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Staff Spotlight Archives

Winter 2015

Winter 2014

Fall 2015

 

Written by: Kristin Romelhardt

Photographs by: Mariam Negaran

Wow!  If you want to get excited about physics and electronics, then you only need to spend a short time with Jon Ameel, Senior Electronics Engineer, in his lab in the Randall Lab building in the Department of Physics!  At first, he is reluctant to talk about his accomplishments and the importance of his contributions to faculty research projects but as he talks, his enthusiasm grows and he is displaying pictures and models, giving a lab tour and explaining, using simple and understandable analogies, just a fraction of the various electronic equipment he has created and built for various High Energy Physics projects.  He says his biggest challenge is when he meets with a faculty member regarding the need for a custom research device and his initial reaction is, “No, that is not possible.”  But given time to contemplate the idea and break it down into simpler components, he always comes up with a way to meet the demand.  And that is the biggest reward of his job – going from “no, not possible,” to “wait a minute,” to “here is something,” to “it works!”  In the words of one of his nominators, “The designs that Jon has produced . . . are of the quality equal to or better than any from the major national laboratories who have teams of engineers dedicated to such work.”

Jon admits to being a “tinkerer” going back to childhood.  Yes, his mom had to put up with things being taken apart and put back together just to see how it all works!  He continues to do that to this day, not only in his everyday work at the University but in his personal life as well.  At home, he is currently working on building electronic instruments.  And, of course, he can get ideas by taking existing ones apart!

When asked how a person with a background in Computer Science ended up here in the Department of Physics, he easily explains that, as an undergrad, he responded to a job posting for student lab technicians and has never left.  Of course, as with many areas of the University, the number of staff in the electronics lab has dwindled over the years so that it is, essentially, just Jon and a few student lab techs who he spends time training and mentoring.  Obviously, he is very busy but readily admits he can’t imagine doing anything else.   One nominator wrote, “ He is able to balance his time between . . . projects, and at the same time when any of us go to talk with him we feel we are getting his full attention.”  Jon’s energy and enthusiasm for what he does is definitely contagious.  And because he is reluctant to accept much praise for his contributions to physics research projects and their success, he willingly attributes his excitement to the passion faculty have for their research.

Jon Ameel describes the NASA long duration balloon.Although Jon’s job of creating electronic gadgets and implements for research equipment is mainly done on campus, it has taken him to research facilities around the world including six months in Antarctica!  While there, he oversaw the launch and recovery of a cosmic ray telescope called C.R.E.S.T.  C.R.E.S.T. conducted energy measurements at the edge of space thanks to a NASA Long Duration Balloon.  When the balloon was fully inflated, it was as large as the Big House! 


When not at work, Jon stays equally active in lots of interesting activities.  When asked how he does it all, he admits that sleep does not get high priority!  His greatest enjoyment at the moment is getting his six year old son interested in investigating how things work, creating and building, especially rockets!  When not tinkering with his son, he is coaching him in ice hockey or helping at the adult Learn To Play Hockey clinics at Yost Ice Arena.  His interests don’t stop there – he is into eating healthy and shares food preparation duties with his spouse.  He makes his own yogurt and, yes, of course, he built his own yogurt “incubator” which automatically keeps the appropriate temperature for the right amount of time.  No need to walk back and forth to the oven all day making yogurt for Jon which leaves more time for him to enjoy music, both listening and playing – he was in a touring rock band in college but only plays for fun now.

How does Jon feel about being in the “Spotlight”?  He is naturally happy with the recognition by the faculty for whom he works hard to assist.  However, he feels that the research is the “star” and he is just happy knowing he contributed to that process all the while “helping science and expanding our knowledge of the way things work in the universe.”  Well done, Jon!!

Key Administrator, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies

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.”

Written By: Mariam Negaran

Photograph By: Sheila Coley

When you have been working in the Department of History for as long as Sheila Coley has, an impressive 18 years, you are bound to make some history of your own. Sheila, who started her UM career in 1988 as a receptionist in the Department of Linguistics, joined the Department of History in 1996 as a Graduate Program Assistant and was promoted to her current position of Undergraduate Academic Services Coordinator in 2006. In addition to handling the extensive History curriculum, which includes scheduling courses and planning for over 80 faculty members, Sheila also facilitates many other facets of the undergraduate program.

“Sheila is the rock-solid anchor in the wind and storm of teaching and learning in our department,” Department Chair and Professor Katherine Canning explained “With dozens of courses and sections to schedule, hundreds of students to place, nearly a hundred faculty to guide through the thickets of course planning and room scheduling, waitlisting [students and issuing overrides], Sheila handles it all with unrivaled ease and unshakable serenity.”

Not only is Sheila admired for her institutional knowledge, but she does it all with her characteristic warmth and ease. In the numerous letters of support received from faculty and staff alike, it is clear how integral she is to the department.

“Sheila exemplifies the high level of skill and professionalism found only in the very best members of this university,” a faculty member gushed. “Her command of technology and her confidence-inspiring interpersonal skills have been a central contributing reason why this department is such a fine place to work. She's simply amazing.”

In addition to her other duties, Sheila has used her remarkable technical skills to implement numerous valuable technological improvements in the department. Among several databases that she’s created to help ease her job duties, one of them helps with crafting the time schedule each term by gathering and tracking course scheduling information for each faculty member; it also provides various reports necessary for advising. “I like things to be easier, so I think about ways to improve processes,” Sheila explained during our interview. “It might be more difficult on my end [to set up the processes], but I want it to be easier on the faculty.”

What is more impressive is that Sheila has maintained her excellent quality of work, even while enduring personal loss.

“We were all amazed by her strength a couple of years ago after her husband was in a car accident and after a long series of procedures...he passed away,” Department of History Key Administrator Diane Wyatt explained. “She maintained her characteristic strong customer service, calmness, and cheerfulness all along, through the most difficult period in her life.”

Sheila thanks her strong faith and extensive, supportive family for helping her through that time of loss. That family also includes the staff and faculty in the Department of History, who were and continue to be so supportive, kind, and helpful. She said she is truly grateful for being part of such a wonderful department full of faculty that stand behind their staff through their personal and professional circumstances. “Being here in History has been a blessing” Sheila said.

Sheila, who is a very shy and humble person, was pleasantly surprised about her Staff Spotlight nomination. “I am very appreciative and extremely happy, excited, and grateful to the faculty and staff who wrote letters and thought enough of me to put in the nomination,” Sheila said.

Recently an empty-nester, Sheila likes to unwind by reading, watching old movies on TCM, spending time with her children, grandchildren, and Ty, her new Malti-Poo puppy — oh, and an occasional margarita!

Congratulations, Sheila!

Written By: Mariam Negaran

Photograph By: Sheila Coley

When you have been working in the Department of History for as long as Sheila Coley has, an impressive 18 years, you are bound to make some history of your own. Sheila, who started her UM career in 1988 as a receptionist in the Department of Linguistics, joined the Department of History in 1996 as a Graduate Program Assistant and was promoted to her current position of Undergraduate Academic Services Coordinator in 2006. In addition to handling the extensive History curriculum, which includes scheduling courses and planning for over 80 faculty members, Sheila also facilitates many other facets of the undergraduate program.

“Sheila is the rock-solid anchor in the wind and storm of teaching and learning in our department,” Department Chair and Professor Katherine Canning explained “With dozens of courses and sections to schedule, hundreds of students to place, nearly a hundred faculty to guide through the thickets of course planning and room scheduling, waitlisting [students and issuing overrides], Sheila handles it all with unrivaled ease and unshakable serenity.”

Not only is Sheila admired for her institutional knowledge, but she does it all with her characteristic warmth and ease. In the numerous letters of support received from faculty and staff alike, it is clear how integral she is to the department.

“Sheila exemplifies the high level of skill and professionalism found only in the very best members of this university,” a faculty member gushed. “Her command of technology and her confidence-inspiring interpersonal skills have been a central contributing reason why this department is such a fine place to work. She's simply amazing.”

In addition to her other duties, Sheila has used her remarkable technical skills to implement numerous valuable technological improvements in the department. Among several databases that she’s created to help ease her job duties, one of them helps with crafting the time schedule each term by gathering and tracking course scheduling information for each faculty member; it also provides various reports necessary for advising. “I like things to be easier, so I think about ways to improve processes,” Sheila explained during our interview. “It might be more difficult on my end [to set up the processes], but I want it to be easier on the faculty.”

What is more impressive is that Sheila has maintained her excellent quality of work, even while enduring personal loss.

“We were all amazed by her strength a couple of years ago after her husband was in a car accident and after a long series of procedures...he passed away,” Department of History Key Administrator Diane Wyatt explained. “She maintained her characteristic strong customer service, calmness, and cheerfulness all along, through the most difficult period in her life.”

Sheila thanks her strong faith and extensive, supportive family for helping her through that time of loss. That family also includes the staff and faculty in the Department of History, who were and continue to be so supportive, kind, and helpful. She said she is truly grateful for being part of such a wonderful department full of faculty that stand behind their staff through their personal and professional circumstances. “Being here in History has been a blessing” Sheila said.

Sheila, who is a very shy and humble person, was pleasantly surprised about her Staff Spotlight nomination. “I am very appreciative and extremely happy, excited, and grateful to the faculty and staff who wrote letters and thought enough of me to put in the nomination,” Sheila said.

Recently an empty-nester, Sheila likes to unwind by reading, watching old movies on TCM, spending time with her children, grandchildren, and Ty, her new Malti-Poo puppy — oh, and an occasional margarita!

Congratulations, Sheila!

Written By: Rick Jones

Photograph By: Mariam Negaran

Vinnie’s nomination letter stated  “Vinnie's role in Economics Student Services is hard to define. She always jumps in where she is needed.” With a recent retirement in the department, she stepped in to help with the 800 Ph.D. applicants in addition to her 400 M.A. applicants. She also assists with undergraduate student services in the spring and summer terms. Vinnie processes approximately 5000 letters of recommendation for the PhD. students as they seek jobs.  She is very excited to see students happy and to find the job they really want, and she is gratified when students come to thank her for her assistance.

Running two admissions cycles with two different graduate directors, her nominator stated that “That task is very difficult when you think of the amount of email you receive from each student wanting to know when decisions will be made. Vinnie prides herself on responding to those e-mails.”

Vinnie began working in LSA for the Department of Economics in 2010 as a temporary employee. In April of 2011, she became full-time. Starting as a placement coordinator for the Ph.D. students, Vinnie later moved to Ph.D. admissions work and worked as the Graduate Student Services Coordinator for the M.A. in Applied Economics program. Recently, when a position opened in Economics, she was offered and accepted the position of Administrative Assistant Senior.

Within her department, Vinnie is impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness of her colleagues and finds the graduate students to be polite and friendly. She enjoys building her knowledge and helping her colleagues, which has contributed to her being a generalist and able to cover all aspects of student services in Economics. She has adapted to different styles of work, and strives to anticipate what her colleagues require and tries to provide it before requested.   

She finds the master’s students a wonderful group.  She is their primary contact from application to graduation.  And because 60 percent of the Master’s students are international students - new to this land like her, she organizes social events for the students and has the goal to make students comfortable and to help their transition to Michigan Economics and U-M.

Vinnie’s nominator stated, “She always manages to keep deadlines, works toward goals and shows enthusiasm for her work. Vinnie has been a bright spot in this transition and I commend her on all the hard work she has given to Economics PhD Placement, PhD Admissions, MAE Admissions, MAE Student Services and all around graduate trouble-shooter!”

Vinnie grew up in southern India and moved to the U.S. to be with her husband, who is a faculty member in the College of Engineering. Vinnie has a background in Human Resources and worked at a pharmaceutical company in India.  She has a three-year-old son and spends her time outside of work with him and her husband, and loves to cook and travel.

Congratulations, Vinnie!

Fall 2014

Written by: Kristin Romelhardt

Photographs by: Mariam Negaran

Wow!  If you want to get excited about physics and electronics, then you only need to spend a short time with Jon Ameel, Senior Electronics Engineer, in his lab in the Randall Lab building in the Department of Physics!  At first, he is reluctant to talk about his accomplishments and the importance of his contributions to faculty research projects but as he talks, his enthusiasm grows and he is displaying pictures and models, giving a lab tour and explaining, using simple and understandable analogies, just a fraction of the various electronic equipment he has created and built for various High Energy Physics projects.  He says his biggest challenge is when he meets with a faculty member regarding the need for a custom research device and his initial reaction is, “No, that is not possible.”  But given time to contemplate the idea and break it down into simpler components, he always comes up with a way to meet the demand.  And that is the biggest reward of his job – going from “no, not possible,” to “wait a minute,” to “here is something,” to “it works!”  In the words of one of his nominators, “The designs that Jon has produced . . . are of the quality equal to or better than any from the major national laboratories who have teams of engineers dedicated to such work.”

Jon admits to being a “tinkerer” going back to childhood.  Yes, his mom had to put up with things being taken apart and put back together just to see how it all works!  He continues to do that to this day, not only in his everyday work at the University but in his personal life as well.  At home, he is currently working on building electronic instruments.  And, of course, he can get ideas by taking existing ones apart!

When asked how a person with a background in Computer Science ended up here in the Department of Physics, he easily explains that, as an undergrad, he responded to a job posting for student lab technicians and has never left.  Of course, as with many areas of the University, the number of staff in the electronics lab has dwindled over the years so that it is, essentially, just Jon and a few student lab techs who he spends time training and mentoring.  Obviously, he is very busy but readily admits he can’t imagine doing anything else.   One nominator wrote, “ He is able to balance his time between . . . projects, and at the same time when any of us go to talk with him we feel we are getting his full attention.”  Jon’s energy and enthusiasm for what he does is definitely contagious.  And because he is reluctant to accept much praise for his contributions to physics research projects and their success, he willingly attributes his excitement to the passion faculty have for their research.

Jon Ameel describes the NASA long duration balloon.Although Jon’s job of creating electronic gadgets and implements for research equipment is mainly done on campus, it has taken him to research facilities around the world including six months in Antarctica!  While there, he oversaw the launch and recovery of a cosmic ray telescope called C.R.E.S.T.  C.R.E.S.T. conducted energy measurements at the edge of space thanks to a NASA Long Duration Balloon.  When the balloon was fully inflated, it was as large as the Big House! 


When not at work, Jon stays equally active in lots of interesting activities.  When asked how he does it all, he admits that sleep does not get high priority!  His greatest enjoyment at the moment is getting his six year old son interested in investigating how things work, creating and building, especially rockets!  When not tinkering with his son, he is coaching him in ice hockey or helping at the adult Learn To Play Hockey clinics at Yost Ice Arena.  His interests don’t stop there – he is into eating healthy and shares food preparation duties with his spouse.  He makes his own yogurt and, yes, of course, he built his own yogurt “incubator” which automatically keeps the appropriate temperature for the right amount of time.  No need to walk back and forth to the oven all day making yogurt for Jon which leaves more time for him to enjoy music, both listening and playing – he was in a touring rock band in college but only plays for fun now.

How does Jon feel about being in the “Spotlight”?  He is naturally happy with the recognition by the faculty for whom he works hard to assist.  However, he feels that the research is the “star” and he is just happy knowing he contributed to that process all the while “helping science and expanding our knowledge of the way things work in the universe.”  Well done, Jon!!

Winter 2015

Yuri Fukazawa, Academic Program Manager, Center for Japanese Studies

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!

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.

Written By: Rick Jones

Photograph By: Mariam Negaran

Vinnie’s nomination letter stated  “Vinnie's role in Economics Student Services is hard to define. She always jumps in where she is needed.” With a recent retirement in the department, she stepped in to help with the 800 Ph.D. applicants in addition to her 400 M.A. applicants. She also assists with undergraduate student services in the spring and summer terms. Vinnie processes approximately 5000 letters of recommendation for the PhD. students as they seek jobs.  She is very excited to see students happy and to find the job they really want, and she is gratified when students come to thank her for her assistance.

Running two admissions cycles with two different graduate directors, her nominator stated that “That task is very difficult when you think of the amount of email you receive from each student wanting to know when decisions will be made. Vinnie prides herself on responding to those e-mails.”

Vinnie began working in LSA for the Department of Economics in 2010 as a temporary employee. In April of 2011, she became full-time. Starting as a placement coordinator for the Ph.D. students, Vinnie later moved to Ph.D. admissions work and worked as the Graduate Student Services Coordinator for the M.A. in Applied Economics program. Recently, when a position opened in Economics, she was offered and accepted the position of Administrative Assistant Senior.

Within her department, Vinnie is impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness of her colleagues and finds the graduate students to be polite and friendly. She enjoys building her knowledge and helping her colleagues, which has contributed to her being a generalist and able to cover all aspects of student services in Economics. She has adapted to different styles of work, and strives to anticipate what her colleagues require and tries to provide it before requested.   

She finds the master’s students a wonderful group.  She is their primary contact from application to graduation.  And because 60 percent of the Master’s students are international students - new to this land like her, she organizes social events for the students and has the goal to make students comfortable and to help their transition to Michigan Economics and U-M.

Vinnie’s nominator stated, “She always manages to keep deadlines, works toward goals and shows enthusiasm for her work. Vinnie has been a bright spot in this transition and I commend her on all the hard work she has given to Economics PhD Placement, PhD Admissions, MAE Admissions, MAE Student Services and all around graduate trouble-shooter!”

Vinnie grew up in southern India and moved to the U.S. to be with her husband, who is a faculty member in the College of Engineering. Vinnie has a background in Human Resources and worked at a pharmaceutical company in India.  She has a three-year-old son and spends her time outside of work with him and her husband, and loves to cook and travel.

Congratulations, Vinnie!

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.

Spring 2014

Executive Secretary, Political Science

Author: Jeri Preston
Photographer: Mariam Negaran

In a department with 900 majors, 50+ faculty, and over 100 graduate students, numbers that could overwhelm, it’s hard to imagine someone being known for perfection, yet that one, powerful word was used multiple times to describe Spotlight Award Winner Anne Cope.

Anne joined the LSA team only two years ago, as Executive Assistant to the Chair of Political Science.  She had previously been employed by a family-owned car dealership, which struggled through the economic downturn in 2008, and had enjoyed staying at home for a while with her young son.  We talked briefly about transition into U-M systems, including Wolverine Access (and the many MyLinc training modules) and learning human resources procedures for faculty assignments, but the high-volume handled at the dealership prepared her for the endless variety of tasks she faces each day.

When asked how working at U-M compares to that position, she said, “Here, it feels like you need to take it just that extra step. The expectations are high. It’s U-M!”

With campus visits, fall recruiting, advisory board and faculty meetings, managing website content and remodeling projects, even organizing a new academic conference on campus, Anne is “the epitome of professionalism,” says Department Chair, Charles Shipan (J. Ira and Nicki Harris Professor of Social Science).

Shipan enthused, “Literally every single person I’ve heard from who has interacted with her – undergraduates, graduate students, job applicants, faculty, staff, alums, members of our advisory board, and so on – has remarked on what a wonderful person she is, how easy she is to work with, and how helpful she is.”

What motivates Anne to reach these heights? Surprisingly, it’s simply being able to check things off her list. “Many of my jobs can take months,” she explains, “but each step leads to success.”

“Transitioning to the university can be very challenging to someone who has never worked in academia before, “ wrote Sandra Kneen, Key Administrator for the department. “I tell my colleagues all the time that I feel like I won the lottery when I hired Anne.”

What might Anne do, then, if she were to win the lottery?

“Spend more time with my family – maybe take a trip to Mt. Rushmore or the Grand Canyon,” she responded, having fond memories of just such travels when she was younger.  Until then, she enjoys adding to her retro clothing collection, which finds itself on stage and in shows. She also repurposes albums into notebooks and creates vintage inspired tags (Billy Squire is featured here), where her attention to detail continues to shine through.

Graduate Coordinator, History Department

Author: Jeri Preston
Photographer: Mariam Negaran

As Graduate Coordinator for the History Department, Kathleen King’s work has extended around the globe. And she’s received a world of praise for her efforts.

With multiple graduate student recommendations, she’s cited as one of the main reasons people chose U-M. Why? Because Kathleen “does it, not because it is part of her job description – only a small part of it is – but because she truly and deeply cares about all of us,” says international student Ananda Burra, Ph.D. History, who is now at U-M’s School of Law. “[She] is at the very heart of our time in Ann Arbor.”

What happens, then, when they go out into the various sites that comprise their historical research? All the projects are “amazing,” says Kathleen, and constantly changing, which is part of the enjoyment. One student is currently studying the impact of Christian missionaries on South Sudan (“that is a ridiculously simplistic way of describing it,” she interjects). “I hear about them sneaking over borders, interviewing people in the dark of night, and I say, “Think about your mother when you’re out doing those things.”

Kathleen reflects, “I’m not exactly in loco parentis, but [the students] need someone in the system helping them find answers to questions. They’re in a very complicated process. Yes, they can go find answers to questions, maybe, but the staff knows where to go. I’m “home” because I’m calm.”

Graduate students agree.  “It not for Kathleen King, I would likely not have come to U-M,” said one anonymous nominator. “Her organization and efficiency significantly shaped my opinion of the university and department in general. Indeed, several older graduate students cited her as a major selling point about the History program, and three years later, I now understand why.  That’s what Kathleen does; not only does she guide students through the procedural side of the graduate program, she also helps them navigate the sometimes bewildering world of academia (and life in general).  I’ve never walked away from her desk without feeling calmer and more reassured than before.”

Indeed, all nominations point toward Kathleen’s willingness to go “to the ends of the earth” for these students who literally travel the globe.  When asked where she might like to go, if she could travel to any remote locale, Kathleen responded, “I’ve been all over the world. Right now, Ann Arbor has everything I need.”

One view in Ann Arbor that’s particularly cherished is from her front porch. What was once a lawn “given over to moles” is now transformed into a prairie garden, which overlooks the Huron River.  Another favorite location around town is Downtown Home & Garden, a treasure trove of tools, supplies, and decorative items for this idyllic spot.

Kathleen and her husband, Dr. John King (former Dean, School of Information, and former Vice Provost for Strategy) came to U-M from UC Irvine in 2006.  In her work, first as a marine biologist studying the effects of ocean waste disposal and, then, as an environmental scientist working in the oil industry on marine issues, she recalls Orange County and the west coast fondly. Now, however, she says Michigan has all the sky and water she needs to be happy.

It’s no coincidence that she says History is a “happy department.” Graduate student Hilina Seife asked, on her way out of the office, how Kathleen could seem “so happy working so late. She said it was because she loves it; loves the department and the people. I often wonder HOW she does it all while maintaining a genuinely warm disposition and cool head. I’m still watching and trying to learn.”

LSA Academic Standards Board Team

Author: Shelley Shock
Photographer: Shelley Shock

The LSA Academic Standards Board team of Carolyn McCullum and Melissa Carter has a combined total of 44 years of service in their office and 63 at the University, which allows them to develop strong connections with staff within the College and throughout the University.

What makes them such a winning team is their mutual comradery and trust.  Having someone to bounce ideas off of and someone to pick up the slack if the other is gone, keeping the work flowing, and having someone else available who knows how to problem solve are some of the things they both noted as benefits of working as part of a team.

Both agree that helping students, making them feel less like a number and more like a person, is the best part of their job. Carolyn noted, “Our number one goal is to meet the needs of students and the needs of the Board.”

When the academic review process for the LSA Academic Standards Board was revamped, Carolyn and Melissa played a key role by providing foundational information for the new program.

Both say that social media is the biggest change they’ve seen at the U over the last five years.  Carolyn noted that students are computer savvy with social media and the challenge is to reach them where they receive their information.

The LSA Academic Standards Board upholds the academic integrity of the College. They meet the needs of students by thoughtfully applying the principles for each individual situation.  Carolyn and Melissa administratively assist the board and have delegated authority to make decisions so that the board can focus on higher-level issues.

In response to the questions “Does your job travel with you when you go home?” and “What do you like to do in your off hours?” Carolyn and Melissa both said that their jobs do not travel with them.  Melissa is completely involved in family life, enjoys cooking, taking her child to various activities, such as the circus, ballet practice, and family picnics, and volunteering at her school.  Carolyn is the president of the women’s department in her church and the church district.  To relax, she enjoys dinner and a movie.

Colleagues note their great patience not only with relentless detail, but also with explaining complex policies and procedures to others. One colleague states, “They are extremely adept with details and are as patient as can be when those who they work with might forget those procedures.”

A colleague referred to them as the “red tape” ladies, as they can help students fix things. They both laughed, but liked the title. Melissa said, “Every question is important no matter how many times it is asked.  Carolyn added, “The key is to know what questions to ask so that the students get the correct answer.”

In closing, Carolyn and Melissa said, “This is a great place to work because our bosses give us the opportunity to have the freedom we need, which allows us to do our job well and serve the university community effectively and efficiently.”

Lastly, they would like to acknowledge that nothing that they do on behalf of the LSA Academic Standard Board would be a success without the support of Student Academic Affairs, especially the Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Education Esrold Nurse.

Winter 2014

Key Administrator, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies

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.”

Chief Engineer, Department of Screen Arts & Cultures

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 2013

Student Services Coordinator, Department of Screen Arts & Cultures

Author: Mariam Negaran 
Photographer: Mary Lou Chlipala

Like the Wizard of Oz, Student Services Coordinator Carrie Moore, is truly a knowledgeable whiz who works her magic behind her desk in the Department of Screen Arts & Cultures (SAC).

“Carrie is, quite frankly, beloved by the SAC faculty—she is like a magician who solves our problems and makes it look easy,” said Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies Sheila Murphy. “Pretty much anything that comes up in the department can be solved with one phrase: ‘Go see Carrie.’”

When you walk into Carrie’s office, you are greeted with a warm, engaging smile as she patiently answers any questions you may have. “As a sweet, caring, and discrete woman, Carrie always begins a conversation with a smile, and never appears to be annoyed with our ongoing interruptions or our persistent questions,” Associate Professor Yeidy Rivero said.

A South Lyon native, Carrie completed her B.A. in Social Work at Eastern Michigan University, where she gained skills that come in handy when coming up with creative solutions to problems. After working in retail for 8 years, Carrie began working with SAC undergraduate students at the University of Michigan in 2007. However, when a budding Ph.D. program began that year, Carrie was also responsible for and instrumental in the development of procedures for the new program. Her job evolved into her current Student Services Coordinator position, where she is responsible for the oversight and coordination of both the graduate and undergraduate programs, including curriculum and events planning, and graduate admissions, funding, and GSI appointments.

It comes as no surprise then that faculty rely on her as the go-to person for information and clarification on all student services matters. “Carrie knows the nuts and bolts of the graduate and undergraduate programs,” Rivero said. Professor Caryl Flinn concurs, “Carrie is truly an example of grace—and expertise—under fire. We would be lost without her.”

Throughout her nomination letters, it is apparent that Carrie is relied on extensively by faculty and staff alike for her thorough knowledge, foresight, and willingness to go above and beyond to get the job done. “Carrie’s dependability is legendary in the department,” Key Administrator Marga Schuhwerk-Hampel said. “Carrie provides exemplary service to the Department of Screen Arts & Cultures and LSA through the excellent quality of her work, her outstanding work ethic, her integrity, her reliability, all combined with wonderful interpersonal skills.”

One faculty member, Assistant Professor Dan Herbert, described a situation where Carrie’s resourcefulness helped him quickly solve a technical problem and, as a result, his book went to press on time. “For me, Carrie’s treatment of this situation displays the kind of calm, quick, and effective administration that she brings to all her work,” Herbert said.

During the recent reorganization of the SAC undergraduate degree, Carrie’s knowledge and expertise of LSA policies were called upon time and time again and she even organized SAC undergraduate declaration and information events that helped drastically reduce the number and need for advising appointments. “Carrie has brought many creative ideas to the challenges of attracting students to the session,” Associate Chair Terri Sarris said, “She is a joy to work with because of her creativity and attention to detail.”

Carrie is very grateful that the SAC faculty and staff recognized her for the Staff Spotlight Award and feels that it motivates her to do an even better job. She truly enjoys working with students and faculty and helping them navigate the University’s policies and procedures. “You really see how something that you feel is a part of your job, something you look at as being so simple can help them in such a big way. The interactions you have can make a big difference,” Carrie fondly remarked.

In her spare time, Carrie enjoys spending time outdoors with her adorable 2 ½-year-old son Griffin and husband Tim Moore (also a Student Services Coordinator in Linguistics), watching movies, and spending quality time with family and friends.

Congratulations, Carrie!

Academic Advisor, Comprehensive Studies Program                

Author: Jean McKee
Photographer: Photo courtesy of Michelle Rosemond

Michelle Rosemond, an Academic Advisor in the Comprehensive Studies Program, welcomed me to her office in the with a huge grin on her face – one that she says has been there since she learned she would receive an LS&A Spotlight Award.  She is happy to be recognized for her contributions to LS&A, though emphasized that her utmost goal is to make a connection with students and a difference in their lives.  From the nominations received on her behalf, submitted by students, faculty, and colleagues both in and outside the College, it is clear she is well on her way to achieving that goal.

“Michelle brings her all to any endeavor – her intelligence, creativity, energy, enthusiasm, and commitment is focused on making every project a success,” wrote Denise Lee, a lecturer in Math.  She is a “mentor to both students and colleagues alike.” Terrence Wilbert, a residence hall director who has worked with Michelle for CSP’s Summer Bridge Program, mentioned that in addition to her connections with students, she “always passes along a bit of wisdom to me as a young professional.”  Dr. Charles Taylor, an English lecturer, echoed this praise when he attested to the “high quality of her student counseling, and to the care and concern she displays” for each student. 

Cooper Charleton, one of the students she has advised, said that “reaching my goals is possible with her,” partly due to the fact that “she creates a two-way environment that allows you to create a real relationship built on trust.”  Other students have described her as “a ray of sunshine,” and noted she has “prove[n] her worth as a valuable member of my team.”  More than one student mentioned the fact that Michelle invites them on her daily noon walks around campus and Ann Arbor, to connect with students and also, some noted, to contribute to their efforts to improve their lifestyle.  In what is perhaps the ultimate compliment to any educator, Jeremiah Whittington wrote: “I cannot thank her enough for showing me what the true value of education is.”

Michelle wasn’t always an academic advisor, but got her start in middle school special education.  She transitioned to residence life at colleges in Maine and Ohio, working with populations like student athletes and creating her own learning community at Kent State. The “innovative programming” – professional development, with emphasis on work and life balance – drew her to the University of Michigan nine years ago.  She is currently pursuing a PhD in higher education from Eastern Michigan and upon completion next August, hopes that being imbued with the “spirit of Michigan” will allow her take on even more responsibilities and opportunities here. 

She is constantly learning and reading, eager to transfer her theoretical knowledge into practice and research on a daily basis.  Michelle is, at heart, a social scientist, and is very focused on the idea of identity with her students; it is ever-present in her studies and her practical approach to advising.  She is always looking for and cognizant of the whole student in her daily appointments and email conversations, always seeking to use that information to retain them as a student and help them find success.

Though she fills her days with advising appointments, walking groups, dissertation writing, and as Lee reports, administrative responsibilities like identifying “gaps within the learning community’s operation process [to] resolve them,” she does enjoy some time away from work.  Michelle’s walking and yoga and pilates instruction are ways for her to take a break and come back to work refreshed and refocused.  She is part of a sorority that is a large support to her, as they gather for pursuits that echo the values she brings to the College, like feeding the homeless and mentoring middle school girls.  She also supports her son as he plays hockey for a junior elite team; she is often traveling to watch him play. 

It is clear that Michelle has already had quite an impact upon those around her in the relatively short time she has been an advisor in the Comprehensive Studies Program.  Her students credit her with their decisions to pursue higher education, and her colleagues, like Lyonel J. Milton, Director of Student Affairs in the School of Education, credit many students' success stories to her “compassion and professional care.”  Whittington wrote that Michelle “is a prime example of an educator that will continue to raise the bar and academic and moral excellence,” and Grace Sims added that she “deserves to be spotlighted more than any other faculty member I have come into contact with at this university.”  Not only has Michelle earned this Spotlight Award, it is likely she will continue to make a lasting impression on future students and colleagues as well.

Facilities Utilization Planner, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Author: Kristin Romelhardt
Photographer: Dale Austin

What does the 1953 movie classic “Shane” have in common with the Earth and Environment Sciences’ Camp Davis?  They both take place in Jackson Hole, Wyoming!  When Bill Wilcox was a young boy he saw “Shane” and never forgot the beauty of the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole.  Many years later, when he saw a UM job posting for a position that would allow him an annual trip to Jackson Hole, he knew he had to apply.  Bill got that job and has been a part of the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department (previously Geological Sciences) for the last 29 years.  Although Bill no longer packs up the family and travels west to assist with Camp Davis, he does still organize the caravans that take students and faculty to that facility each summer.

One might wonder what keeps a person’s job interesting and challenging for almost three decades.  Bill has no trouble explaining all about the complexities of his job keeping 63,000+ of square foot space in C.C. Little running smoothly.  It involves very diverse job tasks as well as lots of problem solving!  And Bill is not one to sit in his office waiting for problems to come to him.  He is always out trouble shooting – that sticky door, that lock that is difficult, that annoying leak, that broken desk, that hall that needs painting!  However, he doesn’t just deal with all of the small stuff but contributes on classroom design committees, provides input on drawing consultations and site inspections for construction and renovation projects, and acts as liaison between contractors and new faculty in lab setup.  This “loyalty, diligence, and enormous competency,” as one nominator said, has not gone unnoticed.  Another nominator noted “nothing escapes his attention, his response time to requests from faculty or postdoctoral fellows or graduate students is typically the same day, and in doing so he creates the impression of being at work 24/7!”

Bill truly believes that everyone’s problems become his own problems.  That leads directly to why Bill is receiving this Spotlight Award.  Bill believes customer service is his job.  In fact, he makes “a substantial effort to not say ‘no’.”  Personal contact and establishing relationships are very important to him at work and in general.  According to one nominator “Bill is a positive force in the department.  I have never heard him voice any criticism of other staff, faculty or students.”  And “. . . he has always handled things fairly and has always been driven to find solutions that will work for the good of the whole department.”

Living without the distractions of television and cell phone allows Bill time to pursue other passions.  He enjoys reading and says he will never have enough books although his spouse sees that a little differently!  His special interests are history and Christian Theology.  When he is not reading he is gardening outside with perennials, trees, and shrubs and inside with orchids and Chinese Hibiscus.  And last but certainly not least, is the utmost enjoyment he gets from spending time with his toddler grandson whom he gets to see quite often.

When talking to Bill about all he does, he is energetic and enthusiastic!  Bill sums it all up this way which is what may define him both professionally and personally – “My job is to give the best I can do!”

LSA Maintenance and Construction Team, LSA Dean: Facilities

Photo: (Left to Right) Matt Meriwether, Matt Pettigrew, Jeremy Wilson, Mark Burns, Just Crawford

Author: Jeri Preston
Photographer: Jeri Preston

The team in LSA Maintenance and Construction – Mark Burns, Just Crawford, Matt Meriwether, Matt Pettigrew, and Jeremy Wilson – is missing a word in their vocabulary. Says Supervisor Mark Burns, “When I came in here, I basically decided to give [callers] what they want. If they ask, we do it. We don’t say, ‘No.’”

Clearly, they are getting the job done and making plenty of people happy in the process. At a Spotlight Committee meeting, nominations repeatedly called them “tremendously helpful,” because they consistently maintain a “positive can-do attitude.”

Their job, simply put, is to move and improve offices. Need a whiteboard mounted? Call Mark. Want to rearrange an office? The team comes out. Retiring furniture? They manage storage and property. Moving an entire department to another building? You’re on the list.  Burns supervises all LSA classroom maintenance and upgrades. It’s all in a day’s work - a long day, with people calling in last-minute requests and with quick turn-around times. 

Patti Kardia, Administrative Manager for the Residential College, shared her experience coordinating the complex move out of East Quad this past summer. “Mark was able to manage the very large move in myriad small moves—keeping careful control of the dates and the tasks associated so he could most effectively manage his team. For instance, we distributed a variety of equipment and supplies to other units on campus, and Mark coordinated directly with the other folks as needed. Once a date has been negotiated, it goes off without a hitch—the team is there to help when need be, across the range of activities—grabbing boxes from a new faculty members’ home, installing pictures, hanging coat hooks, retrieving stuff for property disposition, and moving very large and bulky pieces of furniture.”

The Department of History also enthused, “I'm consistently impressed by the willingness of Mark -- and his crew -- to simply get things done in a friendly, fast, and efficient manner. This summer, we reorganized our office suite, and Mark's crew performed the move -- file cabinets, desks, disassembly, reassembly, etc. -- it was very easy, and Mark's coordination (pre-move meetings, moving day follow-up) was wonderful. I never thought it would be so easy! It's great to simply email Mark to make a work request -- and it's great to know that we're not charged for the services of his crew. I hope that Mark and his crew are recognized for their flexibility, their great attitude, and their incredibly strong customer service.” And these are just a sampling of the praises received.

When asked what makes the team so successful, the entire room replies, “TEAMWORK.”  Combined, they have 76 years of teamwork experience (Burns/28, Pettigrew/27, Wilson/14, Crawford/5 and Meriwether/2).   This willingness of the team to go the extra mile is what makes them truly stand out.  “I told the guys, since we serve so many departments, by the time we get out there, the list of things people want done may have grown.” Burns makes the assignment sound easy: “Help them out.”

Mark and his team goes the extra mile even in commuting time, with two getting up at 6 a.m., heading into Ann Arbor. In distance, they cover the map from Williamston to Westland.

When you’re busy maintaining the College of LSA, you’re bound to need a little relaxation. Here’s how they responded to the question, “What do you do for fun?”

  • Mark Burns: “Bow and gun hunting. And horseshoes. I love horseshoes.” (He’s actually won two singles state championships and one doubles championship with his son.)
  • Matt Pettigrew: “Fishing, including pier fishing up at Pentwater and Frankfort.”
  • Jeremy Wilson:  “Art and photography, especially photo manipulation.”
  • Just Crawford: “Hunting and fishing.” (But he’s in school at WCC and EMU, while working full time, so there’s not much time for it.)
  • Matt Meriwether: “Hunting and woodworking.” (He builds furniture.)

We joked about filming a segment of the TV show “Storage Wars,” using the reclaimed furniture that Burns collects, but that’s not likely since they value their ability to communicate with each other. Even “American (LSA) Pickers” is out of the question, since their warehouse is for sharing.  While there may be no cable TV limelight in the near future for the team, we’re pleased to put them in the Spotlight for Fall 2013.

Spring 2013

Financial Analyst Senior, LSA Dean: Finance

Author: Jeri Preston
Photographer: Photo courtesy of Sven Anderson

Sven Anderson, an Ann Arbor native, is happy – and feels lucky -- to be back in his hometown.  After attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for Economics, he spent some time working at non-profits in Washington DC and Chicago, but felt the pull to come home. Knowing the job market was highly competitive, he pursued and gained employment at U-M in 2009.

Currently, he’s a Senior Financial Analyst for the LSA Dean’s Office, providing support across several departments to key administrators and managers. When asked, he gave a brief synopsis of his work: “I provide customer service and training.” His colleagues, however, are more descriptive.

Says Jane Johnson, Business Ad Lead in English, and one of the staff who nominated Sven,  “A year ago, the Departments of Sociology, Political Science, History, and English worked with the Dean’s Office to establish the South State Street Business Office. The new manager, who was hired from outside the University, faced a significant challenge in both learning the University’s financial systems and implementing changes to the financial structures of our four units, aligning and streamlining our financial processes. Sven’s help in the mentorship and training of this Business Manager was invaluable and he is the unsung hero behind the successful transition.”

But it’s more than his collaborative approach that coworkers appreciate.  One trait is his sense of humor, evident in the piratical eye-patch hanging off his computer monitor, a remnant from a department Halloween party.  Words like “supportive,” “thorough,” “calm,” and “diligent” pepper the Spotlight recommendations.

Balancing such reliable, practical qualities, Sven’s hobbies reveal an adventurous side.  Away from the desk, he enjoys golfing, kayaking, and white water rafting. He and his brother recently rafted the Gauley River in West Virginia.  Sven is also an “avid” snowboarder, preferring the powder in Colorado to our local hills, although we found common ground (so to speak) at Mt. Brighton.

Of the Anderson family, Sven’s father and sister are U-M alumni.  He’ll join their ranks upon completing his MBA, while his fiancé is currently studying at Wayne State. They’ll celebrate with a wedding next July, sealing a relationship that started on the playground in sixth grade. Maybe by then their puppy, a chocolate lab named Wallace, will be trained well enough to attend.

It’s clear, with so many interests and pursuits, that Sven is accomplished at managing and multi-tasking. Johnson praises, “Sven is exactly the kind of staff person that the Dean’s Office should be trying to replicate.”

Academic Advising Coordinator, Student Academic Affairs

Author: Kristyn Sonnenberg
Photographer: Photo courtesy of Robert Gordon

After a great 8 years working as an advisor and being impressed with the student Academic Peer Advisors (APA’s) who spend their summers orienting incoming students to UM, Robert Gordon jumped at the opportunity to work more closely with them and the orientation programs. Robert has enjoyed his position as Coordinator of First-Year Programming & Orientation as much as his coworkers and the APAs have enjoyed working with him. Robert says that “As educators, [he and the APAs] want to explain to students at orientation the wonderful opportunities that they have at their fingertips and to help them find their passions and their place in the world.”

Tim Dodd, director of the Newnan Advising Center, explains that “superbly trained and reliable APAs are indispensable to the work of the Newnan Center and Rob is indispensable in the hiring, training, and supervision of those students.” Robert describes this role as tremendously rewarding. He is generous with his time and gladly supports the APAs in every way he can. They meet weekly as a group to discuss experiences and further their training. “The peer advisors seem to grow in their advising role under Rob’s supervision and have become an integral part of the advising team,” writes his supervisor Carmella Brown.

The Academic Peer Advisors similarly laud Robert’s work. Their nomination letter accentuates Robert ‘s great communication skills and his availability and guidance, saying that he is able to communicate even overwhelming things with a laid-back style that makes students feel assured and engaged. He goes above and beyond his supervisory role. The students described a time when one of the APAs got into a bike accident and Robert walked the student to University Health Services and then back home to make sure all was well. “On countless occasions, I’ve seen Rob enact his student-first philosophy,” writes Kari Schueller, Assistant Director in the Office of New Student Programs. “From making complex special accommodations for a student or simply helping a lost student find their way, Rob shows each LSA student respect and kindness.”

Robert’s work with students and young people does not end with his job here at UM. He coaches his two sons’ baseball teams and teaches the occasional history course at Wayne State University. He also enjoys spending time with his wife and their sons and channels his love for baseball into his part-time work as a baseball writer.

Robert handles many other tasks in his position here at UM as well, including handling payroll and hiring paperwork, advising current students and orienting new ones, holding co-advising sessions with Career Center Professionals, and assisting with overall planning and coordination within the Office of New Student Programs. He does all this with good judgment, attention to detail, an upbeat presence, and a warm and generous attitude. It is these qualities (along with his great work!) that make him more than worthy of the spotlight.

Administrative Assistant Intermediate, International Institute

Author: Jean McKee
Photographer: Photo courtesy of Emily Liu Photography: http://emilyliuphotography.webs.com/

Gitta Killough, Administrative Assistant in the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia (WCEE) in the International Institute, received high praise in her nomination letter for her “extraordinary efforts” in taking on additional responsibilities due to the unexpected departure of a colleague.  Marysia Ostafin, Gitta’s nominator and Program Manager for WCEE, commended Gitta’s willingness to learn new processes and duties with “good humor and considerable effort…accomplishing all the tasks that came her way to perfection.”

While Gitta is honored to receive the LSA Spotlight Award for these efforts, and for generally being “an excellent employee and mentor to all,” she is quick to say that she believes her award mirrors the people with and for whom she works.  She truly enjoys her colleagues and believes that their leadership allows her team to “rise to the top.”  When asked about the five months she took on so much extra work, she said the intensity of it all actually hit her later, after WCEE had hired someone to take on those duties full-time.  In the moment, though, she said she plunged ahead and “learned by doing,” knowing the work had to be completed somehow.  Her determination to fulfill her new responsibilities was supported by her colleagues, who she credits for their cooperation and a part of her success.

Gitta began her career in the world of public relations in Germany, eventually moving to New York to work for a large international publishing house, and later teaching German language and culture at the German School in Washington, D.C. and the Rudolf Steiner High School in Ann Arbor.  She transitioned to higher education four years ago, working in student affairs in the Psychology Department in LS&A.  Gitta says she enjoyed the student-oriented environment but when she had the opportunity to return to a position that focused on international programming and working with distinguished visitors from across the globe, she jumped at the chance.  She says in some ways, this position has allowed her to feel like a student again, learning new things and meeting new people associated with WCEE.  She thrives on the energy these visitors bring to the University, and on the opportunity to follow current affairs and scholarship featured in WCEE programs.

Indeed, Gitta is most looking forward to the long list of distinguished visitors coming to the WCEE and its partner centers this academic year, such as the former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko.  The WCEE celebrates its fifth anniversary and the fortieth anniversary of the Polish studies program, and supports community events such as the International Film Festival, Cinetopia.  Gitta plays a key role in coordinating the administrative details and says it’s important to maintain an “I can” attitude while working on these challenging programs.  Even though she does plenty of things outside of work, like gardening, teaching German, running, and spending time with her two children, she also attends many Weiser Center events out of genuine interest.  “It’s very rewarding to be part of the international University community,” she says.

Winter 2013

Lorna Altstetter

Human Resources Assistant, History Department

Author:  Robin Goldberg
Photographer: Jeri Preston

When Lorna Altstetter first joined the University community as a Clerk with the History department, she was younger than many undergraduates. Thirty-three years later, she jokes about being older than many professors. “The faculty members are like family. They’ve watched me grow up,” she explained.

At age seventeen, Lorna applied for her first position at U-M. After assisting in the offices of both her middle and high schools, she wanted to continue working in an educational environment. When she received offers from five different departments, she chose History and has stayed here ever since. According to her longtime colleague Diane Wyatt, “Lorna is dedicated, compassionate and committed, her personality is a joy to be around, and her laughter brightens the gloomiest of days.”

In the 1980s, professors gave her handwritten drafts of their books and she typed up their “chicken scratch” on an old-fashioned typewriter. When she was promoted from a Clerk to an Academic Services Secretary, she began supporting undergraduate honors students as well. Upon becoming an Administrative Assistant, she shifted her focus to graduate students as she coordinated visas and handled nearly five million dollars of graduate student funds. Her fondest memories of this period include reassuring GSIs who felt unprepared to teach their assigned courses and receiving thanks for her encouragement in their dissertations. “She came to us a shy teenager and has become the rock on whom graduate students rely for a non-punishing audience, an empathetic ear, and scrupulous avoidance of gossip,” wrote Dr. Rudi Lindner, a professor of medieval history.

Last year Lorna earned the role of Human Resources Assistant and some of her former duties went to other staff members. According to Wyatt, “Lorna has demonstrated mentoring skills, facilitated the success of others, and helped them and me achieve our goals.” Although Lorna misses working as closely with students as she did in the past, she relishes tackling new challenges. “I absolutely love my co-workers,” she emphasized. “We all pull together, through thick and thin.” She said the most important lessons she has learned from decades in the History department are “to roll with the changes” and “to treat others the way you want to be treated.”

For integrating these wise words into her daily life, Lorna has been recognized with both group and individual awards. For instance, in 2003 her History team received the Exemplary Workplace Award and in 2010 she was a finalist for the Candace J. Johnson Staff Award for Excellence. Although she has accumulated numerous honors, she appreciates each one wholeheartedly. Upon learning that she won the Winter 2013 LSA Staff Spotlight Award, she treated herself to coffee ice cream with Heath bar crunch from Coldstone Creamery.

When not winning awards at work, Lorna enjoys spending time with her family and her dogs. Buster, her miniature Chihuahua, has celebrity status in the office. He appears with Lorna in her Google profile photo and he has been featured in the department’s newsletter for helping students de-stress during final exam season. In addition to four adorable dogs, Lorna has three grown children. This summer she hopes to travel to Maine with her husband to explore historic lighthouses and visit a retired professor. Even on vacation, Lorna needs a sign of the History department for her family to feel complete.

Lisa Clark

Test Accommodation Coordinator, Testing Accommodations Center

Author: Kristyn Sonnenberg
Photographer: Photo courtesy of Lisa Clark

In the 16 months since Lisa Clark became University of Michigan’s first Test Accommodation Coordinator, she has garnered the praise of many. Lisa had been working for 7.5 years as an Academic Advisor/Certification Officer at the School of Education when the College of Literature, Science, and Arts recruited her for this new position at the Testing Accommodations Center (TAC). As Stuart Segal, Director of Services for Students with Disabilities, wrote in his nomination letter, “Lisa Clark was hired to turn the TAC from an idea into a reality. LSA could not have made a better choice.”

When Lisa was hired, the Testing Accommodations Center was merely a room in the Modern Languages Building, a new program with no precedents in place. Lisa was excited to be a part of the team and took the initiative to expand her knowledge base by contacting other colleges and joining the Michigan Association of Higher Education and Disabilities. Within months, she hired proctors and put together the procedures, equipment, and policies for a center that now provides hundreds of students who have documented disabilities with a distraction-free setting for quizzes and exams.

A number of departments within LSA, including Biology, Physics, Economics, History, Romance Languages, Chemistry, and Mathematics, have trusted Lisa and the TAC to administer tests to their students in need of special accommodations such as extended time or use of a computer.  Diane Spillane, Ph.D., who teaches one large enrollment course in Biology and coordinates another, says she was hesitant to utilize the TAC before she found out how simple Lisa made the process. She finds that “Lisa is pleasant, easy to deal with, and clearly is extremely supportive of the students at the University of Michigan.” Lisa notes that one of the greatest delights of her job is being able to “provide a resource for students and work to elevate the quality of testing accommodations.”

Despite all of her accomplishments in making the TAC a success, Lisa stresses that she could not do it alone. She enjoys the team environment at the TAC and says that its success “is built on the collaboration between many departments across the College.” The 2,000+ students at UM with registered disabilities no doubt appreciate the exemplary service provided.

Outside of leading the TAC, Lisa enjoys spending time with her family at their cabin up north.  She loves being outdoors and stays active with golfing, kayaking, and hiking.

Nancy Harris
Student Services Coordinator, Comparative Literature

Author and Photographer: Mariam Negaran

When Comparative Literature Chair Silke-Maria Weineck nominated Nancy Harris, Student Services Coordinator, for a Spotlight Award, little did she expect that supportive emails would flood her inbox overnight.  In fact, the emails and letters of support from faculty, staff, graduate, and undergraduate students far exceeded the norm.

And it’s not hard to understand why.  As soon as you walk into the Comparative Literature office, you are greeted with a warm, engaging smile and a helpful attitude.  As Student Services Coordinator, Nancy is responsible for supporting and advising both undergraduate and graduate students, a task that is formidable, but Nancy handles it effortlessly.  When students are nervous or anxious about academic deadlines or personal issues, Nancy quickly puts them at ease with her knowledge, dedication, compassion, and unflagging sense of humor.

“The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Nancy is her wonderful smile,” graduate student Maayan Eitan notes. “No matter what the circumstances are, Nancy will always have something encouraging and helpful to say.”

However, her support also extends beyond the student realm, when she greatly helped the department in its chair and key administrator transitions and departmental review.  It was during these times of change that Nancy’s steady knowledge and resourcefulness shone through.

“Without her, the tornado known as September in these parts would have, no doubt, left me at the very least severely disheveled,” Department Chair Weineck says. “I am convinced that Nancy Harris is the heart of Comparative Literature, and that it is her spirit that keeps us all together as a community.”

Born in Ann Arbor, Nancy and her family moved to New York State for a while, but she knew she was destined to go the University of Michigan after she attended a football game while visiting family in Michigan. After graduation, when the company she worked for went out of business, Nancy found her passion for student services in the 90s, while working in various departments at the University of Michigan, Stanford University, Eastern Michigan University, and ultimately returned to the University of Michigan in 2006, and hasn’t looked back since.

“Students keep you on your toes,” Nancy remarks with a laugh. “I love being able to help students navigate the system and not just give answers, but show them how to be resourceful and find the answers on their own.”

Nancy hopes that by doing this, students stay grounded and leave the university with the tools they need to succeed both academically and professionally. As surprised as she was to receive the Spotlight Award, she insists that there is a lot of give and take and greatly appreciates the department for its support and understanding of what it takes to get the job done.

“I truly appreciate the thought, effort, and all the kind words and support that went into my nomination,” Nancy says fondly.

When Nancy isn’t busy being helpful, she enjoys spending time with her son, daughter, eight grandkids, and  her new puppy, a wire-hair fox terrier named Scamper. She is also an active MHealthy participant who likes taking walks and being outdoors, especially near the cottage that she and her husband own in New Era, near Lake Michigan.

Congratulations, Nancy, on a job well done!

Karly Mitchell
Executive Secretary, Department of English Language & Literature             

Author: Rachel Hammond
Photographer: Photo courtesy of Karly Mitchell

“Who inspires you?”  Past or current presidents, missionaries, superheroes, our own mothers, and even celebrity talk-show hosts generate the most responses.  For Karly Mitchell, however, a role model of a different kind comes to mind.  She cites the character Mrs. Hughes, head of the female servants in the post-Titanic drama, Downton Abbey.  Mrs. Hughes is strict yet motherly, as she strives to keep the manor operations running smoothly. 

In an office tucked away on the third floor of Angell Hall sits Karly, who greets her visitors with a warm, cheerful smile.  As the Executive Secretary for the English Language & Literature Department, Karly is responsible for preparing promotion cases, organizing recruitment activities, arranging campus visits, and carrying out several other administrative duties.  When asked to comment on her favorite aspects of her job and what keeps her motivated, she replied that she has “a sick obsession with the organization that’s required - there is something really satisfying about turning in a final product to LSA that you had your hands on.”  She recalls what made her time as an undergraduate student so great and how gratifying it is that she gets to help others experience the same.  And Karly’s dedication to her job has not gone unnoticed.

Those who work with Karly consider her a team player who, while serving the department just shy of three years, has the “expertise and confidence of a veteran staff member.”  Whether it be a small project like stuffing envelopes or developing a Google “how to” training session for her fellow staff, she is always willing to offer a helping hand.  Karly managed nine campus visits this past term, a task which requires extreme proficiency (two of these involved joint searches with other units and carried their own special set of complexities).  It is no wonder Karly has been selected to assist new staff in becoming successful in their roles.

Not only does Karly Mitchell do an outstanding job keeping up with her own duties and responsibilities, but she also has offered to help train fellow employees.  When the Political Science and American Culture Departments hired new executive secretaries, she was particularly sought out to mentor and train them.  “We have great leadership in the department,” commented Mitchell when asked how she feels about being a role model, “I was really glad to show [them] the ropes.”  Also an evening MBA student, Karly says the key to success is all about balancing priorities and interests and that the toughest part of her job is “having to say ‘no’ when you can’t do everything you would like to do.”  This is likely a discussion topic at the LSA Core Administrative Professionals (LCAP) group that Karly participates in.

Karly mentioned the LCAP group when asked to provide advice for others who are in similar roles at the University.  A “shameless plug,” she admits, but LCAP is open to all administrative staff and is a great way to meet people in different departments and share best practices.  Karly doesn’t see herself leaving academia anytime soon, and hopes to one day set up a more formal mentoring program specifically for new executive secretaries and serve as an Academic Advisor or a Key-Administrator.  For now, it seems Karly Mitchell is perfectly content where she is and has this to say about her current job with the English  Language & Literature Department: “best co-workers I’ve ever had and the best office window I’ve ever had.”

Rick Smoke
Desktop Support Specialist Senior, Department of Sociology

Author: Jeri Preston
Photo: Courtesy of Rick Smoke

Any interview is off to a good start, when the interviewee says, "Yes," and, then, “Thanks for the offer of coffee. How about with pie?” Over this afternoon treat, we talked about Rick Smoke's 22 year career at U-M, the Sociology Department, and why he loves his job so much that colleagues not only know it, but celebrate him for it.

Originally, Rick was enrolled in U-M Dental School, earning his first Bachelor’s in Microbial Physiology. He enthusiastically shared research on rats using radio wave technology, yet something was missing. A conversation with an academic advisor convinced him to make a change. After taking a few graduate classes in different areas of interest, he declared his second Bachelor’s in Computer Science and Math. He had found a passion.

Now in LSA, colleagues say he’s a good listener.  Rick, they say, not only develops “technological solutions that fit” their need for data, but which are also within their “technology comfort zone.”  Basically, jobs are custom-fit. 

Not an easy task! Says one staff member, “In a large, multi-method department like Sociology, Rick is required to serve faculty with very disparate computing needs. Some are minimal…some use sophisticated quantitative software programs, with a wide range. This varied mix requires him to be a ‘jack of all trades.’”

Indeed, Rick's versatility shines in a department full of laptops, desktops, and conference equipment. And it's not just the equipment. His skills are required regularly for the needs of 35+ faculty, 8 staff, and 100 graduate students.  Colleagues say Rick approaches each request as “a collaborator,” helping in all areas “with nonchalance, good humor, and talent.” 

Recognized as piloting multiple application management systems, Rick’s talents are found campus-wide.  Schools and departments have found it's easy to pick up the phone and give him a call.  This was evidenced when, over our pie, he offered suggestions for alumni projection-conferencing for my own department, along with source and contact information, without missing a beat. 

What's his favorite part of the job? What keeps him going? After all, this is Rick's second award, receiving the Spotlight Award in 2004, a contribution that enables LSA to proudly claim "Leaders & Best" staff..

“My favorite part of the job is the fact that I get to come up with good, creative IT solutions. And that's because the staff and faculty keeps coming up with great ideas," he replies.

What's the latest challenge? 

“Coming up with new administrative applications – I’m taking an online course from Stanford in Database Theory to help the process.  Basically, I’m rewriting my old applications, making them new.  The speed of technology today is astounding.” Astounding, but not impossible. That's what keeps him motivated to meet the next challenge.

In his down-time, he enjoys walking his dog, Daisy (a 12-year-old Gordon setter/lab mix), with his wife, hiking around Bishop Lake and other trails.  Long range plans include traveling abroad, but that's a challenge for another day. Now, he's focused on meeting the goals of the Sociology staff, with an occasional visit to local restaurants when he has free time - or is not responding to an after-hours call.

"It's part of the job," he says. "And it's usually solved quickly. I like food - I like eating pie." 

(L-R)  David Blair, Nicholas Deakins, Edward Brennan, Jeffrey Klanderman, Paul Haley, John Jahn, Gregory Turner, Kevin Love (not pictured)

Design and Engineering Team, Instructional Support Services 

Author and Photographer: Halley Sissom

A sound engineer who DJ’s on the weekends. A mobile electronics enthusiast who brought an iPhone back to life after it sat on a lake bottom for over a year. A curious kid who took his family phone apart piece by piece and put it back together just before his parents came home.  Professional audio/ visual engineers from the private sector with extensive experience in a wide range of corporate settings. These stories are part of the history of the ISS Design and Engineering Team.

What do they do? Quite simply, they design, install, maintain and support audio/visual presentation systems in over 240 learning spaces including classrooms, auditoriums, administrative rooms and conference rooms across LSA and the university. Design and Engineering was formed in 2006 and is one piece of LSA Instructional Support Services (ISS). The biggest challenge the team faces is to meet and exceed expectations. Faculty, students, and potential students bring their own visions regarding what particular technology should be available. Taking feedback and combining it with their knowledge and experience when designing a space is what the Design and Engineering Team does best.

The team stays busy outfitting LSA with the latest technology including wide-screen projection, Blu-ray playback, document cameras, laptop and managed computer connectivity, support for digital media devices and touch panel control systems. Even with all these additions and improvements, the rooms still support older technology, such as VHS.  

“We design each space with the mentality that the money is coming out of our pocket,” said David Blair. Blair has been with ISS Design and Engineering from the beginning in 2006 and has over 32 years in the ever-changing world of technology. He credits the team’s success on their ability to appreciate and unify a diversity of technical perspectives and talents in service to the teaching mission of the college. They use their array of past experiences to bring the best learning tools to LSA while considering carefully how those valuable dollars are spent to help ensure that designs will meet both immediate and future teaching needs.  David’s true passion is mentoring his team members and, “keeping them interested in what they do so they stay hungry.” 

Over the past six years, the number of LSA classrooms with technology has increased from 25% to over 80% with the number of classroom technology issues reported annually decreasing by 25% over the same time period.  At the same time, the Design and Engineering team has reduced the average cost of a single technology classroom by 36%, further driving the expansion of classroom technology in LSA to better serve both faculty and students. The Design and Engineering group is dedicated to making LSA classrooms state-of-the-art as well as a selling point for the college.

“If potential students were to come here for an orientation and see a transparency overhead projector in a classroom, they would know that particular technology is outdated.” Blair said.

The team’s lengthy list of accomplishments includes leading the design of instructional technology in over fifteen teaching spaces in North Quad, with plans to do the same in thirty more teaching spaces in 2013, notably the new Residential College classrooms in East Quad.  They also managed over 75 separate client projects in 2011 and part of 2012, which involved client interviews, site visits, design iterations, cost estimates, installer oversight and project reviews. The pace of work at Design and Engineering continues to grow, with the number of projects completed each year exceeding those of the previous one.

John Jahn, who has been with Design and Engineering for over 5 years, emphasized the aptitude of the team.  “With the talent in this department, I would put ISS engineering up against any outside Audio/ Visual firm for design and installation quality,” Jahn said. “We are constantly looking for ways to improve the LSA learning environment, and I think we live up to and exceed the Big 10 expectation.”

It’s obvious why the team is successful and deserving of recognition. As for the future, it’s exciting to imagine what new technology will be available and the ways in which Design and Engineering can propel LSA into the future.

Congratulations to the Design and Engineering Team on their award!

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