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Week of April 19, 2010

Senior profiles: Eight outstanding seniors reflect on U-M experience

The University Record traditionally presents the stories of standout undergraduate seniors on the occasion of their graduation. Presented here this year from the spring graduating class are profiles of Moustafa Moustafa, LSA; Jonathan Christopher, School of Music Theatre & Dance; triplets Sheri Jankelovitz, secondary education, Elliot Jankelovitz, sociology, and Erica Jankelovitz, LSA; Derek Blumke, psychology/political science; Mary Lemmer, Stephen M. Ross School of Business; and Mark Yang, College of Engineering.

Spring Commencement will be held at 11 a.m. May 1 in Michigan Stadium; University Graduate Exercises are 1 p.m. April 30 at Hill Auditorium. For complete information go to

LSA student focuses on global health, giving back

By Joe Serwach
News Service

Moustafa Moustafa was born in Egypt but grew up in Grand Rapids where, as student government president at City High, he organized a blanket drive to help victims of the 2005 Kashmir earthquake.

LSA senior Moustafa Moustafa organized the interfaith nonprofit United to Heal, which has collected and redistributed $1 million worth of medical surplus. Photo by Scott Soderberg, U-M Photo Services

“It was my first taste of organizing things and a couple of weeks later we had enough blankets to fill a 17-foot truck,” the graduating U-M senior recalls. “I realized we don’t have to just mourn tragedies. You can do something about them.”

As a U-M sophomore, he organized an interfaith nonprofit now known as United to Heal (, an effort that often brings as many as 400 volunteers together, uniting different religions and medical organizations. Each Saturday, they sort items to ship to another part of the globe in need.

They’ve collected and redistributed $1 million worth of medical surplus supplies to Tanzania and mounted similar efforts to get aid to places like Ghana, El Salvador, Iraq and Jamaica.

“Interfaith activity seems to work not when it’s just dialogue between different people talking to each other but by action when they both work together for a cause greater than themselves,” he says. “I’ve really always been interested in global health, feeling that’s the best way to be a force for change.”

He recalled the project needed warehouse space to store material and originally found volunteered space from the Jewish community and when that lease expired, a member of the Catholic community helped them secure new warehouse space.

Moustafa, who graduates in May from LSA, will earn a bachelor’s degree in literature, with an honors concentration on medieval Spain. He plans to pursue a joint MD/MBA next fall most likely from either Yale University or the University of Chicago. Like his parents, he plans to be a doctor but believes a business degree will give him an added distinction.

U-M’s first set of triplets set to graduate

By Maryanne George
LSA Communications

As triplets Sheri, Erica and Elliot Jankelovitz have always done things together. They grew up in West Bloomfield together watching U-M football, attended high school together and enrolled at U-M together in the fall of 2006. At the time they were the first set of triplets to enroll together at the university, according to admissions records.

Sheri, Elliot and Erica Jankelovitz are the first set of triplets to enroll together at the university, according to admissions records. When they graduate May 1, their parents will be there. “They are extremely proud of us,” Erica Jankelovitz says. Photo by Scott Soderberg, U-M Photo Services

So it’s only natural that the triplets will graduate together on May 1 in the Big House. Having President Barack Obama as the graduation speaker makes the day extra special, they say.

“How many people can say they’ve graduated at the Big House with Obama as the speaker?” says Erica, a senior in the LSA Honors Program who is receiving a bachelor’s degree in organizational studies with high honors. She will begin classes at U-M Law School in June. “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Sheri, who worked as a film critic for the Michigan Daily for three and a half years, is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education. She spent the last semester as a student teacher at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor. In August, she will marry Adam Horwitz, who also is graduating next month. Still searching for a teaching job in Michigan, she hopes Obama will talk about improving the nation’s education system.

“In the classroom I have seen the state place so much emphasis on test scores and there’s no plan to help students who are falling through the cracks,’’ she says.

Elliot, a U-M cheerleader during his senior year and a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, is receiving a bachelor’s degree in sociology. He will begin a career in sales this summer.

“I want to hear what Obama is going to do about the economy,” Elliot says. “It’s the worst in Michigan. I remember when he got elected he said he was going to do all these things.”

Their proud parents, Eva Hamburger and Stuart Jankelovitz, who started a college fund when the triplets were born, also will be at the Big House. Getting three kids through college at the same time was a real challenge. Their parents covered many semesters of tuition and as well as room and board. The triplets took out student loans to cover the rest.

“We are glad they love us so much,” Erica says. “They are extremely proud of us and we are so fortunate that they can be there.”

Music, theatre studies built self-awareness for student

By Kevin Brown

Performing the lead in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance production of “The Marriage of Figaro” last fall was a revelation for Jonathan Christopher.

“Michigan has become my home not only because of the training as a singer or actor. I also learned how to be a good human being,” says Jonathan Christopher, who will speak during graduation ceremonies for the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. Photo by Peter Smith Photography.

“It was just the whole challenge of trying to sing a three-hour opera and to keep the character fresh and alive. I knew to just have fun and be able to act and enjoy the experience,” he says.

Upon closing the stage exit door at the end of the play, he broke down crying. “To be able to get through that — in that moment I said ‘I can see myself doing this.’ The feeling of extreme happiness ran through me,” Christopher says.

He is scheduled to speak during the school’s graduation ceremonies at 4 p.m. April 30 at the Power Center for the Performing Arts. “I plan to talk about how no matter what the changes are, seeing the constants reminds me I’m at home. Michigan has become my home not only because of the training as a singer or actor. I also learned how to be a good human being.”

Born raised in Bermuda — he moved to Boston at age 10 — Christopher learned when young to appreciate the feeling of community. “The fact that there were 60,000-70,000 people, it is an extremely small island, I learned about how to be a good human being,” he says.

Christopher says he was inspired to follow examples of unselfish behavior. “The people that I got to know in Bermuda and at the university were selfless people and great role models, looking at what they were able to do for each other — not for their own personal gain but because it’s the right thing to do,” he says, adding he’s tried to gravitate to those people and ideals.

A voice teacher in Boston encouraged Christopher to study at U-M. Once here, he also discovered theatre studies. “It was an extreme blessing; it really helped me grow for my final three years at the school. I needed that training to be where I am,” he says.

“I’ve learned I have a great support system, and that wherever I go and can create a support system, and that I also have to be proactive.”

Christopher plans to attend graduate school, either at U-M or at McGill University in Montreal.

Soldier inspired to create Student Veterans of America

By Deborah Meyers Greene
Public Affairs

Eleven years ago, Derek Blumke emerged from his Alanson, Mich., high school with a 1.50 GPA and two options: drive for his father’s small excavating business or join the U.S. Air Force.

Blumke. Photo by Nate Root.

“When I told my Dad I had enlisted, our relationship changed from adversaries to best friends,” says Blumke, now 29. “On the other hand, my mother wouldn’t speak to me for two weeks.”

On May 1 he will be in the Big House, a member of the Class of 2010, the first college graduate in his family.

Following graduation, he will end his term as the first president of Student Veterans of America, which he co-founded in January 2008 to assist veterans’ transition to college. “We now have 221 chapters around the country,” Blumke says, “from Ivy Leagues and major publics, to community colleges and trade schools.”

Blumke worked with SVA to pass the Post 9/11 GI Bill of 2008. He now is leading SVA’s efforts to help wounded veterans transition to college, address mental health needs and secure employment upon graduation.

Recently, he testified before Congress about improved access to veterans benefits, and is participating in a DOD working group at the Pentagon, addressing the implications of repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

In Spring 2007 Blumke launched the Student Veterans Association at U-M, a founding chapter of SVA. “I wanted to make sure my friends and fellow veterans didn’t have to struggle with the transition to college like I and others have. Just because the uniform is off doesn’t mean you’ve shed the responsibility to take care of your fellow soldiers,” Blumke says. Blumke credits his parents, Jim and Deb Blumke, for making his achievements possible. He also acknowledges U-M mentors who helped him along the way. “Dr. Schwarz was instrumental in the early stages of the Student Veterans of America,” Blumke says of Dr. Joe Schwarz, Vietnam veteran, former member of Congress (R-Mich.) and now visiting lecturer at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

In 2009 he met David Brandon at the Mackinaw Policy Conference.

“Derek immediately impressed me as confident, friendly and very passionate about his role as co-founder and president of the SVA,” says Brandon, U-M’s athletic director. “I have been repeatedly amazed by his high level of positive energy and his enthusiasm for helping others.”

“Sometimes, I will run and run and run… Dave helped me slow down, pace myself, build a plan,” Blumke says.

Blumke’s journey to U-M began while serving six years in the U.S. Air Force as an aircraft electrician and maintenance supervisor, including three deployments to Afghanistan and the surrounding region with the AC-130H Spectre Gunships.

After active duty, Blumke joined the Air National Guard and enrolled at North Central Michigan College, completing his associate’s degree, with honors, in fall 2006. Months later, he transferred to U-M to double-major in psychology and political science.

Inspired by the input of Blumke and other veterans, the university has established a network of services and significantly invested in the Yellow Ribbon program, by which U-M contributes a substantial portion of tuition above the limits of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. In 2009-10, 128 veterans and dependents are enrolled and receiving veterans benefits at U-M in Ann Arbor; 43 receive Yellow Ribbon benefits, as well.

In the future, Blumke will remain involved in veterans’ advocacy, and is considering pursuing an MBA and MPP to prepare for a career in business and public service.

“Derek is the type of young man who will be successful at anything he decides to do. I know he will give back to Michigan in every way possible,” Brandon says.

Ross student encourages social entrepreneurship

By Leah Sipher-Mann
Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Stephen M. Ross School of Business graduate Mary Lemmer wants to make it her business to improve the world.

Ross School graduate Mary Lemmer helped start a family business that sells Italian ice. Photo by Scott Soderberg, U-M Photo Services

She co-founded an organization that encourages business students to seek careers that help others and participated in an initiative that established a competition to challenge students to design a net-zero energy house.

“Students coming out of schools like Ross are the leaders and best,” says Lemmer, winner of the 2010 BBA Global Citizenship Community Service Award. “If we’re not going to lead the world in the right direction and make a positive impact, who will?”

As co-president and founding member of the student organization Net Impact, she hopes to motivate other young leaders to follow her example. Net Impact encourages innovative undergraduate and graduate students to pursue careers in social entrepreneurship, international development, nonprofit and public management, and environmental sustainability.

Lemmer didn’t wait for graduation to make a positive impact. As a student, she also participated in the Clinton Global Initiative, organizing a statewide design competition that challenged students to design a net-zero energy house for construction on Mackinac Island and raise money for student scholarships.

“Through CGI, I’ve met people all over the world who are doing great things, from encouraging reading in public schools to installing solar hot water heaters in developing countries,” she says. “It’s all about having a network of people supporting each other and accomplishing these grand commitments.”

Lemmer’s own network has grown to include the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. As an intern with the organization, she worked with the federal government and helped MEDC raise more than $30 million for the Michigan Supplier Diversification Fund, a multifaceted initiative designed to help Michigan manufacturers and auto suppliers diversify into new emerging sectors.

Lemmer got an early taste of entrepreneurship. When she was in high school, she helped start IORIO’s, a family business that sells Italian ice and gelato at private parties, music and art festivals, and events as large as NASCAR races. The Lansing-based venture recently launched new products and expanded to a year-round retail location.

“I love working with startups because there’s so much energy and you can touch so many different pieces of business,” says Lemmer, who travels to Lansing nearly every week to help run the business. “I get to use the accounting, finance and management skills I’ve been learning at Ross.”

Leukemia makes computer science grad ‘more hungry to do things’

By Nicole Casal Moore
News Service

Mark Yang is a co-developer of what soon will become the university’s campus iPhone app. He’s made the semi-finals in several beginner ballroom dancing competitions. And he is a cancer survivor. The first two accomplishments might not have come to pass if not for his illness, he says.

College of Engineering senior Mark Yang, with ballroom dancing partner Erin Henk. Photo by Scott Galvin, U-M Photo Services.

“I think the experience has made me more hungry to do things. If I want to create something or do something, I don’t hesitate anymore,” says Yang, a native of Singapore who will graduate with a degree in computer science.

Early in fall 2008 Yang developed what he thought was a cold. When he didn’t get better after a week and three visits to the U-M Health System, doctors ordered blood work, thinking he might have mono. Even his doctor was shocked at the results, Yang says.

“The UHS doctor said he had only seen one other case of this in his career,” Yang says. “I had acute myeloid leukemia, and I was told to go straight to the emergency room.”

With his family oceans away, a few friends accompanied him. By the time his family was able to get to his bedside days later, his disease had progressed to the point where he needed a respirator. He spent the next month in an induced coma, receiving chemotherapy in the intensive care unit.

When he woke up on Nov. 5, he was pleased to hear that Obama had won. But he couldn’t move — not even a finger to press the nurse call button. His muscles had atrophied because he hadn’t used them.

After months of physical therapy and another two rounds of chemo administered at home in Singapore, Yang recovered and returned to U-M for the fall 2009 semester. That’s when he joined the Ballroom Dancing Team and hatched iWolverine with his classmate Kevin Chan.

The app integrates the student and faculty directory with the smartphone’s contacts and provides other services such as an acronym dictionary and dining hall menus. It also makes a key-jingling sound when you shake the phone. The university purchased iWolverine and is in the process of morphing it into a campus app for wider release in the fall.

After staring at computer screens all day, Yang finds dancing a Cha Cha or a Rumba a relaxing outlet. He plans to join a club in San Diego when he moves there this summer to work for Qualcomm as a software engineer.

Yang says he is extremely grateful to the nurses and doctors at UMHS and to staff at the College of Engineering who helped make his family’s long stay in Ann Arbor easier.



Leon Howard, hall director, University Housing, on giving back to the community: “(It) does not matter where you live but how far you are willing to reach.”