Year-in-Review: Alma’s Top Stories in 2018

Classroom technology advances, campus improvements and student achievement highlight Alma College news in 2018.

Students interact with the Jamboard. Students interact with the Jamboard.New Google classroom technology, Millennium Fellowship global recognition, Fulbright Scholarship awards and residential hall improvements were among the top Alma College stories in 2018.

Students and faculty from Alma were among the first in the nation to pilot new course-sharing technology, including the digital Jamboard, in a collaboration with Google. Joining Alma in the pilot were Calvin and Albion colleges.

“This was a big deal,” said Andrew Bare, assistant director of instructional technology. “We worked with a brand-new Google product that had never been used for delivering remote learning. It’s an exciting new way to teach and expand the range of course offerings.”

The technology allows students and instructors to collaborate and share ideas, even though two-thirds of the class are miles away in classrooms on other campuses. The collaboration was featured prominently in the national online publication Inside Higher Ed.

“It’s incredible that we were the first to pilot Jamboards in education,” said Associate Professor Anthony Collamati. “It’s one of the things I love about teaching at Alma; the college is open to new learning experiences and working collaboratively with companies like Google. The support was tremendous.”

Daniel Lynch in Sierra Leone. Daniel Lynch in Sierra Leone.Extraordinary Student Achievement

A cohort of Alma College students won international recognition as Millennium Fellows for the Big Box Farm initiative — an aquaponics urban farm project that addresses food security, rural poverty and community health. The students are assembling an aquaponics unit in the college greenhouse.

“This recognition is extremely competitive with only 30 colleges and universities selected globally,” said Professor Derick Hulme. “Our students are doing amazing things.”

Several other students were recognized for outstanding achievement in 2018. Hannah Jeffery, Alma’s Barlow Trophy winner, researched river contamination and led campus efforts against food waste during her four years at Alma College. Deve Wishart and Brooke Tubbs were awarded Fulbright Scholarships to teach and study abroad.

The Model United Nations team continued its annual success, capturing the highest awards at the national conference for the 22nd consecutive year.

Eight members of the Alma College chapter of the Business Professionals of America earned medals ranking them in the top 10 in the nation in various competition categories at the BPA National Conference.

Posey-Global Fellowship students led efforts to raise more than $130,000 for the construction of the Makankisa Child Care Centre, a residential housing unit in Sierra Leone for children orphaned by the Ebola outbreak.

College and community leaders in the Alma Opera House. College and community leaders in the Alma Opera House.Physical Campus Enhancements

Hard hats, construction fences and building trailers were prominent on the west side of campus last summer as the college launched a three-year $21 million campus modernization plan that will result in the remodeling of five residence halls by 2020.

The efforts began with major improvements to Mitchell and Newberry halls, which were completed in mid-August. The hall renovations included all new infrastructure— plumbing, electric and HVAC systems — along with upgraded student rooms, private bathrooms, refreshed finishes, additional student lounges and study spaces, and improved laundry facilities.

Efforts to establish student apartments downtown moved closer to fruition. The City of Alma and Alma College partnered publicly to raise $5 million to complete the redevelopment of the historic Alma Opera House in downtown Alma.

New space in the Dow Science Complex. New space in the Dow Science Complex.“The college and community have a shared vision of a revitalized, vibrant Opera House sparking the local economy in our downtown,” said Alma College President Jeff Abernathy during the Aug. 16 public launch event. “The building will offer premium retail space, and there will be apartments for 40 students to live and learn in downtown Alma, driving business investment and activity.”

Also in 2018, the first phase of the Dow Science Center renovation was completed as Dow’s open-air courtyard was converted to collaborative STEM education space for students, faculty and staff. Located within the Rollin M. Gerstacker Science and Technology Suite is the Dow Digital Science Center (DDSC), a place for the collection and storage of data acquired through remote sensing instrumentation.

Scholarships, Recruitment, Philanthropy, Leadership

Eleven community-minded Gratiot County students were the first recipients of the full-tuition Alma College Community Engagement (ACE) Scholarship, which rewards students for their active volunteer service and involvement in their schools and local communities.

“This year’s recipients are leaders in their schools and communities and will become leaders on Alma’s campus as they serve as an illustration of our commitment to strengthening our campus and community connections,” said Amanda Slenski, vice president for admissions.

Chaplain Andrew Pomerville and Coach Jason Couch lead the football team in a pre-game march to Bahlke Field. Chaplain Andrew Pomerville and Coach Jason Couch lead the football team in a pre-game march to Bahlke Field.Leaders from Alma College and Mid Michigan College signed an innovative transitional admissions agreement that provides educational and campus life experiences for students who have applied to Alma but must first attend Mid to meet admissions requirements.

Alma College also joined the Detroit Promise program, offering full-tuition scholarships to qualified Detroit students who meet academic standards.

For the third year in a row, donors provided Alma College with more than $15 million in gifts and pledges during 2017-18. Advancement initiatives also captured multiple awards in the annual competition sponsored by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE District V).

Several new leaders arrived in 2018. Kathleen Dougherty assumed the role of provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. Amanda Slenski was selected to lead the college’s student recruitment efforts. The Rev. Dr. Andrew Pomerville was named chaplain and director of spiritual life.

Academic Discovery, Teaching and Learning

New academic tracks for game design and sports communication/sports media along with an enhanced pre-ministry professional program were announced in November. The tracks offer guided coursework and meaningful out-of-classroom experiences for students with career aspirations in these fields of growing interest.

From left: Former president Saundra Tracy, commencement speaker Michael Selmon, graduating senior Margaret Selmon. From left: Former president Saundra Tracy, commencement speaker Michael Selmon, graduating senior Margaret Selmon.Assistant Professor Danny Wasserman was among 20 faculty from across the nation selected by the Council of Independent Colleges and Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies to participate in a seminar on teaching ancient Greece in the modern classroom.

During Spring Term, one group of Alma College students analyzed the medicinal properties of honey from samples collected throughout Michigan.

Robert Vivian’s second book of dervish essays was published in 2018. Immortal Soft-Spoken explores such themes as fly fishing, nature and the beauty of the world.

Faculty members Liping Bu, Karen Ball and Kate Blanchard were appointed to endowed professorships in recognition of their consistent record of teaching, research, service and commitment to the liberal arts. Henry Balfanz, Brian Doyle, Murray Gross and Ed Lorenz were recognized for superior teaching in the areas of business administration, biochemistry, music education and public policy.

Three rare volumes of the collective writings of Martin Luther — the oldest books in the Alma College Library — brought attention to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The gems in the library’s special collections bring history to life for Alma’s students and scholars.

First-year seminar students explored the college archives to learn how mid-Michigan residents experienced the deadly 1918 flu epidemic. The seminar course included the live-tweeting of headlines from historic newspapers about the spread of the flu as it came to Detroit and eventually Alma.

Naomi Tutu with Alma students. Naomi Tutu with Alma students.Notable Speakers

In January, human rights activist Nontombi Naomi Tutu, the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, delivered the keynote address for Martin Luther King Jr. Week, headlining a week of campus activities that focused on social activism.

In March, social justice activist Kat Blaque, a writer who addresses race, gender, feminism and equity in her social media feeds, delivered the keynote address for Women’s Month.

In April, Alma College Provost Michael Selmon delivered the 2018 commencement address. A member of the faculty since 1991 and provost since 2003, Selmon retired as provost at the end of the 2017-18 academic year to return to full-time teaching as a member of the English faculty.

In September, constitutional attorney Yurij Rudensky of the Brennon Center for Justice addressed gerrymandering as part of the annual Constitution Day observance.

In October, Dr. Leonard Calabrese, the Cleveland Clinic physician known for his pioneering work in rheumatology and immunodeficiency, discussed “The Art and Science of Empathy in Healthcare” during a Health Careers Day keynote presentation.

In November, Lt. Colonel Olga Custodio discussed her career as the first female Hispanic U.S. military fighter pilot and her efforts to motivate women and girls to pursue STEM and male-dominated professions.

The cheer team: National champions. The cheer team: National champions.Excelling in Athletics

The cheer and STUNT teams excelled at the national level in 2018. The cheer team won its second consecutive National Cheerleaders Association championship in Daytona Beach, while the STUNT team finished runner-up in its division at the nationals. Six Scots were named STUNT All-Americans.

On the mats, sophomore Brendan Ladd placed sixth at the NCAA Division III wrestling championships, earning him All-American status.

Several new coaches joined the Scots’ Division III athletics program. Jason Couch took over the football program. Ryan Clark was promoted to head coach of women’s basketball. Michael Mignano was selected to lead men’s and women’s golf. Jason Crain was appointed head baseball coach.

Athletic Director Steven Rackley announced in December that Alma College was adding an esports program to its intercollegiate athletic offerings. Christopher Gaumond was hired to coach the team, with competition set to begin in Fall 2019.

Story published on November 29, 2018