CHSBS in the News

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.png ​"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.”​


​​New behavior analyst certification program to help autism spectrum patients

​January 27, 2014 from CM Life

CMU's new board certified behavior analyst program will train students to provide services for children with autism and other learning disorders. Students with majors and minors in psychology are eligible to apply. "There is a big need with over 15,000 kids with autism in Michigan and less than 200 behavior analysts," says psychology professor Michael Hixson. Read more

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.

CMU hosts international events to honor centenary of the Peace Palace

Central Michigan University philosophy professor Hope May. 

Photos published October 29, 2013: View on Facebook

Philosophy professor Hope May and Central Michigan University received international recognition this summer for May’s efforts in organizing educational outreach activities surrounding the centennial anniversary of the Peace Palace—known as the seat of international law.

May organized an international conference in The Netherlands for students and young professionals Aug. 25-27 and hosted a public educational ceremony with keynote speakers Leymah Gbowee, a peace activist who received the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize; Brigid Inder, executive director of the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice; and Stephen J. Rapp, U.S. Ambassador for Global Criminal Justice.

She received a $55,000 grant from the Planethood Foundation to develop student engagement opportunities and build public awareness about the International Criminal Court, the history of international law and the “Peace through Law” approach. Additional funding came from the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences and the Department of Philosophy and Religion at CMU.

The Planethood Foundation, an initiative of former Nuremberg Prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz and his son Donald, supports projects pertaining to the International Criminal Court and educational efforts to replace the law of force with the force of law.

“Dr. Hope May is one of the real leaders in the field of trying to make people understand the true value of international law and the International Criminal Court,” says Don Ferencz. “She has been the pioneer in establishing a foothold for students coming to The Hague to introduce them to and to further their interest in this field.”

May also distributed packages of materials about peace history and international law to 30 partners across the globe, including locations in China, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

“It is important that the story of the Peace Palace and the centenary be recognized beyond The Hague,” May says.

“The preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, ‘Every person and every institution shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these fundamental rights and freedoms,’” she says. “Sharing the story of the Peace Palace and the movement that surrounded it is one way to do this. So, I am simply doing what I know I must do. I am simply doing what needs to be done.”

Located in The Hague, Netherlands, the Peace Palace is home to the “World Court” of the United Nations, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Hague Academy of International Law, and an extensive library dedicated to international law. It was built with funds donated by Andrew Carnegie and opened on August 28, 1913.

Benjamin Ferencz says he’s looking forward to continuing his collaboration with May.

“Her work is very impressive and demonstrates her skill, dedication, determination and talent – for all of which we are most grateful,” he says. “Mr. Carnegie would be proud.”

State of Michigan Awards $500,000 to CMU psychology faculty for behavior analysis training to treat autism

October 9, 2013

The Michigan Department of Community Health has awarded $500,000 to psychology professors to increase the number of professionals trained to serve individuals in Michigan with autism spectrum disorders.

CMU faculty members Carl Merle Johnson, Sharon Bradley-Johnson, Michael Hixson, Mark Reilly and Katrina Rhymer will train students in applied behavior analysis, which focuses on improving social behaviors of individuals with autism using intervention practices to modify actions and teach new skills.

“Behavior analysis is considered the best treatment of choice for autism because of the results it provides,” said Johnson. “Every individual who receives treatment experiences some improvement. That’s why it’s so important for us to train more people to be able to provide the service. The need is great and growing, particularly here in central and northern Michigan.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports one in 88 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder, a neurological condition that affects normal brain function and impacts communication and interaction skills. The U.S. Department of Education estimates the number of individuals diagnosed with ASD is growing nationally at a rate of 10 to 17 percent a year.

The one-year grant began Oct. 1 and will certify 25 undergraduate students as Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts and eight graduate students as Board Certified Behavior Analysts. The grant is part of a statewide effort to improve services for people with autism. CMU’s program is designed to serve those in central and northern Michigan.

Later this semester, students can submit applications to CMU’s psychology department to participate in the program. Training of the first group of students will begin in January.

The use of applied behavior analysis techniques as treatment for individuals with autism has been effective in reducing inappropriate behavior and improvements in communication, social relationships, play, self-care, school and employment. Studies indicate applied behavior analysis, when implemented intensively and early in life, may produce significant gains in development and a reduction in the need for special services.

“Applied behavior analysis may not decrease the number of cases of autism,” said Bradley-Johnson, “but it can certainly improve the quality of life for individuals with autism and their families.”

New entrance to Anspach HallCMU completes $14.4 million Anspach renovations

September 24, 2013

Central Michigan University has completed the final phase of the two-year Anspach Hall renovation project that began in the summer of 2012. The $14.4 million renovation modernizes the building, which has not been updated since its $2.4 million construction in 1966, by updating the ventilation infrastructure, constructing new sidewalks that are more handicapped-accessible and adding a new space for a student lounge, offices and conference rooms.

“It’s well worth the cost,” says Timothy Hall, associate dean of the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences. “The building is much more usable for students and faculty, and it’s much more energy efficient. In terms of sustainability, there will be some recovery in terms of the cost of the project over the life of the building.”

The newly renovated building is projected to save the university more than $50,000 a year in energy costs. Hall says the decision to completely renovate the building began with a discussion to update Anspach Hall’s heating, cooling and ventilation systems.

As part of the second phase of renovations, CMU completed updates on the new high-tech ventilation system to better control indoor temperatures in the most cost-efficient way; modernized the electrical systems with new lighting and occupancy sensors; added a new roof over the office area and a canopy over the west entrance; constructed new sidewalks that are more handicapped-accessible; and added a new space to the building that allows for a student lounge, extra offices and two new conference rooms.

Sara VanderVeen, project manager with the plant engineering and planning department in facilities management, says the renovations will prove to be a great benefit to the university and the more than 25,000 students who walk through Anspach Hall each week.

“Design matters,” VanderVeen said. “It’s the most heavily used building on campus, one of the major faces of the university. For students to have a place like the student lounge to work together and mingle in between classes is an exciting opportunity. It makes for a much more pleasant experience.

>>Click here to view photo gallery of the new lounge




New study at CMU could help reduce cognitive deficits after a stroke

September 23, 2013

Gary Dunbar, director of the neuroscience program at Central Michigan University, believes his research team may have taken a step in the right direction toward furthering research to promote the recovery of the brain after damage caused by stroke, traumatic brain injury, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s.

Dunbar, who was quoted in a feature by Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, says the method used in his research is innovative to the field.

“Our research uses a relatively new way of assessing cognitive problems after a stroke, a fairly recent technique to create a stroke in a mouse, and it uses adult stem cells to treat the stroke,” Dunbar said. “The combination of those three relatively new techniques combined makes it a fairly interesting and novel study.”

As part of the research, rats are injected in the brain with a hormone that temporarily constricts blood vessels that carry oxygen. By depriving the brain tissue of oxygen, the cells begin to die out, mimicking a stroke. This allows the team to assess cognitive learning problems that follow a stroke, such as memory difficulties.

To treat the stroke, the team injects bone-marrow-derived stem cells into the brain that produce proteins to reduce brain swelling and help damaged cells survive, function better or return to normal function faster.

In evaluating the experiment, Dunbar and his team discovered stroke rats that were injected with stem cells could perform tasks with significantly fewer mistakes than rats with strokes that did not receive the stem cell injections. In fact, Dunbar reports that stem cell-treated stroke rats could perform nearly as well as rats that did not have a stroke.

“The stem cells are producing proteins to help the brain work better,” Dunbar said. “The question we’re asking is if these stem cells can produce proteins to help the brain remember and reduce cognitive deficits. We believe these stem cells can do that.”

Dunbar credits lead author and CMU alumnus Steven Lowrance, ’13, for the success of this project. Dunbar works with a team of approximately 50 students every year in his neuroscience research. Many of Dunbar’s graduate and undergraduate students receive state and national recognition for their work in the field.

“It speaks highly of our program,” Dunbar said. “It’s a critical part of their education and a lot of young students in our program take advantage of it. 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.”

CMU students dig the real-world archaeology experience

Anthropology summer course takes students to Emmet County
June 24, 2013

Central Michigan University anthropology students spent last week driving their shovels into the ground to unearth the past in Emmet County. As part of their Archaeological Field Methods summer course, approximately 10 students traveled to the historic McGulpin Point Lighthouse to dig up the building’s storied history.

The McGulpin Point Lighthouse, built in 1869, operated as a beacon in the Straits of Mackinac for ships carrying lumber and ore to Chicago until its light was extinguished in 1906.

During their stay in Emmet County, CMU students received hands-on archaeology experience digging at the site of a former barn. Students utilized excavation practices, such as removing 10-centimeter layers of dirt within established boundaries, sifting the dirt and examining its contents. The class was careful to keep extensive journals on its research activity and draw detailed maps.

During their excavation, students discovered several artifacts, including a pocketknife and the remains of a child’s toy.

“The artifacts tell us a little bit more about the rich story of the personalities and the people who lived here,” says Sarah Surface-Evans, CMU anthropology faculty member leading the summer course.

After a period of cleaning and analysis at CMU, the artifacts are sent back to the lighthouse to be displayed and offer visitors a look into the past.

Senior Steven Smendzuik of Beulah says Surface-Evans emphasizes the importance of excavating systematically and with respect.

“I think I’ll be walking away with a lot of skills that I can take forward into a career in cultural resources management,” Smendzuik said, speaking to his career goals of conducting archaeological work for the U.S. government. “It’s very important work.”

In addition to the excavation at McGulpin Point Lighthouse, students also had the opportunity to work with the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe at the former Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School site. Surface-Evans says conducting the course at the Boarding School is unique because most field schools do not have the opportunity to work directly with their community like CMU’s course allows them to.

Click here to view photo gallery



CMU students win top awards at state neuroscience conference

CMU has won nine out of 10 undergraduate awards in past five years

 Kyle Fink

June 19, 2013 —

Central Michigan University’s Kyle Fink of Lovell, Wyo. is this year’s recipient of the state’s most coveted award for outstanding neuroscience research by a graduate student. The Michigan Chapter of the Society of Neuroscience honored Fink with the Founders Award.

In addition, seniors Phillip Starski of Goodrich and Tia Hall from Inkster both received top honors for their undergraduate neuroscience research. They competed with 33 other undergraduate neuroscientists from around the state. In the last five years, CMU has won nine out of 10 awards given to Michigan’s outstanding undergraduate neuroscientists.

“This award is a tremendous honor for me,” said Fink. “I am the first awardee from CMU and one of the first outside of UM, MSU or Wayne State to win the award. This truly reflects the growth of the lab and is a validation of the research that is being conducted at CMU.”

Fink’s research involves the use of adult stem cell therapies for Huntington's disease. He has been working with a new type of adult stem cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells, which can be isolated from non-embryonic tissue, such as skin cells, and transformed into any cell in the body, including brain cells. This technology has tremendous potential for diseases associated with aging.

“Kyle, Phil and Tia are great examples of the many outstanding students we have in our neuroscience program who have taken full advantage of the student-centered, cutting-edge research opportunities here at CMU,” said Gary Dunbar, psychology and neuroscience faculty member. “The magnitude of their research has the potential to positively impact treatments for some of the major neurological diseases that affect millions of people throughout the world.”

Starski is exploring stem cells taken from fat tissue. He’s researching whether stem cells taken from fat are as good as stem cells from bone marrow. He has found the cells reduce some of the symptoms of Huntington’s disease in mice.

Hall is researching a possible therapeutic treatment for Alzheimer’s disease using an experimental drug, examining its effectiveness in alleviating some of the symptoms. With no cure or effective treatment for Alzheimer’s, this type of study is crucial in helping scientists better understand the neurodegenerative disorder.

“Receiving an honor of this caliber would not have been possible without the phenomenal undergraduate research experience I received at the Field Neurosciences Research Laboratory at CMU,” said Hall. “The training and support given by my adviser, Gary Dunbar, the graduate students and my peers that aided me in conducting this research project. I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to be surrounded by, doing what I love — research.”

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