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Winter 2011

Lu Ann Custer

Lu Ann Custer
Student Administrative Assistant Senior
Department of Statistics

Lu Ann Custer
Author: Shante Galloway

From reading the nominations received for Lu Ann Custer, it’s obvious that she is considered one of the greatest assets in the Department of Statistics. Many of her colleagues praised her on her pleasant attitude, work ethic, dependability and the wealth of knowledge she brings to her position. When students come to the Statistics department with questions, Lu Ann’s engaging personality makes the students feel at home. Lu Ann is genuinely interested in seeing the students through the program from start to finish. Her interactions with the students are somewhat of a mothering nature.

Lu Ann has been with the Department of Statistics for almost 24 years serving as their Graduate Programs Assistant. Serving as the main contact for the admissions process, she is responsible for handling 185 applied masters and 215 Ph. D. applications annually. Lu Ann also handles GSI appointments, student fellowships, and Recruitment day. Lu Ann is extremely organized, meticulous in her work, and responds to numerous students inquires promptly. Graduate Students in Statistics feel that Lu Ann is a source of knowledge for everything in their department. She is known for going the “extra mile” for her students. An example would be the preparation she goes through when setting up for a graduate student to present their defense thesis. Lu Ann always makes sure the student is comfortable, has everything he/she may need and makes sure the room is prepped as well.

Make no mistake, students are not the only ones who appreciate the hard work ethic and knowledge that Lu Ann provides to the Statistic Department. Her colleagues also notice her humble approach, her dedication, and her wealth of knowledge. Lu Ann has organized and helped to improve the department’s New Student Orientation and Training Sessions held each Fall term. Lu Ann doesn’t hesitate to step up when a co-worker is out or needs assistance. When a staff member appears to be overwhelmed, she lends a helping hand. It is clear that Lu Ann is a shining example of a team player for her department.

Joseph Sheldon

Joseph Sheldon
Mail Clerk Associate
Department of Physics

Joseph Sheldon
Author: Cathy Conway-Perrin

The common theme in Joseph Sheldon’s nomination letters was his great attitude and his commitment to customer service. As Mail Clerk Associate for the Physics department, Joe can receive as many as 40 packages a day and over 500 in a month. Since many of those are lab supplies, the content, size, and weight can vary considerably. He has taken delivery of everything from envelope-sized packages to shipments weighing over a thousand pounds that have to be moved with a forklift. He takes it all in stride with a smile, and according to one nominator, “has proven himself worthy of recognition time and time again.” Another nominator wrote, “Joe has been an exceptional employee... He is always happy to help…always reliable and dependable, and routinely goes beyond what his job calls for.”

Being in charge of shipping and receiving for a science department can be a real challenge, and there’s a lot at stake. A faculty nominator explained that “much of our research depends on efficient movement of equipment to and from U-M, including on occasion shipment of hazardous materials. This also includes transport of large, sometimes fragile pieces of expensive equipment requiring special handling and care.” Asked to name one of most unusual packages he had handled, Joe described a lighter-than-air box that’s used to collect stardust.

In addition to deliveries and shipping, Joe manages office moves. He likes to get out of the mailroom, stretch his legs, and do something different. According to one coworker, “many times we are under a very strict timeline to move one person out and another in… and Joe knows how to clean out a room within hours… We joke that if you’ve left something in your old office, don’t expect to come back for it the next day.” Joe also enjoys doing the set-up for the Saturday Morning Physics program, a series of public lectures followed by Q & A and refreshments. Joe’s understanding of, and commitment to, his department clearly reach far beyond the mailroom.

A lifelong Michigander, Joe owned his own business and had also worked in retail, the Postal Service, and a greenhouse before coming to U-M in 2007. The greenhouse was one of his favorite jobs, and perhaps that explains one of his hobbies— growing giant pumpkins for show. He’s been doing this for three years, and once produced a pumpkin weighing 496 pounds. When asked how one transports a pumpkin of that size, Joe shrugged as if it’s not really a big deal. After the shipments he’s handled for Physics, apparently moving a 500-pound pumpkin is not much of a challenge. For problems of any size, Joe Sheldon knows how to get the job done.

Karie Slavik

Karie Slavik
Department Administrator
Biological Station

Karie Slavik
Author:Jaime Langdon

Karie Slavik has worked at the U-M Biological Station (UMBS), since December 2002 and this will be her ninth summer serving as Associate Director. Karie brings a strong scientific background to her position, as she has conducted research and published papers based on research she conducted in Arctic Alaska and the Great Lakes Region prior to arriving at U-M in 2003. Working, researching and living at a field station is not new for Karie. She’s spent every summer since 1993, except for two, at a field station. She has had many of the same experiences that the students, researchers and faculty have had during their stay at UMBS. Because of her experiences, she is able to be an effective administrator and leader for the various constituencies she works with at the Biostation. She is also an effective and excellent manager of twelve full time employees and many part staff members, split between Ann Arbor and the UMBS campus.

Karie spends most of the fall and winter semesters here at the Ann Arbor campus, but leaves in early May to take on the day to day management of the UMBS for the next four months. One of her nominators wrote, “During the summer, Karie resides at the station and is essentially the mayor or business manager of a town of 3-400 residents, responsible for overseeing every aspect of camp life from the student cabins to the dining hall, from recreation activities like swimming and square dances to classrooms and field trips, from office services to alcohol policy. She is responsible for the overall quality of life at the station, and UMBS residents love her.”

Karie really loves her job and one of things she likes most about it is that every day presents a new challenge. According to Karie, the staff is what really makes the UMBS operate seamlessly. Everyone is ready to pull up their sleeves and handle any issue that may arise. While in Ann Arbor, she works with various populations, but in particular with students. She works to ensure that when a student decides to go to the UMBS that they have the BEST experience they possibly can have while there. When at the UMBS there is a diverse population of people besides just students that Karie works with on a daily basis, including REU candidates, GSI’s, faculty and their families, university researchers and their families and graduate researchers.

One accomplishment Karie is particularly proud of is the community garden that has been started at the UMBS. The garden is maintained by a variety of people at the Biostation and the garden produces enough produce to stock the salad bar and supplement two meals a week. This 2011 season, they are hoping to grow even more produce and are also starting a rain garden. The garden is one part of an overall initiative at the UMBS to try to achieve a Carbon Neutral Campus.

Alex Zwinak

Alex Zwinak
Graduate Program Coordinator
Kelsey Museum

Alex Zwinak
Author: Tim Ahlgren

On the 25th of January 2011, half way around the world, the country of Egypt erupted in a revolution. News reports of the uprising showed the World a campaign of civil resistance, featuring demonstrations, marches and acts of civil disobedience, along with labor strikes. While the revolution was predominately peaceful, there were some violent clashes. For the folks in the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, in particular, Alex Zwinak, this was cause for concern. Alex works as the Graduate Program Coordinator of IPCAA (Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art & Archaeology) — and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology has one of their archaeological fieldworks called “The Abydos Middle Cemetery Project”; this site lies about 400 kilometers south of Cairo in Upper Egypt.

Over the past 2–3 years, the University of Michigan has been encouraging heavily; those students who are traveling abroad (for such things as the archaeological fieldworks) enroll in health insurance for themselves, as well as registering with the embassies in the country they are visiting. This is something that Alex feels so strongly about, that as one PhD Candidate said, “Alex pushes us to take care of ourselves overseas, and makes sure that we get additional health insurance and register with the embassies. “

This turned out to be incredibly fortuitous this year, as the members with the Abydos project had to be extracted, and without the health insurance, their extraction would have been more difficult. While Alex will tell you he was but a “link in the chain of communication” between the folks in Egypt and their family and friends back home; students like Tom Landvatter, PhD Candidate, IPCAA (who was one of the members of the Abydos team extracted from Egypt on February 3rd), Alex was the crucial link in this chain. Alex was in charge of managing all the emergency contacts and maintained a steady flow of communication to faculty, family and fellow students, as well as with the folks involved in the extraction.

Alex is described as “the cornerstone of the department”. He is quick to say ‘Hello’ and offers you a bright smile with his greetings. He enjoys interacting with the students, and listens well when they need someone to talk with. He is very knowledgeable about U-M resources, and does not hesitate to offer assistance or provide what information he has to help the student. In his efforts to get to know all the students, especially incoming students to the program, it has become an IPCAA tradition for Alex to take all the first year students out to Dominick’s; and at the end of the year, to congratulate them on finishing their first year of graduate school.

Alex is a valuable asset to his department and a wonderful role model not only to his fellow faculty and staff, but to his students as well. Alex does all this while maintaining a calm, professional and friendly demeanor that allows the department to be as stress free as possible. As one student said, “he gets things done."

Fall 2011

Bonnie Campbell

Bonnie Campbell
Student Administrative Assistant Intermediate
English Language and Literature

Bonnie Campbell
Author: Kristyn Sonnenberg
Photographer: Aimee Germain

The LSA Staff Spotlight Award was created to recognize outstanding staff members who not only carry out their jobs effectively, but go above and beyond to help create a better environment for students, faculty, and staff alike. Bonnie Campbell exemplifies these qualities.

Bonnie has dedicated the past 26 years to making the English Department Writing Program the best it can be. She took her first job at the university in the psychological clinic, where she worked for three years before taking a couple years off to care for her newborn son then returning to U-M for her current position as Student Administrative Assistant of EDWP. Over the years, she has created a warm and welcoming environment where new and existing students and instructors feel welcome and taken care of. They know that when they bring a question or problem to Bonnie, it’s going to be solved, and they walk away feeling better about every situation.

As explained by a coworker, “she can make the most shy and anxious student feel comfortable asking questions. She can easily strike up a conversation with a new instructor and make them feel comfortable and supported.” This is invaluable in a program as large as the English Department Writing Program. Just this fall, there are over 3,000 students in 177 class sections as well as 60 new instructors, many of whom are graduate student instructors. Bonnie makes a point to learn each person’s name and does everything she can to make their lives easier. They stop by her office to talk about their lives and enjoy the coffee and chocolate she keeps stocked up there for them. One of the aspects she most enjoys about her job is being able to help instructors and make their jobs as easy as possible so they and the students can have the best possible experience at U-M.

Behind the scenes, Bonnie takes care of everything from class permissions and room reservations to scheduling, event logistics, and even unjamming the program’s printer. Her wealth of knowledge about the program and attention to detail makes her the go-to person to get advice from or bounce ideas off of. She knows what works and what doesn’t work for the program and is constantly thinking of ways to streamline processes and make the program run ever more smoothly. No matter how busy she is, she keeps a calm demeanor and a humble attitude about how hard she works. Even when there is a lot to do at the moment, she is thinking ahead and planning for future events and the next semester, troubleshooting possible issues well before they occur.

As Bonnie looks forward to a well-earned retirement, she continues to make the most of her time with the students and the program, making the daily commute to Ann Arbor with her husband. Right now they are excitedly preparing for their son’s wedding, which will take place next June.

David Smith

David Smith
LSA UG: Deputy Assistant Dean for Student Academic Affairs

David Smith
Author: Angela Cox
Photographer: Aimee Germain

David Smith has been working for the University of Michigan since 1996.He started as a part time lecturer at the University of Michigan-Flint in 1996 and moved to the Ann Arbor campus in 1997 as a LSA Academic Advisor and occasional lecturer in History. He has been in his current position just over a year as Deputy Assistant Dean for Student Academic Affairs.

Every day David enjoys that there is a new issue that needs to be solved and he is able to help with the solution. David works on issues from alleged academic misconduct to student emergencies and many other student-related issues. He looks at each student that comes into his office as an opportunity to help them be a better student. Each case that is brought to him he looks at as a different situation with a different solution.

As an academic advisor, David was the head of the Individual Concentration Program (ICP). He made many improvements to this program and as told by a colleague, “David was quite successful in improving the program and increasing its visibility.” And “Past ICP students continue to visit David.” One of David’s previous IPC students wrote a letter stating that he is truly living his dream and that he wouldn’t be where he is without the guidance and advice from David.

One of David’s colleagues mentioned that “innovation and creativity are special strengths of his and he embodies the spirit of the liberal arts and lives it in a way that is apparent to students and is to their benefit.” Another colleague wrote “David has worn many hats and consistently goes beyond job expectations.” It was an easy decision to award David as a Spotlight winner with the wonderful letters the committee received.

In David’s spare time he likes to bike and spend time with his wife and daughter. He received his undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and his graduate degree from Wayne State University, Ph.D. in History. It was a pleasure getting to know David and I feel fortunate that our students at the University have a friendly, helpful individual to help them get through difficult situations. Oh, and one last thing about David, he is a huge Bob Dylan fan and has been to at least 42 concerts!

CMS Web Services Team

CMS Web Services Team

(Back) Kristin Sumrall, Sean Green, Peggy Herron, Josh Simon, Christina Brus, Steve Coffman, Jim Bullock; (Front) Ann Marie Manzitti, Matthew Adams, Shanti Suresh, Pat Belden Not shown: Sonya McDowell, Joseph Wang
Author: Tim Ahlgren
Photographer: Richard Richter

“I have been working with LSA’s content management system for almost 10 years now, and it has been amazing to see the transformation — in terms of the product and our team — from when we first started to where we are now,” says Sean Green, Manager of Web Services. The CMS is a core part of the LSA marketing strategy and a focus of LSA Development, Marketing and Communications. LSA websites reach so many key audiences: faculty, staff, current students, prospective students, alumni and opinion leaders. With over 20 million hits a year, it is critical that the college and LSA department sites convey the quality, richness, depth and breadth of the nation’s preeminent liberal arts college.

First deployed to the College in early 2003, the Vignette Content Management System (CMS) was a bold step: An enterprise-level software product for managing web content wasn’t commonplace in higher education. The earliest iterations were, in our campus community, rather famously difficult to use and maintain, but the team knew the software’s potential and continued to improve it — upgrading, developing new features, and adapting to the support needs of hundreds of users across dozens of departments.

So what is it that the LSA CMS Web Services have done to create this success story?

In 2009, Pat Belden joined the team as Director of Web Services and brought with him a great deal of project management and software implementation experience which was integral to creating, analyzing, and honing web CMS processes.

Customer feedback continues to reflect the value of additional investments in the CMS project. “My department’s webpage is powerful, adaptable, and relevant thanks to CMS.” (Justin), “We are getting many compliments on our website.” (Alicia), and “We could not be happier with the redesign of the site.” (Ted).

Among the key changes to the CMS and the DMC team’s processes are:

  • Through an improved help desk system and more staffing, the team has gone from having 200 open tickets to known issues taking an average of fewer than two days to resolve.
  • There is now a single common code base used across all 74 sites. Previously, there were 35 different variants of code being used for 55 sites, a maintenance nightmare.
  • The common code and a new training program have brought drastic improvements to the initial user experience. Among these changes is a user certification program in which departmental CMS users complete training, gain hands-on experience, and receive recognition for their efforts.
  • When securing new facilities, the team procured a dedicated training room and initiated Open Labs for end users. All training and labs are conducted on an ongoing basis and are clearly listed on the team’s website.
  • Customer Satisfaction Surveys are part of every training experience and a critical part of ongoing efforts to identify the best ways to further improve the system.