Dean’s Message

Hello.

It was an exciting Fall 2016 semester that started with the Graduate College moving to our newly designed space on the first floor of Walwood Hall. We recycled much of the office furniture and cubicle framework left by the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, turning it into our exciting new home. We unofficially opened our space to the public during Homecoming weekend and were pleased to welcome back many alumni and friends who stopped by to see our new space.

During the Homecoming weekend, we were excited to learn that the Alumni Association Board of Directors voted to include an opportunity for first time enrolled graduate students to apply for the Legacy Scholarship. Previously, the Legacy Scholarship was only available for undergraduate students. We are thankful to the Alumni Association Board of Directors for this exciting opportunity for our graduate students. Details about the application process for new graduate students will be forthcoming.

This fall, we also welcomed graduate students into the newly refreshed Stadium Drive apartments. Working with our colleagues in Student Affairs we were able for the first time to reserve on-campus housing for graduate students. Our thanks go out to the Vice President for Student Affairs and the staff of Residence Life for making this a reality.

The fall semester ended on a high note at graduation as over 27% of participants received graduate degrees. Forty of these new graduates were doctoral degree recipients. The scholarly work of these graduates along with their faculty mentors are advancing our understanding and knowledge in several areas: evaluating the training of student affairs professionals in community colleges; setting and evaluating expectations of mentors; understanding the impact of visual impairment on daily tasks; assessing the economics of child labor and education, and determining ancillary treatments for depression. We are incredibly proud of all our graduates and the contributions they have made to their fields of study and to the global Western community.

We are looking forward to an exciting 2017.

Susan R. Stapleton, Ph.D.

Dean, Graduate College

A photo of Dr. Susan Stapleton, Dean of the Graduate College

Dr. Kathleen Quardokus Fisher

Western’s campus is covered in snow and ice. Temperatures hover near the single digits at WMU while alumna Kathleen Quardokus Fisher strolls across the campus of Florida International University in the 80 degree sunshine of Miami, Florida. Would she rather be back up north for the start of Spring semester 2017? Dr. Quardokus Fisher says “No”. She’s happy with a tenure track position at FIU, Miami’s first and only public research university. FIU was recently designated a tier 1 research university; so her NSF grant to pursue a new diversity mentoring program gives Quardokus Fisher the ideal environment to grow as a scholar. As Assistant Professor she has a 50% appointment in the Department of Earth and Environment and a 50% appointment in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Technology (STEM) Transformation Institute.

A photo of Dr. Kathleen Quardokus Fisher. Dr. Kathleen Quardokus Fisher has light brown hair a welcoming smile and is wearing a blue top.

Her field of scientific expertise is atmospheric science, but her current emphasis is the GEO Opportunities for Leadership in Diversity (GOLD): Hearts of GOLD. The result of an Ideas Lab Activity, it is an NSF-funded project using the influence of top geoscientists to create champions for diversity. Mentoring is crucial in supporting underrepresented minority students in the sciences during the doctoral effort and through to a tenure track or other research position. As a graduate of three universities, Quardokus Fisher understands the importance of mentoring. She got her Bachelor of Science in Meteorology and Mathematics in 2005 and a Master of Education at Valparaiso University in 2007. During this same time period she taught mathematics and the sciences to high school students in Chicago, IL and later in Benton Harbor, MI. In 2010 she received an M.S. in Atmospheric Science from Purdue with a thesis designing and evaluating an undergraduate laboratory course in atmospheric science research. This led, rather naturally, to a contact with Dr. Charles Henderson at Western Michigan University’s Mallinson Institute for Science Education. Focusing on instructional change in higher education, Quardokus Fisher dissertation is titled “Instructional change in academic departments: An analysis from the perspective of two environment-focused change strategies.” Mallinson Institute for Science Education, named for Dr. George Mallinson, pioneer in the field of science education and the founding dean of the Graduate College at WMU, prepares undergraduate pre-service teachers to be science educators. At the graduate level, MISE prepares researchers to learn about teaching science and how students learn about science. Quardokus Fisher’s main interest at WMU was exploring how an institution of higher education can support faculty in teaching about science through an examination of how social networks can be used to enhance faculty’s learning about teaching. When asked if this includes social media, she explained, “It’s about who talks to whom about what.” Using ORA Social Network Software to analyze the structure of conversations between members of formal and informal social networks, Quardokus Fisher and Henderson determined if teaching and learning were being discussed. By doing so, the two scholars have been able to better understand the hidden structure of academic departments as well as facilitate faculty learning communities. After receiving her Ph.D. from WMU in 2014, Quardokus Fisher spent two years at Oregon State University doing post-doctoral study with mentors Milo Koretsky and Jana Bouwma-Gearhart on a project titled Enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education at Oregon State University (ESTEME@OSU). In 2015 she and Henderson co-authored one article in the leading international journal in higher education studies, Higher Education, “Promoting Instructional Change: Using Social Network Analysis to Understand the Hidden Structure of Academic Departments”. Another article under review is titled “Department-Level Instructional Change: Comparing Prescribed vs. Emergent Strategies”. She has presented and published with numerous conferences, including, most recently, the American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference, the National Association for Research in Science Teaching Annual Meeting, and the 19th Symposium on Education of the American Meteorological Association. Most importantly, she has landed not only a tenure track position at an R1 university, but an important grant from the National Science Foundation. She is actively engaged in developing mentorship circles and building diversity in the geosciences, which will trickle down to high schools like the ones in which she started teaching a dozen years ago. By working at the institutional level to build programs encouraging minority scholars at the highest level, she is influencing young people by developing mentors who can inspire them to pursue academic or research careers in the sciences.

Cynda Harris – Doctoral student in Audiology

Every student knows the first question to ask when starting a writing project is “Who is my audience?” When Cynda Harris, Doctor of Audiology student in Western Michigan University’s Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, set out to write an essay, she knew the audience was not academic. In fact, it was radio station WIRX, a rock station her family listens to daily from their home near Western’s Southwest Campus. The purpose of the essay? To win a contest sponsored by WIRX, “Get Lit This Christmas” that would bring a professional light installation crew to her parents’ home to decorate for the holidays. Harris knew the radio station was not looking for an academic essay, so she wrote the following heart-felt letter, sent it off and thought no more about it.

A photo of doctoral student Cynda Harris with her family and representatives of WIRX infront of Cynda's newly lighted home.

“This is actually my parents’ home. They absolutely love Christmas, especially my mom. They work so hard every day. My father alternates between 14-hr night shifts immediately into day shifts. His days off vary every week. Sometimes, we don’t get to see him. Then, on his days off, he’s nonstop working around the house. Cleaning, fixing things up, taking care of the pet, doing laundry, mowing the lawn – you name it. It’s very stressful, and I can see him wearing down. But, he is always in a good mood. He smiles and jokes, and will get little to no sleep just to spend time with his family when he can. My mom is the same way. Her job is stressful, but she takes the criticism from her boss when she needs to be at work late or leave early to take care of my youngest brother (only 6 and in 1st grade). She will wake up at 3am with my Dad sometimes just to spend time with him. She cooks, cleans, drives all around for errands or my brother’s activities, and is always willing to do whatever she can for her family, despite her lack of sleep. My middle brother is in the Army and currently stationed in Korea. This has been hard on my parents, but they are always loving and supportive. Now that I (the oldest) am joining the Navy, I can see the sadness in their eyes, but they are so proud of us. After all they continue to go through, Christmas has always been a holiday of love and togetherness. For all they do and how much they love this holiday, I believe they deserve a house of light to reflect all the goodness within their hearts.”

Imagine her surprise when, a few weeks later, the phone rang while she was taking a well-deserved nap between studying for finals, working her internship, volunteering with ROTC, and taking classes. The radio shock-jock’s voice blared in her ear, causing the type of damage her audiology program is educating her to treat (for audio of this conversation, click here: http://www.wirx.com/get-lit-this-christmas/).Harris got her wish; her parents’ home was covered in lights, and the radio station came out for a big lighting ceremony. But nothing made up for the fact that her brother wasn’t home for Christmas because he’s serving in the US military in South Korea. After she finishes her program, Harris plans to enter the military as well and serve as an audiologist. Only two of all graduating audiologists in the entire United States will be chosen for a Navy externship each year. The externship, which is the last thing she will need to complete her Au.D., would last from summer 2017 to summer 2018 and takes place at a Navy base either in the US or around the world, working in a Navy clinic or hospital. After graduation from WMU and getting her license to practice audiology, Ms. Harris has her sights set on a military training school which would lead to a career practicing as a military audiologist. Her commitment is palpable. In her own words, “The men and women who fight would willingly give up life and limb to protect their loved ones. I will only be happy if they are safe.” While audiologists are expected to be competent in every aspect of the hearing field, according to Harris, military audiologists differ from audiology specialist practices in the United States. These typically focus on one type of audiology, military audiologists must be proficient in every category of audiology: hearing loss from trauma, infection, or medical condition, and adult or pediatric audiology. If and when she decides to establish or join a practice back home, she knows she can handle any patient situation she encounters. While an undergraduate, she tutored Japanese students and traveled to Japan. Her love for all things Japanese has fostered her hopes to eventually be stationed on a military base in Japan. She double majored in Japanese Language and Culture and Pre-Audiology at Ball State University. A recipient of the Whitinger Scholarship, Ball State most prestigious scholarship, Harris was able to double major and received her bachelor’s degree in four years. As an audiologist entering the military she would be a commissioned officer, so she needs to know about each branch of the military. To that end, Harris volunteered for ROTC here on Western’s campus during fall 2016. Her busy schedule also includes working as Graduate Ambassador in the Graduate College at Western Michigan University for fall 2016 and spring 2017, where she acts as a liaison between students, faculty and staff in the College of Health and Human Services and the Graduate College. Harris is as determined now as she was while an undergraduate at Ball State. The Doctor of Audiology degree is a four-year post baccalaureate professional degree which prepares its graduates to provide high quality services and leadership in the field of audiology. Audiologists are health-care professionals who specialize in identifying, diagnosing, treating and monitoring disorders of the auditory system, which involves both the inner and outer ear. The degree program is rigorous. Currently 23 students are enrolled in some stage of the program, which involves completing all requirements of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s Certificate of Clinical Competence and/or state licensure. This means a four-year schedule packed with coursework, clinical practice, professional field experience, outcomes-based formative assessment and independent scholarly research.

While pursuing this rigorous schedule, Harris also performs as a Graduate Ambassador, works at PetSmart, volunteers with ROTC, and sometimes babysits for her six-year old brother. On top of all that, she takes time to write and submit winning essays designed to cheer up her parents. We’d say that’s pretty impressive.

Dr. Brian Horvitz – Graduate Faculty Fellow

The Graduate College welcomes new faculty fellow Brian Horvitz, Associate Professor of Educational Technology in the College of Education and Human Development at WMU. Since 2015 Dr. Horvitz has served as Program Coordinator of the Educational Technology Program, which places him on the front lines of online education. He teaches technology for elementary education, introduction to educational technology, and creating online courses. His research interests include online teaching in higher education, the use of technology in teaching in higher education, and preparing pre-service teachers to integrate technology in learner-centered classrooms using a mixed-methods approach.

A photo of Dr. Brian Horvitz.  Dr horvitz has brown hair and a brown beard that surrounds a friendly smile. Dr. Horvitz is wearing a brown checked shirt with a button-down collar.

With two articles in press for the Community College Journal of Research and Practice and a publication in Innovative Higher Education (2015), Dr. Horvitz is an active scholar. In 2015 he received a National Science Foundation grant along with Co-PIs Regina Garza Mitchell, Andrea Beach and Charles Henderson. The Online Technical Education in ATE-Funded Programs grant is synthesizing what has been learned about online technical education in 38 Advance Technical Education (ATE) projects and making connections to the broader literature about what is most effective in online technical education. With his strong background in teaching and research, Dr. Horvitz now adds a strong service component to his C.V. with his appointment as Faculty Fellow in the Graduate College for the 2017 academic year. He will work with Associate Dean Christine Byrd-Jacobs to improve the online orientation for incoming or prospective graduate students and assist with other online training offerings. Currently graduate students must share an online tutorial with incoming undergraduate transfer students. Since the needs of undergraduate and graduate students are radically different in many ways, developing and implementing a graduate-specific online orientation will greatly improve service to incoming students. Currently only incoming students who have been awarded a graduate assistantship participate in a day-long training that is offered in the fall semester. Funded students comprise about 20% of the total graduate student body, so a significant portion of graduate students are missing out on a comprehensive orientation. The vision for an online orientation is to provide to prospective and newly admitted graduate students helpful information on resources and services available at WMU in a convenient format. Online access means incoming graduate students can become familiar with Western Michigan University services to meet their needs at any time, during any semester or session. We anticipate that this will help new students feel more connected with the university as they begin their graduate programs.

10 WRITING TIPS FOR COMPLETING YOUR THESIS OR DISSERTATION

(ALSO WORKS FOR ARTICLES, SPECIALIST PROJECTS, BOOKS, PAPERS AND REPORTS)

  1. Focus on your passion for your subject to get you through the doldrums.
  2. Find a model for your work. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Emulate the structure and form used by top scholars in your field.
  3. Reach out to your support system when you feel stuck or frustrated.
  4. Take care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally. You cannot pour from an empty pitcher.
  5. Find a writing group. Start by attending the Writing Haven in Room 215 East Walwood Hall on Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dr. Marianne Di Pierro is available to help you get going.
  6. Write at the beginning of the day. You’ll feel better without that hanging over your head.
  7. Just write. Words on the page are better than no words on the page. Your goal is not to write the best thing ever written. Your goal is to finish your degree.
  8. Write new words. Don’t spend precious creative time rewriting. There will be time for that later.
  9. Start by setting yourself to write for 20 minutes every day. If it turns into a longer session, great!
  10. Begin writing now. Don’t wait until you have signed up for dissertation or thesis credits.

Dean’s Message: Graduate College Construction Update

In our last newsletter, I indicated that with the move of WMU’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations, the first floor of Walwood Hall became available and that through generous support from Academic Affairs, the Graduate College will be relocating into this space. We have been very economical and sustainable and have reused just about everything we could. It has been fun to be part of the process and we are getting very close to being able to move. The photos below are of some of the progress that has been made.

a photo of the main room of the first floor of Walwood hall. All the cubicles are mostly or partially disassembled and the room is very large and open without the cubicles separating the space.
Disassembled Cubes

a photo of the lobby of the first floor of Walwood hall. The lobby is filled with the parts of cubicles, desks, and storage cabinets. In the background you can see the open doors to the main room which will house the Graduate College.
Cubicles,desks, and cabinets stored neatly in the lobby of Walwood Hall

a photo of the main room of the first floor of Walwood hall. The room has been repainted and most of the carpet has been put in.  The carpet is made up of large square tiles that are placed on the floor with adhesive. The places that aren't yet completed are where the tiles have to be cut to fit around pillars, floor vents, or electrical fixtures that can't be moved.
New carpet and paint

a photo of the main room of the first floor of Walwood hall. The room is once again filled with assembled cubicles, but these cubicles have recently been recycled from another area and look almost new.  Everything is bright and shiny, but a few pieces still need to be put in place and so there are various parts lining the halls.
Reassembly of the Cubicles

As indicated before, this relocation allows us for the first time to provide dedicated office space to the Graduate Student Association and to create the Graduate College Student Commons, a room for graduate student meetings, workshops, seminars and study space as well as a lounge area.

We would love to add your name to our donor wall to recognize those who have made financial contributions to the Graduate College in support of the creation of the Graduate College Student Commons. To donate to help us finish this project, go to the Graduate College page on mywmu.com or follow the link for Giving to Graduate Education on the Graduate College homepage (www.wmich.edu/grad).

We of course will be planning an open house in the Fall and hope you will be able to attend.

Susan R. Stapleton, Ph.D. Dean, Graduate College

A photo of Dr. Susan Stapleton, Dean of the Graduate College

Saif Alrafeek: Multicultural Citizen of the World

Saif Alrafeek is a truly multicultural citizen of the world. He was born in Iraq, moved to Italy at age four, and returned to Iraq in 1990. After completing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering at Baghdad University in 2008, he became an instructor at his alma mater. As manager of Quality Assurance and Accreditation he spent four years working with the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) structuring, writing and archiving an accreditation self-assessment report to help University of Baghdad gain higher education accreditation.
a photo of Saif Alrafeek. Saif is holding a piece of engineered bone which has square metal plates attached on each end. Different bone repair materials will be attached to the bone, and then the sample will be stress tested with pulling and or crushing forces. The best repair materials may go on to be used in surgery repair with real bones. Saif is in his office in this photo, sitting in front of his computer which has mechanical engineering information about his project on the display screens.
He was selected to travel to Turkey for further education in academic accreditation and in 2012 received a scholarship from the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MoHESR) to study for his doctorate in the United States. He came to Western Michigan University in 2014 to begin his research on biomechanical solutions to assist orthopedic surgeons treating patients with arthrodesis, the surgical fusion of bones to immobilize a joint, in the foot and ankle. Saif’s research helps surgeons by providing them with computer modeling, biomechatronics simulation, and experimental work on foot and ankle samples. In conjunction with that, he has publishing his findings in journals of academic societies and organizations in America. His future goals include teaching, research, and consulting or diplomatic work in academic or cultural affairs. Since he has a keen interest in helping students, Saif enjoys student affairs work in admissions, orientations, immigration services, study abroad, and helping students find funding opportunities.
Because he is interested in higher education administration, he jumped at the chance to attend a full-day ‘Behind the W’ workshop on June 10 along with ten Graduate Ambassadors. They were the first WMU students to experience ‘Behind the W’, as they joined with faculty and staff to learn WMU’s history as well as tips for communicating with various audiences and WMU visual identity. Saif has also attended several Graduate College sponsored workshops and found “Learning to Manage Time: A Special Seminar for Graduate Students” in March 2014 to be particularly helpful. By using time management techniques he learned in the workshop, Saif has been able to achieve some of his other goals, including singing karaoke both on-campus and off, attending concerts and meeting some of his favorite musicians. Also, through his collaboration with the Iraqi Student Association he performed a traditional Iraqi dance onstage at the International Festival at WMU in March 2015.
This photo of Saif shows him in his lab seated at a lab bench. He is holding the same engineered bone sample as the first picture, but on the bench beside him are five more samples, one that is complete and four that have been broken due to the stress testing. Saif has short dark hair. He is wearing a blue and white plad patterned shirt.
One of Saif’s most memorable achievements, besides his academic and professional success, has been to meet his idol, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who earned many bodybuilding world titles. He then became a highly successful actor in blockbuster films, such as the Terminator franchise in the 1980s, before conquering politics by becoming governor of California in 2003. Through the years Saif followed Schwarzenegger’s career, finding inspiration in the fact that an immigrant with a heavy accent could reach such heights of fame in America. When he found out that Schwarzenegger was coming to Ohio in March 2016 for a fitness festival, Saif set out in his car to achieve one of his lifetime goals: meeting and talking with Arnold Schwarzenegger. After several hours of trying to penetrate layers of security around the star, the international student met the international star. Arnold, coming out of his dressing room, saw Saif wearing a Terminator II T-shirt and commented, “It is very beneficial for you to wear such a T-shirt!” Saif introduced himself as an international Ph.D. student from Iraq studying at Western Michigan University. Schwarzenegger asked him what kind of studies he was pursuing at WMU, and congratulated Saif upon learning that he is studying for a doctorate in mechanical engineering. He agreed to pose for a selfie with Saif. Saif says that he traveled back to Kalamazoo with a fire burning in his heart to accomplish his next goal: passing his comprehensive exam. Later that same week, with Schwarzenegger’s encouraging words echoing in his head, he passed his exam and moved to the dissertation phase of his degree. His proposed dissertation title is “Development and Validation of Hybrid Continuum/Structural Finite Element Model for Evaluating Food and Ankle Biomechanics.” With the help of his mentor and chair of his dissertation committee, Dr. Peter Gustafson, along with committee members Dr. Koorosh Naghshineh, Dr. Daniel Kujawski and orthopaedic surgeon Dr. James Jastifer, Saif intends to graduate in Fall 2017.

Alumni Spotlight: Ben Williams

The Graduate Ambassador program instituted by Dean Susan Stapleton in 2012 has given dozens of graduate students first-hand experience in leadership. Ben Williams, alumnus of the first group of Graduate Ambassadors, has put that experience to good use as the Michigan Department of Education’s Legislative Liaison in the Office of Public and Governmental Affairs, working directly for State Superintendent of K-12 Education Mike Flanagan since 2014. When Brian J. Whiston was appointed State Superintendent in 2015, Ben was retained in his position, even though many new appointees prefer to hire their own staff. Ben received his master’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences from WMU in 2014. He received his Bachelors of Science in Family Studies at WMU in 2011.
a photo of Ben Williams.  Ben is dressed in a white shirt and monochromatic brown plaid tie with a light brown vest and a light brown corduroy cap that matches the vest in color but offers a different texture.
His background in Family and Consumer Sciences focused on families and the needs of family units, which has helped him tremendously in his career. As a lobbyist for the Michigan Department of Education he sees directly a link between his studies and how he effectively lobbies for the educational success of Michigan children. He understands how children are affected by unmet needs at home and works to improve educational services to meet those needs, and also looks at how unmet needs at school can affect family life. By looking at how educational issues, legislation and departmental policies in Michigan serve children, he is able to effectively work to better address the needs of Michigan families and children.
He directs legislative activities for the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education and maintains positive relations between that department and the Michigan Legislature and Congressional Delegation. Through lobbying in Lansing and Washington D.C regarding education and appropriation issues, coordinating lobbying activities, and promoting Department of Education initiatives, he responds to education related issues that affect each district and its constituents.
His path to the House of Representatives in Lansing and in Washington, D.C. began when he worked as a Page in the Michigan House of Representatives and continued as he worked for ten years in a non-partisan role. The State Department of Education is considered a non-partisan entity since it does not fall under the umbrella of the Governor’s office. Instead of being appointed by the governor, the State Superintendent is hired by the State Board of Education. Ben has been working in government for a long time and found that his bachelors and master’s degrees from WMU have helped him as he communicates with constituents and with legislators as well as staff at the Michigan Department of Education. He especially recognizes the invaluable help of several faculty members at Western. He says Ms. Bryce Dickey, Master Faculty Specialist and Family Science Program Coordinator, made his educational experience fun. Dr. Karen Blaisure made the experience challenging. He has stayed in touch with his advisor, Ms. Linda Dove, Faculty Specialist II, from his initial enrollment as an undergraduate until he completed his Master’s. Finally, he appreciates how Dr. John McElroy challenged students to think outside the box and gain the perspective needed to understand others better.
As one of the first group of Graduate Ambassadors, Ben was an Extended University Programs ambassador working with students from WMU campuses in Lansing and Grand Rapids. He found it “challenging because it was a new program at the time” but says it was a highlight of his graduate work. He thanks Dean Stapleton and the other ambassadors, who were very supportive. When he begins to work on his doctorate next year, he plans to return to WMU, where he would also like to teach one day

The Department of Occupational Therapy at Western Michigan University

The Department of Occupational Therapy was the first non-teacher education program at Western Michigan University and it continues to break ground as one of the top 50 such programs in the nation, as ranked by U.S. News and World Report. WMU offers an undergraduate professional entry program at the main campus in Kalamazoo and a professional entry graduate program offered at main campus and also at our regional location in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. The program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, and two WMU professors were inducted into the roster of fellows of the American Occupational Therapy Association at its annual conference in April 2016. Dr. Diane Dirette and Dr. Amy Wagenfeld joined Dr. Debra Lindstrom, inducted in 2014, in this prestigious fellowship of professionals.
a photo of Occupational Therapy students Amber Goodeman and Alma Rosales standing on each side of their poster presentation titled Social Participation and Vocational Rehabilitation in Multiple Sclerosis.  Amber is on the left and Alma is on the right, the poster is mounted on a foam board and is displayed on an easel for eye-level viewing.
In 2015 the department attained a 100% graduation rate with 96 out of 96 admitted students in the cohort crossing the stage to receive their Master’s diploma. Since U.S. News & World Report lists occupational therapy as number 10 in the top 25 best jobs, these alumni of WMU’s OT program are sure to get placement in jobs after they take the National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy exam and move into the workforce. Graduates already get plenty of experience; after 22 months of academic study in which they attain 66 credits, they do a six month fieldwork experience for six credit hours. Part of their final work includes a research project that culminates in a poster presentation as part of OT Poster Day. This year the event was held on June 21 in the lobby of the College of Health and Human Services.
Sara Clark, Occupational Therapy Fieldwork Coordinator, explained that each student pairs up with another student whose interests are similar, and together they examine a question that has been posed by clinicians in the field. The finished product is called a Critically Assessed Topic, or CAT. The team produces a poster showing the results of their findings, which explore research that has already been done on that topic. For instance, students Gabrielle Lober and Rachel Walker assessed the most effective cognitive screening tool for patients on ventilators. Brandon Lubish and Patrick Yee looked at the effectiveness of extracorporeal shock wave therapy on burns and scars. Kathleen Nickens and Ceara Fauble examined age, frequency, and precautions in relation to stimulation in the NICU. Each team must use the same format, and some produced brochures and handouts on their topic. They must capture the objective of the research question. They must list the databases and sources they used to assess the research in the field and define the research criteria as well as any exclusion criteria. Then, based on the findings, they list the main results and implications of the research on that question. Students also put their topic into context in a background section. The result is a professional effort that links them to cutting edge research in their field.
a photo of the crowd attending the Occupational Therapy Poster Day event. The posters are displayed on easels around the perimeter of the atrium area of the College of Health and Human Services at Western Michigan University. The event is well attended with visitors milling around the displays and students on hand to answer questions about their research.
Alma Rosales and Amber Goodeman addressed the research question “Does multidisciplinary rehabilitation improve social participation and vocational skills for individuals with Multiple Sclerosis?” Both women completed their Bachelor’s degrees at Western Michigan University and went on to pursue an advanced degree in the field of occupational therapy to fulfill a childhood dream and a promise to their family. Rosales was born in Mexico and migrated with her family to Michigan when she was eight. She is very thankful for their support as she became the first person in her family to go to college. Goodeman was raised by her single mother in Frankenmuth, Michigan. She overcame hardship and maintained her educational goals after the death of her mother three years ago. Both Goodeman and Rosales profess a deep desire to help others through their work, and both wish to work with children. Goodeman had an opportunity to study abroad in Ireland and in Jamaica, and there she encountered children who had no access to health care. Her dream job involves working with children in a pediatric facility where she could implement hippotherapy, in which horseback riding is used as a therapeutic or rehabilitative treatment. Rosales would like to use her bilingual and bicultural skills to provide services to minorities, increasing access to healthcare and improving health outcomes for underrepresented populations. Rosales is a recipient of the Thurgood Marshall Fellowship, a competitive award through the Graduate College that supports diversity among students pursuing graduate degree at WMU.

Did You Know?

The School of Social Work has scheduled several information sessions in the College of Health and Human Services at which prospective students may learn more about the MSW program at WMU. The Director of Admissions and Student Services will present information about the programs, faculty research, and the unique benefits of attaining a Master of Social Work at Western Michigan University. Sign up at https://www.wmich.edu/socialwork/infosessions. You will receive an email confirmation with the room number.

Available sessions follow:
Thursday, August 25 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Thursday, September 23 from 10 to 11:30 a.m.
Tuesday, October 4 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Tuesday, October 18 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Tuesday, November 15 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Tuesday, December 13 from 4 to 5:30 p.m.

The School of Social Work at WMU was formally established in 1969, offering both the Bachelor and Master of Social Work degrees at main campus in Kalamazoo. At our Grand Rapids campus the advance standing Master’s is offered to students who have already completed a BSW. Southwest Campus in Benton Harbor also offers the MSW program face-to-face. Employment for social workers is expected to increase by 16% by 2018, and Western Michigan University’s program ranked number 46 in a list of national universities that offer “the best bang for the buck” by Washington Monthly.