The New Graduate Student Association

Through a vote of the membership, The Graduate Student Advisory Committee has now officially changed its name to the Graduate Student Association. The change reflects more truly the makeup of the GSA: an association, not a committee, which implies that membership is limited and exclusive. Since all graduate students are automatically members of this campus wide student organization, we wanted a name that reflects the inclusive nature of the group. Damon Chambers, previously the chair, and Marcial Amaury Pineda, previously the vice-chair, have had their titles change to reflect the new order. Damon is now president, and Amaury is now vice-president. Membership includes all graduate students, no matter where they take classes.

a photo of six graduate student representatives of the Graduate Student Association attending a National Convention.  Three women and three men are sitting aroud a small round table in professional atire with matching notebooks in front of them.

A University-sanctioned fee assessed from each graduate student at the beginning of each semester funds activities and initiatives. These include informational and social events for new and returning graduate students, monthly GSA meetings with refreshments, travel to various graduate student conferences throughout the country, and a new series of graduate student presentations called Grad Talks. These are modeled on TED Talks, which feature experts on any subject giving informational talks to an audience of interested listeners. Grad Talks are an excellent way for graduate students to get practice presenting their thesis, dissertation, research ideas, book reviews, journal articles, posters or paper ideas. It is also a good way to prepare for conference presentation. Student contributions will be filmed and published on the GSA website for reference or for future viewing. Students from all disciplines are encouraged to submit by sending an email to gsa@wmich.edu. Grad Talks are open to the public; some seats are reserved for graduate students and their guests who pre-register to attend. For more information on the new GSA, including bylaws, executive board members and directions for applying for funding, please visit their updated website at http://www.wmich.edu/gsa and follow them on Facebook. Call the Graduate College at (269)387-8212 or GSA leadership at (269)387-8207 for information on visiting GSA offices in Walwood Hall on East Campus. A meeting schedule can be found on the GSA website at http://www.wmich.edu/gsa/calendar-activities.

Dr. Clara Adams

For Dr. Clara P. Adams, GEP scholar, current recipient of a Gwen Frostic Doctoral Fellowship, and recipient of the Graduate Research (2013) and Graduate Teaching Effectiveness (2012) Awards from the Chemistry department, the decision to pursue research in chemistry at WMU has yielded fantastic success, but she gives credit to those who helped and inspired her in her chemistry lab and at the Graduate College. After completing her undergraduate degree in Charlotte, North Carolina, she might have attended pharmacy school if not for the opportunity and encouragement she received from WMU’s Dr. Sherine Obare, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Clara’s eventual advisor. Dr. Obare gave Clara the chance to work on a project in her lab in Charlotte — a project evaluating stilbene-based molecular sensors for the detection of organophosphorous pesticides — the first “real world” academic experience Clara had outside of her undergraduate chemistry labs. Later, Dr. Obare encouraged her to apply to WMU’s master’s program in chemistry, after which Clara was quickly promoted to begin the Ph.D. program. As a doctoral student, Clara continued her work, developing metallic nanoparticles that could detect hydrogen peroxide and pathogens like Escherichia coli.

A photo of Dr. Clara Adams.

When she had an opportunity to take on teaching responsibilities, Clara worked as part of an interdisciplinary team to create a new laboratory unit that would better demonstrate immediate and real-world applications for chemistry and biology. Working under a fellowship awarded by the GAANN program (Graduate Assistants in Areas of National Need), Clara collaborated with Dr. Donald Schreiber to develop a “food science” lab that would allow students to determine macromolecules present in food items. Using chemical reagents, students determined the amount of macromolecules such as carbohydrates, lipids, and sodium chloride in foods like chips, cheese, nuts, and turkey. While Dr. Schreiber laid the ground-work for the lab, Clara grew the idea, working out procedures for the tests and expanding their scope to go beyond their initial idea of testing for amounts of protein in tortilla chips. Thanks to the efforts of Clara and Dr. Schreiber, that innovative lab has been implemented into WMU’s undergraduate chemistry program.

Beyond this, Clara’s research in shape control of metallic (ruthenium and palladium) nanoparticles took her to national conferences, including her first oral presentation at the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia in 2012 (a conference that annually draws 30,000 professors, students, and practitioners), to international venues, such as the 2013 IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) conference in Istanbul, Turkey, where she presented her research in a poster session. She sees her future research going into the uses of shape-control for other metallic nanoparticles not extensively studied right now; she wants to do further research into using electrochemical sensors for detecting other bacteria, waste contaminants, and environmental pollutants. As Dr. Adams observes, “this area of research is crucial because nanotechnology is still relatively new, so there’s not much research into how nanoparticles affect the environment.” Clara is currently looking at post-doctoral positions where she can continue her work, and has even considered broadening her experience by starting research in cosmetic chemistry in the future.

Through all her success in research, teaching, and publication at WMU (she has four articles to her name, plus one in the works, as well as a book chapter), Clara is effusive in her praise of Dr. Obare, for encouraging her to apply first to WMU, and then for numerous awards and funding opportunities. She thanks Mr. Tony Dennis and the GEP program, for providing countless opportunities for professional and academic development, as well as Linda Comrie of the Graduate College, for helping her through a labyrinth of funding rules and policies, and Dr. Marianne Di Pierro and the Graduate Center for Research and Retention, for their workshops on applying for grants and post-docs, which Clara says “are definitely needed and wanted!” Finally, Clara is every day thankful to God for giving her the strength to begin and continue this journey, and the blessings that have come to her along the way. We’re sure that her success has only begun, and wish her the best as she graduates with a Ph.D. from WMU this spring.

2013 Graduate Ambassadors

The Graduate College and the Graduate Student Advisory Committee (GSAC) are proud to announce the selection of our 2013-2014 Graduate Ambassadors. Each represents a specific college or area and takes on a range of duties to aid and represent prospective and current students, as well as the university community as a whole. They support prospective graduate students with information about the application process, graduate student life, and the University and surrounding community. Another of their roles is to arrange campus tours with prospective students. The ambassador from that prospect’s college shows the prospective student around campus and the community of Kalamazoo. They escort students to their departments and set up meetings with graduate directors, admissions officers and faculty with whom they would like to work. Ambassadors participate in select recruitment activities and attend Graduate College events to speak to attendees about graduate school and represent GSAC and graduate education in general.

a photo of the 2013 Graduate Ambassadors
2013 Graduate Ambassadors

Graduate ambassadors also provide peer support to current graduate students by helping them understand University and Graduate College requirements and policies. Ambassadors must have a good knowledge of Western’s unique offerings so they can orient new students to campus culture. Helping graduate students find support services requires that each ambassador have an excellent knowledge of Western’s resources. Meeting with department and college level faculty, staff, and administration helps each ambassador to establish a working relationship with the departments and to develop “points of pride” for each college and department. Ambassadors are considered marketers of Western Michigan University as well; they represent the face of graduate education to the University and the outside community. Each also holds office hours in the Student Organization Center in Bernhard Center, so they are available for walk-in student concerns.
Among their many other job duties, ambassadors compose articles for the Graduate College’s blog, The Grad Word. We’ve had entries that highlight the research our ambassadors are doing, their travels, and the trials and tribulations of working on the thesis or dissertation. They also post to our Facebook page with information on upcoming events and links to other sites or articles touching on issues of importance to graduate students from around the world. Check out our pages to see all the issues being discussed and the events that are designed by and for all graduate students on campus. Like us on Facebook to show your support of graduate education and the Graduate College at WMU.
Each ambassador also sits on a University-wide council or on the Executive Board (E-Board) of GSAC. A number of committees on campus have a graduate student representative on their team to give input on how the items being discussed affect graduate students. This ensures shared governance in shaping policy and procedures that affect graduate students. GSAC is an active student organization to which all graduate students automatically belong since each pays student fees that fund student organizations. They meet once a month, usually on a Friday afternoon, in Walwood Hall or Bernhard Center. Currently the organization is preparing to host the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (NAGPS) for their 27th annual conference from November 7-10. GSAC also has a funding committee, GFAC, which considers, approves, and authorizes funding from student assessment fees for programming for graduate students.
The new Ambassadors, their fields, and the areas they serve follow.
• Kenneth Crocker is working on an M.A. in Philosophy. He represents the College of Arts and Sciences in the Humanities areas and the College of Fine Arts. He is GSAC’s E-Board Event Chair and as such is actively planning the NAGPS conference, which will bring 200 graduate students from around the country to our campus.
• Alyssa Eminhizer, who is pursuing an Au.D. in Audiology, represents the College of Health and Human Services and is the E-Board Administrative Chair, a job that keeps her busy as she takes and distributes minutes for all GSAC meetings, maintains the roster, and monitors the GSAC information email account.
• Jamie Gomez is finishing up her M.A. in Anthropology. She represents the College of Arts and Sciences in the Humanities and College of Fine Arts, and sits on the Campus Planning and Finance Committee. Jamie also assists with recruiting for the Graduate College.
• Denisha Griffey, Ph.D. student in Geosciences, represents the College of Arts and Sciences in the Math and Sciences areas and takes time out of her active research and fieldwork agenda to sit on the Graduate Studies Council.
• Alex Iseri, M.A. in International Development Administration, carries a 4.0 G.P.A. and represents the Social Science areas in the College of Arts & Sciences. As E-Board Outreach Chair he coordinates events to solicit concerns from graduate students and maintains partnerships with the community and other stakeholders.
• Edmundo Messina is pursuing an M.S. in Civil Engineering and represents the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He is assigned to recruitment duties for the Graduate College and makes a point to attend most events sponsored by the Graduate College.
• Marcial Amaury Pineda Moquete, an M.A. student in Educational Leadership, represents the College of Education and Human Development for those who are in a teaching capacity. As GSAC’s E-Board Public Relations Chair, he coordinates all promotional materials and maintains the GSAC web and social media sites. Amaury is a licensed attorney in the Dominican Republic.
• Matt Reid is pursuing an M.A. in Sociology. He is dedicated both to serving his fellow students and to his scholarly activity. He represents the College of Arts and Sciences in the Social Sciences and sits on the Research Policies Council.
• Muthanna Yaqoub, Ph.D. student in Geosciences, works on behalf of international students through the Haenicke Institute and sits on the International Education Council. He hails from Iraq and has worked extensively in recruiting and orienting students from the Middle East to our campus.
• Terren Yost is an Air Force veteran working on his M.S. in Occupational Therapy. He serves graduate student veterans in the area of Military and Veterans Affairs and sits on the Academic and Information Technology Council. Terren also holds a graduate assistantship in the Office of Military and Veteran’s Affairs.
• Tiantian Zhang, a Ph.D. student in Biological Sciences, serves as an ambassador for the College of Arts and Sciences in the Math and Science areas. He is a returning 2012-2013 Graduate Ambassador who assists the Graduate College with recruiting.
• Yu Zhang is working on her M.A. in the Higher Education and Student Affairs program and represents the College of Education and Human Development for students in non-teaching capacities. She also sits as graduate student representative on the Student Media Board where she provides input on programming with graduate students in mind.
Please contact the Graduate College at (269)387-8212 if you would like an Ambassador to be present at an event or meeting. Ambassadors are also available to meet with student groups and to advise on planning or development of departmental or unit graduate student affairs activities or services.

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

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

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

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.)”

Dr. Amy Gullickson, Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Evaluation

Dr. Amy Gullickson received her Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Evaluation (IDPE) in December, 2010. Following her graduation she worked in the College of Education and Human Development as the Senior Research Associate to the Dean and served as a graduate faculty member for the college’s Educational Leadership, Research and Technology department. In November 2012 she moved to Australia to take a tenure track position as Senior Lecturer at the Center for Program Evaluation at the University of Melbourne.

A photo of Dr. Amy Gullickson

As a professional evaluator, Amy’s job is to help organizations understand the effects of their actions. She serves as independent observer, reviewing context, activities, and results. She then gives reports on what they are doing right or wrong and recommendations on how they might improve. She gained experience doing evaluation in a variety of settings throughout her PhD program, including four months in Southeast Asia over four years as a team member on the Heifer International Impact evaluation. Through Heifer International, people in developing countries receive gifts of animals, from ducks to pigs to bees, learn how to raise and care for them, and then pass on the gift of animals and training to another family. As she talked to farmers, government officials, and non-governmental organizations, she learned valuable lessons about working with people from different cultures and languages on an evaluation project.
Also during her PhD work, Amy was fortunate to study at The Evaluation Center with several of the field’s foundational thinkers: Dr. Daniel Stufflebeam, Dr. Michael Scriven, and Dr. James Sanders (who served on her dissertation committee). Her dissertation, “Mainstreaming Evaluation: Four Case Studies of Systematic Evaluation Integrated into Organizational Culture and Practices,” explored evaluative practices in National Science Foundation-funded Advanced Technological Education centers. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the IDPE, she found one of her biggest challenges was to put together a dissertation committee. Dr. Nick Andreadis, Dean of Lee Honors College served as her committee chair, with committee members Dr. Sanders, and Dr. Chris Coryn, Assistant Professor in Education, Measurement and Research and Director of the IDPE program.
As Senior Research Associate to the Dean of the College of Education and Human Development, Amy interviewed all faculty and staff to understand the culture and practice of the various departments with regard to evaluation. She then debriefed the various departments with her findings in order to help them move forward with creating systems to collect evaluative data for strategic planning, continuous improvement, and to provide evidence of their impact. Her data analysis has also been used to inform college level strategic planning.
When asked what she had gained from the Graduate College, Amy stated that she was grateful to receive two travel grants, which she used to attend the American Evaluation Association Annual Conference. In addition, she participated in a dissertation writing workshop sponsored by the Graduate College. She encourages all graduate students to take advantage of the dissertation formatting workshops sponsored by the Graduate College and run by Jennifer Holm, Coordinator of Theses and Dissertations. Amy states that she did not attend one of the formatting workshops, usually offered several times in the Fall and Spring semesters, and wishes she had!

Meet Our New Graduate Ambassadors

The Graduate College is proud to announce the formation of the Graduate Student Ambassador Program, which has come to fruition with twelve Graduate Student Ambassadors for Fall 2012 and Spring 2013. The twelve students were selected from over 40 applicants. They will function as outreach ambassadors for the Graduate College and the Graduate Student Advisory Committee (GSAC).

A photo of our new Graduate Ambassadors meeting Graduate College Staff members

All the students who were chosen are expected to draw on their own experiences as graduate students to help prospective and current grad students at WMU. They are a highly motivated group of students, involved in many activities besides their school work, so they come to the job with a full understanding of the responsibilities and rewards of this leadership opportunity. There is at least one student representing each college at WMU and their role is complex. They are expected to represent Western Michigan University, GSAC, and the Graduate College as well as their college or area to current and prospective students.
They meet bi-weekly for informal gatherings to share knowledge and ideas, but their formal role is demanding. They attend recruiting events with Mr. Tony Dennis, Director of Graduate Student Recruitment and Retention. They hold office hours to meet with students from their colleges and/or programs who have questions about graduate study in general or more specific questions about issues they may be having. While sometimes students like to be able to have a student to talk to, which is the genesis of the program, the Graduate Ambassadors are trained to refer sensitive issues back to the Graduate College or to the appropriate unit. They give campus and community tours to prospective students and answer questions to the best of their ability, based on their training and personal experience, regarding admissions, registration, graduation, and theses and dissertations, as well as navigating departmental culture, planning their graduate careers, and balancing school, work and family. They are expected to attend all GSAC meetings. All twelve will be blogging for the Graduate College on The Grad Word, and keeping up with social media to promote the Graduate College and GSAC and to communicate with current and prospective graduate students. Each has also been assigned a university-wide committee to serve on as well.
The Graduate Ambassadors for 2012-2013 are Ms. Jessica Bell, of the Occupational Therapy program in the College of Health and Human Services, and Ms. Stephanie Boltrick, an MSW student who will serve in the area of Veterans and Military Affairs. Mr. Robert Brown, MS in Accountancy, represents the Haworth College of Business; Ms. Ashley Butterfield, a Speech and Language Pathology MA student, will be serving in the College of Health and Human Services, and Mr. Ryan Clark, Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering represents the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Also serving as Ambassadors for 2012-2013 are Ms. Cindy Cross, M.A. student in Music Therapy, representing the College of Fine Arts and the Humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences and Ms. Kristin Everett, Ph.D. student in Evaluation, Measurement and Research, who will represent the College of Education and Human Development. Ms. Jamie Gomez, M.A. student in Anthropology, is serving as Ambassador in the College of Arts and Sciences in the area of social and behavioral sciences. Ms. Denisha Griffey, a Ph.D. student in Geosciences, will represent the College of Arts and Sciences in the area of mathematics and sciences. Finally, we have Ms. Josie Wells, M.A. in Public Administration, who will represent our off-campus and Extended University Programs, Mr. Benjamin Williams, an M.A. student in Family and Consumer Science representing the College of Education and Human Development, and Mr. Tiantian Zhang, Ph.D. student in Biological Sciences, who will serve international students and the Haenicke Institute for Global Education.
The Graduate College is very proud to welcome these outstanding student representatives. They have all shown initiative in contacting deans, chairs, graduate directors, and staff members to introduce themselves, setting up their office hours, asking questions, and planning their bi-weekly informal meetings to get to know each other better and learn more about what the Graduate College and Western Michigan University have to offer prospective and current students. If you have any questions for the graduate ambassador who represents your college or area, please call Carson Leftwich at the Graduate College at (269) 387-8212 for contact information.

The Physics of Changing Course: From the Materials Lab to the Medieval Institute

Deciding to move from the sciences to the humanities as a graduate student is not necessarily common or easy, especially for disciplines as substantively and methodologically distant as physics and medieval studies.

For graduate students Jill Bjerke and Luke Chambers, the attraction of medieval studies—the fascinating history of iconic kings and queens, the adventure of medieval romances and epics—was a force too strong to resist.

a photo of graduate student Jill Bjerke

Jill, who earned her M.S. in Physics from Wake Forest University, had been interested in the Middle Ages and historical fiction since she was a child. During her master’s program, she happened upon the brochure for the International Congress on Medieval Studies, a massive conference held every year in Kalamazoo (of all places!) and hosted by WMU’s Medieval Institute. Fascinated by the hundreds of sessions on topics ranging from ale-brewing and iron-smelting to semiotics, gender theory, and medievalism in gaming culture, Jill decided to give the conference a go. During her first visit to Congress, she attended a session on Angevin and Plantagenet warfare, and watched as the room erupted in a debate over medieval military tactics. The experience turned out to be a decisive one for Jill. Watching these scholars argue passionately with each other over 700 year-old warfare made her realize that, yes, people do this for a living, and that she could as well.

a photo of graduate student Luke Chambers

Luke also traces his fascination with the Middle Ages to his childhood, when his mother read to him from Beowulf and from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. After a winding academic path through interdisciplinary studies, math, and medieval literature, Luke found himself completing undergraduate degrees in Physics and Math at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Feeling a pull to return to the medieval (along with some disenchantment with future career choices in his field) Luke took a semester of Latin at the University of Minnesota, then applied to and was accepted to Western’s Medieval Studies M.A. For him, the structures of languages provide a familiar link to his background in mathematics. Luke observes that, in both math and linguistics, “you have to recognize sets and groupings… though, in the long run, languages aren’t strict, technical things.”

Jill too concedes that there’s quite a disciplinary distance between her original research in Physics (nanotechnology and materials science) and her current work in Medieval Studies. However, she hopes that classes in paleography (the study of ancient writing) will help her to bridge the two disciplines. A mix of history and science, paleography presents the opportunity to study manuscripts and “the materials background of writing,” according to Jill. She says she’s often been curious about putting manuscripts under the microscope in the same way that she studied the composition of steel in her master’s program, yet doing so would involve cutting the medieval vellum, destroying the manuscript and losing a rare and tangible piece of history.

Making the transition from a scientific field to the humanities, Jill feels that the greatest challenges have been an increased reading load and acquainting herself with a new discipline’s writing style. Learning to write for the humanities, Jill says, “you have to pay attention to word choice, sentence structure, style… writing for the sciences is much more succinct, clear, and simple.” Luke agrees, describing different methods of persuasion in each field: style and rhetoric vs. reporting data and interpretation. Jill says that her focus now is on the writing process and establishing a voice as a historian, a much different task than writing in the sciences. As for her new reading load, she feels like she’s gone back to the beginning of school—a “new school,” as she puts it—and since the character of her work has changed so drastically, she’s not burned out yet.

Likewise, though Luke acknowledges that graduate study is a considerable commitment of time and resources, he chose to pursue his interests in medieval languages and literatures at Western because “you can’t learn as much as you’d like to learn about old languages as an undergrad,” and, as he observes, “if you want to understand the past, you have to be able to read the languages of those cultures.” As he explains, the history of language and literature tells us a great deal about our own culture: “Old English is the source of our own language, and Old Norse had a strong influence on English culture and language as well, due to their common mythology and the history of the Danish invasions of England.” Luke’s own research interests reveal the intersections of language, text, and culture. His Master’s thesis will explore the classical source material for the 13th-century Icelandic Trójumanna saga (Saga of the Troy-men), a text which adapts and recombines material from the Latin matter of Troy as well as Ovid’s Heroides. In addition to his research in Germanic languages and literatures, Luke, a third-year Master’s student, is also one of the Medieval Institute’s graduate instructors for MDVL 1450: “Heroes and Villains” of the Middle Ages.

Now in the second year of her M.A. in Medieval Studies, Jill balances a full workload of courses, as well as working as a graduate instructor for MDVL 1450. Last year, her classes ranged from classical and medieval Latin to medieval “Art and Devotion” to a course on the “Rulers and Regions” of France, England, and the Low Countries. The last of these classes provided another decisive moment for Jill, when she realized that every text on the syllabus for “Rulers and Regions” was one that she would have picked up on her own. Her lifelong love of history and enthusiasm for this course material gave her the knowledge that, despite the fact that she doesn’t have an academic background in history, she’s not a “fish out of water” here and that her decision to change fields was a good one. Her current research interests center on Richard the Lionheart and his political career, including his involvement in the Crusades. Jill speaks passionately about Richard, his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and his global wanderings: “Richard I is everywhere. He’s King of England, yet has extensive holdings in France. On Crusade he goes to Sicily, Cyprus and the Holy Land and gets captured by the Duke of Austria on the way home. He’s a gateway into many regions of medieval Europe. And, of course, he turns up in the Robin Hood legends as well!” Jill’s excitement about this legendary king and her field makes it clear that, whatever she may have sacrificed in her disciplinary shift, it’s been worth it to her.



Video: Jill Bjerke on Richard the Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitaine

The Institute currently enrolls 22 graduate students, each with widely varied research interests. In addition to Jill’s and Luke’s research in late medieval English history and Germanic  languages, our medievalists are interested in topics including monasticism and anchoritism; medieval Bohemia and Central Europe; women, peasants, and Islam in the Byzantine Empire; medieval and Renaissance drama; and medieval economies, among other areas. In addition to physics and mathematics, our current students have undergraduate backgrounds in philosophy, history, varied languages and literatures, music education, film, international relations, political science, psychology, and classics. With graduate students coming from far afield to pursue their research passions at the Medieval Institute, and graduate instructors sharing their lifelong “medieval fascinations” with students, it seems that Medieval Studies is in good hands at WMU.

Postscript:

WMU’s Medieval Institute (LINK: www.wmich.edu/medieval) is known worldwide as the home of the International Congress on Medieval Studies (LINK: http://www.wmich.edu/medieval/congress/index.html) , which brings thousands of medievalists to Kalamazoo every May, and offers a Master’s program in Medieval Studies (LINK: http://www.wmich.edu/medieval/academics/ma-program.html]. The program is also well known for its Richard Rawlinson Center for Anglo-Saxon Studies (LINK: http://www.wmich.edu/medieval/research/rawl/index.html) , and houses Medieval Institute Publications (LINK: http://www.wmich.edu/medieval/mip/index.html) . The Institute has over thirty affiliated faculty members from the departments of English, History, Theatre, Comparative Religion, Japanese, Spanish, Classics, German, Art, Music, and University Libraries.

Louise Schuster 91 – Awarded Second Master’s Degree

Louise Schuster got the surprise of her long life when Dean Susan Stapleton of the Graduate College at Western Michigan University showed up at her door to deliver Mrs. Schuster’s third diploma. At 91 years of age, Mrs. Schuster had already earned a Bachelor of Science in 1968 and a Master of Arts in 1969 from Western. She had also completed coursework toward a Master’s degree in Literacy Studies through 1980, but had never gotten that degree. With only imaged transcripts from 1962 through 1980 to work with, some detective work was needed.

A photo of Louise Schuster being presented her diploma by Susan Stapleton, Dean of the Graduate College

Enter Mallory Bourdo, Academic Auditor in the Registrar’s Office and Lauren Freedman, Professor in the Department of Special Education and Literary Studies, College of Education and Human Development. They combed through Mrs. Schuster’s records, evaluated her credits, and found she had enough credits to receive a Master of Arts in Literacy Studies. With the help of Carrie Cumming, Senior Associate Registrar, and Stacey Doxtater, Graduation Auditing Supervisor, a decision was made to issue a diploma for June 2012. Mallory worked with the family, especially Mrs. Schuster’s granddaughter, Darcy Kelly, to make sure Mrs. Schuster would receive her diploma, and between all parties they agreed to have the diploma hand-delivered to Mrs. Schuster in her Sturgis home by Dean Susan Stapleton. Mrs. Schuster knew she would be receiving a diploma, but did not know it would be delivered to her home with pomp and circumstance. With her family surrounding her, Louise Schuster finally received her second Master of Arts and her third diploma, in its ceremonial cover, made possible by her hard work and the efforts of Western Michigan University faculty, staff, and administrators.