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Undergrads benefit from distinctive research, learning experiences

      A key element that has long been part of the university's vision statement is providing all students a distinctive academic experience. Attracting accomplished faculty members that demonstrate a passion for educating and inspiring students in the classroom is one way Oakland is able to do this.

     Another way is by providing students – and particularly undergraduates – with opportunities to engage in relevant and meaningful research and scholarship early in their college careers. While such experiences are anything but common at higher education institutions across the U.S., OU faculty and administrators across academic disciplines have seen how valuable these such programs can be in preparing students for success in their careers and or post-graduate education.

     Just a few examples of programs that OU has established to introduce undergraduate students to unique and enriching learning experiences include:
  • Undergraduate Distinguished Achievement Award
  • Chrysler Undergraduate Student Research Award
  • Provost's Undergraduate Research Award
  • University Research Committee Student Research Award
  • University Research Committee Student Travel Award
  • Automotive and Energy Research and Industrial Mentorship (AERIM) research experience for undergraduates program
  • Summer Materials Research Training
  • Dershwitz Summer Research Fellowship
  • Summer Undergraduate Program in Eye Research (SUPER)
  • Chemistry and Biological Sciences Summer Research Fellowships
     Dr. Kenneth Mitton, an associate professor of biomedical sciences and faculty member in the Eye Research Institute, said students can get involved in research projects in the ERI as soon as the summer after their first year. While they're involved, they acquire practical skills ranging from communication and time management to experiment methodology and documentation.

     "It also forces them to become disciplined, patient and persistent," he explained. "They get to know their way around a lab and they see firsthand how the real world of research works."

     Dr. Mitton added that because students involved in SUPER gain so much, and far earlier than many of their peers, they are highly sought after by employers, graduate school recruiters and medical schools.

     Students also earn their keep, as they provide important assistance to faculty researchers in a wide variety of ways including data collection and documentation.
     "The students definitely become an asset – I mean they're certainly an asset to me," Mitton said "And to be honest, I think this would actually be a boring place without the kids here."

     A similar dynamic is at work in the School of Engineering and Computer Science.
     The SECS senior design experience brings groups of computer, electrical and mechanical engineering students together to complete a common project, such as developing a product that can be competitive in the global marketplace, or to accomplish a common task, such as designing and building an autonomous robot that can detect, locate and extinguish a house fire.

     Dr. Michael Latcha, associate professor of mechanical engineering and senior design course instructor, explained that students must rely on their accumulated knowledge, research skills and each other as they interact in the same fashion that professional engineers do. In this sense, they gain experience tackling relevant, real-world projects while getting a glimpse into the challenges and opportunities their future careers hold.

     "The Provost has been very generous in funding the prototype costs of this program for several years, and we are grateful for his support of this unique undergraduate experience," Dr. Latcha said.

     Meanwhile, the AERIM programs, funded by NSF and the U.S. Department of Defense, engage participants in rewarding research experiences designed to nurture careers in scientific and engineering research. They also help address the nationwide problem of the under-representation of women and minorities in science, technology, engineering and math professions.

     Dr. Laila Guessous, associate professor of engineering and faculty advisor to OU's student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, said students attracted to the automotive focus of the AERIM program benefit from OU's proximity and close ties to the big three automakers and scores of automotive suppliers. Each summer OU students and peers from other universities engage in research projects complemented by industrial research lab and facility tours, conferences and seminars.

     Faculty, graduate students, and industrial mentors and professionals ranging from senior vice presidents and program directors to researchers and young engineers both formally and informally offer students a host of insights on the automotive or energy industry, technology and career choices.

     Still other examples of great advantages and tremendous success undergraduate students enjoy come from the Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences. Department Chair, Dr. Roman Dembinski, shared stories of several students who were awarded summer research fellowships, including two who have co-authored book chapters with faculty. With the help of faculty adviser Dr. Nessan Kerrigan, an assistant professor of organic chemistry, recent graduate Eric Salo also made six research presentations during his undergraduate career and has a second manuscript in preparation.

     Dr. Arthur Bull, professor of biochemistry, said that participating students grow in a number of ways. "These experiences are some of the most life changing interactions students have during the course of their undergraduate years. Students have discovered the potential of research and/or development based careers and pursued opportunities accordingly," he explained.

     "Just as important, some students have learned that they would prefer a career that is not laboratory based, thus they either more vigorously pursue professional education, or seek employment that they would find more satisfying. Thus, whether they find inspiration or insight, the value of significant undergraduate research is immense."

Faculty continue to distinguish themselves and Oakland

      Half way through the current academic year, the ambitious and accomplished faculty of Oakland University are on pace to have yet another fantastic showing in terms of distinctions and achievements.

     This is saying a great deal, given that the achievements of faculty in the 2010-11 academic year were remarkable. They included state and national honors being awarded to Dr. Eddie Cheng, Dr. Gopalan Srinivasan, Dr. Ed Haworth Hoeppner, Dr. Carolyn O'Mahony, Dr. Eileen Johnson, Fatma Mili and Dr. Pamela Marin, among others.

     Already this year, we have seen many laudable accomplishments, including the following:
  • Dr. Ross Melnick, an assistant professor in English and Cinema Studies, appeared in a New York Times article focusing an Internet database he created to catalogue historic movie theaters across the globe.


  • Dr. Todd Shackleford, professor and chair of OU's Department of Psychology was named an American Psychological Association fellow in recognition of his passion for teaching and learning, as well as a wealth of scholarly contributions that have flowed from it.


  • Dr. Tim Larrabee, an associate professor of education in Oakland's School of Education and Human Services, was chosen from among thousands of educators across the nation to be named one of only 10 recipients of the inaugural Chevrolet GREEN Educator Award.


  • Linda Tyson, a special instructor and art education coordinator in the School of Education and Human Services, has earned the 2012 Michigan Higher Education Art Educator Award from the Michigan Art Education Association (MAEA).


  • Dr. Kerri Schuiling, OU's new dean of the School of Nursing, was recently named a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, one of the most prestigious honors in the field. The distinction honors those who have contributed significantly to the field of nursing and health care.


     We know that Oakland has gained an increased level of name recognition as result of events such as the Republic Presidential Debate hosted here in November, as well as from the success of our men's basketball team.

     When it comes to the heart of the university's core mission – that of academic, scholarship and research excellence – however, the achievements noted above are incomparable accolades that build our reputation within the higher education community in the U.S. and the world. They indicate the exceptional quality of our faculty and what they contribute to their disciplines.

     The expanding reputation is self-nurturing, particularly in that it helps attract a continuously higher caliber of new faculty to Oakland. This certainly is evident in distinguished educators we have welcomed this year. Brief profiles are available on the Undergraduate Education website.

     We look forward to reporting still more achievements of this caliber, which will undoubtedly come throughout the remainder of the 2011-2012 academic and beyond.
Winter 2012


Academic Skills Center helping more Oakland students stay on track

    It appears that the Academic Skills Center is on pace to meet or beat the number of students it provided individual and group tutoring to in the fall of 2010. During that semester, more than 1,000 students took advantages of tutoring services.
   The Center, of course, offers a number of other helpful services, and programs, including supplemental instruction, self-paced instructional materials, writing assistance and more.
   To learn more about how the center's staff aims to maximize student learning and improve student retention at OU, see the recent News at OU article or visit

Thursday evenings offer a chance to wind-down, catch up, be entertained

    The Department of Music, Theatre and Dance will continue its collegial Thursday Arts-After-Work series with a concert by members of the OU percussion faculty in January and an Oakland University Wind Symphony Concert in February.
   The series features a pay-what-you-wish admission fee, as well as an elegant dine and mingle event with colleagues and university friends and supporters prior to each event.
   To view a complete series calendar and for more information, visit the Arts-After-Work website.

The OU community expands its reach at home and abroad

    University faculty and staff are working hard to broaden the university's presence in academic communities around the world, as was indicated by two recent news articles.
   First, the Study Abroad office has added a unique cultural arts program in Ghana, West Africa, to the current lineup of 22 programs offered in 19 countries.
   Another sense in which the university is doing this is through the Honors College. Students there have been collaborating in academic projects with Australian and Korean students via a virtual classroom.
   The international partnerships welcoming this help students bridge culture caps, make friends and advance their research and scholarship interests.

OUAG exhibition sparks imagination, inspiration

    The Oakland University Art Gallery will host "Idealizing the Imaginary: Illusion and Invention in Contemporary Painting" through Sunday, April 1.
   The collection, a survey of contemporary painting, is drawn from the stables of nine eminent New York galleries and the Olga Korper Gallery, in Toronto, and brings the work of fourteen major New York artists to Detroit.
   An opening reception is set for 5-8 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14. For more information, visit the website at

New online academic catalog offers ease and convenience

    The university has officially launched the Acalog system, which provides online, digital versions of OU's undergraduate and graduate catalogs.
   These virtual, fully interactive program guides will offer greater accessibility, increased functionality and added convenience to anyone interested in quickly finding the academic program information they need.
   To learn more about the Acalog system, visit

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   Office of the Provost
205 Wilson Hall
2200 North Squirrel Road
Rochester, MI 48309-4401
(248) 370-2190 | (248) 370-4475 fax