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.

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.

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.

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.