Year-in-Review: Alma’s Top Stories in 2014

A Detroit partnership, STEM education, new academic majors and a visit by Neil deGrasse Tyson highlight Alma College news in 2014.

A Detroit partnership that fulfilled a White House education initiative, a major grant for enhancing science and mathematics education, several new academic majors and a visit by popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson were among the top Alma College stories in 2014. Following is a summary:

Alma President Abernathy, in the audience, listens to U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House Summit in December 2014. (Photo courtesy of YouTube live web stream).Alma President Abernathy, in the audience, listens to U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House Summit in December 2014. (Photo courtesy of YouTube live web stream).Detroit Outreach Focuses on Underrepresented Students

In January, Alma College partnered with Michigan Future Schools to increase scholarship support for inner-city Detroit students — a commitment announced as part of the first White House Higher Education Summit hosted by President Barack Obama. The national initiative sought commitments from colleges and universities to expand opportunities for low-income students.

In June, the college received a $175,000 grant from the McGregor Fund to further support Alma’s efforts to recruit, retain and graduate college-ready high school students from low-income families in the Detroit area.

In August, the college welcomed 10 Detroit-area students enrolled as Campbell Scholars as part of the McGregor Partners in Education Program. Students enrolled in the program are designated “Campbell Scholars” in honor of Alma College graduate and trustee Dave Campbell, the longtime president of the McGregor Fund.

“The core of the Campbell Scholars Program is academic success, and that principal focus is nestled in a personalized collegiate experience,” said Denelle Brown, director of diversity and inclusion. “The inaugural class of Campbell Scholars will be challenged and equally supported as they embark on their journey of personal growth and intellectual development.”

In December, President Jeff Abernathy was among the invited guests at the White House for President Obama’s second College Opportunity Day. At the summit, Alma College announced its commitment to prepare students from Detroit for STEM careers.

Science research occurs in McIntyre Center for Health Science.Science research occurs in McIntyre Center for Health Science.Grant Supports STEM Education Initiative

Alma College received a $5 million grant from The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation to fund a science initiative, “e-STEM: Enhancing STEM education and Practice.” The grant provides new opportunities for Alma College students and faculty to collaborate in real-world research and learning in the academic disciplines for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The grant also will enable the college to engage K-12 teachers and students in research.

The e-STEM initiative includes the creation of the Dow Digital Science Center (DDSC), a physical structure within Alma’s existing Dow Science Center that will be a place for the collection and storage of data and remote sensing instrumentation. Work on the development of DDSC began in the fall.

“Alma’s historic strength in STEM disciplines is a credit to the foundation and its vision for science education in Michigan and beyond across six decades,” said President Jeff Abernathy.
“The e-STEM program will build on the important work our scientists have been doing in recent years with National Science Foundation funding and will enable even deeper connections between Alma College and schools across Michigan.”

Neil deGrasse TysonNeil deGrasse TysonNew Academic Programs Emerge

Alma’s new Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program, or BSN, enrolled its first class of students in 2014-15. Faculty also approved new academic majors in accounting, finance, management and marketing that build on existing foundations and supplement the single business administration major that Alma has had for decades.

In addition, Alma added a major in Special Education-Learning Disabilities. Alma now offers 41 academic majors.

National Scientist Speaks at Alma

Neil deGrasse Tyson, the national science communicator, astrophysicist, planetarium director and host of the “Cosmos” television series, spoke to a sold-out audience in the Hogan Center. The talk launched the return of the Alma College Speaker Series sponsored by the Responsible Leadership Institute.

Other Top Stories

• The Model United Nations team enjoyed more success in 2014. Last spring, the team captured the highest awards at the national conference in New York City for the 18th consecutive year. In October, the team engaged in outreach efforts to universities and high schools in India and helped direct the Presidium Model UN Conference in New Delhi, thanks to a $75,000 grant from the U.S. State Department.

• Will Allen, the urban farmer nationally recognized for revitalizing communities by engaging urban youth in the production and delivery of healthy foods, gave the keynote address for the 18th annual Honors Day celebration.

Commencement 2014Commencement 2014Lou Glazer, the co-founder and president of Michigan Future Inc., a non-partisan, nonprofit organization that generates ideas on how Michigan can prosper in the future, delivered the 2014 Alma College commencement address. Glazer also received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree during the ceremony for approximately 290 graduates.

• Michael Reeves, Alma’s 2013 homecoming king and an elementary education major, was the 2014 recipient of the Barlow Trophy, Alma College’s most prestigious award for a graduating senior. Reeves participated in numerous extracurricular activities at Alma, including the performing arts, athletics, residence life and community service.

• Associate Professor Kate Blanchard was among 25 faculty from across the nation selected by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) to participate in a national seminar on the teaching of interfaith understanding.

Gelston HallGelston HallMajor renovations were made to the east wing of Gelston Hall, Alma College’s oldest residence hall. Among the new features were glass study rooms, a new handicap accessibility ramp and entryway, and a new entry and sidewalk constructed on the east side, directly across from the library. In addition, the wing’s electrical systems were upgraded, the common bathrooms enlarged and new window treatments installed.

Homecoming 2014 activities included a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new TKE fraternity house. The building is the first of a new model of “small housing” units that the college will use for future construction, offering enhanced safety features and better integration into the neighborhood.

TKE HouseTKE House• Alma College and Kettering University signed a transfer agreement that enables students to earn dual Bachelor of Science degrees in physics and engineering over five years. The articulation agreement established a 3-2 program in which students attend Alma College for three years and Kettering University for two years.

• Several national entities recognized Alma College for institutional quality in 2014. Colleges of Distinction identified Alma as “one of the best places to learn, grow and success.” The Fiske Guide selected Alma as one of the 300 “best and most interesting “ schools in the United States, Canada and Great Britain. The website Great Value Colleges ranked Alma 11th among private schools in its top 25 list of “Great Affordable Colleges in the Midwest.” The Princeton Review selected Alma as one of 159 “Best in the Midwest” schools. Cappex, an online college decision service, ranked Alma College No. 1 in the nation for student activities.

• Increases in ethnic and geographic diversity and a fourth straight year of 400-plus entering students highlighted the fall enrollment report. New students totaled 403, the seventh time in the last eight years that Alma has enrolled 400 or more new students.

• In athletics, the Alma College competitive cheer team placed fourth in the Stunt Nationals, coach Michelle Sabourin was named Stunt Coach of the Year, and six members of the stunt team were honored as All-Americans. The wrestling team landed four Scholar All-Americans and finished second nationally in team GPA. The men’s soccer, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball teams all advanced to their MIAA post-season tournaments. The men’s basketball team played a game at The Palace of Auburn Hills prior to a Pistons’ game.


Story published on December 15, 2014