Meet Angie Phelps and Jodi Ward

The Graduate College is excited to welcome two new employees this spring semester. Jodi Ward worked most recently as associate director of operations in the Office of Admissions before starting at the Graduate College as our systems analyst. Jodi got her bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in psychology and obtained a Master of Arts degree in human resources development at WMU. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in educational leadership with a concentration in organizational analysis here at Western.

Photos of Angie Phelps and Jodi Ward placed side-by-side.  These are official university photos with a grey background.

Jodi started out at WMU as a college recruiter whose territory was the east side of Michigan, including Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lower Wayne and Monroe counties. She also coordinated the Medallion competition. After five years she was promoted to transfer coordinator, where she managed recruitment efforts at the 28 Michigan community colleges. Most recently, she directed the processes, policies and procedures for application processing in the Office of Admissions. She has especially enjoyed the diversity of staff, faculty and students with whom she has had the privilege to work.
In her new position Jodi is excited about leading the implementation of the new Apply Yourself tool for graduate applications. There is a lot of work to be done to convert to this new system but the process should be much smoother for both prospective students and functional users at WMU.
Jodi spends her spare time cheering at Bronco sporting events with her husband and eight-year-old son. She attends most practices and games her son plays in, which keeps her busy, as he is involved in football, basketball, and baseball. She also likes to kayak when the weather cooperates.
Angie, our new finance analyst, attended Lake Superior State University and Kalamazoo Valley Community College. She is currently working on her bachelor’s degree in general university studies. Angie began her career at Western Michigan University as an office assistant in the math department in 1999, and then transferred into the history department as an office associate in 2001. In 2002 she moved into the dean’s office of the College of Arts and Sciences to become a finance analyst. She appreciates the opportunity to form lasting relationships through working with people from across campus.
As for time away from campus, Angie loves to be by the water. Lake Huron is her favorite Great Lake. She and her husband of almost 15 years, Jerry, frequently travel to Lake Michigan to enjoy sunsets and the incredible ice formations in winter. She likes to entertain her friends and family with bonfires in the backyard, and camping is on her list of favorite activities. She has three daughters, ages 22, 20 and 18, and a beautiful baby grandson.
Angie’s new position as finance analyst involves working closely with Virginia Bowlby, coordinator of graduate appointments. As she adjusts to life in a new environment she looks forward to working with the staff and students of the Graduate College. It is a team-oriented office where she can use her talents and help where she is needed.

We are all glad to welcome both Angie and Jodi to our staff, where they are much appreciated for their expertise and hard work as well as their fun personalities.

News from the Graduate Student Advisory Committee

  • This Spring Break a group of graduate students from the Graduate Student Advisory Committee traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with National Association of Graduate and Professional Students (NAGPS). They joined forces to lobby for issues of concern to graduate students, mainly the high levels of debt many graduate students accumulate while pursuing their degrees. They met with representatives and senators to express their concerns during the NAGPS Spring 2014 Advocacy Summit and Legislative Action Days, March 1 through 4.

  • In other news, GSAC has put to a vote of the full membership a name change for the organization. In order to better reflect its constituency, the Graduate Student Advisory Committee will change its name to Graduate Student Association. All graduate students are automatically members of GSAC, or GSA. The name change will become effective July 1, 2014. Each student pays fees to the University that go toward the operation and funding of a number of initiatives to benefit graduate students. These initiatives include programs, events, operational funding, development workshops or seminars, and bringing speakers to campus. Funding decisions are made through GSAC, so if any graduate students want to be involved in how their money is being spent, they are encouraged to come to the meetings. All graduate students are urged to become active members by attending meetings which are usually held once a month on the third Friday from 2:30-5 p.m. These hours are subject to change.

  • Another initiative led by Damon Chambers, Chair, and The E-Board, is the establishment of Grad Talks, a presentation hosted by the Lee Honors College based on the popular TED Talks. The first Grad Talks were held on February 21 and March 21. These are ten minute talks given by graduate students on any subject they may be passionate about. It could be a study abroad experience, a brief introduction to their research, the contents of a recent paper for a class or a chapter of their dissertation. This experience provides practice in giving presentations, a skill all graduate students must develop to meet their academic, professional or personal goals.

    an image of the W M U Grad Talks logo, The background is dark brown with a yellow square, the words are placed evenly on the square with W M U being in light brown, Grad is displayed in dark brown, and Talks is displayed in white text.  These colors are used in the official Western Michigan University color guidelines.

  • April 6 through 12 was Graduate Appreciation Week in the United States. The National Association of Graduate and Professional Students held its Midwest Regional Conference at Grand Valley State University this spring during Graduate Appreciation Week. This annual conference brings together graduate-professional student leaders from the Midwest region to network, share best practices, discuss common issues, and brainstorm possible solutions. Representatives from WMU attended this conference and reported a good turnout and useful workshops.

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

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.

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.

Rome, Kalymnos, Kalamazoo: Coming Full Circle

For Stasia Lopez, a student in WMU’s Master’s program in Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA), her university experience has taken her on unexpected paths, with surprising rewards. Stasia began her undergraduate study at Robert Morris University (Pittsburgh, PA), studying Business Administration with a concentration in Hospitality and Tourism Management. But a desire to break out of familiar places led her to study abroad, first visiting her extended family’s home in Greece and then journeying to Rome, hoping to trace her own roots in both countries. At the start of her trip, Stasia chose not to call or contact her extended family; from Greece, she simply hopped on a boat for the twelve-hour journey to the island of Kalymnos, her ancestral home. Miraculously, after wandering through streets and finding her maiden name (Diamantis, Greek for “diamond”) plastered everywhere, she located her relatives within mere hours of getting off the boat. Beginning a life-changing and vastly rewarding experience, Stasia continued her pilgrimage, arriving in Italy days later. While taking Italian language and culture classes at the American University in Rome, Stasia made Italian friends who helped her to discover much more about the city and its hidden treasures – off-the-beaten-path cafes, shops, and nearly forgotten landmarks and spaces, as well as new Italian friends and families – than she would have discovered among her enclave of American peers. From learning to think and speak in another language to navigating an ancient city, Stasia recalls that there was never a dormant moment for her… she felt completely alive, captivated, and challenged the entire time.

a photo of Stasia Lopez

When Stasia returned stateside in 2008, she found a seismic shift had occurred in her life, with her goals and outlook completely changed. She observes that “when you can foster relationships with anyone, especially international friends, who can tell you about differences in culture, perceptions, and perspectives… it breaks you out of thinking that your home is the only way to live and you see a wider swath of the world, or the world from another viewpoint.” This experience also changed her career path; when Stasia returned, she turned down a marketing internship to intern in the Study Abroad Office at her alma mater. Her experiences abroad and in that office blossomed into an advocacy and love for education that she continues in her work as a graduate student at WMU.

As a graduate assistant in Career & Student Employment Services (CSES), Stasia plans a variety of programming at WMU. In fall 2012, she helped to open the Career Zone in Ellsworth Hall, which offers individualized drop-in and group advising. According to Stasia, “the career advising offered by CSES helps all students in what they can do with their majors, writing their cover letters and resumes, and also provides one-on-one career counseling with our doctoral students. Additionally, we also help students in planning for jobs and internships and have assessment resources to help match students with careers and internships.” Stasia finds that some of her most rewarding work comes in advising first-generation college students. As a first-generation college graduate herself, Stasia understands the importance and difficulty of balancing work, school, and life, and completing a degree program quickly, issues of special concern to this group of students. After completing one of her program internships in the TRIO Student Success Program at WMU, which primarily works with first-generation students, she realized more than ever how much she loves academic advising, especially first-generation and exploratory advising students.

Stasia also finds that her work for the Career Zone and CSES dovetails beautifully with her coursework. For each student in the HESA program, the curriculum is very broad-based and leadership focused. Stasia has taken a diverse array of courses encompassing higher education and student affairs from student development to diversity and equity. Through her work as an advisor, she is able to combine the theory learned in class with experience in the field. In a course on student development, for example, Stasia regularly gets to work with students and see them develop throughout their degree programs. In any given semester, she may encourage students to reflect on their study abroad programs, or listen to international students’ perspectives on American education and how they’re settling here, or help students to find their passions, choose majors, and locate resources to help them land internships or determine their career paths. Through it all, Stasia sees her work as a career advisor and her coursework in the HESA program as inextricably linked, creating a truly experiential learning experience for her. “Experiential learning,” says Stasia, “is how we learn, grow, and gain qualifications for careers.”

Hoping to pursue a career in Study Abroad herself, Stasia has advocated that this life-changing experience be available for students of all backgrounds. In 2009, she created a Facebook group called the International Cultures Group to inform a global audience about the benefits of international study and perspectives. From the start, she posted serious statistics about international cultures and Study Abroad programs alongside fun posts about foreign food, world holidays, and mini-celebrations. Her audience on the site grew to almost 400 and, last year, Stasia was nominated by GoAbroad (one of the leading websites concerning study / intern / volunteer / work abroad) for its 2012 Innovation Award for the site she created. Not content to rest on her laurels, Stasia has continued her advocacy as a writer for sites like Wandering Educators and Go Overseas; she has also attended several regional NAFSA (Association of International Educators) conferences and has applied for grants to attend many of them, the first with her work for the online resource AbroadScout.

Stasia currently balances these activities with her coursework in HESA, her work in CSES, and four internships, one of which involves creating a series of workshops on re-entry for all WMU students returning from their study abroad experiences. While she feels she has found her voice and purpose in advocating for international study, she sees her life coming full-circle in her work. The first of her family to graduate from college, she was also the first to make it back to their ancestral home. Finding that her life changed and her eyes opened by this experience of traveling abroad, she now helps other students to navigate the life-changing and eye-opening experiences of higher education, and advocates the importance of new perspectives and adventures for all of her peers at WMU and beyond.

The Career Zone, located across from the writing center on the first floor of Ellsworth Hall, is open Monday thru Friday 12-5pm. All students are welcome to receive drop-in advising on resumes, cover letters, interviewing tips, to find out what they can do with their majors, and more! For more information call: 269-387-2745

From the WMU HESA program website: “The master’s degree concentration in higher education and student affairs (HESA) is designed to prepare students for entry and mid-level professional positions in colleges, community colleges, and universities. Typically, these positions include administrative roles in admissions, academic advising, residence life, student activities, financial aid, career services, and offices designed to support and retain historically underserved student populations (e.g., multicultural affairs, LGBT Services, services for students with disabilities, women’s centers, veteran and military services, offices for foster care youth, etc.)”

Graduate College Welcomes Faculty Fellows

The Graduate College appointed two Faculty Fellows at the beginning of Spring 2013. They will be in the position until the end of Fall 2013. Each of them brings their own set of skills to the job, and each has unique responsibilities tied to their job description. Dr. Jon Adams, an associate professor in the Department of English, has the focus area in student and faculty engagement and success. He is working with Academic Affairs, college deans, graduate program directors and chairs and the Office of Faculty Development and the Office of Student Affairs.
A photo of Graduate Faculty Fellows, Dr. Louann Bierlien Palmer, and Dr. Jon Adams
When asked what led him to apply for the position, he specified his excitement over the new direction Dean Susan Stapleton has been taking the Graduate College and her determination that the Graduate College be a part of every conversation. Dr. Adams is especially interested in the aspects of his position that include student and faculty engagement and success. His whole career has been informed by his wish to see students succeed and this position gives him a chance to be a part of that success individually and institutionally. Besides the engagement piece, it is a professional development opportunity as well.
If he could narrow his position to one point, it would be student engagement. Studies show that student engagement is one major predictor of retention and the Graduate College is serious about not only recruitment but retention. Dr. Adams will work with the Graduate College Ambassadors, a group of twelve grad students from each college who represent Graduate College interests across the campus. He will also interact with the Graduate Student Advisory Committee (GSAC). This is a flourishing registered student organization that advocates for graduate education and graduate students. GSAC represents graduate students at Western Student Advisory council meetings and funds activities proposed by graduate student groups.
During Spring 2013 and Summer I and II 2013 Dr. Adams will be working on an online orientation program for graduate students who cannot attend on-campus orientation. Students who are off-campus need training for teaching assistant and graduate assistant positions as much as on-campus students, and this online training can be expanded to offer supplemental orientation activities and alternative types of training.
His work as a Graduate Faculty Fellow has taught him a great deal about Western’s history and current administrative and personnel climate. Talking with constituents from all over campus, including deans and associate deans as well as graduate students, has given him knowledge about the people who make Western happen. This helps him know how to help them in his function as faculty fellow.
Dr. Adams studies representations of war and masculinity in American literature and culture. He teaches upper level, graduate and special topics classes in American Literature and upper-division and graduate courses in Literary Theory and the Novel. He received the WMU Distinguished Teaching Award in 2012 and serves on the Graduate Studies Council and as the Director of Graduate Studies in English. He received his Ph.D. from University of California-Riverside.
Dr. Louann Bierlein Palmer is a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, Research and Technology whose Faculty Fellow position includes a focus area on graduate admissions and enrollment. She will work with Academic Affairs, the University Student Enrollment Management Committee, Extended University Programs, admissions, college deans and the graduate program chairs, directors and academic units.
She earned her Ed.D. in Educational Administration from Northern Arizona University. Dr. Bierlein Palmer teaches EDLD courses in the areas of School Community Relations and Cultural Competency, Policy Development and Analysis, and Leadership Theory. Her research interests include a broad array of K-12 and higher education reform and policy issues, and she often uses survey research and case study analyses. Prior to joining WMU, Dr. Bierlein Palmer served in various policy research and leadership roles, including the Governor’s Office in Louisiana, and state and university policy centers in Louisiana and Arizona. She is also considered a national expert on quality charter school laws and authorizing policies.
Because her area of interest is in leadership and policy analysis and reform, she applied for this position to use this opportunity to become involved at the systems level at WMU. Most of her students are working professionals, so the faculty fellow position allows her to reengage in the practical leadership aspects of higher education. She is working on streamlining policies and procedures to stretch limited resources farther.
One of Dr. Bierlein Palmer’s goals is to establish more regular communication with graduate advisors, especially on issues relating to admissions and recruitment. Currently she is also working on a merged version of the Graduate Catalog with the Graduate Advising Handbook to create a document which more accurately reflects the needs of advisors and other users. The new Graduate Catalog will be more user-friendly and up-to-date. She is also working with Graduate College staff and University Relations on creating a new Graduate College brochure to use for recruiting purposes. In addition to making changes to the interior of the current brochure, including the listings of programs to make it easier for recruiters to use, she is creating one page handout templates that each department or program can use to customize the information provided.
Dr. Bierlein Palmer states, “It is a privilege to work with Dr. Stapleton and others in the Graduate College, and to work on the larger goal of promoting high quality graduate education within WMU…As a systems thinker, I treasure learning more about the many pieces needed to support the broader university.”