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Wayne State names Mike Poterala vice president and general counsel

By Jake Bekemeyer Following a competitive national search, Wayne State University has appointed Mike Poterala as its new vice president and general counsel, effective November 2022. An accomplished lawyer and leader in higher education, Poterala will provide legal counsel and representation to the university, ensure compliance, and minimize legal risk while also fostering sound decision-making in operation, instruction, research and administration. "I take great pride in supporting the success of students, faculty and staff, and in providing rewarding professional experiences and development opportunities for attorneys and staff," said Poterala. "I'm a proud Detroiter, and I'm thrilled to return home and help further Wayne State's critical mission." 
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2022 Michiganians of the Year: M. Roy Wilson improved graduation rates at Wayne State

By Kim Kozlowski   Wayne State University was getting national attention for having one of the worst graduation rates, especially among African American students, in 2013 when President M. Roy Wilson arrived. In the years before his tenure, WSU’s six-year graduation rate hovered in the 30% range and sunk as low as 26% in 2011. Graduation rates for Black students were markedly worse. Graduation rates were slowly improving when Wilson arrived. The year before, in 2012-13, the six-year graduation rate for all students overall was 27.6%, more than three times the 9.2% of African American students who were graduating in six years. Wayne State has since increased its overall six-year and African American graduation rate to 55.8% and 34.6%, respectively, in 2021. The APLU bestowed the 2018 Degree Completion Award on Wayne State for using innovative ways to help students complete degrees and having the most improved college graduation in the nation. The disparity among African American students leaving WSU without a degree was especially concerning, Wilson says, because beyond the impact on the student it also “has intergeneration effects if you can’t break the cycle.” “If you don’t have a diverse workforce and have one segment of society that is making it and getting the good jobs…you not only widen the income gap between minorities and non-minorities, you also widen other gaps,” Wilson said, pointing to quality of life, life expectancy and health. “It’s not just an issue of lifetime income, it’s an issue of what kind of life you are going to lead.” Before he arrived, WSU committed to investing $10 million over five years to retain students. Wilson said the university also had to change its culture. Wilson says the next step is to close the graduation gap between white students and students of color. “You bring in kids, schools are obligated to graduate them,” he said. “They incur debt and then they don’t graduate. You are doing a disservice to the students, and a disservice to society. It’s an issue of justice.”   
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UM, Wayne State name new business school deans

By Kurt Nagl Two business schools in Southeast Michigan have appointed new leadership. Wayne State University named Virginia Kleist as the new dean of the Mike Ilitch School of Business, taking over for Robert Forsythe, who has held the position since 2014. Kleist, who comes to Detroit from West Virginia University, begins her new role July 11. Forsythe will take an administrative leave before returning to the faculty. In her previous job, Kleist was associate dean of Graduate Programs, Research and Academic Affairs and professor of Management Information Systems at the John Chambers College of Business and Economics. “We had a number of outstanding candidates for this highly-coveted position, but Virginia’s extensive leadership experience and her preparedness stood out,” said Mark Kornbluh, Wayne State provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

5 minutes with Timmy Nelson: Digital design specialist streams video games to raise money for children’s hospitals

When Timmy Nelson isn’t working as a digital design specialist for Wayne State University’s Office of Alumni Relations, he loves to play video games, draw and entertain. These interests are at the heart of his Twitch livestream, trueTIMfoolery, which he uses to raise money for local children’s hospitals through the nonprofit organization Extra Life. Since he began streaming in 2019, Nelson and his followers have raised more than $17,000 by playing video games and board games – and participating in a variety of incentives aimed at bringing in extra money. “Extra Life allows me to do the things that I really enjoy, but also teach people that philanthropy can be a hobby,” said Nelson. “You don’t have to be a Fortune 500 CEO that’s giving all this money out to people. Every single dollar counts. Anyone can do it.”  
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Wayne State President reveals deeply personal experiences in new memoir

By Jake Neher  Wayne State University President Dr. M. Roy Wilson is turning inward with a new memoir that is both reflective and at times deeply revealing. “The Plum Tree Blossoms Even in Winter” looks back on Wilson’s troubled childhood starting in Japan. It then journeys through his accomplishments, setbacks, and terrifying medical troubles as an adult. The book will be released on May 4. President Wilson will host a book signing and meet-and-greet that day at the Wayne State University Barnes and Noble from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. “The book is about challenges and not giving up and even in the darkest of times that you can persevere,” said President Wilson. 

Law student strives to ‘bridge the gap’

Growing up, Shanice Leach was always interested in shows and movies about mysteries, true crime, and criminal justice.  “At first, I thought I wanted to do forensic science or forensic psychology but then I was introduced to the legal side through my law and public safety class in high school,” says Leach, who earned her undergrad degree in criminal justice and corrections from Wayne State University and is now a student at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.  “I love the idea of being able to help people when they are going through a tough time in their life—bridging the gap between the community and the legal system is extremely important to me.” After graduation, Leach spent 9 months as a domestic violence advocate for the AmeriCorps Urban Safety Project (AmUS) in Detroit, where she enjoyed the community interaction. Helping more than 800 victims of domestic violence receive assistance in their time of need, Leach said her work consisted of emergency planning and helping victims file personal protection orders.
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30 in their thirties 2021

Kelly Kozlowski, COO of TechTown Detroit, has found her place in operations. After working as COO of Automation Alley in Troy and COO for the Downtown Detroit Partnership, Kozlowski moved into the same position with TechTown. “I love the work of a COO,” she says. “I love the work of someone who’s working very closely with a leader, in support of that leader, and in partnership with that leader.” TechTown is a nonprofit entrepreneurship hub that supports businesses in and around Detroit by offering funding, workspaces, and programming. According to Kozlowski, finding startup capital can be a big hurdle. Many people who start a business first attempt what’s referred to as a “friends and family round,” asking loved ones for funds. It’s a route that typically isn’t an option in communities where generational wealth is scarce. TechTown partners with Wayne State University, which has resources and networks that TechTown wouldn’t be able to curate alone. In turn, TechTown can quickly change programming when necessary. Kozlowski’s role is dual-purpose; she’s also assistant vice president of economic development for Wayne State. In this role, she guides the development and execution of the university’s economic impact strategy, serving as a bridge between TechTown, Wayne State, and the community.
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Wednesday's state college basketball: Wayne State's Carrie Lohr notches 300th collegiate win

Senior Sadia Johnson scored 19 points, including 6-for-6 from the free-throw line, as Wayne State beat Central State, 78-70, to give coach Carrie Lohr her 300th collegiate victory. Lohr previously coached at St. Clair County Community College. Sophomore Sam Cherney (North Farmington) recorded her first career double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Sophomore Grace George had 16 points. Wayne State (2-1) shot 51 percent from the floor, to 38 percent for Central State (1-2). Wayne State visits Findlay on Tuesday.
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Can experts determine who might be a mass killer? 3 questions answered

Wayne State University Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Arash Javanbakht answered some questions about mental illness, mass murder and whether it’s possible to prevent horrific shootings. Is a person who commits mass murder mentally ill? What is the difference between extremism and mental illness? And, are there ‘red flag’ behaviors that can indicate risk? According to Javanbakht, the good news is that, to prevent a violent person from access to firearms, we do not need an established diagnosis of a mental illness. The history of unreasonable violence itself is enough. These measures may not prevent some of the mass shootings, but they can help with a lot of murders and deaths by suicide.”
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Wages for 12,000 local employees on line when Ford, UAW workers begin contract talks

The wages and benefits of more than 12,000 Louisville workers will be on the line when national contract negotiations between Ford Motor Co. and 55,000 members of the United Auto Workers union begin next month. The current contract ends in September, and a labor expert told Insider that turbulence in the auto industry and the economy as a whole will make the coming tug-of-war the toughest since before the financial crisis. “These negotiations, I think, are going to be tense and challenging on a number of different fronts,” said Marick Masters, professor of management and director of the Douglas A. Fraser Center in the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University. Masters said that the automakers are entering the negotiations as they’re seeing stagnating sales — but at the same time are facing enormous investments into new technologies. The union, meanwhile, will want raises and commitments for investments in American manufacturing plants to increase job security. While automakers always have to spend money on developing new products, Masters said rapid technological changes in the industry are requiring additional investments in electrification and autonomous vehicles. Ford and other U.S. automakers have to invest in new technologies or fear losing sales to foreign competitors. Ford also still is feeling the drag from investments in China that haven’t paid off, and from staying in the small car market longer than competitors, Masters said.
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Politicians admit mental health struggles

Presidential candidate Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., recently delivered confessions that are rare for members of Congress: They once struggled with and were treated for mental health conditions, he for post-traumatic stress disorder and she for depression. Discussing such problems out loud is a gamble in politics, and over the years few others in Congress have been forthcoming, but the chances are high that a number of politicians have faced mental health problems. An estimated 47 million people in the U.S. in any given year struggle with conditions such as anxiety or depression. Of those, 11 million have more serious conditions such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Among the members of Congress who have shared their diagnoses are Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., who started speaking openly about his PTSD after he was elected in 2014, and former Rep. Lynn Rivers, D-Mich., who shared in 1994 that she was successfully being medicated for bipolar disorder. "People use anything they can find against their opponent," said Arash Javanbakht, assistant professor of psychiatry at Wayne State University School of Medicine. Most insults, he said, are "rooted in ignorance or misinformation." He added, however, that he believes substance abuse or having a personality disorder would be most worrisome for a leader because they impair judgment.