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Ned Staebler: How to flip the script on economic development in Michigan

Ned Staebler, vice president for economic development at Wayne State University and president and CEO of TechTown, wrote an op-ed discussing economic development in Michigan. “We've been doing economic development all wrong. It's not hard to see — the results are right in front of our eyes. Over the past four decades, under administrations of both major political parties, Michigan has gone from being a relatively prosperous state to an objectively poor one. Even before the pandemic, more than 43 percent of Michigan households couldn't pay for basic necessities. A host of community, business, government, and economic development leaders have come together in an effort called Rising Income for All. Our call is to reduce this horrible statistic and make rising household income for all Michiganders the new primary goal of state economic development policy. Shifting focus to the economic well-being of Michigan residents instead of GDP growth is the first step. Next, comes the important task of crafting the best set of policies to achieve this goal. Michigan Future Inc. President Lou Glazer and I wrote a recent article for Bridge Michigan where we lay out the tenets of what a new, more effective economic development strategy for Michigan should look like. While there is no magic formula, it's clear from the experience of successful places around the country and the world that we must invest in our existing residents, places and entrepreneurs. We must develop our own talent and local businesses and create places that will retain that human capital and attract more of it.”
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Wayne State offers new certification courses in AV technologies

Amesite Inc., a Detroit-based software company providing artificial intelligence-powered online learning ecosystems for businesses, higher education, and grades K-12, announced an expansion of its partnership with Detroit’s Wayne State University to offer six-week online certification courses. All the courses were created and delivered by Amesite. They are designed to target Wayne State’s alumni and members of the university’s community. The courses will cover autonomous vehicle technologies, data science, electric vehicle technologies, mobility as a service, and programming for autonomous systems. “We chose to partner with Amesite because they offer the most advanced online learning platform in the market today. The feedback from our students and instructors has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Farshad Fotouhi, dean of engineering at Wayne State.
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Ethnic media alliance pushes stories of success, provides community leadership

Michigan is home to a variety of ethnic media outlets: the Jewish News, the Latino Press, the Michigan Chronicle among them. Hayg Oshagan, a professor at Wayne State University, looked at the outlets and had a vision: What would happen if they were brought together? So, in 2005, he met with editors from the News, Press and Chronicle -- and the Korean Weekly and the Arab American News. These five papers have a combined circulation of more than 130,000, and a readership reach above 400,000. And while circulation declines have bedeviled the mainstream newspaper world -- a 30 percent drop nationally between 1990 and 2010 -- some of the these properties (Arab American News, Latino Press) are showing surprising resilience in their subscriber ranks. Together, they are now New Michigan Media. Oshagan's goal was to make issues and concerns of ethnic and minority communities more visible to the surrounding community -- to make minority communities more visible to one another and to promote their contributions to the region. “Minority interests have been largely ignored by mainstream media,” said Oshagan. "The collaboration aims to change the existing narrative by bringing to light issues as a group -- and making people see the economic, social, moral argument of immigration to this nation and region.”
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'Many jails still do not do any testing.'

Wayne County Chief Judge Timothy Kenny has been working to stop the spread of COVID-19. Through bond reductions and early releases, he's helped to send home over 400 inmates since last March. Close quarters, limited PPE, a high population due to mandatory sentencing guidelines and old buildings with poor ventilation have conspired to make correction facilities hotbeds for COVID-19. Michigan's prison system — the Michigan Department of Corrections — has gotten the most attention around this. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 135 inmates within the MDOC have died from COVID-19. One in two of the department's inmates have tested positive since March. But jails are battling many of the same issues. In addition to Judge Kenny — and others within the Third Circuit Court — pushing to release inmates, the jail has also ramped up its testing protocol, per Sheryl Kubiak, dean of Wayne State University's School of Social Work. Kubiak has worked with Chief of Jails Robert Dunlap to create a testing and contract tracing plan. "When COVID hit and we knew that the jail was in such trouble — we made a call and said what can we do to help," said Kubiak, who explained that at the time, they were just learning that people could have no symptoms and still transmit COVID-19. Working with Wayne State University's Medical School, they did a series of mass testing to find out what the prevalence rate was, decide who to isolate and make future plans.
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Kroger, Target, Trader Joe's among companies offering COVID-19 vaccine incentives

Several companies have now made public their efforts to get workers vaccinated, including offering one-time bonuses and other financial incentives for employees who opt to get their shot. “Companies do have a lot of leeway in setting their own policies as to whether or not employees are going to have to receive the vaccine, but how the companies go about doing it can matter from a legal perspective," said Lance Gable, an associate professor at Wayne State Law School. It's a scenario not totally unfamiliar, Gable noted, as certain wellness incentives have been challenged in the past on the basis of discrimination. But the unique rollout of the COVID vaccine poses some never-before-seen problems too, he said. “There are separate issues about whether that is different if the vaccine has only been approved under Emergency Use Authorization. A mandatory vaccination requirement for a COVID vaccine could be permissible under federal law but only if employers put in place potential exceptions and accommodations," said Gable, citing EEOC guidance. In the EEOC's most recent guidance on wellness incentives, Gable said, it notes that any gifts or incentives companies offer should be modest, like a small gift card, lunch, or the cost of a ride, for example. Gable believes additional guidance will likely come out as the vaccine rollout continues.
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Wayne State announces Reconnect Transfer Award

Wayne State University is offering support to students who participate in the newly released Michigan Reconnect program through the state of Michigan. Students interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree after obtaining their associates degree through Michigan Reconnect will be considered for a $4,000 transfer award: $2,000 per academic year for two consecutive years beginning the term of admission. “Wayne State is building on an excellent program by extending the benefits of the Michigan Reconnect program to ensure a smooth transition for eligible community college students who wish to complete their bachelor’s degrees at a world-class research university,” says M. Roy Wilson, president of WSU. “Accessibility and affordability are pillars of the Wayne State experience, and we’re pleased to be able to team up with community colleges to offer this program to our students.”
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Researchers receive $1,894,271 grant to address new drug targets for diastolic dysfunction

After the left ventricle of the heart contracts, it must relax efficiently to prepare to refill and supply the body with blood on the next beat.  An increasing number of patients — including nearly all patients with heart failure — suffer from impaired relaxation, which is part of a clinical syndrome known as diastolic dysfunction. Currently, treatments for impaired relaxation do not exist. A team of Wayne State University School of Medicine researchers led by Charles Chung, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology, recently received a $1,894,271 grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health to address the critical need for new drug targets and diagnostic indexes for diastolic dysfunction using novel biomechanical tests that ultimately can be translated into clinical practice. According to Chung, the project was inspired by his research team’s finding that how quickly the heart’s muscle moves is directly related to how fast the muscle can relax. The project will use unique experiments and imaging techniques to link mechanical properties of the heart with models of heart failure that occur in patients. “My lab’s main research focus is to understand how the heart muscle moves at the end of contraction and how this motion can speed up the force decline, or relaxation, of the muscle,” said Chung. “Major proteins in muscles called myosin, actin and titin control the force of each beat. When the heart muscle contracts, myosin binds to actin to generate force. Our lab is trying to determine if motion — and how fast the motion occurs — makes myosin let go of actin faster and make the muscle relax faster.” 
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DTE Energy Foundation donates over $300,000 to Wayne State’s Center for Latino and Latin-American Studies

The DTE Energy Foundation, through its partnership with the non-profit Michigan Hispanic Collaborative (MiHC), has donated $330,000 to Wayne State University’s Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies (LAS). The money will fund scholarships for underrepresented students who are a part of MiHC and students pursuing Latino Studies at Wayne State. “We’re excited because this fund will be able to continue to help students in perpetuity,  said Melissa Miranda Morse, LAS assistant director. “Last year was the first year that it was awarded last fall to students who received the award,” said Miranda Morse. “We help provide access for a student in Detroit and beyond of mostly first-generation and then help them with things like navigating the complex university environment and ultimately succeeding in college and beyond,”
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COVID-19 shined a light on racial health disparities. What comes next?

Racial health disparities were known long before COVID-19 was a blip on a world news briefing in the U.S. Former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Margaret Heckler wrote in a 1985 report from her Task Force on Black and Minority Health that such disparities have been present in federal records ever since accurate federal record-keeping began. And Heckler’s report, the first comprehensive study of racial and ethnic minority health by the U.S. government, looked at two years of averages and determined about 60,000 deaths, or 42.3% of deaths, of Black people under the age of 70 were considered “excess.” The report also determined six key factors, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and homicide, that drove higher death rates among Black people and it made recommendations to address the concerns, such as training in the medical community on cultural sensitivity, more education, and the gathering of more data. There hasn’t been a ton of progress since then, said Wayne State University President Dr. M. Roy Wilson. Wilson served as a deputy director at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities under the National Institutes of Health and is a member of the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities. “We understand a little bit more now about what some of the underlying issues are, but there are intractable issues …  some of them are things like education and income and other things which are bigger societal problems,” he said. COVID-19, with its fast onset, simply showed the results of health disparities faster than all the other illnesses health disparities cause, Wilson said. One thing isn’t talked about enough, said Wilson. That's how Michigan responded when the racial gaps in COVID-19 deaths were identified. The success has been “remarkable,” he said.

A major obstacle to graduating on time: colleges hold student transcripts for small debts

Because former students owe money, colleges are withholding transcripts from more than 6.6 million Americans who’ve transferred to another school or abandoned their pursuit of higher education. These debts total about $15 billion, but in most cases the balances owed are $25 or less, according to a new study by the research firm Ithaka S+R. In Massachusetts, more than 153,000 students who owe more than $794 million cannot obtain copies of their college records. Julia Karon, who led the Ithaka study, said once a student transfers, colleges have a couple of options to collect any money they’re owed. With enrollment down and finances a major concern for colleges that were already financially-strapped, administrators could grow even more strict about holding back transcripts and even less willing to forgive small balances. A majority of students who cannot obtain copies of their transcripts are poor and attend community colleges, so a handful of states are moving to prevent the practice. California and Washington have enacted bans, while lawmakers in New York and Massachusetts have proposed similar legislation. Now some colleges are addressing the problem, too. “Sometimes for a student, any barrier is a big barrier,” said Dawn Medley, associate vice president for enrollment management at Wayne State University. Medley led the effort to ban transcript holds at the public school as long as students agree to a repayment plan. “If you have bad credit, you can still borrow money to get a car. But if you have a past due balance at an institution — that's it, you can't go on,” she said. “In the southeast Michigan region, we realized there were almost 700,000 adults who had some college and no degree and a lot of those students were locked out because of past due debt and they couldn't access their transcripts.” Medley said while first-year college enrollment is down nearly 20 percent across the country, this new, student-centered approach has helped Wayne State maintain its overall enrollment, which is flat. “We grew over five percent in our freshman class this year,” she said. “We see that as a pretty big achievement given the pandemic.”
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How the pandemic is changing children’s friendships

Many things in our pandemic-stricken world are very different. But perhaps the most striking change is how kids’ interactions with each other have transformed. Learning to socialize in the era of social distancing can be tougher than any subject offered in virtual school. When clinical psychologist Julie Wargo Aikins couldn’t leave her house last year without stepping on chalk drawings and spotting packs of kiddie cyclists, she realized something was changing when it came to kids and friendships. The associate professor at Wayne State University knew that prior to the pandemic, kids mostly formed friendships at school and through extracurricular activities. With the shift to remote learning and Zoom everything, the kids in her Michigan neighborhood had started getting noticeably closer to those who lived nearby. “Children are seeking out socialization where they’re at and interacting with children they wouldn’t have before,” says Aikins, who notes that as long as they wear masks and play outside, this is a healthy and welcome development. Through her ongoing research, adolescent developmental psychologist Hannah Schacter has found one early nugget of promising news: In a survey of about 400 ninth graders entering high school in the fall of 2020, about 90 percent reported having close friends. Schacter, an assistant professor at Wayne State University, says that indicates that these young people are managing to keep up connections in a time when extra support is critical. “In the face of stress—whether that’s being bullied or going through a global pandemic—no one wants to go through anything alone,” she says. Schacter adds that with friendship, quality may matter more than quantity. When it comes to fending off feelings of loneliness, the key difference is “between one and not having anyone,” she adds. But she is concerned by the fact that new friendship opportunities have been interrupted by COVID-19, forcing many kids into a funny game of “musical chairs” that has locked them into the relationships they had just before the pandemic. “For kids not in the healthiest friendships, it’s harder to escape those,” Schacter says. “There aren’t as many opportunities for informal friend building anymore, like sitting next to each other in math class."
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Spotlight on the News: U/M & WSU legal experts Richard Primus and Jonathan Weinberg preview Trump impeachment trial

Spotlight on the News interviewed two Michigan legal experts about the second Donald J. Trump presidential impeachment trial. Guests included Professor Richard Primus of the University of Michigan Law School and Professor Jonathan Weinberg of Wayne State University Law School. Primus and Weinberg looked at the important constitutional issues and politics facing the U.S. Senate jurors who will judge this historic trial.
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Zinc may help with fertility during COVID-19 pandemic, researchers report

Wayne State University School of Medicine researchers have reported that zinc supplements for men and women attempting to conceive either naturally or through assisted reproduction during the COVID-19 pandemic may prevent mitochondrial damage in young egg and sperm cells, as well as enhance immunity against the virus. In “Potential Role of Zinc in the COVID-19 Disease Process and its Probable Impact on Reproduction,” published in Reproductive Sciences, Husam Abu-Soud, Ph.D., associate professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the C.S. Mott Center for Growth and Development, said that in addition to benefiting couples attempting to conceive during the pandemic, zinc supplementation of up to a maximum of 50 mg per day for all adults could be beneficial in enhancing immunity and fighting the viral disease process of COVID-19. He also noted that zinc can be beneficial to the general population in enhancing immunity and fighting the viral disease process.
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Wayne State research team developing AI model to aid in early detection of SARS-CoV2 in children

Children have been less impacted by COVID-19 caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SAR-CoV-2) than adults. But some children diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 have experienced severe illnesses, including Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C) and respiratory failure; nearly 80% of children with MIS-C become critically ill with a 2 to 4% mortality rate. Currently, there are no methods to discern the spectrum of the disease’s severity and predict which children with SARS-CoV-2 exposure will develop severe illness, including MIS-C. Because of this, there is an urgent need to develop a diagnostic modality to distinguish the varying phenotypes of disease and risk stratify disease. To prevent children from becoming critically ill from SARS-CoV-2, a team of Wayne State University researchers led by Dongxiao Zhu, Ph.D., associate professor of computer science in the College of Engineering, are developing an artificial intelligence (AI) model to aid in the early detection of severe SARS-CoV2 illness in children.
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New podcast “Seizing Freedom” brings Black Americans’ Civil War stories to life

In recent months, the issue of social justice and its connection to systemic racism and oppression have led to significant shifts in our collective thinking about the ways white supremacy persists in so many aspects of American life. These important conversations have been long in the making. In addition to having frank discussions about biased policies and uprooting unconscious racism, this moment is also bringing to light the importance of narrative equity and having the kind of balance in storytelling that make audiences feel more connected to the media they consume. One new offering that is tied to this shifting media paradigm is the new podcast, “Seizing Freedom.” It takes listeners back to the lessons about the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation and into the work that Black Americans did to battle for and secure their own freedom. Kidada Williams is a Wayne State University professor, author and historian who studies what happened to African American survivors of racist violence. She’s also the host of the new podcast, “Seizing Freedom.” Williams says children are often not told about the role of African Americans in securing their own freedom. “If it’s not erased altogether, it’s distorted,” says Williams. “Coming up through school, we didn’t learn about Black people during the Civil War, we didn’t learn about Black people during Reconstruction,” she continues. “What was made clear to me when I raised questions was this was a White man’s war and a White man’s history of it.” She also shines light on the fact that the struggle for freedom didn’t come easy. ”Freedom isn’t something that’s given to African Americans. They had to seize it during the Civil War. And once they gained legal freedom, they had to work to make it real.”
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Impeaching a former president – 4 essential reads

As the U.S. Senate takes up the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, there are a lot of questions about the process and legitimacy of trying someone who is no longer in office, including what the point is and how impeachment works. The House has passed an article of impeachment, charging him with “incitement of insurrection” in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, and now the process turns to the Senate. The Conversation has published several articles from scholars explaining aspects of the situation, as well as describing more generally what the purpose of impeachment was for the founders when they wrote the Constitution. This is a selection of excerpts from those articles. What happens if Trump is convicted? Though Trump can no longer be removed from office, he may still face consequences. Kirsten Carlson, a law professor at Wayne State University, explains that there is an additional step: “The Senate also has the power to disqualify a public official from holding public office in the future. If the person is convicted …, only then can senators vote on whether to permanently disqualify that person from ever again holding federal office. … A simple majority vote is all that’s required then.”
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Wayne State University’s Board of Governors recognizes National Gun Violence Survivors Week

The Wayne State University Board of Governors voted unanimously over the weekend to declare the first week of February as National Gun Violence Survivors Week. The action was taken following a request at the Jan. 29 meeting by Megan Dombrowski, president of the WSU Students Demand Action of Gun Sense in America group. The board will ratify its vote and consider if the designation will be recurring at its March 12 meeting. WSU first commemorated National Gun Violence Survivors Week last year, to honor and remember all victims and survivors of gun violence. National Gun Violence Survivors Week is also recognized by the State of Michigan, following a proclamation by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “Gun violence is an all-too-common occurrence here in Detroit and in our nation,” said Marilyn Kelly, chair of the WSU Board of Governors. “The board respects our students’ initiative in raising awareness of this issue and in honoring those lives lost to gun violence. We are proud to stand with our students.”
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MDHHS, Wayne State University, to provide mobile COVID-19 testing

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is partnering with Wayne State University and Wayne Health to provide mobile COVID-19 testing. The partnership comes in an effort to reach more Michiganders in need of COVID-19 testing and other public health services. This new program allows three mobile units to move between sites and serve communities at the highest risk. Locations are chosen in part to help address racial and ethnic disparities that had existed prior to the pandemic and were exacerbated by the virus – a focus of the Racial Disparities Task Force. Wayne Health’s Mobile Health Unit offers an array of health care screenings, including COVID testing, flu shots, blood pressure screening, HIV testing and on-site referrals for public benefit programs such as Medicaid and unemployment assistance and emergency food and shelter services addressing social determinants. “Partnering with the state will expand our efforts to bring these vital services to more Michigan residents who need them,” said Phillip Levy, M.D., M.P.H., who leads the Mobile COVID Testing Program for Wayne Health and is WSU’s assistant vice president for Translational Sciences and Clinical Research Innovation. “This work is a key element of who we are as a university and as a practice group. Meeting people and providing services where they live is critical not only to containing the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential to improving health in general.” 
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Researchers assess impact of family migration on infant well-being

While the number of immigrants from Arab countries to the United States has steadily increased over the past several years, family and child health research on this population remains scarce. To address this disparity, Dalia Khalil, Ph.D., RN, assistant professor in Wayne State University's College of Nursing, was recently awarded a two-year, $161,451 grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health. Khalil and her team will expand on her previous research on immigrant Arab American parents and families.
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Opinion | Michigan economic development is a failure. Time to focus on people

Ned Staebler, vice president for economic development at Wayne State University and president and CEO of TechTown, and Lou Glazer, president of Michigan Future, Inc., wrote a guest column for Bridge Michigan. “Michigan faces the prime economic challenge of our times: creating an economy that provides enough household-supporting jobs so that all working households can raise a family and pass on a better opportunity to their children. A prosperous Michigan is a place with a broad middle class where wages and benefits allow everyone to pay the bills, save for retirement and the kids’ education, and pass on a better opportunity to the next generation. Even in Michigan's strong pre-pandemic economy, 43 percent of households – most with at least one working adult – could not pay for basic necessities. When more than four in 10 Michigan families are struggling, our state is not succeeding, and our economic developers are failing. As long-time economic developers ourselves (who very much implicate ourselves when we talk about failing), we believe the primary goal of state economic policy should be rising household income for all Michigan residents. Meeting this challenge requires not only that the state make rising income for all its top economic priority, but that it reevaluate and redesign its economic development infrastructure accordingly. This mission change will also require us to think differently not just about state and regional economic development efforts, but how they coordinate with community development, housing and workforce development policies and programs as well.”