BY NATALIE WRIGHT |
John Mullins wore out a lot of career pathways before finding his way at Washtenaw Community College.
Before he was a digital video production student at WCC, Mullins, 39, earned an associate degree in computer information systems at Henry Ford Community College, a bachelor’s in business administration at the University of Michigan, and a master’s in theology through an online school that, he says, “doesn’t really count.”
But he just couldn’t find something that stuck.
He spent some time as a flight attendant for Northwest Airlines, a job that he loved. But he was laid off soon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 when the airline industry was hurting.
Finally, in 2011, Mullins made a deal with his mom that changed his course once again.
“She said she wanted to write a book,” he said. “So, I told her to go back to school. I made her a deal that if she went back to school, I’d go back with her.”
As he was scanning the course catalog, he came across digital video production and thought it sounded interesting.
“I was just curious how a movie was made,” he said.
He had never touched a video camera, or attempted to write a screenplay, but soon after classes began, Mullins realized that he had found his passion.
“I had no idea how much is involved (in making a film),” he said. “It’s hard, but I love it.”
Mullins said his favorite part of the movie-making process is writing. While he admits the process gets frustrating at times, it’s very rewarding to sit back and watch a film that he’s created from start to finish, he said.
Two faculty members have been particularly influential in his writing. Harvey Ovshinsky taught Mullins in his screenwriting class during the summer of 2012.
“Harvey taught me so many things. He’s like Robin Williams in the ‘Dead Poets Society’ and Patch Adams mixed together,” Mullins said.
He said he is also grateful for the guidance and inspiration he received from Linda Chapman, who teaches writing for visual media.
“She’s an Academy Award-nominated writer. There aren’t many people who can say that,” he said.
Yet, despite all he has learned from his instructors, Mullins said he has learned more from his classmates. The diversity of the students at WCC is what makes for a great learning environment, he said.
“There’s a really nice mix of younger kids and older students,” he said. “And because it’s so spread out, it’s not uncomfortable for anyone, and everyone benefits. The younger students keep us young, and we keep them working hard, like parents.”
Mullins has produced five major projects since he began the program in 2011. He just finished his last film; he graduates this spring.
The film, which deals with domestic abuse in a homosexual relationship, is more “serious” than any of his other projects, he said.
Chris Ozminski, 51, is Mullins’ partner for the film. Mullins’ diverse life experiences make him a strong writer and a good classmate, according to Ozminski, a digital video production student from Brighton.
“He definitely has more depth of knowledge than most students,” Ozminski said of Mullins. “That can be a helpful resource for the other students in the program to have.”
Mullins said he keeps a scoreboard of reactions to the film.
“Six people have actually shed tears, there were three gasps, two people told me how brave I was,” he said, “and one person in my creative writing class came out of the closet to our class.”
Mullins said that after he graduates, he plans to continue with school and get his bachelor’s degree in video production. He is even being recruited by several schools. After his dad broke his kneecap recently, his mom halted her studies to care for him.
“So I’m going to school for the both of us,” said Mullins, “but I’ll push her to go back when the time is right.”
The self-proclaimed “eternal student” said he’s just happy to have finally found his calling.
“I was pushed into my first degrees. People said, ‘Go for the money,’ they said, ‘Computers is where it’s at,’ but I hated it,” he said. “Now I’m getting the degree I really want. This seems to be where I need to be, and should have been in the beginning.”
Mullins applied to speak at the college’s upcoming graduation ceremony. He said he hoped to share the most important piece of wisdom WCC has given him: “Don’t listen to anybody else. Do what you want to do. Follow your heart.”
Lawyering up: Eric Scheie and his wife Edie Ostapik in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago(ERIC SCHEIE COURTESY PHOTO)
From witnesses to welding, student cross-examines a career
BY MICHAEL J. HLYWA |
Sparks often fly around Eric Scheie whenever he’s in the room, whether it’s in the courtroom and, more recently, in the workshop.
Scheie, 58, of Ann Arbor, is a student in his last year of WCC’s welding and fabrication program. But not long ago he was a lawyer living in San Francisco.
So how did he go from allegations to alloys? He met a girl on his journey through life.
Scheie’s journey started at 18 when he followed his dream of living on the West Coast. He moved from his hometown of Philadelphia to California, where he attended University of California-Berkley and studied rhetoric.
While working odd jobs during college, Scheie realized, to his surprise, that he wanted to become a lawyer.
“I saw that the people I was working for were making good money,” Scheie recalled. “I never liked lawyers all that much, but I thought a law degree would be a good thing to have for life. I could see that people who were lawyers had all kinds of advantages in life.”
So after receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1978, Scheie went on to complete his juris doctorate degree at University of San Francisco in 1982. He passed his bar exam the same year and spent the next 17 years practicing law in California.
But tragedy struck when Scheie’s mother fell terminally ill. He packed up and moved back to Philadelphia in 1999 to care for her until she passed away.
While living in Philadelphia, a friend introduced Scheie to a fellow Californian named Edie Ostapik. Scheie and Ostapik hit it off instantly, and they married a couple of years later.
“It’s interesting because we’re both Californians, but we met in Philadelphia,” Scheie said. “Actually, she had returned to school late in life, and she was getting her economics undergraduate degree at Bryn Mawr College when I met her. She went from there to University of Michigan to do her graduate work.”
So Scheie followed.
“I’m what you call a trailing spouse,” Scheie joked.
But it was thanks to Ostapik’s move to Ann Arbor that Scheie found his next big passion.
“I’ve always been interested in welding, but I never had the time to do it,” Scheie explained. “One of my best friends is an artist from California. He’d done a lot of metal work, and he was moving to other forms of art. So he said, ‘I’ll let you have my welder and my cutting outfit and everything.’
“So that was a nice gift, but I had no idea what I was doing, and I thought, rather than blow myself up or burn the house down, maybe I ought to take a basic welding course.”
So Scheie searched for renowned welding schools in the area, and he found a great one in Washtenaw Community College.
Scheie’s return to college to study welding came as no surprise to his wife.
“He’s the type of person that when he gets interested in something, he takes it to a pretty high level,” said Ostapik.
According to Coley McLean, one of Scheie’s welding instructors, it’s not uncommon for people to end up in her classroom later in life.
“That happens a lot. If you talk to people about welding,” McLean said, “it’s usually, ‘Oh, I’ve always wanted to do that.’ But we do get quite a few students that this has always been a passion or a love or an interest. I mean, the (classroom) population’s pretty interesting. We get 16-year-olds to 70-year-olds.”
And McLean loves having Scheie in her class. She says that, because of his diverse background, Scheie helps make class more dynamic.
“He’s an ideal student,” McLean explained. “He’s very inquisitive, very polite. He’s the kind of student that, when you want there to be interaction, he’s the first one to start it, which is great.
“He takes it (school) more seriously. I mean, he’s been out in the real world, so he knows what having a boss is like. He knows what making ends meet is like. Having that background, he can appreciate the education.”
Indeed, Scheie loves the rejuvenation that college gives him, even if it does make him sweat a little.
“Being a student at my age is downright surreal. And I sometimes wonder, ‘how in the world did I get into this?’ because at my age, that’s not what most people do,” Scheie said.
Ostapik also supports her husband’s newfound interest, in spite of the clutter that comes with it.
“I like to see him have a passion for something and pursue that. That makes him happy so that makes me happy. Though sometimes when our living room and dining room are full of metal, and I trip on them, that doesn’t make me happy,” Ostapik joked.
But studying welding is more than just a pastime for Scheie. After finishing at Washtenaw, he wants to get a welding engineering degree. Eventually, he plans to combine his experiences and consult on welding litigation cases.
And that, adds Ostapik, is the beauty of schools like WCC.
“Community colleges help people later in life to transition to a new career and find a new passion,” Ostapik said.
In the case of one attorney-turned-welder, Washtenaw certainly helped Scheie fuse his passions and spark his fervor for a new chapter in life.
Researcher hopes to build future studying
machinery at WCC
BY MARIA RIGOU |
Dr. Ben Jones —not his real name, though he does hold a doctorate degree—has a good reason for not wanting his name used in this story.
He holds a distinguished position in research and development at a local institution, and neither his employers nor coworkers have any idea he is studying at Washtenaw Community College – for the purpose of running his own company one day.
Jones acknowledges that for him, education is not all “do and be done.” It goes much farther than that.
“I had a business idea,” the 45-year-old from Brighton said.
Jones, who already holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from Oakland University and also earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Michigan, is enrolled in the Automation Technology program at WCC, with a concentration in advanced manufacturing.
He says that his reason to come back to school revolved around two main motivations that were deeply interrelated.
“I wanted to make some things, but I didn’t know how,” Jones said. “I needed (a special type of) machinery and it turns out WCC has a great program that is part of a larger advanced manufacturing program.”
Jones’ current know-how places him well ahead of his classmates: he knows materials and has the knowledge that can be applied to fabricate devices, but is still missing the engineering aspect of manufacturing.
And this is exactly his other reason for enrolling at WCC.
“I like the way (the program) enhances my other skillsets,” Jones said. “And I fell in love with the whole thing.”
The automation technology program at WCC prepares students for entry-level positions as an automated equipment technician who assembles, installs, programs, troubleshoots and maintains robotic and automated equipment. Students have a choice to follow any of four different specialty tracks, which will prepare them for the various applications of automation.
“There are four ways of obtaining the Automation Technology degree, said Gary Schultz, instructor in the Industrial Technology department. “(One) is CNC machining, machines that are operated by programmed motors.”
Within this program, Schultz explained, a student can either work on setting up and operating machines or programming machines from blueprints using CAM software, for example.
“(This degree) will open up doors for plastics production and move me over to the engineering side,” Jones said. “Luckily, I have the chemical knowledge, because of my work, so I only need the knowledge on processes.”
Jones hopes to move into the manufacturing industry in Michigan and hopefully make something out of his ideas.
“It’s not ‘make it and be done’ for me,” said Jones about his future ambitions. “I would like to open a shop” and apply the concepts he learned at WCC.
“His previous degrees are not hands-on degrees,” Schultz said. “I really think that he is enjoying the hands-on.”
Jones is one of many students at Washtenaw who have decided to continue studying in order to open up more job opportunities for themselves.
“Ben is a hardworking (guy),” said Sean Wood, a 45-year-old science major from Saline. “He is a very down-to-earth person.”
According to Schultz, there is a huge shortage of technicians in Southeast Michigan. Since the 2008 economic crisis, the manufacturing industry in the state has been in decline, but it is now back with a vengeance.
“One of our students… came here not having a clue what to do. He took Robotics I, and was hooked,” recalled Schultz. “He transferred to Lake Superior State, got a Bachelor of Science in Engineering and now pretty much runs the paint line in the BMW plant in South Carolina. And he is responsible for, I don’t know, literally about 100 robots.”
Schulz sees similar potential in Jones.
“He is a very fun guy to have in class,” Schultz said. “And I know he is going to be successful in whatever he does.”
Fresh ink: Wyatt Knick, 21, of Ypsilanti, loved Washtenaw Community College so much, he got a tattoo.(BEN KNAUSS THE WASHTENAW VOICE)
BY BENJAMIN KNAUSS |
Wyatt Knick loves his education in custom auto body at Washtenaw Community College so much that he had the program logo tattooed on his arm.
“It’s not just a logo to me, it has meaning. This is my life,” said Knick, 21, of Ypsilanti. “This is where I made my new start after high school.”
Knick moved to Ypsilanti from Ohio when he was 18 and did not know anyone. Proud to say that he got his education at WCC, his tattoo is a tribute to the relationships and knowledge gained at Washtenaw.
Knick got his interest in working with cars while attending high school in Piqua, Ohio. At the high school level, Knick competed in the Skills USA competition all the way up to the nationals. It was at the Skills USA competitions that he took notice of the WCC Auto Body program and its reputation.
After high school, Knick was offered full-ride scholarships to study at other colleges. He turned down all the offers in favor of the program at WCC because of what he saw at the Skills USA.
“None of the other colleges that offered me a full ride scholarship even had a student in the Skills USA competition,” Knick said.
While working on his degree, Knick has started a small auto paint shop out of his home.
“It is the one thing I’ve done best in my life,” Knick said. “I am an all-around guy. I can do welding and body work, but my passion is to paint. You are able to express yourself more in paint than in body. You can take what you have literally in your head and put it onto the car.
“At the end of the day, I go for the look in the customers’ face when they see their car.”
Knick does not regret his decision to turn down the other more well-known schools. He feels the program at WCC is the best choice for anyone when it comes to an education in any of the automotive fields.
“We take pride in what we do. We go a step above and beyond,” Knick said, adding that he practices the advice given him by his boss in the Auto Body program.
“I try to learn one thing new every day,” he said, “and I have yet to fail.”
BY BRIAN KONICEK |
On a routine Tuesday evening at the Wolverine State Brewing Company on Stadium Boulevard, friends are gathering at the bar and tables, or finding their way to the mock living room setup lined along the wall. What isn’t typical for this atmosphere however, is that the house band for the night has everyone’s attention.
As Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys, a Michigan five-piece, stand in front of a backdrop painted with a map of their home state, the sound emanating in the room manages to be at once recognizable and instantly refreshing. They bounce back and forth between the original arrangements off their two albums, “Release Your Shrouds” and “A Different Tune,” and cover songs from Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys to “Zombie” by The Cranberries. It’s obvious, both in sound and presentation, that this band is seasoned beyond it years.
Allen Williams, 24, who has been working at Wolverine Brewing Company for two years, has seen the group grow right before his eyes.
“A friend and I used to go watch them play at the Circus Bar downtown and we really liked their energy, and we became friends,” Williams said. “We started to book them regularly at the Wolverine and they really started to gain a following.
“They just have a great energy that they bring every week and are so down to earth, going around and chatting with everyone who comes in.”
Garret Jones, 23, of Ann Arbor, is one of the regulars on Tuesdays.
“I try to make it every week they are in town. I just love the diversity of their set and how consistent they are as musicians. It’s a rare thing to see nowadays,” Jones said.
Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys formed in 2008 when founding members Joshua Rilko (mandolin, vocals) and Spencer Cain (bass) began performing while attending Michigan State University. During an open mic night at Dagwoods Tavern in Lansing, the boys heard Lindsay Lou for the first time and knew she would become an essential part of their group. Fast-forward four years, with the addition of Keith Billik on banjo, Mark Lavengood on dobro guitar, and the full potential of the group had been realized.
“You know how all little kids have a dream job? Well, mine was to be a singer,” said Lindsay Lou Rilko, lead singer and songwriter of the band. “I wanted to be a singer so bad, and I remember being around 11 years old and finally telling my dad in a very serious conversation that I was determined to be a singer.”
The determination is paying off for her and the group, playing more than 170 concerts around the country last year, and trending to exceed that number this year. Their sophomore album, “Release Your Shrouds”, received critical acclaim for its infectious harmonies and the tightknit, interwoven instrumentation of the Flatbellys. It was nominated for the best album of 2012 by “Beat Surrender,” and Ann Arbor’s 107.1 WQKL-FM best songs of the year.
“I try to think about each song as a photograph. You aren’t coming up with anything new since whatever it is being photographed already exists. Your job is to work within the limited confines of the frame,” Rilko said.
“A lyricist has the duty of saying something that’s already there from their own position and through their own lens.”
What makes the group stand out in a crowded bar, or in the “Bluegrass” genre that can be often repetitious, is its ability to effortlessly sway into new territory, including Latin influenced chord changes, jazz inspired ballads or harmonies that recall the soulful sound of the 1960s.
“My main medium for approaching the big ideas of music is writing. I use the lexicon of genres I know about from singing, and you hear it after it comes through my lens, and then is tweaked and elevated by the lenses of my band mates,” Rilko said. “We all draw from what we love and know, and our music is the end result. We keep things fresh by continually learning. That’s the only way,”
As the learning for the group continues, so does the writing and touring.
“We have a lot of exciting things in the future,” Rilko exclaims.
“Josh and I have this duo album in the works, which we recorded at Jim Roll’s Backseat Studios in Ann Arbor, and we have tentative plans to record another band album in the fall.”
After its last Tuesday gig in late April, the band headed east for a three-week tour of the coast, with several more road trips planned throughout the year. But when they’re not on tour, you’ll find Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys at “home” on Tuesday nights at the Wolverine
Grab a letter, kiss it and cry, and tell the kids Daddy will be home soon – maybe
BY JUSTIN BOGROW |
Why? It’s a question that resonates in Jen McCary’s mind as her kids ask her why Dad is not here, why they have to wait for a letter just to know how he is.
It’s a feeling of hopelessness because she can’t say for sure that their father will walk through that door again. She hopes, but at this point that is all she can do.
This is what many people who have loved ones fighting overseas deal with. The constant question the heart will ask. The same issues that stress a war-stricken family.
“It’s rough, they ask where Daddy is. I have to tell them he is off fighting for this great country,” said McCary, an early childhood teacher from Ypsilanti. “They ask when he will be home; I smile and tell them soon.”
The stress overcomes her often.
“Sometimes I can’t sleep. I hold his picture close and cry. Hoping my kids don’t hear me,” she said. “I miss him.”
McCary’s husband Daniel has been overseas in multiple locations for a year and a half, serving in Iraq and now Afghanistan. He has only been home twice, for a total of three months. They have two kids, Bobby and Lester, 2-year-old twins.
Missing them is common; it can lead to a ton of stress, trying to live life without a major part of your life, and acting like it’s OK. It can lead to tough, dark times, like what Amber Shelley, an undecided WCC student, dealt with when her father left to fight in the Iraq War.
“I got into a serious drinking binge,” Shelley said. “I just wanted my daddy back. We wrote all the time. Then one day I stopped getting letters. They brought my dad back in a coffin.”
That idea that their loved ones will return safely is what gets them through the days.
“Without hope and faith,” McCary said, “I think I would have cried myself to my own grave.”
The most common idea of an Army hero is a man, covered in war paint pulling off James Bond moves as he takes down the enemy. That is not always the case though. In the Fitzpatrick family, Anne fights for the country as father Jim stays back and raises their 13-year-old daughter, June.
“It’s crazy sometimes,” Jim said. “June really is paranoid about her mother. They were really close.” Jim said. June attends Lincoln Public School District.
“Yeah, I miss my mommy. I kiss her picture goodnight every night,” said June, a student at Lincoln. “Sometimes we Skype, but it’s never long enough. I have nightmares about my mommy losing a leg in a bomb explosion or being caught in fire. I guess I tend to worry.”
Now imagine a young girl shopping for a dress for a formal dance. Mom is there helping her pick out the one that matches her shoes. But what happens when Mom is thousands of miles away, across an ocean? Dad steps in, but thinks pink matches with orange.
“The roughest part was when June had her spring formal last year, and here I am trying to be Mom,” Jim said. “And when they went to take the mommy-daughter picture, June ran to her room crying. Nothing hurt more than that moment, seeing her break down, down to the bone. It still kills me, every day.”
Sometimes it’s not a mom or a dad. Sometimes it’s the son or daughter who is in the danger of fighting a war. The stress is still the same; the feelings are just as strong. Alison Buchanan’s son Daniel has been in Afghanistan since Sept. 6. It’s no different for her, the worry and the fear.
“Ever held a letter as you fell asleep, and then waking up as tear stains coat it?” she asked. “Well I have done that many times since he (Daniel) left.”
Jacob Russell’s story brings to light the meaning of loved ones being gone. His mom and dad are both at war in Afghanistan. He lives with his grandmother Ruth in Ann Arbor. He has lived with his uncle Jason Russell for a month, but then Jason got laid off and had to find a new place for young Jacob.
Jacob moved in with his grandmother at age seven. His parents have been gone since he was six years old, citing their need to fight for what they love.
“They have a calling, can’t fight what they like to do,” Ruth said as she gripped a picture of Jacob with his family. “Just wish I could do more for Jacob. I know he misses his mom and dad, and all I can do is say, ‘me too’”
A letter can mean many things though, and to these families it means safety and assurance. It’s something they can hold as they let their tears out.
“A letter, man, it means freaking everything,” McCary said. “Hell, it’s to the point I read it in his voice. Then after that I hold it close to me and fall asleep. I know he isn’t here, but for a moment I feel like his soul is holding me.
“I even have a picture that hangs from my rearview mirror in my car. Keeping me safe as I drive.”
Technology is getting better, which definitely makes things better. Ruth’s husband Jack was killed in the Vietnam War. Now her daughter, Jacob’s mother Bridgette, is off at war along with her son-in-law Jared.
“Times for war have gotten better thanks to social media though, I tell ya,” Ruth said as she chuckled. “Back in the old days, you waited months for a letter. I would have died to get onto (Skype) and see my husband, but we just did not have that back then.”
Throughout time, war has changed as has the way families cope with it. The pain and worry is the same, though. That can’t go away, since they can’t hold their loved ones. They may never again – and they know that. They won’t accept that risk though. They have to tell themselves it can’t happen or they would go crazy.
“If I thought about all the possibilities, I would have PTSD,” McCary said with a laugh. “Honestly, I do think about it. I can’t help it. My kids ask, and the worst pops into my head. I swat it away but sometimes it’s stuck in there for a bit.
“Then I grab a letter of his and kiss it, let out a cry and move on. I call that Tuesday, just another day.”
A taste for the technical: English instructor Lisa Veasey talks about the joy of teaching young students at WCC in her office.(Nathan Clark WASHTENAW VOICE)
BY MICHAEL J. HLYWA |
The Writing Center computer lab was deathly quiet as nine students worked feverishly to wrap-up their technical writing final exams on Monday. But that didn’t stop most of them from flashing smiles and whispering “yeahs” when technical writing program adviser and English teacher Lisa Veasey sneaked into the room carrying a platter and wearing a grin.
“I brought homemade seven-grain olive oil crostini and sun-dried tomato spread, but I’ll just wait until you all are finished,” Veasey teased.
Veasey had been on sabbatical during the winter term, to the disappointment of her technical writing students. So they were delighted when she dropped by for the end-of-the-term fiesta that has become a tradition in technical writing classes – a tradition started by Veasey.
But it’s more than just her baking prowess that people are drawn to. Many who succeed in English, particularly technical writing, thank Veasey’s knack for connecting with the people around her. And that passion for communication dates back to her youth.
“As a young person I wanted to be a teacher,” Veasey explained. “When I got a little older, I wanted to be a bilingual ed teacher. I was very troubled by the realization that children who spoke a language other than English as their first language were placed in classrooms with native speakers of English and just expected to figure it out.”
Unfortunately Veasey quickly realized that there wasn’t much of a demand for bilingual education teachers in Michigan at the time.
Then a friend from EMU suggested she look into technical writing.
“I loved it,” Veasey said. “It fed my desire to write, to research, to learn new things and to help people. So even as a technical writer I felt like I was a long-distance teacher. I was helping people understand or learn about technology in a way that they couldn’t or didn’t before.”
Veasey completed both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Eastern and went on to manage a technical writing department at Creative Solutions.
Then a friend of hers, who was teaching part-time at WCC, asked Veasey to be a guest speaker in his class.
“I prepared a lecture, and I came and spoke to his class and loved it,” Veasey recalled. “And I didn’t realize that Dan Minock (in charge of WCC’s technical writing program at the time) was sitting in on the class – I just thought he was another student. Shortly after that, he offered me a part-time teaching position.”
Veasey started part-time at Washtenaw in 1995. She was so enamored with teaching that when a full-time position opened up in 1999, she seized it. Since then she’s been connecting with students one by one.
“One thing I believe is students need to feel comfortable in their learning environment,” Veasey explained. “And I make it a point to, for example, the first night of class I learn every student’s name. And I know every name by the second class.
“I think it’s important to build connections, not just between student and teacher, but among the students – that they have some rapport. It’s building a little mini-community within the classroom.”
But not every community-building experience is a seamless one, according to Joan Arnold, a 58-year-old technical communications student from Ann Arbor. Arnold recalls a group project in one of Veasey’s classes during which personalities collided. Arnold was impressed at the skill with which Veasey handled the situation.
“Lisa was able to have us all meet outside of class,” Arnold recalled. “She didn’t necessarily resolve all the issues, but she got us to work together. And I was really impressed with that. She helped everyone move forward together.”
Veasey’s skill in communication impacts faculty too. English teacher Mary Mullalond knows first-hand that Veasey’s skill in building rapport transcends her classroom.
“Her ability to mentor – not only her ability to mentor students, but her ability to mentor other faculty – is astounding,” Mullalond said. “In general, we have really good faculty here, but not all faculty have the time or are willing to take the time to mentor part-timers.”
And, Mullalond continues, the fact that Veasey peppers her interactions with wit makes her all the more endearing.
“It makes her really approachable, I think. As soon as she starts talking to you she’s warm and she’s got this great sense of humor.”
Mullalond adds that Veasey has a really caring nature, doubtlessly perfected while raising her own two teenage children.
“She’s able to focus on you like she’s really looking at you and really hearing you, as if you were her child and she cares about you.”
Veasey’s maternal instinct also helps her command a mother’s respect.
Technical communication student Kayleigh Cyrus, 25, of Ypsilanti, explains that many students in the technical writing program have multiple classes with Veasey in addition to program advisement sessions. That, says Cyrus, affords Veasey the ability to really gauge what her students are capable of – and when they’re not delivering it.
“I have seen students disappoint her,” Cyrus said, “and I never, ever, ever want to do it. It’s not like it’s scary, but it makes me uncomfortable because it’s almost like disappointing your mother. Actually, it’s exactly like disappointing your mother. When you’re parents are so mad at you, but they don’t actually say why or tell you that they’re mad, they just say, ‘Wow Kayleigh, I’m really disappointed in you.’ That’s the kind of feeling that I never, ever want to get from Lisa.”
But more than anything, students like 31-year-old Tom Butler, from Chelsea, cherish Veasey’s approachability and real-world experience. Butler says he started out in nursing but switched to technical communication after meeting Veasey.
“I had been taking courses to get into the nursing program, and I was burnt out,” Butler recalled. “I was only happy when writing essays.”
When Veasey shared her winding career path with Butler in response to his disenchantment with nursing, he felt really connected.
“It made me like, ‘Yeah! This lady is the real deal. This lady has been through the same types of things I have.’”
It’s connections like these that really help students find the strength to succeed.
Or is it the baking?
Because according to Cyrus, “That woman can make some bread!”
Dyno dash: Logan Owen, 25, of Ypsilanti, runs this Yamaha sports bike through the Occupational Education building’s dyno testing lab.
Photo and Words BY BENJAMIN KNAUSS |
The Motorcycle Service Technology program at Washtenaw Community College does not have the immediate name recognition like nationally known programs – yet.
But once a student finds out about the MST program at WCC, all it takes is a visit and the other names and plans to attend elsewhere are quickly forgotten.
“I’ve been here seven years, and I’ve never had a parent and student come through here and not sign up,” said MST instructor Mark Daily. “No one’s ever walked away. I’ve never seen it.”
The WCC program features training in every aspect of motorcycle service and is in the process of adding some fabrication classes to the curriculum. Students are often first exposed to the program at WCC by working with graduates of the program in the workforce.
“I work at a shop as a porter. One of the shop techs came here to the program,” said Philip Marcinkowski, 19, an MST student from Auburn Hills. “I hear him talk to the other kids about MMI (Motorcycle Mechanics Institute), and he’s throwing out the same knowledge as they are. It was no other choice than to just go here.”
Tom Denig, 50, is an MST major from Jackson who also works in a motorcycle shop with WCC grads.
“Working at the dealership alongside some of the other schools’ graduates, I can tell you first-hand this program, in my opinion, will benefit you as a tech more than what I have seen from the other motorcycle programs,” Denig said.
“I’ve worked in the field for almost 30 years as a mechanic,” he said. “I’ve seen all the alumni that come from other schools. This is definitely the highest quality. WCC has raised the bar as high as I’ve seen it, and I have been a mechanic all of my life.”
Marc Rosette, an MST lab tech and a graduate of the program, did the research before choosing WCC.
“I went down to WyoTech and checked it out. WyoTech and MMI are definitely bigger, but everything’s here for you,” he said. “This is all you need, and it’s cheaper.”
Once a part of the program, students do not regret the decision to attend WCC over other programs.
“I was so close. I was getting ready to go to Arizona (to MMI). I was so happy to find this,” Logan Owen, 25, an MST major from Ypsilanti, said.
Specialized education, not just a class overview
Dynamometer operations (MST 220) and advanced dynamometer tuning systems (MST 225) classes are two reasons the WCC MST program stands out above others.
A dynamometer, or “dyno” for short, is specialized equipment, housed in its own room that ranges in size from a closet to a garage. A dyno is used to measure output forces and performance of an engine. With motorcycles, any work done on the bike or changes made in parts can influence the performance more than with other vehicles.
“You need to come in here any time you make changes like pipes, air filters or anything like that,” Rosette said. “Any change you do, you need to make a change in the room. If you don’t have the right tune, you’re not saving your bike.”
The dyno room uses computer sensors to take readings from a motorcycle that is held in place and running at highway speeds. Operators of a dyno can make changes to a bike’s performance by analyzing the dyno data and making adjustments with a bike tuning unit.
“The best tuners you are going to get are Power Commander or Screaming Eagle,” Rosette said.
Students in the MST program gain hands-on experience with both the Power Commander and the Screaming Eagle motorcycle tuners over the course of full semester classes, not just a few weeks.
“I found out that at MMI, you don’t get as much time to be on a program. Like with the dyno room, you only get like a week to do it, and here we have a whole semester of being forced into the room,” Owen said.
The dyno education is something that Owen sees as a major advantage he has over others in the motorcycle field without even being graduated.
“I can go to a shop, and if they have a dyno I can literally run it, in and out. Most other people are like ‘I will learn it when I work there,’” Owen said. “Being able to walk in and say, ‘I know how, I know the tricks’ is a big selling point for anyone looking to get on the job market.”
David Koster, 45, an MST student from Bailey, did his homework, too.
“I did my research,” he said. “This is the best dyno program in the country.”
Classes worth driving 160 miles for
Bailey is a small town about 30 miles north of Grand Rapids. Koster makes the five hour, 320 mile round trip twice a week to attend classes at WCC.
“In the mid ‘90s, when I lived in the area, I took a bunch of welding classes, and I knew the welding program was top notch,” Koster said “They didn’t cut corners giving students what they needed in order to learn.”
In 2010, Koster was looking into motorcycle programs and found out that one was offered at WCC. He recalled his welding classes, and figured he’d find the same high level of education and instructors in the MST program.
“All the instructors are always willing to share their many years of experience they have from being in the field,” Koster said. “You can only learn so much from being in a classroom. If you can learn the stuff from the field from someone who’s been there, it’s invaluable.”
Koster says his drive averages 2 1/2 hours, one way, but in the winter it can often be 4 1/2 hours. Why would anyone drive that distance, passing at least four other colleges along the way?
“I value what’s here,” Koster said. “This gave me the opportunity to pursue something that I really enjoy, a passion, and make money.”
Koster does not take missing class lightly either.
“There is always something that I learn every day that if I was not here I would not get caught up,” Koster said. “Every class period, one of the instructors puts out information that isn’t necessarily written in the curriculum. It’s from their experience. That is something that may not be reviewed again.”
Come for your own reasons
Classes in the MST program are available for anyone who wants to learn, regardless of the reason.
“I just wanted to save money by fixing my own machines,” Andrew Coffey, 20, Ypsilanti said.
“For me, this is, like, the closest school around here that has this. There is no other school, that I’ve seen, that has a motorcycle program,” Marcinkowski said.
The program is a valuable steppingstone for those working in the motorcycle field looking for a way to advance.
“I started off working as a porter at a dealership and wanted to climb up the ladder at the dealership. I wanted a training opportunity that was close to home and was not at the same price as other schools,” Denig said. “I have succeeded and since been licensed by the state of Michigan. I have started wrenching for the dealership. It has been a successful endeavor.”
It is not just the students who learn in the MST program. Instructors and lab techs also help one another.
“I’ve even learned so much through this program just being a tech sitting in here listening to other instructors,” Rosette said.
The WCC MST program is located in OE 184 and is open to, and encourages, visits by prospective students.
“Everybody is welcome here. Everyone treats you right around here. It’s really relaxed,” Rosette said.
Just be forewarned that once you stop by, it’ll be hard to leave.
Barefoot and brazen: Julie Conley, 37, left, and Sherri Dotson, 43, both of Tecumseh, enjoyed their first experience running barefoot at the Burns Park PTO 35th annual run on May 5.(RAYA COOPER COURTESY PHOTO)
Runners forego the footwear, get a new feel for running
BY M. M. DONALDSON |
Manlo Blahnik, Merrell, Sperry, Nike – or none of the above?
Those were the choices for several runners at the Burns Park PTO 35th annual run held on a recent Sunday morning.
Consisting of 5K and 10K races, the fundraiser was selected for the official Michigan International Barefoot Running Day ’13 by the International Barefoot Runners. The group has more than 5,000 members and was able to coordinate 25 U.S. and 27 international barefoot runs for this May 5 event.
“It feels like being a kid,” said Alan Adler, 59, of West Bloomfield. He has been running for 3 ½ years – barefoot.
“I’ve failed at running five times, because of pain,” Adler admitted. He had special orthotics made for his shoes, which still did not eliminate the pain. Going barefoot has been the only successful way of running for Adler, the current president of the International Barefoot Runners Society Michigan chapter. With barefoot living, he has no pain, no injuries and no problems.
The ancient Greeks, the original athletes, may have been the first to run barefoot. Running barefoot, not very popular over the centuries, became trendy in 1960, after what was really an unfortunate event. Simple online searches reveal that Abebe Bikila from Ethiopia placed first in the Olympic Marathon running barefoot, a decision he made when there were no shoes in his size.
Most of the barefoot running articles on the Runners World website caution readers to attempt it very gradually. Going cold turkey on the footwear works different muscles and until one is used to it, injury could ensue.
Adler’s wife, Diane, 56, ran her first race barefoot at the Burns Park Run. She feels that barefoot is “the only way to move without pain.” She found her running as compromised as a mechanic “operating with gloves on.” The tactile sensations were less effective. She does other things barefoot as well, leading a “barefoot lifestyle.” The only time she has been hurt while barefoot is in her own home.
Diane finished the 5K in 37 minutes, 23 seconds.
Also running in the Burns Park PTO annual fundraiser was Julie Conley, 37, and running partner Sherri Dotson, 43, both from Tecumseh. The duo was encouraged to lose their shoes at mile five of the 10K as the beautiful morning, defined by clear blue skies, mild temperatures and all kinds of spring flowers in bloom unfolded along the tree-lined streets of the residential neighborhood.
“I enjoyed the concept with being in touch with the ground, the earth,” Conley said. She and her running partner discussed how it changed their stride and perception of running.
This is the first time they have ever run barefoot, and they received a lot of encouragement from race participants along the course.
Conley has two half-marathons to her credit; Dotson ran two. They are scheduled to run the Chicago half-marathon in the fall. Conley conspired quietly with another runner that going barefoot in Chicago is not out of the question.
Other runners Adler has seen convert to barefoot lo se the competitive drive, but have replaced it with fun.
“There’s nothing as simple,” he said, “as barefoot running.”