Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Over the years, many University of Michigan-Dearborn students have turned their tassel and officially been welcomed to the Michigan Alumni Family. However, while many become alums in title, there are those who choose to make the title work for them as they give back to their alma mater.

In this month’s alumni blog post, we meet Theresa Sommerville, a 2016 CASL graduate who studied Psychology and Women's and Gender Studies and minored in Communication. She works as a supervisor at a Social Services Agency, and remains connected with the University by serving as the Chair for the African American Alumni Affiliate.

CASL: Why do you value the education you received as a CASL student?
Theresa Sommerville: Being a CASL student was the best decision for me. In a world where STEM is taking over, Liberal Arts degrees are often forgotten or not sought after. Being in CASL, I learned valuable skills in writing, reading, communication, project management, organization and critical thinking. These are skills that everyone needs, regardless of your degree path. I also learned business strategies, analytical statistics, and other key skills that others forget can be learned with a CASL degree.

CASL: Why do you believe the liberal arts and humanities are valuable?
TS: Liberal arts and humanities are valuable because we are growing into a more social world. Top executives in STEM have to meet with people just like the top business professional. We learn valuable skills in the liberal arts and humanities that easily become a part of our everyday work and social lives. That's what liberal arts and humanities gives us -- the tools to make it happen in the social workplace.

Interview Compiled by Leah Olajide 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

In this interview, CASL Grad Jessica Strachan discusses how her liberal arts degree has shaped her academically and professionally by Leah Johnson

-What year did you graduate and what was your major?

J.S.: 2009 B.A. I majored in communications-journalism and behavioral sciences. I earned my M.A. from UM-Flint in social sciences in 2011. 

-What Clubs/Organizations were you part of while on campus? 
J.S.: President of Amnesty International, a writer for the Michigan Journal, member of Campus Video. I also worked in Admissions & Orientation, was an orientation leader and later worked in Institutional Advancement, developing the framework for the campus' Student Philanthropy Council. 

-Describe the current project you're currently working on and how it relates to campus and the Dearborn Community
J.S.: Right now I have the pleasure of covering the people and projects contributing positive things to the city of Dearborn, a community I feel very connected to from my undergrad experience at UM-Dearborn. I'm the project editor and engagement manager for Metromode Media's On the Ground Dearborn program, where we are embedded in the community for three months to promote the initiatives and leaders driving vitality within the city.

-How has a liberal arts degree from CASL helped you personally and professionally? 

J.S.: One of the most valuable experiences from my liberal arts degree was the school's emphasis on gaining professional experience as a student through internships. As a new writer, I was ahead of the game with a full portfolio of published work at local news stations thanks to the opportunities I had from CASL's internship program. I'm passionate about the arts and social sciences and in each piece I write, I'm able to pull from my interdisciplinary education at UM-Dearborn. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Youngest (potential) CASL Students

Two future Wolverines decided to skip attending a Headstart program and advance straight to college at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

In early June, my niece Malaya, and my good friend Veronica’s niece, Ryleigh, met for the first time on UM-D’s campus. Veronica (Ronnie) and I had been arranging the perfect time for our almost-one-month-apart nieces (Malaya was born May 19, 2016 and Ryleigh was born June 22, 2016) to meet. Campus was the perfect setting. Our nieces enjoyed meeting professionals in the administration building, me and Veronica’s academic advisor- Traci Ballard, and had lunch in the bustling University Center during a large Welcome Event in progress for new students.

Another highlight was taking Malaya and Ryleigh to CASL and letting them sit in the lecture hall where Veronica and I had our Journalism classes and Psychology classes.  
Of course, these young minds had no idea they were on a college campus, or meeting major stakeholders on campus, or that they were being groomed to follow in their auntie’s footsteps. I will share those things with Malaya later, and I’m sure Ronnie will do the same with Ryleigh.

What is important is that we exposed them to opportunity and the importance of learning, even at a young age. Opportunity and being a Lifelong Learner is what UM-D represents for myself and I can confidently say it represents the same for Ronnie too.

Alumni typically keep in mind college memories, and are encouraged to give back to their alma mater. However, part of giving back includes investing in future generations, especially your own family members.

In due time, Malaya and Ryleigh will grow up and realize they are two beautiful African American women. Perhaps they won’t have to contend with various social, or racial issues that are present now. Maybe they will or won’t be interested in the stories Ronnie and I can share from our days as students at Michigan. Whatever the case, Veronica and I have given them a foundation, and maybe years from now our nieces will agree that blue is the best color to bleed.

Written By Leah T. Johnson

Leah and Veronica are CASL ’11 graduates with degrees in Communication.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

How did CASL prepare a Journalism and Screen Studies student for a diverse career? Meet alum Matthew A. Laurinec, a 2013 (JASS) graduate) with a Public Relations Certificate. He also coaches Lacrosse for UM-Dearborn. By Leah Johnson

Being a CASL Student afforded you what opportunities?

Matthew Laurinec: As a CASL student you have the opportunity to take a variety of different internships. The entire program works together to place you based on your major, and you can get experience in a lot of different fields. The resources such as the Writing Center, and other labs in CASL really helped too. After graduation, I came to appreciate just the connection to the different professors that I dealt with on such a personal level (that’s really credit to UM-Dearborn as a whole, not just CASL). It just seemed like they [the CASL professors] were always more available. Some of my favorites were Professor Schaefer (Investigative Reporting), Professor Kiska (Intro and Advanced Journalism), Professor Gilmore (Video Production/Screen Studies), Professor Ward (Speech).

How did CASL prepare you for your current career?

ML: I’m currently the Producer of the Blaine Fowler Morning Show 96.3 WDVD out of the Fisher Building in Detroit since the fall of 2013. I started with an internship there. I’d already graduated and I found this internship on my own. What’s great is my degree really went a long way. The fact that I had a degree in multiple fields made it something that was a lot more desirable to them. The UM degree carried a lot of weight in the decision process to bring me on. I got a part time job while interning and then the producer position opened up. Now I’m fulltime and I’m on with them every morning. My degree has given me a lot of different aspects of knowing different parts of the job. For example, I’ve used my PR certificate for dealing with certain press releases. If articles need to be written I can use my journalism experience to write it. The wide range of skills I learned from my degree have helped me be valuable to the company.

Did you always know that you wanted to major in journalism?

ML: I didn’t always know. I thought I was going to do teaching. I had a good relationship with my high school English teacher. But I got into the love of journalism as my love of Michigan football got me into the press box and on the field. That’s what turned me onto the idea of being a sports writer. I got involved with the Michigan Journal on campus writing sports. Then I was the Sports Editor, then the Editor in Chief and then the Managing Editor. So, as I was moving along the way with that I found a love for writing.

Do you have any regrets about selecting a liberal arts field of study?  

ML: No. I have no regrets about choosing this degree. My degree has opened many doors that even if I decide to leave the radio station I could anywhere and have my degree be valued.
At first I thought I would not have a job, but I think that I was prepared that I knew what I had done and that I had earned a Michigan degree and that eventually it all worked out.

What advice would u give to current CASL Students who may be undecided if they want to remain in the Liberal Arts field?

ML: I think in Liberal Arts you have a vast career path. My focus was print journalism. But after college, I got into another side of journalism. I thought I was going to write for a newspaper or sports team. The classes you take in CASL are crossover classes and you’re forced to be put into situations that will help you in your career. The degree you’re earning is more valuable than the major you get it in. It’s got a lot more weight to it.
Try a lot of different things when you first get to CASL. Also, don’t be afraid to work for free at first. Many people think as soon as they graduate they need a job paying six figures or else they’ve failed. My friends may be ahead of me financially. But some of them are also doing things they hate. I genuinely love going to work because I promised myself I would not work a 9-5 schedule in a cubicle, but some people get so set on that. Go do what you want and pursue it and I guarantee you’ll be a lot happier.  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Liberal Arts Encourages Community Consciousness

Charday Ward

The following one-on-one interview delves into the meaning and value of the Liberal Arts field of study.

After being homeschooled from 1st-12th grade, Charday Ward graduated from CASL in 2010 having majored in English and minored in African and African American Studies. She currently works as a Community Developer in Detroit, and is convinced her liberal arts back ground has widened her world, personally, and professionally.

Charday shares her story below…

What did you enjoy most about your CASL student experience?

Charday: I enjoyed my African and African American Studies (AAAS) classes and all the perks that came along with being in that program. The Souls of Success retreat was one of the highlights of my college career. Also, meeting campus guests like legendary jazz artist Ken Cox, poet and activist Sonia Sanchez, international theater director Aku Kadogo, and renowned jazz percussionist Jerry LeDuff had a major impact on my life. These were my professors' personal friends and they brought them to our campus to enrich our college experience and inspire us to be world changers and creators. 

How has your liberal arts degree helped determine your career choice/path? 

Charday: My liberal arts degree shaped my career choice/path by making me an extremely well-rounded person who can do so many things in so many different fields. Shortly after graduating from UM-D, I went into education and now I work as a Community Developer in Detroit. I hope to one day serve in a political office and I know with a background in liberal arts I have the knowledge and experiences to effectively serve my community as a legislator. 

How has your liberal arts degree shaped you as a person? 

Charday: My liberal arts degree and the material studied in my programs inspired me to become a community minded individual and to do whatever was in my power to positively influence people in my community. It shaped my perspective of the world around me and made me a great teacher of English, African-American History and Writing, and also prepared to me effectively work in the Detroit community as a Youth Coordinator for a community development corporation. Studying liberal arts also awakened the creative side of me, and exposed me to literature and humanities that inspired me to become an emerging playwright and poet.  

Do you think people misunderstand the value of a liberal arts degree? And if so, how do you help to adjust their understanding?

Charday: Yes, I think people misunderstand the value of a liberal arts degree. Sometimes a liberal arts degree is mistakenly considered "easy" or "unfocused." However, I feel that it made me well-rounded, taught me the ways of the world, and prepared me for work in the service field. I always advocate for a liberal arts education, especially when I am advising young people. I encourage them to study literature, history, communications and writing because it will help them to be successful in almost any career. 

Did you do anything exciting to celebrate Women’s History Month?

Charday: Yes!  I had the opportunity to conduct a workshop with some young ladies at Alternatives for Girls.  We had a very invigorating discussion about women's equality and what needs to be done to solve some of the inequities that women face in America. It was an extremely inspiring conversation and it moved me to continue the discourse in other spaces like it. 

Interview conducted by Leah T. Johnson, CASL 2011 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Personal Reflection on Black History Month

“If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.” Dr. Carter G. Woodson

This is the second year in a row where I have sat back, put my feet up (figuratively speaking) and waited for a Black History Month moment to come to me (literally speaking).

It’s true I go through my annual rituals of selecting my Black History Month readings, I talk to my family and others about some of my favorite African American historical icons, and I either visit or reminisce about the insightful and educational times I had at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American history.

This year was no exception. However, I recently confessed to my dad that I don’t feel very “Black History Month-ish” this time around. I was shocked to hear that he felt the same.
We spent time trying to determine the answer to the burning question ‘why?’ ‘Why do we feel this way?’ Is it because of the political climate of the country that makes it challenging to want to celebrate achievements of Black Americans since an African American family no longer occupies the White House?  Could it be because the leader of the free world speaks of a certain black, male abolitionist and historical figure in the present tense, and as a Detroit Free Press columnist wrote that “we can only laugh when a young white boy grows up to be president in 2017 and thinks he can invite Frederick Douglass to the White House for Dinner?” And in addition, the White House press secretary believes that the “contributions of Frederick Douglass will become more and more.” Is it because of the tired complaint of many African Americans that February is the shortest month of the year, and therefore doesn’t give us much time to plan events/activities to celebrate? Is it because my dad and I are just being lazy this year?

We never answered the ‘why,’ and I’m happy we didn’t dwell on finding the answer because if we had done so, we may not have discovered what steps we can take to change these un-celebratory feelings.

Interestingly, my dad said, “if we forget to celebrate this year and let this year pass by, then it’ll be easy to do it next year and the year after, until soon, we won’t see the need to recognize this month anymore.”

That statement worried me. No way can this happen. Not to me. I’m the same girl who worked at the Charles H. Wright Museum writing stories and educating many of various ages and backgrounds about the African American experience. I’m the same girl who looked forward to the Black Student Union events on campus during February. I’m the same girl who made it mandatory to print a Black History Month series in the campus newspaper. I’m the same girl who discussed the Negro National Anthem, the Renaissance time period, and many other African American topics with fellow students. I’m the same girl who believes, as does my dad, that Black History is American history.

Although I’m that same girl and I did all these things, February 2017 forced me to realize that I need to do more. I’ve realized what made Black History Month so special to me the past few years is that it’s not passive, it’s active.

As the month comes to a close, I’m more alert to ways to become more active; perhaps it’s writing or reading an article, creating a Black History Curriculum to be taught in the community  stretching beyond the month of February, or attending special events.

I can no longer expect Black History month to be a feeling. It is a month of purposeful action that can and should easily translate into daily living. Leah Johnson 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Unprepared For a Vital Lesson

Black History Month and Women’s History Month came early this year. It was completely unexpected. I was ill-prepared, and launched into space via the new film Hidden FiguresThis movie gave me an early present in the form of a history lesson I didn’t know I needed, as I watched the story of three African American women who worked for NASA. at the Langley campus in Virginia and helped launch America into space. 

Admittedly, I’d become a little irritated with films about Africans/African Americans Hollywood has created and pushed into mainstream for the past few years. Of course, it’s great for the seasoned black actors and the rising stars. But I wondered ‘how many times does the story of the fight for civil rights need to be told? How many ways does it need to be presented in film to prove that black history is American history? Is all this hoopla surrounding black films really necessary?' Enough is enough already.  

In addition to those feelings, I’m still frightened of the movie Apollo 13- a movie I saw when I was way too young. I remember my heart pounding through the entire film as it was too suspenseful for my nerves. I’d since turned a cold shoulder to movies about outer space. 

Hidden Figures, however, removed my growing dismay toward black films, and I settled comfortably into the film’s setting at NASA. This movie is about much more than astronauts and rocket ships. It’s about education. Hidden Figures makes being educated extremely appealing. It makes having a brilliant mind- and not being afraid to use it- attractive. 

In a selfie-obsessed world where young people run to take the perfect picture in the bathroom mirror, Hidden Figures shows the opposite. For those women running (sometimes literally) to the Colored bathrooms at NASA to relieve themselves also meant putting brains over boys, and it was their brains that made them truly beautiful. Even in bathroom stalls they calculated numbers, looked beyond the obvious math problems, and vied for positions and pay they knew they deserved. These women were the first of their kind as Mathematicians, Engineers, Supervisors, and Influencers on the operations and success of NASA. The film gives just enough details about their personal lives, including their husbands who loved them and were attracted to their wit, perseverance, and intelligence. 

Considering that my alma mater unveiled its upgraded Science Building last year, it was perfect timing that the University offered pre-screening passes to Hidden Figures, and a special program highlighting the S.T.E.M. field. I brought my dad as my date, and I felt a sense of pride, and a deeper respect for education after seeing the movie. Having degrees and letters associated with one’s name is only for prestigious purposes. Rather, the goal is to never stop learning (which is something my dad has taught me) and to be unapologetically smart like Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson, whose names are no longer hidden. Leah Johnson