Campus briefs


UM-Flint professors receive $600,000 grant to globalize curriculum

UM-Flint faculty members Daniel Birchok and Jacob Lederman will use a $600,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to develop and teach a global society course that involves an international trip. Beginning in 2021, Birchok, assistant professor of anthropology, and Lederman, assistant professor of sociology, will co-teach “I Need a Passport for That?” The first-year-experience course is designed to expose new college students to the broad-based critical thinking skills necessary to understand global society. Students will visit diverse communities and use humanities and humanistic social sciences to conceptualize global trends such as immigration and deindustrialization. The course will culminate with an experiential trip to Toronto and Windsor over spring break. The grant was UM-Flint’s first from the Mellon Foundation. 

Study: Educating parents can cut back on kids’ access to opioids

A new study led by Terri Voepel-Lewis, associate professor of nursing, found that giving parents educational materials on how to properly and conveniently dispose of medications can significantly reduce the risk of children accessing leftover opioids. Voepel-Lewis and her colleagues found that prompt disposal of leftover medications improved if parents received a disposal packet at the time the medications were prescribed. In addition, parents who saw tailored online messages about the risks opioids pose to children and teens were less likely to report that they intended to keep leftover medications. The work was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Other co-authors include Carol Boyd, professor emerita of nursing and co-director of the Center for the Study of Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking and Health; and Brian Zikmund-Fisher, associate professor of public health and research associate professor in internal medicine. 

Faculty, staff can get help for back pain

Faculty and staff members who are dealing with acute lower back pain that wasn’t caused by their work can get help with U-M’s Back Pain Triage Program. The program includes a free medical assessment by a health care provider and free specialized exercise classes. Patients can also get referrals for physical therapy and join a back pain self-management support group. The program now has two locations: Room B-032C of Building 16 in the North Campus Research Complex and inside the eighth-floor Wellness Center at University Hospital South. To schedule an appointment, call 734-936-7465

U-M researchers receive $3.4M grant for social media research

A group of U-M researchers has been awarded a $3.4 million collaborative National Science Foundation convergence grant to develop and test methodologies for sampling, validating and analyzing social media. The project, a collaboration between U-M and Georgetown University, is called “The Future of Quantitative Research in Social Science.” Researchers will cross-pollinate ideas from different disciplines about data acquisition, sampling, design, data transformation, validity, reliability, modeling and ethics to establish new methods and guidelines for leveraging social media data to answer questions about human beliefs, human behavior and society. The project includes multiple centers and faculty members within the Institute for Social Research, as well as faculty from the School of Information.

Nominations due soon for awards that honor outstanding doctoral student mentoring

Nominations for the Rackham Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award and the John H. D’Arms Faculty Awards for Distinguished Graduate Mentoring in the Humanities are due by 5 p.m. Jan. 27. The awards recognize faculty members who are outstanding mentors of doctoral students. The Rackham Distinguished Graduate Mentor Awards are for tenured faculty members in any discipline, with particular attention given to nominations of faculty in biological and health sciences, physical sciences, engineering and social sciences. Five awards of $1,500 are given out. For more information, visit The John H. D’Arms Faculty Awards for Distinguished Graduate Mentoring in the Humanities are for tenured faculty members in the humanities, including scholars and creative artists. Up to three awards of $5,000 each will be given out. Recipients will also receive summer research funding for one humanities graduate student per year for up to three years. For more information, visit

U-M speaker series, summit highlight extended reality

A U-M series about extended reality that features the head of technology at Disney Studios, the head of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab and other experts begins later this month. Part of the university’s XR Initiative, a three-year funded commitment announced in September, the Winter 2020 XR Speaker Series organized by the Center for Academic Innovation will offer monthly individual presentations, followed by an XR at Michigan Summit in April. The series begins with “XR: A Critical Analysis and Transdisciplinary Approach to Development and Application,” from 1-3 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Rackham Graduate School Amphitheatre. For more information and a full list of events, visit

Compiled by Ann Zaniewski, The University Record


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