10 highlights from UM-Flint in 2021

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A student using a glove chopstick invention
Automatic chopsticks are just one of the incredible final projects created by students in the first CIT 100 class.

As 2021 quickly comes to a close, it is plain to see that the UM-Flint community has done some truly amazing things this year. Students, faculty, and staff made it their mission to embrace innovation, achieving in ways we couldn't have imagined in years past. From life-saving inventions to much-needed campus celebrations, the work of UM-Flint in 2021 was a relentless pursuit of new possibilities.

With so many accomplishments in every discipline and area across the university, it would be impossible to provide a comprehensive list in this article. Continue reading for just 10 highlights (among many, many more) of the transformative work done by the UM-Flint community this year.

10. MSB Expansion Opens

Student and professor looking at a piece of equipment.
Examining the Rankine Cycler in the MSB Expansion's Thermodynamics Lab.

On January 28, 2021, the grand opening of the Murchie Science Building Expansion took place in a virtual format. The Expansion added 61,000 sq. ft. of collaborative spaces, flexible classrooms, state-of-the-art laboratories, and student-centered design to a campus building that originally opened its doors in 1988.

"We want our community and our students to be excited to explore all of what STEM has to offer rather than to develop self-limiting beliefs about their capabilities to learn mathematics or science," CAS Dean Susan Gano-Phillips said at the event.

9. College of Innovation & Technology Courses Begin

A student team displaying robotic chopstick glove.
Students in CIT 100: Technology Foundations recently presented their final projects that solve a real-world problem. Pictured above, students demonstrate their design for a robotic chopstick glove, an assistive device for individuals with movement challenges.

The new College of Innovation & Technology currently calls the MSB Expansion home, and the first CIT students began their classes in 2021. In CIT, courses are taught by teams of professors, and the curriculum is developed with input from a panel of industry experts, preparing students for the rapidly changing workplace of the 21st century. Majors include Cybersecurity, Digital Manufacturing Technology, and Information Technology & Informatics.

8. Students Return to Campus

Students posing for a Blue bash photo
Before classes began, Blue Bash 2021 invited students back to campus for a day of fun prior to the semester.

While many online and hybrid course options remained available, the Fall 2021 semester saw many students returning for in-person classes. To celebrate the long-awaited return to campus, Blue Bash 2021 was held on August 6. While enjoying carnival attractions and food, students were also able to reorient themselves to campus and access important resources to ensure they started the semester off right.

7. First Homecoming Parade

Wolverine Homecoming parade on Saginaw

Student Government organized the first-ever Homecoming Parade for UM-Flint, which took place on October 29. The parade followed a Homecoming Masquerade Ball, which was held on October 28 in the Northbank Ballroom.

6. Innovative Covid Responses

Students working on a vaccine guide
Erika C. Xavier de Melo (left) and Madison Zaremba (right) from the Community Design Studio course put the finishing touches on the Neighborhood Vaccine Guide before distributing them in Flint.

The UM-Flint community continued to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in innovative ways, collaborating across departments and with the community to produce better outcomes for all.

A Neighbor's Guide to the COVID Vaccine, an informational booklet with health information related to the COVID-19 vaccine, was developed and distributed by students from the Department of Fine and Performing Arts, the Department of Public Health and Health Sciences (PHHS), and the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy.

Sophomore Biology major Christina El Zarka garnered national attention with her Save Summer 2021 campaign, a social media and video initiative promoting coronavirus vaccinations among young people.

5. Advocacy in Healthcare

Marilyn Filter standing in front of the School of Nursing sign holding her scope invention.
Associate Professor of Nursing Marilyn Filter has developed a new scope to make vaginal and rectal exams less invasive.

UM-Flint worked to ensure that everyone has equitable access to healthcare at a time when it is most needed.

In a first for the School of Nursing, a provisional patent was issued for a new medical device that will make female pelvic exams less invasive and more accessible. "Nurses are by nature innovators. We always find what's wrong with the current instruments, devices, and everything that we use. We're always updating and personalizing things to make them work for patients," explained Associate Professor of Nursing Marilyn Filter, who developed the device along with Assistant Professor of Nursing Lyn Behnke.

The School of Nursing was also awarded a million-dollar grant to prepare sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE), professionals who are in shortage across much of Michigan, especially in rural areas. The first SANE training course at UM-Flint will begin in Fall 2022.

In the College of Health Sciences, both faculty and students are undergoing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training in five key areas: implicit bias, microaggressions, cultural humility, social determinants of health, history of structural racism, and the impact of policies on health.

4. The Fine & Performing Arts Thrived

David Guster in front of a mural
UM-Flint senior and student playwright David Guster stands by the mural by N30, the inspiration for his play "Back to Reality."

UM-Flint students and faculty participated in Flint Mural Plays, a partnership between the Flint Repertory Theatre and the Flint Public Art Project. Flint Mural Plays includes 25 world premiere micro audio plays that correspond with murals located in Flint, acting as a new medium to bring theatre directly to the community.

When pandemic protocols didn't allow for performances in front of live audiences, Two Dance students – Meredith Sheatzley (BA Dance, BSW '21) and Morgan Nichols (BA Dance '22) – teamed up to create "Dream in Color – A Dance Film." The video follows Meredith's performance from the dance studio, to the performance stage, into the heart of Flint itself.

The Art & Art History Exhibition displayed the top visual art pieces from each art course offered throughout the 2020-21 academic year on May 7. Ranging from ceramics, painting, photography, animation, printmaking, and more, the selections represent the breadth of artistic disciplines students pursue at UM-Flint.

3. Working Alongside the Community

UM-Flint Chief of Public Safety Ray Hall with professors Melissa Sreckovic and Christine Kenney
Assistant Professors Melissa Sreckovic (left) and Christine Kenney (right) worked with Director of Public Safety Ray Hall (center) to conduct a pilot autism training session with the UM-Flint Department of Public Safety.

UM-Flint continued the mission of advancing its local and global communities through many collaborative projects.

2. New Deans Join UM-Flint

aerial view of campus

Three new deans joined the academic leadership of UM-Flint in 2021.

Cynthia McCurren, a nationally recognized leader in the discipline of nursing, was selected as the second dean of the School of Nursing at UM-Flint. McCurren previously served as the dean of the Kirkhof College of Nursing at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. She joined the Flint campus March 1, 2021.

Beth Kubitskey was confirmed as dean of the School of Education and Human Services on July 15. A former high school physics and math teacher who earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry from U-M, Kubitskey previously served as associate dean of students and curriculum in the College of Education at Eastern Michigan.

In the School of Management, Aneil K. Mishra was appointed as dean on December 9. An internationally recognized scholar and author on leadership, Mishra most recently served as the Thomas D. Arthur Distinguished Professor of Leadership in the College of Business at East Carolina University.

1. Commencement Returns In-Person

A graduate on stage with the chancellor

After two years of virtual recognition, the graduates of 2020 and 2021 were celebrated on campus during six commencement ceremonies on December 17-19.

"This is one of the proudest moments of my life," Harley Brown, a communication major, explained. "Being a first-generation college student, I had felt like I would never make it to this point. To be here with all my friends and those who supported me really makes the moment even more memorable."

The ceremonies were also live-streamed for those unable to attend. The recordings are available on the UM-Flint Youtube channel.

Logan McGrady is the Marketing & Digital Communication Manager for the Office of Marketing & Digital Strategies.