem-based learning, and visually rich activities including video.

Yalisove measured the learning improvement in lecture and in non-lecture sections of the same course by tagging questions on the midterms and final exams. He found that students scored between 10 and 19 points higher on exam questions based on material presented in active learning sessions compared to traditional lecture.

The potential impact is that a simple method has been developed along with a set of resources — rubrics, problem-based learning templates, tips on how to convince publishers to provide PDFs of their books and more — to allow a faculty member to easily transform their course.

“The structure of this course gave me the opportunity to interact with the teaching staff and the students at a far deeper level than any course I had taken before. It was through the interactions with the teaching staff and my fellow peers that I developed a conceptual understanding of the course material,” wrote Sharmin Begum, undergraduate engineering student.

Written by Kevin Brown, University Record


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School of Information engages citizens through technology

New course also provides lessons in politics, social change

As the University of Michigan Blue Bus rumbled down I94 toward Jackson, some School of Information students took advantage of the drive to firm plans for their meetings that day with city officials. Others were engaged in more personal conversations. Perhaps not surprisingly, a few were sitting quietly, tapping on smart phones, tablets and laptops.

Their professor, Clifford Lampe, circulated the bus, answering questions about group projects and sharing copies of the Michigan Municipal League magazine, “The Review,” that had featured the class in the March/April issue. The weekly commute is valuable time for sharing information, bouncing ideas and sorting out issues.

The SI students are the first to be enrolled in Citizen Interaction Design, a course to develop information tools such as apps and social media sites to foster citizen engagement with government. Through a unique three-year partnership, students work on a number of projects with the city of Jackson.

“The city actually identified 24 problems and we picked 10 of those to move forward with. These aren’t projects like fix my website, these are problems,” Lampe said.

On the March 28 ride to Jackson, James Richardson was “stressing” a bit about the outcome of his team’s work that, at the time, was in the hands of the city attorney for review.

“I just don’t know how it’s going to go,” he told Lampe.

Richardson is part of a team that worked on an open data policy, which would provide the public with access to policies and procedures from the inner workings of the city.

It’s clear from his comments that the second year master’s student will not be content with an “A” for effort on this one, expressing that he hoped the team could get on the city’s agenda to present the policy before the semester ended.

That opportunity came in April, and at a meeting on the 22nd council members unanimously adopted a first read of the ordinance that could make Jackson the first city in the state to have such a policy. Passage came after a few weeks of earnest debate and a bit of compromise.

Lampe said one of the lessons students learned is that some projects may be embraced wholeheartedly and some may take some time to be adopted, if ever.

“When you try to implement technology it’s the social issues that always are the thorniest,” said Lampe, associate professor in the school.

Another team learned this firsthand as well, tackling an issue many cities face. The group is working with the Jackson Police Department to develop a way for citizens to offer anonymous texts about crime. Department leaders had been hoping for some time to implement a system beyond the current telephone hotline.

“This spoke to me. It just seemed like something really useful, something very practical, something that the citizens could really get behind,” said student Joshua Sanchez.

John Holda, deputy chief of police, said his department has received feedback from citizens of all ages that they would like to offer information to help solve major crimes like shootings, homicides and robberies in the city, but that they are fearful of retaliation.

“This is an opportunity for us to get something we believe will help us solve crime, help us reduce crime, and have a connection with the community that we don’t currently have in a very cost-effective manner,” Holda said of the Tips by Text app students are developing.

“We’re definitely on the right track to getting it built and implemented,” said student Angela Ng. “We’ve had a lot of support from the police department, which has been really great for us because they’ve really pushed us to move forward.”

Yet another group is working on a system for providing the community easier access to city geographical resources. The Maps and Apps team is working with the Geographical Information Systems Department to take data, including maps, globes, reports and charts, and make them accessible through a web application.

Student Jeremy Wdowik said working on this project has helped him better understand the inner workings of government, and offered a way to be involved while somewhat removed from the politics.

“I always wanted to try to get involved with government but I hate the politics. But when you can get into building things, and doing some cool things for the citizens, that’s when I get really excited,” he said.

Many of the students expressed appreciation that the course offered the chance to roll up sleeves and work on real problems.

“Instead of doing a project that disappears at the end of a semester, this has a potential for being something long-lasting, and that actual people in the Jackson community will interact with,” said student Rachel Seltzer, member of the Maps and Apps team. “ So it’s very nice that it’s not contained to the walls of the classroom and that we’ve gotten to do something in which we’ve brainstormed, problem solved and partnered with an institution.”

City leaders have been impressed with the students’ work.

“I found them to be bright and articulate, and although that didn’t surprise me, I was surprised by the advanced level at which they thought and the processes at which they came to conclusions,” said City Manager Patrick Burtch.

“I think the students have had a real positive experience in having a hands-on opportunity to really dig into city affairs and find a lot of great solutions to our problems,” said Derek Dobies, vice mayor of Jackson.

Lampe gives a lot of credit to Jackson officials for launching into the partnership with the university.

“The great thing about the city is that they were incredibly enthusiastic about the really paradigm shifting approach, both in terms of what our goals is—to increase citizen interaction—but also in terms of reimagining town-gown relationships.”

Citizen Interaction Design was developed when the School of Information leadership challenged faculty to come up with courses and activities that engaged students in unique ways. SI encouraged engaged learning initiatives across the school by providing financial support for course development. Lampe also was able to secure Third Century Initiative funding.

In addition to the full class, the work on the Jackson partnership began last summer with a single intern, continued with a fall reading seminar that included Jackson officials, and culminated in the winter term design course. This summer half-a-dozen interns will continue to work with the city and the full course will move to the fall semester.

Written by Laurel Thomas Gnagey


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The Michigan Ross Impact Challenge

4 days, 450 MBA students

This 4-day, high-intensity leadership competition is the very first experience for all MBA students at one of the world’s top business schools, Michigan Ross. Students work around the clock in teams to accomplish a seemingly impossible goal that adds social and/or economic value to the City of Detroit.

Along the way, they receive specialty training and engage with leading experts and practitioners. Guided by our world-class faculty, they reflect on their experiences to learn lessons about exercising influence without authority, organizing for innovation, and leveraging business as a positive force in communities.

Learn more about the Ross Impact Challenge: http://bus.umich.edu/


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Turning students into computer programming teachers

Programming for Everybody is new Mass Open Online Course

The student becomes the teacher.

That’s the concept of a new mass open online course (MOOC) on computer programming led by a University of Michigan professor.

Programming for Everybody is an introductory class offered on Coursera and taught by Charles (Chuck) Severance, an associate professor in the School of Information. It’s designed to allow its participants to turn around and teach the material in their own communities. All course materials, including Severance’s textbook “Python for Informatics,” the syllabus, videos and software, are open source via Creative Commons licenses and available for students to reuse.

“Teaching Programming for Everybody as a MOOC lets me interact with students in high school, college, and adults who want to come back to school and learn technology,” Severance said. “One of my concerns with [open] materials is that potential faculty adopters around the world often think of them as somehow ‘not as good.’ I want to use the MOOC to give teachers who experience the MOOC a reason to make use of the open materials in their own classes.”

The class will give students a taste of the type of instruction Severance does in his networked computing class for the U-M School of Information, but at a simpler level, he said. More than 26,000 students have already signed up for the MOOC.

The course’s text was originally made available in a partnership with the U-M Library several years ago, via on-demand printing on the Library’s ‘Espresso’ Book Machine. It is now available in a variety of e-book formats, including PDF, EPUB, MOBI for Kindle, and an Apple iBooks version that includes interactive quizzes as well as the lecture videos.

Michigan Publishing, the primary academic publishing entity for the U-M community, worked with Severance to create the iBooks version, which has seen a significant download spike since course registrations opened two weeks ago. Severance has offered foreign rights to the book to any teacher willing to translate the text into their native languages.

The class began April 10.

Written by Heather Newman, U-M School of Information


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Mapping Moby Dick

Technology meets classic literature

In a small classroom in the School of Social Work Building, 12 industrious students peered at what looked like a simple schematic of sorts on a large projector screen.

The image consisted of big dots placed in a random fashion connected by lines, forming a simple network. Moments later, another image showed a much more complex network of red and blue blobs all over the place.

As they looked at these diagrams, one of two instructors, Justin Joque, talked about, naturally, “Moby-Dick.”

Wait. What?

Dots and lines and colored blobs may seem to have little to do with one of America’s most famous, albeit most difficult to — well — navigate, novels. But in this class, the two were intricately related.

The dots, or “nodes,” Joque told the students, represent things — people, books, places. The lines indicate relationships between the nodes. In all, these are networks, and “networks can be made up of nodes of different types. Distance doesn’t matter. Only points and connections matter.

“We associate networks as these heavy, computational works,” Joque continued. “A traditional plot summary is very lineal; networks allow you to show the complexity of a novel.”


The class was “Mapping Moby-Dick,” and, true to its name, it was all about using maps to figure out, and then illustrate, what Melville was talking about and where he was going with all of his characters, geographic hop-scotching and symbolism.

That’s right. Maps. Not essays. Not term papers. Not multiple-choice tests.

This was the course followed by Joque, visualization librarian for U-M Libraries, and co-instructor Patrick Tonks, assistant director for programming at the Institute for the Humanities. Tonks designed the concept of the course and recruited Joque to handle the technical aspects.

The format was relatively simple for this one-credit mini-course. Before each class, students read a few chapters, then during class discussed what they saw or didn’t see, liked and didn’t like. The goal by the end of the term was to create a map to explain any aspect of the novel students chose.

“I loved the open format of the class,” says sophomore Sam Torchio, 19, who is working toward Bachelor of Business Administration and Bachelor of Computer Science degrees. He had not read “Moby-Dick” before. “The course was truly structured for the students to be able to find what aspects of the novel they enjoyed, and spent the semester delving into those sections of the book.”

According to the course description, “there is always more than one way to read a novel,” and one way, apparently, is by making maps. Students’ final map projects, the description says, had to be “visually compelling and communicate something interesting either about the text itself or the context in which the book was written.” What they portrayed, and how, was completely up to students.

“It’s my hope that a class like this provided students who might be more comfortable assembling a data set than writing an essay an opportunity to get invested in the in-depth reading of a work of literature,” Tonks says.

But before you pull out the Crayolas … there’s a catch: These aren’t ordinary maps, the kind you colored in fifth grade or studied in 11th-grade geography. These “maps” illustrate an increasingly important skill in this digital age called “data visualization.” So this unusual course was essentially rediscovering “Moby-Dick” by redefining maps.

“Increasingly, students, as well as academics and professionals in all fields, are being asked to engage with the world visually and as ‘data,’” Joque says. “In many ways, this way of seeing and representing the world requires an entirely different set of literacies than those required for writing a traditional essay. So our hope was to get the students thinking about different modes of communicating and representing complex ideas.”

To wit, the software tools students used were ArcGIS for mapping; R for charts and graphs; Cytoscape for network diagrams; and Adobe Illustrator for diagrams and cleaning up visualizations, Joque says. Such tools are used to produce maps in the “real world” to show such data as the percentage of land devoted to each crop, by county, across the United States. The class also studied much older multidata maps such as one depicting Napoleon’s march to Moscow, showing places and timing.

If that sounds as complicated as reading “Moby-Dick,” welcome to the 21st century. But these are 21st-century citizens, these students who “realized very quickly how intimately familiar with maps and diagrams they are from the daily use of Google maps to info graphics in The New York Times to the reporting of sports statistics,” Joque says. They “all seemed to grasp the idea of mapping the novel very quickly.”

Tonks says when he used a similar technique of encouraging using technology in a class he taught where students read “Jane Eyre,” “one student used a video game-building platform to design a three-dimensional model of Thornfield Hall,” the key setting for the novel.

Students say they are loving the voyage into learning literature through data visualization.

“I read ‘Moby-Dick’ before, but I was too young to fully appreciate it,” says sophomore Alissar Langworthy, 20, a philosophy major. This time around, she has concluded that, “I loved reading the book — but it also was very enlightening to learn about data visualization. It’s an area I never really had explored but was really important to learn about. I never realized that an argument could be made with a single image, and the amount of information that can be contained in good visualizations far exceeds what one would expect.”

Shortly before final presentations, Langworthy was working on her final project, which would illustrate both the geographical journey of two characters on another whaling ship, the Town-Ho, and the information transfer between them.

“The geography of the story will be represented as a subway map,” Langworthy said, “with each ‘station’ being an event of the story and each ‘hub’ being an intersection of two ships.” Information transfers were to be shown with “bus routes branching off from the hubs. The lines will travel from the place where the transfer of information happened directly to the next spot that the information is transferred, bypassing any physical journey that happened in between.”

Torchio said he wanted to create with his map “a graphical interpretation of the island of Kokovoko,” a fictional island in the South Pacific.

“The idea is to take the small pieces of information about the island and the character Queequeg,” who hails from Kokovoko, “that are given to the reader, and turn them into some aspect of the island.” He found passages about these topics in the book and organized them into categories. “From there, I will infer certain aspects of the island that must exist in order for those customs and facts to be true.”

There is a lot more to say about both projects, but you get the idea.

Tonks and Joque are pleased with how students interpreted the novel-mapping idea. “A lot of the students have pushed the definition of ‘the map,’” Joque says.

Final presentations will take place Thursday (April 17), with students co-exploring one another’s sensational maps.

They had a whale of a good time.

Written by Sheryl James






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Translation with a purpose

Event draws volunteers eager to decipher materials for non-profits

Three students working on a campus welcome brochure had to stop for a brief discussion about how to translate the organization’s name into Mandarin. The Spectrum Center’s literature says the group works to promote inclusion on campus, with particular emphasis on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. It was the name “Spectrum” that didn’t translate easily.

A few tables over, students and staff working on a color therapy brochure in German were wrestling with the term seelen-kalender, which literally translated means “soul diary.” The volunteers decided the best English equivalent was “spiritual diary.”

In an adjacent room, one student was using a dictionary to try to see if there was an Arabic equivalent for the word “homebound.” She was translating a Meals-on-Wheels web brochure and concluded she would just have to use a long explanation: people who are unable to leave their houses.

These volunteers, representing 15 different languages,  were among 67 people who signed up for the second annual Translate-a-thon, during which 50 projects were translated. The event was held for the first time last year as part of the Translation theme semester in the College of Literature, Science & the Arts.

On the surface, organizers say, translating from one to another sounds like a simple process for those proficient in more than one language. But the intricacies and nuances of languages don’t always make exact translation easy.

“As we look at this English text, there are things that we see hundreds of times, yet we don’t think twice about them. But when you have to translate that one term into a different language, it takes on a whole new meaning,” said Julie Evershed, director of the Language Resource Center. “So you really have to think about it in a completely different way. It brings a lot to your own language, as well as what you’re translating.”

For the students who participated, like Cathy Chow, the event offered the opportunity to hone language skills. The German major said she is not enrolled in a language class this semester, so coming to the Translate-a-thon allowed her to keep her skills sharp.

“Just being able to talk to all of these people who have better German skills than I just helps you understand the different words,” she said. “It’s good collaborating with older people and all of these people from different backgrounds.”

Chow said it was a slow process translating a brochure from the Klinghardt Academy about the psychological effects of color on health, an increasingly popular alternative medicine form in Europe. But even more difficult, was the project her team tried to tackle the day before, transcribing hand-written documents for the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“It was definitely interesting to be asked to translate something that might be used in the museum. We knew it was going to be challenging beforehand but we decided to give it a try anyway,” she said of their initial failed attempt to make headway on the smudged notes in hard-to-decipher cursive.

While polishing translation skills was a major motivator for some, the students also were interested in helping the non-profits and other organizations that could not afford to pay for such services.

“People in the non-profit community have been very receptive because they have so many people they need to reach,” Evershed said.

“The students seem to really be excited that the material they are translating actually is going to be available to the community,” said event organizer Emily Goedde, a doctoral student research assistant with the Engaging Translation MCubed Project, which was a co-sponsor with the Department of Comparative Literature and Language Resource Center. The Office of the Vice Provost for Global and Engaged Education also supported the event.

Celia Kaechele, a junior in political science and international studies, was happy to translate the Meals-on-Wheels material into Arabic for a couple of reasons.

“I had heard a little bit about Meals-on-Wheels before, and just from translating I know so much more,” Kaechele said.

The brochure she was working on told people in English how to volunteer and donate to the organization.

“There’s that barrier that might prevent someone from volunteering, who really wants to, just because they don’t have the information they need.”

Even as a fourth-semester Arabic student, Kaechele had to keep an English-to-Arabic dictionary close at hand, as like the others she found there isn’t always a simple translation.

Local businessman Kenji Yano also stopped by North Quad to see what the students were doing. His company, Sunrizing, offers multi-lingual communication services, and he was interested to see how the students might help local businesses that need to think globally.

“Language barriers still are huge, even with the Internet. Tools do not address these language barriers,” Yano said. “How can we help our communities work globally? Thirty to forty years ago we relied on what the federal government would do on our behalf. These days citizens in communities like Ann Arbor need to work directly with global partners,” he said.

Students filtered in and out during the Friday through Sunday event. And while most of the time the three adjoining rooms were quiet, the occasional discussion about how to handle a translation broke the silence.

Take that conversation over how to translate “Spectrum.” Vickie Yuan, a business administration major, said they finally landed on the Mandarin word for rainbow, to “capture the diversity” of the people served by the organization.

Written by Laurel Thomas Gnagey, Michigan News


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Zombie invasion thwarted

U-M students, county health leaders share survival tactics

For the second year in a row, residents of Washtenaw County have survived another zombie invasion, thanks to the quick response of area public health leaders.

Students from the U-M School of Public Health and staff from the Washtenaw County Public Health Department and the Michigan Public Health Training Center came together during the Zombie Apocalypse Bite Back April 5 for a unique disaster preparedness exercise to save the county from the walking dead.

Zombie Apocalypse Bite Back

Zombies represent a worst-case scenario in public health: a natural disaster, major disease outbreak or bioterrorism. In this case, they were people infected with the T zombii parasite, contracted from eating contaminated lynx meat or by contact with a human who already had been exposed.

The symptoms were flu-like, that is until behaviors turned to aggression, biting, muscle twitches, an inability to walk normally and moaning, according to a fact sheet created by SPH students.

Of course, that same piece of literature carried the disclaimer: “This is a practice simulation, and zombies are not real.” Oh, and that parasite: it doesn’t exist.

Although meant to be a fun way to practice for a disaster the SPH students took their roles seriously.

“It might seem like it’s just a plaything but the zombie exercise is a practical way to practice the ICS,” said Chani Hodonsky, a master’s student in hospital and molecular epidemiology.

The ICS refers to the Incident Command System, an all-hazards approach to managing disasters, which was created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. SPH students joined with health officials this year to battle zombies in an exercise that allowed the county to practice its ICS.

Zombie Apocalypse Bite Back

For the drill, a number of students in the class portrayed zombies while others, along with community participants, fulfilled various leadership roles in managing the disaster.

“The same principles that would be important in a zombie scenario are even more important in a real emergency,” said Matthew Shearer, student organizer of the event who will graduate in May with a Master of Public Health degree in epidemiology. “While you may have additional concerns during a zombie outbreak—chiefly, self-protection from the undead—you still need to be aware of your basic needs. Having non-perishable food, fresh water and first aid supplies are always a priority, but there are many other items that people may neglect to have readily available. For example, identification information/important documents (insurance, medical, etc.), extra prescription medication and extra clothes. It is also recommended that you have an escape plan with an identified meeting place for friends/family in the event that normal communications infrastructure is unavailable.”

You can learn a lot from a zombie

In fact, the students came up with two mantras for the exercise: “If You Are Ready For A Zombie Apocalypse, You Are Ready For Any Emergency,” and “Public Health Preparedness Starts With You.”

“That’s the idea we wanted to get across to people. Every American is involved in public health, and you actually have a role to play: to be aware and be prepared,” said Utibe Effiong, SPH master’s student in environmental health sciences and epidemiology.

“At the same time, it also is important for us to show the resources that are available to help,” his classmate Hodonsky was quick to add.

The Zombie Apocalypse, held for the first time last year on the U-M campus, was organized by Dr. Eden Wells, clinical associate professor of epidemiology, who wanted to give her students an action-based learning experience that was different from the usual drill.

“We adapted the zombie scenario from a Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s preparedness education campaign. While the scenario is not a real entity, its apocalyptic nature allows public health responders to test their ‘all-hazard’ emergency planning, which will have similar issues whether the emergency is a natural disaster or a bioterror event,” Dr. Wells said. “And the scenario grabs community attention—the audience we want to provide individual and family preparedness information to.”

Students enrolled in Dr. Wells’ Applied Epidemiology in Public Health Practice course assisted with the development and implementation of the exercise, working in partnership this year with WCPH. This included creating materials that outlined what people should do in such an emergency.

“It was really exciting to see students with no preparedness background and a love of epidemiology (and zombies) take on this challenge and pull it together over a semester,” said Cindra M. James, public health preparedness administrator for Washtenaw County Public Health. “I think it will send a message to everyone that being prepared can be fun and responsible, while watching a zombie’s flesh fall off.”

For the SPH students, the exercise provided something the traditional classroom could not offer.

“I’m learning in practical ways what the public health department role is, and that’s really important,” Effiong said.

“It’s one thing to get all of the training but another to get that call and just go,” Hodonsky said about not knowing until she arrived at the scene what role she would play. “It’s nerve wracking to think you don’t know what’s going to happen. You arrive and are assigned a duty. You follow directions very specifically.”

Photos by Marissa McClain, Michigan Photography, Written by Laurel Thomas Gnagey, Michigan News


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India Initiative awards announced

Programs present exciting opportunities for students

Norma Sarkar has been traveling to India for many years. During her visits, she noticed strong community health programs that involve health workers in rural areas, home visits and elderly care.

“I always thought our students can learn a lot by interacting with these health workers,” said Sarkar, a clinical instructor who has been teaching community health for a decade at the School of Nursing.

Now the students will, thanks to an India Initiative award from the Office of the President. The School of Nursing will take 12-15 students to India for three weeks in 2015 and 2016.

“World is getting smaller and smaller, it’s good to learn more about each other,” Sarkar added.

“I am excited to see the student learning opportunities that will come out of these initiatives,” said President Mary Sue Coleman.

Coleman had issued a call for proposals in January to launch new programs and build on ideas generated during her recent trip to India.

“There was great enthusiasm and we received 21 proposals,” said James Holloway, vice provost for global and engaged education.

Out of 21 proposals, six have been selected for awards amounting to $487,000. They include the Stamps School of Art and Design, Law School, Stephen M. Ross School of Business’ MAP projects, and the Center for South Asian Studies.

The hope is that these awards will inspire innovative programs that enhance the student learning experiences and develop ties with India to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges.

Another program selected for the funding builds on the alumni connections in India to provide internship opportunities for students. This effort branches out across several units like LSA and the College of Engineering.

Rachael Criso from Dean’s Office at LSA has been working with Indian alumni to host U-M students. She has already secured internship opportunities for three students travelling to Delhi and Mumbai to work in a startup and a private leadership program this summer.

“With the grant, we will be adding more cities, more alumni and more internships in India,” Criso said.

The award will also help them to pay a small stipend to the students.

“Our alumni in India have been amazingly supportive and they greatly value helping our students journey to India to understand the India that they love,” Holloway added.

Funded projects at a glance:

  • Cardamom Project (Art & Design) — Plans to build a strong India platform for the Stamps School in Mumbai and Bangalore.
  • Alumni sponsored summer internship program (LSA and College of Engineering) — Connecting with alumni to host student internships.
  • Community health field experience (School of Nursing) — Provide a three-week field experience for students.
  • C.K. Prahalad Initiative (Ross School) — Expand the Ross Multidisciplinary Action Project model to more sites in India.
  • Center for South Asian Studies Project (LSA) — Fund staff support to help continue the student programs with Delhi University and Ashoka.
  • MLaw Externships in India (Law School) — Pilot Externships with the Alternative Law Forum in Bangalore.

Written by Mandira Banerjee, Michigan News


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Sustainable Food Program

2013 annual report highlights student leadership

In 2013, the U-M Sustainable Food Program and its member groups helped integrate sustainable food topics into academics, created hands-on learning opportunities at three on-campus gardens and the Campus Farm, and provided food to students and community members.

In its recently released 2013 Annual Report, program highlights include a sample of class collaborations, resulting in 38 sustainable food-related projects completed, and a list of presentations given and conferences attended.

Landscape architecture students in the School of Natural Resources and Environment created site plans for the Campus Farm that incorporated outdoor classroom space, community gathering areas, and creative food production plots that reflected the visions of students running the Campus Farm.

Two SNRE Master’s Project groups presented their work with the Sustainable Food Program and the Campus Farm in classrooms and at conferences, including the annual conference of The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Since the program’s beginning as an SNRE Master’s Project, graduate students have been instrumental in maintaining and growing the Sustainable Food Program and its 10 member groups. The program’s leadership team currently is made up of four SNRE masters students who play a unique role in both working side-by-side with, and acting as mentors for, the four undergraduates on the team.

Graduate students from SNRE, the School of Public Health, the Stamps School of Art and Design and the College of Engineering lead student member groups working on everything from beekeeping to nutrition education.

Since students are constantly transitioning in and out of roles within the Sustainable Food Program and member groups, the first SNRE Master’s Project team secured funding and support to hire Emily Canosa as the first part-time program manager. She was hired in December and serves as support for the leadership team, as she works to cultivate relationships among faculty, staff, and community members.

According to the report, fresh produce grown by students at the Ginsberg Center, SPH, Outdoor Adventures, and the Campus Farm at Matthaei Botanical Gardens made its way to the homes of hungry student volunteers, to Food Gatherers and even to South Manitou Island on a backpacking trip in northern Michigan.

Two member groups joined forces to allow for the first sale of Campus Farm produce through the Student Food Co. Campus Farm produce was also sold for the first time at MFarmers Markets in the fall. Several groups currently are expanding their work with grants from the Planet Blue Student Innovation Fund.

These student groups are evidence of a growing interest in sustainable food around campus.

“UMSFP has opened the door to opportunity in sustainable food for me, both at the University of Michigan and in the local food scene,” says Rachael Gingerich, a Program in the Environment senior and member of the UMSFP Leadership Team.

“Experiences with member groups like Friends of the Campus Farm, UMBees, and the Michigan Sustainable Foods Initiative helped guide me towards receiving a full-time farm apprenticeship this upcoming season. UMSFP is truly a supportive community of students who want to change the food system in creative ways.”

Written by Allyson Green, Sustainable Food Program



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Anatomy course goes 3-D

Students virtually dissect hologram-like cadaver

Students virtually dissect hologram-like 3-D cadaver

The 3-D virtual reality cadaver floats in space like a hologram on an invisible gurney.

University of Michigan 3-D Lab employee Sean Petty stands a few inches away. Petty wears special glasses and pilots a joystick to arbitrarily slice away sections of the cadaver. He enlarges and turns the body for a better view of the detailed anatomy inside.

Alexandre DaSilva, assistant professor at the U-M School of Dentistry, called the virtual reality cadaver the opportunity of a lifetime for himself and for his dental students, residents and doctoral students working with the technology.

“The first time I saw the technology I almost cried,” said DaSilva, who also heads the Headache and Orofacial Pain Effort at U-M Dentistry and the Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute. “In my wildest dream, I never thought that this would be possible.”

The 3-D model supplements traditional anatomy class in several ways, DaSilva said. For instance, the residents can back up and redo cuts, and also enlarge areas to see them more closely.

“When you really immerse in the 3-D image, you can use all your senses,” said Thiago Nascimento, a postdoctoral student in DaSilva’s research lab. “It blew my mind.”

Researchers at the U-M Medical School Visible Human Project had already layered the cadaver into very thin sections. The group shared the anatomical data with Petty and 3-D Lab colleague Theodore Hall. The two then wrote the code that reassembled the body into a computer model, said Eric Maslowski, manager of the 3-D Lab, which is part of the Digital Media Commons, a service of the library.

Maslowski said that other disciplines such as engineering or natural science can use the technology to virtually dissect simulated hurricanes or slice into Mastodons, for example. DaSilva uses it now to study 3-D brains of pain patients to learn about migraine and other disorders.

Written by Laura Bailey, Michigan News


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Translate for a cause

Calling all people with 2nd, 3rd or more languages

What happens when you put a group of people proficient in more than one language into one space over an entire weekend? You get a lot of material translated for good causes, and participants having fun as they work to make messages more accessible.

That’s what organizers of the campus’s second Translate-a-thon to be held March 28-30 hope will happen again as they invite students, faculty, staff and community members to participate in the activity to benefit a number of organizations.

Volunteers complete translations for not-for-profits and other organizations that do not have budgets for such services but have audiences that need information in other languages.


Inma Aleixos Borras participated in the event last year and said the discussions were lively and fun.

“We were laughing and teasing one another about the differences in our translations,” Borras said, noting her Spanish comes from an upbringing in Spain while the others on her team had learned a version that was influenced by neighboring Mexico.

“I was working with two young men and they were very enthusiastic. Some of the pieces we were looking at had been corrected using some kind of language software and they were bad, which made us laugh,” said the 2nd-year Fulbright Scholar, who is earning a degree in archives and records management through the School of Information. She said the team had friendly debates over whether to use her Spain-influenced translation or another version.

“If there were three different countries, you could have three different forms of verbs,” she said.

The event was held for the first time last year as part of the Translation theme semester in the College of Literature, Science & the Arts. For the inaugural event, participants translated for a handful of organizations. This year the list has grown to 14.

“People in the non-profit community have been very receptive because they have so many people they need to reach,” said Julie Evershed, director of the Language Resource Center. “There also has been incredible interest to get involved on campus, both from people who study languages, those who want to perform community service and those who just really want to make connections with their culture.”

The event will be held in the Language Resource Center (1500 North Quad), beginning on Friday evening at 5 p.m. through 10 p.m. Translation will continue Saturday 9 a.m.- 10 p.m., and resume Sunday morning at 9 a.m. A showcase will be held Sunday at noon that will include a drawing for an iPad, a Kindle, three $50 gift certificates or tickets for the Michigan Theatre. The event will conclude at 5 p.m. Each participant will receive a Translate-a-thon t-shirt.

The Translate-a-thon is organized by the Department of Comparative Literature and the Language Resource Center, with support from the Office of the Vice Provost for Global and Engaged Education and the MCubed program.

Organizations to be served:

  • 350.org
  • Taring Padi
  • Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels
  • Ann Arbor Visitors Bureau
  • Student Advocacy Center
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washtenaw County
  • Safe House
  • Steiner Health
  • Department of Environmental Quality/ Michigan Department of Community Health
  • Massachusetts Legal Aid
  • Holocaust Memorial Center
  • Open.Michigan – Disaster Relief and Family Medicine videos
  • Art, Architecture & Engineering Library/ Digital Image database
  • Bentley Historical Library

Written by Laurel Thomas Gnagey, Michigan News




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Collaboration, curricular transformation

Latest Third Century projects announced

Beginning this summer, students in the schools of Education and Social Work will collaborate on a project to improve the high school experience for area teens impacted by trauma.

By fall, students in the College of Pharmacy will be able to use an interactive tool that simulates real patient experiences with medications, allowing future pharmacy professionals to immediately see the impact of their decisions.

Both of these curricular changes represent two of the latest projects to receive Third Century Initiative funding. The Office of the Vice Provost for Global and Engaged Education has awarded a fifth round of Quick Wins grants, and a third round of Discovery funds as part of the Transforming Learning for the Third Century initiative. The provost has dedicated $25 million over five years to encourage faculty to develop innovative, engaged, multi-disciplinary approaches to teaching.

The education and social work collaboration was awarded a Discovery grant, which provides up to $50,000 for projects that allow a general education hypothesis to be explored and planned or piloted.

In this case, faculty and students from the two schools will develop a new initiative, in collaboration with a southeast Michigan alternative school, to prepare young teachers and social workers to work with adolescents who have experienced violence, instability or other traumatic events.

“Our hope is that we can come up with a practice model for how to work with kids that have been traumatized,” said Beth Sherman, clinical assistant professor of social work, SSW. Although the U-M faculty and students will work with Tri-County Educational Center alternative school in Southfield—a system that provides education for students who either have dropped out or been pushed out of other school settings—Sherman said traumatized students can be found in all schools.

“Instead of just seeing these as troubled kids, maybe there is a more helpful framing,” Sherman said.

In their proposal, the faculty cite research showing that young people exposed to abuse, neglect, household dysfunction, substance abuse, mental illness, parental death, parental incarceration, abandonment, or neighborhood violence, often suffer academically. They are more likely to fail a grade, perform poorly on standardized tests, have language and expression difficulties, be suspended or expelled, and may be designated unnecessarily as special education students.

“In education we do a lot of work around improving the academic piece. We need to do more work on the social-emotional piece,” said Shari Saunders, clinical associate professor in the School of Education, adding that bringing together education and social work students “is such a natural pairing.”

The project will expand on existing work being done through the Algebra Project, founded by Civil Rights organizer and Mathematics Professor Bob Moses, and the National Writing Project, both of which are active in southeast Michigan and involve U-M.

In addition to Sherman and Saunders, the faculty team includes Laura Roop, coordinator of school-research relations in the School of Education; Robert Ortega, associate professor of social work; and Kathleen Faller, Marion Elizabeth Blue Professor of Children and Families and professor of social work.

During the summer, involved faculty and students from the two U-M schools will team up with Tri-County Education Center leaders and some of the high school students to shape the program, with a goal to implement aspects of it this fall.

The fall also is when the College of Pharmacy will expand on the work it has done moving toward team-based learning, after receiving a Quick Wins grant in the latest round of Third Century funding. Quick Wins provides funding for educational experiences that are ready for immediate, quick impact, and are eligible for funding up to $25,000.

Beginning in 2010, Pharmacy began to transform its approach to teaching for the therapeutic problem-solving curriculum, moving toward more self-guided study that would encourage critical thinking and problem solving.

The addition of a new software program called Decision Simulation will allow doctoral students to interact with the case studies of actual patients, and see immediate feedback regarding their decisions. To date, case studies have been created by faculty on paper and students have only been able to work through them in the classroom setting, with the faculty member on hand to answer questions.

“What is written on a piece of paper and what you experience in real life can be vastly different. Using simulated patient cases in the classroom can be a game changer as to how we educate students,” said Vicki Ellingrod, John Gideon Searle Professor of Clinical and Translational Pharmacy. “They may, for example, be given a patient with 26 meds, and asked from a list of questions how they would treat that patient. The program has logic that will allow the students to go back and make different choices, if they aren’t immediately successful.”

An added bonus to the software, Ellingrod said, is students can work through additional simulations and get feedback outside of class, which also is consistent with the college’s move toward a flipped classroom model that encourages students to engage with material in the unstructured setting outside of formal class time, and bring questions and problems to the classroom for further discussion and exploration.

The Pharmacy faculty team also includes Barry Bleske, associate professor of pharmacy, and Tami Remington, clinical associate professor of pharmacy.

Written by Laurel Thomas Gnagey, Michigan News



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Golden Apple winner announced

Lieberman will lecture on all of human history

Victor Lieberman always sets aside 10 minutes near the end of his lecture to answer questions. But when a student in his class on Arab-Israeli conflict raised his hand and asked if Lieberman liked golden apples, he was confused.

He quickly realized he was the 2014 Golden Apple Award winner — the only student-selected teaching award — after 10 other students, all holding two gold-painted apples each, approached him with balloons and flowers.

Created by Students Honoring Outstanding University Teaching, the award honors undergraduate and graduate faculty members who continuously seek to engage students in the classroom. Winners are asked to give a lecture as if it is their last, and Lieberman will deliver his at the Golden Apple Award Ceremony at 6 p.m. April 2 at Rackham Auditorium.


“The fact that it’s called my last lecture makes me feel like I should be walking straight from the podium into the grave,” jokes Lieberman, a Raoul Wallenberg Distinguished University Professor of History and professor of Asian and comparative history.

“It’s a huge incentive to continue pouring energy and time into lecture preparation. I enjoy interacting with undergraduates quite a bit,” says Lieberman, who called his two daughters, both U-M grads, as soon as his class ended to tell them the news.

Also during the April 2 ceremony, President Mary Sue Coleman will be presented with the first-ever Golden Apple Award for Outstanding University Leadership. She will give a short talk on what it means to be a leader at the university before Lieberman’s lecture.

Lieberman, who prefers to lecture sans PowerPoint because he likes to make eye contact with his students as he’s speaking, is working quickly to write his lecture before the award ceremony.

“I thought about doing a synopsis on the Arab-Israeli conflict, but I thought it might be too disquieting, so I’m going to give ‘What I Think I Know about History.’ It’ll be an overview of how I see human history in the last few thousands of years,” says Lieberman.

Although Lieberman teaches a class on Arab-Israeli relations, his focus area is in Southeast Asian history. He used to teach a course on the Vietnam War, but enrollment dropped after the Cold War ended.

“I had gotten addicted to large, topical courses, and when I saw Vietnam wasn’t going to hold interest, I started looking around for other topics. I always had a knowledge and interest in Middle East history and devoted a few years to doing research on it,” says Lieberman.

What does he think makes a good teacher?

“First, an intense interest in the subject. Second, the ability to understand the mental world of your students. What would interest them? Third, you have to like your students.  And I do like mine.”

Written by Katherine Plumhoff, University Record


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Top ecological conflicts

U-M students compile a list of the top 40 in U.S. history

A list of the 40 most influential environmental justice conflicts in American history—compiled by students at the University of Michigan—has been added to a new “Global Atlas of Environmental Justice,” an interactive online map detailing about 1,000 environmental conflicts worldwide.

The atlas is a product of the European Union-funded EJOLT project (Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade), which is hosting a conference this month in Lund, Sweden.


Professor Paul Mohai of the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment and four students from his graduate-level Environmental Justice 593 course will present their findings, including the U.S. list, at the conference.

EJOLT has previously reported on and analyzed environmental conflicts in more than 60 countries, including India, Ecuador, Turkey, Mexico and South America. But until now, U.S. case studies have not been included in EJOLT’s efforts.

U-M students are helping to change that.

To compile their “Top 40″ list for the global atlas, the U-M students—with the help of faculty advisers Mohai and Professor Rebecca Hardin of SNRE—surveyed more than 200 environmental justice leaders, including activists and scholars.

Their list of top U.S. environmental justice conflicts includes the Warren County PCB disposal site in North Carolina, Detroit’s waste incinerator, Love Canal in Niagara Falls, N.Y., mountaintop mining removal in Appalachia, oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, uranium mining on Navajo land in the Southwest, and the disproportionate impacts of hurricanes Katrina and Sandy on the residents of New Orleans and New York City, respectively.

“We consider ourselves lucky to be at the University of Michigan, where a 1990 environmental justice conference catalyzed a coalition for linked scholarship and action and which continues to play a major role in the evolution of the United States environmental justice movement,” said Alejandro Colsa-Perez, a Fulbright master’s student from Spain studying at SNRE.

“The EJOLT project allowed us to explore a wide array of past and present conflicts, giving us a richer understanding of how environmental justice emerged as both a social movement and an interdisciplinary research field in the United States,” said SNRE student Bernadette Grafton, who is traveling with Colsa-Perez to Sweden with fellow team members Katy Hintzen and Sara Orvis.

Environmental justice is defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of people of all races, cultures, incomes and education levels in the development and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. Fair treatment means that no group of people should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, governmental and commercial operations or policies.

U-M has a longstanding commitment to the academic study of environmental justice and is home to the first environmental justice curriculum at any major U.S. university. Mohai is a pioneer in the field and was among the earliest researchers to assemble evidence that minority neighborhoods are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards.

“These U-M students will be the first EJOLT collaborators from the United States to attend one of these workshops,” Mohai said. “This will be a unique opportunity for them to act as ambassadors communicating best practices and policies from the United States environmental justice movement to an international audience.

“They will also be able to network with environmental justice leaders from diverse backgrounds and establish new connections for future collaboration.”

SNRE’s Hardin works in Africa, studying the social and health consequences of concessions for mining, logging, ranching and wildlife management.

“We want our students to know transnational contexts,” she said. “We want them to be leaders at addressing injustice and environmental damage, from Detroit to Dakar.”

The EJOLT mapping project brings together 23 universities and environmental justice organizations in 18 countries on four continents. The project is coordinated by Professor Joan Martinez-Alier and his team of ecological economists at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain.

The maps increase the visibility of environmental conflicts, making it easier for people to find information and to connect with others working on related issues.

“The atlas illustrates how ecological conflicts are increasing around the world, driven by material demands fed primarily by the rich and middle-class subsections of the global population,” Martinez-Alier said.

Written by James Erickson, Michigan News

About the image: Environmental Justice Organisations, Liabilities and Trade: Mapping Environmental Justice. Environmental Justice Atlas. Composite images courtesy: EJOLT


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The social impact of TB in Peru

U-M awards second Wallenberg Fellow

University of Michigan senior Lily Bonadonna has won the $25,000 Raoul Wallenberg Fellowship Award for 2014 to study the social causes of tuberculosis prevalence in Lima, Peru.

U-M President Mary Sue Coleman announced Bonadonna’s selection for the second annual award at the university’s recent Honors Convocation.

Also announced during the program at Hill Auditorium was a gift from 1931 graduate Bert Askwith that will endow the fellowship. U-M Provost Martha Pollack announced the donation and said the gift from the 103-year-old Askwith, a generous donor to the university, would create the Mary Sue Coleman Endowed Fund for the Raoul Wallenberg Fellowship in honor of Coleman.

“I am very humbled by the way Bert is honoring me,” Coleman said. “Much more important is how Bert is honoring the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg and his sacrifice. This gift is a wonderful way to support Michigan students and their commitment to public service.”

The Wallenberg Fellowship is presented to a graduating senior of exceptional promise and accomplishment who is committed to service and the public good. Fellows carry out an independent project of learning or exploration anywhere in the world during the year after graduation.

“I am pleased to know that you will be spending your year in Peru to learn about the social determinants of tuberculosis in Lima, and to understand the lives of the communities in which this serious disease is so prevalent,” Coleman wrote in a letter congratulating Bonadonna on her selection from among five finalists. “Yours is truly a bold integrative project of exploration, engagement and learning.”

Bonadonna said her mentors have included family, professors and research mentors. She said Wallenberg’s example encourages her to use tools she’s gained to do good.

“I think it’s important in life to find something you’re really passionate about and figure out how to make that something good for other people, too,” she said. “Form relationships, be compassionate and always be ready to learn—these are some of the biggest lessons he has taught me and the rest of the university. I do not think I will ever be able to live up to his legacy, but I am certainly going to try.”

In a project summary submitted with her Wallenberg Fellowship application, Bonadonna wrote that while tuberculosis is preventable, it continues to spread in dense urban centers among low-socioeconomic-status individuals.

Roberto Frisancho, professor emeritus of anthropology, said her proposal “is quite exceptional in that it will address the disease of tuberculosis not only as a biological issue but as part of a bigger spectrum of human behavior and cultural practices that goes back to the cultural pattern of indigenous populations.”

John Godfrey, U-M assistant dean for graduate education, said the Wallenberg proposals forwarded by schools and colleges to the fellowship committee were uniformly strong.

“It was inspirational to see the careful planning, creativity and engagement of each with the purpose of the Wallenberg Fellowship, and the commitment they shared to make a difference in the world,” he said.

Wallenberg earned a U-M degree in architecture in 1935. As a Swedish diplomat, he is credited with saving 100,000 lives during the Holocaust. The fellowship in his name is presented to a graduating senior who demonstrates exceptional promise, character, accomplishment and capacity for public service.
“Raoul Wallenberg is recognized as one of our greatest heroes,” Coleman said. “His dauntless resolve and courage in rescuing tens of thousands of Jews from the Holocaust during World War II showed that one person can make a difference.”

Written by Kevin Brown, University Record


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Alternative Spring Break

Hundreds choose engaged learning, service

In Grenada, where rainbow-colored fish swim in clear turquoise waters, and hills and valleys sprout verdant fruit trees, second-year School of Public Health graduate student Heather Olden had work to do during spring break.

Her SPH Public Health Action Support Team had prepared a workshop curriculum for resort managers. They were seeking education for employees on cancer screening, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, diet and exercise.

“Once we arrived, we had a meeting with the resort managers and talked about what they wanted from us as clients. That night, we reorganized the workshop,” she recalled. “By making our education modules more culturally relevant, the information was better received.”


First-year School of Information graduate student Meg Morrissey spent spring break working within the stately art deco surroundings of the Georgetown University Law Center in the heart of Washington, D.C., on an information preservation project.

Morrissey spent part of her time studying meta data and XML computer code. “These are difficult concepts to grasp unless you get your hands dirty, and I’ve been able to do just that,” she says.

Olden and Morrissey were among hundreds of U-M students who traded the traditional sun and fun spring break experience for a chance to perform service projects organized by several schools and units. Many find valuable instruction in their field while seizing the opportunity for engaged learning.

The unit supporting the largest number of students in alternative spring break activities was the Ginsberg Center’s SERVE office, part of the university’s Student Life. More than 375 students participated as U-M’s Alternative Spring Break sent groups of students on 30 different trips around the country — from Austin, Texas, to Hubert, N.C., to New York City, says senior Emma Kahle, an education and training coordinator with the ASB lead team.

The program has grown from just two trips of 15 people each traveling in Michigan in the late 1980s, to years when more than 40 trips took place. “The past few years we have been sending out between 25 and 30 trips, but we are still the largest alternative spring break program in the state,” Kahle says.

SERVE students spent the first week in March on activities including tutoring, gardening, working on homes or other structures, and food packaging or delivery.

In 1999, 11 students participated in the first School of Information Alternative Spring Break program. Katie Dunn, SI career counselor, says 96 students participated in the school’s spring break program this year. They traveled to Chicago, Detroit, New York and Washington, D.C. Among the many projects offered this year, a group of students in Chicago completed usability testing for Illinois Legal Aid Online, while students in Detroit worked to digitize materials for the Detroit Historical Society.

SI’s Morrissey said her spring break experience in Washington revealed she needs to learn more programming and markup languages. “I’m going home with a list of what I need to get familiar with before I set out on the job hunt next year,” she said.

The SPH Office of Public Health Practice has for several years organized spring break trips to locations ranging from the New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region, after Hurricane Katrina, to China. Tiffany J. Huang, an SPH graduate student, was part of the group joining the school’s Public Health Action Support Team in Grenada. SPH also sent a team to Texas this year.

Huang met with senior officials in the Grenada Ministry of Health and the Drug Control Secretariat, and with faculty and students from St. George’s University. The SPH team helped develop a first draft of the nation’s alcohol policy.

“Grenada hopes to become a regional leader in developing alcohol policy, and it was exciting to help support them in their efforts,” she says. “There’s no substitute for on-the-ground experience when working in public health, especially globally.”

Billy Cedar, a St. Clair junior and business administration major in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, headed out on a nine-day trip to perform service work with the group Students Today Leaders Forever.

The nonprofit organization based in Minneapolis this year established a U-M chapter. It sent a bus with 15 U-M students to Louisville, Ky., Nashville, Tenn., Asheville, N.C., Charleston, S.C., and Savannah and Atlanta, Ga. Service projects on the trip included removing invasive species from a state park to planting trees and removing trash near a riverbank.

In Atlanta, the Michigan contingent met up with other Students Today groups sending buses of alternate spring break students representing other universities across the country, to perform a tree and grass planting project.

“There were almost 200 people there. It was really cool to see students from different universities working toward a common goal,” Cedar said.

Written by Kevin Brown, University Record


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MBAs set out across the globe

Ross School students hope to solve real business challenges

It’s an annual rite of spring for first-year MBA students at the University of Michigan’s Ross School — devoting seven weeks to tackling real-world business challenges around the globe.

Starting today, the 450 students in the Master of Business Administration program will fan out to work in 24 countries for 81 companies as part of the business school’s Multidisciplinary Action Projects. The MAPs are a core requirement of the Ross MBA degree and one of the most intensive action-based learning programs of its kind.

The students are assigned to companies such as Microsoft, Amazon and Sustainable Harvest to strategize on everything from new product launches to digital banking. Roughly half of the projects are international.

“We believe that learning by doing is instrumental to preparing students for the business challenges they will face in their careers,” said Alison Davis-Blake, Ross School dean.

“Our MBA students benefit from working side-by-side with executives and faculty to use what they’ve learned in the classroom to develop creative, cost-effective solutions to pressing business problems,” she said.  “The real-world experience they gain gives them a head start in both the job market and their careers.”

The MAP program launched in 1992 and its teams have completed more than 1,700 projects in 78 countries for more than 800 organizations.

Recent projects include helping Domino’s Pizza reduce delivery times, recommending improved inventory procedures for Belcorp, and working with Delphi Automotive PLC to boost its budget development process.

Industry leading companies and organizations from various fields such as consumer goods, health care, technology, finance, nonprofit and manufacturing sectors submit projects. Sponsor companies this year touch several corners of the globe including Beijing, Brazil, Michigan, New York, Seattle, Zambia, and for the first time in the program’s history, Mongolia.

“MAP stretches and challenges students,” said Valerie Suslow, senior associate dean for MBA programs at Ross. “It provides them with a potent learning experience that incorporates diverse group dynamics, cultural awareness, and self-leadership — all while staying on task to provide actionable recommendations for companies and organizations.”

This year’s projects include developing market entry strategies in Central America and the Caribbean; developing digital banking services in India; and launching a new pharmaceutical product in Europe.

Written by Tamra Talmadge-Anderson, Ross School


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Learning by doing in Africa

How hauling charcoal sheds light on conservation

Zach Petroni believes that to truly know something, you have to experience it. So that’s why he spent some time working as a charcoal hauler in Kenya, loading huge bags of the fuel on a rusty fixed-gear bike and pedaling it 20 miles into town.

He’s in Africa as the first recipient of the Raoul Wallenberg Fellowship—a $25,000 award named after one of the University of Michigan’s most heroic alumni. The annual fellowship allows graduating seniors to carry out explorations, projects or activities anywhere in the world.


Petroni is studying how local people deal with conservation efforts in their own backyards. He got interested in the issue when he went to Kenya during his junior year for a three-week course with the Graham Institute.

“The course was really formative in my thinking,” said Petroni, who graduated last year with a bachelor’s degree from the Ford School of Public Policy. “It really opened my ideas to conservation and taught me the value of critical inquiry.”

In the West, conservation is often viewed to be a positive, moral effort—saving a forest or protecting a herd of elephants, Petroni says. But for the local population, it often means losing a home, farmfield or job that leads to a deeper plunge into poverty.

“Historically there has been a lot of forced resettlements,” he said. “Worldwide, it has been a violent process, where government forces moved people under the threat of force and violence.”

As he travels in Kenya, Petroni can afford to stay in guesthouses or budget hotels. But he says this would prevent him from better understanding how life is really lived in Kenya. So he stays with families instead.

He arranges home stays by asking friends if they know anyone who would be willing to host him for a few days. He has lived with subsistence farmers, a primary school teacher and a group of people who tap palm wine.

“When I find a family, I’ll go out with my tent and a bag of food and say, ‘I’m here. Don’t sugar coat anything. I want to do what you do for the next week.’ That’s the homestay,” he said.

It’s something Wallenberg would have done. As an undergraduate from Sweden studying at U-M in the 1930s, he famously dove into his new life in America, making a variety of friends and exploring the country on epic hitchhiking trips.

In a letter to his uncle, Wallenberg said, “When you travel like a tramp, things are totally different. You are in intimate contact with new people everyday.”

No doubt, the experience helped sharpen the people skills Wallenberg needed later in life when he was a diplomat during World War II in Hungary, using safe houses and special passports to save tens of thousands of Jews from the Holocaust.

Before the fellowship, Petroni said he read Wallenberg’s biography and was inspired by the way the Swede traveled. He views the fellowship to be both a “living and learning experience.”

It was a chance encounter that led Petroni to the temporary job hauling charcoal. He was walking with a friend in a rural area on the central coast of Kenya, about an hour and a half from Mombasa, the country’s second-largest city.

His friend introduced him to another friend, a charcoal hauler who Petroni simply calls John to protect his privacy. John was different from many other Kenyans, who were generally welcoming and polite but also skeptical about the motives of strangers from the West. They’ve met too many do-gooders who come and go, mostly seeking to benefit themselves in some way.

“From the second I met him, I could tell John was an extremely kind man with an immense heart,” Petroni said.


John invited Petroni home and the student stayed with his family for four days in a mud-clay house with a corrugated steel roof. The living space for the family of eight was as big as three dorm rooms. Meals usually included corn meal porridge called “ugali” with boiled greens and a bit of fish or chicken.

“I got to see firsthand and experience his struggle and how he does it in good faith, with nothing but love in his heart and for everyone else,” Petroni said. “He makes on average 800 or 1,000 shillings ($9 or $11.50) a day and he’ll send 500 shillings of that to his son everyday to pay for his school fees.”

John, in his late 50s, started hauling charcoal after he got laid off from a dairy cooperative, where he had worked for 10 years. The charcoal is bigger than the briquettes used in American barbecue grills. It’s made from logs that are broken up into large chunks and stuffed into bags that hold 110 pounds. John would tie four of the bags on his bike and deliver it 20 miles into town. Half the way is uphill.

Petroni hauled charcoal with John for two days, and the work provided valuable insights for his research. Much of the charcoal wood came from a protected forest, so John was technically involved in a network of illegal activity that the government and international organizations want to crack down on.

Through John, Petroni was able to meet the other links in the charcoal chain, including the producers, and this enabled him to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the importance of charcoal to those in the area. One was a young woman in her late 20s whose husband died, leaving her with three children and no other way of making an income. She was selling the bag of charcoal to buy the day’s food for her children. Another producer was the pastor of a church. His wife did it to make some extra money for the holidays.

“I gained an appreciation for not only John, but all like him who daily face struggles that would tax many Westerners to their extreme physical and emotional limits, and are able to find joy, love and peace in their lives,” he said.

Saying it was a learning experience almost doesn’t do it justice,” Petroni said. “It was a borderline spiritual, metaphysical experience. Honestly, just with everything I got from being with John and doing what he does and being with his family. I’m not trying to romanticize it. There’s nothing great about what he does. If he has the option, he would do something else. The only reason he does it is because he wants to put all of his children through school.”

The underlying theme of Petroni’s Wallenberg proposal was to question conservation in a firsthand way. His fellowship is almost over, and he still hasn’t reached a conclusion.

“The more time I spend, I don’t think there’s a black or white conclusion. It’s all just shades of gray,” he said. “Conservation is very place specific. In one place it can be this. In another place it could be the polar opposite. I just think my understanding of conservation has become more nuanced.”

Written by William Foreman, Michigan News


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U-M a top university in World Reputation Rankings

One of three publics in the top 20

U-M is ranked as the 15th top university in the world according to the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings released Wednesday.

In its fourth year, the 2014 Reputation Rankings are based on results from an invitation-only survey from 10,536 academics from 133 countries.

U-M is one of only three public institutions in the U.S. in the top 20. The others are University of California, Berkeley (6) and U-C, Los Angeles (10). The United States had 46 institutions on the list.

“Michigan has firmly established itself as part of an elite within an elite, making the top 15 in the world consistently since the survey was first published in 2011. This is an outstanding achievement,” said Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education rankings.

“To sustain this high position when many other U.S. public institutions have suffered significant reputational decline, following serious pressure on state funding, is even more remarkable.”

U-M ranked No. 12 on the list in 2013.

The ranking is one of two released annually by the organization. Its more comprehensive World University Rankings were released in fall 2013. The annual list ranks the top 400 universities and is based on 13 performance indicators separated into five categories: teaching, research, citations, industry income and international outlook. U-M ranked 18th on that list.

Written by Kim Broekhuizen, Public Affairs


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LSA’s 22 Ways series continues

Course focuses on how to think about new media

The students roamed around like detectives, checking out the doors, the windows, the aisles, the desks, you name it, in Room 1230 of the Undergraduate Science Building.

Compared to the classic, stuffy, windowless, tight-row/single-seat lecture classrooms of the past, this modern room is refreshing. One wall is entirely windows. Semi-circle desks host only four students, forming nice islands surrounded by elbow room. The lights are bright, the screens large.

This is what most students likely had observed so far in this class, 22 Ways to Think about New Media. But this day’s guest speaker Melanie Yergeau, assistant professor of English language and literature, discussing new media’s impact on the disabled, had challenged the students to take 10 minutes to observe the room from the eyes of those with even minor disabilities.


“Think broadly,” she told the students. “Who is this room designed for, and who wasn’t it designed for?”

The students seemed surprised at their own findings.

“There isn’t much distance between rows, so it makes it really cramped and hard to move in and out of the space,” one student offered. Another noticed the height of the desks — too low for many. A third noted the chairs — all the same size, with arms. A larger or very tall person would have problems. There was no Braille for switches on the wall, no handrails, no ramps, which automatically relegated “disabled” people to the front row.

“The room is really wide, and it’s hard to hear what people are saying on the other side,” one student said in a soft voice.

“Did any of you hear that?” Yergeau asked the students across the room. They had not.

Mission accomplished.

Yergeau, who specializes in disability and trauma studies — and a host of other subject areas — exposed to students that not all is as it seems for those who have disabilities, even in a classroom designed to be accessible.

She introduced concepts such as “participatory design,” which involves including the disabled when designing public places; how social media has given the disabled unity and a vehicle for activism; and how closed captioning, which often is absent or woefully inadequate, is something to keep in mind for academic, personal and professional pursuits. She told students about captioning options on YouTube (who knew?), and how this function even can translate captions into other languages.

Freshman Madison Brow, center, listens during a lecture in the 22 Ways to Think about New Media class. (Photo by Marissa McClain, Michigan Photography.

“There are phenomenal possibilities with this,” she said. “Just for those going on the job market, having this as a skill set is a hugely marketable thing.”

Students clearly gleaned a great deal from Yergeau.

“Evaluating the room for accessibility was very interesting,” said senior Lisa Chippi, 22, a dance performance major. “I’ve never really thought in detail about how a classroom is designed or for whom it is designed. It was eye opening” to see that inadequate design “could create worry or anxiety.”

“Throughout this class, we have been shown many ways technology is adapting and changing everything around us for the better,” said Alex Izen, 20, a sophomore and communications major. “Yet for those with disabilities, this is not the case. This is just another way that 22 Ways has exposed me to current issues I was previously unaware of.”

Yergeau was one of 15 guest speakers scheduled to appear in the class, which is part of a series of 22 Ways courses connected to U-M’s Sophomore Initiative. The mission is to present multidisciplinary perspectives on subjects to help students identify academic interests, said Carol Tell, director of the Lloyd Hall Scholars Program and faculty member of the Sweetland Center for Writing. Previous 22 Ways courses have focused on such topics as how to think about food, video games, translation and race.

Tell and Naomi Silver, associate director at the center, have teamed up to plan the course and line up speakers from all over campus. Silver also is co-founder and co-director of the Sweetland Digital Rhetoric Collaborative, a community webspace and digital book series with U-M Press.

“I have seen over the past several years how new media are changing the way students write and create and even think about creativity,” Tell said. “So that’s one of the central questions Naomi and I wanted to engage in. We’ve asked our speakers: ‘How have recent developments in new media changed the way you do your professional work or construct an argument in your disciplines or field?’

“We began the first several classes by trying to define ‘new media,’” Tell continued. “Interestingly, even some of our students see a difference in how they relate to technology versus their younger siblings, and they have a healthy skepticism about the next ‘new thing.’”

Students early in the term wrote reflections on their own use of media, and have been participating in interactive blogs, a “paperless” option they enjoy.

In other classes during the term, professors from various disciplines have offered how they are using new media in areas such as “screencasting” statistics; applying video game “thinking” to educational design; earth and environmental sciences; and digitizing physics data. Also planned was a trip to U-M’s Duderstadt 3D Lab/Motion Capture and Animation Lab.

It’s been quite a safari so far, students said.

“We have covered a large span of new media and its effects,” said Isabelle Abrams, 19, a sophomore and psychology major. “Some days, we learn how screencast technology or game-like points systems might revolutionize the classroom. Other days, we learn about ridiculous technology such as having a camera attached to a garbage lid that records a person’s waste output and posts the information to social media websites.

Perhaps most important, though, is how the class is helping students identify applications of new media in their own academic and career plans.

“I plan on working in marketing and advertisement,” said Izen, “and I strongly believe that social media and the Internet will have a significant influence. … As technology evolves, the majority of marketing and advertising will transition from print to digital. Being well-versed in multiple aspects of digital media will give me a significant advantage.”

Freshman Madison Brow, 18, said that the class “not only gives me a look into the many disciplines this school has to offer — in hopes of clarifying or giving me ideas for a possible major — but also highlights how new media can be a part of every single one of those disciplines.

“I think that just being given the knowledge that new media has a broad range of applications is important, so you will then have it in your toolkit wherever you choose to go.”

Read the class blog: http://22waysnewmedia.wordpress.com/

Written by Sheryl James



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Video on game-inspired, engaged learning system wins competition

Tool is collaboration involving schools of education, information

A video on GradeCraft, a project led by Barry Fishman, associate professor in the U-M School of Education and School of Information, and developed by a collaborative team representing both schools, was selected as a winner in the 2014 EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative Horizon Report Video Competition.

Michigan’s winning video describes the game-inspired learning management system designed to increase student engagement and motivation. GradeCraft uses a combination of game design strategies and learning analytics data to guide and inform students and instructors.

“Our goal with GradeCraft,” says Fishman, “was to make it easier for instructors to accomplish ambitious and gameful instruction that supports learner autonomy, a sense of belonging, and developing competence.”

It includes functions such as a grade predictor, class achievement and activity analysis, and badges to recognize achievement in key learning goals and help students understand their progress in the context of their peers. These functions are designed to allow students to actively manage their courses, and allow instructors to identify those that need more support or greater challenge. GradeCraft  originally was developed to support Fishman’s Videogames & Learning undergraduate course. It also is used by Mika LaVaque-Manty, associate professor in LSA, to teach Introduction to Political Theory, and by Cliff Lampe, associate professor in the School of Information, to teach Introduction to Information Studies.

The development of GradeCraft is supported with funding from the U-M Learning Analytics Task Force.

The competition was sponsored by EDUCAUSE and the New Media Consortium. It attracted 21 video submissions from 19 different institutions across the globe. Each submission detailed a project that applied one of six technologies outlined in the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Higher Education Edition to the fields of teaching, learning and creative inquiry. Winners were chosen through an online voting process and announced Feb. 5 at the ELI Annual Meeting.

The GradeCraft project also is highlighted in the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Higher Education Edition as an example of learning analytics—the educational application of big data and statistical analysis—used in higher education.

Collaborators with Fishman on GradeCraft include Caitlin Holman, doctoral student in the School of Information, and Steven Aguilar, doctoral student in the School of Education. School of Information alum Scott Tsuchiyama also worked on the project, along with current School of Information master’s students Adam Levick and Michelle Fiesta, and School of Education master’s students Sara Molnar and Lauren Rocco.

The video was produced by Chellie Carr, Michigan ’12, who was a student in Fishman’s Videogames & Learning course.

Written by Ted Montgomery, School of Education



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Islamic studies in America’s heartland

New distance learning program to start in 2015

Islam is much more than a religion. It’s also a civilization, a variety of cultural traditions and a basis for political ideologies. Islam’s complexity makes it nearly impossible for one university to offer enough courses to cover it all.

To fill the gaps, the University of Michigan is joining other Big Ten schools and the University of Chicago in establishing a distance-learning program that allows students to take courses about Islam not offered at their own institutions.

The new program, known as the Islamic Studies Virtual Curriculum, is funded with a $3 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Classes begin in the fall of 2015 and will involve sophisticated video equipment allowing students to be active participants in courses at the universities in the group, called the Committee on Institutional Cooperation.

“Students want to learn about Islam, but they don’t always have the opportunity,” said Pauline Jones Luong, director of U-M’s Islamic Studies Program. “There is a lot of misinformation about Islam and Muslims around the world. There is a real need for students to understand the diversity and expansiveness of the religion itself.”

The program will also involve teaching assistants, or graduate-student instructors, based at the students’ own universities. They will help grade papers, give exams, answer questions and staff office hours for the professor.

“It will be active learning,” Luong said. “The students just won’t be listening to a lecture and going back to their dormitory and having no one to talk to. They’re going to have an actual instructor at the graduate-student level to help them with the course material.”

Also key to the program is that it will offer a well-structured curriculum with enough classes for students to do a minor – and possibly even a major – in Islamic studies, Jones Luong said. For many students, this would be impossible to do because their universities don’t have enough courses or can’t offer them consistently.

The new initiative will be administered by U-M’s International Institute and the university’s Islamic Studies Program.

“Demystifying Islam is really important,” Luong said. “At the same time it’s important to give students a real sense of how diverse Islam is, both as a religion and culture as it is practiced on the ground.”

Written by William Foreman, Michigan News


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Gaming the classroom

Teaching style motivates, engages

Writing a blog comparing Socrates to Steve Jobs.

Designing a board game incorporating political theory concepts.

Creating a comic strip featuring a little kid on a playground facing choices every day.

These are just a few examples of the assignments not just completed by students in Mika LaVaque-Manty’s Introduction to Political Theory class but created by them as well. Not only that, but the students decide how many points each assignment is worth.

As they go through the semester, they earn points toward a grade with each project, but never lose points.

If this play-against-yourself set-up sounds familiar, it’s because for students, it is. The structure of LaVaque-Manty’s class involves a relatively new teaching innovation: using the principles of gaming — that’s right, the very activity many students played when they were supposed to be in class in high school or doing homework at night — to teach material.

“I’m interested in using these gaming techniques because, for one, it’s familiar to students,” most of whom are freshman and sophomores, says LaVaque-Manty, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, associate professor of political science and associate professor of philosophy, LSA. “But more importantly, it’s about the logic of the game. With a standard grading system, you begin with an A, and then you have points docked off, where in a game, you begin with zero and then you accumulate.”

One goal, he adds, is to encourage students to “take risks, try to do things, and even if you don’t do something perfectly, you still got something out of it. The whole point is to get them more motivated.”

LaVaque-Manty gives students full warning in his syllabus that they’re about to go where they may never have gone before. As in gaming, there are some things students must do to make progress — such as readings, reading-related homework, attending lectures and discussion sections.

But games “allow you to choose some activities — quests, tasks, challenges — and skip others,” the syllabus stresses. So students can choose their own paths through this “game” by selecting some assignments because they like them or are good at them, while avoiding other assignments for various reasons. Then, students can decide how many points each assignment will award.

“In the world of games there are multiple paths to achievement,” LaVaque-Manty says. “So I implicitly encourage students to think about what they are good at and what kind of challenges do they want to undertake — and not to worry about things they don’t feel so strongly about or find uninteresting.”

How is this “game” going over? Surveys show most adapt to it and like it. Others essentially reject it by opting for conventional assignments. LaVaque-Manty admits that many students programmed in high school by traditional methods are “somewhat bewildered, a little freaked out at first, and then eventually appreciate” the class, though “sometimes after the semester is over.”

Freshman Phoebe Young, 17, found the gaming approach “both intriguing but intimidating” at first. “For many students, it is a little intimidating,” she says. The autonomy “is new to them. College itself is already a fairly self-autonomous pursuit, but this added idea of being responsible for your grade, where you’re choosing where and how you’re being graded, can be intimidating.”

Young quickly adjusted to the gaming structure and chose blogging and a group project — the comic strip.

Freshman Jordan Davis, 19, loved the class but admits that at first, “I didn’t really know how intense the gaming aspect of the course would be. The intensity comes from, just, everything’s on you. There’s a big responsibility for you to do your assignments and to really put in your best effort, because no one’s telling you, ‘Look, this is what’s due, this is what you need to do.’ It’s all up to you and some kids aren’t used to that sort of autonomy and responsibility. But for me, I love it.”

Davis created the Socrates-Steve Jobs blog and another on global warming, and he is working on the comic strip in a group with Young and other students.

As Young said, college — in particular that first year or two — is a journey of self-discovery. LaVaque-Manty says that is key to his overall mission in the class. It’s all about encouraging students to choose, take risks, and self-regulate. But even more important is teaching them how to problem-solve, “and to think about what kind of learners they are.”

He adds, “I’m very mindful of the fact that, in the age of Google, universities should not be in the information business. What folks like us, especially at world-class universities like Michigan, are good at is inquiry.

“I don’t mean that we should turn all our students into academics. What I mean is that the best we can offer our students are tools and skills for asking interesting questions – and recognizing what are interesting questions — for answering them, and, in general, for solving problems for which we don’t yet know the answers.”

Written by By Sheryl James




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Professor wins national innovative teaching award

Honored for "gamifying" courses

Mika LaVaque-Manty, associate professor of political science and philosophy, has won the 2014 CQ Press Award for Teaching Innovation in Political Science.

He is being honored for his innovative work in “gamifying” courses to promote student engagement, autonomy and problem-solving skills. Gamification involves applying game-design thinking to nongame applications, such as college courses, to make them more fun and engaging.

The award will be acknowledged at the American Political Science Association’s 2014 Teaching and Learning Conference Feb. 7-9 in Philadelphia. The APSA, founded in 1903, is the leading professional political science organization with more than 15,000 members in 80 countries.

LaVaque-Manty’s contest submission “Gamifying Large Courses to Promote Initiative, Problem Solving, Collaboration, and Reflection,” details his systematic approach to gamifying his courses using a point system to promote student engagement and autonomy through collaboration.

Students in his undergraduate political science courses are given a variety of paths to meet requirements and are encouraged to use a variety of platforms—from videos to blogs—to interact with each other and the material, and to take on new learning challenges. One of these platforms, a public blog written by mostly first-year students, was named one of the “100 Best Blogs for the Literati” in 2009.

The gamification of courses creates a space for students to become innovative participants in their own learning and to engage in “safe failures,” according to LaVaque-Manty, an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and director of undergraduate studies in U-M’s Department of Political Science.

The course design using political theory and strategies, such as metacognition and self-regulated learning, demonstrates how professors can use robust pedagogical principles to engineer their courses in ways that inspire strong student commitment and creativity, he says.

“This award recognizes that the teaching mission of a research university is not secondary or separable from our research mission,” LaVaque-Manty said. “In the age of Google, facts are less than a dime a dozen and higher education can no longer be in the business of information provision. The skills researchers have—finding innovative solutions to problems we don’t yet have answers to — are the skills our students need.

“Gamifying instruction gives students multiple paths to achievement, which invites them to think about the skills they already have or want to develop. By allowing students to accumulate points and ‘level up,’ it motivates them by showing that even imperfect learning is learning. Now most of our students think a B- is a failure, instead of a sign that they have learned, probably a lot.”

Charles Shipan, chair of the U-M Department of Political Science, praised LaVaque-Manty as the most creative and effective teacher he’s ever known.

“Mika would be an outstanding teacher if he did nothing but stand in front of students and talk,” said Shipan, the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Professor of Social Science. “But, instead, he uses technology in remarkably innovative ways to magnify this natural talent, with the goal of providing the best educational experience he can for his students.”

Written by Maryanne George, Literature, Science & the Arts


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Wind energy and global engagement

New Third Century Initiative projects approved

Using the arts to increase understanding of issues surrounding wind energy, and helping meet student interest in hands-on learning when global travel may be out of reach are two of the most recent Third Century Initiative projects to receive funding.

The Office of the Provost has announced 13 projects that will receive Quick Wins funding through the Transforming Learning for a Third Century phase of the $50 million initiative.

This is the fourth round of Quick Wins, which are small-scale, easily ready courses or programs that promise to transform learning. They are eligible for funding up to $25,000.

Jessica Fogel, professor of dance in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, said the TLTC funding would allow her students and collaborators from across the state to tackle an issue that has fans and foes alike.

As an increasing number of wind turbines dot Michigan’s landscape, people either have embraced them for the energy they harness or oppose what they see as eyesores.

Fogel’s multidisciplinary project, “Into the Wind,” will engage students and faculty from dance and music, urban and regional planning, natural resources and environment, and literature, to explore what wind means as an energy source.

In addition to several U-M collaborators, the project also involves the director of dance at Grand Valley State University, who is an SMTD alumnus, and individuals from the sustainability community.

“For the past several years I’ve led students, faculty and community partners in site dance performance projects that address ways the arts can provide stewardship for the environment,” Fogel said.

“As a choreographer, I’m keenly interested in performance projects that investigate the stories embedded in our rural and urban landscapes. The idea of being able to engage with institutions and business people at the grass roots level is exciting.”

“It will be interesting to explore the landscape and learn what we perceive as beautiful or not. It’s such a natural topic in terms of the synergy with music and dance.”

Fogel says the students not only will be engaged in creating a work for an August 2014 public performance in Muskegon but will learn about the environment, public policy and all of the issues surrounding sustainability and wind.

Like Fogel, Lesli Hoey, assistant professor of urban planning at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, said the funding will allow her to innovatively tackle a problem she first encountered as a graduate student: the inability to travel abroad to get desired hands-on experience in urban planning for developing countries “because of timing, funding and other barriers.”

She and collaborators will work with international planning practitioners from government, nongovernmental organizations and international aid organizations, who will serve as consultants to develop case studies that draw from their own work.

The team will create learning modules that will allow students to work through actual scenarios and political, social, economic, environmental and ethical challenges encountered by professionals.

“The idea is to develop cases that link theory to practice, and that demonstrate the kind of reflective practice we want to encourage among our students,” Hoey said.

“Since few planning programs can offer regularly scheduled, affordable abroad opportunities, we hope using these types of cases will bring to life the reality of planning on-the-ground for students — perhaps in ways that even traveling abroad may not.

“Of course, we would hope, too, that students would see these courses as better preparation for eventually going abroad, either by pursuing internships individually or for the occasional trips we can offer as part of our planning programs.”

Written by Laurel Thomas Gnagey, Michigan News


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Smartphone as Mentor

How tech could change behavior

Funneling a steady stream of diversions straight to your pocket, smartphones are often cast as the ultimate distractions. But a University of Michigan engineering professor sees potential for them to be something quite the opposite.

What if they could act as mentors in mindfulness, helping users stay attentive in order to achieve particular goals?


That’s the challenge Jasprit Singh, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science, put before students this semester. In a course called “Imagine, Innovate, Act!” students from engineering, art, music, health fields and a variety of other backgrounds designed mobile apps to help users set and meet wellness milestones. The definition of “wellness” was broad, encompassing creativity and learning in addition to physical and mental health.

Singh, who grew up in New Delhi, is an applied physicist who works on semiconductor devices for high-powered RADAR, electric vehicles, smart grids and solid-state lighting. He is also a yoga devotee and instructor with studios in Ann Arbor and Santa Barbara, Calif. This course, in a sense, bridged his disparate disciplines.

“In our culture today, we often don’t have scarcity of food or gadgets or knowledge. The scarcity has shifted to mindfulness,” Singh said. “We may know we should do something, but we are not always able to do it. The goal of this course was to bring harmony between what we know and what do.”

Humans forget. Under stress, we can fail to take the steps we intend to, Singh says. But smartphones don’t operate that way.

“And there are a billion of them in use today worldwide,” he said. “They could deliver reminder technologies, or they could observe, teach, anticipate or help users perform best practices on a regular basis.”

The apps the students developed in this first class focused on delivering messages to users at a set time or place. An app called Balance, targeted to senior citizens, offers easy and routine access to short exercise videos that could improve coordination and prevent falls. WeeAddition guides women through pregnancy. Joggle is a collaborative art, poetry and music app that could encourage creativity.

And College Granny aimed to help students balance studying and socializing, and develop healthy habits in both parts of their lives. The user can set the app to remind him or her at appropriate times to go to sleep, take a study break or quit after just one game of beer pong, for example. The reminders are more than words on a screen. They’re one-frame comics—”nonconfrontational” messages delivered by a costumed college student in a curly gray wig.

“The app would be able to have a constant, almost living presence in the user’s life, and could thus help them form their decisions even more than if it were just a browsing app,” said Diana Sussman, a master’s student studying music composition in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance. “Also, we want to make it connected to a social network so that users can comment about their interaction with Granny, making it a collaborative effort, perhaps giving students some real pressure to make healthy habits because others are watching them.”

The team plans to continue working on the app and potentially make it available to the public, as does the group that developed Joggle.

“I think the course changed the way I view technology,” said Daniel Lao, a computer science and engineering major. “Before, I had the impression that technology was more geared towards solving physical problems. From this, I realized that it could have just as large of an impact on mental and psychological issues.”

Singh sees the class as the beginning of a new platform. He’s not the first to envision these beneficial uses of smartphones—wellness apps are popular downloads already. He thinks the concept could turn into something bigger because of the do-it-yourself app program that Singh created with John Hinckley, an adjunct research scientist in electrical engineering and computer science. The template aimed to give students a head start on coding. Eventually, Singh says, it could lower the barriers for this type of software development and enable anyone to make a custom tool.

“We believe it’s unique in that that it offers the ability to make multimedia content and a basic, but fully functioning app without traditional coding skills,” Hinckley said. “We’re not aware of anything like it.”

The app template lets creators develop apps that push content to users at specific points in time or space. These apps greet users, give them options to view content or reschedule, and also lets them give feedback. Singh envisions uses in fields including medicine and education. Doctors and nurses could use it to monitor patients or encourage them to stick to recommendations. Foreign language teachers and students could use it to provide a stream of vocabulary that could help users based on where they are.

“Technology,” Singh said, “can be a great behavior changer.”

Written by Nicole Casal Moore, Michigan News


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Faculty, students pilot a global clinical immersion in Thailand

School of Nursing team inspired to think of health care in new ways

It didn’t take long for the group from the University of Michigan School of Nursing (UMSN) to get a global health experience. During their October flight to Thailand, a passenger became unresponsive with a slowing heartbeat and excessive sweating.  Limited resources and a language barrier added complexity, but with the woman’s family and flight attendants helping translate, and the UMSN team was able to stabilize the woman.

The five students from the school’s primary care nurse practitioner program were led by Clinical Assistant Professors Michelle Pardee and April Bigelow.

“We have been exploring the possibilities for international clinical rotations for some time,” says Bigelow. “The opportunity to pilot an international experience in Thailand was a great fit given our strong relationship with several universities and the Ministry of Public Health.”

“From the beginning of the trip, the students wholeheartedly jumped into the experience, which made it an amazing adventure,” Pardee said.

Ally Stencel and Shannon Darket taking care of a patient with a finger wound

Once in Thailand, the group was based at Suranaree University of Technology (SUT). The head of SUT’s Community Health Nursing program, Naruemol Singha-Dong, is a UMSN MS and Ph.D. alumna and clinical adjunct faculty member. She assisted the UMSN group with arranging everything from clinicals to excursions.  “Dr. Singha-Dong facilitated experiences we never anticipated or could have provided domestically,” Bigelow said. “Her guidance and expertise were a critical element in the success of this pilot program.”

For two weeks, the UMSN and SUT students worked together every morning at a local clinic to provide primary and acute care to villagers. In the afternoon, they went into the village for community assessments, home visits and educational programs. Each group included students and faculty from UMSN and SUT, along with a local nurse practitioner.

“It was remarkable to watch the teams develop and progress throughout their time together,” Bigelow said. “By the end of the experience we had developed into trusted colleagues and new friends.”

“The collaboration with SUT was an incredible experience that highlights the best in all of us as human beings; working together to improve lives, and ultimately, not only of the patients, but of us as well,” Pardee said.

The students say they faced challenges such as language barriers, lack of resources at the clinics and during the home visits, and difficulties related to the environment. At times, flood water was a nuisance forcing them to alter their routes due to closed roads. It also created learning opportunities when the students treated illnesses caused by contaminated water that rarely occur in the United States.

UMSN student Ally Stencel explained why flooding was at the root of perhaps the most distressing experience of the trip, when a child disappeared while playing in the water. “A group of villagers saw the tragic event happen, and joined together, linked arms to form a line, and starting walking through the rapids to find the missing child,” Stencel shared in the blog chronicling the trip. They found the child and he was rushed to the facility where the UMSN students were. “Working as a team with members of the clinic, we were able to transport the child through the jungle to meet the ambulance (in a truck shared by the community), and transfer him to the local tertiary care hospital. We were happy to be informed the next day that the patient made it safely to the hospital and received appropriate care.”

Student Betsy Hetrick noted many cultural and clinical differences, including less patient privacy and the absence of some expected supplies, such as a full oxygen tank. She was impressed by “consistent stoic response to pain and discomfort” from her patients, and the openness of the villagers who welcomed the students into their homes and generously allowed them to perform physical assessments and even open their refrigerators to inspect food choices.

“We realize the essence of our health care mission is the same in Thailand as it is at home,” reflects Hetrick. “We are all working toward the common goal of improving the health of our patients using a compassionate and holistic approach. It has been amazing to immerse ourselves in a different health care culture and to understand the differences, but more importantly, the similarities of our systems.”

This experience builds on an already strong collaborative relationship for Thailand and UMSN. Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health works in partnership with UMSN to build research capacity, with a focus on noncommunicable diseases. In addition, UMSN Dean Kathleen Potempa has worked more than a decade on research focused on Thailand’s educational capacity building, practice changes within the public health infrastructure, and developing the country’s nurse practitioner education.

Written by Jaime Meyers, University of Michigan School of Nursing





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Electronic coaching program offers students tailored help

Expands from physics into three more large introductory courses

Shannon Scheel likes the practice questions that help her prepare for statistics exams.

Jacob Anderson thinks he has an advantage over students in his chemistry class who don’t use the resource, and he takes full advantage of nearly all that it offers.

The resource is E2Coach, a one-of-a-kind program designed to improve student success in large introductory science and math courses in the College of Literature, Science & the Arts. It’s a data-driven and yet personalized program that developers say combines next generation learning analytics with the best of behavioral change theory.

It provides tailored information to students in many forms: messages of encouragement and advice from faculty and peers; sophisticated analyses of current grades and models for improving them; and tools that target troublesome material and offer advice on how students can better understand the concepts presented.

“Hi, Lauren. Welcome Back! We hope you like Biochemistry so far. Once the review material has been covered and the new material begins, you’ll find yourself thinking about biology in a whole new way,” one page reads.

“Although you didn’t do as well as you wanted, there are many opportunities to raise your grade in this class,” a former student named Sheri writes to current physics student Sarah.

In Stats 250, a web page called Get Things Done provides a check list with items that include: come to an Exam 2 review, watch a video, use the online tool to work on HW (homework) 7 questions, and review lecture notes for Exam 2.

“We wanted to customize what we do with students so each one could receive advice, support and feedback that they need,” said Tim McKay, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics, professor of astronomy and director of the Honors Program, LSA.

With support from a Next Generation Learning Challenge, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates and William and Flora Hewlett Foundations, McKay and team piloted the program in introductory physics for three semesters before expanding to other curriculum this fall.

They measured outcomes, anecdotally and numerically, and found that students reported finding 2 to 3 things about the program that led to success. Statistical analyses show they also improved performance by two-tenths of a letter grade on a 4-point scale, which McKay says means a student who might have had a B+ got an A-.

“The initial system was very primitive. As we develop it even further, I have great hopes we will see even larger gains,” he said. “I am sure that personalized communication of various kinds will play an important role—a growing role—in education, just as in other areas of our lives.”

In fact, the idea for E2Coach came from a colleague in the School of Public Health. Vic Strecher, professor and director for innovation and social entrepreneurship in SPH, believes that while patients respect physician advice, they are much more likely when faced with a medical issue to heed the counsel of people who have experienced the same situations. Strecher had worked some 20 years with the Centers for Health Communications Research, creating a computer-tailored communication system that collected data then created personalized messages from that information. It had been successfully used to help people control their diabetes, stop smoking, and manage cancer treatments. Strecher was named U-M’s 2010 Distinguished Innovator of the Year for this work.

McKay wanted the same approach to help mentor his physics students and knew that peer messaging was an important part of student success. So he put together a team that could understand exactly what he was after with the program: Kate Miller, an interdisciplinary physics undergraduate student at the time who now teaches science in Arlington, VA; Madeline Huberth, a recent U-M graduate with degrees in both interdisciplinary physics and cello performance; and Jared Tritz, a programmer.

As the group sought input from faculty and studied research on pedagogy, Miller said considerable thought went into “what works and with whom.”

“I was on the education side of things trying to figure out what are good study strategies,” she said. “I think E2Coach reinforces the idea that I can really do this. Physics is hard, so the program asks, ‘are you learning in the best way for you?’”

The program debuted for the 2012 winter semester in four introductory physics courses. A message was sent to all 1,900 students, and about half opted into the system, and those numbers have remained fairly consistent throughout the semesters. This fall, E2Coach was expanded to support students in introductory physics, statistics, chemistry, and biochemistry courses.

Faculty member Brenda Gunderson likes that E2Coach allows her to be in touch with more than half of the 1,700 students in the introductory statistics course she teaches.

“If they could come to my office and sit down and talk with me at different times during the semester, this is what would I say to them,” said Gunderson, lecturer IV in statistics. “This is another way to talk to them that is not global, like CTools, but is more personal.

Gunderson developed the Get Things Done feature because she likes the idea of having a checklist that allows students to know exactly what they need to keep up in the class.

“So we set it up to say, if you want to succeed in the class here are the things we would lay out to have you work on.”

Kenneth Balazovich, lecturer IV in molecular, cellular and developmental biology, was glad to be part of the program for a couple of reasons. The courses he teaches builds on others, and in order to cover all of the material there is no time to backtrack. Perhaps more of concern, there is a national trend of students bowing out of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields because they get overwhelmed right off the bat with the material in required courses.

“We’re trying to use E2Coach to select those students who are struggling a little bit to recall information, who maybe don’t have the study skills they really need to aggregate that material,” Balazovich said. “The goal is to give students a mission—little things they achieve over the course of the term one week at a time. We make this very personal for each student.”

Anderson agreed.

“It really gives you the feeling that you’re not just one of the 300,” the neuroscience major said of his chemistry class.

Scheel, also a neuroscience major, admits she dragged her feet about it but quickly became a believer.

“I find it incredibly useful. I’m really glad I signed up for it.”

Written by Jillian Bogater, University Record, and Laurel Thomas Gnagey, Michigan News


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Engineering with Grace continues

Students demo projects to help one teen communicate

With the tablet computer on her lap, Grace Simon, 13, hoisted her hand and set it down on the screen. It didn’t matter where her fingers landed. Just like that, she made a selection in an early version of an app designed to help her converse about her favorite activities.

“That’s pretty awesome,” said her mother, Jennifer Simon, of Westphalia, Mich.

Grace has athetoid cerebral palsy. While she can read, understand spoken words and signal ‘yes’ or ‘no’, she can’t speak or use extensive sign language to communicate because of her limited muscle control. A software engineering class at the University of Michigan has spent the past semester building systems that might help the sixth-grader connect with others and act more independently at school and at home. On Dec. 11, all 14 teams will demonstrate their systems for instructors – and for Grace.

“They’re all feeling a responsibility that this needs to work well,” said teaching assistant Chris McMeeking. “This is different from a typical class. When a project fails for us, we understand; we’re developers. But if it fails for Grace, it’s like we let her down.”


The students made a variety of systems. Some are specific – attempting to give Grace tools to draw, color and practice math. Others could help her answer questions or convey more information about what she needs, wants or likes. And several groups focused on giving Grace more general language tools. If she could just enter information into a computer – whether words, letters or choices from a list – that could vastly expand her ability to communicate. One group made a decision tree that could let her narrow her choice from a broad category to a single word or concept. Another designed a modified keyboard.

Because a typical keyboard, mouse or touchscreen wouldn’t work for Grace, the students utilized joysticks, Microsoft Kinect motion sensors and Intel Gesture Cameras to build systems she could potentially control with her limb motion, or facial movements.

The team named ‘Vision with Grace’ uses a Kinect camera to identify objects in view and then lets Grace make selections by looking at that object for several seconds.


“When Grace and her family first visited our class, they expressed frustration that they were sometimes unable to quickly understand her needs,” said team member Stephen Lanham, a senior computer science major. “They said sometimes Grace would have to crawl across the room to show her parents that she was interested in some object such as a book for school. Our solution provides a clean and simple interface for Grace to choose items identified by the Kinect.”

Many of the teams that relied on a modified touchscreen built upon a project developed in the class several years ago. ASK Interfaces, created by teaching assistant McMeeking and his colleagues, scans through possible selections on a tablet computer and essentially turns the entire screen into a button.

One group that uses ASK is ‘My Favorite Things’, which impressed Grace and her mom in a mid-semester beta release, is a database of items that Grace enjoys, organized into categories.

“We want to help Grace express herself and tell others about her favorite activities. We hope this helps her answer questions and allows her to have more two-sided conversations,” said Catherine Fisher, a senior computer science major in the class.

Students say they learned more than how to code.

“Grace’s enthusiasm and willingness to participate with helping us refine our product has been a pleasure and reminded us of the value of creating highly configurable software,” said Eyad Makki, a senior studying computer science. “What seemed like a reasonable speed for us wasn’t for her and we had to tweak it.”

The instructor behind the course is David Chesney, a lecturer and research investigator in computer science and engineering who has made a point of putting social context into his senior- and freshman-level classes for more than a decade.

Last year, his class focused on developing games to help children with autism with large motor and social skills. One of those games, PATH, is in a clinical trial with patients with brachial plexus palsy – a congenital movement disorder in which one arm is weaker and shorter than the other.  And McMeeking’s ASK Interfaces is expected to be available for public use in early 2014.

“The work has to be important,” Chesney said. “It would be easy enough to come up with contrived projects semester after semester, but this isn’t contrived. This is something we’re doing that really has the potential to help people. That makes it so much more meaningful.”

Microsoft and Intel both donated technologies to the class and the Mott Golf Classic has also provided funding.

Written by Nicole Casal Moore, Michigan News




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Growing community at the U-M farm

Engaged learning by digging in dirt

A group of incoming School of Natural Resources and Environment students had barely begun working when the first lessons, albeit informal ones, happened.

“This is in the beet family. Do you have beets in China,” one student named Laura asked a classmate who had inquired about the shiny, bright green, red and pink leaves of Swiss chard the students were harvesting.

“How about this one,” another student asked, seeking clarification on instructions not to worry about gathering the few leafy vegetables that had been chomped on to an extreme by insects.

On this day at the University of Michigan farm, the group from SNRE and another from the Law School were on hand to pick produce that was to be shared with the local Food Gatherers. At the end of the day, the farm turned over more than 400 pounds of the chard, kale, eggplant, peppers, squash and other vegetables to the organization that provides food for area families with need.

Volunteers snipped, packed and washed the vegetables that had been planted and cared for throughout the season by numerous students, staff and faculty.

Over the last year and a half, classes, groups and individuals have come to the 2-acre plot at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens to work, even before a single seed or plant was placed in the ground.

Volunteers helped design the space, plow the overgrowth of weeds, construct some raised beds, and build up the soil so things could grow. They established plants over the winter in a greenhouse, and once vegetables and herbs were planted kept the organic garden weeded and, as naturally as possible, pest free. They also helped care for the resident bees in an apiary built by one of the early volunteer teams.

Bekah Kreckman, College of Literature, Science and the Arts program in the environment undergraduate, worked in the greenhouse over the winter, digging out old dirt and replacing it with healthy soil, then helping to nurture the plants that would be transplanted in spring.

“I have a really passionate interest in food systems, and I think that starts with the growing of food. I like that I can see how the food is grown, how it starts and how it ends up in our hands,” said Kreckman, who tasted her first radish at the campus farm. “The whole experience, every time I come out here has been wonderful. Each time there’s something new to appreciate.”

Parker Anderson, SNRE graduate student earning a dual master’s degree in landscape architecture and sustainable systems, helps recruit and supervise volunteers.

“That’s been my goal. To connect people with this space and, hopefully, the campus farm will become institutionalized at the University of Michigan,” Anderson said.

“I feel we’re all connected by food. And we’re trying to do it in a way here that minimizes negative impact on the environment. We’re trying to grow the space and build the soil. We’re trying to create a surplus of food in a way that’s not damaging to the environment.”

The farm in this space is new, started before the planting season of 2012 as an outgrowth of an earlier initiative by students, faculty and staff who were interested in sustainable food systems. Originally Sustainable Food Program participants got involved with agricultural initiatives in Detroit, worked on food composting in campus dining halls, and grew food in small spaces throughout campus. But the groups’ goals were bigger than the space available, so the program was invited to move to east Ann Arbor to take over what had been a research space at the botanical gardens.

Today the Sustainable Food Program is the mother organization for 10 groups that look at many aspects of food and organize programming at the farm.

“Students have been the major drivers behind what we’re doing,” said Robert Grese, director of the gardens and the Nichols Arboretum, and Theodore Roosevelt Professor of Ecosystem Management. “There were several classes of students who helped develop plans for the farm. Last summer there was a group that started a small food plot that was the initial part of the farm. Since then, we’ve hired two summer interns, and with student volunteers, they’ve really helped to make this farm functional.”

Anderson is one of the interns and the other is Meaghan Guckian, SNRE behavior, education and communication master’s student.

“I have a lot of hopes and aspirations for this space. Long term I want it to be a resource and an area for students to restore and get their hands dirty, but also to use it educationally,” Guckian said. “It’s not necessarily just about growing food: It’s about growing community and relationships among different disciplines on campus.”

Grese said Planet Blue, U-M’s sustainability program, and the Third Century Initiative, a university effort to encourage engaged learning experiences, provided funding to allow the interns to be hired, to support the programming, and to encourage the development of learning experiences.

“The farm actually has a lot of opportunities for both research projects with individual faculty members and students, and also having courses come out here.” said Mariel Borgman, SNRE graduate student in behavior, education and communication. She serves as an academic ambassador, trying to help faculty understand how the farm can be a resource for their courses, and to develop classroom collaborations.

“Some people might not understand how a farm could have anything to do with their courses, but food systems is a huge animal.” Borgman said, adding that it touches finance, ecology, sociology and more.

Faculty who have embraced the idea of teaching at the farm have been from various disciplines: architecture and urban planning, engineering, law, art & design, and natural resources and environment, to name a few.

“It creates this interesting experiential, education type of laboratory for students.” Borgman said.

Marissa Silverberg, program in the environment undergraduate, agreed.

“It’s empowerment through education,” Silverberg said. “It adds a certain depth to learning that you wouldn’t find in regular classes.”

The concept of a campus farm is not new. A number of universities have them. What distinguishes U-M’s program is that it’s not focused on food production, the leaders said.

“We’re not potentially growing the future farmers of America. We’re growing community members though interaction of different disciplines,” Guckian said.

“Food is universal. You have to eat to sustain yourself. And pretty much all conversations take place over a kitchen table. So this farm is serving as that table.”


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Transforming STEM teaching

Major change to come from within

Leaders of a project to transform the teaching of STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts at the University of Michigan say it will take a culture change from within to accomplish, but they are confident the university is ready for the challenge.

The new effort, called REBUILD, will bring together faculty from physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics, with colleagues from the School of Education. Their goal is to ensure that STEM education is evidence-based, continually refined, and delivered by multi-generational teams modeled on the research groups of today. Tim McKay, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics and of Astronomy and director of the LSA Honors Program, is leading the project, which has initial support from a $2 million National Science Foundation Grant.

“There has been a lot of research over the last decades, and a lot of new technology invented, that enables us to teach introductory science in new kinds of ways—in ways that are demonstrably more effective,” McKay said. Nationally and at U-M more than half the students who come to college to major in a STEM field do not follow through, the team wrote in the proposal to NSF. The biggest drop off in participation in these majors comes when students take introductory courses, they noted.

“This grant and the program Tim and his colleagues have planned provides a terrific opportunity for U-M not only to lead in reshaping STEM education but to create a model for transforming curriculum across the university,” said Provost Martha Pollack. “In keeping with our Third Century Initiative to set a course for our next century of learning and scholarship, the REBUILD program provides faculty a chance to foster excellence and creativity in our undergraduates, as they engage students in new ways.”

REBUILD will involve 21 courses with total enrollment of more than 8,000 students each semester that will go through a three-year process of evidenced based reform. The plan, modeled after U-M’s STRIDE program, is to involve those who teach the classes at the ground level, with hopes they will be agents of this change.

STRIDE is a program that seeks to improve the campus climate for women in STEM fields, and to recruit more women into these areas. It has become a national model for how to encourage change from within.

A first goal of REBUILD is to demonstrate through research the benefits of alternate methods of teaching, away from the traditional lecture often found in courses with large enrollment. Laura Olsen, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology & Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and the academic program director, Undergraduate Program in Biology, said she expects faculty even may challenge some of the research.

“It won’t be one-size-fits-all. Faculty teams will choose what works best for their courses. I am excited to see what people come up with,” said Olsen, who already had altered her courses to get away from a traditional lecture format.

“I make students much more responsible for reading the material before they get to class so that we can spend more time solving problems,” she said. “It makes a huge difference for both the instructor and the students.”

Olsen added that the NSF grant and funding from LSA and the provost’s office will allow faculty to receive help with the transformation, as intergenerational teams of undergraduates, graduates and faculty will be involved in developing new tools to transition courses.

Another member of the team, Stephen DeBacker, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Mathematics who was Michigan Professor of the Year in 2012, said his department has been teaching precalculus and calculus courses in “an engaged, interactive manner since the early to mid 1990s,” and it appears to have paid off with an increase of students interested in the field.

“The evidence we have is that what we do here in certain classes works,” he said.

“I think that every instructor in Math values teaching and learning and tries to teach well, albeit in his/her own way. Engaged teaching requires an investment in people, not necessarily technology.

“For a program like this to succeed, there are a number of key things that need to happen, and some of them are tricky to implement: Instructors must be invested in teaching well in an interactive manner (and this includes recitation instructors, etc.), new and old instructors must be trained, good people must be hired to administer the programs and maintain consistency from year to year, and how well it is all working must be assessed.”

The program officially begins in January 2014, and McKay said the first nine months will be spent with teams of faculty from STEM areas and the School of Education pouring over the research. Planning for how to implement changes also will occur during this period, which will involve helping each department set targets. He expects the first noticeable changes in the classroom will occur in Fall 2014 and continue to roll out.

“This is a three-year project, so we really aim to have made significant change in all of the large introductory science and math courses by the end of three years. That’s not to say the process will end there, but we have a particular period of time and a particular goal here that we really want to take advantage of, and make sure that during this period we make a big shift.”

Written by By Laurel Thomas Gnagey, Michigan News



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U-M No. 10 in schools with most students abroad

Moves up from 16th last year

The University of Michigan surged to No. 10 in a ranking of U.S. schools with the most students studying abroad in 2011-12—a big jump from the No. 16 spot last year, a key survey of global education trends said Monday.

The strong growth reflects U-M’s ongoing commitment to helping students go overseas. The university had 2,060 students studying abroad in 2011-12—a 6 percent increase from 1,946 in the previous period, according to the Open Doors Report by the Institute of International Education, a New York-based nonprofit group.

Education-abroad experiences provide immense value to students, said James Holloway, vice provost for global and engaged education at U-M.

“These global engagements help students develop capabilities that cannot be developed through the traditional classroom environment,” Holloway said. “They help students observe and understand people from other cultures. They also help students become more flexible, persistent and self-reliant decision makers.”

The most popular destinations for U-M students studying abroad were Spain (312 students), Italy (188), Germany (183), United Kingdom (148), China (137) and France (130).

Holloway added that U-M’s expansion in education abroad has come largely in the professional schools, such as engineering and business, as well as in the fine arts. This illustrates the value of tailoring programs to the students’ interests.

The growth has also been greatly facilitated by creating the right infrastructure to manage the programs, Holloway said. Such infrastructure includes data systems that allow students to easily search for programs that fit their needs. The same systems enable administrators to manage the process—from program selection to departure and return.

“The right data systems allow us to track thousands of travelers abroad and to communicate with them when we need to,” Holloway said.

Raising money for study-abroad scholarships and other student support is key to the recently launched Victors for Michigan fundraising campaign, which aims to raise $4 billion. Last month, U-M President Mary Sue Coleman and her husband, Kenneth Coleman, announced their gift of $1 million for global scholarships to U-M students.

The Open Doors Report also said that for the second straight year, U-M ranked No. 8 in the nation for the size of its international student body. The university had 6,827 students from abroad in 2012-13, a 7 percent increase from the 6,382 in the previous period.

“International students diversify the campus environment in important ways,” Holloway said. “They allow domestic students to interact with and learn from others who are very different from themselves, while providing the international students with an important cross-cultural experience and challenge.”

The 2013 Open Doors Report is available at www.iie.org/opendoors

Written by William Foreman, Michigan News


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The science of autophagy

Creating understanding through artistic expression

Click. Click. Click. Click.

Red spike heels punctuate the floor in unison as four “harpies” in vibrant shades of pink, yellow, blue and orange encircle the intended victim, the alien invader. Their sharp steps keep pace with driving music that sets a tone for the devouring that is about to begin.

A kaleidoscope of colors, abstract images and geometric patterns projected from on high down to a stage-within-a-stage define the boundaries of this choreographed conflict. The music becomes turbulent, dissonant as digestion begins.

The artistic work, not unlike many produced and performed at the University of Michigan, tells a story, complete with the classic elements of plot, character, conflict, theme and setting. In this depiction the characters are the elements of a cell and the setting is the human body. The plot involves a process called autophagy, and the theme addresses this complex function that the body goes through 365 days a year as each cell seeks to renew itself. Conflict comes when the process does not work as expected.

“Autophagy is a process in which our cells break down parts of themselves and then reuse those resulting macromolecules to keep essential processes going,” said Dan Klionsky, Arthur G. Ruthven Professor of Life Sciences, at the Life Sciences Institute. The definition of autophagy is self-eating, he said, explaining how the cell disposes of that which no longer is needed while recycling essential parts worth keeping. The process, which scientists have come to better understand in the last decade, is very intricate and essential, but also can go wrong.

“Defects in autophagy can contribute to cancer, some types of neurodegeneration, diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, various muscle diseases, you name it,” he said. “Almost every month, there’s a new connection being discovered between autophagy and some aspect of human health and disease.”

Autophagy still 6

The unique artistic collaboration among a cell biologist, composer, choreographer and scientific illustrator was the brainchild of Klionsky, who for a number of years has sought ways to make science accessible to his students and the many “lay” audiences he addresses. His first collaborations were on illustrations of complex biological processes.

“Dan contacted me about 10 years ago now and wanted to do a painting of autophagy. I don’t remember this but he told me that, at that time, I told him that there wasn’t enough information to do the painting. But he kept at me and then eventually we made plans to do the first illustration. And it’s been ongoing since then,” said David Goodsell, illustrator from The Scripps Research Institute. “We’ve done three projects together working on particular illustrations. It seems like each time he gets a new scientific discovery he comes asking for a new painting.

Influenced by others who were working with DNA music (technical simply-toned music used to replicate the sounds genetic material might make) Klionsky began to collaborate with composers. But he wanted to do something different and more recently approached U-M alumna Wendy Wan-Ki Lee, a faculty member at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, about setting autophagy to music.

“I was a little bit scared at that time because I didn’t know anything about science, or autophagy in particular, and I had no clue as to what kind of music he would expect from me,” said Lee, who earned a master’s and doctorate from U-M in music composition and theory. “But I was also very excited in many ways because that means that I can do a lot of crazy things with my music in terms of structure or instrumentation and so on.”

Their first collaboration was a solo piano piece she called macromusophagy.

“Anytime I’m working with someone who doesn’t know the field well, in particular an artist, they ask questions that typically make me look at the whole project, the whole aspect of autophagy in a slightly different way,” Klionsky said. “For example, Wendy asked me about the speed of certain parts of the process, which I had not thought about, but she needed to know with regard to the tempo of the music.

After playing macromusophagy to rave reviews at a Life Sciences Institute event, Klionsky decided to stretch even further.

“We’ve done paintings. We’ve done the music. I want to do dance.”

Colleagues introduced him to Peter Sparling, Thurnau Professor of Dance at U-M, who is no stranger to collaborations with scientists.  Sparling not only served as the choreographer but as a production manager. He is a screendance artist who combines video imagery with live performance, choreographing and editing together complex productions for dance performances, festivals and museum exhibitions.

“So, call me the ring master,” Sparling said. “I choreograph the movement for the dancers. I choose the images—the visuals. I choose the music. I decide the scenario. I put the visual images and the music and the dance together so that it all fits together.”

When Sparling and Klionsky first got together they discussed how to use the work for education and live performance.

“And as I listened to him, he was describing the processes within the cell in terms of human or animal behaviors as if they were animated, as if they have wills of their own, and I thought, ‘aha, this is it. This is a hook,’ ” Sparling said.

The result was a five-scene multi-media presentation produced by Sparling that first was featured in a School of Music, Theatre & Dance event in June, and more recently has been introduced in Klionsky’s biology classes.

“I think it would be most helpful in a teaching environment for non-science students or people that aren’t really well versed in science,” said Mollie Lesser, neuroscience major.

“Sometimes I thought, like, what is going on, and I thought that Professor Klionsky and Peter’s explanation of it allowed me to gain a new appreciation for something that I wouldn’t have seen beforehand, which is very interesting,” said Jonathan Markowitz, also a neuroscience major.

Klionsky said a reaction like Markowitz’ was just what he was looking for from the piece.

“What I hope (for students) is what I experienced the first time I saw the rehearsal of the dance being done,” Klionsky said. “After it was over, when we were walking back, we were discussing: ‘What did Peter mean by this part? Why were there these dancers in red high-heeled shoes,’ for example? ‘What does this mean?’ And I realized, that one advantage is, since it is not absolutely literal and not absolutely obvious what was been depicted at every step of the video, it fosters discussion.”

For instance, “what if there’s a foreign or unwanted presence in a human community,” Sparling asked during one rehearsal? “What does that presence look like?”

Enter a homeless woman who tries to penetrate the community but finds it most unwelcome. A haunting flute plays as she is shunned, surrounded and assaulted. Her attackers toss the contents of her bag into the air and withdraw as she rises one last time then collapses, beaten down.

Written by Laurel Thomas Gnagey, Michigan News


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U-M rises in latest Times Higher Education world rankings

One of 14 U.S. universities in top 20

The University of Michigan is ranked as the world’s 18th top institution according to Times Higher Education, moving up two spots from last year.

The annual list ranks the top 400 universities worldwide and is based on 13 performance indicators separated into five categories: teaching, research, citations, industry income and international outlook.

The London-based higher education magazine worked with Thomson Reuters to produce “World University Rankings 2013-2014.”

Phil Baty, editor of Times Higher Education Rankings, noted they are the only global rankings to judge world-class research institutions against all of their core activities: teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

“The University of Michigan’s rise up the rankings is particularly impressive, demonstrating strength right across the board on a wide range of metrics,” he said.

U-M was one of 14 U.S. universities making the top 20. That list includes California Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, University of California-Berkeley, University of Chicago, Yale University, University of California-Los Angeles, Columbia University, John Hopkins University, University of Pennsylvania and Duke University.

The ranking is one of two released annually by Times Higher Education. Earlier this year, U-M was ranked 12th in the organization’s annual Reputation Rankings, which are based on results from an invitation-only survey of scholars from around the world.

Written by Kim Broekhuizen, U-M Public Affairs


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U-M remains strong in U.S. News & World Report rankings

No. 4 public; 28 in the nation among all universities

The university continues to rank near the top in the U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings of the nation’s best undergraduate colleges and universities. U-M maintained its ranking as the No. 4 public university, and was ranked at No. 28 among the nation’s best national universities, up one spot from last year.

While university officials are pleased that U-M consistently is ranked as one of the nation’s finest universities, they also note that this type of strict ranking of universities is not the most accurate measure of the quality of an institution of higher education.

UM-Dearborn was rated among the best regional universities in the Midwest. It was ranked at No. 36, down from No. 33 last year. It was ranked the No. 7 public school in the Midwest, down from No. 6 last year.

The Stephen M. Ross School of Business undergraduate program ranks No. 2 nationally, tied with the University of California, Berkeley, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is up from No. 3 last year. It is among the top five schools in four specialties: finance (fourth), management (first), marketing (second) and product/operations (fifth).

The College of Engineering undergraduate program again ranks No. 7 nationally. In specialty rankings, engineering is among the top five in four specialty areas: aerospace engineering (third), environmental/environmental health (fourth), industrial/manufacturing (second) and mechanical (second).

Among regional universities, the engineering program at the UM-Dearborn was tied with seven other schools at No. 33, up from No. 35 last year.

U-M also was recognized for a number of programs that lead to student success including learning communities, service learning and undergraduate research and creative projects. These schools are listed in alphabetical order.

U.S. News also asked college administrators to recognize universities for its strong commitment to teaching. U-M ranked No. 12 nationally, down from No. 6 last year.

U-M officials add that what matters most in choosing a school is the match between the particular interests, abilities and ambitions of each student and the specific programs, approaches and opportunities offered by a particular school.

Earlier this year, U.S. News released its graduate rankings.

U-M now has 99 graduate programs ranked in the top 10 by U.S. News & World Report — four more than a year ago, and placing it among the top five for all public and private institutions in the United States.

Written by Kim Broekhuizen, U-M Public Affairs




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U-M professor Susan Murphy earns prestigious MacArthur Fellowship

Statistician honored as one of 24 exceptionally creative individuals

A University of Michigan statistician who is poised to make a significant impact on the field of personalized medicine, an area of great activity in biomedical research, has been chosen one of 24 “exceptionally creative individuals” by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

The foundation named Susan A. Murphy, the H.E. Robbins Professor of Statistics and professor of psychiatry, among its 2013 fellows, recognizing all of them for exceptionally creative achievements and the potential for even more significant contributions in the future.

Fellows will each receive a no-strings-attached stipend of $625,000 (increased from $500,000) paid out over five years. Without stipulations or reporting requirements, the fellowship provides maximum freedom for recipients to follow their own creative vision.

“This year’s class of MacArthur Fellows is an extraordinary group of individuals who collectively reflect the breadth and depth of American creativity,” said Cecilia Conrad, vice president of the MacArthur Fellows Program. “They are artists, social innovators, scientists and humanists who are working to improve the human condition and to preserve and sustain our natural and cultural heritage. Their stories should inspire each of us to consider our own potential to contribute our talents for the betterment of humankind.”

Murphy is developing new methodologies to evaluate courses of treatment for individuals coping with chronic or relapsing disorders such as depression or substance abuse.

In contrast to the treatment of acute illness, where clinicians make a single decision about treatment, doctors treating chronic ailments make a sequence of decisions over time about the best therapeutic approach based on the current state of a patient, the stage of the disease and the individual’s response to prior treatments.

Murphy, who also is a research professor at U-M’s Institute for Social Research, developed a formal model of this decision-making process and an innovative design for clinical trials that allow researchers to test the efficacy of adaptive interventions.

While the standard clinical trial paradigm simply tests and compares “one shot” treatments in a defined population, Murphy’s Sequential Multiple Assignment Randomized Trial is a means for learning how best to dynamically adapt treatment to each individual’s response over time. Using SMART, clinicians assess and modify patients’ treatments during the trial, an approach with potential applications in the treatment of a range of chronic diseases—ADHD, alcoholism, drug addiction, HIV/AIDS and cardiovascular disease—that involve therapies that are regularly reconsidered and replaced as the disease progresses.

As Murphy continues to refine adaptive interventions, she is working to increase opportunities for implementation in clinical settings through collaborations with medical researchers, clinicians and computer scientists focused on sequential decision-making.

Murphy received a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University in 1980 and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina in 1989. She was affiliated with Pennsylvania State University from 1989 to 1997 before joining the U-M faculty.

Written by Jared Wadley, U-M News Service



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New online course examines U.S. health care reform

Free course to begin Oct. 7

Answering questions raised by the latest reform to the U.S. health care system—the Affordable Care Act—is the goal of a new University of Michigan free online course.

Dr. Matthew Davis, professor of medicine and public policy, with backing from the U-M Medical School, launches the course titled “Understanding and Improving the U.S. Healthcare System” on Oct. 7 on Coursera.

Coursera is a massive open online curriculum, or MOOC, that U-M helped launch last year. It provides free courses on a wide variety of subjects for learners from any background.

“We are in an era when health policy and health care reform is front and center, not only in doctors’ offices but on street corners,” Davis said.

After studying national data on fourth-year medical students across the country, Davis found that their confidence about health policy issues was far below their confidence about clinical learning and clinical skills.

“For physicians to be functioning at their best, they need to know how the health care system is supposed to work,” Davis said. “In this course, students will learn a lot about the Affordable Care Act and how it builds on 50 years of history.”

Davis said he wants to engage the learners to think about how they can play a role in improving the system at the personal level—as patients, health care providers or in other capacities.

He’s expecting enrollment to exceed 15,000 people for the six-week course.

The average class size for U-M Coursera courses is nearly 50,000, said Gautam Kaul, a finance professor at the Ross School of Business who teaches the popular Introduction to Finance course on Coursera. Kaul also serves as special counsel for Digital Education Initiatives at U-M.

“Consistent with our goal of showcasing the richness of our educational offerings and providing access to people all over the globe, our menu of classes is probably the most diverse among all our peers,” Kaul said.

U-M offers courses on topics ranging from science fiction to Internet security.

“We have a strong presence in the now huge MOOC market,” Kaul said. “For example, with about 80 top global universities partnering with Coursera, we have had about a million students enrolled in our offerings out of a total enrollment of 17 million.”

The health system-focused course, produced by U-M grad Michael Rubyan, takes a fresh approach each week including week five, which includes live interaction online between students and instructors. Rubyan, a documentary film producer, earned his master’s in public health from U-M in 2012.

The course’s six episodes use documentary film techniques including filming on location capturing the university’s most beautiful spaces and resources, one-on-one interviews and a talk-show format discussion. The course also includes a 45-minute documentary segment that integrates archival footage of 11 U.S. presidents detailing their health care reform efforts over the past 65 years.

Davis also has tapped the expertise of several colleagues across the U-M campus from the medical and health policy fields for interviews.

The course is one of six being developed by U-M’s Medical School, according to Timothy O’Brien, who oversees online course development.

“It is still part of an exploratory phase for us. This is a new frontier and we are utilizing Coursera to try to determine what makes sense for us in education,” O’Brien said. “We are keen to apply what we learn about how students learn online to our on-campus efforts.”

Written by Greta Guest, U-M News Service


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Engineering with Grace

Software class aims to help one teen communicate

To signal “yes,” Grace Simon raises her right fist. For “no,” she shakes her head. And that, for the most part, is how the 13-year-old communicates with the world.

Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 6 months old, Grace doesn’t have the muscle control to speak, sign or walk. But her capable mind understands spoken language—she’s actually kind of nosy, says her mother. She reads chapter books. Her favorite subject is math.

“She’s really bright on the inside, but she just can’t get it out,” said David Chesney, a University of Michigan lecturer in computer science and engineering who has built a syllabus around the sixth-grader.

This semester, the 73 undergrads in Chesney’s senior-level software engineering course are devising systems that could make it easier for Grace to communicate, play or act more independently at school or home.

The course requires no textbook. Teams of undergrads are working on 15-20 Grace-centric projects that the students design themselves. They might enable her to play a board game with friends, to make her own art or to share her thoughts in writing or perhaps even (electronically) spoken words.


Grace and her parents, Jennifer and Eric Simon, of Westphalia, Mich., are working closely with the instructor. They’ve come to class several times already. During their first visit, the sprightly teen dressed in a hot pink sweater and silver sandals steered her powered wheelchair across the room to demonstrate the motor skills she’s refined over the past decade to get herself around. To steer, Grace maneuvers a sort of joystick on the chair arm with her fingers and the heel of her right hand.

She also took questions from the class. Can she use a calculator? No. Does she get tired from moving? Yes. Does she like puzzles? No. Would she rather be able to type out words or speak through a text-to-speech program? With help from her mom, Grace answered yes to “speak.”

It’s an ambitious goal, but perhaps the greatest hope for the class.

“It’s been hard for us to get something specifically for her that could give her verbal communication. We have never come up with anything so far,” said Jennifer Simon, Grace’s mother.

Today, Grace doesn’t have a good way to enter information into a computer—whether that information is individual letters, whole words or selections from a list of options. And enabling her to do that is a crucial first step.

Grace has limited control of her hands and arms, so the students will design special interfaces that rely on tools other than a mouse and keyboard. They’ll explore a joystick similar to the one on her chair. They’ll look into an operating system called ASK Interfaces that previous students in Chesney’s class developed a few years ago. Designed to help people with other forms of cerebral palsy send email, ASK turns a whole tablet computer screen into one big button and tabs through options.

She could also potentially control a computer with her eyes. Grace recently tested that approach with Jacqueline Kaufman, the clinical assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the U-M Medical School who connected the Simons and Chesney.

“I was impressed with how well she did,” Jennifer Simon said.

Communication systems such as the Eyegaze Edge track pupils with a camera and allow users to select letters, words, blocks of text or other items with their eyes. The system costs more than $13,000. Chesney challenged his students to improvise with some of the cheaper technologies companies have donated to the class. Intel gave six Creative Interactive Gesture Cameras, which can recognize motion in three dimensions, as opposed to the typical two. Microsoft gave a dozen Kinect motion sensors that can track facial movement

As for Chesney’s expectations, it’s hard to say. The Simons know there are no guarantees.

“My threshold for success is widely varying,” Chesney said. “On the low end, my students would come out of EECS 481 with a better understanding that there are people out there with special needs and that they carry that with them once they become software engineers. On the high end we’d have 15 systems that we give to Grace and say, “Here you go!”

And on the highest end, Grace would get a voice, or something like one.

“It’s exciting to think that’s a possibility,” Jennifer Simon said.

She looked at her daughter and smiled, then teased, “But she might never shut up!

“I’d want to know what she’s thinking. What are you thinking? What do you know? What have you been dying to tell us and you haven’t been able to?

David Chesney: https://www.eecs.umich.edu/eecs/etc/fac/facsearchform.cgi?chesneyd+

Gaming for the Greater Good: www.engin.umich.edu/college/about/news/dme/gaming

Written by Nicole Casal Moore, News Service


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Third Century Initiative

New round of learning projects receive funding

Since coming to the University of Michigan in 2003 Professor Anne Mondro has dedicated her research and studio work to discovering how creativity impacts health care, with particular emphasis on aging and memory loss. Over the decade, the associate professor in the Stamps School of Art & Design has brought the school’s students along on her journey.

As one of the latest faculty teams to receive funding from the Third Century Initiative, Mondro and colleagues from the Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Social Work, the College of Literature, Sciences and the Arts, The Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center and the U-M Geriatrics Center’s Silver Club Mild Memory Loss Programs, along with several community partners, will expand the experience to include undergraduate and graduate students from across campus.

The Memory, Aging and Expressive Arts hands-on course first will introduce students to memory loss, with experts from neurology, psychology, public health, social work and the arts. The second half of the Winter 2014 class will be dedicated to experiential learning, as students are paired with older adults to work on a creative project: a film, photo collage, series of paintings or perhaps a living scrap book.

“We hope the students can not only learn about memory loss but really build empathy and understanding for what older adults experience as they age,” Mondro said, adding that many students aren’t exposed to older people outside of their families. The population of older adults is growing at a great rate, with those 65 and older expected to double from 2010 to 2050, creating a significant health care challenge.

The Third Century Initiative is a $50 million program established by the president and provost to inspire innovative programs that enhance the student learning experience and to develop creative approaches to the world’s greatest challenges.  Faculty can apply to various grant programs to achieve these goals.

The aging and creativity course is one of 14 projects funded in the latest round of the Student Learning component of the initiative.

“I continue to be impressed with the way faculty have embraced the challenge to develop innovative educational, research and service-related experiences for our students,” said Martha Pollack, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “This round of proposals supports projects that exhibit very creative thinking about how to engage students in experiential learning that crosses disciplinary boundaries.”

Faculty can apply within the Student Learning and Global Challenges grant programs for different levels of funding. Transforming Learning for a Third Century (TLTC) has two grant programs: Quick Wins and Discovery & Transformation. Quick Wins are described as “relatively small-scale, ‘shovel ready’ projects that have transformative potential for curriculum.” To date three rounds of Quick Wins have been funded, and a call for the next and possibly final round already has been made, with the deadline of Oct. 18. The aging course is a Quick Win.

Discovery & Transformation is a two-phase grant program for longer-term programs that involve risk, discovery and experimentation. This round includes awards for Discovery. The first Transformation call for proposals is expected to be released in early 2014.

The Global Challenges for a Third Century (GCTC) grant program accepted proposals earlier this month with an announcement of awards expected Nov. 15. More information on each program and deadlines can be found at http://thirdcentury.umich.edu/.

“From projects that engage students with the latest technology to those that seek to enhance immersive community experiences, this latest round of proposals represent some really interesting opportunities and collaborations,” said Melanie Sanford, chair of the Student Learning Advisory Committee and Moses Gomberg Collegiate Professor of Chemistry in LSA. “Among others, faculty have proposed projects that would formalize internship experiences, develop a family-centered approach to preparing would-be teachers, and bolster arts education in the community.”

Other projects funded in the latest round include:

Quick Wins (Up to $25,000 in one-time funding)

  • Recognizing co-curricular learning using digital badges
  • SLIP: Summer lab for interdisciplinary performance
  • Data collection for digital signal processing
  • Enhancing student learning through community immersion and research internships in Detroit
  • Student engagement with the local and the global food system
  • Student experiments in biomedical physics: a journey to inner space
  • Using the STEM studio to design STEM-related learning experiences and artifacts: a trans-disciplinary collaboration
  • Side-by-Side: A practice-based, student-driven collaborative conference

Discovery (Up to $50,000 in one-time funding)

  • El Sistema (a pilot music program for diverse children in the community)
  • Revitalizing the chemical engineering senior design experience – empowerment, entrepreneurship, and a flipped classroom experience
  • Integrating internships into undergraduate education
  • The family centered education experience: preparing new teachers for understanding and teaching in diverse communities
  • Experiential learning in construction: the case for construction

Mondro and colleagues hope the Memory, Aging and Expressive Arts course will build life skills and broaden the knowledge of students, as well as help address stigma and pre-conceived notions about aging.

“It’s interesting and very inspiring to see an 18-year-old working with a 90-year-old,” Mondro said. “The students learn that they can gain a lot from their elders. They also come to realize the importance of engagement with the community.”

New Third Century Initiative website helps faculty navigate funding process

A redesigned Third Century Initiative website, http://thirdcentury.umich.edu/, offers faculty the information they need to prepare and submit proposals for both Transforming Learning for a Third Century and Global Challenges for a Third Century grants.

Launched in August, the site features a calendar of deadlines, a list of dos and don’ts for writing a proposal, and a form for easy submission.  It also includes a list of previously funded projects, and highlights successes from the program.

An extensive FAQ section answers the most commonly asked questions about the initiative, including who can submit, criterion for the grants and specific activities that can be funded.

Written by Laurel Thomas Gnagey, News Sevice



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Addressing health disparities

Alumni: program changed careers, lives

When Aiisya Williamson was growing up she saw only two options for a career in health care: become a doctor or a nurse.

She enrolled as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, with an eye toward a future as a physician, but still was not sure about the path she had chosen.

Then she heard about the Summer Enrichment Program (SEP) offered in the U-M School of Public Health. And the rest, as they say, is history for the current executive director of Mercy Primary Care Center in Detroit. The organization she leads provides medical and other health related support services to those without insurance who are not qualified for Medicaid or Medicare.

“The summer program came at a time when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to have an impact in health care but I wanted to better define it,” said Williamson, who went on to earn a master’s in health management and policy from U-M, and now serves as a preceptor, mentoring student interns enrolled in the eight-week program. “Because the Summer Enrichment Program meant so much to me, and really in a lot of ways fundamentally changed my life, I love the fact that I’m able to give back to it now.”

Williamson’s story is just one of many that are highlighted in new research on the impact of the SEP on the career paths of program alumni, published in the September/October issue of Public Health Reports.

The Summer Enrichment Program began in 1986 to encourage students from underrepresented populations to consider careers in health care. The goal was to address health inequalities and improve population health by increasing the diversity of the nation’s health care workforce.

Following the 2006 passage of Michigan’s Proposal 2, which banned race-based and affirmative action programs, the program was expanded to include all students who are committed to addressing health disparities, Program Director Richard Lichtenstein said.

On the occasion of the program’s 25th anniversary in 2011, Lichtenstein, S J Axelrod Collegiate Professor of Health Management and Policy, conducted an alumni survey to find out how the SEP had impacted participants.

Among his findings:

  • More than 97 percent of the respondents said they had applied to graduate school in health or planned to do so, or they were enrolled in or had finished an advanced degree in the field.
  • Nearly 70 percent of those receiving degrees got them in public health, with 54 percent enrolling in health management programs.
  • Of alumni who had completed graduate training, more than 3/4 worked full-time in the health field, 2/3 were employed in management or policy areas, and 1/4 were clinical providers (or held both administrative and clinical positions).

A result that specifically addressed the success of the program is that 57 percent said they had planned to go on to graduate school prior to the program. After participation that number swelled to 85 percent.

Perhaps even more satisfying to Lichtenstein were the open-ended comments from program alumni.

“The best thing is to read comments from the students saying that this program completely changed their careers and completely changed their lives,” he said. “Person after person said they didn’t know what this field was, they wanted to do something for their communities, they thought they would be a doctor… but then they found that going into this field really enables them to work on community problems in the health area.”

Included in that list of successful alumni is Denise Brooks Williams, president and CEO of Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital.

Much like Williamson’s story, Brooks-Williams enrolled for her undergraduate degree at U-M with thoughts about becoming either a pediatrician or psychologist. But as time went on she wasn’t convinced becoming a clinician was the direction to go. The undergraduate who double majored in psychology and Afro and African American Studies heard about the SEP while working part-time in SPH epidemiology.

“I knew I didn’t want a career in epid (epidemiology) but I knew I wanted to make a difference and to help people, and I really wanted to be in a hospital.”

At the urging of her epidemiology supervising faculty member, Brooks-Williams had a conversation with Lichtenstein, who talked with her about his vision for the then year-old program to impact health disparities by encouraging persons of color to pursue health care management and policy careers.

“You need people at the table with all backgrounds to talk about health care delivery,” Brooks-Williams said. “He talked very openly with me, explaining that there were not a lot of African Americans or even females in health care management.”

Her intern placement during the program was ideal. At U-M Hospital she worked with Larry Warren, who at that time as associate hospital director was one of the few African Americans in top hospital leadership in the country, she said.  Warren rose through the ranks in his 26 years at UMHHS, retiring as director and CEO in 2005.

Students enrolled in SEP 2013 have more awareness of careers in public health, Lichtenstein noted, but the need for the program is greater than ever, with the growth of minority populations and an ever-widening gap in health disparities.

“The idea is that we selected people who are really interested in eliminating these health inequalities, and when they’re in positions of power they might have a chance to change things,” Lichtenstein said.

A 2013 participant in the program who hopes to do just that is McKinley Kelcy from Charlotte, North Carolina, an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“It’s really important for me to give back, and to figure out ways to use my career to really help people find equal access to health care, quality health care, and being able to live healthy lives.” Kelcy said.

Andrew Widener, Arizona State University undergraduate from south Texas agreed: “I think that as a society we have made the moral choice to help others in need, and it’s one of the greatest things we can do.”

2013 SEP participant Stasha Dennard, a University of Washington student from Seattle, liked the SEP mission of encouraging people from diverse backgrounds to help solve disparities.

“So we are able to associate with others and be like, ‘we look like you, we understand what you’re coming from, so we can help you as well. The healthcare system is not something you need to be afraid of. Health is just as important and just as much your right as it is to any number of populations,’ ” Dennard said.

Written by Laurel Thomas Gnagey, News Service


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Bollywood, Hollywood and Law

The three come together in a mini seminar

The savory smell of samosas mingled with the Hindi spoken by the actors on the big screen and laughter of the audience. If you closed your eyes, you could easily imagine yourself at a movie theater in Mumbai.

But this cinematic experience was far from India. It was at the Law School at University of Michigan, and the audience was aspiring lawyers watching their last Hindi film for a mini seminar.

The course, “Hollywood, Bollywood and the Law: The Globalizing Entertainment Industry,” is taught by associate professor Vikramaditya Khanna. He is the one who brought the Indian snacks to the showing of “3 Idiots” – a screwball comedy about two friends going back to college in search of their third friend.


“Food adds to the overall experience as it is very common when viewing Bollywood movies at cinema halls in India to have food like samosas, pepsi, chai, chaat,” he said.

Khanna said the popularity of Indian films has been increasing in the United States over the last few years, and students had been interested in the global interactions of Bollywood, which produces more than 800 films a year. The films have an audience of more than 3 billion with big following in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

The class met for a mini seminar six times during the academic year. Over the course of the year, the mini seminar has tackled some complex Bollywood and legal issues like intellectual property, comparative financing of films in India and the United States, the variation among the media markets (movies as distinct from television etc…), and international distribution and marketing of Bollywood movies.

Cali CopStan who took the class as a second-year law student said they also discussed how Bollywood and Hollywood film markets have merged. “When ‘Lincoln’ came out last year, we didn’t know that it was largely funded by an Indian film entrepreneur.”

The class made a lasting impression on Ji Won Kim, who had never watched a Bollywood movie. “I am plugged into the Bollywood gossip now, and even have favorite actors and actresses. One music video we watched in the class inspired me to buy the DVD, and I watched it over the break!”

CopStan said she has become more interested about the internationalization of the Bollywood industry. “I had no idea how interconnected Hollywood and Bollywood have become, and I am coming away from the class with a much greater appreciation for the way each industry influences the other.”

Kim plans to continue the tradition of Bollywood nights and visit India in the near future. “A few classmates and I have made lists and plan to have our own Bollywood movie nights in the future.”

With the success of the mini seminar, Khanna says he is offering it again this year. “I will probably add a little more on the TV markets and discuss how different areas of law influence the Bollywood market,” he said.


Written by Mandira Banerjee, News Service


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Fighting for Clean Water

Michigan Engineering Students Spend 4th Summer Working in Brazil

University of Michigan students fight off mosquitos, survive harrowing rides on dirt roads and live off rice and beans as they work to provide engineering solutions for clean drinking waters to rural communities in the midst of one of the largest wetlands in the world – Pantanal, Brazil.


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Distinguished University Professors

Regents name nine for one of U-M's top honors

Nine faculty members have received one of the university’s top honors as Distinguished University Professors.

The appointments were approved by the Board of Regents on Thursday and will be effective Sept. 1.

In a tradition that began more than 10 years ago, recently appointed DUPs give an inaugural lecture that highlights their work at U-M, typically during the first or second full year of their appointments.

The recipients are:

• Elizabeth S. Anderson was named the John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies. She also is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, John Rawls Collegiate Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies, and professor of philosophy and women’s studies, LSA.

• Christin Carter-Su was named the Anita H. Payne Distinguished University Professor of Physiology. Carter-Su also is the Henry Sewall Collegiate Professor of Physiology, and professor of molecular and integrative physiology, Medical School.

• Carol A. Fierke was named the Jerome and Isabella Karle Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry. She also is the Jerome and Isabella Karle Collegiate Professor of Chemistry, chair, Department of Chemistry, professor of chemistry, LSA, and professor of biological chemistry, Medical School.

• Susan A. Gelman was named the Heinz Werner Distinguished University Professor of Psychology. She also is the Heinz Werner Collegiate Professor of Psychology, and professor of psychology, LSA.

• Ronald G. Larson was named the A.H. White Distinguished University Professor of Chemical Engineering. He also is the George Granger Brown Professor of Chemical Engineering, professor of chemical engineering, professor of macromolecular science and engineering, and professor of mechanical engineering, College of Engineering.

• Victor B. Lieberman was named the Raoul Wallenberg Distinguished University Professor of History. He also is the Marvin B. Becker Collegiate Professor of History, and professor of history, LSA.

• Roderick J. Little was named the Richard D. Remington Distinguished University Professor of Biostatistics. He also is the Richard D. Remington Collegiate Professor of Biostatistics, professor of biostatistics, School of Public Health, and professor of statistics, LSA.

• Mark B. Orringer was named the Cameron Haight Distinguished University Professor of Thoracic Surgery. He also is the Cameron Haight Collegiate Professor of Thoracic Surgery, and professor of surgery, Medical School.

• Panos Y. Papalambros was named the James B. Angell Distinguished University Professor of Engineering. Papalambros also is the Donald C. Graham Professor of Engineering, professor of mechanical engineering, College of Engineering, professor of architecture, A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, and professor of art, Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design.

Distinguished University Professorships, established in 1947, recognize full or associate professors for exceptional scholarly and/or creative achievement, national and international reputation, and superior teaching skills. Each professorship bears a name determined by the appointive professor in consultation with her or his dean.

Recipients receive an annual salary supplement of $5,000 and an annual research supplement of $5,000.

Written by By Jillian Bogater, The University Record


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Beyond Business — Social Entrepreneurship

Ross professor, course encourage students to be world changers

Ask Michael Gordon what he’s trying to accomplish by exposing undergraduates to an up-and-coming focus in business curriculum called social entrepreneurship and the answer probably will go something like this:

“Each of us has the opportunity and potential to nudge the planet in the direction we want to see it move,” Gordon writes in his blog, profmichaelgordon.com.

“The impact I’m trying to create is centered on individuals— students and others I have the privilege to reach. Others may work to change organizations or even larger systems, but my perch as a professor makes a focus on individual change a natural fit.”

Gordon, Arthur F. Thurnau professor and professor of business administration in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, said he attempts to encourage societal change one student at a time.

“This is business school and you walk in the door Day 1 and one of the fundamental messages is that you’re in business to make money for stockholders. There are a bunch of reasons to create a business, and one of the very legit reasons is to produce societal good,” he said.

“There are real problems of hunger, poverty, lack of education and deteriorating environments, and we actually can create businesses that are aimed at those problems,” he said, adding that such organizations still can make a profit.

Social entrepreneurship, also called social enterprise, refers to the concept of bringing innovative ideas to bear on the most pressing societal problems. Interest in this area has grown in recent years, and some business schools have responded by developing programs and courses, mostly for MBA students. Gordon believes exposure for undergraduates is just as important.

“How do I choose to spread the ideas I want others to know about?  I bring a creative aptitude to my work. I’ve devised plays … and multimedia-based simulations to instruct.  I’ve had my students collaboratively author a book (minor fail) and create videos with impact (major win),” Gordon wrote in the blog.

It’s the latter concept of creating a video that has resonated most with his students and the organizations in communities far and wide that they reach out to help.

“This class is just so different from when people think of school and typical college courses. And I think this is what makes Ross — what makes Michigan — so different,” said David Kolodny, a student from Los Angeles. “He (Gordon) gives us the practical tools and then we go out and make a practical difference.”

For their final project, Gordon has challenged the students in the course Business Strategies for the Base of the Pyramid to advance the work of a non-profit or for-profit business that seeks to address a societal problem.

“They supported real organizations and their needs: fundraising, recruiting volunteers, raising awareness, etc. Several videos have been seen more than a thousand times. Others helped raise several hundred thousand dollars,” Gordon wrote in the blog.

And that’s just this year’s class of students who served Detroit organizations that promote healthy food choices, work to tear down blighted homes, turn abandoned houses into works of art, provide academic help to struggling students, and encourage girls to get out and exercise.

Others assisted closer to Ann Arbor, creating a mobile app for a campus organization that annually raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, and assisting a group trying to organize a one-stop resource for student entrepreneurship organizations that work locally and globally.

Included in some of the videos are stories about other young social entrepreneurs, people who have chosen to do business in ways that change the world, or at least a small part of it.

Among them, the story of Eco-fuel Africa and a young entrepreneur who sought to bring a solution to two vexing problems in Uganda: the growing decimation of natural forests and a population group that was losing out on getting an education.

The country’s residents use wood to fuel their homes and cook, and 70 percent of Uganda’s forests already are gone, due to the constant harvesting of trees with no replacement planting. Estimates are that at the current rate forests will disappear entirely by 2050.

And who gathers this wood? Young girls who miss school because of the time needed to scour for fuel. The culture has determined that boys must be educated but girls do not have to finish school if someone is needed to do the work.

Students in the business course met with Sanga Moses who has developed a solution to both concerns. He converts locally sourced farm and municipal waste into clean cooking fuel and organic fertilizer. His organization trains women to sell the fuel, boosting the local economy, slowing deforestation, providing better crop yields and allowing girls to stay in school.

Moses wanted the class’ help with a video that he could take on the road to attract investors and donors.

“It was really cool to see Sanga’s organization actually impacting these people and giving them a fighting chance to be able to live sustainable and healthier lives; to be able to make some money and empower women through education. It’s all these causes rolled into one,” said Amy Kaminski of Riverview. “Business is my major but my passion is more helping people and seeing how these organizations work.”

Another group worked with 313 Energy, created by two young high school students who gave 11 cents of each energy drink sold back to the city of Detroit. The drink became popular and the business model even attracted the attention of Mayor Dave Bing. Much like the stories seen on the popular TV program Shark Tank, it became time for the business to seek investors and move toward mass production and increased sales.  The Ross School group helped with some marketing concepts, including a video.

“What impressed me most is there’s a story behind each of these videos,” Gordon said.

Jennifer Liang of Troy was in a group that worked with Inspiring our Sons, a program to help young men in Detroit see college as an option.

“I don’t know how likely it would have been for me to find out about this organization or to reach out to a group in Detroit and initiate that on my own, if I hadn’t had this impetus,” Liang said. “We thought there’s a lot of potential for us to do something here.”

“I think businesses really can be agents for good in the world, so I love the idea that we have this class here at Michigan, and they offer the resources,” said Vince Moceri of West Bloomfield, who also worked with the Sons group. “And it’s cool to see that other students are passionate about it as well.”

Written by Laurel Thomas Gnagey, News Service


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Building a Better World

Students create mini business for Detroit nonprofit

Ross School course encourages students to create mini businesses like one that makes glass coasters and provides jobs.

Daniel Williams leans over, putting his face within inches of a sheet of quarter-inch-thick glass and squeezes the glass cutter.

A soft plunk sounds in his corner of Cass Community Social Services’ Green Industries building in Detroit as a small four-inch square of glass lands on a mat. The 28-year-old former homeless man has been cutting the recycled glass used to make coasters for two months.

The coaster mini business grew from a University of Michigan course that brings together students of business, engineering and art and design. Called Integrated Product Development (IPD), the class worked closely with Cass to brainstorm and set up the business.

The glass coasters feature murals from Detroit’s wailing wall near 8 Mile Road and Wyoming that was built in 1940 as a division between black and white neighborhoods. The images of brightly colored houses, factories and neighbors added years later gave the wall new meaning.

“I like it a lot because it gives us a clean and safe work environment,” Williams said. “It’s nice to have some work to help you get back on your feet. It makes me feel like at least we are doing something right.”

IPD, in its 18th year, historically has been a product development course. But in the past two years, the course went a step further, said Bill Lovejoy, technology and operations professor in the U-M Stephen M. Ross School of Business. Lovejoy is also co-director of U-M’s Master of Entrepreneurship program.

“In the past two years we have challenged the students to start mini businesses. That is in league with the entrepreneurial spirit that is sweeping the country and Michigan right now,” he said.

The coasters emerged as the first product to be commercialized out of six mini-business ideas that University of Michigan students developed for Cass to consider adding to its Green Industries set of micro businesses. Green Industries also creates mudmats from abandoned tires and pays developmentally disabled adults to shred documents for recycling.

The Ross School also consulted with Cass on how to make the shredding business more efficient and profitable, said Wallace Hopp, associate dean.

In IPD the students were challenged to use materials that would otherwise enter the waste stream. So they took tours of vacant lots in Detroit and found rubber, glass and wood in good quantities. There was very little metal because that’s being salvaged. Then they brainstormed what they could design with the materials.

Working under the direction of professors Lovejoy and the late Shaun Jackson, his Art & Design colleague, one group of students started with a slumped glass planter for herbs that nestled in a wooden frame made from reclaimed pallet wood.

The students installed the production equipment at Cass in 2012 and set about teaching homeless men how to use it to produce the herb gardens. But the glass took too long to fire in a kiln to produce them in great numbers and results varied. After the students left for summer jobs or graduated, Lovejoy kept at it.

Drinking coffee at home one morning, Lovejoy realized that the standard coaster size is 4-inches by 4-inches. Fusing a square of glass would be a lot simpler than slumping glass. He knew if he could design an attractive coaster product, Cass workers could manage the process after he stepped away.

Workers can put 50 coasters in the kiln at a time. It takes 24 hours to fire them and then cool them down. As work progressed, the men started taking control of the process and suggesting ways to solve problems and make a better product. The men have made more than 200 sets so far.

“There are currently eight people employed on this line who wouldn’t otherwise have jobs,” Lovejoy said. “What’s necessary for modern manufacturing is creative problem solving skills. So we hope they can leverage this for a better future for themselves.”

Lovejoy credits others around the university and in the community for making the project a reality including local glass artist Annette Baron, owner of Baron Glassworks in Ypsilanti and John Leyland, ceramics studio coordinator for U-M’s School of Art & Design.

Leyland said the students experimented with the glass in his studio’s programmable electric kilns.

“We did a whole lot of experimenting, but not a lot came to fruition,” Leyland said. “Bill had the foresight to pull back and come up with something that would work.”

And, he said, it’s an example of the university making a positive difference in the world without fanfare. It’s about doing the smaller things that change people’s lives.

“One thing that makes Michigan a very special place is exactly this kind of social consciousness,” Lovejoy said. “There’s no ivory tower here — a wall where you are on campus and off campus. We merge with the community. Michigan faculty and students are out there in society all the time trying to make a difference.”

And a difference they have made. The men now have a purpose to get up in the morning and go to work. They make a little money and can treat a friend to dinner or buy a birthday gift for someone close to them.

“Ultimately, it’s made a huge difference. The guys who are working on the project are guys with zero income,” said Stacy Leigh, the vocational training coordinator at Cass Community Social Services. “It’s amazing what a little money can do. It raises your self-esteem.

And now, they are just trying to keep up with demand for the coasters, which sell for $20 for a set of four, said the Rev. Faith Fowler, executive director for Cass Community Social Services and an adjunct professor at U-M’s Dearborn campus.

Finding jobs for homeless men has been difficult, she said, but making the coasters has given them a chance to be creative, make some money and be part of a group.

“The students, of course, want to change the world and through us they can,” Fowler said.

Written by Greta Guest, U-M News Service


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First Global Challenges receive funding

Nadine Naber's digital archive will record stories from women in Egypt.

Nadine Naber (second from left) gathers with Egyptian activists at a demonstration in Tahrir Square on Dec. 1, 2012. (Photo courtesy of Nadine Naber)

Nadine Naber (second from left) gathers with Egyptian activists at a demonstration in Tahrir Square on Dec. 1, 2012. (Photo courtesy of Nadine Naber)

Nadine Naber was in Egypt last year researching the country’s revolution when she observed that women’s groups spent most of their time dealing with emergencies – sexual violence, protests, blackouts and food shortages.

They rarely had a chance to interview women about their role in the revolution and document their personal stories so that activists, researchers and policymakers could use the information to find solutions to the poverty and violence.

But now, Naber will be able to play a key role in helping women’s groups share their stories in a public digital archive. The associate professor in women’s studies and the program in American culture is receiving a $31,000 grant to set up the archive.

The funding comes from the Third Century Initiative, a $50 million fund established by U-M’s president and provost to develop innovative, multi-disciplinary approaches to teaching and scholarship over five years.

Naber’s project is one of 15 that received funding earlier this month from a component of the initiative called Global Challenges for a Third Century (GCTC), which seeks to inspire ideas about how to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges.

The projects – involving dozens of schools, colleges and units across campus – were selected through a competitive process that considered more than 115 proposals.

“One of the crucial ways to learn about the role of women in the revolution is through their own stories,” Naber said. “What personal stories bring to light are the many crisscrossing issues that impact women’s lives: poverty, multiple forms of violence, dictatorship, corruption, political participation and representation.”

Other projects funded by GCTC include:

  • Using mobile phones to improve science labs in Africa.
  • Creating diagnostic tests for infectious diseases.
  • Using art as an economic engine.
  • Developing sustainable transportation.
  • Improving educational outcomes for low-income students enrolled in career-technical programs.
  • Enhancing legal systems with technology.

The recipients were chosen by the Office of the Provost based on recommendations of the Global Challenges Advisory Committee, consisting of eight faculty members across campus.

Proposals are being accepted for the program’s second round. More information is available at provost.umich.edu/thirdcentury/global-rfp.html.

In March, grants were awarded by another component of the initiative, Transforming Learning for a Third Century (TLTC), which creates innovative student learning experiences. TLTC also is accepting proposals. More information is available atprovost.umich.edu/thirdcentury/student-rfp.html.

Written by William Foreman, News Service


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Engineers Making a Difference

Students plunge into hands-on work for a good cause

Straws, Popsicle sticks, toothpicks, aluminum foil, pipe cleaners, foam board and assorted other items are strewn across desks at the front of the room — there for the taking.

Conversations could be heard around the classroom about how to scale life-size items, some intricately drawn on sophisticated computer software programs, into crude prototypes that measure mere inches.

Although an overall plan had been settled prior to today’s class, some last-minute negotiations, a few creative brainstorms, and some feedback from the professor resulted in a bit of tweaking.

This is Engineering 100. And the miniature foam/wire/cardboard creations represent full-size water catchment systems designed for community gardens in Detroit.

“I really love the idea of using my engineering skills to solve real world problems and apply it to a service project,” said Nicole Rojas, a student from Cincinnati, Ohio. “I’m learning a lot and also doing what I am really passionate about, which is a service project.”

Once the small-scale creation is perfected during one day’s class, students move into the Wilson Student Team Project Center on North Campus to build larger versions of the innovative, yet functional, designs for Focus: HOPE, an organization in Detroit that seeks to alleviate hunger and economic and educational disparity in the inner city.

The students’ goal: To meet the client’s needs by coming up with a creative, fun and effective solution for watering garden plots that will grow food for community residents.

The course goal: To give first-year students hands-on exposure to the field of engineering in a course that departs from the lecture format often found in introductory classes, and to inspire them to think about Engineers Making a Difference, the theme of this class section.

“Students these days in engineering are really prepared in math and in science. They come to us but they haven’t really tinkered with things,” said Lorelle Meadows, assistant dean for academic programs, Michigan Engineering. “If they don’t know how things go together then designing becomes a big challenge for them. So what we want to do is give students an opportunity to build something with their own hands. They are gaining skills that they don’t have first coming into engineering as they are learning what it is to be a practicing engineer.”

Except for those who choose a research-based section of ENG 100, all students who enroll in the course experience some sort of hands-on activity, Meadows said, and she has chosen to structure the sections she teaches around community service and learning.

Those in her sections are serving three community organizations. In addition to Focus: HOPE, they are working with Growing Hope in Ypsilanti and the Detroit Community Schools in the Brightmoor area of Detroit.

All of the partners are engaged in alleviating food insecurity in an urban setting. Students working with Growing Hope designed systems that allow community members to extend the growing season for community gardens. Those involved with the Detroit schools were challenged to design vertical growing surfaces and raised beds that allow more produce to be grown in limited space.



“The class this year has really done an excellent job. They’re pushing the boundaries of creativity. They’re coming up with devices that are addressing the community partners’ needs in really innovative ways,” Meadows said.

One group thought beyond watering the plants and built a latticework design to provide a vertical growing space for plants that can climb.

Rojas’ group keyed in on the client’s request for something engaging and fun, so for the small-scale prototype they folded cardboard soup bowls into small troughs that will allow water to cascade in a crisscross pattern down a wall. They wondered if recycled restaurant carryout containers could be repurposed to build the troughs.

“So you listened to your users. That’s excellent,” Meadows said during the early prototype building.

“It would be neat if it made noise; if you could get it to ring,” she suggested.

“I like the noise idea,” Rojas said. “It might be our finishing touch.”

Yet another group has a plan for a covered bench for visitors to sit in while water cascades from a slanted roof into a trough, the group’s leader explained to Meadows, as he drew the changed plan. Rainwater would flow through downspouts, over a playful pinwheel system, and be collected in basins that have faucets to control the amount of water released at one time.

“So you guys have to start building,” Meadows said. “I think you have a really good concept. I like it!”

Michael Jocz’s group also features a bench with a roof overhead that will allow water to run into a gutter system and then into tanks.

“I always thought engineers just designed everything and gave it to the workers to build, but didn’t really interact with the customer. Through this class we actually talked with the community partner and got what they wanted,” said Jocz, from Novi, Mich.

“As an engineer, you’re not going to be doing it all by yourself. You’re going to be working with a team. There’s benefits and challenges with that so you have to work through it together and create some pretty cool things.”

Meadows said feedback from the community partners is very positive.

“We learn a lot from the community partners. It’s one of those situations where everyone learns from each other,” she said. “You don’t go in saying, ‘We’re the engineers, we can teach you.”



Meadows said the theme of her sections of ENG 100 was inspired by the Peace Corps concept of making a difference one village at a time.

“What I hope students walk away from this class with is that they understand better the role that engineers have in society; the responsibility we have for the decisions we make as engineers. I hope they appreciate that engineers can do this kind of work, and how rewarding it can be working with community and having that kind of impact on the world.”

The client-centered focus of the class was a pleasant surprise to Rojas.

“I knew there was an Engineering100 class but I didn’t know specifically we’d be able to, for example, travel to Detroit and meet with a community partner, and work with a community partner, hands-on as a freshman. I was very happily surprised I was able to do that,” Rojas said.

Hana Baker, who was exposed to Michigan Engineering during a summer camp her junior year in high school, says the approach to teaching and learning is part of what swayed her to come to the university.

“I really appreciate what we’re doing now. I don’t think people in engineering at other schools will be designing an actual product for someone, a client, as we’re doing for Detroit — actually making a difference. And this is what the class is all about,” said Baker, from Annapolis, Md. “This is why I chose Michigan. This is what I love about Michigan.“

Written by Laurel Thomas Gnagey, News Service


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Grants for Excellence

Gilbert Whitaker Fund Supports Excellence in Teaching and Learning

A digital patient that offers nurse practitioner students the entire patient care experience from diagnosis to treatment to communication.

Faculty training in a vocal technique that could enhance an already top notch undergraduate musical theatre program.

Engineering and Technical Communications faculty collaborating to develop teaching modules that will advance student writing skills in a range of technical genres.

These innovative, collaborative and often interdisciplinary projects have been awarded funds through the first stage of the Gilbert Whitaker Fund for the Improvement of Teaching.

The Center for Research on Leaning and Teaching has announced that eight teams from a dozen different departments have been awarded $10,000 Stage 1 grants to support a wide range of teaching initiatives. Winning groups that complete projects within two years have the opportunity to apply for Stage II grants of $15,000, up to three of which are awarded each year.

Established in 1995, the Whitaker Fund grants support collaborative groups of faculty pursuing projects aimed to develop and deepen their commitment to excellent teaching and learning.

View all of the projects here.


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UM-Flint Professor Receives Top Honor

Vaziri is Distinguished Professor of the Year


Mojtaba Vaziri, professor of physics and engineering at University of Michigan-Flint, has been selected to receive a Distinguished Professor of the Year Award by President Council, State Universities of Michigan. The award recognizes outstanding contributions and dedication made by faculty from Michigan’s 15 public universities to the education of undergraduate students. Each university nominated a faculty member who has had a significant impact on student learning through various media, including work in the classroom, research, advising and mentoring. Vaziri was one of three selected.

“I was delighted to learn that this outstanding faculty member was not only nominated but selected for this achievement award. His selection speaks well for him personally, as well as for our campus,” said UM-Flint Chancellor Ruth J. Persons.

Michael Bolus, executive director of the Presidents Council State Universities of Michigan, said The Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year recognition marks a highlight in the professional lives of faculty among the 15 public universities.

“I am so very pleased that first of all Dr. Vaziri is a faculty member at the University of Michigan-Flint and secondly, that he has been recognized in this way as one of the best professors in the state,” said Provost Gerard Voland, who nominated Vaziri for the award. “This award is extremely well-deserved.”

One of those who wrote a letter of recommendation for Vaziri was D. J. Trela, dean of UM-Flint’s College of Arts and Sciences. In his letter, Trela wrote: “My pride in Dr. Mojtaba Vaziri’s selection as “Professor of the Year” is only matched by my pride in a college and university that value excellence in teaching and learning alongside our commitments to scholarly and creative achievement and engaged service. Mojtaba’s commitment to his students is embodied in everything he says or does at UM-Flint. He has helped forge a department culture that is student-centered; he has focused on program development that has benefited new populations of students, particularly in engineering and computer science; and he has proven a tireless advocate for more resources in support of students and faculty.”

It is not only university administrators who admire Vaziri’s teaching abilities. A former student recently wrote: “You are a true teacher, which is rare in professors, I felt every class you taught in a way that was grounded in understanding. Thank you for a wonderful experience.”

Vaziri’s seeks to create a student-centered environment in which students are actively engaged in the learning process.

“I strive to provide knowledge and guidance in an enthusiastic manner, thereby promoting a positive learning experience for my students,” Vaziri said. “I truly believe that the process of science cannot be learned by reading, listening, memorizing or problem-solving. Effective learning requires active engagement.”

Each nominee will receive a Presidents Council Plaque. In addition, the three choices for Professor of the Year will receive $3,000 to be funded by the President’s Council. The recipients will be recognized on April 12, 2013 during a luncheon to be held at the Radisson Hotel in Lansing.


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Course Inspires Creativity

Getting to a place where magic happens

So there goes Beethoven. He’s walking in the woods. Suddenly, like a bolt of lightning – BAM! He gets the idea for his Sixth Symphony. “Because he’s cool and he’s Beethoven.”

Well, not exactly, Stephen Rush explains.

“It took a lot of iterations. It took failure, it took risk over the course of time to create his work,” says the professor of performing arts technology in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

It’s understood that creativity is the life force behind great art, music and literature, but it also guides innovation and advancement across academic fields, he says. Rush and four other faculty members _- from the College of Engineering, the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, SMTD, and the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning – are helping undergraduate students from many fields of study tap into their creativity through the Creative Process course.

The course doesn’t promise an answer for how to produce a great creative work. Instead, it focuses on the process of getting to a place where creativity can flow.

Ryan Achtman, a business major, art minor and junior from Walled Lake, says he appreciates that creativity is not just for artists.

“I came into the class as a ‘businessman,’ others came in as ‘musicians’ or ‘engineers’ or ‘French majors.’ But we’ll be leaving with the confidence to apply the creative process to any discipline, given an encouraging atmosphere,” he says.

The class blends disciplines to explore sound, visual art, motion and words. Eighty students – that number has grown from 47 when the class was founded four years ago – perform activities and attend lectures and optional meditation, to cultivate creativity.

“This is a class that immerses the student into making things, that actually allows them to fail,” Rush says.

In lectures, he presents to students views on creativity through time, stated by philosophers and through the great religions, and insights on creativity in current popular culture. In workshop sessions, students take on projects that challenge them intellectually, but without the structure they’re used to. Optional meditation sessions encourage creative thought from another direction.

Their final project calls on them not to present a great creation – a song, dance, building or concept. Instead, they must demonstrate what they’ve learned about the creative process.

“If they have made a good, hard investigative effort and worked at problem solving, they’re going to do well,” says Elona Van Gent. The professor of art in the Stamps School is among the faculty who present class elements.

Rush stresses that he and fellow faculty aren’t the only sources of direction or inspiration for the group.

“Students learn a lot about the creative process by looking at their peers, and by seeing them struggle they see we’re all kind of on a lateral plane. We’re all creative people. We can write poetry, we can dance – maybe not so well – but according to whose standards? Ultimately it’s a journey of self-celebration. You discover who you are in a creative way and let that emerge,” he says.

Guiding creativity

On the surface, it appeared to be a light, class-related exercise. That’s when Rush earlier this semester threw handfuls of red, blue, pink, yellow and green balloons over a second floor railing at the Art and Architecture Building to students clamoring below.

Inside each balloon had been placed a piece of paper with a unique guide word. The word or concept – such as “Swiss Army knife” or “yellow” – is used to inspire a student’s final project.

A few weeks later, a different set of guide words direct the actions and creative decisions of a half dozen Creative Process students, perched on stools set around a work table. In this workshop course element, students use a few basic materials – cardboard, box cutters, glue and tape -to create three-dimensional representations of their words.

Nate Slottow, a senior from Ann Arbor, surveys a landscape of cardboard pyramids he has made, of varying sizes. “My prompt was ‘rhythm.’ I like music and I was thinking of the different patterns and ratios in music,” he explains.

The computer engineering major says he likes the class and what he’s learning about creativity. His biggest insight: “It’s more of a process and not a rush to get something done.”

In a Duderstadt Media Gallery workshop session led by Van Gent, students sitting at laptops are asked to make collages of images manipulated with Photoshop. Elizabeth Jabaay, a Grand Rapids sophomore in LSA, chooses a dolphin with a dress and flamingo legs. “I thought it would be interesting to give it a heavier top by giving it a dolphin body,” she explains. “I’m learning more about trial and error with creativity. You just keep trying different things until it works.”

Jabaay says that as the class works across disciplines including sound, engineering, and art and design, she’s learning more about finding inspiration. “You can find art and creativity in anything and being creative is helpful in making new products and in your business because without new ideas we would just stand still,” she says.

Aakash Jobanputra, a Scarsdale, N.Y., junior majoring in economics, says, “It’s a very different class. In most classes I have a straight goal – you do this, this and this. But here you create a cool project and really have to discover yourself.”

Jobanputra, who is creating a social networking platform devoted to nightlife, adds that classwork is focused on problem solving. He says this helps him build confidence to deal with issues in his startup venture.

Mark Kirschenmann, lecturer of jazz and contemporary improvisation and in the Residential College, opens his Creative Process class session by asking students to name known risk takers in their preferred field of study. He says taking risks – and failing – is crucial to exploring the creative process. As an example, Kirschenmann tells the group he admires Miles Davis for following his heart and changing his musical style so drastically that some old fans abandoned him.

Achtman tells the class he chose the example of Steve Jobs: “He morphed business together with art, he combined design and technology together, which was really cool.”

Soon, Kirschenmann is pulling out his trumpet and fingering the keys. Before playing a brief improvisation, he asks students to draw what they hear. “There aren’t any mistakes to be made. What you’ll see is everyone has come up with their own right answer,” he says. Tonique Brown, a women’s studies and English major from Detroit, draws a series of large dots and half circles along the edge of the paper. She is the first to place her finished drawing on Kirshenmann’s black music stand. “It’s life at play,” she says.


Through the lecture element of the course, Rush seeks to present the history of creativity from a social point of view.

“Meister Eckart (an early German theologian) had reasons for being creative, mostly having to do with making the world a better place, in whatever way that makes sense. It could be about healing other people or healing the planet,” Rush says.

He lectures on views of creativity presented in the Bhagavad Gita, the Chinese Dao De Jing, from Buddhism, and from early mystical Christianity. “They looked at God as a creator first. There’s an ethic of, ‘Go ahead and make stuff – God does,’ ” he says.

Rush says the broader benefits of getting students to study the creative process are measureable. “There are a lot of questions about the structure of a course like this. People want to know, does it pay off, really? It’s kind of flaky-baky, outcomes are somewhat indiscernible, there’s not a lot of course content like in a physics course.

“But when we tested the students the first couple of years, their sensitivity to diversity, which can be measured, is up significantly. That’s because these students develop an ability to listen to people who are not you. If your guide word is yellow, you have to listen to other students say, ‘Here’s what I think of when I think of yellow,’ and then you have to listen to faculty weighing in on yellow,” Rush says.

Students learn that while there may be different views of what yellow is, all of the perceptions hold truth. That, Rush says, leads students to conclude that there are different truths being represented in different systems and cultures at the same time.

Through optional meditation sessions, students are asked to clear their thoughts, to make way for new ones. “You’ve got to let that land lie fallow or it’s going to dry up on you,” Rush says. He adds that research on meditation finds the practice boosts compassion, which plays a role in creative social transformation.

In the lecture session, Rush also talks of meditation – not the kind practiced traditionally, but applied during a routine task – such as waiting in line at the grocery store. “You might look around and say you’re the old guy in the front of the line who can’t find his checkbook. What if you are them and they are you? It’s a great opportunity to have these different perspectives. Just take it in, man,” he says.

Getting it

How do faculty determine if students are actually getting the creative process? Van Gent says students demonstrate by asking questions, developing ideas, going through iterations, and trying out changes. “If they’re doing that kind of thing, then they’re engaging in the creative process,” she says.

Students’ final projects are portrayed in semester-ending gallery displays. Because some final projects are conceptual, this can be a challenge.

“We’ve had results that have been as strange and interesting as a student reliving a day in his life as a 5-year-old,” Rush says. One student’s final project involved making a friend with an older woman in a nursing home. Another student made a perfume based on William Wordsworth’s poetry. Then there was the student who drew the prompt word “hand.” Rush says the student visited a palm reader, and made a 3-foot-long puzzle of his hand.

“You can see an exploration of identity by abstraction as well,” Rush says. “But we don’t really care in a certain sense what the outcome is, it’s more about the process.”

Faculty who teach the course all report it has an effect on students, often profound. One student’s final project inspired his master’s thesis. Many students offer feedback after the class is over. “They talk about the confidence they gained form the course, the sense of problem solving as a process rather than just sitting and waiting around for an idea,” Van Gent says.

Rush says it’s not unusual for Creative Process faculty to get messages from past students who say the class changed their lives. In some cases this has meant changing a major. Others include the student who chose to spend a summer in a remote village in Peru, teaching young children to read and do simple math. This was inspired by Rush’s suggestion through the course to do what you love.

“For many reasons, this class is a safe place to explore sense of purpose and dreaming,” Rush says.

Written by Kevin Brown, The University Record


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Teaching Academy Fosters Success Among New Faculty

Program helps boost teaching and scholarship

Sara McClelland, assistant professor of psychology and women’s studies and a Teaching Academy participant, conducts a class on Sex, Sexuality & Public Policy

Sara McClelland, assistant professor of psychology and women’s studies and a Teaching Academy participant, conducts a class on Sex, Sexuality & Public Policy

New faculty members who participate in a program to enhance teaching report greater confidence in their abilities in the classroom and more involvement in professional development activities. Student evaluations of those faculty members also reflect better learning.

Each year LSA welcomes many new junior faculty members from across the country and the world. The hiring process is painstaking and the competition stiff as LSA seeks to hire the best and brightest young scholars.

But bringing new faculty to campus is only the first step. Having them achieve excellence at Michigan, building distinguished careers of teaching and scholarship, is the ultimate goal.

The LSA Teaching Academy represents one investment the college makes to help new faculty thrive. Based on the results of a recent study by the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT), this investment is paying off handsomely, leaders say.

LSA Dean Terrence McDonald initiated the Teaching Academy in August 2009. The program, a collaboration between LSA and CRLT, is required of all new assistant professors in the college, regardless of prior teaching experience. Faculty members are compensated for their participation.

“We want to communicate to new faculty the importance the college places on teaching — especially at the undergraduate level,” McDonald says. “And we want to make available to them the tools they need to really hit the ground running and succeed in the classroom.”

The goals of the program include introducing faculty to U-M students, deepening their understanding of how students learn, and what teaching strategies best promote student success. (A full list of goals can be found in the accompanying box.)

Beginning with a two-day session in August, the program continues throughout a junior faculty member’s first year at the university. It includes opportunities for advice about course planning from outstanding teachers in their disciplines, discussing ways to incorporate technology into courses, and collaborating with CRLT consultants to gather and respond to student feedback during their first semester of teaching at U-M.

To gauge the impact and effectiveness of the academy, CRLT recently conducted a study drawing on diverse data sources: participant surveys, engagement with CRLT-sponsored educational-development activities and student evaluations. The study indicates that the academy is making a difference in several ways. First, members of the Teaching Academy express greater confidence in their readiness for a variety of teaching-related tasks after the August intensive session than before.

Second, members of the Teaching Academy are more likely to participate in professional development activities focused on teaching, such as attending teaching seminars and requesting facilitated midterm student feedback sessions in their courses, compared to earlier cohorts of faculty.

Finally, students of professors who participated in the Teaching Academy were more likely to agree that they “learned a great deal from this course,” even after controlling for other variables known to influence student ratings.

These results indicate that the academy is helping faculty make a successful transition to teaching at U-M. And, as CRLT Executive Director Constance Cook points out, the impact of the program has been huge.

“The 89 faculty in the first three cohorts of the Teaching Academy have taught 504 classes involving 18,781 students. Clearly, the Teaching Academy has made a significant contribution to teaching and student learning in the college,” Cook says.

Written by Deborah Meizlish, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching


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Initiative Promotes Global Learning and Engagement

Seminars engage undergraduates in global concerns


The sun rises high over the flat, dusty ground of rural Ethiopia. A young woman walks toward the distant horizon.

Her trek takes hours before she boards a crowded bus for a ride that will take another 17 hours. Her destination is the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. Several years earlier, prolonged labor during childbirth tore a hole or fistula in her body. It caused urine to leak continually.

On the bus, she tries to hide her shame. She has endured social ostracism due to the condition, affecting 2-3 million young women worldwide. But hope awaits at the hospital. There, surgeons change lives.

“It’s sad,” says Ellen Eggers, a U-M sophomore from Grand Rapids. “These women lived for a long time with serious medical issues and they were never treated. Whether this is out of their own ignorance or fear, it still upsets me to see them suffering for so long before finally receiving help.”

Eggers and fellow students have just viewed the women’s plight in the documentary film “A Walk to Beautiful.” It details just one of the gritty, real-world global health issues students take on in Dr. Sofia Merajver’s class “Global Health Equity for the 21st Century: Thought, Consciousness and Action.” It is among seven presented through the Michigan International Seminars for Undergraduates (MISU) program, through LSA.

MISU is one of several U-M initiatives to promote global learning and engagement, in keeping with President Mary Sue Coleman’s conviction that international education and engagement is vital to the future. Coleman has stressed that students must be prepared to live and work in a global economy, and MISU seminars are designed to help students get a jump on preparing for that global engagement.

“It’s important to do this early in a student’s college career to broaden worldviews and to permit better planning and more informed choices when selecting future courses and considering the possibility of an education-abroad experience,” says Ken Kollman. He is director of the International Institute, which administers and helps fund the program.

Now in its second year, the program brings together students from different disciplines, and with different interests. The students read, hear about and discuss issues of global importance, often outside their own disciplines. The seminars also bring together faculty members and senior scholars from different departments, schools and colleges to work together.

Seminar topics have ranged from “The History of Human Rights in Latin America” and “War, Rape and Trauma in Human History: Three Moments,” both offered in winter 2012, to “Cultural and Social Aspects of Global Health: A Social Determinants and Social Justice Perspective,” offered this semester.

While students sign up for a three-credit seminar or course, they also join with MISU students in other courses for monthly joint sessions to support program goals.

“The goal of the common sessions is to have students from different groups mixing to address broader international issues than their normal seminar topic,” Kollman says. “Inside the smaller seminar the goal is to go into depth on specific topics and disciplines, and then the goal in the common sessions is to connect their specific field of study to larger questions of significance.”

Readings focus on prominent international themes, questions and concepts, justification for international intervention, colonialism, empire, human rights, transnational culture influences, and global health problems.

In one recent session, students from varied disciplines weighed the rights of people who live in slums and shantytowns outside major cities in the Third World. Kollman says students are challenged to address questions and to evaluate a problem from different angles.

“We also try to encourage them to study abroad, and to think about studying languages,” he says.

Global health focus

“There is a lot of inequity in health, so what is important is to learn how to think like a global health leader and figure out what to do next,” says Merajver, professor of internal medicine, Medical School; professor of epidemiology, School of Public Health; and director of the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk and Evaluation Program.

A recent winner of the Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research Distinguished Translational Mentor Award, she says the interests of students taking her global health equity seminar range from premed to women’s studies, from anthropology to business. “Many of them, I think, aspire to pursuing graduate school but they are undecided which field. But they are fascinated by the international aspects of health and inquiry,” she says.

At a recent class session, Merajver discusses the ethics researchers must consider when organizing subjects for clinical studies. She talks of the evolution of research ethics, as demonstrated through the Nuremberg Code of 1946 and the Helsinki Declaration of 1964. Generally, they advance the view that the well-being of the individual research subject must take precedence over all other interests, including the study.

Continuing the ethics-based discussion, Merajver tells students that researchers must not take advantage of patients who may not be as well informed as others.

“They are taking the blood, so they say, ‘I might as well study also the genes. These are people in the bush, they won’t know from their culture what exactly you are doing.’ The cultural tendency of the highly trained scientist from a high-resource environment is to undervalue the lives of those in a natural environment. This is scientific misconduct,” she tells the class.

Tracey Fu, a Canton sophomore interested in public health as a career, joins a group of students analyzing a case study presented in class. It involves an isolated, indigenous community in South America and a health assessment research initiative that overstepped ethical boundaries.

“We didn’t see the necessity of blood sampling, or the photographic demographic profiling,” Fu says. The students also found researchers had exhibited cultural insensitivity for failing to predict how their presence and practices would affect the community psychologically and physically.

“There is a cultural sensitivity that is crucial to these campaigns, and it’s something I think is important in any initiative which hopes to involve a community of people. This global perspective has pushed me to think about how cultures and countries affect one another, positively and negatively,” Fu says.

Overcoming stigma to aid populations

In one class section, Merajver addresses a key problem faced by those seeking to promote better health practices around the globe – removing stigma assigned to some practices by native populations.

“What is the path to eliminating stigma? It starts with an L – literacy,” Merajver says. She presents to students study data that show more literate mothers are better educated about nutrition and other resources to care for their offspring. That results in healthier babies. She challenges students to think about how education can be promoted in such cultures without destroying tradition.

After showing students “A Walk to Beautiful,” Merajver class assistant Connie Shi tells students it is important to think about the stigma about disease in various cultures – and how that stigma may be overcome to improve health outcomes.

“Think about the importance of building a community of people that have been treated. They can start to educate friends with the same problem,” Shi says. This is an effective way to educate the public about possibilities for treatment, better than notification via public banners or fliers, she adds.

Michael Jacobson, a senior and public policy major from Grand Haven, says he learned that along with several other health issues discussed in class, fistulas can be the result of malnutrition and lack of contraceptive or family-planning options. “Young brides, who are already malnourished, have to deliver a baby out of their small body,” he says.

Jacobson says the class encourages multidimensional and complex examination of a problem, and how to break it down by looking at inputs, process and possible outputs of interventions. “Professor Merajver has taught us that bad data is worse than no data. I’m learning how to find evidence, dismiss poor evidence, learn from mistakes, and learn from history, the good and the bad,” he says.

Merajver says she expects from students perfect reasoning, flawless logic, creativity, and ultimately the ability to lead and create the right projects to truly help populations in a sustainable way. “There are challenges and I think they like it. I expect a lot because I believe in them,” she says.

Eggers, who is considering a nursing career, says the global health ethics class has stirred a desire to travel or be part of a bigger reform in global health. Merajver says students have told her the class changed their lives, that they see the world differently and have changed their career outlook as a result. “I love to hear the passion in their voice and attitudes,” she says.

While Kollman says the program is drawing upbeat reviews from students, the true measure of its value will come later.

“Program success would be if students taking these courses get turned on to become more likely to learn new languages, study abroad, take more internationally-oriented courses, and perhaps undertake international careers,” he says. In the meantime, he says the MISU program, now offered in winter, could expand to both semesters.

The program is supported and administered by the Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs and the International Institute.

Written by Kevin Brown, The University Record


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Provost’s Seminar Focuses on Teaching Trends

Faculty hear from others who flip classes for more effective teaching



Steven Skerlos relishes teaching his engineering students more now because he “flipped” his class.

Skerlos, professor of mechanical engineering, no longer devotes his entire class time to lecturing and making PowerPoint presentations, which he says can be energy-draining. Instead, he assigns readings and videos, and students must answer questions or solve problems prior to class – a process that is invigorating because students are more likely to retain the material learned.

“Flipping gives us (professors) energy because students are engaged and interested so it just fires you up for the next class,” said Skerlos, who also is a professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Skerlos and faculty across many disciplines talked about flipping during a recent Provost’s Seminar on Teaching at the Michigan League. The event enabled participants to share and discuss strategies for flipping, as well as learn from faculty who have already adopted the concept.

Flipping has become more widely used because students can use technology outside of class, which leaves time for more classroom discussions and collaborations, said Martha Pollack, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

Faculty members often seek new ways to engage students, who sometimes are bored or disengaged in traditional lectures. In a flipped class, students watch videos, listen to podcasts and read before lectures.

When they come to class, a significant portion of time is freed up to discuss the lessons and ask questions about material they didn’t understand. In other words, there is increased active learning and student engagement.

“Student engagement is critical to the learning process,” said Constance Cook, associate vice provost for academic affairs and executive director at the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching.

The CRLT event, which had about 190 participants, included a moderated panel discussion with four faculty members who use the concept.

Panelist Libby Brough, a clinical instructor in the School of Nursing, has her students listen to podcasts and read peer-reviewed articles to prepare for class. To ensure students are accountable and understand the content, there is a quiz each week. In addition, students work through case studies in groups, often presenting their analyses to the entire class, she said.

In the breakout sessions, participants discussed ways to apply strategies for flipping classrooms in their own disciplines.

In one session, some of them raised questions about managing their workload, especially if more quizzes are given each semester; ways to teach a large classroom with hundreds of students versus a smaller one; and getting push-back from students who might not want to participate in this learning format.

Comparing his students prior to implementing flipping, Skerlos said his recent students have performed better on their exams because they are more engaged in the work.

Some panelists and CRLT staff advised participants interested in flipping classes to find faculty members who already incorporate the concept in their teachings. In addition, the CRLT staff is available for one-on-one and group sessions about flipping.

Written by Jared Wadley, News Service


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Provost Announces Teaching Innovation Prizes

Tools, apps, sticks and games top the list

Five U-M faculty projects that demonstrate fresh approaches to advance student learning will be recognized May 6, as winners of the fifth annual Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize (TIP).

The award is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT), and the U-M Library.

“The five creative projects developed by faculty demonstrate effective ways to inspire students and engage them in learning,” Provost Phil Hanlon says. “The collection of innovative teaching projects that faculty are pursuing across the university is impressive.”

The U-M community is invited to a 9 a.m. poster fair and breakfast buffet in the Michigan League before the TIP awards are presented at 10 a.m. in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre on the opening day of Enriching Scholarship 2013. In addition to TIP posters, the fair will feature projects by teams who received CRLT Investigating Student Learning grants.

A faculty committee selected the winning TIP projects from 67 nominated by students, staff and faculty peers. The winners will receive $5,000.

The winning projects, with descriptions drawn from material provided by CRLT, are:

gillespieFeeling Is Believing: Haptic Feedback Links Math and Intuition – Brent Gillespie, associate professor of mechanical engineering, College of Engineering.

Students may be capable of manipulating mathematical models of physical systems in the abstract, yet lack intuitive understanding of how changes in system variables will manifest physically. The Cigar Box is a tool that makes the same behavior that is being described mathematically accessible to students’ haptic senses of touch and motion.

The tool turns code into virtual environments that can be touched and manipulated, much like the real world objects to which they refer. Best of all, model parameters can be changed on the fly as students interactively explore dynamic systems. This teaching innovation addresses challenges that may be found in any discipline.

The instructor identified a gap in the experiences of current student cohorts, who tend to be far more familiar with clicking a computer mouse than tinkering directly with mechanical objects. The Cigar Box provides an alternative and more flexible means of acquiring mechanical experience and intuition.

“My group designed a program that lets (Cigar Box) users feel the force feedback of a ball bouncing between a ceiling and a floor,” one student wrote.

lavaqueGamifying a Large, Introductory Course and Fostering Student Autonomy – Mika LaVaque-Manty, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and associate professor of political science and philosophy, LSA.

“Gamification” is the application of structures, rules and logics encountered in games to non-game contexts. Conventional reward systems mark students down. This discourages them from a crucial part of learning: failing and trying again. However, when students focus on earning points, they are motivated to do more work and to take on new challenges.

The most important game element in a course is having multiple paths to achievement. Autonomy and problem solving are fostered when students must think about how to navigate the challenges posed by a menu of creative options for major assignments.

Reflecting on their interests and strengths develops students’ metacognitive skills, and they become self-regulated learners. Choice and creativity also rev up students’ willingness to thoughtfully and enthusiastically engage with complex texts by authors who died centuries ago.

One student wrote that students were encouraged “to create unconventional projects about the texts … (students) were presenting card games and comic strips to explain political theory.”

hortschSecondLook (or if Socrates taught with an iPad): Helping Students Evaluate Their Learning – Michael Hortsch, associate professor of cell and developmental biology, Medical School.

This is a study aid that lets learners self-test their ability to recognize visual structures and interpret their significance. Originally developed for PowerPoint and disseminated via a Medical School website, the resource became available through the iTunes Store in November 2012. During the first three months it was downloaded 1,438 times across 74 different countries.

This innovation is particularly relevant to any discipline that introduces students to large amounts of visual material. Several features of the SecondLook iPad app make the resource an especially useful guide for navigating these landscapes.

The instructor organizes new visual information and makes it more manageable by restricting the slide deck for each system to 12-30 images. Arrows and other markings direct learners’ attention to key features. This approach tends to result in better retention.

“Helps students to understand the importance of active studying and self-testing to make broader connections and to recognize patterns within the material – a skill which carries over into all disciplines,” one student wrote.

gouldThe Drum Diaries: Inspiring and Integrating Exploration and Practice – Michael Gould, associate professor of jazz and contemporary improvisation, School of Music, Theatre & Dance and Residential College, LSA.

The project provides access to vast collections of audio and visual music recordings through one technological device. Digital tablets now offer opportunities to surpass the predominant format typically available to new players of instruments – the method book plus CD.

With the Drum Diaries iBook loaded on an iPad propped on a music stand, a student can quickly switch from reading, seeing or hearing to playing along or improvising. Music methodology, technique, styles and history all can be integrated with examples, practice tips and hyperlinks.

Gould’s work heading percussion clinics and master classes, as well as online drum lessons inform the instruction. Skype clinics with external students who have been immersed in the Drum Diaries have shown that these students master material much more rapidly and ask more penetrating questions about specific techniques or styles than students who have worked only with printed method books.

“The curriculum of Drum Diaries provides a new and different challenge each day, with the goal of kick-starting one’s own creative process,” one student wrote.

alvarezThe Stick Project: To Transform and be Transformed – Antonio (Tony) Alvarez, lecturer I, School of Social Work.

In social work, it is challenging to convey to students the process of personal transformation for clients seeking change in one or more aspects of their lives, and to address the responsibility inherent in guiding another. Not only must practitioners be able to build effective relationships with clients, but they must also practice effective self care to protect against burnout.

Part of an experiential-based syllabus, the Stick Project assignment invites students to observe, write about, and physically transform ordinary sticks. The experience teaches clinical humility and empathy with a client’s purpose for engagement. Future practitioners develop flexibility and tolerance for ambiguity.

“Why would I want to spend hours and days carrying a stick around in awkward situations and wracking my brain to find some unique way to make it my own?” asked one student. “Because being a good social worker requires self-reflection, creativity, innovation, and knowing how to handle awkward moments.”

Written by Kevin Brown, The University Record


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Michigan’s World Class

The present and future of teaching and learning at U-M

Students earning credit for creating cell phone learning apps for Singapore 3rd graders.

A course in which students visit habitats, collect samples and observe interactions in nature, in order to understand environmental challenges.
Faculty who take students to Detroit to figure out a watering system for a community garden, engage children in the arts and help a non-profit group with a business problem.

These are just some of the ways teaching and learning happen at the University of Michigan. The stories of life-changing classroom experiences, inspiring faculty members, and students itching to roll up their sleeves and work on societal problems are the focus of a new series at U-M.

Michigan’s World Class celebrates teaching and learning at U-M by telling stories of how schools and colleges and, more importantly, the faculty in them, are challenging today’s students in new ways.

“We’re in a moment of critical change in the ways that higher education works for our students,” says Phil Deloria, associate dean for undergraduate education in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts.

“Teaching is absolutely central to life at the University of Michigan. It connects with the research mission. It connects with our mission to the state, the nation and the world. It connects up to our desire to innovate and create new possibilities, and to take the knowledge that we have, and convey it, make it useful, useable and wonderful for the next generation,” says Deloria, who also is the Carroll Smith-Rosenberg Collegiate Professor of History and American Culture. “It’s really the heart of everything we do; it’s why we are here.”

Teaching takes many forms at U-M, ranging from the classic lecture to courses that use the latest and greatest technology, not only to engage students but track and measure their success.

A number of U-M faculty are “flipping classroom,” offering lectures online so that class time can be spent in discussion and problem solving, leading to better understanding of the ideas and a better ability to use those ideas. Still others are matching students with people and organizations to work on projects in attempt to help address real problems.

“What we have to do is move our students from lower order thinking skills, which are about producing content, into higher order thinking skills, which are about synthesis and creativity. And one of the best tools that we have to do that is to bring them into an immersive, hands-on or action based situation.” Deloria says.

Provost Phil Hanlon agrees, noting additional ways students are learning today, including engaging with faculty in their research; participating in service learning, entrepreneurial activities, creative performance and clinical placements; and taking advantage of travel abroad experiences.

“The future I see is that the balance between that kind of active learning and passive learning in the classroom is going to have to shift considerably to the active learning side. So we’re going to be doing more situations with students in small groups, who, together with faculty, are actually grappling with complex problems in the world,” Hanlon says.

He adds that U-M has a long history of preparing leaders in its twofold mission of advancing knowledge to solve world problems, and educating and preparing leaders to go out and change the world.

“Beyond the traditional skills that go with a University of Michigan education, an additional set of skill have achieved a new level of importance. Those are things like learning how to take risks in a complex environment, learning to work well with people who are from very different backgrounds and perspectives, and being able to work comfortably in settings, which are unlike anything you’ve ever seen,” says Hanlon, who also is the Donald J Lewis Collegiate Professor of Mathematics, and in Fall 2012 taught a course on the university budget process.

The immersive learning experience is at the heart of much of the curriculum in the College of Engineering, where from the first introductory course students engage with hands-on, often client-based experiences, and hundreds of students from schools and colleges across campus come together on projects like the solar car.

“A lot of learning happens when students engage with the material, when they try it out, when they try and use ideas that they’ve learned from a classroom or learned from reading a textbook,” says James Holloway, associate dean of engineering, Thurnau Professor and professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences. “Learning happens when they work together, and when they work on an authentic project, where there’s a real deliverable.”

Much of the shift in teaching and learning is related to advances in technology. The leaders all agree student immersion into technology leads to greater expectations that it will be a part of their learning experience. But there are additional reasons for the changing face of education today.

Constance Cook, associate provost and director of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, says research has led to greater understanding of the way the brain works and how learning occurs.

“Faculty have benefitted from that kind of research. They now understand that lectures do not lead to the deep learning that they are hoping students will achieve. That if you have action-based, immersive, engaged learning for students, they are more likely to learn critical thinking and creativity skills. They are more likely to be innovative as they graduate from this university.”

Cook adds that CRLT focuses on providing support for faculty to adapt to the changing needs of today’s diverse student body.

“There are lots of funds for faculty who want to do innovative projects with their students, and there are plenty of programs about teaching strategies, with faculty colleagues offering examples. CRLT and other offices provide inspiration and guidance – both in person and on the web. And we see at this university many faculty who take good advantage of these opportunities,” Cook says.

Programs offered to faculty include grant funding to try out new approaches and technology, to take students on trips, or to pay for outside speakers and other activities; programs that bring faculty together to share experiences and ideas; and programs that showcase excellence, including the Thurnau Professorships and the Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize.

In addition, LSA offers support for its faculty, including Teaching Transformed Grants, which help a senior faculty member who wants to integrate new methods into the classroom but needs a technical expert to work alongside him or her for a time.

Hanlon also points to the new Third Century Initiative, launched a year ago, which includes allocating $50 million over five years for the development of innovative student learning experiences and creative approaches to the world’s greatest challenges and opportunities. The Provost’s Office recently called for new proposals for the initiative.

“We have significant funding available to pilot new things, to try new things, to help faculty follow and develop their ideas,” Hanlon says.

The leaders say overall faculty at U-M have embraced the changing classroom environment.

“Faculty have learned to engage in that kind of active learning technique in their classrooms, but they’ve also learned how to create environments and experiences for students that are outside the classroom. And so our faculty are engaged in everything from classroom teaching to mentoring student projects to helping students find ways to study abroad,” Holloway says, adding that, like Hanlon, he sees a future in 10 years of even more action-based learning.

“We’re going to see students who come to a place like Ann Arbor for the richness of the educational and intellectual environment, and we’re going to prepare them to actually go out and work in the wider world.”

Written by Laurel Thomas Gnagey, senior public relations strategist, U-M News Service


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Northern Woods Summer

U-M Biostation: Scientific immersion for more than a century

Hands-on learning is growing at U-M but it is not a new concept for the university.

At a location some four hours from Ann Arbor, students have been engaged in coursework and field research for more than 100 years at the University of Michigan Biological Station (UMBS).

UMBS is a facility on more than 10,000 acres of forest, wetlands and lakeshore in Pellston, Mich., located at the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula.

Students have opportunity to take 14 courses in subjects such as forest ecosystems, aquatic ecology, environmental writing and great lakes literature, and ethnobotany.

The curriculum is interdisciplinary and immersive, as students from across schools and departments work together to collect and study specimens, interpret data, and discuss solutions to some of the greatest problems facing the scientific community.

The overall focus of the work is environmental sustainability, but students don’t just grapple with current issues of endangered and threatened species, water and air quality, invasive species and climate change. They also look back at how people have interacted with the environment throughout history.

For example, in a new enthnobotany course, students learn to identify 100 plant species and their Native American uses. See a slide show produced by LSA magazine on this course: here.

This storied outdoor campus, affectionately called “bug camp” by many, has provided students and researchers alike an opportunity to make new discoveries daily, in a picturesque environment, where collaboration is key.

Learn more

Written by Laurel Thomas Gnagey, senior public relations strategist, U-M News Service


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Just For Sophomores

Initiative: Builds on the Michigan Experience

It’s a story that plays out in many families. Emily Hill’s parents were getting concerned about the dollars they were investing in her education while she struggled to figure out what major she wanted to pursue, as the student from Bloomfield Hills, Mich. took a range of courses hoping to find inspiration. “During my freshman year at the university, I took courses like biological anthropology, world politics, astronomy, philosophy, and Greek literature, because I had no idea what I wanted to major in, and I thought that by taking courses like these, something would stick,” Hill, now a senior, says.

Then she heard of a new course titled A User’s Guide to the Liberal Arts, and she jumped on the opportunity to learn about the value of her education, in order to better explain its merits to her family.

“I learned the liberal arts teach you critical thinking, communication and writing skills that vocational studies tend to fall short in. When that was brought up, I remember feeling relieved that everything I had previously done was validated,” Hill says. Helping students to have a positive, open-minded and expansive sophomore year, one that encourages exploration and discovery, and reduces anxiety about selecting a major or career direction, is a central goal of the innovative Sophomore Initiative. To support it, a range of courses, including the User’s Guide, has been created, and select College of Literature, Sciences and the Arts (LSA) courses across disciplines have priority registration for sophomores.

A related goal is for sophomores to develop a deeper understanding of and appreciation for their liberal arts education and to begin to connect the dots between academic learning and their early career interests, through internships.

The roots of the initiative stem from a realization about the level of support freshmen and juniors traditionally get, compared to sophomores. For example, it’s traditional for freshmen to have access to plenty of academic and social support services from the start. In the third year, students with junior class standing also pick up a significant support network through their academic departments or programs, given they are expected to formally select a concentration by the end of their sophomore year.

But what about sophomores? That second year can be tough for this group of students. “You drop your high school friends but haven’t made lots of new ones; move out of the residence halls; are in less frequent contact with your advisor; realize that you’re not ‘pre-med’ after all, and — on top of all that — have to declare a concentration at the end of the year,” says Philip J. Deloria, Carroll Smith-Rosenberg Collegiate Professor of History and American Culture and associate dean for undergraduate education in LSA. Many sophomores have yet to determine what academic focus best fits their interests, and have even less developed ideas about what career paths may suit them well.

“We have learned from the university’s Career Center that articulating what their education has prepared them for is more challenging for LSA students, in part because our students are not in a pre-professional program such as business, engineering, nursing, or public policy, for example,” says Marjorie Horton, LSA assistant dean for undergraduate education.

Deloria agrees. “A major is a focused area of study; that doesn’t necessarily translate into a vocation. The 30-some credits in a major matter a great deal, but what matters just as much is the full range of experiences students acquire across the 120 credits that make up their LSA education.”

“It is crucial for our LSA students to know how valuable their liberal arts skills are to employers for internships, summer jobs and volunteer positions, and for jobs once they graduate and join the workforce,” Horton says.


As the User’s Guide class opens many are surprised by the full range of disciplines in the liberal arts.

“I remember a student who was concentrating in neuroscience, with a minor in Asian language and culture, and a potential second minor in the Program in the Environment,” Deloria says. “An honors student and scholarship recipient involved in community service, he did not identify himself as a liberal arts person, and yet he was the very personification of the liberal arts.” The example helped encourage LSA to create the course.

Margot Finn, a lecturer in the University Courses Division who recently taught in American Culture, LSA, is the instructor. “We explore how you use what you learn in your liberal arts classes to get a job you’ll find rewarding,” she says.

Some assignments are tailored to get students thinking in new ways about how to discover a career path. In one such assignment, Finn asks students to find people outside of their families pursuing a career, and to talk with them about how they found their vocations.

“It doesn’t have to be a job they plan to do personally, just one they find interesting,” she says. The exercise helps students to discover the value of networking in meeting career goals. “Students see that they should be talking to people. For example, if you’re thinking about applying to law school, maybe you talk to a couple of lawyers before you apply and ask what they do before assuming that’s the path,” she says, also noting the resource students have in the university’s alumni network.

The course also introduces students to the notion they may need to be resilient. Finn recruits alumni to share with the class an experience of career plans going awry, and how they rebounded.

Marzuq Haque, a sophomore and business administration major from West Bloomfield, says he took the class to learn more about liberal arts as an approach to education, in contrast to vocational training. “The most important thing is to always keep learning, to not just stop at your degree requirements,” Haque says.


To support the Sophomore Initiative, Deloria and Horton partnered with the Career Center to offer sophomores an Internship Readiness Program, and enlisted a pilot group of 80 LSA sophomores. Its goals were to help students define their interests and skills, prior to searching for internships, learn how to search for and obtain an internship through hands-on training and skill building, and get exposure to different industries.


“Personally I think the Internship Readiness Program prepared me the most in terms of professional presentation,” says Angel Ting, a junior from Malaysia. “Meeting with IRP advisers helped me to remake and tailor my resume according to the needs of the internships that I wanted to apply to. I learned how to phrase my experiences with professional and tailored words to fit the job descriptions and the qualities that the employers are searching for. Also, I learned a lot of tips and tricks to search for internships from different resources.”

The successful pilot program sparked the creation of the mini-course Positioning Yourself for a Successful Internship, offered by LSA both fall and winter terms. A key class objective is getting students to be able to tell their stories effectively or present who they are professionally to prospective employers, skills that also are central in the Career Center’s work with undergraduates. Horton says reflecting and building on one’s story encourages better choices about industries or organizations to explore. The exercise also builds confidence and knowledge about employment opportunities, so students are excited, more informed and see potential.

“We also wanted our students to understand how their internship experience could be an excellent opportunity to explore interests that might help define their academic program during their remaining years in LSA and that their internship experience was one step in a process of exploring, refining, and focusing in on their professional aspirations,” Horton says.

The course opens with frameworks for understanding oneself and for exploring the vast array of possible careers, says Aileen Kim, the course’s instructor and an LSA academic advisor. One of her current students is Cindy Yu, a sport management and communications major from San Diego.

“One day in class, Aileen told us her life story, and how originally she planned on being one major because that’s what her parents wanted her to do, but then she switched multiple times to figure out what she was truly passionate about. When I heard this, something in my mind just clicked and I realized everything was okay in that I was really happy in pursuing the career that I myself truly wanted to do,” Yu says.

Follow faculty and students as they write about their experiences with the Sophomore Initiative at sophomoreinitiative.tumblr.com.

Written by Kevin Brown, associate editor, University Record faculty and staff newspaper at U-M


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Regents Announce Arthur F. Thurnau Professorships

Six U-M faculty members have been honored for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education

Six faculty members have been honored for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education as this year’s recipients of Arthur F. Thurnau professorships.

Those honored include a leader in linguistics curriculum development, a creator of experiential learning projects tied to community involvement, and a professor whose charismatic teaching is described as “sheer magic.” Also selected are a pioneer in promoting civic engagement through art education, a professor training engineering students to combine technical expertise with global competence, and a psychology professor who in one popular course encourages students to relate theories to their own lives.

This year’s recipients are Samuel D. Epstein, Martha S. Jones, Fritz A. Kaenzig, Janice C. Paul, Volker Sick and L. Monique Ward. Descriptions of their work are taken from recommendations provided to the regents by Provost Phil Hanlon. The appointments, approved Feb. 21 by the Board of Regents, are titles the six will retain throughout their careers at the university.
Epstein, professor of linguistics, LSA, is an international leader in the study of generative syntax. His love for his subject and classroom performance create an interactive environment characterized by humor, respect, and lively participation, transforming large lectures into intimate intellectual exchanges. He encourages students to think critically about linguistic concepts. One student described him as “that one unforgettable teacher to whom one compares all other instructors.” His honors theses advisees have received awards, presented at national conferences, and published in peer-reviewed journals. He has inspired students to pursue graduate work, and he is known for providing “the voice of students” on policy and curriculum changes. He was a leader in developing the Language and Mind subconcentration and the interdisciplinary cognitive science major.



Jones, associate professor of history and associate chair of the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, LSA, is called by colleagues an innovative, collaborative and visionary teacher whose interdisciplinary research infuses her teaching. One colleague says her teaching “represents the very best of Michigan’s concern for undergraduate learning, for civic engagement, and for rigorous research.” Jones combines a caring, student-centered approach with insistence that students have a responsibility to plunge into primary sources and argue for their interpretation. Pushing beyond conventional classroom boundaries, she creates experiential learning projects that connect primary research with community involvement. Her public exhibits, such as the recent “Proclaiming Emancipation” project at the Hatcher Library, provide experiences where students discover how vivid the past can be.



Kaenzig, professor of music, School of Music, Theatre & Dance, maintains the highest standards of teaching while inspiring colleagues and students. Recipient of the 1999 Harold Haugh Award for excellence in studio teaching, his tuba/euphonium studio is acknowledged as the finest in the country. Many of his former students play in top orchestras or serve as professors at major schools of music. In the classroom, Kaenzig fosters a culture of responsibility, accountability, camaraderie, respectful competition, and mutual support. Students describe his charismatic teaching as “sheer magic” and a “rejuvenating balance of substance and inspiration.” His cultivation of diversity is evident in the success of a student who became the first woman ever to hold a principal tuba chair in a major American orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra.



Paul, professor of art, Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, and professor of social work, School of Social Work, has been a pioneer in the promotion of civic engagement through art education. She is dedicated to students’ intellectual, creative, and personal development and believes all deserve the tools and skills needed for positive, productive self-expression. Paul promotes reciprocal learning in which students grow by working with others. Her courses and programs serve as national models for best practice in university-community partnerships. This is demonstrated through her work with the Prison Creative Arts Project in which students facilitate art workshops for inmates. Colleagues say her commitment to diversity has brought about a seismic shift in how artists define themselves and their mission as educators.



Sick, associate vice president for research, natural sciences, and engineering, Office of the Vice President for Research, and professor of mechanical engineering, College of Engineering (CoE), has incorporated international perspectives into the experiences of CoE undergraduates. As faculty advisor to U-M’s top ranked Formula SAE racing team, he has mentored several generations of students, advocating for improved work space, additional funding and course credit. His commitment to diversity is evident in his promotion of international programs; support for underrepresented, transfer and international students; and the use of cross-cultural lab groups. Sick co-created the minor in international engineering, the first of its kind in the country and currently the most popular minor in the college. Through his groundbreaking Engineering Across Cultures seminar, students are trained to combine technical expertise with global competence.



Ward, professor of psychology, LSA, a leading scholar in the field of adolescent media socialization, is a 2011 John Dewey Award recipient. In her Introduction to Human Development course, she encourages students to relate theories to their own lives, turning a large lecture course into a personal experience and one of the most popular courses in the department. In a seminar on children and the media, she draws on psychological theory, enabling students to explore sensitive issues such as body image, racial perceptions, and sexual attitudes. Ward has mentored independent research for more than 100 undergraduates, many of whom have won awards, presented at conferences, and published their research. A colleague says that “single-handedly, Dr. Ward has trained a multi-ethnic and multiracial cohort of scholars who will take their place among the ranks of developmental psychologists across the country.”


Each year Thurnau Professorships recognize and reward a select group of tenured faculty members for their outstanding contributions to undergraduate education. Criteria for the award include a strong commitment to students and to teaching and learning, excellence in teaching, innovation in teaching and learning, a strong commitment to working effectively with a diverse student body, and a demonstrable impact on students’ intellectual and/or artistic development.

The professorships are named after alumnus Arthur F. Thurnau and supported by the Thurnau Charitable Trust, which was established through his will. Recipients receive $20,000 to support teaching activities, including travel, books, equipment and graduate student support.

Written by Kevin Brown, associate editor, University Record faculty and staff newspaper at U-M.


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Brain Power

Examining the brain-body connection

Talk about brain power.

At one point during class, students watched a video showing a live, human brain react to a gentle probe during an operation. It was hard not to wince as the brain matter squiggled at each probe.

It also was hard during the same video not to tear up when a young woman who has no legs says, “I can feel myself running and having my muscles contracting all through my legs. … But it’s a dream. I wake up and think, ‘Wow, where are they?’ It’s like a ghost haunting you; you can feel it, but you can’t see it.”

Just prior to that, students discussed the relative effects of someone’s arm nerves being “ripped out;” how people feel intense pain in limbs that do not exist; how all humans are born with a sense of their whole bodies, even if they are born without some limbs; and the effect human experience has on something called the “neuromatrix.” Students didn’t quite know what that was at first, only that whatever it was, every person has one.

But probably the most intriguing moment during this class devoted to the study of phantom limbs was when students performed their own experiments. A student extended one arm onto a table. An artificial hand was placed next to it, divided by a partition, so the student could not see the real hand. Another student simultaneously brushed both the real and artificial hands with a paint brush in an effort to see if the student would start “feeling” the stimulation of the artificial hand.

“I felt sensation in my real hand, but kind of in the other ‘hand’,” says Jesse Gold, 19, of Marlboro, N.J. “I was able to convince myself that the fake hand was maybe my real hand, and that I wasn’t really sure which was which at the time.”

Kate Lambert, 19, from Wixom, Mich., essentially agreed. “After they removed the brushing from the real hand, I still felt it while they were stroking the fake hand just for a few seconds.” It was a revealing experience, she added. She did not know people without limbs could experience pain and sensation. “I never knew something like that existed.”

You might think this is some kind of pre-med or science class full of juniors and seniors who know their way around medical textbooks, terms and videos showing live brains.

But you would be wrong.

This is Psychology 121, The Human Mind and Brain. It is full of freshmen, and only freshman – 23 in all. The class is part of the freshman seminar series, and every class period brings a new safari into the human brain. Previous classes have focused on savants, autism, mad cow disease, schizophrenia, amnesia, Alzheimer’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, and more.

The class is the, well, brain child of Dr. Thad Polk, and it reflects his unique expertise. Polk is a professor of psychology and electrical engineering and computer science. He is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor as well. His interest in “how the mind arises from the brain, one of the deepest questions in science” led Polk on his own intellectual safari from undergraduate math major to computer science graduate student to a doctorate in psychology and computer science, to post-doctoral cognitive neuroscience work. He has published extensively on neuroscience topics.

So talking about such concepts as somatosensory cortex, mesolimbic dopamine system and stump nerves may sound more apt for Polk rather than college freshmen. But Polk’s teaching prowess bridges the divide well. Freshman seminar classes, he says, are “intended to introduce freshman to interesting topics and get them interested in learning.”

“I chose phantom limbs” for this particular class, Polk continues, “because it sheds light on the relationship between the mind and brain. So on one hand, people tend to think that what we experience is simply what our sensory organs deliver to us. But with phantom limbs, patients will experience a limb that is no longer there, so it suggests what we consciously experience may not always be what our perception delivers. Sometimes, our brain can concoct experiences that our senses are not delivering.”

Polk approached this class as he does all of them. He found an article about the topic from a more accessible source, Scientific American, rather than the primary scientific literature; students also have a brain “coloring book.” Then he searched for a compelling video to “make it more concrete and tangible.” He finished it off with demonstrations to help students actually “feel” phantom limbs — and have some fun in the process.

Then, during class, Polk engaged students by encouraging them, for example, to answer one another’s questions rather than launch into lectures. He shied away from assigning word lengths on papers, telling students instead, “I’ll leave it to your discretion.”

It’s fair to say of Polk’s — and U-M’s — goals for this class: Mission accomplished.

At least that’s what his students say.

“I’m actually a poli-sci major, so I’m not involved in anything scientific at all, whatsoever,” Lambert says. “But I saw this was a small setting. …You’re not being lectured at, you get to ask all the questions, and just the topics that we cover are really interesting. … Things like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease (that) affect so many people in the country.”

“I didn’t think I wanted to do anything related to psychology,” says Gold, “but, I thought, it was an amazing opportunity to read and learn about the brain — just knowing how complex our brain is and how complex our whole body is. My favorite lesson was about savants. We talked about the prodigious savants who learn all these amazing things, but have a very low IQ.” For instance, “they’ll hear a song one time and play it right back to you, never knowing how to play a piano.”

So teaching 19-year-olds about neuroscience doesn’t have to be brain surgery after all. It’s all about making good connections with your students, Polk says. “Classes can go one of two ways. The teacher can become an adversary of students, or the teacher can become an ally. If students see a teacher doing everything they can to help them do well, and to do well on quizzes and tests, they get a much better experience.”

Sheryl James is a Pulitzer Prize-winning, freelance journalist from Brighton, Mich.


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Third Century initiative funds first project

The University of Michigan’s Third Century Initiative has awarded $825,000 to two dozen projects designed to enhance action-based, experiential learning for students.

Transforming Learning for a Third Century (TLTC), one of four programs encompassing the $50 million Third Century Initiative–along with M-Cubed, Global Challenges for a Third Century and the Learning Analytics Task Force—will provide grants of up to $50,000 each to 24 proposals, ranging from new applications of existing best practices to high-risk/high-reward experimental innovations.

The projects, which cut across a dozen schools and colleges and even more programs and units across campus, were selected through a competitive process involving nearly 60 proposals and are divided between TLTC’s two options: Quick Wins and Discovery and Transformation.

Quick Wins provides up to $25,000 for relatively small-scale, “shovel-ready” projects that have transformative potential for curriculum, pedagogy and student learning.

Discovery and Transformation is a longer-term, two-phase funding program intended to inspire forward-thinking approaches to student learning beyond traditional resources and networks. The Discovery phase provides up to $50,000 for selected projects where a general hypothesis regarding teaching and learning can be questioned, explored and planned or piloted. Successful Discovery projects may then be submitted for the Transformation phase (awards range from $100,000 to $500,000).

About 70 percent of the funds ($575,000) awarded for the first round went to 13 Discovery projects. These include:

  • Bluecorps Technology Teaching Proposal: Helping faculty members develop skills and strategies for teaching with technology in the context of action-based learning courses (College of Literature, Science, and the Arts).
  • Bringing Entrepreneurial Skills to Students in the Arts: Education and institutional support for creative-arts entrepreneurial projects (School of Music, Theatre and Dance; U-M Library).
  • Change Agents for Transforming Society: Development of new dialogue and sociopolitical skills for public health professionals in complex and volatile situations in communities they serve (School of Public Health, Program on Intergroup Relations).
  • The University Detroit Center Connector: Linking Ann Arbor with Detroit, and Detroit with Ann Arbor: Providing regular shuttle service to unleash the full potential of civic engagement and student learning in collaboration with partners in Detroit (Semester in Detroit Program, U-M Detroit Center).

The remaining $250,000 awarded by TLTC went to 11 Quick Wins projects, including:

  • U-M Campus Farm/Sustainable Food Systems Program: Establishment of campus farm at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens as a living-learning laboratory focuses on the growing of food and sustainable agricultural practices (School of Natural Resources and Environment, Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute).
  • Living the Blues–Roots Music Immersion Curriculum: A three-pronged course to immerse students in American vernacular roots music—as scholars, instrument builders, performers—culminating in a faculty-supervised driving trip to New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta to engage people and places critical to the American roots music tradition first-hand (School of Music, Theatre and the Arts; College of LSA’s American Culture)
  • College of Engineering Common Reading Program: Incorporate required book readings and discussions for all first-year students and possible community site visits relevant to the books (College of Engineering).
  • Development of Team Action Projects in Surgery: Develop an innovative and team-based approach to quality improvement and safety initiatives, integrating house officers and students into diverse, multilevel teams (Medical School’s Department of Surgery).

The 24 winning projects across the two programs (Quick Wins and Discovery) were chosen by the Office of the Provost based on recommendations of the Student Learning Advisory Committee, comprised of eight faculty members across campus. Project descriptions can be found at www.provost.umich.edu/thirdcentury/student.html.

The Quick Wins program is currently accepting proposals through April 15 for its second round of funding, which will be announced by June 1. Discovery likely will launch another call for proposals in May.

Written by Bernie DeGroat, U-M News Service.


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Global Phone Connections

Undergrads develop learning apps for Singapore 3rd graders

The hair-raising roar of elephants, unexpectedly embedded in a Singapore third grader’s science report, heralds the early success of a UM-developed learning applications program for smartphones.

Called MyDesk, the application suite is developed by Elliot Soloway and his Learning Apps for Primary Education undergraduate class.

The program meets goals of providing easy access to learning tools that spark self-directed, creative, effective learning.

This past semester, 352 Nan Chiau Primary School third grade science students used the app to research and complete assignments — and to surprise their teachers, Soloway and the U-M students.

“They ended up turning in all this stuff teachers didn’t expect,” says project manager and graduate assistant Cody Bird — namely, elephant and monkey sounds to augment a report on animal diversity. The third graders did this by repurposing a voice recorder note-taking application.

“How could we predict the recorder would be used that way?” says Soloway, smiling. But he says this is exactly the sort of ingenuity he hoped the applications suite would spark. “The kids learn by doing,” says the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, College of Engineering, professor of education, School of Education, and professor of information, School of Information.

The applications suite is working as hoped. The first round of test results comparing students using MyDesk to those who were not revealed users had significantly higher science scores. “That was the proof we needed to see,” says Vidal Borromeo, an Ypsilanti senior working this summer as a research programmer on the applications suite.

Soloway says third graders can sit and listen to a lecture about the water cycle. But learning by doing, aided by MyDesk, promotes deeper understanding. “They create documents in response to the assignments, they create animation that describes the growth of a plant, that represents their understanding of multiple linked representations,” he says.

MyDesk also serves as a mobile classroom where children can do work and teachers share feedback. There are apps for concept mapping to talk about cycles and processes, a basic part of science learning. “There’s no better way to develop an understanding and demonstrate an understanding of a scientific process than by developing some concrete digital model of that process,” Soloway says. “That’s exactly the kind of educational software we provide.”

“To the best of our knowledge no other company, organization, or university is attempting to address technology-collaboration in education with this comprehensive of an approach,” Borromeo says. “Eventually, every student in America will be using a mobile device for learning. Our goal is that every single one of those devices will be running the MyDesk learning platform.”


Borromeo remembers well his first day in Soloway’s classroom. That’s because he and other students got their first look at their instructor not in person, but via Skype, from Singapore. Soloway got right to the point, explaining the class would be starting from scratch writing the software for the smartphones and the server, as an integrated platform. “He said we had to deliver, and everything just stepped up a notch,” Borromeo recalled.

In mid-April, Soloway enters a classroom in the Dow Building and offers a bag of snacks for all to share as he opens a Learning Apps class session. He tells students, “Why don’t you take your phones out and put them on the table? You’re going to be programming for kids who are using the phones.”

From their laptop computers, students access branches of MyDesk system codes for testing. “We’re just trying to make sure it’s stable, and performing the way users expect it to,” says Andrew Sapperstein, graduate computer science student.

Several minutes in, Soloway asks the class, “Any bugs so far?” Rachael Fleischmann, a CoE junior from Palo Alto, Calif., tweaks the computer code to fix a glitch in a MyDesk sketchbook application. It allowed a slideshow image to grow so much that it obscured controls at the bottom of the view screen.

Students in this class also are building a center for educational games to add to the MyDesk suite. “Before, a teacher would have to find the games separately. The idea is the phone is something that can deliver an infinite amount of content via the Internet, to reinforce the curriculum,” says Prashanth Sadasivan, a CoE junior from Seattle, Wash.

One key development of MyDesk is that tools have a similar look and feel, making them easy and quick to learn. “Teachers hate wasting classwork time when they have to teach students different applications,” Soloway says.

His students also are working to add a classroom social network application to the MyDesk suite. “We’re trying to get kids working with one another in a controlled environment with oversight by teachers to guide the discussion, to get students discussing topics rather than just receiving lectures,” Bird says.


“Upon alighting the plane, my glasses fogged up and my skin moistened with sweat. I had not expected it to be so blisteringly hot and humid,” says Jason Long, a recent computer science graduate from Rochester Hills.

Long, Soloway and Alexandra Burrell, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in computational informatics this spring, visited Singapore as the project began in January. Both students remained several weeks. “We would see how they were using the apps and if there were any problems. We were there to help resolve questions,” Burrell says. She recalls the time a student sought help with the MyDesk drawing application, wondering if it had an eraser. It did.

While Singapore is perceived as rigid with strict laws to maintain an orderly city, Long found the Singaporean third graders lively and fun-loving, much like their American counterparts—and just as eager to embrace things technological. “The first time the students got to use the phones was on a zoo trip,” Long recalls. “As little kids getting new toys, they were ecstatic about the phones. They were constantly snapping photos of different plants and animals to do their assignments. They had little trouble using the software and most took more than 100 photos.”

The third graders learned more than new applications. “I think the students learned about looking at things in detail. Some of their assignments were to photograph an animal and then explain its different characteristics,” he says.

Long himself learned about Singapore’s unique character, including its food. “There are so many different cultures here, and its food is truly a melting pot of all their best dishes,” he says. Long’s favorite was a barbecued pork dish offered at food courts and by vendors. “The meat is always tender and the skin crunchy. It’s usually served with cucumbers and rice or noodles.”

The learning apps project is supported by Singapore’s Ministry of Education. “Singapore knows this is a global marketplace and to compete you have to be self-directed learners and collaborative learners,” Soloway says. Nokia, Microsoft and Qualcomm are also involved in the project.

Joining Soloway in directing the project is his research colleague of 15 years, Dr. Cathie Norris, also works with him in Singapore. Norris for 14 years was a classroom teacher, and focuses her attention on teacher and curriculum issues while Soloway focuses more on technology. “There are so many moving parts at Nan Chiau; I am so lucky to have a partner in Cathie who can focus on classroom issues and make sure the technology fits smoothly into the classroom,” he says.


In a recent keynote address before the Enriching Scholarship 2012 conference at Rackham Auditorium, Soloway declared this as the Age of Mobilism. “Smartphones: that’s what the future is,” he says. “To make the transition from a paper-based textbook educational model; that’s what’s really going on. They’re moving from a typical worksheet instruction method or didactic instruction, to what’s called a work-by-doing model, in which kids are creating all kinds of artifacts. In the creating of artifacts learning develops,” he says.

Soloway’s progressive learning-by-doing teaching philosophy actually is rooted in old-school progressive education theory. He is influenced by educator and philosopher John Dewey, whose career included a stint on the U-M faculty. Dewey found that education and learning are social and interactive processes.

“He built the (U-M) School of Education,” Soloway says. “He believed teachers should give students something to do and in the doing comes learning.”

Borromeo says in addition to the learning evidenced by higher science test scores, MyDesk students also scored better in language-verbal skills. “This was not expected since MyDesk isn’t being used in other subjects yet. We attribute this added benefit to the very nature of the collaborative learning fostered by the MyDesk platform,” he says, adding the applications suite will be expanded to other subjects in the coming academic year.

Burrell, who recently began a job with Apple, said the value of the class for her was witnessing the possibilities of technology.

“It was seeing kids using it. Technology has been treated as a difficult thing. But it’s reaching a point where it’s not unique, its ubiquitous. It can be part of a second brain for third graders.”

“We’re building software that we see kids are actually using on the other side of the planet,” says Jacob Steinerman, from Long Island, N.Y., who recently earned a Bachelor of Science degree in social computing informatics. “To still be in school and to make such a huge difference is amazing.”

Written by Kevin Brown, associate editor, University Record faculty and staff newspaper at U-M


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Five U-M Courses on the Go

iTunes U App features new courses from the University of Michigan

Open.Michigan and Michigan Creative worked together to publish five openly licensed University of Michigan courses on iTunes U. The courses, which are also freely available onopen.umich.edu, can now be viewed on iPhones, iPads, and iPod touch mobile devices using the iTunes U app. The iTunes U app allows learners to add notes to lecture materials and to download content to their mobile devices on demand. Here are descriptions and links to the courses on iTunes U and on Open.Michigan:

Corporate Finance for Health Care Administrators

Corporate Finance for Health Care Administrators cover

Image adapted from anneh632 under a Creative Commons license: BY-SA

This course concentrates on corporate finance topics. It aims to impart an understanding of how finance theory and practice can inform the decision-making of the health care firm. (CC BY-NC-SA Jack Wheeler)

iTunes U | Open.Michigan

Introduction to Information Studies

Intro to Information Studies cover

Image by John Pariseau

The vaunted Information Revolution is more than Web surfing, Net games, and dotcoms. Indeed, it is the foundation for an economic and social transformation on a scale comparable to the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century. This course provides the foundational knowledge necessary to begin to address the key issues associated with the Information Revolution. (CC BY-SA Robert Frost)

iTunes U | Open.Michigan

Introduction to Statistics and Data Analysis

Statistics cover

Image adapted from teegardin under a Creative Commons license: BY-SA

This course covers applied statistical methodology from an analysis-of-data viewpoint. Topics covered include frequency distributions; measures of location; mean, median, mode; measures of dispersion; variance; graphic presentation; elementary probability; populations and samples; sampling distributions; one sample univariate inference problems, and two sample problems; categorical data; regression and correlation; and analysis of variance. (CC BY-NC-SA Brenda Gunderson)

iTunes U | Open.Michigan

Laboratory Methods for Clinical Microbiology>

Lab Methods cover

Image adapted from Yaw Adu-Sarkodie, Cary Engleberg, Charles Agyei Osei under a Creative Commons license: CC BY-NC

This comprehensive module explores common laboratory experiments for microbiology, including microbiological stains (e.g. Gram stains), assessing the accuracy of diagnostic tests, measuring antibody response to infection, and detection of microbial antigens, and nucleic acid amplification (e.g. Polymerase Chain Reaction). (CC BY-NC Yaw Adu-Sarkodie, Cary Engleberg, Charles Agyei Osei)

iTunes U | Open.Michigan

Structures 2

Structures cover

Image adapted from Gregor_y under a Creative Commons license: BY-SA

This course explores the basic principles of elastic behavior for different materials such as wood, steel, concrete, and composite materials and compares the properties and applications of materials generally. Additionally, it investigates cross sectional stress and strain behavior in flexure and in shear, and torsion as well as the stability of beams and columns. The qualitative behavior of combined stresses and fracture in materials is also covered. (CC BY Peter von Buelow)

iTunes U | Open.Michigan


U-M courses in iTunes U app library



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The flexibility of Creative Commons licenses allows us to take advantage of opportunities to increase the visibility, audience, and features of the openly licensed content within our collection. Redistributing these courses on iTunes U is a perfect example of this, and we are delighted to bring some of the Open.Michigan collection into this space. Please download, use, share, and comment on these courses!


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Startup Success

U-M startup Lecturetools acquired by Echo360

ANN ARBOR—A University of Michigan startup company that bridges the gap between students and professors with technology was acquired today by Echo360.

LectureTools is a web-based student response, note-taking and inquiry system that turns cell phones, iPads and laptops into learning aids, allowing students in large lecture settings to more effectively interact with professors.

Echo360 is a Dulles, Va.-based education technology company specializes in active learning tools. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Echo360 selected LectureTools because it embodies how outstanding innovation can address an urgent teaching need, measurably improve the learning experience, and do so through a smart and efficient technology solution,” said Fred Singer, CEO of Echo360.

Perry Samson, the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences and the developer of LectureTools, said the deal means the Ann Arbor-based company would play a significant role designing an active learning platform.

“As part of this deal, the LectureTools group will expand significantly in Ann Arbor with a focus on integrating the multiple tools that research says can help improve student participation and engagement,” Samson said.

Samson will continue teaching at U-M while serving as Head of Education Innovation at Echo 360

“This is a huge opportunity for Ann Arbor to play a significant role in the delivery of online courses and to improve the environment for face-to-face courses,” Samson said. “By joining Echo360, we can deliver the benefits of LectureTools technology to more than 500 universities around the globe quickly and easily.”

Samson and a group of former students cofounded the Weather Underground, which sold in the summer to the Weather Channel. LectureTools also sprouted with a dedicated group of recently graduated U-M students including Jason Aubrey, Bret Squire and Sharanyan Ravi. Aubrey, cofounder of LectureTools, joins Echo360 as a product manager.

“It is a testament to the quality of students at the University of Michigan that these businesses have flourished,” he said.

Samson said the deal could give LectureTools broader reach for in-class activities, with tools for use outside class. Notes taken either in class or during the playback of a podcast, for example, will be synchronized. And work in or out of class will be tied to the students’ textbooks or files that the instructor uploads.

Through the LectureTools technology, students can rate their comprehension slide by slide and the instructor can see the feedback in real time. They also can ask questions that teaching assistants can answer online as the lecture continues. Answered questions become anonymously visible to the entire class, and they’re saved into an archive of student inquiry. Students can type notes right in the system, alongside the instructor’s slides. And they can bookmark certain slides for later review.

Together, these features create a central place for students to access all of their study materials, which can help them stay organized and engaged, developers say.

To get off the ground, LectureTools received support from both the National Science Foundation and the U-M and utilized resources from U-M’s TechArb business incubator and worked extensively with U-M Tech Transfer’s Venture Center.

“We’re pleased for LectureTools, one of our 2012 classes of U-M startups that was nurtured by both our Venture Center and the TechArb student accelerator,” said Ken Nisbet, executive director of U-M Tech Transfer. “We’ve already been in conversation with Echo360 about ways the University could assist to further their growth potential in Ann Arbor.”

U-M Tech Transfer: www.techtransfer.umich.edu
LectureTools: www.lecturetools.com
Echo360: http://echo360.com


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Engaging with Detroit

Students live, study and work in the motor city

So there they were, all 24 UM students, crowded into the small studio, singing a cappella — and from memory:

I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day. When it’s cold outside, I’ve got the month of May. I guess you’d say What can make me feel this way? My girl, my girl, my girl Talkin’ ’bout my girl –my girl!

As they finished the last words, the group burst out laughing and clapping — these young folks who were born more than 30 years after the original Motown hit was recorded by the Temptations.

But they weren’t just singing this song. They were singing it in the very same place where it first was recorded in 1964. That studio, featuring the most rudimentary equipment, was a converted garage connected to a modest house on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit – the place Motown Records itself was established by Berry Gordy, Jr. in 1960. Since 1985, the house has been a museum called “Hitsville,” a vibrant walk through history right where it all took place.

In fact, before they broke out in song, the students went through the museum; listened to their tour guide’s narrative about Gordy’s entrepreneurial prowess; saw original 45 Motown hit records; and watched a video showing old, grainy, black and white televisions shows of Martha and the Vandellas singing “Dancing in the Streets,” Diana Ross and the Supremes, and other young Motown artists.

There had been more to the day’s learning for these students. Just prior to the tour of Hitsville, back at the University of Michigan Detroit Center, students learned all about The Motor City in the 1960s. They watched a video about the 1967 riots, full of television images from that unhappy time. They read lyrics to several Motown hits and discussed the significance of all that happy singing and social unrest.

All of this was part of a class at U-M’s Detroit Center on the city’s history, taught by Dr. Stephen Ward, associate professor in the Residential College (RC) and the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies.

Then they piled into cars and went to the corner of Rosa Parks Boulevard (in ’67, it was 12th Street) and Clairmount Avenue – the very corner where the riots began. Now a modest park bearing benches, trees and a metal sculpture – but no historic marker – the students listened to Ward and Dr. Angela Dillard, director of the RC, whose parents lived in the area when she was a kid, prior to and during the riots.

The area formerly had been a Jewish neighborhood, Dillard explained as students circled around. By 1967, most had moved to the suburbs and this area had become a “transitional” neighborhood of African-Americans – and pretty much the only place they were “allowed” to live, given the racial constructs of the time.

“This was a very dense neighborhood,” Dillard said. “People were just packed into this area. It was crowded, hot,” and residents were frustrated. When police raided a blind pig in the basement of the printing company July 23, the place exploded.

As they stood there in that quiet park and then, later, in the Motown studio, the students were transfixed by what they were seeing and learning.

It was all so …. evocative.

And it was all so Semester In Detroit.

This day’s events, which occurred in June, were typical of what students do, and how they do it, during U-M’s Semester In Detroit (SID) program, which is entering its fourth year and has become quite popular. The comprehensive program’s three pillars requiring students to live, study and work in Detroit, totally immerses students in a city most of them know little about.

“I have always been a fan of Motown, but to be honest, I had never really associated it with Detroit,” admits one of the students, Mary Naoum, 20, a sophomore majoring in theater arts. “Learning about Motown in class and going to the museum made me proud to be associated with Detroit.”

Such sentiment is proof of SID’s effectiveness as a dynamic, nontraditional approach to teaching and learning, says Craig Regester, SID associate director. “The combination and interplay among the three core components of SID — living, studying and working in Detroit — is what we believe makes us most distinctive. Each of these three programmatic aspects strengthens and illuminates the others; ultimately, this enables our students to engage with Detroit in substantive and serious ways.

“Detroit is an incredibly important, historic and vibrant city,” continues Regester, who has lived here since 1995. “It’s important to find ways to integrate our courses with the landscape of the city.”

The total program includes traditional classes focusing on Detroit, such as “Planning Detroit: Past, Present, Future;” the community-based internship; Internship Reflection Seminar; a Detroit Speaker Series, which features visits by some of the city’s leaders and prominent citizens; and elective courses. Students can take courses at Wayne State University.

By completing SID and taking one required class on Ann Arbor’s campus, students can earn the LSA Minor in Urban Studies. The entire SID program is funded by the Office of the Provost and administered through the Residential College, though students do not have to be in the RC to enroll in SID. The program also receives support from LSA.

Excursions to various Detroit sites such as the 1967 riot park and Hitsville, says Dr. Ward, “are a central part of the class. This class meets every Tuesday and Thursday. On Tuesdays, we meet in the classroom and discuss the week’s readings, supplemented with viewing documentaries, listening to music, analyzing primary source documents. On Thursdays, we take trips somewhere in the city related to the class sessions. These excursions vary. We have been to places such as the old Packard Plant, the Guardian Building, the Ossien Sweet home, the DIA (Detroit Institute of Arts). One week we took the Ford Rouge Plant tour.”

The SID program’s partners – nonprofit and community organizations that students intern with during the semester – are a crucial part of that student-city integration, says Dillard. “We’re committed to the internship component, which places students in a variety of places, ranging from the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, to the Hub,” a nonprofit bicycle reuse and repair shop, “to the offices of individual elected officials, to New Detroit and many more.” Students must work 16 hours per week at their internships.

Originally the idea of four U-M students, says Regester, SID “redefines both the real and imagined boundaries of the traditional classroom. The program enables students to maintain a constant dialogue among theory, history and practice as they intertwine their everyday lives with this great American city.”

Naoum, who grew up in Troy, Mich., was a typical suburban youth who learned about Detroit through the lens of her parents, who shared the widespread view that Detroit was in decline – a vision certainly not incorrect, especially in recent decades. But she also had started exploring Detroit with her friends in high school, and found a city vibrant, full of life, art, theater and spontaneity.

Naoum’s career goal to help produce social change through theater led her to SID. She lived in the city, studied at the Detroit Center and interned at The Matrix Theatre Company (matrixtheatre.org), a nonprofit theater in southwest Detroit that is “aimed at using the transformative power of theatre to create social change,” Naoum says. She shadowed the executive director and also acted as the Community Engagement Coordinator. During her time there, the company was working on its “Ghost Waters Initiative,’ which is focused on environmental sustainability in Detroit.

She absolutely loved every minute of the entire SID program, she says. And, “as the term continued, I came to realize that, yes, my parents’ interpretation of the city’s current state has validity. But so did my high school view! One view without the other is an incomplete narrative of the city.”

One of Naoum’s fellow SID students, Sam Morykwas, a 21-year-old political science major and also a Troy, Mich. native, couldn’t agree more. Unlike Naoum, prior to his SID experience, Morykwas already had been volunteering in Detroit with a nonprofit called Neighbors Building Brightmoor. Brightmoor is an older Detroit neighborhood on the rebound. Regester agreed to add that nonprofit to the growing list of SID partners, and Morykwas was able to continue his ongoing work in the area.

“I love the people and community there, so I wanted to use the internship to further deepen my connection,” Morykwas says. He helped by working with youth in art workshops; career training of high schoolers with the Brightmoor Youth Development Collaboration; building the organization’s website; participating in monthly meetings; and passing out fliers door-to-door. It was total immersion and a lesson in life: he saw people fight to save their neighborhood one day and a friend’s car get stolen the next.

“I think the most important thing is just how the true story of Detroit lies in contrasts. It is not solely about the crime and struggles, but it is also not just about successes of new towns and organizations,” Morykwas says. “It is about the back-and-forth Detroiters face every day with bombardments from each side. You could see something that will mess up your whole perspective one day and the very next be part of something that gives you more hope than ever.”

Such comments, and blog posts on the SID website, overwhelmingly prove the popularity of the program. But exactly how is its success really measured? Says Dillard, “SID uses the same assessment modules as any other class. Students complete coursework, including research papers, creative projects and other assignments, which are graded in conventional ways with letter grades.

“But in a larger sense, we measure our success by the levels of engagement students demonstrate in the various aspects of the learning experience, especially work at their internship sites – for which they produce final projects and papers – and the reflection essays and discussions that occur weekly as part of the Reflection Seminar.

“We also are beginning to increasingly chart the subsequent experience of SID alums,” Dillard continues. “If a student decides to spend the following summer, after the term, living and working productively in Detroit, then we judge that as a success.” Several have done so, she says. “Other alums have taken longer-term positions at their former internship sites, while still others have gone on to do graduate work directly inspired by their experiences in the city.”

So how do Naoum and Morykwas stack up on that measure? Well, let’s see:

Morykwas, now living back in Ann Arbor, is still working to strengthen the partnership between Neighbors Building Brightmoor (neighborsbuildingbrightmoor.org) and the U-M team, a student organization dedicated to that connection, he says. His personal goal as one of the founding members of the group is to transition leadership further to younger members, and to help guarantee the connection’s longevity.

Naoum still lives in Detroit and is the Reflection and Dialogue Director for the service non-profit, Summer In The City. Through this group, she helps high school students volunteer in Detroit’s urban gardens and paint murals, and she also works with kids at a summer day camp. She is the Community Partner Coordinator for this Summer In The City, and interacts with some of the city’s largest employers.

Impressive, for sure. But of course, all of this is not just a matter of community involvement or academic success. It’s personal.

As Naoum puts it: “I am now so emotionally invested in Detroit.”

For more information and to apply for SID’s Winter 2013 program, go to www.semesterindetroit.com

Sheryl James is a Pulitzer Prize-winning, freelance journalist from Brighton, Mich.


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Michigan's World Class

The University of Michigan is known across the globe as a top-notch research and teaching university, with a faculty made up of some of the finest scholars in the world.

And while stories of its research enterprise, faculty expertise and athletic teams often make the most headlines, what goes on in “classrooms” every day also sets U-M apart, as faculty help students reach their potential to become some of the world’s greatest scientists, inventors, entrepreneurs, educators, humanitarians and problem-solvers.

Michigan’s World Class: Steeped in a tradition of excellence, yet brimming with creative new ways to share knowledge, address issues of the day, and equip future leaders with the skills and confidence they need to solve some of society’s most vexing problems.

U-M is changing the way it prepares tomorrow’s leaders, from flipped classrooms and multidisciplinary courses, to immersive experiences that allow students to tackle societal problems down the street or across the world.

Faculty members ask students to do more than read from a textbook and listen to lectures. They challenge students to go out and find people with a need, and then work in small groups to meet it. They ask students to think about issues in new ways.

And they use the best technology has to offer to teach, and to measure and monitor success.

Michigan’s faculty: Nimble, innovative and dedicated to developing the leaders of tomorrow.

Michigan’s World Class: Unique, engaging and committed to excellence.

This series will highlight some of the best of U-M teaching and learning.