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Family of falcons nest at Wayne State University

A family of Falcons are the latest addition to the campus of Wayne State University. Hovering above Old Main are two peregrine falcons. A mom and a dad - named Isabella and Freedom. The couple moved into the Wayne state campus in 2016. "They've been taken off the endangered species list because the re-introduction into the eastern United States has been so successful," said Michelle Serreyn, WSU Department of Biological Sciences. "Part of that started with people introducing them into urban environments." And now Wayne State is setting up a webcam for viewers to track the trio of chicks as they grow up. "They are the fastest animal on earth," she said. "So what they do, is they hover in the air about birds because they are bird eaters. And they fold their wings and go into what's called a stoop, so they are diving. When they do that, they have been clocked at 200 miles per hour." The fact that Isabella and Freedom chose Detroit as home, means something for the region. "It says a lot about the revitalization of the Detroit area," she said. "So here we are fixing up the campers, we are creating habitat for people but we are also creating habitat for wildlife at the same time. And they are recognizing that this is a safe place to be, it is a good environment for them. So just as people are moving back into the city, so are these animals moving back into the city."

As more states create compensation exoneration laws, some run into funding problems

Richard Phillips was just allocated $1.5 million for three decades that he wrongfully spent in prison for a murder that he didn’t commit, but he’s still going to have to wait a while to see that money. The issue isn’t with his case, but with the money itself: the fund that pays out exoneration compensations in Michigan is nearly empty. Michigan’s Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act (WICA) went into effect in 2017, and the state has already spent the vast majority of the $6.5 million appropriated to the fund. The fund was set to be refilled with an additional $10 million but that was the target of the state’s new governor’s first line-item veto on a technicality -- though the governor has expressed her support for approving the $10 million appropriation in a separate bill, which those involved believe will come in the next few weeks. But for people close to the exonorees that have not only have spent decades unjustifiably behind bars, but continue to have to fight for compensation, it’s a slap in the face. Marvin Zalman, a Wayne State University criminal justice professor, said that while the details of how newer exoneration compensation laws are ironed out, they should not be addressed in a silo -- as any factors that contribute to the wrongful convictions in the first place should also be addressed. “We should be thinking about these laws," Zalman said. "I certainly don’t want my tax money going into compensating people for wrongs if the wrongs can’t be eliminated."
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Water stays in the pipes longer in shrinking cities – a challenge for public health

Shawn P. McElmurry, Wayne State University associate professor of civil and environmental engineering; Nancy Love, University of Michigan professor of civil and environmental engineering; and Richard Jackson, professor emeritus of environmental health sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, wrote an article for The Conversation. “The geographic locations where Americans live are shifting in ways that can negatively affect the quality of their drinking water. Cities that experience long-term, persistent population decline are called shrinking cities. Urban shrinkage can be bad for drinking water in two ways: through aging infrastructure and reduced water demand. Major federal and state investments in U.S. drinking water occurred after the World Wars and through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund created by the 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act. Many of the pipes and treatment plants built with those funds are now approaching or have exceeded the end of their expected lifespan. Shrinking cities often don’t have the tax base to pay for maintenance and replacement needs. So the infrastructure, which is largely underground, out of sight and out of mind, deteriorates largely outside of the public eye…Despite all its accomplishments, the Safe Drinking Water Act is an imperfect law. Simply relying upon and then communicating about a water quality parameter that “meets all regulatory standards” – as per the law – is an inadequate way to communicate about water quality, as you can see in Flint.”
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Supreme Court delays redrawing districts in Michigan gerrymandering case

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a temporary hold on a federal court order to redraw legislative and congressional districts in Michigan by August. The justices on Friday issued a brief order that stayed the April 25 decision pending the disposition of the appeal of the case or further order by the court. Republican lawmakers two weeks ago filed an emergency request asking the Supreme Court to suspend the judgment of the lower court, pending the outcome of similar cases that the justices are expected to decide by July. The Supreme Court heard arguments in March in alleged partisan gerrymandering cases from North Carolina and Maryland. The high court's five conservative justices asked at oral arguments whether unelected judges should police the partisan actions of elected officials. The court is simply holding off on the Michigan case, including deciding the appeal, until it rules in the North Carolina and Maryland cases, said Robert Sedler, a constitutional law expert and professor at Wayne State University Law School. "It’s not surprising that the court stayed this case until it decides the cases from North Carolina and Maryland," Sedler said. "That will determine whether the claim in this case — that the Constitution prohibits political gerrymandering — is a viable claim. This is what the court typically does when the result in a lower court case is going to be controlled by cases that the court is already hearing."
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Wayne State preps water study participants

An independent study by Wayne State University into Adrian’s water got underway Tuesday night as representatives prepped participants on what to expect. The meeting with Adrian residents was closed to the media but Wayne State student Andrew James briefed media ahead of the meeting on his study. James will test water samples throughout Adrian for the presence of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) and certain toxins affiliated with the bacteria, specifically microsystin and anatoxin. James said the study was suggested by Thomas Prychitko, due to the previous findings. The Wayne State professor will help supervise James through the project. “The gist of it is, yes, we are testing to see if there is any harmful bacteria in the water of these fine people in Adrian, Michigan,” James said. The study is for James’ master’s degree and thesis, he said. The study is not in conjunction with any other agency, nor is it affiliated with the city of Adrian and its water study being conducted by Tetra Tech. Wayne State is funding the project. “This is a significant investment by Wayne State,” Taylor said as each water sample can cost up to $225. James said the purpose is to identify if there is cyanobacteria in the water and where in Adrian it might be. The university put a call out in April for participants.
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Wayne Law students honored by National Lawyers Guild

Two Wayne State University Law School students have been named student honorees by the Michigan and Detroit Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. Cait De Mott Grady of Ithaca, New York, and Phillip Keller of Frankenmuth, received the honor at the chapter’s 82nd Anniversary Dinner on May 11. Both students graduated Monday, May 13. While at Wayne Law, De Mott Grady was a member of the executive board of Wayne Law’s NLG chapter, a member of the Student Board of Governors and was a junior member on the Mock Trial National Team for the American Association of Justice for the winter semester. In 2018, she was elected student national vice president of the NLG. De Mott Grady is a champion for public interest law. She has interned with the Juvenile Lifer Unit at the State Appellate Defender Office in Detroit and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, and has worked for Wayne Law’s Criminal Appellate Practice Clinic and Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic.
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Sea dragons, human compost, Lego dinosaurs: News from around our 50 states

A new exhibit at the Detroit Historical Museum takes visitors through 150 years of life in the city’s Corktown neighborhood. Called “The Journey to Now,” the exhibit opened this month and is scheduled to run through July 7. The exhibit is hosted by the nonprofit organization Corktown Experience in conjunction with Wayne State University’s Anthropology Museum. It tells the story of the people who lived in the Workers’ Row House in Corktown and of the workers who helped build Detroit into an industrial and automotive powerhouse. This exhibit kicks off an effort by Corktown Experience to turn the Workers’ Row House and the surrounding property into a community hub and cultural center.
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How to pay off student loans without a billionaire bailout

Nearly 400 graduates in the Class of 2019 at Morehouse College in Atlanta will receive a stunning graduation gift — all their college debt wrapped up and paid off by Robert F. Smith, who started out as a chemical engineer and later founded the technology-focused investment firm Vista Equity Partners. "My first thought when I heard the news is what an amazing graduation gift!" said Lynita Taylor, diversity and inclusion program manager at the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University. "College can certainly be seen as a worthy investment," she said, "but the staggering amount of debt you can accrue while pursuing that investment is heartbreaking. Hopefully these young men will utilize this gift to take bold, advantageous next steps," Taylor said. "It’s so easy to take any paid position when you’re a new graduate with significant debt over your head. But with a clean slate, maybe they can take the 'dream' job or start their own business. The pathway of opportunity just got even wider for these graduates." About 65 percent of college seniors who graduated from public and private nonprofit colleges in 2017 had student loan debt, according to the Project on Student Debt. Borrowers owed an average of $28,650, roughly 1 percent higher than the 2016 average.
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What is cystic fibrosis? This genetic disease affects every system in the body

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a complex, life-threatening disease that affects many organs in the body, including the lungs, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract. It’s caused by a genetic mutation that causes a certain protein to stop working. “The predominant way CF affects the body is in the gastrointestinal and respiratory system, but it causes a wide variety of complications that affects every system in the body,” Zubin Mukadam, M.D., assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care at Wayne State University, tells Health. “We do a lot of newborn screening,” says Mukadam. “However, a lot of kids get missed because there are over 1,700 genetic mutations that could prompt CF, and most genetic tests only screen for the most common mutations.” 
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IHEP summit spotlights financial struggles of low-income, working-class students

Achieving equity for low-income students in post-secondary education requires getting down to the nitty-gritty of what they need, and the Institute for Higher Education Policy provided a forum for that with a summit featuring game-changing institutional leaders — including WSU Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Dawn Medley — the release of a special report and in-person perspectives of students who have overcome major finance-related obstacles on their way to a degree. With student-sensitive efforts such as generous emergency funds and a debt-forgiveness initiative, Wayne State University has been a national leader in providing financial and emotional support to low-income and working-class students. “It’s letting them know that you don’t just see them, but you hear them,” said Dawn Medley, associate vice president for enrollment management. “Schools keep putting burden of success on the back of the student. You really have to listen to your students and what they need if you are going to clean up the water and change the system.”
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Michigan Mobility Institute, Wayne State partner on advanced mobility curriculum

The Michigan Mobility Institute announced the world’s first advanced mobility education curriculum for the sector Tuesday in partnership with Wayne State University’s College of Engineering. The organizations said in a joint Tuesday announcement that they’ll begin developing programming to power mobility careers in the months ahead. Kim Trent, chair of the Wayne State University Board of Governors, said in a statement that the partnership with the Michigan Mobility Institute could help extend Detroit’s 100 years of history in mobility innovation into the 21st century and beyond. “I couldn’t be more thrilled that the futurists behind the Detroit Mobility Lab and the Michigan Mobility Institute have chosen Wayne State as their partner. This Institute will make our university a world leading center for cutting-edge thinking and leadership for this critically important emerging sector.” Wayne State’s College of Engineering offers a graduate certificate in cyberphysical systems, a program in electric drive vehicle engineering and a newly developed master of science degree in data science and business analytics. “Together we are poised to create something very special as we embark on a shared mission to create the premiere institution focused on educating the mobility engineer of the future,” Farshad Fotouhi, dean of the College of Engineering and computer science professor said. 
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Legislators push for more librarians in Michigan schools

At a time that Michigan students are falling behind, three bills have landed in Lansing for further discussion. In 2018, the Michigan Department of Education released statistics that showed less than half of Michigan third and fourth graders read at grade level. Michigan ranks 47th in the nation for its ratio of students to certified librarians — it’s also in the bottom five in literacy. The two statistics have legislators like State Rep. Darrin Camilleri questioning why more isn’t being done to increase the presence of librarians in schools. Earlier this year, Wayne State launched a program to certify media specialists because so few exist after years of attrition. During recessions many schools began to look for areas to cut within their budget — media specialists were among the first positions cut. Some experts believe it’s directly related to the state’s literacy concerns. “It’s unfortunate, but we see correlation between the decline of certified librarians and the decline in our students literacy scores,” said Kafi Kumasi, a professor at Wayne State University.
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Using AI to help students learn "how to college"

Dawn Medley, associate vice president for enrollment management, wrote a piece about Wayne State’s innovative use of a conversational artificial intelligence (AI) tool – also known as “chatbot.” Medley wrote: “The chatbot, developed by AdmitHub, helps prospective students successfully apply to and enroll in a college or university by answering their questions through text and mobile messaging. Marrying AI with a conversational tone, our chatbot – named “W the Warrior,” after our mascot – helped boost enrollment by 14.6 percent, including an 18 percent increase in first-generation students and a 13 percent increase in Pell-eligible students.” Medley points out that in-person guidance and nudges are as vital as ever, but the chatbot has afforded more time to focus on important interactions. “At Wayne State, we have discovered that there is no silver bullet to helping our students learn “how to college.” But we now know about several solutions that can work in tandem to help our students succeed. Success is not just about how students learn in the classroom. It’s also about how students interact with the institution.
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How technology bridges gaps between healthcare and underserved populations

Steven Ondersma discovered that "only a very small proportion, maybe 10 percent" of the people who need professional care realize that need and have the means to address it. "I've just become really interested in having whole-population effects, rather than helping a few people who might be ready to make use of the treatment and have access to that treatment," says Ondersma, deputy director of the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute at Wayne State University. Ondersma and others in Michigan who are interested in addressing the social determinants of health have increasingly turned to technology as an answer to that question. Weisong Shi, professor of computer science at Wayne State envisions the potential for technology to bring a doctor's office to those more remote patients. He proposes a vehicle, "just like an ice cream truck," that would allow people to get basic physical tests in their communities, with the results being transmitted back to a provider's office. Asthma disproportionately affects African-Americans nationwide, but in Detroit the problem is particularly pronounced – and often an emergency situation. Karen MacDonell, associate professor in Wayne State’s School of Medicine, has been using technology to improve those outcomes with the Detroit Young Adult Asthma Project. Funded by a series of National Institutes of Health grants, MacDonell began the project over 10 years ago by interviewing young African-American Detroiters about their asthma. She asked participants what strategies would help them adhere to their medication before an emergency arose. "Long story short, they wanted something using technology – something they could have with them, something easy to manage, something brief," she says. MacDonell developed a text messaging program that collects information about a patient's asthma and then sends the patient conversational messages encouraging medication use.
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Exhibit looks at history of Detroit's Corktown neighborhood

A new exhibit at the Detroit Historical Museum takes visitors through 150 years of life in the city’s Corktown neighborhood. Called “The Journey to Now ,” the exhibit opened this month and is scheduled to run through July 7. The exhibit is hosted by the nonprofit organization Corktown Experience in conjunction with Wayne State University’s Anthropology Museum. It tells the story of the people who lived in the Workers’ Row House in Corktown and of the workers who helped build Detroit into an industrial and automotive powerhouse. This exhibit kicks off an effort by Corktown Experience to turn the Workers’ Row House and the surrounding property into a community hub and cultural center.
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Will Michigan 3rd-grade reading law hurt poor?

Children from low-income and minority families will be more likely to flunk than wealthier white classmates with similarly low test scores under Michigan’s third-grade reading law, if the experience of Florida is repeated here. Research and Northwestern University found that Florida third-graders with similarly low reading scores were held back at different rates, depending on the socioeconomic status of their families. While the long-term impact of holding children back a grade is mixed, the socioeconomic and racial disparity found in Florida should be a flashing yellow caution light for Michigan, said Sarah Lenhoff, assistant professor of education at Wayne State University. “This study is an important warning for Michigan lawmakers and educators as our state implements this new law,” Lenhoff said. “If children are given differential opportunities to use exemptions from retention, this policy could lead to greater inequity in educational opportunity between low-income children and their wealthier peers.”
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How technology is bridging gaps between healthcare and underserved populations

Steven Ondersma discovered that "only a very small proportion, maybe 10 percent" of the people who need professional care realize that need and have the means to address it. "I've just become really interested in having whole-population effects, rather than helping a few people who might be ready to make use of the treatment and have access to that treatment," says Ondersma, deputy director of the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute at Wayne State University. Ondersma and others in Michigan who are interested in addressing the social determinants of health have increasingly turned to technology as an answer to that question. Weisong Shi, professor of computer science at Wayne State envisions the potential for technology to bring a doctor's office to those more remote patients. He proposes a vehicle, "just like an ice cream truck," that would allow people to get basic physical tests in their communities, with the results being transmitted back to a provider's office. "You can go to this rural area and ... run these checks without asking these people to drive about 50 miles away to go to a hospital to do this kind of test," Shi says. Asthma disproportionately affects African-Americans nationwide, but in Detroit the problem is particularly pronounced – and often an emergency situation. Karen MacDonell, associate professor in Wayne State’s School of Medicine, has been using technology to improve those outcomes with the Detroit Young Adult Asthma Project. Funded by a series of National Institutes of Health grants, MacDonell began the project over 10 years ago by interviewing young African-American Detroiters about their asthma. She asked participants what strategies would help them adhere to their medication before an emergency arose. "Long story short, they wanted something using technology – something they could have with them, something easy to manage, something brief," she says. MacDonell developed a text messaging program that collects information about a patient's asthma and then sends the patient conversational messages encouraging medication use.
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Institutions hope to increase diversity through mentorship

A 2012 federal report found a lack of students from underrepresented backgrounds entering undergraduate programs that lead to careers in biomedical research. To address this problem, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) created the Diversity Program Consortium (DPC). DPC takes a multi-pronged approach in its efforts to train and mentor students, enhance faculty development, and improve institutional research training infrastructure. There are three interconnected programs that make up DPC: Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD), the National Research Mentoring Network, and the Coordination and Evaluation Center. ReBUILDetroit is a partnership between the University of Detroit Mercy, Marygrove College, Wayne County Community College District, and Wayne State University and is funded by a $21.2 million NIH grant. Collectively, the institutions enroll roughly 47,300 undergraduates. Nearly 52 percent of them come from underrepresented backgrounds and half are economically disadvantaged.