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Winter 2014

Wayne High

Author: Jeri Preston

Photographer: Mariam Negaran

From the nominations by DAAS (Department of Afroamerican and African Studies) faculty and staff, it’s easy to think of Wayne High (Key Administrator) as a superhero, with an action-packed name like “Stress Reliever,” “The Safety Net,” or “Funding Man.” His actions suit these phrases, coming to the aid of Professor Sandra Gunning as she navigated a tricky move for research work in London.  In another instance, he deftly handled all the logistics and financials that were associated with Professor Nesha Haniff’s Study Abroad outreach trips to South Africa, Jamaica and, most recently, trips to Detroit where Professor Haniff and her students deliver HIV/AIDS training. 

He is cited with super power in his ability to “think two or three steps ahead of the game,” says Associate Professor Xiomara Santamarina. “Not only does Wayne identify solutions to unanticipated problems, his initiative and readiness have opened opportunities for me in terms of funding, office management, and paperwork of which I was entirely unaware after 12 years at Michigan.”

When asked for an organizational tip, he responds, “Murphy works overtime.  If it can go wrong, it will unless we do our fault analysis. So, I view everyday as an opportunity to excel.” While his background in computer science and software engineering taught him to look at the standard, occasional, and “what if” situations in problem solving, he has a practical recommendation. “Get to know the people in your sphere.  Show respect for everyone’s contribution and level of expertise.  No one is expected to know all the answers; open lines of communication allow us to contact the process expert.  If you establish rapport with those with whom you have contact, they will help you or point you in the right direction.   Learn, share with others, and make/take time to mentor those who follow.”

Wayne credits his work ethic to his father and grandfather, both of whom were focused and driven.  After a pause, he adds, “It wasn’t something taught.  It was something I observed and wanted to emulate.”

His current work strategy includes asking, “Will we achieve a win by pursuing the endeavor?”  He states, “In the summer of 2014, we (DAAS) will embark on a new study abroad experience in Nangodi, Ghana.  Led by Professor Elisha Renne, we hope to generate an alternative income source for local women in a project involving neem seeds and a cold press to make oil for use in lotions, soaps, etc. In the case of the neem seeds and cold press venture, the trajectory was straight as an arrow: good for students, the community (in Ghana) and for self-sustainability, for awareness, and for university research.  If it has a positive return in the near or long term, I’m willing to do the extra work because in the end we are contributing to something that is so much greater than the sum of its individual parts.”

Associate Professor Meg Sweeney said, “He has been willing to explore—and implement—creative approaches that have enabled us to sustain our efforts even when funding and staff support have been lean.  Wayne has been a real team player in this respect; he makes every effort to assist faculty with offering the best possible opportunities for our undergraduates.” Adds Senior Lecturer Nesha Hanff, “[He] is the epitome of dependability.  This attitude and work ethic gives our department a foundational solidity that is inextricably linked to all of our successes.”

When asked how these efforts align with his job description, Wayne says, “I don’t consider it a job; this is something I enjoy. In supporting my faculty and their collective research and teaching mission, we (DAAS) have achieved so many positive contributions.  For me, there is a high degree of satisfaction associated with successful accomplishment of these various initiatives.  If you find something you like doing, you tend to do it not only longer and with better attention-to-details but also with more productive results.”

It comes as no surprise that in his spare time, given these talents and positive approach, he looks for efficiencies and better ways to do things.  An avid gardener, a fastidious handyman, and a respectable mechanic, he’s always designing better systems in his home.  “If I see something that could be better, it goes on my to-do list. ‘The fix’ has to happen.”

Since coming to UM in 2007, he’s found the stumbling blocks “so much smaller” than the rewards.  He is routinely in contact with foreign and domestic vendors and scholars and takes immense pride in his ability to connect with them and convey the mission.  Says Wayne: “My word is my bond.  I’m involved so that my faculty and staff can focus and get back to the business of advancing the university’s reputation.”

Robert Hoffman

Written By: Mariam Negaran

Photograph By: Joel Rakowski

Robert (Rob) Hoffman, Department of Screen Arts & Cultures (SAC) Chief Engineer, has always loved electronics. Ever since he was a kid, he was always taking things apart and putting them back together again. “If my parents threw anything away because it was broken, I would immediately open it, figure out what made it tick, and try to make it tick again,” he recalls with a laugh.

After taking basic electronics at a vocational high school in Michigan and working in television studios on a ship while in the Navy, this curiosity finally led to a career in electronic engineering. So, it was fate that Rob was hired to work in the SAC television production studios in 1996, where his unique background and skills have come in handy time and time again. Most recently, when the SAC studios moved from their Argus location in 2010 to their current location in North Quad, Rob’s knowledge was instrumental to the studios’ success.

“The year after the move to the studios, Rob expertly conquered new challenges such as dramatic updates and changes to editing software that needed to be integrated into existing systems within a very short time,” stated SAC Key Administrator Marga Schuhwerk-Hampel. “Rob’s expertise and willingness to do whatever it takes to support faculty and students have routinely won him the admiration and gratitude of professors and students alike.”

From day-to-day studio operations, to designing sets, to helping students and faculty use the studio equipment and software, it’s evident that Rob is a crucial part of the three-man production studio staff. SAC Associate Chair and Senior Lecturer Terri Sarris relies on Rob for the success of the four television classes that she teaches. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that I could simply not teach my classes without Rob’s technical support,” Sarris said. “Rob keeps the studios running and when the inevitable problems arise, he has the expertise to troubleshoot and find solutions. No one else on our staff knows these studio systems with a depth of knowledge comparable to Rob’s.”

However, it’s not simply Rob’s technical skills and expertise that make him stand out. During fall term 2013, when Sarris’ SAC 423: Television Sketch Comedy students decided to produce a very ambitious live sketch comedy show, Rob designed and built seven movable sets in the studios. Rob spent countless hours working on the sets and even came in on weekends to help the students with their productions. As a result of his hard work and dedication, the show was a big success and would not have been possible without his efforts, Sarris noted.

Sarris also praised his skills and patience while interacting with students and training student studio assistants. Rob genuinely enjoys working with students and helping them take what they learn in classes and apply it in the studio. He is proud of the fact that when students graduate, they leave with not only the knowledge but the skills to work in film and television production.

Former SAC student Angela Reilly also noted that Rob is always willing to go the extra mile to ensure that students know how to use the studio equipment and the studio control rooms so that they become self-sufficient. “This knowledge helps the SAC students stand apart from other graduates once they enter the work force,” Reilly stated. “When creating a student production it is often difficult to find someone who is always willing to help. Rob Hoffman is that person.”

While Rob is grateful for the Spotlight Award recognition, he is quick to add that the studios’ success is definitely a team effort and he is grateful to the studio staff and Key Administrator Marga Schuhwerk-Hampel for their help and support as the department continues to evolve. He is also grateful for the faculty’s ongoing dedication to their students, since it constantly pushes him to learn and improve the studios. “When you work with other people who do things well, it tends to make you strive to match their level of effort,” Rob explains.

When Rob is not busy being a superhero in the studios, it comes as no surprise that he enjoys home improvement and construction projects. He shares his home with his wife Daphne and 3 Dachshunds Casey, Lilo, and Maizie (named after U of M). He enjoys camping, golf, and spending time with his two (soon to be three) grandchildren.

Congratulations, Rob!

Fall 2014

Yuri Fukazawa

Written By: Mariam Negaran

Photograph By: Yuri Fukazawa

When you walk into the International Institute’s Center for Japanese Studies (CJS), with its Japanese-style sliding doors and walls donned with beautiful calligraphy, you are greeted with a smile by Academic Program Manager Yuri Fukazawa. Yuri, a serious, soft-spoken powerhouse, started working with CJS over 12 years ago and takes her job very seriously, since she is the face of CJS to the public. CJS is the primary hub for Japanese resources at UM and is the oldest interdisciplinary center in the US devoted exclusively to Japanese studies.

“I see this as some kind of torch. I’m carrying the torch like an Olympic athlete, so it’s my responsibility to keep the torch and that really motivates me,” Yuri explained, her eyes lighting up with pride.

Yuri, whose name means “lily” in Japanese, was born in Tokyo, Japan and considers herself a “transplant from Japan.” After graduating from Michigan State University in 1992 with a Master’s in public relations, Yuri returned to Japan in 1993, where she worked in public relations for British and American companies and eventually ended up working as a translator for the University of Maryland’s office for corporate outreach in Tokyo. She then returned to the US in 1997 and worked as a sister school/city exchange program coordinator and came in contact with CJS’ equivalent at Ohio State. She had such a positive experience with the program there that when a job opened up in CJS at the University of Michigan, she leapt at the chance.

“If I had known that I would come back to Michigan eventually, I wouldn’t have sent all of my stuff to Japan when I graduated!” Yuri remarked with a laugh.

While Yuri has been working as an administrator with CJS for over 11 years, she moved into her current position in early 2013 after her colleague left for another U-M position in the midst of the Institute-wide staff reorganization. During this time, Yuri served as programmer while also continuing to serve as the Center’s administrator, requiring her to juggle program and event planning with day-to-day Center management. “The fact that the Center continued to run seamlessly during that time is due almost entirely to Yuri’s extra effort and the sense of devotion and responsibility she has to her work and to the work of the Center,” CJS Director Jonathan Zwicker said. “That this period also coincided with a time of immense personal loss for Yuri, as she lost both of her parents in the span of several months, made her management of the transition all the more impressive.”

Yuri recalls this difficult time in her life with fondness for CJS, since she had to quickly travel to Japan for two weeks last August, which is always a busy time in CJS. She is grateful that the Center rallied behind her and filled in for her various duties during her absence. She noted that her brother was so impressed by the manner in which CJS handled things that he understood why Yuri would travel halfway across the world to work there.

Even though Yuri is very honored to receive the Spotlight award, she is also grateful to the Center’s staff, Director Jonathan Zwicker, and the faculty for their devotion and support for her and the Center. She looks forward to continuing to do her job well, increasing her professional growth, and to all future CJS programs and events. In her spare time, Yuri likes to channel her inner international student and loves going to new places, experiencing other cultures, exploring new things, and trying new foods.

Congratulations, Yuri!

Greg Parker

Author: Douglas Fletcher

Photographer: Gregory Parker

With an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and an M.A. in History from Columbia University, Greg Parker’s education and administrative experience at the Michigan Humanities Council bring it all together. From managing the daily operations to event planning and logistics for conferences and symposia organized by the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies (EIHS), Greg encompasses the best of academics and administration. Greg is highly regarded by Howard Brick, Professor of History, “His mastery of everything involved with mounting public scholarly events benefit a great many faculty. His work is always remarkably expeditious, precisely controlled, and always on top of all element,” Professor Brick stated. “Gregory Parker has been the person most responsible for keeping the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies (EIHS) running.”

Greg came to the University after working for the Michigan Humanities Council on their programs for the general public. His desire to work in higher education administration and his knowledge and background in history contributed to his success and accomplishments at the EIHS. His work ethic is reflected in the exceptional recommendations he received for the LSA Spotlight Award and in his own words, “Administrators are supposed to save faculty time, anything I can do to help.” His willingness to help is repeated in nomination letters as is his friendly attitude and welcoming personality. Greg’s demeanor and attitude is an asset to the institute according to Doctoral Candidate in History Joseph Ho. He is a budget planner, a diplomat, a cherished member of the History Department, “all done with an unassuming manner that is very much what he is,” Ho said.

Greg’s contributions to the EIHS and the College of LSA go beyond his daily work. Outside of work, Greg is a freelance writer and has contributed articles to the Michigan History Magazine and the LSA Magazine. Recently, he edited a book with Howard Brick, Louis Evans Professor of History, entitled A New Insurgency: The Port Huron Statement and It’s Time.

Greg also likes to travel and spend time with his daughter and son in a house that he and his wife built in Grass Lake. His interest in history goes beyond the academic as he shared that he has always been interested in cars and owns a 1964 Buick Skylark station wagon, “It’s a part of history,” Greg explained.

Vicky Horvath and Thea Bude, Sociology Graduate Student Support Team

The Sociology Graduate Student Support team of Vicky Horvath (Graduate Program Assistant) and Thea Bude (Graduate Program Coordinator) are both relatively new to the department, yet they both have made an immediate impact in expanding and improving the department’s systems of tracking graduate students through the program and making their time as free of administrative stress as possible.

What makes them such a winning team is their mutual camaraderie and trust. Having someone to bounce ideas off of, job duties that are divided so both are not busy at the same time which allows them to help each other out (also reduces stress) are some of the things they both noted as benefits of working as part of a team.

Vicky said the best part of her job is “Working as a team, having a good relationship with her co-worker in a relaxed atmosphere. You have someone to talk to and relate with. You aren’t carrying the burden of everything yourself.” Thea said working as a team allows you to collaborate on projects. This allows them to learn more of the other’s job.

Both say that technology is the biggest change they’ve seen at the U over the last five years. The Sociology Information Technology Department has been very advanced in streamlining processes such as admission letters. Thea created an elaborate spreadsheet which tracks all sorts of student information. She also scanned all student files into PDF documents.

In response to the question “Does your job travel with you when you go home?” “What do you like to do in your off hours?” Vicky and Thea both said that their jobs do not travel with them. Here are some of their off-hours activities: Vicky is involved with high school band, more so when her daughter was in school. Thea bought a house six months ago and is busy with renovation projects. She also is a Sunday school teacher and is training to be an aerobics instructor. Both said that if a student was in a crisis situation, they would check e-mail, etc., while they are away from the office.

The team also impacts the larger staff culture positively; they independently initiated office door decorations for the holidays and trick-or-treating for students and faculty at Halloween. It is amazing the difference two energetic and motivated staff can have on their colleagues during some of the busiest times.

When asked “What are you most looking forward to in the next academic year ahead?,” Thea responded “I am looking forward to working with Vicky and the rest of the department to update policies and procedures to better serve the faculty and students. This coming year will be my third year in the department, so I now have a better understanding on how everything is done and I can help make a bigger impact in the department. I now know how to answer questions and process paperwork without needing to ask questions. I know my role and responsibilities, and so now I can make changes to better serve the needs of the department and the students.” Vicky responded “I am always looking forward to the new incoming cohort! It is a long process from admissions, to recruitment to orientation. It’s always very interesting learning about everyone's background and goals.”

A short-term project for Thea is re-organization of the department website. She also created a new Graduate Student website, and hopes to keep updating that site to better serve the students. Her long-term project, or goal, is to make a Graduate Coordinator Handbook full of policies and procedures so that future coordinators in the department will be able to hit the ground running when they are hired. This will also make the job easier as you won't need to continue to look up and search for how processes were done before, as everything will be located in one spot. For Vicky, her current goal is to help with the restructuring of the department. web site. I look forward to working with Thea to make the Grad area user friendly, fresh and interesting! Both are active in the grad section of the new web design and Vicky and Thea both pushed for the new design.

In closing, Vicky said “the way the two positions complement each other works well and that their personalities mesh.” Thea said “we worked well together from the beginning.” Vicky also noted that there is good sense of humor around the Sociology Department.