2013 Graduate Fall Welcome

A wonderland of candles, golden table draperies, and exotic foods appeared in the West Ballroom of Bernhard Center on September 5th for the Graduate Student Advisory Committee’s annual Fall Welcome for Graduate Students. Members of GSAC, including Vice Chairperson Rebecca Sametz, Stephany Coffman-Wolph, and Chairperson Damon Chambers, designed the event as a “welcome back” for all graduate students. Around 250 graduate students gathered to enjoy a beautiful evening of music, friendship, and fun, listening to the smooth jazz sounds of the Dan Willenberg Trio, with Dan Willenberg on piano, Denis Shebukhov on bass, and Dave Van Haren on drums.

a photo of two international Graduate Students enjoying the fall welcome
Two International Students Enjoying the Fall 2013 Welcome

Chambers, a Blindness and Low Vision master’s student, student employee chef for Bernhard Center, and new Chair of GSAC, drew on his own Jamaican heritage to inspire the delicious food for the event. Students enjoyed hors d’oeuvres of fried plantains and roasted sweet potatoes with pomegranate seeds made from a special recipe Damon created, as well as corn bread with honey butter which was a big hit with the crowd. This was a unique request by Damon based on a popular dish in Jamaica. Later in the evening, funk jazz band Fusion Base (Marcus Johnson on saxophones, Bryan Blowers on guitar, and Dave Van Haren returning on drums) got the crowd dancing to the beat as students got to know each other and enjoyed themselves. The gathering was a diverse mix of American and International students, many of whom were just starting at Western. The event followed the Graduate College Resource Fair, which ran from 3-6 pm in the adjoining ballroom, at which graduate students could meet and greet representatives of various departments and units across campus and the community. Participants included Sindecuse Health Center, University Libraries, University Recreation, the Office of Military and Veterans Affairs, Career and Student Employment Services, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Miller Auditorium, HSIRB Research Compliance, Teaching Assistants Union, Faculty Development and more. Graduate College staff were on hand to greet and mingle with the students. Altogether, the fair and welcome celebration provided a great opportunity to get to know new students and to see returning students who stopped in to say “hi.”

a photo of two international graduate students enjoying the food at the fall welcome
Two International Graduate Students Enjoying the Food at the Fall 2013 Welcome

a photo of Three Graduate Students Talking at the Fall 2013 Welcome
Three Graduate Students Talking at the Fall 2013 Welcome

a photo of Graduate College Staff  at the Fall 2013 Welcome
Graduate College Staff at the Fall 2013 Welcome

a photo of the Dan Willenberg Trio performing at the Fall 2013 Welcome
The Dan Willenberg Trio perform at the Fall 2013 Welcome

a photo of students dancing at the fall welcome
Graduate Students dance to the band at the Fall 2013 Welcome

Marcus Johnson

When it comes to the path of his academic career, recent graduate Marcus Johnson (M.F.A., Creative Writing, and M.A., Educational Leadership) considers himself a “wanderer.” In addition to his military service in the Army National Guard, Marcus has pursued graduate study in the seminary, in secondary education, creative writing, and most recently, higher education and student affairs. His decision to attend WMU provided even further opportunities, as Marcus has worked as an Assistant Director of the Writing Center, as a Student Services Coordinator for WMU Financial Aid, and has participated in the Prague Summer Program. Reflecting on his winding path, Marcus observes, “I think it still all plays into who I am right now… it shaped the professional I’ve become; it shaped the academic I think I’m becoming.” His patience and curiosity about a variety of career paths has certainly benefited him, for shortly after Marcus graduated in April 2013 with his Master’s degree in Educational Leadership, he was hired as an admissions counselor at Kalamazoo College.

a photo of Marcus Johnson
Marcus Johnson

In 2007, in the midst of completing an M.F.A. in Creative Writing at WMU, Marcus found his graduate program delayed when he was deployed to Camp Liberty in Iraq. Upon returning, Marcus contacted WMU’s Office of Military and Veterans’ Affairs (OMVA) and found a great level of support from the office’s new director, Tracey Quada. Marcus is effusive in his praise for the advocacy and resources of the office, stating that Quada and the OMVA itself made “Western a much more veteran-friendly campus, instituting policies and connecting veterans with resources that were meant to help them during their college experience. With the OMVA, I see in that office a much stronger initiative to engage with student vets and to help them.”
And he isn’t alone in his praise for the office; just last year, Military Times’ EDGE magazine named Western as one of the “Best for Vets” schools in the nation (one of only two schools from Michigan to make the list). The skills, determination, and experience that student veterans bring to college campuses make them an invaluable addition to university communities, and WMU is making a notable effort to smooth these students’ transitions back to academic life. Marcus says, “I’m starting to see that some of the services that we’re offering, they indicate and show that we are trying to become more aware of [their] needs, and we are trying to understand those different experiences, and how those experiences can impact the individual education of student veterans as well as how it impacts the overall university community.”
As a teacher and a writer in that university community, Marcus finds his military experience re-framing the ways he thinks about and approaches his academic work. Speaking about how his military training influenced his teaching preparation, Marcus recalls that “I approached tasks like teaching or writing or studying from a really practical, pragmatic approach, so I would sit down and read a piece of literature, and I would think, what’s the purpose? What’s it going to serve? How am I going to be able to use this tool? How can I use this resource? It’s also something that carries over into the way [...] I get students to think about writing, to think about research. I want them to start thinking about writing and research in very pragmatic terms, in very practical terms, so that it’s something they actually do for a purpose. Because I think that activity– any activity you do in life– there has to be a significant purpose to it, but especially for the time you invest in writing, just like the time I invested in the military, there has to be a significant purpose, there has to be a significant meaning.”
Part of that search for meaning has also unfolded in the pages of Marcus’s memoir. His experience in Iraq is the basis for his creative non-fiction work, Pogue, a book about the intersections of war, training, gender, and relationships from the perspective of a soldier who does not leave the military base. Planning to finish the book soon, Marcus will no doubt have a full and promising future as he moves forward with his new job, new writing projects, and hopefully, a continuing urge to wander and explore.

Video Feature: Marcus Johnson Interview

Linda Comrie

Linda Comrie is Office Coordinator for the Graduate College. While all our employees are vital to our functioning, everyone turns to Linda for help. She joined the staff in 1999 and knows just about everything there is to know about the office. She stays busy reconciling budgets, ordering supplies, doing payroll, processing graduate appointments, and organizing events like the Graduate and Professional School Fair, the Graduate Student Resource Fair, and many other meetings and events year round. She also monitors and coordinates the King/Chavez/Parks Future Faculty Fellowships and makes sure all paperwork is kept up for the Fellows. She supervises our office associate and does an amazing job of keeping track of our very active dean, Susan Stapleton. Setting up appointments, scheduling meetings, arranging travel, and preparing reports for Dr. Stapleton is a big part of Linda’s job.

a photo of Linda Comrie
Linda Comrie

Linda is known for her dedication to her work and her calm, cool demeanor even when the office is busy and everyone is competing for her time. She always makes the effort to demonstrate the right way to do a job and even knows how to fix the copier most of the time! In 2004 Linda received a Semiannual Staff Service Excellence Award, and in 2006 she received the first Griselda Daniel Award from the Graduate Students of Color (GSOC) organization. Linda was selected for the WMU Make-A-Difference award in 2009 based on the special attributes she brings to her work environment. Linda is grateful to past and current supervisors for giving her the opportunity to grow in her job and for the students who make every effort worthwhile. She has made lasting friendships among the many students she has helped over the years; they come back to the Graduate College with jobs in higher education, spouses, and children to be greeted with a hug from Linda. Linda earned a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Western Michigan University. She and her husband Leo live in Galesburg and enjoy taking trips to northern Michigan where they appreciate the lakes, the fall colors and the UP food specialty – Cornish pasty. Linda and Leo’s daughter Stacy graduated from WMU and now lives nearby with her husband. Linda is dedicated to her family and spends her spare time cooking, shopping and traveling with her sisters and her mother.

Amanda Shuman

Math teachers…rebellious? Those words don’t often go together in our minds, but Amanda Shuman remembers her math teachers as rebels who kept the class engaged with their lively teaching style. Since she took to math naturally and found herself two or three grade levels ahead of her classmates, she decided to pursue math as a career. After receiving a master’s degree in mathematics at WMU, she is living in Washington D.C. as a Math for America DC (MƒA DC) fellow. She will be following a five-year program in which college graduates and working professionals commit to teaching math in public secondary schools. All fellows are mathematically talented individuals who are new to teaching.

a photo of Amanda Shuman
Amanda Shuman

During the first year of the fellowship, MƒA DC fellows receive a full scholarship to the American University in Washington D.C. Tuition and fees for the degree, a Master’s in Teaching in Secondary Education: Mathematics, are completely covered. Fellows receive a living stipend for the training year. Fellows will have pre-service professional development and mentoring as well as extensive student teaching experience during the training year. Development and training continue through the training year.
During years two through five, MƒA DC fellows will teach in a Washington D.C. public or public charter school at the secondary level. Fellows will receive a stipend in addition to a regular full-time teacher’s salary in the city. Besides the stipend and salary, mentoring, coaching and support services are available for fellows. They are expected to participate in ongoing, interactive, professional development activities as well.
Amanda hails from Montrose, Michigan and completed her undergraduate work at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She always found herself drawn to mathematics and she gathered experience in teaching math by tutoring at her high school during her junior and senior years. She was a teaching assistant for the Department of Mathematics at WMU and part of her duties there included tutoring in the math lab. As a TA, she taught math to non-math majors. Finite and Pre-Calculus were also within the scope of her teaching experience. One thing she wants to do in her career is encourage young women and girls to a love of math. She found the lack of women in math classes and in university settings disheartening, and she wants to increase visibility for women in mathematics.
Studying at WMU, a large, diverse university, was very different from her undergraduate work at Aquinas. Here at Western in a male dominated profession, she felt somewhat isolated. She knew that if she wanted to advance her position in life she would have to do it on her own, and she did so by working out her problems in “self-study.” Diving into something she enjoyed, mathematics, provided an antidote to the inevitable difficult issues that came up during her graduate study at WMU. She was unable to participate much in campus life, as she lived in Grand Rapids and commuted to school in Kalamazoo. She notes that public transportation in Washington, D.C. is more comprehensive than anything available in this area of Michigan, though the cost of living in the city is much higher.
Amanda counts several professors and graduate assistants as major influences on her. She notes that Dr. Steven Culver, then chair of the math department, and Dan Sievewright and Shelley Speiss, both now holding the Ph.D., were greatly encouraging. She also singled out for praise two “amazing teachers who kept me going.” The first was Dr. Jay Wood. “He is an extraordinary professor who was willing to work with me to catch up with the other students and was always patient with me. He answered even the most mundane questions and constantly encouraged me to continue working hard.” The second teacher who bolstered Amanda’s confidence was Dr. Melinda Koelling, with whom she worked on complex analysis. Amanda had not had much success in complex analysis in her previous classes, but Dr. Keolling gave her the guidance to understand concepts she had not previously grasped. Dr. Koelling’s presence at math club and other departmental events was motivating, as well.
Amanda earned no less than 18 scholarships and just as many non-cash awards during her undergraduate work at Aquinas, and at Western was involved as a member of the Teaching Assistants Union and of Pi Mu Epsilon, an honorary national mathematics society promoting scholarly activity in mathematics. Now, as a Math for America Fellow, she will be using her talents to further mathematics education in K-12 settings. The Graduate College at Western Michigan University is proud to call her one of our own, and wishes her great success in her future endeavors.

Did you know? – Professional Email Etiquette in 12 Easy Steps

Professional Email Etiquette in 12 Easy Steps

1. Address Email Recipients by Name

2. Write a Definitive Subject Heading

3. Identify Yourself and State Your Intentions Briefly

4. Attach Documents

5. Say “Thank You”

6. Include a Valediction or Complimentary Close

7. Use a Formal Signature and a Professional Email Address

8. Check Grammar, Mechanics, Tone

9. Review Your Email Before Sending

10. Acknowledge Receipt Within 48 Hours

11. When Necessary, Make a Phone Call instead

12. Never Send An Email When You are Angry or Upset

Dean’s Message

The signs of spring are finally around us here in Michigan, trees are budding, flowers are blooming and graduation is on the thoughts of many. In fact, Western Michigan University conferred degrees to 2727 students on April 27 and over 600 of those who received their degree were graduate students. We are so proud of our graduates and know that they will have successful futures.

Other signs of spring at universities usually include fewer undergraduate students on campus as well as a time of intense study for graduate students. For graduate students it is a time to conduct research, to engage in creative work, to build the professional portfolio or to write the thesis or dissertation. It is also a time when funding opportunities for graduate students are most limited. Thus within the Graduate College we are committed to fundraising for scholarships for our graduate students that help sustain the legacy of WMU as a top research institution. Consider helping us in that endeavor and make a donation to the Graduate College today.

Susan R. Stapleton, Ph.D.

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

Did you know?

The Office of Military and Veterans Affairs at WMU provides Veterans, Service Members, and family members of Veterans with guidance and mentorship in a variety of areas. These include, but are not limited to, academic support, benefit support, answers to questions regarding WMU or the VA, and the Western Michigan University community. The military offers a variety of VA educational benefits. Western Michigan University accepts the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill, and the Yellow Ribbon Program. If you or someone you know is interested in details about the costs of attending Western, or how to initiate benefits, please contact Western Michigan University’s Veterans Affairs Representative Brenda Hamlyn at 3210 Siebert Administration Building, by e-mail at brenda.hamlyn@wmich.edu or by phone at (269) 387-4115. Western also accepts a mini GI bill, which covers tuition for an initial semester of enrollment. This makes it easier for a veteran to transition quickly from active service to student life. WMU recognizes veterans and their families as Michigan residents so they can take advantage of in-state tuition rates. The Office of Military and Veterans Affairs at WMU is an active campus support program and advocacy office for helping veterans and active-duty National Guard members transition in and out of academic life. The director is Tracey Quada; she can be reached at military-affairs@wmich.edu or at (269) 387-4444. Office hours are 9 a.m. to five p.m. Monday through Friday in 1260 Ellsworth Hall.

Dr. Julien Kouamé Ph.D. – Evaluation, Measurement and Research

A photo of Dr. Julien Kouamé and his mother Eugenie Adon Brou

On November 7, 2012, Julien Kouamé defended his dissertation. On April 27, 2013, Dr. Kouamé was hooded by his committee chair, Dr. Brooks Applegate, at the Spring 2013 commencement ceremony at University Auditorium. Congratulations to Julien Kouamé upon completion of his Ph.D. in Evaluation, Measurement and Research. The members of his committee are Dr. Brooks Applegate, Professor of Evaluation, Measurement and Research in the Educational Leadership, Research and Technology Department in the College of Education and Human Development, WMU, Dr. Marianne Di Pierro, Director, Graduate Center for Research and Retention, Graduate College, WMU and Dr. Michael Bamberger, Independent Evaluation Consultant and faculty member at the Foundation for Advanced Studies on International Development. Dr. Kouamé’s dissertation is titled, “Design in Evaluation: Adequacy and Validity of Health Evaluation in the Context of Developing Countries.”
This research looks at International Health Intervention Evaluations (IHIE) by investigating the level of rigor in a sample of IHIEs to determine the ramifications of poorly conducted IHIEs, which can put the health of recipients of the intervention at risk. Since very few IHEIs meet globally established minimum criteria for sound methodology, this is an important area of research. The study also delineates the institutional policies and procedures that govern the evaluations. The research seeks to answer four questions: (1) What are policies, guidelines, and requirements for program evaluation and evaluation reports posed by international donors for evaluators? (2) What are the common types of research designs used to evaluate international health interventions? (3) What are common components and contents of reports from evaluations of international health interventions? (4) What is the level of rigor of those designs used to evaluate international health interventions?
The findings from exploration of these research questions reveals that there is quite a bit of variability and flexibility among the seven organizational evaluation policies and guidelines governing the evaluation of IHIEs. Very few of the interventions use strong evaluation designs to address the impact of each program. The evaluation reports also reflect the extent of the information required for reporting as stipulated by their specific policies and guidelines. This information is often not enough to assess if the purpose of the intervention has been achieved, which compromises the transparency of the evaluation report. Though this study examines a limited number of evaluation reports, its implications suggest that international funding bodies need explicit policies and procedures to guide both program evaluation design and evaluation reporting. Greater attention to evaluation design and the components of the written evaluation report are needed to properly represent program impacts. Coupling more rigorous evaluation designs can fully address program impact and more systematic and comprehensive reporting will provide greater transparency, an important element for international funding bodies.
Julien Kouamé worked for several years for the Graduate Center for Research and Retention as a research assistant to Dr. Marianne DiPierro, director of the center. Before beginning his doctoral studies at WMU in 2006, Julien received a Master’s in Public Health from Emory University in 2004 and worked for the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta from 2004-2006. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Interpersonal/Organizational Communication in May 2001 from Manchester College in North Manchester, Indiana. In June 1999 he earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Communication and Marketing from EST Loko, Abidjan, Ivory Coast, from whence he hails. He is the first person from his village to earn a degree and is the pride of his 86 year-old-mother, Eugenie Adon Brou. She flew all the way from Ivory Coast alone to be at Julien’s graduation. His father died when he was young and she worked hard as a farmer and midwife to find the money to send him to school, which is not free in his country. Finally she ran out of money and Julien had to drop out. He volunteered with some Peace Corps staffers in his village and became so close with them that they paid his tuition so he could finish high school. He qualified to go to college, but again did not have the tuition. Finally his mentors in the Peace Corps arranged for him to come to the United States to go to Manchester University in Indiana.
Now, twelve years later, Julien has a Ph.D. and works as a research manager at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University. There he gathers, analyzes, interprets and shares national and local data through partnerships with nonprofit and neighborhood groups in an effort to assist local and regional nonprofit leaders with decision-making, grant writing, and program evaluation. We congratulate Julien and acknowledge all his hard work and the long journey he has taken to get where he is today, with the help and encouragement of his mother, who is now back home in Ivory Coast.

Carson Leftwich

A photo of Carson Leftwich

Carson Leftwich is the first person you see when you come into the Graduate College. As Office Associate, she works the front desk, among her many roles. She spends quite a bit of time on the phone, answering questions, guiding prospective graduate students through the admissions process, and referring calls to the respective departmental graduate advisors. Carson is an editor and writer who produces the Graduate College’s articles for the “Prism” newsletter and the “Graduate Standard.” She guides two fellowships, the Thurgood Marshall and the Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) through the application and award process. She also handles the calendar of Tony Dennis, Director of Graduate Student Research and Retention, making sure he gets to and from his recruiting events across the country. When he has a schedule conflict she stands in for him at recruiting events. She assists with the Graduate Research and Creative Scholars and Graduate Teaching Effectiveness awards in the Spring and coordinates the AGEP Dissertation Writing Retreat in May. It is difficult to pin her down to one job category as she wears many hats since coming to the Graduate College in June, 2008. Carson has her B.A. in History from Western and an M.A. in History from WMU as well. She taught part-time at Western for 13 years after getting her Master’s. She is currently working on a certificate program in Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) in the Department of Educational Leadership, Research and Technology. She and her husband, Kirk, have two grown children and enjoy spending time at Lake Michigan, socializing with friends, antiquing, traveling up north to the Leelanau Peninsula, and attending vintage Volkswagen events.

The Hilltop Review

The Hilltop Review: A Journal of Western Michigan University Graduate Student Research

A photo showing five different issues of the Hilltop Review

The Graduate Student Advisory Committee publishes a journal of student writing and artwork. “The Hilltop Review: A Journal of Western Michigan University Graduate Student Research” is a peer-reviewed journal. It is intended to be an interdisciplinary journal which provides a venue for sharing the scholarly and creative activities of graduate students from all disciplines at Western Michigan University. It offers a sampling of original and significant findings. Published in hard cover twice a year since 2009, and electronically since 1995, the journal will be issuing its Spring 2013 volume soon. This issue will include articles “An Explanatory Ethnography of the Gendered Communicative Behaviors of Bouncers,” by Nathan M. Swords; “Youths’ Access to Public Space: An Application of Bernard’s Cycle of Juvenile Justice” by Amanda Smith; “Feminist Research Ethics, Informed Consent, and Potential Harms,” by Melinda McCormick; “Bureaucracy and Income Disparity in America,” by Daniel Dougherty; and artwork by students Matt Klepac and Tess Erskine. A short note from the editor precedes the scholarly works. Josh Berkenpas, doctoral student in Political Science, had the tough but rewarding role of editor for two years; for 2013 we have a new editor, Tim Bauer, a doctoral student in Sociology. Tim has served on the Editorial Board of The Hilltop Review since Fall 2011, and continues to work closely with that board to produce the journal. The board includes graduate students, members of the faculty, and officers of the Graduate Student Advisory Council (GSAC), which sponsors its publication. Tim issues the call for submissions, solicits reviewers, sends the reviewed articles back to the authors for changes, then formats the finished document and sends it to the printer. Copies are distributed to the Graduate Studies Council, the Editorial Board of The Hilltop Review and to current graduate student members of GSAC. Copies of each issue are also sent to the Archives and Regional History Collection at WMU for reference now and in the future. You can see archived copies online at http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/hilltopreview/. The Spring 2013 issue is the first to consider poetry, or what Tim calls “written art.” We look forward to reading the upcoming issue of this outstanding effort by all the contributing WMU graduate students.