A Valuable Degree

A PhD from Western Michigan University pays big dividends, as these recent graduates prove. Out of over 120 doctoral graduates from Fall 2016 and Spring 2017, we chose several who have exciting opportunities after graduation. Three have post-doctoral research offers at prestigious institutions around the country, several have faculty positions at universities here and abroad, and some are working in their fields. Their experiences reinforce research which shows that a doctoral degree is a worthwhile investment.

This photo is a collage of several alumni of Western Michigan University.  Featured most promenenently is Lindsay Jeffers, her photo was picked to be the background of the collage because she is wearing her graduation cap and gown.  Lindsay has blond hair and a large smile, we suspect because she just graduated.  In the middle of the photo is a big gold W, which is the brand mark for Western Michigan University.  To the left are the photos of seven other alumni members, a colum of three to the far left includes from top to bottom are Erica Taylor, Tiantian Zhang, and Neil Deochand. To their right, and sort of in the middle are four alumni in a collum, but slightly smaller photos because there are more of them.  They are: Andrew Hale, Justin Moore, Elizabeth MacQuillan, and James Atkinson.  Everyone is smiling except for James Atkinson, because this photo was taken while he was teaching, and he looks rather stern, but he's really a nice guy, it just doesn't show very well in this photo.

James Atkinson, who recently completed his doctoral degree in Chemical and Paper Engineering, has obtained a job as a pre-press operator at LTi Printing in Sturgis, Michigan. LTi Printing is a locally owned and operated printing company that employs 100 people and focuses on packaging, pressure sensitive labels, and commercial and digital printing. In a technology-driven industry, hiring employees who are experts in their field is key to meeting strategic goals. Atkinson’s dissertation analyzes the ‘Fate of Conductive Ink Pigments During Recycling and Landfill Deposition of Paper-Based Printed Electronics.” He focused on recovering metallic inks so they do not enter the water table and contaminate groundwater, with an added economic bonus of reusing the metallic inks. With his committee composed of Drs. Andro Mondala, Paul Fleming, Jan Pekarovic and Jorge Rodriguez, Atkinson has positioned himself to rise in the rapidly evolving printing industry.

As a newly appointed Assistant Professor at the University of Cincinnati, Neil Deochand’s 2017 doctoral degree from WMU has paid off handsomely. His research indicates that using real-time audio and video feedback correlates with better workouts and improved athletic performance compared to a standard workout. With Dr. Wayne Fuqua of WMU’s Department of Psychology as chair of his committee, Deochand worked with Drs. Ron Van Houten, Anthony DeFulio, and Derek Reed to refine his research into a dissertation titled ‘Assessing a Punching Bag Feedback Performance Device’. Dr. Deochand and his wife, Michelle, are now living in Cincinnati, Ohio where a new baby will soon join their son Scion as heir to the family brains.

Another recent graduate of the doctoral program in Psychology, Andrew Hale, is nearing completion on his pre-doctoral clinical internship at the Veteran’s Administration Ann Arbor, MI Healthcare System. Upon completion, he will begin a two-year post-doctoral research fellowship at the VA Center for Clinical Management Research, a Health Services Research and Development Center of Innovation located in Ann Arbor. Here he will continue his work with veterans reflected in his dissertation, ‘Predictors of change in Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) for veterans in a residential Post Traumatic Stress Disorder treatment program.’ Hale’s committee chair Dr. Richard Spates joined with Drs. Scott Gaynor, Amy Damasheck and Jessica Rodriguez to mentor Hale through the process of obtaining a doctoral degree. We wish him the best as he continues through his post-doc to a career helping veterans recover from trauma.

Lindsay Jeffers has just accepted a visiting faculty position at Grand Valley State University in the Department of Writing. Her dissertation focuses on the challenges of student teachers and those who mentor them in ‘Preparing Teachers in English Language Arts: Mentor Teachers Speak.’ With Dr. Jonathan Bush as chair and Drs. Karen Vocke, Allen Webb and Leah Zuidema as members of her dissertation committee, Jeffers received her doctoral degree in the English Education program in the Department of English at Western Michigan University. Along with her work instructing future English teachers, she currently blogs on https://writerswhocare.wordpress.com/ . Here teachers of English to elementary and secondary school students share the joys and challenges of developing budding writers.

Another PhD recipient who will be working at GVSU is Elizabeth MacQuillan. She received her degree from WMU in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences program under Drs. Amy Curtis, Kathleen Baker and Rajib Paul. Dr. MacQuillan was offered a faculty position in the new Masters of Science in the new Clinical Dietetics program at Grand Valley State University. MacQuillan has been busy since defending her dissertation, titled ‘Birth Record Analysis of Gestational Diabetes: Applications for Intervention Planning.” This study aims to assess Michigan-wide rates of gestational diabetes using a combination of statistical and spatial analyses. What makes her study truly interdisciplinary and groundbreaking is her use of statistical analysis and Geographic InformationSystems (GIS) to identify where services are most needed in Michigan and what type of content those services would most beneficially deliver. She recently presented her research at the Society for Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiologic Research conference in Seattle, WA and in July had an article published in the Michigan Journal of Public Health.

Justin Moore, PhD in Clinical Psychology, conducted several months of study at a local alternative high school, instructing students on mindfulness practices and assessing the effectiveness of their use. Moore used a computer-based strategy to teach the adolescents mindfulness strategies and score participants throughout the study to determine their levels of psychological distress using the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale. Moore’s research found that two interventions, breath-counting and self-compassion, had mixed results. He determined that while computer based interventions did not produce reliably positive results on overall mental health, as demonstrated by the DAS Scale, the practices did show some promise in promoting the acquisition and practice of mindfulness in teens. A successful defense of his dissertation, “Examination of the Effects of Computer Assisted Mindfulness Strategies with Adolescents in an Alternative High School Setting” took place on May 11, 2017. His committee, comprised of Drs. Scott Gaynor, Amy Naugle, C. Richard Spates and Helen Pratt, was proud to recommend Dr. Moore for his next step: a pediatric psychology post-doctoral position at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital.

Another WMU graduate has attained a post-doctoral position with a famous organization. Tiantian Zhang, of the Deparment of Biological Sciences/Biomedical Sciences, has begun his work in Dr. Larry Kwak’s laboratory in the City of Hope Cancer Center in Los Angeles, CA. Dr. Kwak was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2010, and Dr. Zhang will join Dr. Kwak’s lab working toward a cure for cancer. His dissertation, “Oncolytic Tanapoxvirus for Melanoma Therapy” demonstrates how oncolytic viruses, which infect cancer cells with anti-tumor immune responsivity, may emerge into a potentially effective therapy against melanoma, a deadly form of human cancer. Working with Drs. Karim Essani, Bruce Bejcek, Robert Eversole, and Christopher Fisher, Dr. Zhang was also an active member of the Graduate Student Association and was one of the first Graduate Ambassadors appointed by Dean Susan Stapleton when she launched the Graduate Ambassador Program in 2013.

Like many students in the Educational Leadership, Research and Technology department, Ericka Taylor came to WMU already functioning as a leader in an educational setting. By earning her doctorate, Taylor has positioned herself not only to shine in her current role as Early Childhood Coordinator for Saginaw Public Schools, but also to continue to rise in the ranks of her profession. Taylor worked with Drs. Walter Burt, Sue Poppink, and Kelley Peatross on her dissertation, titled “Are the Leadership Behaviors of K-12 Leaders in Mid-Western Urban School Districts Influenced by Their Beliefs and Attitudes Regarding Spirituality?” Dr. Taylor’s project concluded with several recommendations for improving professional development and support for individuals working in this high stress environment. These strategies include holding spiritual values, utilizing meditation or prayer, and employing practices which develop and maintain a strong sense of purpose and a collective sense of mission for all employees.

Laura Alicia Pacheco del Castillo worked with Drs. Joseph Morris, Mary Zoyer Anderson, and C. Dennis Simpson to attain her doctorate in Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology. Having returned to the Dominican Republic, she is now an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra. Her dissertation, titled “Dominican College Students’ Experiences of Distress, Help-Seeking and Stigma” looks at how Dominican students handle feelings of psychological distress through seeking psychological help. Pacheco found that about 71% of traditional-aged undergraduate college students report moderate levels of distress and also hold neutral attitudes about help-seeking, while about 67% hold moderate help seeking intentions. Over three-quarters report they themselves feel moderate stigma for seeking help and the same number report moderate levels of social stigma about psychological services. Her study, one of the first to examine college students in the Dominican Republic, contributes valuable data on mental health and help-seeking within this population and has implications for improved practice and research.

Interdisciplinary Studies Doctorate Program

In response to a need expressed by students and faculty, Western Michigan University created a new university-wide Interdisciplinary Studies Doctorate in which students combine research and coursework from two or more disciplines. This program is housed in the Graduate College, and allows for cross-disciplinary work that spans every college. The Interdisciplinary Studies Doctoral degree offers flexibility to students with interests outside existing academic boundaries and established programs. Since 2000, national reports calling for increasing interdisciplinary graduate education and encouraging an interdisciplinary approach to research and education have risen sharply, as reported by the Council of Graduate Schools, the national organization dedicated to advancement of graduate education [Council of Graduate Schools (2012) Interdisciplinary Graduate Education: Role of the Graduate School. Washington, DC: Council of Graduate Schools]. At the eighth annual Global Summit on Graduate Education in 2014, leaders of graduate institutions from 14 countries supported interdisciplinary learning in graduate education and challenged graduate institutions to prepare students to collaborate across academic disciplines.

Given the emerging interest crossing traditional disciplinary boundaries, we created the Interdisciplinary Studies Doctorate at WMU. In addition, there are several other interdisciplinary degrees on campus: the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences PhD, the Interdisciplinary PhD in Evaluation, and interdisciplinary PhDs in Education and Human Development and Engineering and Applied Sciences. The Interdisciplinary Studies Doctorate is designed to span all disciplines at the university and allow additional flexibility in meeting the needs of students whose research interests are not currently met in a traditional program. WMU is now better positioned to more effectively serve future students as interdisciplinary approaches in research continue to expand.

Currently there are eight students in the program, with two applications under review for fall 2017. These students have established creative combinations of disciplines, including anthropology/sociology, economics/philosophy, social work/psychology, computer science/English/library sciences, and special education/educational leadership. Some of the projects are groundbreaking in their scope or focus, including a social history of the mobilization of the gay community in Tijuana, Mexico since the early 1980s in the context of human rights activism. Another project focusing on the Latino community analyzes healthcare construction and stresses the development of culturally and linguistically appropriate healthcare policy. Another student has devised a collaboration between special education and educational leadership to create a Special Education support center in Saudi Arabia.

The individually designed interdisciplinary degree relies heavily on its unique combination of specific disciplines and the particular expertise of each faculty member involved. Students in the WMU program craft a distinctive experience that supports the learner-centered, discovery-driven, and globally engaged mission of WMU. It meets individual student needs, promotes academic collaboration across the university, and produces scholars with a global approach to solving problems.

The Legacy Scholarship

The Legacy Scholarship recognizes the loyalty of multi-generational Bronco families through a program established by the WMU Alumni Association. The Legacy Scholarship has been offered competitively since 1990 to freshmen from Michigan who are family members of a WMU alumna or alumnus. Now we can proudly report that this prestigious award is available to graduate students for the first time. For fall 2017, eight incoming graduate students have been awarded a $1000 Legacy Scholarship. The following individuals have been named as Legacy Scholars for 2017. Taylor Berry, from Battle Creek, MI, is entering the Master of Arts program in Educational Leadership, Research and Technology. Sarah Bradtke is beginning the Master of Arts in Psychology: Behavior Analysis. She is from Paw Paw, MI. Daniel Buehler, from Delton MI, has been admitted to the Physician Assistant program for a Master of Science in Medicine degree. Another student in the Physician Assistant program, Colin Knue, is from Kalamazoo and will receive his Master of Science in Medicine upon completion. Another Michigan native, Nathan Pastrick, is beginning his Master of Arts in Psychology: Industrial Organizational Behavior Management. John Pruelx of South Pasadena, CA has been accepted into the Music Performance program for a Master’s of Music degree. Alicia Risk, another resident of Delton, is beginning her degree in Public History leading to a Master of Arts. The final awardee is an international student, Rona Vitancol, from Imus Cavite, Phillipines. She begins work on a Master’s of Science in Statistics. Join us in welcoming all these talented graduate students to Western Michigan University this fall. We expect great things from them since they are carrying on the legacy of proud Bronco families

DID YOU KNOW? – Responsible Conduct of Research Requirement for All New Graduate Students

With a goal of aligning our graduate students with national expectations for higher education and post-graduate careers, the Graduate College at Western Michigan University requires that all new master’s and doctoral students complete ethics training in their first semester. Partnered with the Office of the Vice President for Research, a Responsible Conduct of Research online course was modified for students in all disciplines.

Ensuring that all graduate students at WMU are working to the highest possible standards of integrity, the RCR course provides advice on planning, conducting, and reporting research. All new graduate students must complete the course in their first semester. This aligns with our strategic goal of graduating accomplished and ethical scholars, researchers, and professionals. Students are registered automatically in their first term of admission; the course will appear in their e-learning course list. The course is free and carries no credit; GPA is not affected. For those working with human or animal subjects, this is not an alternative to CITI training but a supplement to that training.

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.