Image of Psychology faculty member Sarah Domoff meeting with students to discuss healthy social media use.

Fighting social media addiction

Students create intervention to promote healthy use for teens

October 16, 2017

​How much is too much when it comes to adolescents and social media?

Teens in the United States spend nearly nine hours of each day online. At least a third of that time is spent using social media, and that is rapidly increasing.

The number of teens engaged in problematic social media use — such as using social media after bedtime and cyberbullying — is growing, prompting a team of six Central Michigan University students to create an intervention for at-risk adolescents.

The undergraduate and graduate students designed the Development of Healthy Social Media Practices Intervention through the CMU Family Health Lab, under CMU psychology faculty member Sarah Domoff's direction.

It is designed to promote healthy social media use for adolescents needing treatment and aims to decrease the risks involved with overusing social media.

"It is so fascinating that our society spends so much time using media, yet we rarely step back and think about the many effects that media may pose to our lives," said Chelsea Robinson, a senior exercise science kinesiology major from Plainwell, Michigan. "This intervention really aims to educate adolescents about the effects that media may have on them, which directly ties into my interests in public health."

Introducing the intervention

The intervention would help adolescents better understand the good and bad of social media use and its impact on their health and well-being.

Three separate sessions would improve how adolescents respond to social media content and usage by helping them develop coping and problem-solving skills.

The end goal? Adolescents will identify social media practices they want to change and then develop a plan to use social media more responsibly.

"The concept of using media seems so simple," Robinson said. "It seems like one could sum up the effects of media in a few sentences, yet we made three nearly 40-minute sessions out of the information we had."

The team will present the intervention proposal to clinicians in the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Unit at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for their review.

Tackling Tweets, likes, shares and swipes

Feedback from the clinicians and adolescents will help prepare the intervention for a large-scale study, Domoff said. It was designed so that clinical psychologists could adapt the individual assignments for outpatient therapists to use.

"Our students are developing an intervention that could increase healthy social media use in adolescents. This has not yet been done in clinically referred youth," she said. "We will be happy to share our intervention with any clinician in the hope that it could be implemented in outpatient and school settings."

This is a reason that school psychology doctoral student Sarah Brenner wanted to get involved with the project. She said adolescents are a key audience to focus on following recent news stories about children experiencing forms of cyberbullying.

"I think learning how social media affects our youth can lead to interventions targeting social media management to prevent some of these negative outcomes," said Brenner, of Cincinnati, Ohio.

In conducting the research for her intervention session, junior psychology major Rachel Gerrie said she found little information related to adolescents and social media addiction.

"Developing the module itself is just the tip of the iceberg with the issue we are looking into," said Gerrie, of Atlanta, Michigan. "I feel as though this project is something that is going to put my name out there and actually make a difference."

Image of students investigating a mock crime scene next to Anspach Hall.

Fake crime, real investigation

CMU students have hands-on investigations in mock crime scene

October 9, 2017

Imagine if Stephen King knew nothing about crime scene investigations.

Budding writer Delany Lemke is making sure that won’t happen to her.

The senior English major was totally in her element when the area south of Anspach Hall became an active crime scene of sorts at Central Michigan University.

Lemke and her “Principles of forensic anthropology” classmates suited up in full crime scene investigation gear — vests, gloves, foot protectors and face masks — for hands-on preparation to handle real-life investigations.

The mock crime scene was the midterm exam for the class anthropology faculty member Cathy Willermet teaches.

Lemke’s major concentration is creative writing, and she said anthropology-related classes help her to better understand the human existence.

“I find myself frequently applying the language of anthropological studies to my poetry. It gives me a new lens to understand the human experience,” she said. “I won't be helping to recover bones from crime scenes in the future, but I will remember what I learned about the fragility of human life and the way our stories can be written right on our bones.”

“Principles of forensic anthropology” introduces students to concepts including identifying human skeletal remains, recovering human remains and estimating time since death.

There are 32 students enrolled, and only about a third of them are anthropology majors, Willermet said. Many students take the course because it fulfills the science requirement for many undergraduate programs.

“That’s what is so great about this class,” Willermet said. “It is broadly appealing and brings scientific thinking and application to a lot of different majors — everything from English to advertising, psychology, music and journalism.”

Even though the situations were fake, the circumstances students studied mimicked real crime scenes.

Lemke, of Marysville, Michigan, said she felt “weirdly emotional” as she looked forward to the mock crime scene midterm.

“This is how some missing people are finally identified,” she said. “This is how justice happens.”

Research targets brain disease mystery

Neuroscientist studying how inflammation relates to imparied function

September 28, 2017

Central Michigan University neuroscientist Kenneth Jenrow is looking for a master key to unlock functional decline in the human brain.

And down the road, his research could contribute to therapies for the likes of aging-related cognitive impairment, traumatic brain injury, hydrocephalus, Alzheimer's disease and epilepsy.

Many neuroscientists at CMU and other universities focus on neurodegenerative diseases, but Jenrow and graduate student assistant Swathi Suresh focus specifically on the connection between brain inflammation — common to aging and virtually all brain diseases and damage — and the clearing of waste products from the brain.

When the outflow of these waste materials slows down, it slowly impairs brain function and can cause permanent brain damage.

Jenrow wants to know more about the part inflammation plays in this process and its impact on brain function.

A reaction to 9/11

Jenrow's approach evolved from a federally funded project after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. No nukes were involved on 9/11, but there was a concern that future attacks could involve conventional nuclear weapons or a so-called dirty bomb.

"The idea was to explicitly identify drugs that could be administered to mitigate radiation injury and prevent what might otherwise be an accelerated cognitive decline, leading to dementia and death," Jenrow said. "Anti-inflammatory drugs proved most effective in this context."

Patients whose brains have been irradiated for clinical reasons, such as cancer treatment, offer some insights.

"These people commonly develop cognitive impairment up to and including dementia," Jenrow said. "However, you typically see no evidence until more than six months after irradiation.

"There's absolutely nothing you can do about it at that stage," but the delayed effects offer clues about the mechanisms involved and possible therapies, he said.

If Jenrow can develop methods for keeping this damage from piling up in the brain — perhaps through medicines or even lifestyle changes — he thinks mental impairment could be halted or even reversed.

"The challenge has driven me for a number of years," he said.

Part of a larger effort

Just as Suresh assists with Jenrow's research, about 20 graduate students work with the 16 faculty members in CMU's neuroscience program.

Gary Dunbar built and runs the program, which also serves about 350 undergraduate students. He said some 150 of those undergrads have opportunities to do hands-on research.

Several neuroscience faculty in addition to Jenrow study aspects of brain disease and damage, including College of Medicine faculty member Ute Hochgeschwender, who uses light to control and repair damaged cells in the brain, and Yannick Marchalant, whose research focuses on normal and pathological brain aging.

In 2013, the undergraduate program was voted Program of the Year by the Society for Neuroscience, the largest group of its kind in the world.

Inspiring on-the-job happiness

Psychology student, advisor find job crafting improves employee satisfaction
September 27, 2017

Image of Terry Beehr and Minseo KimImagine what it would be like if you could develop your own job description.

Research has shown it improves the bottom line when business leaders empower employees to create their own jobs — it's called "job crafting" — that better match personal interests and job skills. But little research was done to consider what job crafting does for employees.

Until now.

Central Michigan University industrial/organizational psychology doctoral student Minseo Kim and her faculty advisor Terry Beehr found that workers also are happier and more committed to the jobs they crafted.

Such results have the power to lead workplaces to get rid of standard job descriptions and have employees create their own.

Kim said their research increased understanding of employee wellness through job crafting. It also connected empowering leadership to career success as well as physical and psychological well-being.

"Organizations may encourage their supervisors to promote job crafting, which will help create a productive and healthy workplace," she said.

Redefining employment improves personal lives

Kim actually brought the research idea to Beehr. She was curious whether job crafting helps employees pursue meaningful career goals as well as feel happy and healthy in life beyond how they do on the job.

"As the work environment becomes more dynamic, organizations need proactive self-initiated employees to gain competitive advantages through them," said Kim, of Seoul, South Korea. "Most prior studies have focused on consequences of job crafting, and research questions on why employees engage in job crafting are not well addressed."

Kim and Beehr studied 325 full-time employees over two months.

Their paper "Can Empowering Leaders Affect Subordinates' Well-Being and Careers Because They Encourage Subordinates' Job Crafting Behaviors?" recently was published in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies.

Kim and Beehr found the key to successful job crafting starts at the top.

Organizational leaders need to encourage employees to look into creating their own job descriptions. This will inspire employees, boost their confidence and make them feel more in control of their professional careers and personal lives.

"Businesses traditionally focus on job production and then look at empowering their employees," Beehr said. "What this study shows is that if the employees feel more connected to their jobs first, they will be happier in life, and that will help improve productivity."

Moving forward with research

Kim said their research sample consisted of relatively young employees. She is confident the research model also can apply to older employees, explaining it would be interesting to examine the degree to which empowering leader behaviors influence job crafting among older employees.

Kim has worked with Beehr on more than 10 research projects. This is her fourth published peer-reviewed article, and she plans to work as a university professor and continue her research interests.

"His expertise and perspectives always helped me develop and elevate the nature and quality of my research," Kim said of Beehr.

Image of graduate student Kevin Thomas and English faculty member April Burke

Ensuring equal access to literacy

Faculty member April Burke and graduate student Kevin Thomas make case for all children

September 20, 2017

​Literacy is key to learning, but Central Michigan University English faculty member April Burke and humanities graduate student Kevin Thomas make the case that even the best literacy practices aren't enough to encourage all children to read.

Economic and societal conditions also influence childhood literacy.

"In order to create a world of frequent readers," Burke said, "ultimately broad societal and economic inequities must be eliminated."

Poverty and unequal access to education limit children's access to literature, Burke said. This often prevents children from becoming regular readers because their teachers can't provide all that is needed to encourage this activity.

"We must end poverty and unequal access to education if we truly want all people to be not only literate but also frequent readers," Burke said. "Our schools need to be adequately funded, and our communities need to have the resources to make literature available to all.

"These are not impossible tasks. They only need to be priorities."

Factors supporting literacy development

Burke and Thomas made their conclusion in an article in the online journal The Looking Glass: New Perspectives on Children's Literature after analyzing the primary findings of the "Kids and Family Reading Report" from Scholastic — the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books. Scholastic also is a leading provider of core literacy curriculum and professional services.

The Scholastic report highlighted four primary factors that support literacy development:

  • Access to books that interest them, which often includes books that represent characters like them.
  • Freedom to choose the books they read.
  • Time to read in school and at home. 
  • Encouragement to read, which includes being read to by their teachers and parents.
Burke and Thomas analyzed these findings against a variety of recent literacy education studies and sociological texts such as Michelle Alexander's New York Times bestseller "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness."

The four points make perfect sense, Burke said, but underfunded schools and low-income families can't always buy the number and types of books needed, and finding time to read can be challenging for working-class families.

This project interested Thomas because he believes literacy is closely linked with inequality in society. He has written reviews of children's books and previously worked for two years as a quiz writer for Scholastic.

"Literacy is a form of empowerment and is necessary for self-determination," said Thomas, of Roselle, Illinois.

Burke is a former K-12 teacher who researches education and underrepresented populations. In 2016, she published an article in the American Educational Research Journal that used Indiana statewide data to look at the times it takes for different language minority groups to be reclassified as fluent in English.

"One of my main arguments in this article is that language minority students are not a homogenous population," Burke said. "They have unique needs, and educational policies and practices should be responsive to these needs."

CHSBS dean Pamela Gates announces retirement

September 12, 2017

Image of Dean Pamela GatesPamela Gates, Central Michigan University's College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences dean, has announced her retirement, effective Jan. 15, 2018.

Gates was named dean in 2011 after serving as interim dean in 2007 and from 2009 to 2010. She was associate dean from 2001 to 2009 and prior to that was an English faculty member for more than 10 years.

"We are grateful for the academic leadership that Dean Gates has provided CMU for more than three decades," Provost Michael Gealt said. "Her impact will continue through the programs, scholarships and the endowed professorships, chair positions and speaker series she helped to create. We wish her the best in her retirement." 

In the classroom, Gates taught courses such as children's literature, fantasy literature for children, young adult literature, multicultural literature for children, heroic traditions in literature for children and graduate seminars in children's literature. She also has reviewed books for the WCMU Children's Bookshelf for several years.

Gates was named CMU Woman of the Year in 2011. She also was instrumental in the repatriation of 144 ancestral remains and over 300 funerary objects to the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.

Gates earned bachelor's and master's degrees in English language and literature from CMU. Her doctoral degree is from Michigan State University.

Image of Hope May attending the Peace Flag raising ceremony at Central Michigan University in 2016.

Teaching about peace in South Korea

Philosophy professor Hope May receives Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award

September 11, 2017

A Central Michigan University philosophy professor is teaching this semester at the Graduate Institute of Peace Studies at Kyung Hee University in Namyangju, South Korea, through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program.

Hope Elizabeth May credits her former student and 2014 graduate Ben Harris for inspiring her to compete for the distinguished Fulbright opportunity. Harris was awarded a Fulbright English teaching assistant grant in South Korea in 2013.

“We’re not born with innate knowledge of the personalities driving the peace-through-law movement. Their stories have to be transmitted again and again.”
— Hope Elizabeth May

"Ben brought the Fulbright program to life for me," May said. "I was doing quite a bit of guest lecturing in South Korea and often would see Ben when I did. Through our conversations and meetings, I became interested in pursuing a Fulbright grant, and the opportunity of teaching at a graduate school devoted to peace studies in Korea seemed like the natural thing to do."

May's Fulbright project title is "The Virtues of Untold Stories: Peace History of the United States and Korea." She'll teach in South Korea through December.

Stories of international law and ethics

As an educator, May creates innovative educational activities to introduce students and the public to international law

May, who also has a law degree, directs the CMU Center for International Ethics and is internationally recognized for her work on international law and its connection to the 19th century peace-through-law tradition of The Hague in the Netherlands.

The Hague is home to numerous international courts, including the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.

May's efforts include developing a study abroad course focused on the International Criminal Court, the United States and The Hague. She also has organized international master classes on peace history, as well as an annual ceremony to raise a symbolic peace flag at the Peace Palace in The Hague and at CMU.

She recently published, in partnership with the Peace Palace Library in The Hague, the first complete English translation of Bertha von Suttner's "The Barbarization of the Sky." Suttner was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize (in 1905) and is credited with inspiring Alfred Nobel to create the prize.

May focuses on the peace movement work of the early 1900s before World War I, in which Korea was involved, and at a time when the country still was unified.

"There were numerous visionaries involved in the 19th century peace-through-law movement. Some of these individuals were in Korea, and some of them were based right here in Mount Pleasant, such as CMU's own E.C. Warriner," May said. "We're not born with innate knowledge of the personalities driving the peace-through-law movement. Their stories have to be transmitted again and again."

May said she hopes her Fulbright experience will help link the peace histories of the United States, The Hague and Korea. She also hopes to build educational opportunities for CMU students during her time in South Korea.

About the Fulbright Program

May is one of more than 1,200 U.S. citizens who will teach, conduct research and provide expertise abroad for the 2017-18 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. It's designed to build relations among the people of the United States and the people of other countries to solve global challenges.

Fulbright award recipients are selected based on academic and professional achievement, as well as service and leadership in their fields.

Fulbrighters address critical global challenges – from sustainable energy and climate change to public health and food security – while building relationships, knowledge and leadership in support of the long-term interests of the U.S. and the world. Fifty-four Fulbright alumni have received the Nobel Prize, 82 have received Pulitzer Prizes and 33 have served as a head of state or government.

Fulbright recipients are among more than 50,000 individuals participating in U.S. Department of State exchange programs each year. The Council for International Exchange of Scholars administers the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program.

Image of children seated on therapy balls.

ADHD, classroom chairs and therapy balls

CMU student researches options for on-task behavior
August 14, 2017

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may be overly active or have trouble paying attention or controlling impulsive behaviors.

But one school psychology student researcher at Central Michigan University wondered if these children actually could be sitting on a solution to their ADHD.

Abbie Taipalus questioned, "Would sitting on a therapy ball instead of a traditional four-legged classroom chair improve their on-task behavior and academic performance?"

Therapy balls — also known as exercise balls or stability balls — are air-filled rubber balls that range from 20 to 30 inches in diameter. An increasing number of school systems across the United States are using them to improve student attention, but the research into their effects is limited.

Taipalus was onto a great topic to pursue as a thesis paper, and she had the full support of her professor Michael Hixson.

Even the research journal Behavioral Interventions took interest and recently published the work Taipalus collaborated with Hixson and fellow CMU psychology graduate students Robert Wyse and Sophie Fursa.

ADHD is one of the most common childhood neurobehavioral disorders. An estimated 5.1 million children between ages 4 and 17 have a current ADHD diagnosis.

"In learning about how common the balls are in school settings today, I knew the study would be valuable," said Taipalus, of Jonesville, Michigan. "I've always believed in the positive effects of movement and exercise on learning. I knew this study would be the perfect opportunity to learn more about these theories."

She is working as a school psychologist in the Jackson County Intermediate School District as she finishes her doctoral studies at CMU.

It turns out Taipalus and her team found that therapy balls fall flat in helping elementary school students diagnosed with ADHD to stay on task. There were relatively small differences in academic engagement between when a child sat on a chair or a therapy ball.

Project advances ADHD research

It may seem like this was an unsuccessful project. But finding nothing actually pushes researchers closer to discovering solutions for helping children with ADHD, Hixson said.

He explained that there is little research into the effects of using therapy balls in the classroom, and their collective results are inconclusive. Some studies show benefits while other studies show none.

"We want to know what works and what doesn't work," he said.

Taipalus first noticed therapy balls being used as chairs in schools during her first-year practical experience. She immediately started reviewing the research on using therapy balls as chairs. She found only four published studies.

"As a school psychologist, I work with students with ADHD on a daily basis who struggle socially, behaviorally and academically," Taipalus said. "A large number of these parents are choosing not to medicate, which makes it even more important to provide up-to-date research on nonpharmacological strategies to help these students be successful."

Central Michigan University senior Ashley Blackburn processes skulls as part of her self-created internship in The Netherlands.

'The skulls. They speak to me.'

Student creates internship and processes artifacts in The Netherlands

August 7, 2017

Ashley Blackburn spent the summer working with hominin skulls and early human tools.

It's exactly what the Central Michigan University senior wanted from the international internship that she created.

"The skulls. They speak to me," Blackburn told her internship supervisor when he asked her to choose between organizing the museum's medical collection or skull collection.

The internship was at the museum for the University of Groningen — Rijksuniversiteit Groningen— in The Netherlands. Her internship ended in late July after her spring semester of classes in history and anthropology.

The internship work was in line with Blackburn's interests. The senior from Gladwin, Michigan, is majoring in public history and has minors in anthropology and museum studies. Her career goal is to become a research archivist.

The skulls and endocranial casts had been in the anthropology department since around the 1920s. They are used for classroom and research purposes, and the anthropology department was moving them to museum storage.

Blackburn cleaned, labeled and recorded all of the pieces. Nobody was telling her what she had to do along the way; this is stuff she already knew from her CMU classes.

"Sometimes I would need input because some of the records were written in Dutch," she said. "Google Translate also was a big help."

Blackburn was the first CMU intern at Groningen's university museum. Her experiences now are paving the way for future CMU students interested in international museum internships.

Creating opportunities for personal growth

Blackburn is a member of CMU's honors program and a McNair Scholar, so she understands that CMU offers a lot of engaging educational experiences.

But she never saw the opportunities she could create for herself.

Ashley Blackburn and a skullBlackburn knew as early as her freshman year that she was going to study abroad. CMU Study Abroad offers more than 150 programs in 40 different host countries. More than 600 CMU students embark on study abroad trips every year.

She worked closely with her advisors Jay Martin and Brittany Fremion for nearly two years to develop her study abroad trip and coordinate it with her internship. Martin is a CMU history professor and director of CMU's Museum of Cultural and Natural History. Fremion is a CMU history professor and coordinator of the public history program.

Blackburn chose the University of Groningen because it offered history- and anthropology-related courses that will count toward her degree. Plus, all the classes were taught in English. Martin then connected her to curators at the university's museum, and she drafted the paperwork to create the internship program.

"I'm going to be an archivist, so I don't mind the paperwork," she joked. "Through my work, everything is in place for a future student to pursue a similar internship at the Groningen museum. I like that my opportunities will give other students opportunities to do more."

Blackburn continues to serve as a liaison between CMU's Museum of Cultural and Natural History and the University of Groningen museum.

Jennifer Peacock (right) works with educational leadership professor Frim Ampaw.

Falling into the right crowd

CMU experiences make lasting impression on Cultural and Global Studies major Jennifer Peacock

July 26, 2017

​Jennifer Peacock intentionally has her hands full this summer.

It's how the Central Michigan University senior from Clare, Michigan, lives, and she is committed to making college easier for others who one day will share first-generation student experiences similar to hers.

When Peacock isn't analyzing first-generation student interviews for her research project with educational leadership professor Frim Ampaw, she is updating an electronic handbook for Alternative Breaks participants as part of her internship at the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center.

"Advice I received from a friend is 'Be intentional with people and be intentional with your actions,' and I really have internalized that," she said. "I always try to be intentional with my actions because I don't know what my actions might mean for somebody else. That is definitely something I learned here at CMU."

Peacock is proud she is a first-generation student, which led to her being named a McNair Scholar at CMU. McNair is a national program that prepares scholars for doctoral studies through research and other scholarly activities.

Peacock describes the McNair program as her "gateway" into academic research. The research requirement connected her to Ampaw, who agreed to serve as Peacock's McNair mentor. Ampaw already was conducting research into the factors that lead first-generation students to apply for and stay in college, and Peacock is working with her to conduct and analyze more research. Initial findings show that first-generation students need more social and emotional support.

"I saw a lot of different pieces of myself in the students we interviewed, and you could tell which ones met the right people when they got to college," Peacock said. "Having more data-driven research will help to show that colleges need to support these students in a different way. We are first-gen, but we don't want to be alone."

The topic hits close to home for Peacock, who was the first member of her family to attend college. Life at CMU was very difficult for Peacock at first. She even seriously thought about dropping out a few times.

"I just couldn't find my place. I didn't know if I was smart enough for college, and I didn't know how to be a college student," Peacock said. "And then I fell into a group of girls who were doing Alternative Breaks my sophomore year."

Alternative Breaks shift college career into high gear

Jennifer Peacock attends the MLK Peace March.Four months later, she joined her friends for a diversity-related alternative break in Immokalee, Florida. This sparked a chain reaction, and Peacock since has completed five other Alternative Breaks — including serving as a site leader — and this academic year she will serve as the Alternative Breaks student co-coordinator.

CMU students annually travel to more than 20 states. Through the program, they have saved endangered baby sea turtles, built homes, served veterans, documented shipwreck artifacts and more. Break Away even has ranked CMU as high as third in the nation for the number of Alternative Breaks trips taken and fourth in the nation for the number of participants.

"Alternative Breaks changed my entire life," she said. "My college career literally went from 0 to 100, just like that. When it clicked, it clicked."

These experiences gave Peacock some clarity for her academic studies. She also found that a major in cultural and global studies was the right fit for her interests in pursuing a doctoral degree related to public policy.

Her summer academic internship at the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center focuses on expanding the Alternative Breaks training manual she co-authored last summer for site leaders to include information for all participants.

"My college experience in one word is 'grateful.' I'm just so grateful for the people I've met and the communities I've been able to work with," she said. "I met the right people who took an interest in me and saw something in me. I fell into the right crowd, and that really made my college experience. For that, I am so grateful."

CMU clinical psychology student James Simms stands near the entrance to the Carls Center for Clinical Care and Education.

Psychologists in training

CMU students provide mental health services through on-campus center

July 24, 2017

James Simms knew he was taking his career in the right direction as soon as he met his first client at Central Michigan University's Psychological Training and Consultation Center.

The PTCC is where CMU psychology students get clinical training with real clients.

"This type of training is the most important part, because that is what it is all about," Simms said. The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, native is entering his third year in the clinical program.

"All of the research and studying we do is to better the treatment of psychological difficulties and disorders," he said. "Learning how to actually do treatment with people in need is the purpose of our profession."

Top CMU psychology experts and researchers supervise clinical psychology doctoral students who are training at the PTCC by treating clients from the university and throughout mid-Michigan. Simms has treated people with depression, low self-esteem, attention deficit and hyperactivity, and more.

One in five adults in the United States experiences a mental illness, and nearly 60 percent of these adults don't receive mental health services, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The center at CMU offers outpatient mental health services at minimal to no charge to clients whose mental health needs might otherwise go unmet. It has a general clinic and a psychological assessment clinic, and it also offers these specialized programs:

Doctoral students provide all clinical services under psychology faculty guidance.

Cheryl Chakranarayan is in her third year of the clinical psychology program. She has trained in the assessment lab and anxiety clinic. Chakranarayan will train in the neuropsychology clinic next year.

"Working at the center is essentially doing therapy with training wheels. Although there is a steep learning curve at the beginning, there also is support from supervisors and staff," said Chakranarayan, who is from Pune, India.

Students see an average of five clients each week. Training closely with faculty mentors helps set the CMU program apart from other clinical programs, said Amanda Lopez, PTCC director.

"Our students will follow faculty through the program, and the faculty will guide them toward that career path," she said. "Not all clinical psychology programs have that level of mentorship."

Lopez said students are ready to see clients on their own by the time they finish the training and move onto their internships and careers as psychologists.

The center gives clinical psychology students a wide range of training experiences, and it also fills a need for CMU and area community mental health services, Lopez said. Client referrals come from the CMU Counseling Center and from mental health agencies in many mid-Michigan cities.

"There is a waiting list in the community for mental health services, and I think we will likely see a continued increase in the number of people looking to access the types of services we provide," she said. "We get a lot of people referred because their health insurance doesn't cover mental health services, and they have to pay out-of-pocket for these services."

Simms said training through the center has been integral to his development as a clinical psychologist.

"It has helped me learn how to conceptualize what methods can best help a client with certain issues and how to convey that to clients and transplant science into constructive human interaction," he said.

Central Autism Treatment Center Director Christie Nutkins evaluates student training and child interaction skills.

Inspiring autism 'aha' moments

CMU treatment center chips away at shortage of trained professionals

July 14, 2017

Autism spectrum disorder affects every individual differently.

Brian Davis understands this after three years working with children in the Central Autism Treatment Center at Central Michigan University.

"No two people are the same," Davis said. "If you know one person with autism, you know one person with autism."

Davis, of Owosso, Michigan, is a CMU experimental psychology graduate student who will graduate in December. He's a supervisor at the center, which is fulfilling a nearly $500,000 grant with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to expand services in Michigan for children with autism.

CAT provides a program that leads to behavior analyst certification.

Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley recently said Michigan needs between 1,500 to 2,000 certified service providers. Currently there are 603.

Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the U.S., affecting approximately one in 68 children.

The CAT center currently serves 17 children, and grant funding trains the professionals who work with them. Undergraduate and graduate CMU students can complete their fieldwork and practical experience by participating in treatment.

The center supplements autism services that schools provide, said Director Christie Nutkins. She said space is limited, and the children receive service over a long period of time, so turnover is not high.

"We really are training the future providers of applied behavioral analysis services in the state of Michigan," Nutkins said. "We want people from Michigan to stay in Michigan instead of moving away."

"Between graduate-level and undergraduate programs, 129 students have gone through the program, and 15 of them are certified," Nutkins said. "Not all of them who go through the program take the exam for certification because some choose to work in other fields such as education or speech-language pathology or communication disorders."

CMU's exam pass rate for students reporting results is 94 percent, which is higher than the national average of approximately 60 percent.

'Hi, Dad'

Davis is among the 15 who are certified.

He came to CMU as an undergraduate in 2014 to pursue a degree in physical therapy, but a psychology professor, Carl Johnson, encouraged him visit the then-new Central Autism Treatment Center in 2014.

"I checked it out, and I never left," Davis said. "Working here is extremely rewarding, and because our field is so data-driven, you get to see what your personal impact has had on a child over a month's time."

Davis remembers working with a 5-year-old who didn't have solid communication skills.

"When his dad came to pick him up, he said 'Hi' to his son, who responded with 'Hi, Dad,'" Davis said. "Seeing the parents' reaction to their kids actually acknowledging them, it was groundbreaking for them."

Shannon Hunyadi is a junior psychology major from Troy, Michigan, who has worked at the center for two years. Her memorable moment came earlier this year when she watched the 2-and-a-half-year-old child she's working with do his first sign independently.

What did he sign?

"He signed the word 'open,'" Hunyadi said proudly. "I was really excited."

Funding for future services

Additional services provided through the current grant included collaborating with area schools and offering training for educational professionals.

State of Michigan grant funding will end Sept. 30, but Nutkins is working to secure additional funding.

She said one of the benefits of being a university-based training center is the chance to provide data and publish research that could help other training centers.

Hope May presents first complete English translation of 1912 book written by Bertha von Suttner.

Hope May publishes English translation of Bertha von Suttner's 1912 essay 'The Barbarization of the Sky'

July 2017

Department of Philosophy and Religion faculty member Hope Elizabeth May published the first complete English translation of the 1912 book The Barbarization of the Sky written by Bertha von Suttner. The book was presented July 4, 2017, in the Historic Reading Room of the Peace Palace, located in The Hague, Netherlands. The presentation was attended by the Ambassador of Austria to The Netherlands, Dr. Phil. Heidemaria Gürer, and the German Vice-Ambassador to The Netherlands, Verena Gräfin von Roedern.

Leila Ennaili waves an American flag at Comerica Park.

Celebrating American citizenship

CMU French professor is sworn in as U.S. citizen at Comerica Park

July 3, 2017

In the week before Independence Day, Leïla Ennaïli found it fitting to be sworn in as a U.S. citizen at Comerica Park in Detroit.

The native of France is an associate professor of French at Central Michigan University. She joined 32 others in taking the Oath of Allegiance in a ceremony before the Detroit Tigers game June 27.

Taking the oath amid cheers from the baseball crowd felt like the beginning of a new chapter in her life. 

"I did not originally understand that Comerica would temporarily be a federal courthouse for my ceremony and that there would be so many people to witness the event," Ennaïli joked. 'I was happy to share this moment with other newly naturalized citizens on the field. It was rather moving to see people in the stands welcome us wholeheartedly." 

A fitting time and place

More than 15,000 new citizens across the U.S. will take their oath at Fourth of July-themed ceremonies this week through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

"As a French person who knows a little about the heritage of Michigan, I think it is fitting that I became a citizen in a city founded by Frenchman Antoine de la Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, 316 years ago," Ennaïli said. "Détroit — a French word meaning 'the straits' — felt particularly appropriate for me."

Ennaïli came to the U.S. in 2003 and has lived as a permanent resident for seven years. She received her Ph.D. in French studies at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 2011, the same year she started teaching at CMU. She married Bryan Whitledge, an archivist in CMU's Clarke Historical Library, in 2009.

"It became clear to me that I would spend the rest of my life here," Ennaïli said. "It is very important to me to be able to participate in the democratic process by voting, and I am very excited at the prospect of being an engaged citizen."

Diversity and the American way

Being French always will be the foundation of who she is, but Ennaïli said she also has developed an American identity. 

"I am just one part of diversity that we all bring to this country," she said. "That diversity is a valuable asset for the United States."

Ennaïli's research at CMU focuses on immigration in France and illegal immigration in the French context. She expects her journey to American citizenship will influence her research and teaching.

"When I teach courses about immigrants in France, I will definitely highlight how the random and arbitrary nature of one's birth dictates a lot about how they will live and what their immigration process will be like, if they ever have one," Ennaïli said. "I think it is good to remind our students at CMU, particularly those born in the U.S., how fortunate they are just by virtue of the location of their birth. 

"Our students should be aware that many people around the world struggle in ways we cannot imagine to make a better life for themselves," she said.

Learn more about CMU's Department of World Languages and Cultures.

Lily Ten Eyck

Digging it in New Hampshire

June 30, 2017

When Lily Ten Eyck sees a human skull, she doesn't think of Halloween or horror movies. Instead, the Central Michigan University junior considers the stories that she can discover about the person's life experiences.

Ten Eyck is turning up plenty of discoveries this summer through her internship with the state archaeologist of New Hampshire. The anthropology major already has helped identify bones in an unmarked New England gravesite and is engaged in a three-week field school digging a Paleo-Indian site in northern New Hampshire. 

The state archaeologist works within the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources, which was established in 1974 to preserve the state's historic resources.

"I have a passion for history as well as anatomy, and you can learn a lot about a person's past through their body and their bones," Ten Eyck said. "Through anthropology and archaeology, I'm shining a light on those who have been buried and forgotten."

She said this is what happened with the unmarked New England gravesite that construction crews discovered while excavating the land. 

Ten Eyck said archaeologists studied the remains and determined through historical research they were of a woman. Property records helped identify her, and the archaeologists will return the remains to her family for a proper burial.

"In the future, I would like to use my excavation skills to help the families that have lost a loved one in a mass-grave situation," Ten Eyck said. "I want to return everyone to their rightful place in the world."

Choosing Ice Age tools over coqui frogs

Lily Ten Eyck at the archaeological dig site.She is helping to set up the Paleo-Indian field school and will be involved in looking for stone tools and debris left by Native Americans 12,000 years ago. This research will help determine how Native Americans lived at the end of the Ice Age.

Ten Eyck graduated from high school in Hawaii and came to CMU in part because of its anthropology program and also because her father, Gary, is a CMU alumnus. He received his undergraduate biology degree in 1982 and his master's degree in biology in 1989. 

He is a neuroscientist, and she began working with him on biology research when she was 12. While Ten Eyck is a co-author with her father on a soon-to-be-published research paper on the coqui frog — which is native to Puerto Rico but invasive to Hawaii — she is more interested in researching the life of humans. 

She realized she wanted to focus on anthropology when she completed a forensic anthropology internship at the Western School of Medicine in Kalamazoo before her freshman year at CMU.

"As a freshman at CMU, I was taking the introduction to physical anthropology class, and that really solidified me wanting to pursue anthropology," Ten Eyck said. "CMU has helped me with its amazing staff who helped me narrow down what I wanted to focus on."

The internship experiences will help her through the CMU anthropology program where she is studying everything from archaeology to cultural, linguistic, physical and applied anthropology.


David Rutledge photographed in the Michigan House of Representatives.

Beyond Twitter: Character counts in politics

CMU's new Griffin Chair seeks to inspire civility in government

June 28, 2017

Portrait of David RutledgeAfter more than 50 years, David Rutledge still remembers the humiliation.

A ninth-grader in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Rutledge was at a drugstore buying a ham sandwich for his boss at the nearby barbershop where he shined shoes on the weekends.

"The manager approached me and said that I couldn't sit at the counter," he said. "Before I could finish explaining that I had placed an order and was waiting like other people, he pushed me off the stool, and I fell to the floor."

It was the early 1960s, and the rules banned black customers from the counter.  

"At that moment, I said to myself that one day I want to be where the rules are made, because if this is a rule, it's wrong," Rutledge said. "The events of that day gave birth to my dream of becoming an elected public official."

Rutledge recently completed his final term representing Michigan's 54th District. This fall, he begins serving as Central Michigan University's sixth Griffin Endowed Chair in American Government

The endowed position honors CMU alumni Sen. Robert P. Griffin, who graduated in 1947, and Marjorie Griffin, who graduated in 1944. The Griffin chair leads the university's efforts to elevate political awareness and activity among students, faculty and citizens. 

Whether it's 140-character Twitter rants or 140-voice town hall chants, it's easy to see the lack of civility that controls the political climate throughout the United States. Rutledge said that's why it's important for people to pay attention and get involved to make a difference. 

"Our government was created to have checks and balances and to force compromise between competing ideas," said Rutledge, who represented residents from Ypsilanti and parts of Washtenaw County. "Unless we elect ethical and principled public servants who understand the art of diplomacy and compromise, the public is likely to remain disenchanted with our political process."

Throughout his years in public service, Rutledge served in positions including United States Air Force captain, Superior Township supervisor, Washtenaw County Road Commission chair and Washtenaw Community College trustee. As a representative, Rutledge served as minority vice chair on the military and veterans affairs committee as well as a member of the local government committee and transportation and infrastructure committee. 

Today, appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder, he serves as a member of the Michigan Veterans Facility Authority, which is charged with building and operating high-quality living facilities for disabled and elderly veterans.  

Rutledge took the time to answer some questions about what it will take to improve civility in United States government and what his Lansing colleagues say about CMU's role in shaping the political landscape.

What are common misunderstandings people have about how government works?
People within government at all levels are elected to create public policy for the purpose of carrying out the principles that contribute to a free, secure and prosperous America. Because there are strongly held differing views of how to achieve these principles, the general public may misinterpret the results of the debate between competing ideas within government as gridlock.

How does the Griffin chair encourage people to care more about American politics?
Whether we care about the American political process relates directly to how well we understand and interact with it. This CMU experience will be an incubator for exploring current and past policy initiatives and political campaigns at the local, state and federal government levels.    

What inspired you to pursue CMU's Griffin Endowed Chair?
During my tenure in the Legislature, I was invited on several occasions by past Griffin Chair Gary Randell to teach his government class at CMU. As I prepared, I learned that the class was created to stimulate students' political involvement and to prepare ethical political leaders to serve in Michigan. I was excited to develop discussion ideas around topics with these objectives. 

Why is such a position so important today?
The Griffin chair was endowed in 2000 to honor Sen. Robert and Marjorie Griffin. The idea was to create at the university two courses that could serve to increase political awareness and activity among students, faculty and the general population. Given the lack of civility and the polarization, extremism and demagoguery in today's political climate, the program may now be viewed by some as a visionary idea. I believe it's more important now than ever to encourage young people to be vigilant and pay attention to the ebb and flow of the political climate, the character of our political leaders, and the quality of public policy being created locally and nationally.  

What do Michigan's political leaders say about the value of the Griffin chair?
The Griffin chair is held in very high esteem by members of the Michigan Legislature. I believe one of the reasons is the integrity and admiration of the five previous Griffin chairs. Legislators consider it a badge of honor to be invited by the Griffin chair to teach a class. 

Adult and teenager looking at tablet.

After bullying, mentors make a difference

CMU faculty find close relationships prevent future problems

June 8, 2017

More than one in three middle and high school students say they are victims of bullying, but people can help such victims when they reach out and connect as mentors.

Two Department of Psychology faculty members have published research showing how mentoring relationships can help victims overcome related mental health difficulties and other interpersonal problems later in life.

Such mentoring relationships are low-cost interventions that can help prevent negative outcomes of bullying, said Stephanie Fredrick, one of the researchers. They often provide a sense of escape from daily stresses of life.

"Not only is bullying related to mental health problems of high school students, but the problems persist into college," she said. "Having that warm, supportive relationship is a step toward alleviating mental health problems."

It isn't like victims of bullying outright ask for a mentor, and this is why it is important for potential mentors to be perceptive and cognizant of students' actions and well-being, she said. Students dealing with bullying-related concerns are more likely to confide in a person they feel close to.

"If the student feels they are being bullied, I want them to know that I am one adult they can tell that to," Fredrick said. "We want students to just tell somebody who can then help them find the help they need."

How everyone silently is a mentor

The study specifically looked at what researchers considered "natural mentoring relationships," meaning connections bullying victims had with people beyond their immediate family and professional mentors such as a Big Brother or Big Sister.

Fredrick and fellow school psychology faculty member Daniel Drevon examined the connection between past victimization, the presence of mentors and whether the effects of bullying persist in college. Their research was published in the Journal of School Violence.

"What we were looking at is how the mentoring relationships in early adulthood protect against the development of future problems," said Drevon, who began the project during his postdoctoral teaching at CMU in 2013. "Victims of bullying who reported having natural mentors reported fewer interpersonal problems than those without a natural mentor."

Natural mentors include people such as coaches, teachers, school psychologists, supervisors and neighbors, Drevon said — people who provide opportunities for closer and more long-term relationships.

The research showed that mentoring relationships provided protection from interpersonal problems, but they did not help overcome senses of depression. Drevon said this shows that mentoring isn't the only solution, but there are further treatments to help overcome depression.

"That's a problem, but encouragingly there are things that are potentially identifiable that we can change in order to reduce some of the negative impact associated with bullying victimization," he said. "The research is needed because we need to know how to intervene, and we need to know how to prevent bullying."

People holding dog near desk and workspace.

Why every day should be take your dog to work day

CMU professor's research makes case for canines' impact on group dynamics

June 5, 2017

When it comes to the workplace, there's blue collar, white collar and now, maybe, flea collar.

Research shows having a companion dog present during group meetings could improve employee emotions, enhancing communication and cooperation, according to Central Michigan University psychology professor Stephen Colarelli.

Such news is perfect timing for National Take Your Dog to Work Day, which this year is Friday, June 23.

While previous studies show how dogs improve brief social encounters between two people, Colarelli and his research team studied the canine influence on group interactions. The end results, in the 2017 issue of Anthrozoös research journal, suggest workplaces could benefit from having a dog handy.

"Dogs are a social lubricant," Colarelli said. "When work teams are first formed, it often takes a while for people to get comfortable with each other, but having a dog in the room seems to put people more at ease."

Colarelli and his team of undergraduate and graduate research assistants spent two years collecting the data on how a standard poodle, Jack Russell terrier and mixed-breed dog could influence the way groups of four people interacted with each other. Two separate studies focused on problem-solving and decision-making tasks, and a third study examined a companion dog's effect on emotions expressed within individual groups.

All three studies found group members were noticeably more friendly and positive through making eye contact, leaning toward each other, and increasing senses of trust and cooperation.

"Most workplaces of today are increasingly high-stress environments, and the results of this research indicated how companion dogs can influence prosocial behaviors," Colarelli said.

The research was conducted with recruited subjects in an on-campus test laboratory. Colarelli said it will be interesting to pursue similar research in an actual workplace —one that uses dogs as well as other animals.

"Some people may say the groups were more at ease because of the novelty of having an animal of any kind present," he said. "I'd like to test this using other animals, but we chose the dog because dogs are intuitively more connected to humans.

"Dogs were the first animal to be domesticated, and a dog is the only animal that follows a human gaze," he said.

CMU Point of Pride

The Olga J. and G. Roland Denison Visiting Professorship of Native American Studies
Featuring Ty Defoe, 2016-17

Emily Assenmacher reviews her research paper with Susan Griffith, her English language and literature professor.

Each word counts when all thoughts matter

Research leads CMU student to create poetry guide for teachers

May 26, 2017

Emily Assenmacher is thinking about the kinds of words that will enhance her future career in teaching long before she graduates from Central Michigan University in 2018.

Through her senior research project, the elementary education major ultimately developed a guide for teachers on how best to teach poetry to their students who need an emotional outlet.

“One thing I found really intriguing was the willingness for adolescent writers to create their own poems after they are told that they can write about whatever they would like,” Assenmacher said. “Being told that they have freedom to write shows them the teacher values them as human beings, not just as students.”

Her research was done as part of her honors program capstone project. Assenmacher, a passionate poetry enthusiast from Dexter, Michigan, researched and developed strategies for how teachers can use poetry to help students express themselves and overcome internal struggles. 

The senior project is the cornerstone of the CMU honors experience. Each student closely collaborates with a CMU faculty member to pursue a special project within their respective discipline with the goal to professionally present or publish their results.

“This project allowed me the opportunity to receive a great deal of depth on a subject that is near and dear to my heart: poetry,” said Assenmacher, one of nearly 800 CMU honors students. “In addition to learning about different ways to improve my personal writing, I learned a lot about how to carry out effective and meaningful poetry instruction so students can become lifelong poetry readers and writers.”

Assenmacher spent much of the academic year working with Susan Griffith, her English language and literature professor whose academic interests include creative arts in learning and the role of reflection in teaching. In the conclusion of her project, Assenmacher offers insights to teaching poetry.

"Poetry is created to suit the needs of the reader or writer,” she wrote. “It is not up to teachers to rate students’ work as ‘good’ or ‘inadequate.’"

She added that it is key to create a stress-free environment where the poetry experience is about the students, not the teachers’ preconceived notions.

“If educators want students to be lifelong poetry readers and writers, ease them into the world of poetry and help them to see that each student has poetry inside them,” Assenmacher wrote. “They just have to learn how to release it with the help of the teacher.”

Her research primarily focused on interviews with three poetry teachers: Jill Fyke, eighth-grade language arts teacher at Dexter Community Schools; Betsy VanDeusen, chairperson of the CMU teacher education and professional development department; and Robert Fanning, associate professor of English at CMU.

Assenmacher said the research experience gave her a greater appreciation for what her role and responsibilities will be as a teacher.

“This project has helped equip me with the necessary tools to aid students in expressing themselves,” she said. “My hope is this will help foster self-confidence, which in turn will allow them greater chances to succeed in the future.”

Assenmacher expects to present her work at events and conferences next academic year.

Photo of CMU student using laptop in the Bovee University Center.

Leading online learning

Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree sets up service leaders for success

May 25, 2017

Students can earn a general online master of public administration degree or target their interests in nonprofit management or state and local government.

"The program ensures that students and in-career professionals become more effective leaders and managers in the public sector, from government agencies to nonprofit organizations to international entities," said Thomas Greitens, M.P.A. program director.

The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration-accredited program provides practitioner-based learning experiences where students can develop and enhance skills for success in public service leadership.

"As an example of this, our program is implementing the Certified Nonprofit Professional credential in the fall," Greitens said. "The CNP provides students with additional opportunities to interact directly with public service leaders and learn additional skills for leading nonprofit organizations."

More than 13,100 CMU students take online classes each year. Of 6,710 students surveyed in 2016, nearly half said they had taken at least one online course, and a quarter of graduate students stated they had taken all of their graduate courses online. 

Read more about online learning at Central Michigan University

Child writing on paper

Children in foster care benefit from creative experiences 

Social Work faculty member's program evaluation shows improved self-esteem and academic test results

May 15, 2017

Anyone can say it's a good idea to introduce children in foster care to the creative arts, but who can show it improves school performance and skill building?

Kathy Woehrle can.

Children in foster care who participated in Fostering Creativity activities at the Ennis Center for Children in Flint, Michigan, improved in self- and teacher-assessment scores. In addition, the children’s academic performance and attendance improved while incidences of school disciplinary actions decreased.

Such data are the results of the three-year evaluation that Woehrle, a Central Michigan University social work faculty member, conducted of the grant-funded program that provides ongoing artistic opportunities in music, painting, dance, ceramics and creative writing.

Children in foster care who enter the Fostering Creativity program often are academically performing below their grade levels. Through her work, Woehrle has shown that students have consistently increased and maintained their academic performances to be at grade level.

“Foster care is a traumatic experience — not only the trauma of what led them to be removed from their homes, but the foster care experience itself,” she said. “Some of the behaviors we are seeing in the schoolchildren in foster care is they have higher rates of bending the rules, in part because of the trauma they’ve experienced.”

This is why Fostering Creativity and exposing children in foster care to the arts helps tremendously, Woehrle said. In addition to providing an outlet to express their feelings and emotions, participating in the program has provided the children a safe, predictable and stable place to interact with adults and learn skills that will help them cope with challenges.

“There was the intention that the creative experiences would provide the children some degree of stability and some degree of opportunity for self-reflection and self-expression that typically isn’t available to children in foster care,” Woehrle said. “Just offering kids in poverty situations some opportunities for creative expression levels the playing field, so to speak, with children who live in more stable environments.”

The goal of federal guidelines is to move children in foster care through the system and to a permanent home within a year, Woehrle said. But within this time, children undergo at least three transitions in home life: they go from living with their immediate family, to moving into a temporary or long-term foster home, and finally into a permanent home. 

The Ennis Center operates sites in Flint, Pontiac, Port Huron and Detroit. It has worked with abused and/or neglected children for nearly four decades, with its services reaching more than 3,500 Michigan children and families in crisis annually. 

Over the course of the past three years, the Fostering Creativity program has served more than 100 children in Flint. With its proven success, the center now is replicating the program at its Pontiac site.

Fostering Creativity funding is provided through the Ruth Mott Foundation, The Hagerman Foundation, The Flynn Foundation, The Bernard J. and Camille Cebelak Foundation, and the Ticket to Dream Foundation.

Hope May receives Fulbright U.S. Scholar Grant

May 3, 2017

The Fulbright Program has awarded philosophy professor Hope May a U.S. Scholar Grant to teach at the Graduate Institute of Peace Studies at Kyung Hee University, Korea!

Her project title is "The Virtues of Untold Stories: Peace History of the United States and Korea," and she'll be teaching in Korea from September through December. Congratulations, Dr. May!

Teaming up for autism and special needs

CMU autism center and athletics create Chippewas TOPSoccer

Melissa Tuttle, director of autism assessment in Central Michigan University's Central Autism Assessment and Treatment Center, knew CMU women's soccer coach Peter McGahey could help her level the playing field for children with autism and special needs.

McGahey is active in the Midland Soccer Club's TOPSoccer — a national program that's inclusive for children 5- to 14-years-old regardless of disability — and together Tuttle and McGahey launched Chippewas TOPSoccer.

"TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer) provides a safe space for children with autism to be successful at fun, recreational activities and provides them with a place to develop relationships with others, practice social skills, and continue developing motor and leisure skills," Tuttle said. "It also demonstrates a commitment to making the community a more inclusive place — one where all persons have opportunities and are valued."

The program is free for all players and is coordinated through a partnership with CMU women's soccer, Central Autism Assessment and Treatment Center, and the Midland Soccer Club.

Tuttle, a 2016 CMU graduate of the school psychology doctoral program, first learned of TOPSoccer through previous work in Omaha, Nebraska. But it regularly has been a part of McGahey and his family's life for many years.

"This is a way to give back to the communities where we live and to the game that has given me so much," said McGahey, who this fall will enter his fifth season as CMU's head soccer coach. "TOPSoccer focuses on encouragement and offers opportunities to participate in soccer at the ability level of each athlete."

Through this partnership, McGahey and Tuttle established an internship to provide professional development opportunities for an interested student who will help the program grow and ensure its longevity. Kaylin Hoomaian, a senior exercise science major from Novi, Michigan, served as the first TOPSoccer intern.

In addition to behind-the-scenes coordination and organization, Hoomaian also interacted and played soccer with the children at their respective skill levels.

"It is so cool to see the athletes' confidence grow from one week to the next, as well as their pure enjoyment for the game," said Hoomaian, a member of the CMU soccer team and two-time Academic All-Mid-American Conference selection. "It opens the door to not only learn the fundamentals of soccer, but also to experience teamwork and just have fun! It makes my day being able to smile, laugh and enjoy soccer with them."

The spring TOPSoccer program that started April 3 will conclude May 1, and plans are underway to host it again this fall and in spring 2018.

TOPSoccer is one of many programs and resources CMU offers to help with diagnosing, treating and living with autism spectrum disorder. In addition to the Central Autism Assessment and Treatment Center, other resources include:

Model United Nations in NYC 

April 19, 2017
Video by Central Michigan University student vlogger Amani


​CHSBS announces recipients of Excellence in Teaching Awards

April 12, 2017

Faculty members Leila Ennaili, Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures and Cultures, and Joseph Anderson, Department of Philosophy and Religion, are the 2017 recipients of the CHSBS Excellence in Teaching Awards!

The CHSBS Excellence in Teaching Awards recognize regular (Maroon Award) and fixed-term (Gold Award) faculty members who go above and beyond what is expected in creating exceptional learning opportunities for our students. The recipients are​ selected by the CHSBS Excellence in Teaching Committee, which is composed of the committee chair Dr. Marcy Taylor, Interim Associate Dean, and a representative from each department within the college.

Our recipients are experts in their fields, effective and creative in promoting student learning, inspire students to high achievement and receive high praise from them in return, and are admired advisors and mentors​ to future educators.​ >>Read more

Dean Pamela Gates presents the Maroon CHSBS Excellence in Teaching Award to Leila Ennaili.

Dean Pamela Gates presents the Gold CHSBS Excellence in Teaching Award to Joseph Anderson.

Amanda Jackson

CHSBS student receives Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Grant

April 6, 2017

Central Michigan University senior Amanda Jackson was recently awarded a nationally competitive Fulbright Grant for a teaching assistantship in Mexico. The Fulbright Program grants 1,900 U.S. citizens the opportunity to teach, conduct research and provide expertise abroad for the length of an entire academic year.

Two years ago, Jackson completed a Learning About Mexican Education Through Action education internship at the Tecnologico de Monterrey in Queretaro, Mexico. This experience helped her become more fluent and encouraged her to apply for the grant.

"The Fulbright is an exchange of cultures and learning about one another," Jackson, a Spanish major from Oak Harbor, Washington, said. "This time in Mexico, I'm going as a professional. I'll be teaching English as an assistant in an English-speaking program anywhere from K-12 to college or I could even help English teachers teach English."

While she does not yet know where she is placed, she is looking forward to sharing her U.S. culture and language with her students.

"I felt like I always wanted to be a teacher," she said. "When I came to CMU, the Spanish education program piqued my interest and the culture of Mexico inspired me to learn the language. I have so much praise for the world language department at CMU."

Earning a Fulbright

Maureen Harke, the coordinator of the National Scholarship Program at CMU, says the Fulbright Program is not limited to any specific fields and operates in more than 140 countries. 

"Fulbright is for students who have an appreciation for cultural differences," Harke said. "The focus of the program is to build mutual understanding between people in the United States and people of other countries." 

The National Scholarship Program at CMU nominates students to compete for nationally and internationally prestigious awards such as the Fulbright U.S. Student Grants. A campus committee interviews applicants to assess their fit with the proposed country and grant, and provides a written evaluation which is included in the students' applications, Harke said. Recipients are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields.

Nana Yaw Sapong, M.A. ’04, serves as a discussant during CMU’S International Graduate Historical Studies Conference March 31.

Exploring historical ties between CMU and the University of Ghana

A conversation with visiting scholar, alumnus Nana Yaw Sapong
April 5, 2017

There was more to Nana Yaw Sapong's visit to Central Michigan University than presenting at the International Graduate Historical Studies Conference last weekend and serving as a guest lecturer for an honors class this week.

It was a homecoming of sorts for the University of Ghana history professor and researcher who received his graduate degree in history from CMU in 2004.

Sapong took some time away from his role as a visiting scholar to answer questions about the conference, his experiences and why students should care about the histories of countries worldwide.

Why is it important for students to study the histories of different countries?

Our world is ever-shrinking because of science and technology. In the real world, we interact with people from every part of planet Earth. If you intend to work in academia, for a multinational business or with the federal government, knowing the histories of countries is crucial. At the least, it will help you navigate the cultural pitfalls that befall the ignorant.

What did you present to the CMU honors students, and what do you hope they take away from your presentation?

As part of the honors program, some of the students will be going abroad to study. My lecture dwelled on the challenges and rewards of immersing yourself in a different culture and knowing its people. I drew specific instances from Ghana and tried to answer questions pertaining to living and studying in that country. The hope was to help them make a more informed decision concerning studying abroad.

What are the similarities and differences in the way studying history is approached in the U.S. and Ghana?

The study of history as a discipline was late in coming to Ghana. Ghana's first university and history department were founded in 1948 while most United State universities and history departments were founded in the 19th century or earlier. Having said that, universities in Ghana — especially the University of Ghana — are keeping up with the best practices in higher education. This has been made easier by an influx of U.S. and United Kingdom trained historians in the last decade. Like U.S. universities, the University of Ghana requires history faculty members to be actively engaged in research and transfer the teachable moments to the classroom.

How did studying history at CMU prepare you for your career as an educator?

I really have fond memories of CMU because this is where I really started my career as an academic in fall 2002. I remember taking my first colloquia and seminars in U.S. history, Nazi Germany, the enlightenment and historiography. These courses looked daunting but several professors gave me a close faculty-student interaction that not only kept me engaged, but also influenced the way I think, write, teach and relate with my students. Thanks to them and other mentors, I am currently the coordinator for the history project of the University of Ghana.

Why is an international graduate conference such as the one at CMU important for history students and educators?

International conferences are the mainstay of our profession. This is where participants clean up their papers and sharpen their arguments for publication or to complete their thesis/dissertation. They also are able to establish a network of mentors and fellow educators, as well as potential employers.

Learning conflict resolution — in prison

CMU students learn alongside men in Saginaw Regional Correctional Facility

View larger image - CMU students learn alongside men in Saginaw Regional Correctional Facility

​Jac Ewasyshyn said she was incredibly intimidated the first time she saw the housing unit at Saginaw Regional Correctional Facility. Some of the men are serving life sentences, but preconceived perspectives shifted for the Central Michigan University senior the moment she interacted with one of them.

Ewasyshyn saw him as a person and not as a criminal.

"We can't make criminal behavior go away overnight, but you can't fix the problem until you understand it," said Ewasyshyn, a psychology major from Harrison Township, Michigan.

Ewasyshyn and her 14 fellow honors students are taking an eight-week service-learning and conflict resolution class alongside men who are incarcerated in the Freeland, Michigan, prison. CMU communication professors Shelly Hinck and Ed Hinck co-teach the course that studies how communities create, sustain and transform conceptions of topics such as crime, guilt, innocence and justice from a communications perspective.

"When you give students the opportunity to interact with the individuals that the organization you're working with is serving, it really has the potential to be transformative," said Shelly Hinck. "The students and the men who are incarcerated both are learning this material together. They're engaging as co-learners in the process."

In addition to visiting the correctional facility, CMU students attend on-campus class sessions to begin deconstructing their understanding of what a prison is (there to punish), who is housed in the prison (stereotypes of what it means to be a prisoner) and the perceived fairness of our justice system. They read articles about the prison industrial complex, the role of race in the criminal justice systems and the need for educational programming that rehabilitates rather than punishes.

"While the conflict resolution class is important in helping the men who are incarcerated address and think about their conflict skills, the on-campus class is just as important for our students because it serves as a way to understand the experience in the prison," Shelly Hinck said.

The Hincks have worked with four correctional facilities in Michigan and one in Kansas since 1996 to engage undergraduate and graduate students in the scholarship of service learning. Through these collaborative efforts, more than 240 students have served 277 inmates over the course of 10 different classes.

When conflict management becomes contagious

Ed Hinck said in some ways, the academic portion of the class he is responsible for this semester is like a deconstruction of who is incarcerated. Working with men serving life sentences is important because they generally are the Department of Corrections' lowest priority for programming. He said learning about conflict resolution also can lead to inmates serving shorter sentences.

"By helping to teach men in prison about conflict resolution and mentorship, we’re not just putting a Band-Aid on the problem, we're actually taking tiny steps to help solve it."​

 Andrea Buckley, Saginaw senior

"The lifers, who don't want the younger men to make the same mistakes that they made, are trying to have a positive influence on the younger inmates," he said. "They are very much interested in conflict management skills to hopefully teach other inmates about conflict management to help them when they get out."

This is the second time the Hincks have facilitated the service-learning partnership between the CMU Honors Program and the Saginaw Regional Correctional Facility. Students Andrea Buckley and Dyese Matthews both enrolled in the first offering and now are serving as course teaching assistants to help lead and mentor the honors students as well as the men who are incarcerated.

"I'm here because of the mentors and influences in my life, and I hope to be a positive influence in the lives of people who need encouragement," said Buckley, a senior from Saginaw, Michigan, majoring in social work. "By helping to teach men in prison about conflict resolution and mentorship, we're not just putting a Band-Aid on the problem, we're actually taking tiny steps to help solve it."

Matthews, a junior from Chicago, Illinois, said she is encouraged to see the transformation of the CMU students when they realize the impact this experience is having on the men in the correctional facility and themselves.

"I remember what it was like last year, so it's interesting to see the students' reactions when they go to the prison for the first time," said Matthews, a fashion merchandising and design major. "Then, after going to the prison for a second time, they already are seeing the work that can be done to improve the lives of the men in prison and to address the problems that lead people to commit crimes."


CHSBS faculty receive teaching awards

CHSBS faculty honored for teaching and service

Awards highlight leadership, inspiration in the classroom
March 22, 2017

Several CHSBS faculty members were honored for their commitment to students and creativity in teaching. 

Provost's Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity

Kelly Murphy, Department of Philosophy and Religion
The Provost's Award recognizes the excellent scholarship, creativity and promise of faculty members who are in the early stages of his or her academic career. Kelly Murphy is an exceptionally creative scholar whose research focuses on Hebrew, Jewish and biblical studies, specifically ancient Israelite religion and early Judaism. Her work has been widely published in notable publications, including The Washington Post and Religion Dispatches, and she has a forthcoming book being published by the Oxford University Press. 

Excellence in Teaching Awards

The Central Michigan University Excellence in Teaching Awards were created by Academic Senate to provide special recognition to faculty members who exceed the usual standards and expectations.

Brittany Bayless Fremion, Department of History
Brittany Bayless Fremion views teaching as an important and unique form of activism. Her goal is to "inspire students to create proactive, passionate and informed responses to the many issues influencing their lives, making her courses valuable not only on paper, but beyond the walls of the classroom."

Kelly J. Murphy, Department of Philosophy and Religion
Kelly Murphy seeks to inspire students to learn, to strive for excellence, and to make connections between course content and everyday life.

Kyle C. Scherr, Department of Psychology
Kyle Scherr teaches with three main principles: communication, community and diversity. One student said, "Dr. Scherr renewed my enthusiasm for my research, helped me rebuild my confidence in attaining my goals, but maybe more importantly, he renewed my faith in the process and value of my advanced degree."

Pictured, from left to right: Kelly Murphy, Brittany Fremion, and Kyle Scherr.

Kelly Murphy
Brittany Fremion
Kyle Scherr

CMU students research effects of meditation on personal space perceptions.

Visualizing a bigger personal space

CMU students researching effects of meditation on personal space perceptions

March 13, 2017

Undergraduate students at Central Michigan University are investigating whether meditation can help people change their perceived personal space.

The research has the potential to help people overcome conditions such as claustrophobia and social anxieties as well as improve athletic performance. Nathan Houle, a sophomore psychology major and religion minor from Midland, Michigan, and Jessica LaLone, a senior psychology and Spanish major from Auburn Hills, are co-leading the research project.

"A lot of the meditation I've worked with manipulates the sense of the body in space," Houle said. "With the meditation, we focus our attention on people's visualization, and there isn't a lot of research being done in this area."

The student research team is working under the direction of experimental psychology faculty members Emily Bloesch and Chris Davoli. Students conduct their research using a pool of participants who are tested on their relation to objects in front of them and then are retested on the same objects following several meditation sessions.

"Whenever I meditate I know my perception shifts in many ways, so learning specifics about this interested me," LaLone said. "This research is beneficial for many reasons; however, the reason that excites me the most is that we could discover if meditation helps us expand both the mental and physical space around us."

Project development began in October, and pilot testing started in February. Members of the research team hope to test at least 60 students this semester, said researcher Valencia Smith, a senior psychology major and family studies minor from Detroit.

"It's going to take some time to pull the information together and analyze it, but we are very encouraged by what we're seeing initially," she said.

Sense of place influences state of being

As faculty members and researchers, Bloesch and Davoli concentrate on the recently developed concept of "embodied cognition," which theorizes that people's cognition goes beyond the brain and is shaped by people's positioning in space.

The brain is responsible for motor skills and reacting to outside influences, but how people understand and respond to situations is directly connected to the physical capacity of their bodies, Bloesch said. For example, people judge hills to be steeper when they're wearing a heavy backpack because it would take more effort to climb to the top.

"The brain isn't out there on its own — it's set in the body, which is the only way we can navigate the environment," she said. "What we do with our body changes the way we see the world."

Davoli and Bloesch had presented to the students the broad idea of studying meditation and body space, based on recent findings showing the relationship between meditation and other forms of cognition. The idea for researching the impact meditation has on people's visualization of the space around them was entirely developed by the students, Davoli said.

A couple of the students came to them with the idea to compare the effect of different types of meditation on body space and introduced them to the meditation app and website that helps to provide meditative insights for the research.

"This is a project that the students built from the ground up," he said. "The students connected with Headspace administrators, and through our relationship with the organization, we get experimental control and ecological validity for the research."

CMU Psychology professor Larissa Niec, director of the Center for Children, Families and Communities

Improving foster care starts with the family

CMU center partners with Chicago-based organization to strengthen parent-child relationships
March 7, 2017

Nearly 428,000 children in the United States are living in foster care, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families.

To help maximize the foster family experience, trainers and researchers from Central Michigan University's Center for Children, Families and Communities are working with Chicago-based organization Safe Families for Children to evaluate and implement a program that will develop stronger relationships between foster children and foster parents.

"If there's one thing you can do to help a child, it is to help build the parent and child relationship," said CMU psychology professor and CCFC director Larissa Niec. "Strengthening such relationships protects the child on so many levels."

The CCFC works to improve the well-being of children and families through research and mental health interventions, and Safe Families for Children is an alternative foster care agency where children are brought in by their biological parents who are experiencing challenging economic times and need assistance in keeping their children safe.

The two organizations are working together to facilitate, teach and measure the effectiveness of intervention techniques used within foster families. This will broaden the impact of the Parent-Child Interaction Therapy currently used within the CCFC, said Niec, who is one of only 20 professionals worldwide certified as a PCIT Master Trainer to provide expert PCIT training and consultation.

Through two daylong workshops in October and January, Niec and her team of CMU students trained approximately 50 host parents on incorporating innovative intervention strategies into the relationships with the children temporarily under their care. In addition to training the host parents, the goal of this project is to empower them to help train the biological parents in order to have a long-term impact on the children's well-being, Niec said.

"We're developing new ways to reach families more effectively," she said, explaining her team has created in-person and online training programs.

Students learn while strengthening the foster care system

Among the CMU trainers and researchers was Irene Brodd, a first-year clinical psychology doctoral student who served as a coach in the training sessions. She said such opportunities are why she chose to pursue her doctorate at CMU.

"Being able to get to the training sooner is a unique thing to do as a first-year doctoral student," said Brodd, who earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees at universities in California. "In addition to the training, I get to learn from the older students and then help the students who are developing their skills."

Brodd now is working with graduate and undergraduate students, such as Southfield senior Sydney Tappin, to review and evaluate the data collected in Chicago and determine which intervention strategies are most beneficial. Tappin is majoring in psychology and child development, and she echoed Brodd's appreciation for opportunities to learn from other students and see the impacts of various therapy programs through her work at the CCFC.

"This is part of my internship for child development, and I'm so much more equipped for my own career," said Tappin, who hopes to have her own practice and work to improve the lives of children. "There definitely are ways to get involved here at CMU, but you have to be active and put yourself in those situations."

Niec said the collaboration with Safe Families for Children — located in 70 cities in the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada and other countries — advances the CCFC's goal to improve the well-being of children and families worldwide. The CCFC already has working relationships with related centers in countries such as Germany, France and the Netherlands.

Michael Palmer

Detecting autism earlier

CMU students part of $2.2 million effort to train professionals in diagnosis and treatment

February 13, 2017

Two Central Michigan University doctoral students are taking steps to encourage early detection, diagnosis and treatment of autism and other disabilities with the help of a grant that pulls together professionals from many disciplines. Autism spectrum disorder is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the U.S., affecting approximately one in 68 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hannah Borton, a second-year audiology student from Coshocton, Ohio, and Mike Palmer, a fifth-year applied experimental psychology student from Alma, Michigan, are among the nine-member cohort of statewide students participating in training that encourages collaboration between medical professionals in identifying and treating such conditions.

"The earlier you can diagnose the condition, the sooner you can start treating it," Borton said. "This is why we want to work with people from other disciplines so we can help each other determine the diagnosis as quickly and accurately as possible."

The training is provided through a $2.2 million, five-year grant awarded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration for the Michigan-Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Other Related Disabilities Training Program, or MI-LEND. It addresses the complex needs of individuals with autism and other disabilities by increasing the training of medical, doctoral and postdoctoral students to identify the conditions and determine treatment options.

"This is a great opportunity for CMU to integrate training services and expand to new areas," said Carl Johnson, the experimental psychology professor who helped secure a place for CMU in the grant. "There are a lot of treatments for autism; we just want to get the children diagnosed sooner so we can make their lives better."

Through a series of weekly webinars and monthly in-person training sessions, MI-LEND participants share their clinical experiences and provide respective insights to collaborate in recommending disease diagnoses and treatment options. As they move forward with their training, Palmer works closely with his mentor, CMU psychology faculty member Christie Nutkins, and Borton collaborates with her mentor, audiology faculty member Carissa Moeggenberg.

CMU already is actively working through its programs and special centers to train students to diagnose and treat autism and related disorders. As an audiology student, Borton sees and helps treat patients through CMU's Carls Center. Similarly, Palmer sees and helps treat patients through CMU's Central Autism Assessment and Treatment Center.

Palmer said learning to collaborate across various disciplines is helping him to view patient conditions beyond the perspective of a psychologist, which in turn provides more comprehensive treatment options for his patients.

"That kind of collaboration can help each professional provide better services, but also can make the individuals receiving the services feel like they are receiving a cohesive treatment rather than one professional telling them one thing and the next something else," Palmer said. "At the very minimum, this kind of training allows us as service providers to be able to let the people we serve know that those other services are out there and what they could do for them."

Other participating universities are Wayne State University, Michigan State University, University of Michigan–Ann Arbor, University of Michigan–Dearborn and Western Michigan University. This is the first LEND-related grant Michigan has received, Johnson said. 

Cultural and Global Studies student Mary Ann Franks is completing an internship with the Isabella County Restoration House.

Cultural and Global Studies student helps homeless in Isabella County

February 1, 2017

Mary Ann Franks finishes setting granola bars out on the counter and looks up as the first guest walks into the Isabella County Restoration House welcome center. The Central Michigan University senior is serving as the intern for ICRH, which provides immediate, temporary housing to homeless individuals in Isabella County.

Franks goes over and greets the guest by his first name. He smiles and greets her by her first name. They know each other — he's been staying at the shelter for several weeks.

Empowering people such as the homeless is exactly what Franks — a Newaygo, Michigan, native — is working to do as a community health education major and a cultural and global studies student ambassador.

"I've studied abroad and traveled to various countries, and everyplace I've gone I've noticed that so many people are getting pushed under the rug — like they're voiceless and don't have an advocate," said Franks, who has studied in Mexico, Ecuador, Honduras and the Dominican Republic. "When I learned about ICRH, I was like, 'Right here, right where I go to college, there are people around me who are voiceless.' For me it's about being that voice."

As the ICRH intern, Franks is focused on incorporating her education and experiences into a holistic approach to building a community among the homeless and further connecting them to their Mount Pleasant community.

"Studying community health, it is that keyword 'community' that is creating a safe place for people who live all around us and who you'd have no idea are homeless," Franks said.

ICRH runs from early November to early April, and guests check in each evening at the welcome center hosted at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Church. They then are bussed to whichever local church is serving as the host site that week.2017-020-14 Mary Ann Franks Homeless volunteer sj.JPG

In addition to developing plans to help ICRH guests maintain their health, Franks helps ICRH Executive Director Ryan Griffus write grant proposals and increase financial and community support through public presentations.

Such a public presentation is how Franks first learned about and got involved with ICRH. Franks was a member of the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center's advocacy and outreach board that invited Griffus to speak on campus for cardboard city — an annual event to increase homelessness awareness. Franks was so moved by the presentation, she approached Griffus about establishing an ICRH internship.

"For me that identified right off the bat that she's passionate about the work we do," said Griffus, who graduated from CMU in 2004. "Homelessness is very real in Isabella County, and Mary Ann has brought so many fresh ideas as far as service providers and new initiatives that we can start to implement."

According to Griffus, ICRH opened for the 2016-2017 season on Nov. 6, 2016, and to date has housed 98 individual guests. This includes nearly 20 children and approximately five families. ICRH is averaging 24 guests per night this season, an average increase of 10 guests per night compared to last season.

"I'm not here to save anybody but to try and make a difference and make an impact on somebody to be more than what they already are," Franks said.



Students give research new life

Project provides scholars worldwide online access to CMU's natural history collections

January 24, 2017
​​Dakota Camarena isn't the scientist who delved into the lynx found west of Higgins Lake in February 2000, but the Central Michigan University senior is making sure researchers worldwide have access to this specimen and tens of thousands more available at CMU's Museum of Cultural and Natural History​.

Camarena is one of four CMU students who are uploading museum collection data to provide online access to the university's diverse biological collections. This endeavor brings otherwise largely unknown specimens to the attention of countless biological researchers.

"There are a lot of valuable research specimens here," said Camarena, a Mount Pleasant native majoring in biology and geology. "It will be cool to know I was one of the people who gave new life to these specimens."

Many CMU scholars in biology, when they're finished with their research projects, give their meticulously documented specimens to the museum for use in research, teaching, and public interpretation or exhibition. Making specimens included in the museum's collections of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish and insects available online is something biology faculty member and natural history curator Kirsten Nicholson has wanted to do for nearly a decade.  

Nicholson began working with her students more than three years ago to develop a collections inventory and prepare it for uploading to the online Global Biodiversity Information Facility​. They spent last fall posting the mammal research collection data online. The amphibian, reptile, bird and fish collection data should be uploaded within the next year.

​​​The entire zoological collection was built over the last 50 years and consists predominantly of specimens typically found in the Great Lakes region. Researchers from academic institutions can access information about the collection and then, if needed, are loaned specimens, tissues or samples for their respective projects.

Making such research resources available further solidifies CMU’s positioning as a leader in Great Lakes research, Nicholson said. 

"The strength of our collections is in the Great Lakes basin, so we're a natural complement to people conducting this kind of research," she said. "CMU will be a partner in documenting the evolutionary history of the Great Lakes."

In addition to supporting researchers worldwide, Museum of Cultural and Natural History Director Jay Martin said having such information online will benefit CMU students and faculty as well.

"CMU students and faculty will be able to easily search museum biological collections and use these resources to support their own research," said Martin, who also directs CMU's museum studies program within the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences. "The process of making the collections accessible also gives our students in museum studies, cultural resource management and related fields important experience in research and museum methodology." ​

Donovan Watts, ’16, with Joyce Baugh, the CMU political science professor who served as his McNair Scholars mentor.

From McNair Scholar to elite minority fellow

December graduate receives one of 14 nationwide political science fellowships

January 9, 2017

​​It didn't take Donovan A. Watts long to reap the rewards of his undergraduate research and degree in political science from Central Michigan University.

After graduating in December, the Detroit native was named among 14 nationwide recipients of the 2017-18 American Political Science Association Minority Fellowship.

Watts' undergraduate research focused on the knowledge and attitudes of CMU's African-American students based on the recent conflicts between law enforcement officers and African-Americans. He also became involved with Pi Sigma Alpha — the national political science honor society — and served as the CMU chapter's president his senior year.

As a first-generation college student, Watts participated in the McNair Scholars Program — a federally funded program that prepares undergraduates for future doctoral studies. He quickly seized opportunities to pursue his research interests in American politics with a concentration on race and ethnic politics and political participation.

"To be one of 14 scholars is a huge accomplishment," Watts said, noting that other recipients graduated from institutions such as the University of Alabama, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Cornell University. "I'm seeing my hard work at CMU is paying off."

Watts hopes to use his ASPA fellowship and doctoral degree to influence policy decisions that will have an impact within the African-American community. This minority fellowship program — designed for students who are applying to or are in the early stages of political science doctoral programs — aims to increase the number of underrepresented scholars within the political science discipline.

He currently is interviewing for admission into graduate and doctoral programs and plans to explore voter turnout of African-American millennials and emerging social movements such as the Black Lives Matter movement.

"When I transferred to CMU, I knew I wanted to make some kind of impact," said Watts, who transferred to CMU from Schoolcraft College. "I hope to do the same wherever I end up pursuing my doctoral degree."

In addition to crediting the McNair Program for propelling his college career, Watts said he owes so much to CMU political science professor Joyce Baugh, who served as his McNair faculty mentor and as the Pi Sigma Alpha advisor.

"Everything I've done at CMU wouldn't have happened without Dr. B," Watts said. "Whether it was helping me with my research or finding scholarships, she helped me grow so much."

Seeing Watts succeed is equally as gratifying for Baugh, who saw firsthand the dedication he had to put in the extra work needed to succeed.

"People often forget about the struggles of first-generation college students and the added challenges they face," Baugh said. "Donovan is a bright young man who I've enjoyed working with. I wish I had more students like him."

​Political Science student Donovan Watts receives 2017-2018 APSA Minority Fellowship

January 5, 2017

Press release from the APSA:
Donovan WattsThe American Political Science Association (APSA) is pleased to announce that Donovan A. Watts, an undergraduate student at Central Michigan University, has been named as a 2017-2018 APSA Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) Fellow

Donovan A. Watts is a senior political science major at Central Michigan University. Donovan’s undergraduate career is highlighted by a number of accomplishments. He has received numerous scholarships and is the current president of the Pi Sigma Alpha chapter at Central Michigan University. As a McNair Scholar, Donovan’s research focused on the knowledge and attitudes of Central Michigan’s Africa​n American students based on the recent conflict between law enforcement officers and African Americans. Donovan’s research interests include   American Politics with a concentration on race and ethnic politics and political participation. Donovan plans on exploring voter turnout of African American millennials and emerging social movements such as the Black Lives Matters Movement. Donovan has a passion for research and teaching and he hopes to use his doctoral degree to influence policy decisions that will have an impact within the African American community.

The MFP was established in 1969 to increase the number of under-represented scholars in the political science discipline. Since 1969, the APSA Minority Fellowship has designated more than 500 Fellows, both funded and unfunded, and contributed to the completion of doctoral political science programs for over 100 individuals. Fall fellows are college or university seniors, graduates, or Master's students who plan on applying to a PhD program in political science. Spring fellows are first and second year PhD students in political science. APSA Minority Fellows are very active in the discipline as faculty members, researchers, and mentors. 

Visit to learn more about the APSA MFP program and recent fellows.

Children use laptop computer to move parts on a Lego project.

La​b takes on toddlers' and teens' screen time

Research investigates impact electronic devices have on child health and development

December 8, 2016
​Research shows the time each day that adolescents spend looking at a screen — everything from computers to smart phones, tablets and televisions — is nearly equivalent to a full-time job.

For an average of seven hours, they're capturing information that communicates, distracts, educates and entertains, and one Central Michigan University clinical psychology faculty member is looking into how this impacts adolescent health and development.

Sarah Domoff is director of CMU's newly established Family Health Research Lab. The lab is engaged in projects focused on healthy media use and obesity prevention in adolescents and young children.

"Technology and digital media use isn't going away, and we have to be concerned about what it means for the health and development of children," she said. "We have to look into what can be negative about it, but we also need to look at how we can leverage the use of it to enhance and improve the lives and well-being of children. A lot of this research also has implications for how parents can be involved."

Work conducted at CMU's Family Health Research Lab is done through a collaboration with the University of Michigan’s Center for Human Growth and Development and Momentum Center. This partnership was established through Domoff, who recently completed her postdoctoral training at the University of Michigan and is completing related projects.

Current research involves five CMU students who soon will begin analyzing videos of families eating dinner in their home in order to investigate mealtime media use in families with children at different stages of development — toddlers, preschoolers and early adolescents — and testing whether screen use predicts obesity and other health outcomes across development. Students are measuring the amount of screen time as well as the types of interactions parents have with their children during the meals.

Rachel Gerrie is a sophomore psychology major from Atlanta, Michigan, who was interested in the research because it involves children. Seeing how media use and social networking has taken hold of children as young as two, she said it is important to determine the effect this has on child development and interaction with the people in their lives.

"I have been surprised to see that with the mobile device use and social media networking exploding over the past year, there is not a substantial amoun​t of evidence and/or data exhibiting exactly how media may affect child-parent relationships, co-parenting, obesity and various other areas," Gerrie said. "There is a lot of progress to be made in this area."

In addition to examining the health outcomes of children's media use, current Family Health Research Lab projects include:

  • The Problematic Media Use Measure, which psychologists and pediatricians will use to screen for excessive or addictive media use in children; and
  • Evidence-based practices that promote effective media parenting.
"I believe that today's parents and their children face unique challenges," said Jacob White, a fourth-year clinical psychology doctoral student and graduate assistant from Shelby, Michigan. "This research with youth and media represents a growing area of concern for parents and the results may inform the field about how parents should monitor media use."​

​​Political science & public administration students participate in a Habitat for Humanity project.

Political Science & Public Administration department offers new programs

November 21, 2016

A hypothetical mission trip Lauren Gillette developed as a high school graduation requirement now is the foundation for her academic reality at Central Michigan University.

Three years ago, the Berrien Springs junior researched the expenses, communications, logistics and fundraising associated with a trip to teach vacation Bible school in Haiti. It only needed to be a senior project idea, but continued encouragement from friends and family members — "You've already done the work," they said — led Gillette to complete the mission last summer.

Then CMU started offering students something she couldn't refuse.

Gillette recently became the first student to officially pursue the newly established public and nonprofit administration major, which is one of several updated degree and certificate programs the political science and public administration department began offering this academic year. Such an interdisciplinary program is exactly what Gillette needs to realize her dreams of working with and managing an international nonprofit organization.

"It truly was a matter of perfect timing that CMU offered this major right after I did my mission trip," Gillette said. "I declared it as my major as soon as I found out about it, and I'm excited to see what it has in store for me."

In addition to public and nonprofit administration, other political science-related majors are political science and international relations​. Newly developed certificate programs also include public policy analysis, international security studies and political advocacy and elections.

David Jesuit, chair of the political science and public administration department, said the academic program changes were made to reflect shifts in how political scientists connect with the world today and also to help students develop the skills that will more directly translate to their future careers.

"Rather than have a specialty in Latin America, Western Europe or even the USA, political scientists examine problems and questions that transcend any particular region, such as democratization, social movements or political violence," Jesuit said. "The certificates we created are good examples of this."

Students benefit when department 'walks the walk'

Interest in the new programs continues to grow, and the department is increasing opportunities for students to get involved in their community and throughout world. This includes one Saturday i​n October when a group of 30 students and faculty — most from majors within the political science and public administration department — volunteered for a Habitat For Humanity service event in Coleman.

The event was coordinated by Emma Powell, a political science and public administration faculty member who helps manage the public and nonprofit administration major. She said the goal is to coordinate one service event each semester.

"As a department, we need to walk the walk," Powell said. "We can't say getting involved in the community is important for our students and not provide access to such opportunities."

The certificate programs are available to students of all majors. These specialized concentrations offer students opportunities to focus their studies and boost professional credentials, said Cherie Strachan, the political science and public administration faculty member who oversees the civic engagement certificate. She explained that the certificate programs help students to approach situations and critique information in a different way.

"For example, people within the civic engagement program will see that engagement isn't just voting, it's more about cultivating a sense of long-term interest in the political process," she said.​

Learn more about CMU's updated political science and public administration certificate programs: 

Undergraduate certificates:

Graduate Certificates:

Ty Defoe -- Photo by Ash Seymour, CM Life

Decolonizing through Dance: Grammy-award winner gives Indigenous Peoples Day keynote speech and workshop​

By Evan Sasiela, CM Life
October 11, 2016​

For two hours on Monday, Moore Hall's Townsend Kiva auditorium was turned into the circle of life.

Ty Defoe presented a workshop allowing participants to step out of their comfort zone to understand the Native American culture and idea of "two spirit" for Indegenous Peoples Day on Oct. 10.

The Grammy-Award winner was CMU's Indigenous Peoples Day keynote speaker. Events began with presentation at 4 p.m. in Brooks Hall Room 178, where a documentary titled "Two Spirits" and discussion occurred, before the workshop event in the Kiva kicked off at 7 p.m.

“The idea here is about that circle of life — that no one gets left behind," Defoe said. "You always get a front row seat in the circle.”

"Two spirit" is a Native American term describing how the body has both masculine and feminine traits. Defoe said he found his two spirit at a young age through dance.

For Defoe, who is a member of the Oneida and Ojibwe tribes in Wisconsin, dancing has always been part of his life.

"I try to do it as much as I can anywhere," Defoe said."I feel like these (events) are my role and responsibility in the community at-large and globally to bring people together as a two-spirit person. (This is also) a way to call to action as indigenous life ways.”

Defoe said a goal in the workshop was to look through an indigenous lens and decolonize the mind, body and soul.

Participants were taught several dances, such as the switch dance and the eagle dance. The switch dance usually alternates b​etween feet. 

Defoe, who donned an eagle outfit, said the eagle dance is meant to emulate an eagle and rise above yourself. He then asked the participants to do the dances with him after. <Read more>

**Ty Defoe is the 2016-17 ​​Olga J. and G. Roland Denison Visiting Scholar​ of Native American Studies**

Political Science & Public Administration alum John Kaczynski receives CMU Alumni Service Recognition Award

September 16, 2016

​​John KaczynskiJohn Kaczynski ’03, ’08, is an active Central Michigan University (CMU) alumni. From serving on the Young Alumni Board to co-founding a young alumni club in Lansing to fundraising Kaczynski has proved he is a proud Chippewa. He has been the president, vice president of the CMU Young Alumni Board. He co-​founded the Capital City Chip Crew provide social and networking opportunities for Lansing area alumni of CMU.

In Kaczynski's extensive educational background is a Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education Administration from Michigan State University, two degrees from Central Michigan University: a Master of Public Administration, State and Local Government and a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and Government. In addition, he holds an Associate of Arts from Delta College. 

He began his career with Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) working as an assistant professor of Political Science. During his professorship he founded the Model UN Program, College Republicans, College Democrats and the SVSU Cardinal Caucus. He next became the director of the James A. Center for Public Policy & Service and since 2015 has served as the director of governmental affairs.

In addition to his education and career Kaczynski still finds time to volunteer, including serving as vice-president of the Sycamore Park Neighborhood Association, a board member of the R.E. Olds Automotive Museum and a member of the Tri-County Planning Board. He serves on the CMU Public Administration Advisory Board, helps assist with developing endowments, and mentors Model UN students.

Click here to read more about John Kaczynski and the 2016 CMU alumni awards

Hillside Elementary teacher Heather Jensen receives CMU Alumni Service Recognition Award

​September 15, 2016

Heather Jensen​Hillside Elementary teacher Heather Jensen has received the 2016 Central Michigan University Alumni Service Recognition Award. Jensen earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education in 1992 and a master's degree in reading and literacy in 2000 from Central Michigan University,

Her volunteer efforts and professional service extend beyond the students in her fifth grade classroom at Hillside Elementary School to impact the entire school, its families, and the local Harrison, Michigan community. While she loves teaching all subjects, literacy is her specialty, and she spends time coordinating events for the entire school that promote family literacy in unique, creative, and innovative ways.

As a member of the School Improvement Team she helps identify areas of strength and weakness and designs creative interventions to solve problems to support the success of struggling students. She leads professional development and curriculum teams. In addition, she contributes time to assist school administrators in securing approximately $100,000 in professional development and technology grants for Hillside Elementary School. 

Heather also is a Teacher Consultant for the Chippewa River Writing Project and guest speaker in English Language Arts courses.

Heather was nominated by CMU faculty members from the Department of English, Language and Literature and the Department of Teacher Education and Professional Development, and Andrea Andera, principal of Hillside Elementary School.

"Heather's recognition is an accomplishment shared by all of us in educator preparation at CMU," said Amy Carpenter Ford, associate professor of English.​

"Her professional philosophy is distinctive because of her commitment to serving the community of Harrison, an impoverished, rural school district serving the state’s most vulnerable kids," said Ford. "As a teacher, Ms. Jensen inspires her 5th grade students every day and empowers them as lifelong readers who love books."

Click here to read more about Heather Jensen and the 2016 CMU alumni awards

Fossils come to life 8,500 miles away

Student uses 3-D printers to recreate and date fossils of new human species

July 26, 2016​


More than 8,500 miles away from where scientists still are analyzing fossils discovered in a South African underground cave in 2013, Central Michigan University anthropology student Jennifer Webb holds an exact replica of one of the fossils.

Printed on a 3-D printer on campus, it is one of approximately 10 replicas Webb will produce this summer. She is working to help identify the affinities of Homo naledi — a new member of the human family tree that could be well over two million years old.

Webb believes Homo naledi may be much younger than this estimation. Her hypothesis rests on how the fossils were found: the bodies were mass buried, which could indicate socialization behaviors different than those of earlier humans.

​​"If the species turns out to be around 2 million years old, then it will be the earliest appearance of the Homo genus that demonstrates such primitive morphology and ritualized behavior at the same time," Webb said. "If it turns out to be closer to around 1 million years old or younger, it would mean that many different types of ancient humans coexisted at similar times in South Africa than was previously thought."

Webb uses digital scans of the fossils available in an online database and prints the fossil replicas in CMU's MakerBot Innovation Center — a large-scale 3-D printing installation that is the only one of its kind in the Midwest. The digital scans are made available to scientists worldwide through MorphoSource, a repository of hundreds of scans free to download and 3-D print.

"We are using these 3-D models of teeth from the Homo naledi fossils to do comparisons," Webb said. "I'm looking at the different physical characteristics and traits in the teeth, then comparing those to a species of a known time period. If you don't know the age of something, you have to compare it in both directions. That's our goal: to either rule it out or to determine if it's plausible."

Game-changing technology

CMU anthropologist Rachel Caspari, who is supervising Webb's research, said the ability to access scans of the Homo naledi fossils is state of the art and new to the anthropology field.

"Historically, it has taken up to 20 years for research to be published after a dig site is discovered," Caspari said. "These are young scientists, however, and they are doing things differently. By making the scans available online, others around the world can be a part of the research. It makes it more egalitarian and can make science work much better."

Webb said original casts of the remains are unavailable.

"The digital scans are available online for the species," Webb said. "That allows a lot of people to do research. Because we had that access, we thought 3-D printing would be a great alternative to casts."

Webb is examining the the affinities of the teeth. Of special interest is their relationship to a sample of early modern humans, about 100,000 years old, from the same region. The traits — such as resemblance of teeth from other regions or time periods — can help archeologists roughly determine the age of the teeth.

To do this, Webb studies the shape of the crown, the cusps, the number of roots, wear patterns and more. Webb said some molars have more cusps in certain geographical regions. Once all of the fossils are printed, she will score each trait and compare the Homo naledi fossils to other fossils with confirmed dates to determine how closely related they are.

"Bones are important because they tell stories," Webb said. "You learn to read what they are telling you based on the characteristics that you can look at and feel. It helps you understand things that happened to them in their past." ​​​

Natural elements can improve job satisfaction, mental health

Study shows subtle workplace changes benefit employees

July 5, 2016

​​A photo of the beach hanging in your office or computer wallpaper displaying flowers in a field may be helping to improve your job satisfaction and mental health.​

A recent study by researchers at Central Michigan University — published in PLOS ONE — investigated the effects exposure to natural elements and direct and indirect sunlight have on employee menta​l health and work attitudes.

"Workers are naturally exposed to high amounts of stress, but changing the work environment to incorporate some elements of nature could help," said lead author Mihyang An, postdoctoral research fellow in CMU's School of Public Service and Global Citizenship​.

One important result of the study shows the relationship between exposure to natural elements and job satisfaction is mediated by depressed mood. This suggests exposure to natural elements influences mood and that, in turn, mood influences job satisfaction.

"Existing research shows when people are dissatisfied with their jobs, that spills over into moods," An said. "Our results, however, indicate the opposite, that depressed mood might spill over onto how someone experiences their job. A low mood might actually lead to job dissatisfaction."

An, along with CMU psychologists Stephen Colarelli, Kimberly O'Brien and Melanie Boyajian, received and analyzed data from 444 employees via an online panel from the United States and India. Results showed a possible relationship between subtle elements — such as a potted plant or nature scene on a screensaver or picture — and improved employee moods.

Employers may feel they need an expensive office remodel to expose employees to sunlight, An noted, yet small, inexpensive changes also can be effective.

Other results include:

  • Sunlight had a considerably stronger effect than natural elements on mental health outcomes and was positively related to job satisfaction and organizational commitment; and
  • Greater exposure to natural elements was associated with lower depressed mood and higher job satisfaction and organizational commitment.

"Much of the research on employee health, particularly mental health and other stress-related diseases, has focused on improved management practices and stress-reduction treatments," said Colarelli, a CMU organizational/industrial psychologist. "It is important, however, to also consider the physical work environment as a causal and remedial factor in employee health." ​

Marcy Taylor to serve as CHSBS interim associate dean

​​Marcy TaylorAppointment made to fill vacancy created by Tim Hall's retirement
June 21, 2016

Provost Michael Gealt has announced that Marcy Taylor has accepted the position of interim associate dean of the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences. She will replace Tim Hall who is retiring July 9.

Taylor joined CMU as a professor of English language and literature in 1996. She served as chair of the department from 2005 to 2011 and was named assistant dean of CHSBS in 2012. She also served as a Presidential Fellow for the 2015-16 academic year.​

CHSBS staff announcements

May 19, 2016

Timothy HallTimothy Hall, Associate Dean
Associate Dean Tim Hall has accepted a new position as Dean of the Howard College of Arts and Sciences at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. He has worked at Central Michigan University for nearly 23 years. He served 19 years as a member of the Department of History, chairing that department from 2004-2011, and has served for the last four as Associate Dean of the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences. He is grateful for his colleagues who have taught him so much and for ​the support of Dean Pamela Gates and former Dean Gary Shapiro, whose mentorship has helped prepare him to take on this exciting new challenge.​

Lesa SmithLesa Smith, Director of Development
Following more than nine years of service as Development Director for the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences, Lesa Smith is leaving CMU to serve as Director of Development for the Burcham Hills Foundation in East Lansing, MI. During her tenure, CHSBS has received more than $20 million dollars in charitable gifts for student scholarship, study abroad, research and program support. Lesa extends a special thank you for Dean Pamela Gates whose untiring dedication for the college and its fundraising activities has supported this success.​

​​Historic Preservation Award
​Photo cour​tesy of Michigan State Historic Preservation Office​

Archaeological Field School receives Governor's Award for Historic Preservation
May 6, 2016

The Central Michigan University Archaeological Field School received a 2016 Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation with the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe and the City of Mount Pleasant for preservation efforts at the site of the former Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School.

“Each year we recognize the contributions of people who devote time, energy and money into preserving Michigan’s historic structures and archaeological sites,” said Gov. Rick Snyder in a press release from the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office.

The Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School operated from 1893 to 1933 and was part of the federal government’s efforts to assimilate Native Americans following the Civil War. During that time, 300 native children per year were taken from their homes and reeducated to conform to non-native culture.

In 2011 the state conveyed separate portions of the school property to the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan and the City of Mount Pleasant. The SCIT partnered with Central Michigan University to conduct archaeological field schools at the site.

The research identified previously unknown archaeological sites, provided additional documentation for known sites, including the foundations of eight campus buildings, and produced revised boundaries for the Mission Creek Cemetery. In addition, the SCIT undertook outreach initiatives to foster knowledge about the federal Indian boarding school program.​

The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) at the Michigan State Housing Development Authority initiated the Governor’s Awards in 2003 to recognize outstanding historic preservation achievements that reflect a commitment to the preservation of Michigan’s unique character and the many archaeological sites and historic structures that document Michigan’s past.

The awards were presented during a public ceremony in the Michigan State Capitol Rotunda in May, which is National Historic Preservation Month. The CMU Field School is directed by Sarah Surface-Evans, a faculty member in the Department o​f Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work​.​

​CHSBS names recipients of Excellence in Teaching Awards

April 21, 2016

CHSBS Excellence in Teaching Award Recipients

​​​​​2015-16 CHSBS Excellence in Teaching Award Recipients
Congratulations to the winners of the 2015-2016 CHSBS Excellence in Teaching Awards!

Maroon Award
Timothy Hartshorne, Psychology
David Kinney, Sociology​

Gold Award
Andrea Devenney, English

The CHSBS Excellence in Teaching Awards recognize regular (Maroon Award) and fixed-term (Gold Award) CHSBS faculty members who go above and beyond what is expected in creating exceptional learning opportunities for our students. The recipients are​ selected by the CHSBS Excellence in Teaching Committee, chaired by Dr. Marcy Taylor, Assistant to the Dean, and composed of a representative from each department within the college.

Our recipients are experts in their fields, effective and creative in promoting student learning, inspire students to high achievement and receive high praise from them in return, and are admired advisors and mentors​ to future educators. >>Read more


Gayle Ross teaching The Art of Storytelling at Central Michigan University. April 2016

Recounting Native Americans' journeys to Washington, D.C.

Storyteller and Denison professor Gayle Ross​

April 11, 2016

​Gayle Ross pulls a chair up to an empty table in an undecorated office and starts to speak.

The bareness surrounding her is quickly forgotten and is effortlessly decorated with the stories she shares in a conversation about her Native American heritage and her passion for giving them life.

"I grew up in a family where there was a deep appreciation for family history, and for us, our history is Cherokee," said Ross, the Denison Visiting Professor of Native American Studies at Central Michigan University. "I love it because every time I tell a story, I get to hear it again."

Ross is one of the best-loved and most-respected storytellers of her time. She is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation and is a direct descendant of John Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokee during the infamous Trail of Tears.

Her grandmother told Cherokee stories and sang songs handed down from one generation to the next. It is from this rich heritage that her storytelling springs. Ross has shared her stories to open evenings for such distinguished speakers as Maya Angelou, N. Scott Momaday and Alice Walker, and she has appeared at almost every major storytelling and folk festival in the United States.

Ross will tell some of her compelling stories at CMU in a free public presentation of "Inside the Beaded Beltway: Native Delegations in the Nation's Capital" at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, in the Powers Hall Ballroom.

She will share historical narratives and personal stories in this provocative performance about the history of American Indian delegations who traveled to the nation's capital to argue for fair treatment for native peoples and to negotiate just treaties. It is through her humorous, heartbreaking and inspirational stories that Ross will shed light on the federal relationship with native peoples from the founding of America to the present day.

"Two things I'd like people to understand is that first off, we're not all the same; we have differences that need to be appreciated," she said. "The other thing is that we as Native Americans will not truly succeed without America understanding that we are not an ethnic minority, we are indigenous peoples. We are tribal nations with certain collective rights, such as the right to self-governance and the right to a say in the decisions that affect our people, as well as our lands and resources."

Ross: Every college needs a Denison program

The Olga J. and G. Roland Denison Visiting Professorship of Native American Studies​ is so critical for CMU and universities nationwide, Ross said. The professorship was established in 2007, and it brings a noted scholar, artist or practitioner to CMU to help increase understanding of the historical experiences, cultural traditions and innovations, and political status of indigenous peoples in the United States and Canada.

"I wish every college and university in the country had something like a Denison program," said Ross, who lives in Oklahoma just north of the Cherokee Nation capital in Tahlequah. "I believe that many of the challenges that face the Native American community stem from a lack of understanding of who we are in the American mosaic. Such a professorship helps to give people a better understanding and appreciation."

As the visiting professor, one of her primary roles this semester was teaching the upper-level course The Art of Storytelling. The course provided students with the methods and practices in finding, learning and telling stories from different genres.

Natalie DeFour is a senior from Alpena pursuing a degree in English and enrolled in this course to complement her creative writing concentration. She said she is grateful to have the opportunity to learn the craft from such an established professional storyteller.

"She emphasized that finding the bones of a story is the first step to crafting a great story ­– it's not about memorization, but about how the story forms itself and speaks to you," said DeFour, whose final project was telling an engaging story about the historic wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. "She continually reminded us how much stories impact our lives, which goes back to our human nature to tell stories. Storytelling is important to Native American traditions, and she told us sacred Cherokee stories that spoke to that importance."

While Ross' semester as the visiting professor is coming to a close, she said she is enthusiastic and open to someday returning to CMU to teach more about storytelling, especially to students pursuing teaching degrees.

"Stories always have been the foundation of how we teach," Ross said. "You can't tell a story of the past without understanding that it is a story of our future."  ​

Biological anthropology major Jennifer Webb. Photo by Richard Drummond Jr., CM Life

Anthropology student uses 3D printer to make fossil replicas

By Sarah Wolpoff, CM Life

Biological anthropology major Jennifer Webb plans to use Central Michigan University's MakerBot Innovation Center to print replicas of fossils found in South Africa. Read article​

CHSBS faculty win top CMU teaching awards

Congratulations to the CHSBS faculty members honored as recipients of Central Michigan University's top teaching awards!

Solomon Addis Getahun, President's Award for Outstanding Research and Creativity
Dr. Getahun (history) is a distinguished scholar in the field of African and African diaspora history, with a special focus on contemporary Ethiopian refugee and immigrant communities in the United States. He has been awarded national-level funding for support of field research in Africa, including the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship. His impressive publication record spans the globe, and he has presented his research at countless conferences throughout his career.

The Central Michigan University President's Award recognizes outstanding senior faculty members for scholarship of national and international merit.

Prakash Adhikari, Provost's Award for Outstanding Research and Creativity
Dr. Adhikari (political science and public administration) is a widely respected political scientist whose research focuses on comparative politics and international relations, with specific focus on civil war, forced migration and transitional justice. In just the past few years, his research has been widely published in several top-tier journals in the fields of political science, conflict resolution, sociology, anthropology and human rights. 

The Central Michigan University Provost's Award recognizes accomplished up-and-coming faculty members for scholarship of national and international merit.

Carlin Borsheim-Black, recipient of two awards: The Lorrie Ryan Memorial Excellence in Teaching Award and the CMU Excellence in Teaching Award
Dr. Borsheim-Black (English) is credited with building a strong sense of classroom community and interpersonal relationships, encouraging the celebration of diversity and differences of opinions. She is described by her students as having unbridled enthusiasm for her subject matter and that her curiosity, intellect, emphathy and passion for the discipline is contagious.

The Lorrie Ryan Memorial Excellence in Teaching Award is given each year to a faculty member who inspires students through exemplary commitment to community service and demonstrates a profound mentorship and respect for others.

The Central Michigan University Excellence in Teaching Awards were created by the Academic Senate to provide special recognition to faculty members who exceed the usual standards and expectations.

Catherine Willermet, Excellence in Teaching Award
Dr. Willermet (anthropology) designs classroom activities that allow students to deconstruct their biases. Students are inspired to work toward change when they feel injustice personally.

The Central Michigan University Excellence in Teaching Awards were created by the Academic Senate to provide special recognition to faculty members who exceed the usual standards and expectations.



​Meijer Foundation gives $25,000 grant to establish visiting writers series at Central Michigan University

January 27, 2016

The Meijer Foundation has given a $25,000 grant to the Department of English, Language and Literature at Central Michigan University to establish the Meijer Visiting Writers Series. 

The annual series is designed to bring a diverse group of nationally prominent, widely published authors of works of fiction, poetry and nonfiction to campus. Authors will give public readings from their books, lead workshops on writing and publishing for students, and hold question and answer sessions with students and community members. 

The series will provide the university and community with exposure to nationally prominent literary artists from all over the country while addressing an important need for cultural experiences at CMU and in the mid-Michigan community. ​

"The visiting writers series will allow students to hear a terrific variety of writers bring their work alive off the page, and it will introduce students to the larger national community of writers working today," says English professor Matthew Roberson.

The series is set to kick off this fall with ​author Noy Holland.

Niijkewehn Mentoring Program

​Improving the future for Native American youth

Only program of its kind in the nation proving impactful

January 25, 2016

The Niijkewehn Mentoring Program at Central Michigan University is designed to increase the number of Native Americans graduating from high school and going on to college and earning a degree. And it is definitely moving students along that path.

Niijkewehn — interpreted as "the one that I walk on my path with" — is the only program in the nation in which Native American college students mentor Native American youth through a variety of cultural, educational and recreational activities.

"Research indicates Native Americans have the lowest high school and college graduation rates of any ethnic or racial group nationally," said David Kinney, CMU sociology professor and program founder.

Niijkewehn, a partnership between CMU and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, pairs Central students with fifth-through-eighth grade Saginaw Chippewa Indian students. It was piloted in 2002, however lack of funding placed the program on hiatus until it was revitalized in the spring of 2013.

As a prevention program, Niijkewehn aims to increase children's resilience to becoming involved in problem behaviors such as drug and alcohol use and unprotected sex. As an intervention program, it is designed to promote the growth of Native American students' academic and cultural identities.

Since its revival, the program has grown from 10 children in one school to 55 children in five schools across central Michigan. Kinney and his team are tracking data, and it is showing significant impact.

"Both the college students and children are developing and sustaining stronger academic and cultural identities," Kinney said. "They are becoming more committed to each other, to their culture and to their current and future education."

The percentage of mentees reporting they like school a lot increased from 23 percent to 41 percent after. Those reporting they look forward to going to school a lot and those who reported they intended to go to college increased by 10 percent from before the program to after.

Of the 35 college student mentors, 46 percent increased their GPA. Those who mentored during their senior year all graduated, and all others continued in college the next academic year.

"Creating a strong sense of future in middle and high school students is critical to them becoming resilient and less likely to engage in unhealthy behavior," Kinney said. "The children also are learning their culture is cool, and that it is cool to do well in school. These new understandings are crucial because the vast majority of them would be first-generation college students."​

Inspiration and application

While a student at CMU, Davis Timmer, a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, had the opportunity to change the lives of young Native Americans as a Niijkewehn mentor. Now, as an employee of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians, he is using that experience to impact even more Native American youth.

Timmer, the community organizer for the tribe's Spring Prevention Project, spends his days working to reduce marijuana use and underage drinking in Native American youth in Emmet and Cheboygan counties. The federally-funded project began as an internship, and Timmer was hired full time when he graduated from CMU in May 2015.

"Seeing someone grow and become more confident is an amazing thing," Timmer said. "Even if I'm only making minor changes, it is an energizing feeling giving back to the community and pushing students to reach their goals."

Timmer was inspired as a Niijkewehn mentor to continue to work with Native American youth.

"The Niijkewehn program gave me the underlying framework of building trust and rapport with my mentees," Timmer said.

"Instead of responding to possible issues in children after something happens, and always being on the cycle of reaction, these programs create a way to move upstream, ahead of the problem. Mentoring programs strengthen students, families, schools and communities."

Continued growth and progress

Carolyn Dunn, CMU associate vice president for institutional diversity, has not only engaged as an administrator, she has experienced it as a parent.

"As an administrator I see the value of cultural mentoring for native youth. As a parent, I've seen tremendous personal, cultural and academic growth," Dunn said. "This program does for native children exactly what we have set our goals to accomplish...laying the groundwork for success rooted in their native identities."

The most recent Niijkewehn development is the addition of junior mentors, enabling high schoolers who were in the program in middle school — as well as additional Native American high school students — to help mentor younger children.

Kinney also sees the program growing to at least 100 Saginaw Chippewa children and 100 CMU mentors in Mount Pleasant in the next few years. He also plans to share the program with other tribes and colleges in Michigan and beyond to reach more Native American students.

The program also has implications for educational policies designed to increase high school and graduation rates among other student groups who experience low graduation rates. ​


CAFE ribbon cutting

CAFE Ribbon Cutting

December 11, 2015​

The Child and Family Enrichment Council (CAFE)​ hosted an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony at their new location within our Psychology Department's Center for Children, Families and Communities. The ceremony was followed by the inaugural Dan Denslow Advocate of the Year award presentation, given to Sgt. Kevin F. Dush of the Isabella County Sheriff's Department.

CAFE investigates approximately 125 child abuse cases a year through a multidisciplinary team approach. The center's facility allows for children to be interviewed once by the forensic interviewer, with others watching in an observation room via closed-circuit television.

You can read more about our partnership with CAFE to strengthen child abuse services and prevention in Isabella County here:​.

Research by Christopher Davoli shows hand placement critical to learning and concentration​

Psychology faculty member Christopher Davoli uncovers new factors in learning, perception and attention

November 30, 2015

​Century-old beliefs have led most of us to think that caffeine or taking a break from information and returning to it later are the best or only strategies to improve a person's focus, learning, or how they view the world and objects around them. New research, however, sheds light on how hand placement also is part of the equation.

Christopher Davoli, assistant professor of psychology at Central Michigan University, and Philip Tseng, an associate professor at Taipei Medical University, coordinated the global research, published in the peer-reviewed journal, Frontiers in Psychology, and as an e-book. The researchers found how we view and perceive objects around us, remember information, focus our attention or shift attention from one topic to the next can be traced directly to the placement of our hands.​

The findings have practical implications for a broad range of environments and situations, including workplace efficiency, education, attention deficit interventions, building design and consumer product development.

"The key is identifying your end goal. If your goal is to find a creative solution or understand complex information, there is likely a posture and hand placement to match any need or situation," he said.

More information is being driven into our hands than ever before – from e-books to mobile devices – to improve efficiency and learning in an increasingly fast-paced world. Having information quite literally at our fingertips may not always be beneficial to effective learning, concentration and our ability to be flexible in our thought processes.

"Reading a story on a tablet device may make a person more likely to concentrate and retain details, but less likely to think about the bigger picture or message in what they are reading. A story read on a computer screen further from a person's hands will be processed differently, and it will be easier to think bigger; however, the mind also may be more likely to wander to other topics or objects," Davoli said.

Davoli said the research is a significant stride forward in understanding the use of hands-on learning, but more work is needed to solidify specific solutions for consumer products, schools, workplaces and homes.

"Now that this research exists, we can begin to apply it to real world situations to improve the way we create products, communicate information and improve productivity," Davoli said.

Davoli and Tseng coordinated experts from around the world to gather research, review results, and analyze the common effects of body posture and hand placement on a person's attention and cognition. In total, the call for research generated 12 peer-reviewed articles by 34 experts spanning 23 institutions in countries including Germany, England, China and Canada. The studies allowed researchers to observe the effects of hand placement and posture on subjects in a variety of laboratory settings that mimicked real-world scenarios, including cutting food, using a mobile device and working with another person to complete a puzzle. ​

Lane Demas interviewed by NPR

November 11, 2015
History faculty member Lane Demas discusses the history of activism in college football
View article & listen to interview from All Things Consider​ed​

Russian language courses return to CMU

November 1, 2015
Foreign Languages, Literatures and Cultures department chair Christi Brookes says Russian language courses will again be offered at CMU in Spring 2016.
Read CM Life article​

​Shape Shifters and Stone Monsters

October 31, 2015
Native American storyteller Gayle Ross visits CMU
Read story on CM Life​

Larissa Niec, director of the Center for Children, Families and Communities

Partnership strengthens child abuse services, prevention and intervention

CMU and Isabella County to benefit from combined resources

October 19, 2015

For years, the Child and Family Enrichment Council conducted forensic interviews with potentially abused or neglected children in a converted garage.

"Interviewing occurred in a small, lackluster room that was cold in the winter and hot in the summer due to the fact that the room is located in a converted garage without any insulation," CAFE director Brooke Garcia-Nettz said. "Children and their families deserve better."

This was just one of the challenges addressed through a new partnership with Central Michigan University's Center for Children, Families and Communities.

CAFE, a child advocacy center that investigates child abuse and provides services to reduce trauma for child victims in Isabella County, recently moved its operations into the center's facility. This provides the organization with a professional setting as well as several other benefits to help them serve children and families in a more comprehensive, professional and efficient way.

Garcia-Nettz believes the impact of this partnership could be tremendous.

"We have the opportunity to mobilize and collectively build capacity to prevent child physical and sexual abuse, as well as neglect, within our community," Garcia-Nettz said. "We also have the ability to create better outcomes for children and families by educating students on best practices in child abuse prevention and intervention techniques before entering their career."​

CAFE investigates approximately 125 child abuse cases a year through a multidisciplinary team approach. Along with the forensic interviewer, law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney also are involved, along with a mental health professional in some cases. The center's facility allows for children to only have to be interviewed once by the forensic interviewer, with others watching in an observation room via closed-circuit television.

"The setup we have is exactly what CAFE needs, and our center can provide further help to the children they serve," CCFC director Larissa Niec said.

The center works to improve the well-being of children and families through research and mental health interventions. Utilizing state-of-the-art technology, the faculty and students provide real-time coaching for parents to help them learn and practice healthy discipline techniques and enhance their parent-child relationships.

Children who need further assessment or treatment, determined through the forensic interviews, also ​can get that assistance at the center with access to therapists and counseling services.

The new partnership also will provide new and unique opportunities for CMU students.

"This is great for our students as our graduate students will gain training in forensic interviewing and providing services to children who have experienced trauma, and it also will provide research and learning opportunities for undergraduate students," Niec said.​​

Global Peace comes to CMU

October 16, 2015
Faculty members Andrew Blom, Maureen Eke and Hope May host panel to commemorate Global Ethics Day
Read article by CM Life

English Language Institute grows with international student population

October 14, 2015
The international student population at CMU has doubled since 2009
Read article by CM Life​

CMU expert available to speak on Russian airstrikes in Syria

October 1, 2015

John Robertson, Central Michigan University professor of history and an authority on the history and cultures of the Middle East, is available to discuss issues surrounding the recent Russian airstrikes in Syria.

Robertson's initial thoughts: 
"I see dangers galore, especially because lack of coordination could result in an incident bringing the U.S. and Russia into conflict – and the coordination between the U.S. and Russian militaries has been on-the-fly, which is scary. Meanwhile, it's the Syrian people who will pay the price, with dozens killed by the Russian bombing of Homs. 

"Also very worrisome is that U.S. and Russia are working at cross-purposes: Russia focused on taking out Assad's non-ISIS enemies and the U.S. focused on ISIS. What could make things horribly worse would be if Russia were to bomb Syrian Kurds, who have had success against ISIS, but are carving out an autonomous region in northern Syria that is kind of a thumb in Assad's eye."

About John Robertson
Robertson is an authority on the history and cultures of the Middle East, from the region's earliest civilizations to its recent history, current events and impact on U.S. policies. He has taught many different courses, at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, on topics ranging from the ancient history and archaeology of the Near East and Egypt; to the long-term historical impact of Iraq, Iran and the Middle East on the West; to the Middle East's history in the 20th and early 21st centuries.

His op-eds, published comments, and on-air interviews have dealt with Arab-Israeli relations, the destruction of Iraq's ancient heritage, and U.S. and European relations with Middle Eastern countries, as well as other aspects of Middle Eastern history and current events. His published works also have dealt with the ancient history and archaeology of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Israel-Palestine, and he also can comment on archaeological excavations and discoveries in the Middle East. He is author of the recently published book, "Iraq: A History​" (London: Oneworld, 2015).

English department receives update, adds new courses
By Grant Lefaive, CM Life


Reviewing materials after sifting soil.

CMU students excavate historical Michigan lighthouse artifacts

Archaeological Field School pr​ovides students with hands-on experience in anthropology

June 24, 2015

Central Michigan University anthropology students recently unearthed artifacts at the 40 Mile Point Lighthouse in Rogers City as part of the university’s Archaeological Field School.

Detroit graduate student S.K. Haase said Michigan’s lighthouses are an important part of the state’s history and culture. Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state.

“This is our story. This is what ties us all together. How many ships made safe passage along these waters and across these currents because this lighthouse was here?” said Haase, a student in CMU’s new cultural resource management master’s degree program.

Over the past six weeks, the field school has taught CMU students how to survey, excavate and analyze archaeological remains.

“Essentially what we’re doing is a hands-on practicum where students are applying the methods they learned in class and learning how to excavate properly,” said Sarah Surface-Evans, a CMU assistant professor of anthropology who leads the field school.

The students began their field research and archaeological surveys in May at the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School. The field school concludes at the 40 Mile Point Lighthouse in Rogers City this week.​

CMU student reviews soil colors at the Archaeology Field School.
“The artifacts themselves may not seem like much,” Surface-Evans said. “Many of them are simple things like animal bones, nails, bits of container glass, pottery and light bulbs. All of these things add up to tell a story. It gives us a broader picture of what being a lighthouse keeper was like here in northeastern Michigan.”

Students also had the opportunity to conduct near-shore diving with an underwater archaeologist.

“Wayne Lusardi from Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary took students out to do an underwater survey at the Joseph S. Fay shipwreck,” Surface-Evans said. “They’ve documented some of the debris field. The wreck is 110 years old.”

Mount Pleasant senior Greg Swallow, a former paramedic and National Guard member, originally came to CMU to study pre-medicine. Through taking University Program classes, he discovered that anthropology and archaeology could help him find a career that applies his passion for history.

“If I’m going to do something for the next 20 years and make a second career, I want to do something I love,” Swallow, a double major in history and anthropology, said. “We’re able to take the documented history and match it up with the artifacts. We’re preserving what’s here for the future.”​



​Central Michigan University takes neuroscience education to the next level
New faculty members bring expertise, enhance unique interdisciplinary cohort

June 6, 2015
Nearly 30 years ago, two Central Michigan University faculty members had a vision of establishing a neuroscience program. Starting with only a few students, very little space and limited resources, those faculty members grew what eventually became the first undergraduate neuroscience program in Michigan in 1999 and the top program in the country in 2013. 

The growth of the program has provided CMU opportunities to continuously improve the curriculum and student research opportunities, but also has driven necessary expansion in curriculum, physical space and faculty. Along with lab space expansion, new faculty members have recently been hired to help meet demand. 

Several of these new hires have joined existing faculty members in a unique interdisciplinary cohort, which brings together faculty from a variety of disciplines — including the Department of Psychology and the College of Medicine — to work as a team on teaching, research and scholarship. ​This hard-to-find team approach offers research opportunities that not only benefit students but also are making great strides in treatments for several neurodegenerative diseases, such as Huntington's and Alzheimer's. 

“The people we hired have a passion for involving students in research, a passion to work as a team and skills sets we didn’t have before,” Dunbar said. “Having that diversity within a cohesive group of colleagues is what we were trying to get, and hopefully we got it. The opportunities we’re going to be able to provide have multiplied tenfold.”

Dunbar says the cohort approach at CMU is unique because it is rare for institutions to have neuroscientists from a variety of disciplines working closely together. 

“Our new faculty all have different areas of expertise so collectively we can tackle a research question from all angles,” Dunbar said. “As we speak, we’re training the next generation of neuroscientists who will tackle diseases such as Huntington’s and Alzheimer's,” Dunbar said. 

New neuroscience faculty member Kevin Park said he was attracted to many things about CMU, particularly the faculty’s excitement and passion, as well as the collaborative approach to research.

“The goal is to build our program on collaborative research, tapping into the diverse research interests and skills of the program faculty,” Park said. “Our emphasis on hands-on undergraduate research experience immerses the students in cutting-edge science, helping to instill passion within them.”

Even with the growth and expansion of the program, Dunbar said CMU will not lose focus on the foundation of neuroscience education upon which the program was built.

“We offer inquiry-based, hands-on research experience for our students at a magnitude that is unprecedented,” Dunbar said. “That was our passion, our goal and is something we hope to sustain. We don’t want to lose what we can offer our undergraduate students.”​​

​Sexual minority young adults at higher risk of suicide
CMU professor’s research results indicate prejudice and discrimination can lead to health issues

May 12, 2015

​​Central Michigan University associate professor of sociology Elbert Almazan's research indicates suicide risk is more prevalent among lesbian, gay and bisexual young adults.​

"Sexual minorities are persons who have a same-sex romantic or sexual attraction; have experienced same-sex romantic or sexual behavior; or have a same-sex sexual identity such as lesbian, gay or bisexual," Almazan said. "Because sexual minorities are diverse in their attractions, behaviors and identities, we wanted to evaluate whether all sexual minorities could have a greater risk for suicide than heterosexuals."

In a study published in the journal Archives of Suicide Research, Almazan and fellow researchers investigated whether same-sex romantic attraction, same-sex sexual identity, lifetime same-sex sexual behavior and recent 12-month same-sex sexual behavior were associated with suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts in the past 12 months among men and women in the U.S. ages 24 to 34.

"Our findings show that for every one heterosexual young adult who experienced a suicidal thought or suicide attempt, there are two sexual minority young adults who experienced a suicidal thought or suicide attempt," Almazan said. "Results suggest that the higher suicide risk among sexual minority young adults shows that stigma in society continues to exist toward lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons, and that it can lead to negative health consequences."

Analyzing 2008-09 survey data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, the researchers discovered:

  • Multiple sexual minority status measures had significant associations with increased suicidal thoughts among men and women;
  • Multiple sexual minority status measures had significant associations with increased suicide attempts among women, but not among men; and,
  • Diverse sexual minority populations are at increased risk for suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

The researchers used multiple measures of sexual orientation to more accurately describe the diversity of sexual minority populations.

"Some sexual minorities may not self-identify themselves as lesbian, gay, or bisexual because they are struggling with the stigma associated with having a same-sex attraction," Almazan said. "Most previous research on suicide risk has relied on one dimension or measure of sexual orientation, but using only one measure includes some sexual minorities, but excludes others."

Almazan hopes the research builds awareness and guides health and social service professionals in helping sexual minority young people.

 "As a society and as a culture, we need to find ways to eliminate prejudice and discrimination toward sexual minorities," he said. "For professionals who work with young people, asking confidential questions about sexual orientation can be informative in helping sexual minorities cope with issues of prejudice and discrimination."

Almazan's research team included Michael Roettger of Pennsylvania State University and Pauline Acosta of Cerritos College.​


CMU first to raise peace flag in support of Women's Walk for Peace in Korea

​Event continues CMU’s historic commitment to peace

May 8, 2015

​Central Michigan University will be the first of several sites worldwide to raise a symbolic peace flag in support of the Korean people and the Women's Walk for Peace in Korea, kicking off an international peace demonstration and continuing a commitment to peace in the spirit of E.C. Warriner, CMU's fourth president, who was actively involved in the pre-World War I Peace Movement.

On May 11, the purple, yellow and white Pro Concordia Labor peace flag – which was designed in 1897 by Countess Cora di Brazzà and used by peace activists in the 19th century – will be carried in a procession through campus beginning at the Bohannon Schoolhouse at 3:30 p.m. President George E. Ross will raise the flag in a ceremony in front of Warriner Hall at 4 p.m., following the procession.

To mark International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament May 24, 30 international women peacemakers will walk across the two-mile-wide Demilitarized Zone, the world's most heavily fortified border that divides North and South Korea. The walk will bring international attention to the need to end the Korean War by replacing the 1953 armistice agreement with a permanent peace treaty. The walkers also want to help reunite families long-separated by the DMZ and ensure women are involved at all levels of the peace-building process.

The Pro Concordia Labor peace flag will be carried on the women's walk and given to the women of both North and South Korea.

"The flag connects the Women's DMZ Walk with earlier moments of women's activism for peace that have been erased from the public memory," CMU philosophy professor Hope Elizabeth May said. "Exactly 100 years ago, in 1915, more than 1,200 women assembled in The Hague, The Netherlands, in an effort to initiate a process of dialogue and mediation in attempt to end World War 1 and establish a permanent, just peace. The women's DMZ peace walk is squarely in that tradition, and the 1897 flag connects these two moments."

May has been working with the organizers of the DMZ peace walk and plans to join the walkers in South Korea.

Other locations participating in the raising of the Pro Concordia Labor peace flag include the Peace Palace in The Hague, The Netherlands; Harmannsdorf, Austria; and Brazza, Italy.

CMU's history of peace

E.C. Warriner was actively involved in the pre-World War I Peace Movement connected with the Pro Concordia Labor peace flag. In 1910, while Superintendent of Saginaw Public Schools, Warriner organized the Michigan branch of the American School Peace League, a national network of public school teachers and administrators committed to education about the new international legal machinery created to eliminate armed conflict. Warriner remained actively involved in the ASPL throughout World War I and his presidency. In 1923, his CMU commencement address was entitled "The Outlook for Peace."

Charles Grawn, CMU's third president, also served as vice president of the ASPL.

​Spring 2015 graduates put their stamp on the world

May 5, 2015

Each of Central Michigan University's spring 2015 graduates has a story. These stories tell of opportunity and challenge, growth and accomplishment. Their journeys began across the globe, and each will go on to continue to put their stamp on the world. ​Here are the stories of two CHSBS graduates.

Mallory Walton presents her research at the Student Research and Creative Endeavors Exhibition, April 2015.

From music teacher to advocate
CMU graduate finds her tru passion and changes career course

Mallory Walton came to Central Michigan University to become a music teacher. Over the past four years, however, she has discovered there is a different group of people she wants to spend her life helping.

Walton, a senior from Shepherd, studied music for two years but had a feeling she wasn’t headed in the right direction. After taking a political science class, she suddenly found new interests she never knew she had.

“It's funny because since I was 10 I wanted to be a music teacher, but something just hit me,” said Walton. “In no way am I suggesting the life of a teacher isn't rewarding,

I just want to help the children and people of the world that don't have anyone advocating for them.”

Double major in political science and music, Walton will graduate May 9 with two bachelor’s degrees. She will begin working on a Master of Arts in political science at CMU this fall and says she knows exactly what she will do after that.

“After graduate school I want to work abroad for a humanitarian relief organization,” Walton said. “I would love to work helping refugees or with the U.S. Foreign Service. It sounds crazy, but I would love to go into conflict zones in order to help displaced people.”

Walton credits CMU faculty for helping her find her true passion and challenging her to succeed.

“I've made relationships with the best professors in the world, had one-on-one guidance from them, and I really felt recognized among the thousands of other students here,” Walton said. “I think that's what was so great about my time here, my professors recognized that I had potential, and they helped me to realize it.

Walton said she will never forget the guidance she received from one political science professor in particular, Prakash Adhikari. Under his guidance, Walton conducted research on the war on terror and girls' Education in Afghanistan, which she presented at the Midwest Political Science Association conference in Chicago and is in the running for a prestigious research award.

“There were times when Dr. Adhikari was so tough on me, he criticized my work and challenged me academically,” Walton said. “But I quickly realized he was so hard on me because he saw the potential in me, and he was often the only person in my life that could see that potential.”

During her time at CMU, Walton performed with Chippewa Marching Band and was a member of College Democrats, Model United Nations, the Student Government Association and the political science honor fraternity Pi Sigma Alpha. She also served as vice president of Amnesty International at CMU, membership director of the Michigan Federation of College Democrats and a conversation partner, in which she helped international students learn English.

Above all of that, she studied abroad at the American University of Rome during the summer of 2014.

As she reflects back on the past four years, Walton says she wouldn’t change a thing.

“My undergraduate experience has been nothing short of excellent,” she said.

Making a difference, starting in Nepal

Walton won’t wait until she completes graduate school to begin helping people and making a difference. The week after she graduates, she will travel to a rural village elementary school in Nepal to teach children how to speak, read and write English.

“These children live in an impoverished and under developed country. I have the opportunity to change their lives forever and I hope that they will change mine,” Walton said. “I'm looking forward to living among the Nepali people, often times without electricity and running water, because it will give me a renewed love of life.”​

Enhancing diversity, impacting civil rights
Multicultural Advancement Scholar seeks to change policies and laws

Detroit senior Avery Peeples said taking a social issues class at Central Michigan University during her freshman year opened her eyes to civil and human rights issues.

“All it takes is exposure,” Peeples, a social work major who graduates this month, said. “It completely changed my outlook on several different things and what I really wanted to do in the future.”

Her passion grew when she took advantage of the speakers brought to campus – including Gen. Colin Powell; Minnijean Brown Trickey of the Little Rock Nine; and Michelle Alexander, a civil rights lawyer and author of "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness."

“There are policies and laws that oppress people,” Peeples said. “I think it’s sad how people are disadvantaged through laws. If anything, they should be protected. I feel called to do something about it.”

Peeples, a Multicultural Advancement Scholar, said issues regarding human and civil rights are uncomfortable topics to discuss, but she urges people to take notice. The Multicultural Advancement Scholar award is given to students like Peeples who have shown academic achievement; community service; and dedication to enhancing diversity, multiculturalism and inclusion.

“Let’s start talking about it more,” she said. “Just because we’re not talking about it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”

For her, it was the opportunities at CMU — including her involvement as president of Collective Action for Cultural Unity and a peer advisor in Multicultural Academic Student Services — that helped her learn about the issues society faces today.

“As a student, you need to take advantage of all opportunities that present themselves because you never know what door that’s going to open next,” she said. “Figure out how to learn and grow from it. Use every experience as a ladder.”

After receiving her bachelor’s degree from CMU, Peeples plans to earn her master’s degree in social work. Her long-term goals are to work for the American Civil Liberties Union in Detroit to learn how to influence policy and human rights and to eventually work in the nation’s capitol for a think tank.

“I used to always say that if I could just change one life, that would be enough for me,” she said. “If I could really impact one person’s life, I think I would have left my stamp somewhere, and I think that’s all you really need.”​

​CMU Faculty Association gives back, establishes endowment for students
Scholarships signify teachers' support of student success

May 5, 2015

Monday marked the beginning of Teacher Appreciation Week across the U.S., however members of Central Michigan University's Faculty Association instead are showing appreciation to their students. They have established a scholarship endowment as a gesture of respect, appreciation and gratitude for CMU students' unwavering support of faculty throughout the years.

Faculty association members have a short-term goal of raising $25,000, which will enable them to grant the first scholarship to a student in Fall 2015. Their long-term goal is to grow the endowment to $2 million, at which point they would be able to give $1,000 scholarships to nearly 100 undergraduates each year.

So far, nearly $22,000 has been donated to the scholarship endowment. In October, CMU will match donations made with 50 cents for every $1 donated as part of the Annual University Campaign — as it did last fall.

Bryan Griffin, CMU director of annual giving and online engagement, said the endowment represents the passion and commitment of CMU faculty to positively impact students.

"The fact that the Faculty Association has collected more than $20,000 in endowment donations in four months' time via crowdfunding is unique, impressive and a testament to their commitment to CMU students," Griffin said.

The scholarship fund illustrates the faculty's commitment to student success and understanding of increasing financial burdens students may face with increasing educational expenses.

English language and literature professor Daniel Patterson said the idea for a student endowment began four years ago after the fall 2011 semester.

"This endowment is a living emblem of our respect for our students and our gratitude for their support," Patterson said. "This fund acknowledges that we care about the expenses they incur while pursuing their education at CMU. It will tell them that their professors want to help in a tangible way and will strengthen the already strong bond between faculty and students."

Close to 80 percent of CMU's 27,000 students receive some form of financial aid.

Social work professor Susan Grettenberger said she's watched students struggle to stay awake in her class after working all night because they need to earn money for school expenses. She also said she has encountered other students who want to study abroad but who are afraid the extra cost of travel is out of their reach.

"Students are at the heart of the university, and CMU's faculty wants to help them succeed," Grettenberger said. "For many of our students, the barrier to success is lack of adequate funds. Through our union, CMU's Faculty Association, we are joining together to create an endowed scholarship fund that will always be here to help students fund their education."

Last year, CMU increased its merit scholarships by $6 million. Financial aid packages were re-engineered to award more and larger merit scholarships to prospective students. With this increase, the university invested a record $61 million in making college education more accessible and affordable for families. Close to $300 million in private, state and federal financial aid awards and grants also were distributed.

The 2015 Annual University Campaign is scheduled to kick off on Oct. 12.​​


Students study zombies, ancient texts and humanity

Faculty member examines the apocalypse and what it reveals about history, culture and life

March 26, 2015

Humans, throughout history, have always thought about the end of the world, said Kelly Murphy, a philosophy and religion department faculty member at Central Michigan University.

"They've often thought that the end would come within their own lifetimes," Murphy said. "This has continued to be the case even though no prediction of the end has ever been correct. Scholars who think about monsters have long noted that these figures—vampires, zombies or the Beast in Revelation—reveal something to us about ourselves, about humanity."

Murphy teaches "From Revelation to 'The Walking Dead': Apocalypse Now and Then," an undergraduate course in which students discuss the end of the world, from ancient to contemporary conceptions.

"Monsters often attract student attention in a way that the academic study of the Bible does not," Murphy said. "But ancient texts do continue to impact our lives—just think back to Harold Camping and his repeated attempts to use the biblical texts to predict the end of the world in 2011 and the devastating results that had on many of his followers."

When she first began to teach this course at CMU, Murphy said many people wrongly assumed she was telling students that there were zombies in the Bible.

​"I find myself constantly repeating, 'There are no zombies in the Bible!'" Murphy said. "What I am trying to do is help students make connections between the literary, theological and social implications of issues surrounding the end of the world. It's especially interesting because ancient and contemporary apocalyptic thought share many features and yet are, in some ways, radically different." 

In the class, students discuss ancient biblical texts including the books of Enoch, Daniel and Revelation; review popular novels such as "Warm Bodies;" and watch clips from zombie movies such as "Shaun of the Dead" and "28 Days Later."

"The ancient books provide a way to think about what early Jewish and Christian groups feared and hoped for in their present contexts and the way in which their contexts shaped their fears and desires" she said. "Readers have continued to invoke Daniel and Revelation in meaningful ways without using it as a map for predicting the end of the world."

Murphy said students leave the class with knowledge of ancient texts and an understanding of history and how cultures throughout the world share and adapt ideas.

"As scholars often note, apocalyptic texts ask about the 'big' questions that many people worry over in both religious and secular contexts," Murphy said. "What does it mean to be human? Why do we fear the 'other'? How do we hold onto hope even in what seems like hopeless situations?"

"Originally, the monster had nothing to do with flesh eating or brains or even the apocalypse, but rather originated in West African and Haitian cultures, only to be misrepresented and changed in the aftermath of Western colonization," Murphy said. "Yet zombies are not the only symbol for 'The End.'"

Other representations of society's obsession with or attempt to grapple with the "what ifs" of the apocalypse include Margaret Atwood's "MaddAddam" series or the recent novel "Station 11" and postapocalyptic films like the "Book of Eli" and "Snowpiercer."
"Sometimes the afterlives of ancient texts are terrifying and result from fear and a misunderstanding of genre," Murphy said.

Murphy said ancient texts also can be used in positive ways, such as how many contemporary readers use Revelation as a source of hope that life can get better even when circumstances seem dire.

"In contemporary versions of the apocalypse, or imaginings of postapocalyptic life, as, for example, in the current season of 'The Walking Dead,' we see humans continue to grapple with these same questions of hope amid despair and chaos," Murphy said.​​

Gary Dunbar named Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year

Gary Dunbar named Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year

March 19, 2015

Central Michigan University neuroscience professor Gary Dunbar's passion for teaching and mentoring has transformed the lives of hundreds of students throughout his 33-year career at CMU, all while ­guiding CMU's neuroscience program to national prominence.

On this foundation, Dunbar has earned recognition as 2015 Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year, sponsored by the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan.

Dunbar, a CMU alumnus, is a nationally recognized leader in neuroscience education. He developed and has nurtured CMU's undergraduate neuroscience program, leading it to be named the country's top program in 2013.

 Dunbar has attained national recognition for his program of student-centered research and actively garners experiential learning opportunities for his students. Working alongside him, Dunbar's students have conducted hands-on research, primarily using stem cells, that has resulted in significant findings related to the stroke, as well as diseases such as Alzheimer's and Huntington's.

 "Dunbar's passion for developing strong, independent thinkers is evidenced in the way he structures his classes and his research laboratory and also in the leaders who have emerged from his mentorship," CMU Provost Michael Gealt said. " All of the students who have the opportunity to work with Dunbar comment on his commitment, the amount of time he devotes to them and his accessibility."​

To Dunbar, this award is very special.

"This award recognizes what attracted me to this profession, which is to help provide a nurturing learning environment for undergraduates," Dunbar said. 

One example of Dunbar's life-changing influence is the story of CMU alumnus Charles Weaver. As an undergraduate student at CMU, Weaver was struggling as a student and as an athlete on CMU's baseball team. Dunbar encouraged Weaver to keep working in his lab. That encouragement, along with the experience in the lab, helped Weaver to not only graduate but also go on and get his doctorate in neuroscience. He currently teaches at Saginaw Valley State University. Hear​ more about Weaver's story in the video below.

"I was fortunate to have many role models and outstanding mentors throughout my life," Dunbar said. "However, it is during the undergraduate years when many students, including me, have the greatest need for the care, empathy and guidance that will help them set the courses of their lives."

The Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year award program recognizes the outstanding contributions made by faculty from Michigan's public universities to the education of undergraduate students. Each of Michigan's 15 public universities were invited by the Presidents Council to nominate a faculty member who has had a significant impact on student learning through various media, including teaching excellence and student advising.

Dunbar is one of three in the state to receive the award. He and the other awardees were recognized during a ceremony April 10th at the Lansing Convention Center.

Students study Harry Potter on UK spring break adventure

Students study Harry Potter on UK spring break adventure

March 18, 2015

Students in two Central Michigan University courses traded in their bathing suits and sunscreen for a spring break filled with witchcraft and wizardry. These thirty-three students spent spring break learning all about Harry Potter on a 10-day adventure across the United Kingdom.​

CMU Associate Professor Joseph Michael Sommers designed the two courses – one English literature course and an Honors Program course – with the intention of immersing students in the living, breathing history of Harry Potter.   

"For me, for these courses, I tried to see the literature less from the books and more from the places from which the books derived," Sommers said. "The books being the artifacts of these magical locales. For example, it is one thing to read about The Hogwarts Express arriving at Platform 9 3/4, it's another thing to visit Platform 9 3/4."

The trip began in Edinburgh, Scotland, with a bus trip to Durham, Gloucester, Oxford, Watford, London, and Cambridge. Some of the experiences they had along the way included:

  • Eating at The Elephant House Café, where Rowling allegedly started the Harry Potter books;
  • Visiting key locations in the books and movies such as Edinburgh Castle, Greyfriars Kirkyard, Durham Cathedral and Castle, Gloucester Cathedral, Oxford's Bodleian Library and Christ's Church, the Tower of London, the London Zoo among dozens of other Harry Potter-related destinations;
  • Stopping in at Platform 9 3/4 in King's Cross Station;
  • Exploring sites in London's Zone 1 associated with Harry Potter; and
  • Experiencing "The Making of Harry Potter" at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Watford.

"Most of the trip built up to Thursday's visit to the Harry Potter Studios," said CMU senior Taylor DesOrmeau of Novi. "After watching a brief introduction in a theater, the screen went up and behind it was the door to the Great Hall of Hogwarts. We walked through the door and there were five or six people from our class already in tears. It was a great moment."

Sommers believes CMU may be the only school to teach Harry Potter in this format.

"Any university can – and likely does – teach Harry Potter, but not many places do it like this," Sommers said. "We did our best to re-examine Harry Potter, as a cultural phenomenon, the way the British experience it instead of simply reading and cutting into the text."

Sommers says his biggest challenge might be keeping his students engaged through the end of the semester after such an expansive adventure.

"This trip exceeded everything we set out to accomplish in the entire semester. I'm so proud of all my students, they are the real magic of these courses," Sommers said. "I may have completely taught myself out of the classroom, but that's not a bad thing."​

>>View photo gallery

Book by English professor Ari Berk inspires new Disney film​

March 6, 2015

From "The Chronicles of Narnia" to "Alice in Wonderland," Disney has brought many children's books to life in some of the most beloved movies of all time. In one of its newest movie ventures, Disney plans to bring a Central Michigan University professor's world of goblins to life on the big screen.​​

Disney has begun scripting a film adaptation of "Goblins! A Survival Guide And Fiasco In Four Parts." The illustrated fantasy book is written by CMU English professor Ari Berk and illustrated by renowned artist Brian Froud, who was the conceptual artist for Jim Henson's "Labyrinth" and "The Dark Crystal."

"Goblins!" is a humorous guide-style book about the folklore-like creatures and their interactions with the human world, as studied and presented by Berk and Froud. Froud's goblin illustrations and Berk's text create an entire world for the mischievous creatures and present a catalogue of their hilarious antics.

​"Goblins!" became a popular book that attracted the attention of two incredibly talented artists and executives. According to Berk, director Peter Segal and his producer Michael Ewing both read the book and approached Berk and Froud about making it into a movie. When the film option contract was signed, they assembled the screenwriters and immediately started working.

Berk and Froud are executive producers on the film.

"This team of professional filmmakers are diving into the fantasy world Brian and I have created to tell a new story from our book. How cool is that?" Berk said.

Berk is honored to have his work picked up by one of the most famous names in the film industry, but there is more to it for him than just a movie deal. To see his work influence other creative minds who want to expand the scope of the original vision is the biggest compliment at the end of the day.

"This movie deal just goes to show that there are ways to make art more than a hobby," Berk said. "It all starts with studying what interests you, cultivating creativity and believing you have a unique story to tell."

Disney's "Goblins" is planned for a 2017 release.

Learn more about Ari Berk and his work at


CHSBS sustainability institute helps Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort implement first zero-waste event

February 11, 2015

The Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort’s first ever zero-waste event, The Michigan Association of Physical Plant Administrators’ winter conference, resulted from a year-long study by Central Michigan University students.

The event, which took place Feb. 10 and 11, is the second phase of an assessment of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe’s waste management efforts by students in CMU’s Great Lakes Institute for Sustainable Systems. The tribe looked to GLISS to provide expertise on how to better manage and reduce excess amounts of waste generated within the casino and resort and at large events.

“This conference was an ideal opportunity for a zero-waste event because all attendees are working on improving sustainability in their operations,” said GLISS Director Tom Rohrer.

Conference organizers, working in conjunction with the tribe, GLISS and CMU’s facilities management team, planned and implemented the following recycling efforts for the event:

  • containers were brought in to recycle metal, plastic waste and recyclable paper;
  • cardboard was collected and recycled;
  • all resort rooms were equipped with recycling containers; and,
  • food and organic waste were collected and taken to a large agricultural complex that recycles organic waste.
​“We expect to have less than 2 percent waste. Under federal EPA definitions any event that recycles or reuses more than 90 percent of its waste is qualified as a zero-waste event,” said Rohrer.

CMU junior Meghan Marx, senior Parker Reitler and Rohrer worked with the tribe’s environmental staff during the past year to identify gaps in recycling efforts at the Soaring Eagle. They developed recommendations for waste reduction and recycling at the casino and resort, which then were presented to and accepted by the tribe.

"Seeing the zero waste event take place was an inspiring step in the implementation of our work,” said Marx. “This step toward overall sustainability makes me hopeful for the future of the casino."

The Environmental Protection Agency Region Five provided funding for the assessment.

America from the Ground Up airs in U.S. and U.K.

American history series produced by CHSBS & CMU Public Broadcasting airs from U.S. to U.K.

January 21, 2015

An academic vision to tell a story of America from various historical perspectives is attracting millions of viewers internationally.

“America from the Ground Up,” a series about America's archaeological and historical treasures, digs into America’s rich past searching for clues of its hidden history. The six-episode series will be shown in a marathon this Sunday.

“I hope viewers of this program come away with the sense of the importance of America's archaeological treasures,” said archeologist and CMU alumnus Monty Dobson. “We have such a rich historical environment here in the U.S., everything from "lost" Native American cities like Cahokia to shipwrecks, burial grounds and forts. We should celebrate the richness and diversity of our American story that is recorded in the archaeology.”

Making it happen

Pamela Gates, dean of CMU’s College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences, had a vision to make the documentary, written by Dobson and CMU history professor Andrew Devenney, come to life through video.

She connected Dobson, who served as the inaugural visiting scholar for CMU’s School of Public Service and Global Citizenship, with CMU media producer Dan Bracken. Together, with the help of many resources from across campus, they developed a plan for creating the content.  

They shot the series in more than 30 locations throughout North America during the summer and fall of 2013, but they did not work alone. Experts from universities, museums and Native American tribes all contributed to the storyline. The project took approximately three years from concept to completion.

“The thing I enjoyed most was learning to tell a story visually,” said Dobson. “I am intrigued by the ability of film and video to transport an audience to a place and time they otherwise would not be able to experience.”

Resources on campus involved in the project included CHSBS, CMU Public Broadcasting, the School of Broadcast and Cinematic Arts, and others. Financial support was provided by the Michigan Humanities Council, The National Endowment for the Humanities, The Kirby Foundation and author B.K. Bradshaw.

Reaching the masses

The series was aired on CMU Public Television and rapidly spread from there.

In the first five months of its three-year distribution, it has aired on more than 110 public television stations throughout the U.S., including major markets such as New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. According to the latest Nielsen statistics, it is available to nearly 120 million people in the U.S.

The series also was picked up internationally. Residents of the United Kingdom had access to view it through multiple primetime broadcasts and on demand. It also was available to most of Canada's major population centers, including Montreal, Quebec, Ontario and Victoria, British Columbia.

This is the first WCMU production to ever receive national distribution.

“While this project was driven mainly by Monty and Dan, we were very pleased with the resulting series and were honored to present the series to a nationwide audience,” said Ed Grant, general manager of CMU Public Broadcasting.

Driving Assessment and Training Suite allows CMU researchers to bring rehabilitation to patients' homes. 
​Using telerehabilitation to get people back on the road
CMU faculty create simulator tool targeting patients' needs

January 19, 2015

Brain injury, stroke, neurodegenerative diseases and natural aging often affect driving skills, and for those who have lost their ability to drive​, getting to and from rehabilitation appointments can be a daunting task.

To tackle this issue, a new tool designed by researchers at Central Michigan University will bring targeted rehabilitation to patients in their homes.

“People who live in rural areas or depend on others for transportation may not have the option of going into a clinic," said Rick Backs, director of CMU’s Driving Evaluation, Education and Research Center. "Our system eliminates this issue by bringing rehabilitation right to their homes." 

Backs and DEER Center technology manager Nick Cassavaugh developed the portable simulation tool, which is very much like a specialized video game. The cost-effective tool will enable health care professionals to test a patient's ability to drive and customize rehabilitation programs for the patient to complete at home.

“We call it 'telerehabilitation' because the patients can take the small-scale simulator home and do their training there,” said Backs. “This essentially means clinics don't have to spend $80,000 on large simulators, and they can enable the treatment to happen remotely.”

Backs, a certified driver rehabilitation specialist, is certain patients will benefit greatly from the use of this tool.

“Many patients are more willing to comply with a program if they can do it from home and it isn't troublesome," said Backs. "This can be very motivating for someone who wants to get his or her driving abilities back.”

Putting it to work

The tool, called the Driving Assessment and Training Suite, is very unique because it can be targeted to specific skill deficits of the patients.

“Many other clinic-based simulator systems provide driving scenarios for training and rehabilitation, but they are commercial-based concepts that aren't training any particular skill,” said Backs.

The system uses three components:

  • Assessment. Health care professionals assess a patient's visual cognitive function in their clinics and use the results to create scenarios tailored to the patient's problem areas.
  • Training. The system is sent home with the patient so they can practice the scenarios. It communicates via the Web to send data back and forth between the patient’s home and the clinic.    
  • Configuration. Based on the simulator data received remotely from the patient, clinicians adjust the difficulty of tasks as needed to help with the progression of rehabilitation. 

Next steps

CMU faculty have been collaborating with Cattolica University in Milan, Italy, on further development of the system. The two universities are working on a joint study, which will involve data collection in Italy on younger, middle-aged and older drivers.​

Psychology professors' research featured in special APA issue

December 3, 2014

​​Research by psychology professors Larissa Niec and I. David Acevedo is featured in the American Psychological Association's special issue on mental health treatment for ethnic minorities.​

>>Click here to read the APA press release

​English Language Institute hosts 100 Word Short Story Competition

November 25, 2014
Video story by CM Life​


Niijkewehn Mentoring Program

Native American CMU students mentor local Native American youth

November 19, 2014

Research indicates Native Americans have the lowest high school and college graduation rates, as well as the highest high school and college dropout rates of any cultural group.

These statistics spurred Central Michigan University sociology professor David Kinney to take action.

Kinney secured funding in 2001 to create a pilot mentoring program at CMU. The program pairs Native American college students enrolled at CMU with 5th through 8th grade Saginaw Chippewa Indian students. The CMU students serve as mentors for the youth and they interact through a variety of cultural, educational and recreational activities.

The program, called Niijkewehn, is interpreted by one Ojibwe elder as “the one I walk on my path with.”

Program mentor Davis Timmer, a senior from Muskegon, believes programs like this are important because they guarantee young people that there is someone who cares about them.

"We do not know the history or background of these students, and I don’t know the types of adversity these students may be facing at school or in the community," said Timmer. "Though during the time we have together, my colleagues and I are putting forth everything to raise the students' self-esteem and influence them how to reach their personal goals in life." 

Although funding wasn’t available to continue the program in the early 2000s, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe approached CMU in 2011 with interest in having it revived. It has since grown fivefold in size and is transforming numerous lives.

“I have seen this program inspire our Native American college students to become professional and cultural leaders,” said Kinney. “This gives them a vision of a future where they can give back to their tribes.”

The three goals of the program are to:

  • address the historically low rates of high school graduation and college attendance among Native Americans;
  • lower the current high rates of involvement in high-risk behaviors among Native Americans, such as substance use and abuse, teen pregnancy, and suicide; and,
  • strengthen and sustain Native American children’s and college students’ cultural identities.

“This program benefits the mentees and the mentors,” said Kinney. “The adolescents are impacted by seeing examples of academic success first-hand. Mentors see they can make a difference in young people’s lives, ultimately motivating them to stay in college.”

Kinney’s long-term plan is for the program to have three layers. Once the middle school students get into high school, they will mentor younger members, and Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribal leaders will mentor the college students.

“It is important for institutions like CMU to give back to their communities and help address local needs,” said Kinney. “We hope to reach as many students as possible.” 

CHARGE Lab researchers

Psychology students, professor study rare genetic disorder in CHARGE Syndrome Research Lab

November 19, 2014
By Lexi Carter, CM Life

When Tim Hartshorne’s son Jacob was born, he was different than the rest of the infants delivered that day.​
Jacob was one of 15,000 births to carry a rare genetic disease caused by the mutation of a specific gene, commonly known as CHARGE syndrome.​

In CHARGE, the C stands for coloboma, which results in a missing piece in the eye. H stands for heart defect. A is for atresia of the choanae, which means that the openings in the back of the nose that allow air to pass are blocked. The R is for retarded growth or development. G is for genital hypoplasia and the E is for ear malformations.

“The interesting thing about CHARGE is that the kids vary in  the extent of which they are affected by the different anomalies,” Hartshorne said. “I think the most important things about it are the multi-sensory impairments. They have lots and lots of different kinds of sensory issues which makes it very very challenging.”

The sensory impairments include visual impairments, an impaired sense of smell and balance problems because the mechanism that controls balance in the inner ear is malformed.

Hartshorne first decided to focus his research on CHARGE in the mid '90s. When the lab was created, there were only one or two students. Now the lab has grown to have seven active members, both graduate and undergraduate students.

Each student in the lab has a research project they are working in that focuses on some aspect of CHARGE syndrome. The meetings in the lab are directed towards keeping people on task with their projects and seeing if anyone needs assistance.

 “I try to put people into their own projects," Hartshorne said. "It’s a little exhausting for me because I’m supervising lots of projects, but it’s really nice because it give people a sense of identity when they’re in the lab that they are important and what they’re doing is significant.”

CMU steps up

The lab is essential for students when applying for graduate school and is equally important for graduate students who need research and dissertations.

Students get to become an expert in something that not many people know about.

“These guys know more about CHARGE syndrome than some of the professionals in the area of CHARGE syndrome,” Hartshorne said. “They get out there and they get recognized.”

Megan Schmittel, a graduate student in the school of psychology from Warrenton, Mo., said the lab is extremely beneficial in terms of research and gathering ideas for topics and how to conduct them. Traveling is also a regular occurrence when students are a part of the CHARGE lab.

“Being able to bounce ideas off of Tim and your peers is really helpful in that respect. I get social aspects from it because we do have a lot of fun,” Schmittel said. “Being able to travel, meet people around the world, learn different things from different people and spread out and connect with other professionals is great. There are a lot of really amazing opportunities.”

Schmittel is researching the development of social play in kids with CHARGE syndrome and how it could possibly hinder their ability to develop social skills.

“I want to see if social skills develops differently in kids with charge and how that affects their behavior and their self-regulation, because we do see some behavior problems and some social issues in kids with CHARGE,” Schmittel said “I’m kind of wondering if there is a connection between if they have delayed social play, if that’s affecting social skills because play is important in the development of those skills”

Rachel Malta, a graduate student in the school of psychology from Roseville, is planning on working in school systems and hopes that the lab will help her work not only with children with CHARGE, but others as well.

“It’s really great for me to be able to learn about a specific population of students and how best I can support them in the school,” Malta said. “It’s also not just for CHARGE students, because a lot of these characteristics aren’t just for kids with CHARGE, but with deaf or blindness. I could encounter kids that have that in general, and it really helps me learn how best I can address this in the schools.”

When working with kids with CHARGE, Schmittel said it is important to focus on the child and their individualities.

“You really have to look at the child in terms of how you’re going to intervene with them, and you can't just have this kind of catch all intervention,” Schmittel said. “That taught me when I’m working with any child I need to look at the kid as a person. I need to figure out who they are as a person and what kind of challenges they’re facing instead of just changing them.”

Today, Hartshorne’s son is 25 years old and on the low functioning end of CHARGE syndrome.

“It’s the best thing that ever happened to me. He made my career,” Hartshorne said. “Because of Jacob I travel the world. I’m an international expert on something. It’s just wonderful. I thank him all the time. Not everybody does research because of personal interest or personal investment.” 

>>View article on CM Life website

Steve Hochstadt

Holocaust historian shares story of Jewish refugees in Shanghai

November 18, 2014
By Grant Lefaive, CM Life

Steve Hochstadt, a professor at Illinois State University and a renowned German historian, came to Central Michigan University's Plachta Auditorium Monday night to explain the Holocaust from a perspective that’s almost unheard of: the story of Jewish refugees fleeing to Shanghai, China to escape Nazi persecution.

Hochstadt is the son and grandson of Jewish refugees who managed to escape persecution by leaving Austria in 1938. His father fled Vienna for New York while his grandparents made the long, uncertain trip to Shanghai.

“The anti-Semitism which led to the Holocaust was a particularly European disease which was not catching in Asia,” Hochstadt said. “The Japanese were gentle with their Jewish prisoners, and although the Germans frequently asked, encouraged, and demanded that they do something about the Jews, they never did.”

Shanghai was certainly not the preferred destination for Jews fleeing Europe, Hochstadt explained, but the immigration limits imposed by other countries, including the United States, severely limited their options. China demanded no paperwork and no special documentation from refugees, so families began to pour in during the late 1930s. However, soon after 1939, this means of escape was closed at both ends by Germans and the Japanese.

This relatively open policy, while short-lived, led to 18,000 Jews taking up residence in Shanghai, where they lived in relative peace beside their Chinese neighbors and Japanese occupiers. The Japanese, who took Shanghai out of colonial control the same day as the attack on Pearl Harbor, treated Jews with respect and had no interest in persecuting them.

“By looking at the Holocaust from Asia, I think I saw more than I had realized that anti-Semitism, racial hatred and the genocide the resulted is something that is culturally specific. It isn’t about a particular people,” Hochstadt said.

Jews living in Shanghai were relegated to the slums of the city but were able to leave their designated area for work and travel. This was a far cry from the situation in the Warsaw ghetto 5,000 miles away.

Jews living in Shanghai knew almost nothing of the horrors of concentration camps and death marches. Comparably, the situation in Japanese-controlled Shanghai was livable, and it was for this reason that many Shanghai refugees were silent with their stories for many years after the end of the war. Hochstadt’s work, which included interviewing over 100 Jewish survivors, was a major breakthrough in an incredible story that may have otherwise been overshadowed by the horror of the genocide in Europe.

“It’s a responsibility. Issues of war and justice are some of the most important things to people,” said professor Eric Johnson, co-chair of the Abel Speaker’s Series Committee.

Johnson, a professor of German history and longtime friend of Hochstadt, welcomed the guest speaker onto the stage Monday night. The two have been friends since they were roommates at Brown University 48 years ago and have dedicated countless hours to studying the subject.

The Jewish presence in Shanghai may be an obscure subject for Americans, but the Chinese government is proud of the fact that Jewish refugees found asylum in their country. The Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, established in 2007, is the only museum in Shanghai dedicated to a foreign culture.

Monday night’s event was sponsored by the Dr. Harold Abel Endowed Lecture Series in the Study of Dictatorship, Democracy, and Genocide, an ongoing program to educate students on the nature of such topics.

“This particular lectureship was established in 2009 in honor of Dr. Abel, who was an educator and president here at CMU for 10 years,” said Dr. Pamela Gates, dean of the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Dr. Harold Abel was the president of CMU from 1975-1985 and was CMU’s only Jewish president.​


CMU opens new center to provide autism assessment, treatment and training.

New CMU center to provide autism assessment, treatment and training

October 30, 2014

A new center at Central Michigan University will help tackle Autism Spectrum Disorder. ASD is the fastest growing developmental disability in the U.S., affecting approximately one in 68 children according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Central Autism Assessment and Treatment Clinic will provide diagnosis and treatment to children and adolescents in central and northern Michigan. The new center is one of only eight of its kind in Michigan, and one of only two that train professionals in diagnosis and treatment.

The center, which opened this week with financial support from the Michigan Department of Community Health, is addressing priority needs in Michigan by decreasing the wait time for a diagnosis and for receiving applied behavior analysis therapy.

“With an increase in ASD referrals, we need more practitioners who have specific training in this area to promote accurate diagnosis,” said center director Christie Nutkins. “We can help one child at a time but we can impact many more people by training CMU students on how to accurately diagnose this growing disability.”

For those visiting the new clinic, a comprehensive multi-disciplinary assessment is completed in order to reach a diagnosis. The assessment includes interviews with parents and/or caregivers, speech and language evaluation, a full psychological battery test; and a medical examination by a CMU College of Medicine pediatrician.

According to the CDC, it is estimated to cost at least $17,000 more per year to care for a child with ASD compared to a child without ASD.

“The diagnosis portion is very important as a diagnosis is needed for insurance companies to cover treatment,” said Nutkins.

Following diagnosis, patients will be treated at the center through applied behavior analysis. Graduate and undergraduate students will be involved to assist in treatment.

“Intensive intervention makes a difference,” said psychology faculty member and board certified behavioral analyst Deborah Grossett. “We’ll do whatever we can to help children learn their best and teach them to be more independent.”

Autism spectrum disorder can cause significan​t social, communication and behavior challenges. Symptoms often emerge between two and three years of age. The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends children be screened for ASD at the ages of 18 and 36 months. A diagnosis at a young age can improve the opportunities for early interventions. 

Additional media stories

9&10 News, 11/4/2014
CMU welcomes new ​autism clinic

UpNorth Live, 11/4/2014
Central Michigan University launches first northern Michigan autism clinic

Students from the new CMU course "Games for the Greater Good."

New CMU course offers game-based grading and learning

October 29, 2014

A new honors course at Central Michigan University empowers and engages students by making them characters in a game.

The course, Games for the Greater Good, is set up as a time travel adventure. Students play characters, overcome obstacles and receive experience points as they explore current events alongside past events related to socio-economic status, colonialism and environmental degradation.

Experience points are earned based on criteria like quality of work and effort and help students advance “levels.” As they increase in levels over the semester they receive skills that allow them to further affect the design of the course and their work.

“The goal behind turning the class into a game is, at the most basic level, to see if we can change the way students think about their grades, assignments, classes and how they interact with their classmates,” said Associate Professor of History Jonathan Truitt. “It also is to show them ways they can approach learning that kindles their own excitement for knowledge.”

Truitt said when students receive a grade for their work they usually see that they missed 15 points rather than gained 85. By shifting that focus and providing them with opportunities to learn from their mistakes, they are more excited to try new things and take risks.

Not only is the grading structure part of a game, the class curriculum follows suit. Truitt, designer and instructor of the class, challenges students to teach their classmates create their own games based on course materials and teach use the games to.

Saint Clair senior Cody Armstrong, a student in the new course, was part of a team that developed a role-playing game to help fellow classmates better understand the power of the British Empire. He says games offer students an alternative way to give a presentation.

“This is definitely the most unique and interesting class I’ve ever taken at CMU,” Armstrong said. “It makes you think outside the box because it’s game-based learning.”

The idea for this class was completely new to the CMU curriculum in fall 2014. Truitt said he is very pleased with how it is going so far and that the class brings something innovative to the table so students come in eager to find out what will happen next.

“If the students are able to have fun while learning important information and retain more of the knowledge because their of enjoyment of it then we, as faculty, have won,” said Truitt. “Hopefully that enjoyment will spill over to more excitement that leads them to greater heights of intellectual curiosity at CMU and in their future careers.”

Truitt created the Institute for Simulations and Games at CMU in 2012 to promote the integration of play and fun into the classroom in order to facilitating a greater enjoyment of learning and better retention of the material.

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow tours the Central Michigan University neuroscience facilities with Dr. Gary Dunbar.

Senator Stabenow tours neuroscience labs

October 13, 2014

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow visited the Central Michigan University neuroscience laboratories today to learn about major breakthroughs in the animal research being conducted here and to congratulate the neuroscience program on being named the 2013 Undergraduate Program of the Year by the Society for Neuros​cience, the world’s largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. 

CMU’s neuroscience program integrates the academic disciplines of biology, chemistry, rehabilitation and medical sciences, and psychology. The laboratories are located in the Health Professions Building. 

To view the ​image gallery on Facebook, visit:​.​

Daniele Ruscio in the CMU DEER Center.

​CMU driving center joins forces with Italian university to make roads safer

​September 29, 2014

Two universities whose campuses are more than 4,000 miles apart have come together with a goal of making roads safer around the world.

Central Michigan University and Cattolica University in Milan, Italy, conduct similar traffic psychology research. Using driving simulators and other technology, researchers assess cognitive fitness to drive and conduct research on attention and driving in older adults and in persons with attention, neurological or developmental disorders. 

CMU's research is conducted in the Center for Driving Evaluation, Education and Research in Anspach Hall.

“Our labs have very complementary interests,” said Rick Backs, director of the DEER Center. With CMU in a rural location and Cattolica in an urban location we hope to be able to do research together on rehabilitation and training of vulnerable driver populations that neither of us could do on our own.”

The relationship has recently gained ground with the first exchange between the two institutions. Daniele Ruscio from Cattolica began a one-year term this fall as a postdoctoral faculty member in CMU’s DEER Center. He specializes in traffic and transportation psychology, including how visual attention, emotional regulation and decision-making processes can be trained to prevent road accidents.

“Dr. Ruscio's visit is just the first of what we hope will be ongoing faculty and student exchanges between our labs,” said Backs.

The DEER Center aims to provide clinical services that evaluate cognitive fitness to drive, education to improve driver safety and research on driver’s safety.

Since his arrival in Mount Pleasant, Ruscio has spent much of his time understanding how the DEER Center equipment and software work. He noted many similarities between the two institutions, but also many differences.

“The lab I study at in Italy is primarily research focused, but this center intrigues me as it also offers evaluation and research that help the local community,” said Ruscio.

Maria Ciceri, scientific head of the traffic psychology unit at Cattolica, and Federica Biassoni, a postdoctoral faculty member at Cattolica, visited CMU Sept. 23 through 25 to tour the DEER Center and learn more about CMU’s research. Backs also will visit Cattolica University later this fall to help further strengthen the relationship.

Learn more about the DEER Center here​.

Faculty from Cattolica University in Milan tour the CMU DEER Center.

Constitution Day 2014

CHSBS celebrates Constitution Day, host opening reception for 'Petticoat Patriots' exhibit

September 18, 2014

The College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences celebrated Constitution Day September 17th with a presentation by Emily Fijol, executive director of the Michigan Women's Historical Center and Hall of Fame, and an opening reception for the exhibit "Petticoat Patriots: How Michigan Women Won the Vote." The exhibit is on display through Nov. 4th in Anspach Hall. Admission is free and open to the public weekdays from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.​

>>View photo gallery

Great Lakes Institute for Sustainable Systems to assess event sustainability at Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort

September 17, 2014

The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe enlisted the help of Central Michigan University students to help better manage waste generated at the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort.

“The Soaring Eagle brings in thousands of people every year and a great amount of waste is generated,” said CMU Great Lakes Institute for Sustainable Systems Director Tom Rohrer. “The tribe looked to our institute to provide some expertise on how to better manage and reduce the excess amounts of waste generated within the casino and resort as well as at their large events.”

GLISS is working to identify gaps in the recycling efforts at the Soaring Eagle and develop a program to collect, manage and properly dispose of materials such as paper, plastic, tin, metal, glass, food waste and hazardous waste.

“Funding for this study was received from the Environmental Protection Agency Region Five to conduct this assessment and the results will be shared with other tribal enterprises,” said Sally Kniffen, environmental specialist for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. “The project is the perfect example of working together to protect the environment.”

Since the project began in the fall of 2013, Rohrer and two students have spent several hours assessing the tribe’s current waste management efforts. To review and assess the types and volume of waste generated, the team conducted observations inside the casino and resort and attended two large events, one indoors and one outdoors.

CMU junior Meghan Marx says working on this project has been a positive experience.

“I’ve been able to be very hands-on in this project, even meeting with leaders of the tribe and the CEO of the casino and resort,” said Marx. “This project has helped me realize that I want to pursue a career in sustainability consulting for big businesses.”

Parker Reitler, a CMU senior studying biomedical sciences and chemistry, is supplementing his science background with knowledge on sustainability practices.

“This project has been a welcome and eye-opening insight into both the business side and environmental side of a large business,” said Reitler. “We hope our work will help improve their budget as well as the environment.”

From their assessment, the team created a waste audit for the tribe. This audit will then help the team provide the tribe with recommendations for waste reduction and recycling at the casino and resort. Final recommendations should be delivered sometime this fall.​

Niijkewehn Mentoring Program

Mentor program unites CMU with tribal youth

September 11, 2014

The Niijkewehn mentoring program is a collaboration between Central Michigan University and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. It introduces Native American college students enrolled at CMU to children at local tribal schools for the duration of the school year and summer.

Sociology professor David Kinney helped establish the program with colleagues Colleen Green, director of Native American Programs at CMU, and Hunter Genia, director of the Department of Behavioral Health for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. 

CMU school psychology doctoral student Maria Ramirez introduces Nolan Beavers to Tai Chi.

CMU student researchers study complex genetic disorder

CMU lab provides critical insight into CHARGE syndrome

June 10, 2014

Over the past 10 years, a CMU faculty member and his students have helped the world better understand a relatively rare disorder through research and hands-on interaction.

Central Michigan University houses the only CHARGE syndrome research lab​ in the nation that focuses solely on the complex genetic disorder and its behavioral implications.

“CHARGE syndrome is an extremely complicated condition, and parents are faced with so many surgeries, hospitalizations and doctor visits that it is easy to forget the individual and get caught up in all the ‘medical stuff,’” said David Wolfe, president of the CHARGE Syndrome Foundation. “In the process, the behavioral and psychological components, which in many ways are the most complex portion of the syndrome, are put on the back burner. It is in this critical area that CMU has excelled.”

Psychology professor Tim Hartshorne began researching behavioral issues in those with the syndrome in 1999 and established the CMU CHARGE lab in 2004. In the past 10 years, 22 students have conducted research projects in the lab and interacted with children and families impacted by the syndrome.

“CMU is a leader in trying to develop a better understanding of some of the behaviors that are often associated with CHARGE syndrome,” Wolfe said. “A better understanding always leads to better treatment and strategies.”  

CHARGE syndrome occurs in about one in every 10,000 births worldwide and can cause deafness, blindness, heart defects, growth and development issues, and physical anomalies, according to the CHARGE Syndrome Foundation.

Hartshorne said he is impressed with his students’ enthusiasm for the research and opportunities to work with the children and families.

“The students who work or have worked in CMU’s CHARGE lab have learned a tremendous amount about this relatively rare genetic disorder so that they are actually experts,” Hartshorne said.

Hartshorne and his students have published 30 studies from their research on CHARGE. These studies have explored autistic-like and challenging behavior in CHARGE syndrome, executive function and much more. Families of those affected by CHARGE also benefit directly from these studies as Hartshorne and his students travel to present their research at conferences through the U.S. and around the world.

Current research taking place in the CHARGE Lab includes the development of play in children with CHARGE syndrome, Tai Chi as an intervention for issues, headaches in children with the syndrome and communication systems in CHARGE.​


Museum Studies student awarded internship at Smithsonian

Biology major will spend 10 weeks at the National Museum of Natural History

​June 02, 2014

Central Michigan University junior and biology major and museum studies minor Allison Snider of Novi was recently awarded a summer internship position at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., through the Natural History Research Experiences program.

“Smithsonian internships are among the most competitive opportunities that exist worldwide,” Jay Martin, director of the museum studies program and the CMU Museum of Cultural and Natural History, said. “Allison has already made significant investments in her career over the last couple of years through demonstrated academic excellence, application of theory in the field and a strong commitment to pursue opportunities that build her skills. Being awarded this internship shows that her efforts have paid off.”

NHRE internships run for ten weeks. Fewer than twenty undergraduates from around the world are selected annually to work with museum scientists to complete an independent research project in anthropology, botany, entomology, invertebrate zoology, mineral science, paleobiology or vertebrate zoology. Students receive a $5,500 stipend and free housing accommodations in dormitories at George Washington University.

Under the guidance of biologists Nancy Knowlton and Matthieu Leray in the Department of Invertebrate Zoology at NMNH, Snider will examine the diversity, size distribution and community composition of Trapezia crabs collected by Smithsonian researchers from branching corals at the Southern Line Islands, one of the most remote, uninhabited island archipelagos in the world. Specifically, she will conduct body size measurements and analyze DNA barcodes obtained from each crab specimen in order to determine how coral crab communities differ in these pristine islands impacted by few or no anthropogenic stressors.

Seizing the opportunity to conduct undergraduate research at CMU — an option not available to undergraduates at most other universities — Snider already knows how to analyze DNA from her work with Antarctic specimens in assistant professor of biology Andrew Mahon’s lab.

“I think my experience doing research in professor Mahon’s lab has been incredibly important in helping me prepare for this internship experience,” Snider said. “He was one of my biggest advocates during the internship application process, and working in his lab has taught me countless skills and ways to approach tasks that are definitely going to help me out in the NMNH lab this summer.”

Most coral reefs seen today have already been highly impacted by human activities and are in a degraded state of low coral cover and fish density. The few pristine coral reef ecosystems that remain, such as the ones located in the Line Islands of the central Pacific Ocean, represent ideal systems for understanding how humans have altered ecosystem processes and biodiversity.

“Trapezia crabs in particular are known to be coral mutualists,” Mahon said. “They have a symbiotic relationship with the host coral that they live on by cleaning sediments off the coral tissue that in turn helps keep the coral alive during runoffs caused by modern agricultural practices.”

The crabs also guard the coral from invaders and fend off predators. Given their key functional role, their diversity and community composition have been well studied throughout their distribution range except on the few remaining pristine coral reefs.

“I hope to come away from this experience having learned as much as I can,” Snider said. “To have the opportunity to work with world-class scientists at a premier institution such as the Smithsonian, with a diverse group of peers, I can only begin to imagine all of the different things I will learn from each and every part of this internship.”

Central Michigan University is one of 172 academic institutions nationwide and four in Michigan to offer a museum studies program and provide interdisciplinary preparation to students in an effort to meet the needs of the 35,144 museums in the United States.

Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution is the world's largest museum and research complex, consisting of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, and nine research facilities. Opened in 1910, its National Museum of Natural History offers a collection of over 126 million objects and serves as one of the world’s great repositories of scientific and cultural American heritage.

With access to a world-class research staff and unparalleled scientific research collections, NHRE summer internships are highly competitive and extremely prestigious.

​​ROTC students at the Field Leader's Reaction Course

CMU ROTC's Field Leader's Reaction Course ready to prepare cadets

New ten-obstacle training to support leadership development and team building
ROTC course

June 03, 2014

Central Michigan University’s Army ROTC cadets have a new outdoor training course to complete leadership and team building exercises.

Dedicated and named after former professor of military science and retired Lt. Col. Aaron E. Kalloch, the Field Leader's Reaction Course makes CMU the only ROTC program in the nation to have such a course within a mile from campus. In addition to being used by cadets, the course — located in a wooded area near the corner of Broomfield and Crawford roads — is available to the CMU Leadership Institute and other ROTC battalions throughout Michigan.

“The course challenges you mentally as well as physically,” Maj. Jake Cornett said. “Each obstacle presents a problem to the team. Right now we have approximately nine soldiers who will go through as a team, including a team leader and a squad leader. They will go through each obstacle, which gives them a perspective of what they’re doing right and wrong. Hopefully they’ll learn from what they’re doing wrong and come out of the course a bit stronger.”

The course design and layout mirrors the course at Fort Lewis in Washington, where CMU cadets complete a five-week Leadership Development Assessment Course the summer between their junior and senior years.

The FLRC includes ten obstacles designed to improve cadets’ leadership abilities, assess their leadership traits and behaviors, and provide an opportunity to observe the effects of strengths and weaknesses of others during a team operation.

“I think this is a really good training opportunity,” CMU junior and Ada native Cadet Sven Alm said. “The goal is to accomplish the mission but there are a lot of other useful traits that cadets can learn from this course, especially team building. Some people have different ideas of how to accomplish an obstacle. By understanding what different aspects each person brings to the team, cadets can learn a lot from each other through the completion of this course.”

Land for the course was donated, cleared and prepared by the McGuirk family, and funding was provided by lead donor and retired Brig. Gen. John G. Kulhavi, ’65; the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences; Residences and Auxiliary Services; Facilities Management; and many ROTC alumni.

Central Michigan University has been named a top military-friendly university by Military Advanced Education for the past six consecutive years. Currently there are 155 flag officers with CMU degrees across all branches of military service and 1,062 veterans enrolled at CMU.​​

Ben Harris

CHSBS students awarded Fulbrights to teach English in South Korea and Turkey

Recipients are the third and fourth consecutive CHSBS students to receive the annual award

April 24, 2014

For the first time in its history, Central Michigan University has two students who have been awarded Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships. CMU alumna Sarah Alm of Mount Pleasant and Allen Park senior Ben Harris are the third and fourth consecutive CMU students to receive the annual award.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the flagship international education exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. Fostering partnerships and mutual understanding between U.S. citizens and people of other countries, it provides more than 1,900 grants annually in all fields of study for research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs. Alm and Harris are two of 80 finalists from a pool of nearly 300 applicants to receive teaching assistantships this year.

“I would have never gotten to this point without the support of some amazing professors at CMU, and I especially have to thank Dr. Laura Cochrane in anthropology,” Alm said. “She was my adviser for the Undergraduate Summer Scholars Program research grant that allowed me to study in Turkey two years ago. The faculty are passionate teachers and CMU’s greatest asset, and it’s them I have to thank.”

Alm, a recent graduate with a major in music and minor in anthropology, is completing a yearlong development internship at the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra in Boulder, Colo. In 2012, she spent two weeks conducting interviews and recording songs in Turkey to determine if similarities existed between Turkish lullabies and the Ojibwe language of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.

Phame Camerena, director of the CMU Honors and National Scholarship Program, said Alm’s successful application for the Fulbright award stems from her respect and passion for Turkish people and their culture.

Sarah Alm“Turkey is an important national partner for the United States, but it is a country that few Americans understand well,” Camerena said. “The fact that Sarah was selected by Turkey for this award highlights her understanding, appreciation and respect for the people there. She will be a strong cultural ambassador for our two nations.”

Upon her return to the U.S., Alm intends to apply to physician assistant graduate programs and hopes to work with international rescue groups.

Harris, an English and history major, will graduate from CMU in May and travel to South Korea in July. In 2013 he studied at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, a seat of government in the Netherlands, and Korea University, where he took a particular interest in Korean judge and diplomat Yi Jun, a model of peaceful arbitration who sparked Harris’ interest in international law.  

Harris credits his decision to return to the country on a Fulbright assistantship to the affordability of the program and support from CMU’s National Scholarship Program office.

“The professors really care about their students and to be in a university this supportive is really important to me, because I came here to get the best education,” Harris said.

Harris intends to pursue a law degree in the U.S. after his Fulbright experience in South Korea.

“As with other top students, Ben is strong in research, writing and critical thinking,” Jonathan Truitt, associate professor of history, said. “What sets Ben apart is his application of these skills outside the classroom, where he embraces possibilities and creates new educational experiences. He is the ideal person for this award because I know he will work just as hard to create opportunities for his own learning as he will to foster the learning of his students.”

Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in more than 140 countries worldwide.​

Rob Fritchman (far left) receives the CMU President's Award 

​Sociology student wins CMU President's Award

April 16, 2014

Sociology major Robert Fritchman (far left) received the CMU President's Award during the annual Student Research and Creative Endeavors Exhibition in April. Robert is researching the impact of socioeconomic status and race differences on the perceived prestige of jobs held by college graduates. He found that college graduates whose parents had no college education held jobs with lower occupational prestige than college graduates whose parents had a college education.

His paper, "Parental Educational Influence on College Graduates' Subsequent Occupational Prestige: Does Social Class and Race Matter?", won first place in the North Central Sociological Association's annual undergraduate student research paper competition earlier this month. Rob will pursue his doctorate in sociology at Western Michigan University this fall.​

Neuroscience major Rebecca Culver (third from left) receives the CMU Provost's Award.

Neuroscience student wins CMU Provost's Award

April 16, 2014

Neuroscience major Rebecca Culver (third from left) received the CMU Provost's Award during the annual Student Research and Creative Endeavors Exhibition in April. She is exploring a novel way in which dopaminergic neurons can be generated from stem cells. This research may provide a more efficient way to treat Parkinson's disease. 

CMU neuroscience professor Gary Dunbar notes that Rebecca's work has been part of several published manuscripts from the neuroscience lab. She's also presented her work at the Society for Neuroscience national meetings during the past two years, and at the Michigan Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience meetings during the past three years.

CHSBS announces Teaching Excellence Award recipients

April 15, 2014

​Anthropology faculty member Cathy Willermet has been named the 2014 CHSBS Maroon Excellence in Teaching Award recipient. The award recognizes a CHSBS faculty member who creates exceptional learning opportunities for our students. 

Her nominator said: "In addition to her outstanding classroom teaching, Dr. Willermet works with many students outside of the classroom. Whether she is teaching upper-level courses to anthropology majors and minors, or lower-level UP courses to primarily students who will never take another anthropology course, student response is consistently, wildly positive. Dr. Willermet is clearly a very talented, enthusiastic, and very much appreciated instructor.”

Philosophy faculty member Matthew Katz received the 2014 CHSBS Gold Excellence in Teaching Award, which recognizes a fixed-term CHSBS faculty member who creates exceptional learning opportunities for our students. 

His nominator said: "Dr. Katz deserves this award because he is an amazingly dedicated teacher. The amount of time he spends preparing for class, improving his classes, and making sure his grading is done properly benefits his students and his colleagues."

CHSBS dean Pamela Gates presented the awards to Willermet and Katz during surprise visits to their classrooms. Each recipient is selected by the CHSBS Excellence in Teaching Committee, which is chaired by Marcy Taylor, CHSBS assistant dean, and includes a representative from each CHSBS department.

Dr. Cathy Willermet and Dean Pamela Gates

Dr. Matthew Katz and Dean Pamela Gates

CMU students earn Honorable Mention at Model UN

April 10, 2014

A group of 19 Central Michigan University students traveled to New York City in April to participate in the 2014 National Model United Nations conference. The CMU team earned an Honorable Mention designation for their efforts in representing Italy. NMUN is an international conference where more than 5,000 students from around the world collaborate to find solutions to real life problems.

​CHSBS faculty win CMU teaching awards

March 5, 2014

​Psychology professor Larissa Niec is recipient of the 2014 CMU President's Award. Niec is an internationally recognized researcher, a licensed psychologist and one of only 16 Parent-Child Interaction Therapy Master Trainers worldwide. 

English faculty member Matthew Echelberger is recipient of a 2014 CMU Excellence in Teaching Award. 

Niec and Echelberger will receive their awards during the 2014 Faculty Excellence Exhibition 3 p.m. Wednesday, March 19, in the Park Library Auditorium. 

>>Read more

Larissa Niec

 Matthew Echelberger

CHSBS professors Rebecca Hayes and Hope May named Women of Excellence

March 6, 2014

Rebecca HayesCHSBS faculty members Rebecca Hayes and Hope May were honored as Women of Excellence March 6 at the 2014 CMU Woman of the Year Luncheon by the CMU American Council on Education.

Hayes has been a faculty member in the department of sociology, anthropology and social work since 2009. She has a bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University, a master’s degree from Michigan State University and a doctoral degree from the University of Florida. She was nominated because of her role as a mentor of female students, an ally to the LGBTQ community and as an activist in the community.

May is a philosophy faculty member, licensed attorney, and has been the director of the CMU Center for Professional and Personal Ethics since 2003. She has a bachelor’s degree from The William Paterson College of New Jersey, as well as master's, doctoral and Juris Doctor degrees from Michigan State University. She was nominated because of her work in human rights and international criminal justice that includes and promotes the work of women.​

Hope May 


​Central Michigan University students study zombies through religion course
Philosophy and religion faculty member Kelly Murphy
"From Revelation to 'The Walking Dead'" ties biblical texts to pop culture

Central Michigan University students are studying zombies through “From Revelation to ‘The Walking Dead,’” a course that explores ancient texts and apocalyptic themes in the media.

“Thinking about the end and imagining life in a different way is something that humans have always done,” said Kelly Murphy, a philosophy and religion faculty member.

Murphy said she has always wanted to teach a course on apocalyptic literature, and she is a fan of “The Walking Dead.”

“The prevalence of apocalyptic stories in various media gives us a window into what people are worrying about, what they hope for and how they imagine they would react in the face of a cataclysmic event,” Murphy said. “In the same way, we can read the Book of Revelation or other ancient apocalyptic texts and learn what ancient Jewish and Christian groups were concerned about and what kind of world they hoped might exist.”

Murphy’s class will discuss ancient biblical texts including the books of Daniel, Enoch and Revelation; review popular novels such as “World War Z;” and watch clips from zombie movies such as “Shaun of the Dead” and “28 Days Later.”

“It’s important to incorporate popular culture into classroom settings because it gives students a means of connecting with the subject,” said Kevin White, a St. Clair Shores senior majoring in political science and religion. “Studying ancient biblical texts isn’t most people’s cup of tea. But, when you add zombies, it instantly becomes everyone’s cup of tea.”

Mount Pleasant senior Devon Wright, an English and history major, has never taken a religion course before and enrolled in the class because of her interest in zombies.

“In the first few weeks, we watched a lot of clips from zombie films and basically went through a history of zombies,” Wright said. “I like the idea of talking about something that’s a theme in pop culture and trying to give it some academic understanding.”

Students also will discuss hypothetical ethical and theological problems people could encounter in a postapocalyptic world.

“In ‘The Walking Dead,’ I think you’re more afraid of the people than the zombies because you don’t know who you can trust,” Wright said. “Zombies you know to stay away from. You’re more afraid of humanity than the undead.”

There are many theories about what zombies represent—such as communism, terrorism, consumerism or environmental disaster, Murphy said. Students in the class will discuss many of these themes in relation to ancient texts and current portrayals in the media.

“I think the professor is dealing with religion in a way where we’re talking about the Bible in a hands-on, easy-to-understand way,” Wright said. “I think most of the students aren’t even religion majors. Most of them just have an interest in zombies.”​


CMU opens one of few parent/child training and research centers in country, expanding parent-child interaction therapy services

Center launched with $375,000 grant from National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

December 16, 2013

Central Michigan University’s new Center for Children, Families and Communities expands parent-child interaction therapy services to families in need throughout the state. PCIT is an innovative method to help families with young children experiencing behavior problems learn healthy ways to interact.

The center is one of a few parent/child training locations in the country. It was launched this fall with a $375,000 grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The center utilizes state-of-the-art technology to provide real-time coaching to parents to help them learn and practice healthy discipline techniques and enhance their parent-child relationships.

Psychology faculty members Larissa Niec and Ignacio Acevedo are co-directors of the center, leading the PCIT therapy and providing real-world training for CMU undergraduate and graduate students. Opening the center also allows greater opportunities to conduct externally funded research.

“Creating this center significantly increases our capacity for research and training,” said Niec. “Now we’re competing with more research intensive schools like Duke, University of Southern California and University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

“We’re working to teach parents to interact with their children in healthy ways,” said Niec. “Historically that’s been done by meeting with the parents, talking about problems and suggesting skills to work on at home. Now with the use of technology we can be involved in real-time parent/child coaching sessions and help them learn and practice skills. And we can monitor the results and make immediate adjustments.”

As many as 35 graduate and undergraduate students each year will gain firsthand knowledge of PCIT and use of cutting-edge technology in the field to help facilitate therapy.

“Having a facility like this with new clients coming through the door really allows for us as first-year students to get involved in opportunities in a clinical setting,” said Jacob White, clinical psychology doctoral candidate from Shelby, Mich. “This typically wouldn’t happen until the second year or later, it really gives you a jump-start.”

Additionally, the center provides PCIT training to professionals in the field throughout the state and across the U.S., expanding the use of the innovative therapy.

“With our telehealth system we can provide training and follow-up consultations to more professionals,” said Niec. “This allows us to further the reach of PCIT therapy to communities beyond the region, even globally.”

The center is located adjacent to CMU’s campus at 2480 West Campus Drive, Suite B100.​


CMU neuroscience student Tia Hall.

CMU's neuroscience program named top in nation

November 11, 2013

Central Michigan University's undergraduate neuroscience program has been selected as the 2013 Undergraduate Program of the Year by the Society for Neuroscience, the world’s largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system.

The award recognizes the accomplishments of a neuroscience department or program for excellence in educating neuroscientists and providing an innovative model other programs can follow. The award was presented at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting on Nov. 10 in San Diego.

CMU’s undergraduate program is very deserving of this award, says Gary Dunbar, director of the neuroscience program.

“This award speaks highly of our program,” said Dunbar.  “Our collective efforts of more than 30 years have been recognized by the international neuroscience community.”

Award recipients are selected for excellence in teaching and positively influencing the lives and careers of their students.

Dunbar works with a team of approximately 50 undergraduate and graduate students every year in CMU’s neuroscience research program. Many of Dunbar’s students receive state and national recognition for their work in the field.

“Research is a critical part of the education we provide, and a lot of young students in our program take advantage of it,” Dunbar said. “I think that’s what we offer that undergraduates can’t get as readily at other major research universities. We’re very proud of integrating students into research.”

In the last five years, CMU students have won nine out of 10 of the awards given to Michigan’s outstanding undergraduate neuroscientists from the Society for Neuroscience. Earlier this year, CMU graduate student Kyle Fink from Lovell, Wyo., received the prestigious Founders Award from the society’s Michigan chapter.

Dunbar and his research team are involved in a new study poised to help reduce cognitive deficits after a stroke. He believes their research may promote recovery from brain damage caused by stroke, traumatic brain injury and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s.

​ ​​​​​