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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.
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Detroit, FCA work to match residents to Jeep jobs

Experts say there could be some challenges in finding qualified Detroiters to fill and maintain the production and skilled trade positions to a level that would please city leaders. City officials, however, say the initial response it has received from interested Detroit residents — more than 11,000 — signals that many Detroiters could be willing and able to take on the new jobs. Detroit is leading the effort to screen applicants for the positions. It’s going to be critical that Detroiters are prepared when they apply for the jobs, said Marick Masters, a professor of management at Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business. “Today’s auto workers are much more skilled," he said. "It requires a lot more knowledge than in the past. People aren’t just going to… like they did in the '30s and '40s, walk into the plant and say 'I’m ready' and they’re going to take you that very day. I think what we have to do in Detroit is make certain that our workforce is as ready as possible.”
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Multiple sclerosis cases on the rise nationally

A recent study shows that the number of people living with MS is on the rise. A recent MS Prevalence Study funded by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society shows that in 2010 the estimated 10-year prevalence of adults in the U.S. was 727,344 cases, not the 400,000 that had previously been thought. In addition, the study shows the prevalence of MS cases from 2000 to 2017 is now estimated at 913,925 cases, though that number may be as high 1,000,000. Dr. Robert P. Lisak, who specializes in neuroimmunologic diseases at Wayne State University School of Medicine, said that an initial increase in the numbers of people with MS was thought to be because of better diagnostic tools and more awareness of the disease. "But over the last 10 to 20 years we think there are more cases," Lisak said, though nobody knows why. The problem is if you don't know the cause of the disease you can speculate all you want, but you don't really know," he said. "But there is probably no one single cause or one single risk factor," Lisak said. Lisak said there are new medications out that delay or even prevent progression of the disease. But researchers still need to find out what ultimately causes MS — the mechanisms of what causes attacks, what causes attacks to shut off and what causes progression. Until that is known it is hard to develop therapies, he said. "We need to get more basic knowledge in order to make further progress."
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Study finds treating inmates’ mental health reduces their risk of returning to jail

A new study offers a solution to the problems of jail overcrowding and recidivism in Michigan: Invest more in mental health and drug treatment. Wayne State University’s Center for Behavioral Health and Justice spent five years reviewing treatment and jail-diversion programs in 10 counties. Researchers found that people who got treatment for mental health disorders were less likely to return to jail. “Training law enforcement to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness is really important,” says Sheryl Kubiak, dean of WSU’s School of Social Work who led the study. “When we did pre- and post-interviews, officers would tell us things like they didn’t believe in mental illness, they just thought it was bad behavior. If we can decrease the number of people who go into costly confinement and deter them to treatment, I think we will do a lot better.” 
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How medical providers talk about death with teenagers facing life-threatening illnesses

A diagnosis of a life-threatening illness is an enormous shock wave to any family. But there are extra challenges involved when that diagnosis happens for a teen or young adult. While their friends are getting ready for the prom or for college, they will be going through treatment and having tough conversations with family and doctors. Cynthia Bell is an assistant professor and research scientist at the Wayne State University College of Nursing, and has studied end-of-life conversations with teens and young adults. 
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Using Detroiters' ZIP codes to predict stroke risk

Kim Trent, Wayne State University Board of Governors chair, wrote a piece about stroke risk and current research involving our region. “Wayne State University researcher and Detroit Medical Center emergency room doctor Phillip Levy told policymakers attending the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference he hopes data he gleaned from emergency room visits to the Detroit Medical Center and Henry Ford Hospital can be used to inform smarter approaches to the cardiovascular risks facing Detroiters. A typical resident of the 48236 ZIP code in Grosse Pointe can expect to live to age 82. But a person who lives less than 10 miles away in Detroit’s 48201 ZIP code has a life expectancy of only 69 years. Michigan ranks 42nd out of the 50 states in cardiovascular health, with 298 stroke or heart disease related deaths per 100,000 residents each year. The national average is 257 cardiovascular-related deaths per 100,000 residents. Levy is optimistic that gathering information like this on a data platform will allow researchers, public health experts, and physicians to explore links between health outcomes and factors such as employment, environment, race, income and education. Levy thinks data platforms like the one he touted on Mackinac Island may help us better understand the role that factors like racism play in the development of hypertension and other medical conditions. “Every time I put those maps up,  I hear that gasp in the audience and  people are just astonished that that’s such a problem,” said the physician. “You want to take it to another level," he says. “You have all the things that an individual can do, but [the question is] how can we from a policy or community health perspective change some of the structural things that are involved?”
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The epic political battle over the legacy of the suffragettes

The movement for suffrage spanned from the mid-19th century to the early 20th, and was advanced by women with a range of political priorities and viewpoints. They were progressives, in the broadest sense of the word: They believed in pushing for social change and using politics for the betterment of humanity. Yet many of their views might seem shocking today, especially to Americans who identify with the same “progressive” movement of which suffrage activists were a part. By and large, white American suffragists were racist, arguing that giving the vote to white women would cancel out the influence of newly enfranchised black men. This was as much a matter of political strategy as personal prejudice, says Liette Gidlow, associate professor at Wayne State University who is working on an upcoming book on this subject. Poll taxes, literacy tests, and so-called grandfather clauses kept many black men away from the polls in the years following the Civil War, even after the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment gave them the vote. “Many leading … white suffragists were deeply afraid that … [if] the Susan B. Anthony amendment”—which proposed women’s suffrage—“would lead to the return of African Americans ... to the polls, that would damage support for the amendment,” Gidlow said. Even after the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, many states passed laws limiting the voting rights of black Americans, including black women.
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Students call him ‘Super Stanley’

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson went to Harvard Medical School with Samuel Stanley Jr. and stayed in touch over the years as part of the small group of university presidents who were also medical doctors. “I think it’s an absolutely outstanding pick,” Wilson said about MSU’s selection of Stanley. Wilson has the unique perspective of someone who knows both Stanley and Lou Anna Simon, the MSU president forced out because of the Nassar scandal. “I like Lou Anna, but in terms of personality, (Simon and Stanley) are very, very different," he said. “Sam is warmer. He’ll engage you in conversation, and Lou Anna is just not that way. It’s not that she’s dismissive but she’s more analytical.” Wilson said that Stanley’s demeanor has been shaped by being a physician and working with patients in vulnerable situations. “In general, physicians get into the profession because they want to help people, and they tend to be empathetic and compassionate,” he said. “Sam has those qualities, and that’s going to be helpful in going forward at MSU.” Stanley’s reputation as a good listener also will help, Wilson said. “He’s very smart, but he’s also very understated. He’s not going to overtalk you."
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Wayne State develops novel geocoded map to improve health outcomes

If you live in southeast Michigan, your ZIP code may determine how long you live. Live in the 48236 ZIP of Grosse Pointe and at birth you can expect to live to an average of 82 years. Just a few short miles away, however, if you’re born and live in the Detroit ZIP of 48201, you can shave 13 years off that respectable mark. The 13-year loss can be attributed to numerous factors, including a lack of access to healthy food, health care and safe places to exercise. Resource limitations and socioeconomic disparities in the 48201 ZIP code also contribute to soaring levels of toxic stress and poor health. That stress often manifests in the form of disproportionate levels of high blood pressure, which, if uncontrolled, brings on a host of illness guaranteed to shorten lifespan. That’s the bad news.
The good news, as attendees of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual Mackinac Policy Conference heard Thursday morning, is that a radically new form of mapping health data by census tract may give policymakers, researchers and health care providers the information they need to design targeted efforts to improve health in areas with a long history of worse outcomes. The goal, said Phillip Levy, assistant vice president of Translational Science and Clinical Research Innovation for Wayne State University, is to develop a precision approach to population health, guided by data provided by drilling down as far as possible, perhaps even to individual neighborhoods.
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Addressing mental health key to improving criminal justice system

Diverting individuals with mental health disorders into treatment programs rather than simply jailing them not only significantly reduces the jail population but also lowers the chances of recidivism among offenders, according to a five-year study conducted by the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice at Wayne State University’s School of Social Work and released by the state of Michigan. According to the study, 54 percent of all individuals booked into jails in the target counties reported some variation of a substance abuse problem, while 45 percent described themselves as housing insecure and 42 percent said they had been recently incarcerated. Meanwhile, 34 percent had some indication of mental illness. “More than just a collection of data, this report offers us an early roadmap to drastic improvements in how our criminal justice system handles issues of mental illness and substance abuse,” said Sheryl Kubiak, dean of the Wayne State School of Social Work and the principal investigator for the study. “In addressing these issues, we also give ourselves opportunity to address many of the problems that these issues underlie, including jail overcrowding, poor access to mental health, and drug treatment and recidivism.” Drug abuse presented an equally thorny problem for many jails, said Kubiak. “Most jails have little therapy or protocols for inmates suffering withdrawals,” she said. “Some just hand out blankets and Gatorade and think that’s enough.” Kubiak concludes: “As the study proves, when we simply lock up mentally ill or addicted individuals with no real plan to get them help, we’re only prolonging and exacerbating problems that we have the tools to effectively address.”  
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Howard Stern talks childhood trauma, trauma psychiatrist talks about lasting effects

Arash Javanbakht, assistant professor of psychiatry, wrote a piece for The Conversation about the growing interest in trauma and childhood trauma. “A child’s brain is a sponge for learning about how the world works and who they themselves are. We humans have an evolutionary advantage in having the ability to trust the older and learn from them about the world. That leads to cumulative knowledge and protection against adversity, about which only the experienced know. A child absorbs the patterns of perceiving the world, relating to others and to the self by learning from adults. But when the initial environment is unusually tough and unfriendly, then a child’s perception of the world may form around violence, fear, lack of safety and sadness. Brains of adults who experience childhood adversity, or even poverty, are more prone to detecting danger, at the cost of ignoring the positive or neutral experiences.” Javanbakht continued: “Childhood trauma is more common than one would think: Up to two-thirds of children experience at least one traumatic event. These include serious medical illness or injury, firsthand experience of violence or sexual abuse or witnessing them, neglect, bullying and the newest addition to the list: mass shootings.