Dean’s Message

The opening of Heritage Hall, the official name for the newly renovated East Hall, brings about a sense of excitement and nostalgia on campus and provides us with the opportunity to reflect on the beginnings of WMU and how we have grown as a university. Heritage Hall is now the home to the WMU Alumni Center and WMU’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations.

The move of WMU’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations opens up the first floor of Walwood Hall and the Graduate College will be relocating into this space. 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. Within the student commons we hope to be able to highlight former graduate student leaders and past and present supporters of graduate education. If you were a former graduate student leader we would love to hear from you and how your days at WMU may have helped influence your current success.

We will also be creating a 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 make this a reality, 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).

Susan R. Stapleton, Ph.D.

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

Dr. Leslie Wilk Braksick

Google Leslie Wilk Braksick’s name and you’ll have to decide among thousands of results from Amazon, Bloomburg Business News, Small Business Advocate.com, Barnes and Noble, hundreds of references to her long-time business, Continuous Learning Group, Inc., and just as many more from her new corporation, My Next Season.
After obtaining her doctorate in psychology at WMU in 1990, thus becoming the youngest person at the time to ever receive a PhD at Western, Leslie Wilk Braksick went on to establish corporate consulting business, Continuous Learning Group, Inc. in 1993. Under her leadership, CLG became the world’s largest behaviorally based management consultancy within ten years. Her first book, “Unlock Behavior, Unleash Profits: Developing Leadership Behavior That Drives Profitability in your Organization” was published in 2000 and updated by popular demand in a second edition in 2007. It ranked No. 6 among business books published in 2007 and hit the Wall Street Journal’s Business Best Seller list.

A photo of Dr. Leslie Wilk Braksick

As a WMU Distinguished Alumni Award recipient in 2010, Dr. Braksick last visited campus in September 2010 to kick off Haworth College of Business Distinguished Speaker Series with a talk on “Leadership in a Changing World.” In an interview with Dr. Braksick, she spoke fondly of Western Michigan University and the faculty with whom she worked in the Industrial and Organizational Psychology program for her master’s and doctoral degrees. Though she considered both Rutgers and Purdue, and they both offered her funding, she chose WMU because after much research she determined that WMU had the best program in Industrial and Organization Psychology and offered the most opportunity to move forward in her field.
She had an assistantship on campus, but within a few months, she noticed that employee morale in her division was low, and absenteeism was high. In an effort to address these issues, she read ahead in her textbooks and developed a program for supervisors to set goals and provide feedback for their employees. When it was implemented, productivity increased and absenteeism decreased, so much so that she was offered a full-time position as a Training and Development Specialist at WMU while still a graduate student. As a result, her 40 hour a week job competed with her educational endeavors and she had little time for anything else. She lived off campus and spent her minimal free time enjoying the outdoor environment around Kalamazoo, living an active lifestyle that included cross-country skiing and biking as well as attending festivals in the area.
Her decision to come to Western was influenced most by the presence of Dr. Dale Brethower, whom she characterizes as “a genius who redefined the field” of I/O Psychology. In his Psych 644 class focusing on training and development, she learned concepts she still uses to this day. She appreciated the way faculty and mentors, such as Bill Redmond, Stan Henderson, and Pam Liberacki gave her the space to try new things. She characterizes herself as very young and very new to the program when she began developing her program to transform the work environment in her graduate assistantship placement. They could have said no, but they took coaching from her and put the program in place. As an executive coach now, she says young people have to earn the right to be taken seriously, but if they do, they should be given “stretch” assignments and good mentoring. In her experience, these help high-potential people move up much faster. She spent her career counseling CEOs to watch for those who are “leaning in” because this indicates a high probability that they will be successful.
When she first began to present her findings at conferences around the country, other universities, including University of Michigan, took notice and requested that she replicate her experiment at their campuses. She quickly responded by developing a consulting firm, which really took off when she met Dr. Julie Smith from West Virginia University at a conference where they happened to room together. The two joined together in a non-profit agency and in two years brought in 80% of the revenue, threatening the non-profit status of the firm. They decided to leave and form CGL to teach corporate leaders how to use behavioral learning strategies to improve management and bring up employee productivity. Soon CLG was serving Fortune 500 companies and grew at a phenomenal pace. Within ten years it became the world’s largest behaviorally based management consultancy firm and Leslie Braksick was regularly called upon by corporate boards and CEOs to consult on such issues as CEO transition and succession and the challenges of cultural and performance transformation within a corporation. In 2002 she was named one of Pennsylvania’s top 50 women business leaders.
Now Dr. Braksick has left GLG to establish herself in a new venture, My Next Season. She is still consulting, but this time helping executives transition from career to their retirement phase of life. She found that many CEOs and high level executives had their whole identities tied up in their professional lives, and making the change to retirement often brought a crisis relating to that new identity. By providing a bridge from productivity to a purposeful lifestyle, she helps executives find new outlets for their expertise outside their work life. She coaches them on finding interesting, fulfilling and socially responsible work they can do while still enjoying more time with family and attaining long deferred goals. Such work often takes the form of teaching, sitting on Boards of Trustees, working with non-profit organizations, or volunteering.
Leslie herself is moving into a new phase with My Next Season in terms of balancing work and family. Her children are now in college and high school. Her husband of 24 years, Larry, whom she met at Western where he was a graduate student in the English department, stopped teaching to stay home with the children. She considers this a real gift that established a great deal of stability in her home life which allowed her to succeed in the corporate world. She now wants to spend more time with her children as they are growing up, and she intends to become more involved with the field of public health.
When asked how she participates as an alumna of WMU, Dr. Braksick explained that she provides mentorship to students in the I/O Psychology graduate program, helps place interns and provides internships with her company, and has steadily recruited WMU graduates to her company for over 20 years. Congratulations to Dr. Leslie Wilk Braksick for a long and successful career.

Courtney Dunsmore “Shining a Light on Women Leaders in Social Work”

In April 2015, Courtney Dunsmore walked across the stage to receive her Master’s degree in Social Work from WMU. After two years’ of work in the Policy, Planning, and Administration concentration of the MSW, Courtney’s experiences in that program include a co-authored article with her mentors, a professional conference presentation to a packed house in Las Vegas, various committee appointments, and a field placement that has confirmed her belief that this degree was the right choice for her.
A former Bronco undergraduate with degrees in sociology and psychology, Courtney knew she wanted to work in the human service field but dreamed of travel and moving far away from Michigan. Soon after her first graduation from WMU, she joined AmeriCorps, moving to South Carolina and working chiefly in administrative program planning for Georgetown County United Way AmeriCorps*VISTA Collaborative. After this, Courtney looked briefly at graduate programs across the country, but eventually her vision shifted back to Michigan. She knew the MSW program here and it became clear that returning to WMU for graduate study was the correct path.

A photo of Courtney Dunsmore on the Campus of Western Michigan University

During the second year of her program, Courtney had the opportunity to work with two faculty mentors to research trends in women’s roles in social work. Having previously established good professional relationships with Drs. Barbara Barton and Dee Sherwood, Courtney was invited to help them dig further into Dr. Sherwood’s dissertation research: a study of women in leadership positions in social work, the challenges they experienced and the progress they made.
They analyzed a group of interviews of female social workers that Dr. Sherwood had recorded, picking out ten as representative and then read through and coding the interviewees’ responses. In this process, they narrowed in on different types of gender biases and micro-aggressions that the women experienced during their time in the field, especially as they attempted to enter leadership roles. Courtney and her mentors discovered that when these women attempted to pursue administrative roles or positions with greater responsibilities, they were often marginalized in various ways or told “maybe you should pursue a different direction.” Courtney says she finds this eye-opening, as she intends to pursue leadership and administration in social work and may be faced with similar challenges as she forges ahead. She observed that the research process and analysis demonstrates that these aren’t just individual stories or anecdotes about peoples’ job experiences; when taken collectively, the data show quantifiable trends in the ways women are treated and what influences them in the workplace.
Once Courtney and Drs. Barton and Sherwood had compiled their information, they were accepted to present as part of a panel at the 27th Annual Ethnographic and Qualitative Research Conference, held February 2015 in Las Vegas. Courtney spoke about past and present trends in women’s leadership in the SW profession to a full house. Following her talk, Courtney was able to check out posters and to speak to a number of graduate students about their dissertations. Spurred on by these conversations, Courtney looked at PhD programs, but for now plans to go straight into employment in the field. Regardless of whether she plans to undertake a doctorate in the future, she is building her credentials right now, as she works on an article (co-authored with Drs. Barton and Sherwood) that they will submit to the Journal of Ethnographic and Qualitative Research. As she wrote the literature review for the manuscript, “Falling Silent?: Analyzing the Voices of Women Leaders in Social Work,” Courtney gave credit to her mentors for a great opportunity to view professors collaborating and see their research through the final stage of publication.
She completed a field placement as part of her MSW program, working at Southwest Michigan Behavioral Health in Kalamazoo, and found it invaluable to be able to apply lessons learned in class to situations in her internship. This placement gave her hands-on experience in administrative and organizational tasks: she performed gap analysis of current policies and crosswalked those policies with requirements for National Committee for Quality Assurance Health Plan accreditation.
Courtney’s service to the WMU community extended beyond her academic and research work. In her second year of the MSW, she served as a graduate assistant in the Dean’s Office at the College of Health and Human Services, working directly with the communications coordinator of CHHS. Also that year, she served on two committees within the School of Social Work: the Field Education Subcommittee and the Admissions Policy Committee, working with faculty and students to understand and improve policies behind field placement and admission in the School of Social Work. She joined the Bernhard Center Advisory Board as an alumna representative, voting on new vendors contracts at the Bronco Mall and reviewing and approving the Bernhard Center budget for the upcoming academic year.
Courtney’s hard work and dedication to her MSW, the College of Health and Human Services and Western Michigan University paid off as Courtney was one of five recipients of the Graduate Student “Make a Difference Award” at the Graduate Student Association banquet on April 17, 2015. In the words of her nominator,
“Courtney is always the first person to jump on volunteer activities within the university as well as the Kalamazoo Community. We were given the opportunity to participate in the bi-annual Point In Time Count at a local homeless shelter through one of our classes and Courtney was eager to help out. She also dedicated her day off on Martin Luther King day to the MLK Day of Service and volunteered with The Land Bank helping to restore some apartments in Washington Square. There is no doubt in my mind that Courtney is a true Bronco through and through.”
When asked what advice she might have for future graduate students in the MSW program (or beyond), she advises students to advocate for themselves: “It’s important to reach out, find connections, and network. Not all experiences are going to be handed to you.” She has the highest praise for her professors and mentors, whom have been advocates for her and helped her along with her career. In the end, she says, it comes down to you. “What you put in is what you get out of the program. If you want to succeed, you have to put the work in!”

Graduate Student Association: Evening of Excellence and Make a Difference Award Ceremony

On April 17, 2015, the Graduate Student Association held its annual Evening of Excellence and Make a Difference Award Ceremony at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Kalamazoo. Guests were offered an assortment of Mardi Gras-style masks to accent the theme and posed on a red carpet for formal photographs. Strains of classical music from the WMU Brass Quintet created an elegant atmosphere along with the sky-high centerpieces at the round tables, each seating 10 for a festive buffet dinner.

A photo of the many attendees of the Graduate Student Association's Evening of Excellence and Make a Difference Awards.  The Students are all dressed very well, with the men in suits and the women in dresses.

After a welcome from GSA Vice-President Amaury Pineda, PhD student in Political Science, Dr. Diane Anderson, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, greeted the crowd of about 150. She was followed by GSA President Damon Chambers, PhD student in Counseling Education and Counseling Psychology, who addressed the gathered audience with a reminder that GSA serves all graduate students. Membership is automatic, and funding for activities like the Evening of Excellence comes from student-paid fees. Shealyn Blanchard, PhD student in CECP and GSA Standards Chair introduced Keynote Speaker Britne Amos. Ms. Amos, past chair of GSAC, is a doctoral candidate in Counseling Psychology. She spoke on establishing a positive reputation with your conduct and accomplishments and reminded listeners that your reputation precedes you in all areas of life: scholarly, personal, and professional.
Following Britne Amos’s speech, awards were given out in several categories. Three GSA President’s Awards were presented: Stephanie Goodman, PhD student in CECP, received the E-Board Member of the Year Award. Outstanding Service Awards for Long Service were presented to Denisha Griffey, PhD student in Geosciences and Shealyn Blanchard, PhD student in CECP. The Graduate Dean’s Awards for Graduate Ambassador of the Year were presented by Dr. Julie Apker, Graduate College Faculty Fellow and Professor in the School of Communication. She bestowed engraved glass plaques on Chartanay Bonner, PhD student in Chemistry, and Felicia Dotson, Master’s student in Blindness and Low Vision Rehabilitation.
Certificates to mark a “Successful Year in Office” were given to Marcial Amaury Pineda, PhD student in Political Science and Vice-President of GSA; Hilltop Review Editor Rebecca Straple, PhD student in English; GSA Legislative Chair Denisha Griffey; GSA Standards Chair Shealyn Blanchard; GSA Events Chair and Co-Chair Michael Bobbitt and Stephanie Goodman, both PhD students in CECP; GSA Communication Chairs Alex Houser, PhD student in Economics and Chartanay Bonner; GSA Outreach Chairs Justin Moore, PhD student in Psychology and Danielle Smith, MA student in CECP. Several graduate ambassadors who served as graduate student representatives on Faculty Senate Councils also received “Successful Year in Office” certificates: Research Policy Council Representative Michael Lindquist, MA student in Philosophy; Campus Planning and Finance Representative Carol Adams-Shearer, MA student in Higher Education and Student Affairs; Graduate Studies Council Representative Jesus Romero, MA student in HESA; Student Media Representatives Michael Saldana, MA student in Engineering and Felicia Dotson. Ambassadors Gregory Wallace, PhD student in Biological Sciences and Paola Maria Paniagua, MA student in Communication, also received certificates for their successful year in office.
The Graduate Student Make a Difference Award is given annually to graduate students who have distinguished themselves by assisting and mentoring other graduate students on campus. Winners included Codie Stone, PhD student in Sociology, Yngvi Einarsson, PhD student in PSYC, Princilla Ursery, MA student in CECP/SPADA, Danielle Smith, MA student in CECP, Courtney Dunsmore, Master’s student in Social Work, and Joel Sanford, MA student in Comparative Religion. Saleem Hussein, MS student in Electrical Engineering, Qiong Wu, PhD student in Sociology, Alberta Stover, PhD student in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences, Derricka Caldwell, MA student in CECP, and James Busuito, Master of Music, Conducting, all received certificates to recognize their service to the graduate student body at WMU. Graduate Students of Comparative Religion, led by Joel Sanford, MA student in Comparative Religion, won the Graduate Registered Student Organization of the Year for 2014-2015.
Last year’s graduate ambassadors Carol Adams-Shearer, Michael Bobbitt, Chartanay Bonner, Felicia Dotson, Stephanie Goodman, Alexander Houser, Michael Lundquist, Justin Moore, Paola Maria Paniagia, Jesus Romero, Michael Saldana, Danielle Smith and Gregory Wallace were saluted and thanked by GSA, Dean Stapleton, and the gathered students, faculty and staff. The new graduate ambassadors for 2015-16 were introduced, along with new executive board members of GSA, Rebecca Straple, George Lluberes, PhD student in PSCI; Stephanie Goodman; Michelle Deochand, PhD student in BIOS; Neil Deochand, PhD student in PSYC; Bob Agiro, MA student in HESA; and Michael Bobbitt. The 2015-16 ambassadors are Carol Adams-Shearer; Bilge Altay, PhD student in Paper and Chemical Engineering; Gary Atkins, MA student in CECP; Kaitlyn Cichocki-Goss, MA student in OT; Christina Collins, MA student in CECP; Felicia Dotson, Yu Du, PhD student in Evaluation, Measurement and Research; Joshua Greenman, MA student in PSCI; Kate Hibbard-Gibbon, PhD student in CECP; Olivia McLaughlin, MA student in SOC; Muhammad Mollah, MBA student; Princilla Ursery; and Mark Webster, PhD student in BIOS.
After the ceremonies, guests crowded the dance floor to show off their dance moves. The evening was a huge success and a wonderful send-off to those graduating in Spring 2015. The Graduate College congratulates all the award winners and members of the Graduate Student Association who help the Graduate College in advancing careers through advanced degrees.

A Successful Year for the Graduate Student Association

Last year GSA hosted the 27th Annual NAGPS conference at WMU, while this year they had the opportunity to network and share best practices as well as present at the 28th Annual National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (NAGPS) National Conference at the University of Missouri November 6-9. 12 members of the GSA attended the along with hundreds of other graduate students from around the nation. WMU has built their presence on the national level with four GSA members elected to the regional and national board of directors Executive Committee. Damon Chambers, President of GSA, was elected as the Director of Outreach; Marlies Hagge, GSA member, was elected Director of Administration and CIO; while Denisha Griffey, GSA Legislative Affairs Chair, was elected Midwest Regional Chair for NAGPS; and Danielle Smith, WMU GSA Outreach Chair and Graduate Ambassador, was elected Midwest Regional Director of Outreach. In addition to these prestigious elections, the WMU chapter of NAGPS was named Midwest Regional Member of the Year and Overall NAGPS Member of the Year for 2015!

A photo of a student recieving an award at the annual GSA Make a Difference Awards.  The people are all smiling and standing in front of a wall with the W M U seal on it.  The participants include members of the Graduate Student Association, the Vice President of Student Affairs and the Dean of the Graduate College.

NAGPS is a nationally and internationally recognized association of graduate students that advocates for institutional and structural changes to improve graduate and professional education in the United States. Their mission is to develop, sustain, and expand their member network to connect graduate and professional students and facilitate sharing information, resources and best practices. One of their major concerns is to empower and amplify student voices to campus, local, state and federal policymakers especially as regards to student debt issues. For more information on NAGPS, please visit their website at www.nagps.org.
Through their presentation “Building a Presence: Intertwining Successful Leadership through New and Innovative Programs,” Denisha Griffey and Chartanay Bonner, GSA Communications Chair, shared programs and strategies that have been implemented on Western’s campus. Some notable events have been the Graduate Ambassador program, which came into being through the auspices of the Graduate College under the direction of Dean Susan Stapleton, the Grad Talks Series, the name change from Graduate Student Advisory Committee to the Graduate Student Association, hosting the 27th NAGPS convention, and winning the 2014 Regional Member of the Year award.
On November 19, the leadership of GSA participated in the “National Call Congress Day.” This is one of many advocacy efforts that take place yearly through partnership with NAGPS and their “Grads Have Debt2” campaign. WMU students joined graduate and professional school students from across the country to phone their representatives in the nation’s capital to advocate for attention to graduate student debt. The main focus is to reinstate subsidized Stafford loans and reduce student loan interest rates.
Other activities which have kept GSA busy and served graduate students across campus this past year included a free wellness forum to promote well-balanced lifestyles through workshops focusing on physical, emotional and financial health for graduate students. In October members met with President Dunn to discuss issues of concern to WMU graduate students, including housing on campus, improving disability access, and funding for research. During finals week GSA sponsored relaxing free chair massages for graduate students. All graduate students were invited to a free holiday social at Monaco Bay nightclub in festive downtown Kalamazoo to celebrate the winter holiday season.
Other activities sponsored by GSA include an annual trip to Michigan’s Adventure Theme Park, bowling nights, and a trip to Washington D.C. in March to represent the WMU chapter of NAGPS during their spring legislative action days.
The end-of- year Make A Difference Award Ceremony and banquet at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in downtown Kalamazoo took place in April. A Mardi Gras theme gave attendees a chance to dress up and wear flamboyant masks with feathers, sequins and red-hot flames! Over 200 students enjoyed dinner, dancing, a “red carpet” photo opportunity, and listening to speaker Britne Amos, past chair of GSAC and Ph.D. candidate in Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology, give an inspirational speech. The new ambassadors for 2015-2016 were introduced, and numerous awards were bestowed. All graduate students are invited to all GSA sponsored events, and are encouraged to participate for networking, fellowship and fun! Please visit their website at www.mich.edu/gsa/ for more information.

Did You Know? – The History of the Graduate College at Western Michigan University

The History of the Graduate College at Western Michigan University
- Christine Byrd-Jacobs

Graduate education at WMU began in July 1938 with a cooperative agreement between the University of Michigan and the four State Teacher’s Colleges. This agreement made Western State Teacher’s College (later WMU) an extramural unit of the University of Michigan’s Rackham School of Graduate Studies. Dr. Manley H. Ellis was the chairman of the Graduate Council that was formed to manage this cooperative agreement. Students applied to the University of Michigan, although they were enrolled at Western State Teacher’s College. Graduate courses on Western’s campus began in 1939 and were offered by instructors from the University of Michigan or faculty from Western who were approved by the University of Michigan. Four graduate courses were offered, and 147 graduate students enrolled that first year. It was possible for students to complete all of the work for their master’s degree at Western, although their degree was conferred by the University of Michigan. Dr. Elmer H. Wilds was appointed in 1940 as chairman of the Graduate Division of Western, the precursor to the Graduate College.

A photo of the exterior of Walwood Hall where the Graduate College is currently located.

In 1950, President Paul Sangren began conversations with the Graduate Council about establishing independent graduate programs at Western, ending the affiliation with the University of Michigan. The State Board of Education authorized Western Michigan College of Education (WMU) to offer its first independent graduate program, a master of arts in education, in 1952. Dr. Elmer Wilds, Director of the Graduate Division, oversaw the transition to independent graduate programs. In the first year that Western offered graduate programs, there were 445 students enrolled. The first master’s degrees in education from Western were awarded in 1953, with 146 degrees conferred that year.

Dr. George G. Mallinson became the Director of the Graduate Division in 1955. Western Michigan College reorganized in 1956 and established five schools: School of Applied Arts & Sciences, School of Business, School of Education, School of Liberal Arts & Sciences, and School of Graduate Studies. Dr. George Mallinson was named the founding dean of the School of Graduate Studies. This was the official unit through which graduate programs were offered. These five original schools are represented in the WMU seal as the five stars. Western Michigan College became Western Michigan University in 1957. That same year, graduate degree offerings at WMU were expanded to include master’s of arts in biology, psychology, history, political science, sociology, and librarianship, with chemistry and mathematics added soon after.

WMU was a leader in the development of sixth-year programs leading to a Specialist Degree. This degree program was approved by the Board of Education in 1960, and in 1961 the North Central Association accredited two Specialist in Education programs at WMU, the first in the country to receive accreditation.

The first doctoral programs at Western Michigan College (WMU) were authorized by the Board of Trustees in 1965. The State Board of Education approved doctoral programs at WMU in educational administration, special education, and science education in December 1965, and in January 1966 they approved doctoral programs in sociology and chemistry. The first two doctoral degrees from WMU were awarded in educational administration in 1968 to BuenaFluor Mendoza and Robert Vermeulen.

In 1970, the School of Graduate Studies was renamed the Graduate College, and Dr. George Mallinson became the dean of the Graduate College. In 1971, the North Central Association granted full accreditation for doctoral programs in chemistry, mathematics, sociology, science education, and educational leadership.

Dr. Mallinson continued to lead graduate education at WMU as dean of the Graduate College until 1977. His leadership was followed by Dr. Sid Dykstra, who served as acting dean until Dr. Laurel A. Grotzinger was appointed dean of the Graduate College and chief research officer in 1979. She was the first female academic dean at WMU, and her dual appointment illustrated the increasing emphasis on research at the institution. in 1992 Dr. Grotzinger was succeeded by Dr. Rollin G. Douma, who served first as interim dean and then dean until 1997. Dr. Shirley Scott was dean of the Graduate College from 1997-1999, when the position was added to Vice President for Research Dr. Donald Thompson’s portfolio. Dr. Thompson moved the Graduate College from its former home in Seibert Administration building to Walwood Hall at East Campus. Dr. William Wiener served as dean from 2002-2005 and was followed by acting dean Dr. Ronald Davis. Dr. Lewis R. Pyenson held the position from 2005 until 2010. Dr. Gene Freudenberg served as interim dean until current dean Dr. Susan Stapleton’s appointment in 2012.

In the first year WMU had its own graduate programs (1952), graduate students made up a mere 8.3% of the student population. Graduate student numbers and graduate degree programs steadily grew throughout the years. Graduate students made up 19.6% of the student population at WMU in 1974, and they currently are 21% of the students at WMU. In 2015, there are 5025 graduate students at WMU in 167 graduate programs. We currently offer 95 master’s, 1 specialist, 13 certificate, 15 accelerated, and 42 doctoral programs.

Dean’s Message

Fall is such a wonderful time of year. The temperatures begin to drop and the leaves begin to turn into a beautiful array of colors that include the brown and gold of WMU. These colors were very evident on campus recently as we welcomed home many alumni during the homecoming festivities. It is always a great time to meet these proud Broncos and hear of their experiences as students and the difference our university has made in their lives and careers. If you have a story to share, we would enjoy hearing from you.

The fall is also a time to reflect on all that we have accomplished over the past year. I am proud to serve as Graduate Dean and work with an amazing staff who are committed to graduate education at WMU. During this past year we partnered with the Office of Faculty Development and hosted the graduate student teaching institute to help students develop their teaching and communication skills. We rolled out an online graduate admissions process that integrates domestic and international student university application with departmental applications providing a more user-friendly experience for applicants and staff. We also partnered with Transfer Student Services and Extended University Programs to develop and implement an online orientation for new graduate students. We continue to work very closely with our graduate student groups to ensure we are delivering the services they need and are helpful to their academic and scholarly pursuits. We continue to advocate for a physical space that accommodates not only the needs of graduate students and the Graduate College but also the faculty and staff who contribute. Please consider joining us in making this a reality.

Best wishes to all for a warm and safe end of the year.

Susan R. Stapleton, Ph.D.

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

Keith Thompson – Master of Arts degree in Communication

Keith Thompson’s eyes light up when he starts talking about his Master’s degree from Western Michigan University. After a comprehensive tour of the WWMT Channel 3 News offices and studios, Keith and I sat down to talk about his experiences in graduate school. Keith earned his Master of Arts degree in Communication from Western Michigan University in April 2013, and he has high praise for WMU, The School of Communication, and the Graduate College. While working part-time on his degree, Keith continued to work full time as the chief meteorologist for WWMT, a position he has held since 1995. He won an Emmy award for best television weathercaster in Michigan for a weathercast focusing on an intense winter storm that came through in February 2013. His Facebook page lists him as a “News Personality” who is “liked” by thousands of people, and he does have a larger than life personality, so perhaps that title is most fitting. Keith displays a caring, calm demeanor that puts viewers (and interviewers) at ease.

a photo of Emmy award winning Channel 3 weatherman and recent W M U graduate Keith Thompson.  In this photo Mr. Thompson poses in front of a satellite-weather-display screen with his Emmy award.

For background, it is important to know that Keith grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. His life was shaped by the influence a large body of water has on a geographical area, just as West Michigan’s climate is shaped by conditions on Lake Michigan. For his bachelor’s degree Keith went to college at Harding University in Arkansas. He started his broadcast career in Gainesville, Florida at WCJB-TV and joined the NEWSCHANNEL 3 team in 1989. In 2001 he received the American Meteorological Society Seal of Approval. In 2005 he considered the idea of going back to school and received much encouragement from then director of the School of Communication, Dr. Steven Rhodes. It took him several years to finish due to demands of his work and growing family, but even attending classes part-time, he managed to become a scholar whose groundbreaking work gained him a respected place in his department and at professional conferences.
His first classroom experience was with Dr. Mark Orbe, who taught Introduction to Research Methods. The rigorous instruction and attention to detail, according to Keith, “set the bar as high as it could go.” He noticed right away that faculty and advisors had high expectations, and he rose to the occasion. He was inspired by the culture of learning and the way that graduate students were treated as peers. Several faculty in the School of Communication were especially helpful and inspiring to him, including Dr. Orbe, Dr. Sandra Borden, and Dr. Leigh Ford, as well as Dr. Autumn Edwards and Dr. Jennifer Macciorlatti. Dr. Michael Pritchard from the Department of Philosophy was also on his thesis committee. They encouraged him to present his original research at conferences, and he gave successful presentations at annual meetings of the National Communication Association and the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics.
Keith’s area of specialization is philosophical in nature, with special focus on the dilemma faced by television meteorologists who, as part of a news organization, are bound by a journalist’s ethical obligation to objective, no-opinion reporting, but as scientists, may feel compelled to express an opinion based on expertise. In his thesis, Keith used the highly-politicized topic of climate change to analyze the ethical dilemma, applying the “weighted duties” reasoning of philosopher W. D. Ross to conflicts a weathercaster may encounter. For instance, Ross’ prima facie duty of fidelity — manifested by keeping the implied promise of objectivity — is measured against other duties which may be fulfilled by the offering of an expert opinion. The thesis laid out several scenarios wherein a weathercaster might be inclined to express his/her opinions, including in a book, a blog, and a newscast. Keith used Ross’ “weighted duties” approach to analyze each scenario for its adherence to the prima facie duties. Among his conclusions: weathercasters may not be justified in expressing an expert opinion in a newscast, but may find justification in doing so using another vehicle such as a web blog or authored book.
As for his future plans, Keith will keep his day job and try to remain active as a scholar. He wants to do more research on his thesis topic and related questions, write, and present at conferences. He would also like to do some teaching in the future. Getting his master’s degree has been a big confidence booster, and he highly recommends Western Michigan University and the School of Communication for their graduate faculty, advisors, staff and students. When asked what he would say to someone considering graduate study at Western, he says, “Having a Master’s degree has allowed me to redefine my career. I’m more proud of this than getting my Emmy award. It’s the best thing I could have done!”

Jeanne LaMere – Ph.D. in Psychology

Jeanne LaMere is the model of an involved alumna. After getting her Bachelor’s degree in 1985, her Master’s degree in 1990, and her Ph.D. in 1993, all in Psychology at Western Michigan University, she moved to Atlanta, GA. There, friend and fellow alumna Michelle Olmsted encouraged her to get involved in Atlanta’s very active official WMU alumni chapter. Dr. LaMere participated in sponsored events including game watch parties, receptions, golf outings and trips to football games in Florida, Tennessee and Alabama. After several years of enthusiastic participation, Dr. LaMere decided to get more involved and joined the Alumni Association Board of Directors, where she is currently an at-large member of the executive committee and was on the bylaws review task force, which rewrote the bylaws as part of the reorganization that occurred when the offices of Development and Alumni Relations merged a few years ago.

a photo of Jeanne La Mere

Dr. LaMere has been on the Alumni Association Board of Directors for four years. This is her second three-year term. In 2011 she was elected Vice President for a one year term. The Alumni Association’s executive committee works closely with the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, enthusiastically performing recruitment and engagement activities. They attend homecoming and other games, wear Western gear, and encourage alumni to attend games, golf outings, watch parties, mixers and other events. The Alumni Association Board of Directors disburses the Legacy scholarship, which is given to deserving students whose parent or relative attended WMU. Dr. LaMere sits on the Distinguished Alumni Award committee, which awards the Alumni Association’s most prestigious honor. The Distinguished Alumni Award was established in 1963 to recognize graduates of WMU who have achieved a high level of success in their professions.
Dr. LaMere has also reached a pinnacle of success in her field. She works for OnCourse Learning, a company that provides training and education in the financial services, real estate and IT industries sectors. Since this field is regulated by the government; courses must be approved by a regulatory body. She was invited to sit on the government regulatory committee and she states, “That kind of participation at that level was a great honor.” OnCourse Learning provides “best-in-class” education and compliance solutions to help people get started and succeed in their chosen fields. OnCourse Learning delivers professional compliance and occupational tools as well as customized training solutions to individuals, companies, educators, associations and government agencies. It trains and certifies people in real estate, home inspection, banking and finance, energy management, and information technology through seven online campuses.
She uses her training now in instructional design, which is based on research on effective training methods. That research is now 20 years old, so she is updating it by working with current students and Dr. Alyce Dickenson at WMU. Their investigation focuses on the most recent findings on effective education and effective training. During her years of study at Western, Jeanne worked closely with Dr. Dickenson, and she remembers the wonderful feeling of camaraderie between faculty and graduate students. Close friendships with other students and faculty developed because many of them were quite young at the time, so it was natural that they would socialize. Everyone was working so hard and was so poor, but in the group everyone was in the same situation. They worked, played, studied and ate together, helping each other out when needed. On Friday afternoons they would go to colloquium and then play Euchre together. She says, “We stuck together and worked so hard! There was a community in my department.”
She has fond memories of time spent in Wood Hall with her friends and colleagues from the Department of Psychology. She particularly misses Knollwood Tavern, a campus institution for many years until it was torn down in 1999. It was a favorite hangout for Jeanne and her friends, as it was for the entire campus community. Dr. LaMere is from Portage, Michigan, and her parents still live here. She travels to Michigan and visits campus at least twice a year, in spring and fall, for Alumni Association Board of Directors meetings. She appreciates the fact that WMU is going green with its sustainability program, and particularly loves the way campus looks today. The landscaping department makes the campus very welcoming and beautiful . Jeanne LaMere was just as active as a student as she is now as an alumna. She was a Presidential Scholar as an undergraduate and received a Graduate College Fellowship, which used to be offered to exceptional students in their first year of graduate study. She was a graduate assistant in her department and in the Office of Admissions welcome center. She also worked at the Child Development Center, which was affiliated with the department of psychology at that time. Jeanne is the personification of school spirit and encourages other alumni to support the University and the Graduate College to continue the quality education WMU provides.

2014 Graduate Ambassadors

A new team of Graduate Ambassadors has been chosen and they are actively participating in campus life this fall. A two-day training event in June at the Kellogg Biological Station and Conference Center at beautiful Gull Lake kicked things off as the group bonded and learned about their new responsibilities. Each ambassador has an assigned role in the Graduate Student Association as well as their duties as liaisons between the Graduate College, prospective, new and continuing graduate students, and the colleges and departments. All ambassadors participate in recruitment, retention and outreach activities sponsored by the Graduate College and by GSA. Each also has a role on the GSA Executive Board; as such, they participate in strategic planning and event development and represent the graduate student population to key administrative groups at Western Michigan University.

a photo of sixteen students attending a Graduate Student Association trainins session.  They are all wearing black polo style shirts with a gold W on the front that represents Western.

The new ambassadors and the area each represents follow. Carol Adams-Shearer, M.A. in Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology/Higher Education and Student Affairs, reaches out to Extended University Programs students and also acts as representative to the Planning and Finance Faculty Senate committee. Michael Bobbitt, is pursuing a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology. He represents students in the College of Education and Human Development who are in teaching related positions. He also sits on the GSA Executive board as Events Co-Chair. Chartanay Bonner is working on her Ph.D. in Chemistry. She is available to help students in the College of Arts and Sciences in mathematics and science related programs and is also Communications Chair of the GSA Executive Board. Felicia Dotson is pursuing her Master of Arts degree in Blindness and Low Vision Studies. Her position in GSA brings her into contact with many prospective students in the College of Health and Human Services. She is a Student Media Board Representative from GSA to the Western Student Association. Gibril Mohamed works with students in the Haenicke Institution for Global Education while he pursues a Master’s degree in Public Administration. He also sits on the International Education Faculty Council as the graduate student representative. Stephanie Goodman, Ph.D. student in Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology, is GSA Events Co-Chair and is the Outreach Chair for the GSA Executive Board. Alex Houser is pursuing his Ph.D. in Economics as he represents students in the Haworth College of Business. He is also Co-Communications Chair on the GSA Executive Board. Michael Lindquist, while working on his Master’s degree in Philosophy, represents students in the Humanities and Fine Arts. He also sits on the Faculty Senate Research Policies Council as graduate student representative. Justin Moore is working on his Ph.D. in Psychology and represents students in the social sciences areas of the College of Arts and Sciences. He is also Outreach Co-Chair for GSA. Jesus Romero is pursuing a Master’s in Educational Leadership with a concentration in Higher Education and Student Affairs. He is in charge of diversity for GSA and also sits on the Graduate Studies Council as a graduate student representative. Michael Saldana represents the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences while he works on his Masters of Science in Engineering Management. He is also a Student Media Board representative. Danielle Smith is working on her Master of Arts in Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology and is the liaison to the College of Education and Human Development for students in non-teaching programs, and GSA Executive Board Outreach Co-Chair. The Graduate College and the Graduate Student Association are still looking for a graduate ambassador who can represent students in the Veterans and Military Affairs area. If you or someone you know may be interested in this spot, please contact Damon Chambers at gsac-info@wmich.edu.