Just who is a typical CASL graduate? The simple answer is that there is no such person.

CASL alumni have a diverse range of skills, talents, experiences, and goals.  By “spotlighting” someone every other month, we hope to introduce you to our diverse group of alums ... and maybe you'll see a familiar face.

Nofila Haidar is a CASL alumna who received her Bachelor of Arts degree with a focus on Criminal Justice, Communication, and Urban and Regional Studies in 2011. She also received her graduate degree in Public Administration in 2017. Haidar took a few moments to chat with CASL about her life as an alum. 

How has this degree helped in your current profession? 

Nofila: My degree definitely helped me in my profession as a realtor in terms of reading contracts, a little bit of business law/management, money management, client relations, marketing my business and building a network of clients and peers. There a million other things I can mention, I would just have to think about them :-) . 

What makes UM-Dearborn CASL special/unique? 

Nofila: CASL was special for me during undergrad because I wanted to study different things at the same time. My undergrad degree was focused on Criminal Justice, Communications and Urban and Regional Studies. CASL allowed me the freedom to include everything I wanted to study in my degree. All of the focus studies have helped tremendously in my career and my community activism. 

Favorite class or professor?

Nofila: I really enjoyed all of my classes and appreciated all of my professors. Dr. Hall was my professor several times and she is one of my favorites. She made the material realistic and showed me a different perspective to education. 

What hobbies do you enjoy?

Nofila: I’m a little wild for community service and activism. I currently serve as President of the PTA Council I’m Dearborn. I serve on the board of Directors of the Dearborn Goodfellows, I served on the Dearborn Education Foundation and a few other non-profit organizations. I love event planning, public speaking, fundraising, networking and social events. I’m currently serving as a college Adviser through Americorps Michigan College Access Network. I love guiding young students through the college process. Those are just a few things that I like to do.


Myra M. Tetteh graduated from CASL with a Masters degree in Public Policy. She briefly shared how her education prepared her professionally, and she confessed she's a "Trekkie." 

Describe a typical day in your profession at the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation and how did your Masters degree prepare you for this role? 

Myra: While trite, I do not have a "typical day."  Each day is different and it is great!  My role specifically works on our research grant initiatives and select community grant initiatives.  Frequently, I speak to researchers at hospitals and universities across Michigan.  One part of my role that I enjoy most is providing feedback for research proposals to improve the methods and hopefully improve the outcomes.  While in my Master's program I focused on health policy and how to make health care more cost-effective - fast-forward, today I work for a Foundation with the mission of improving the cost, quality, and access to care!  Understanding health policy is a skill that I use daily to improve the health of all Michiganders!

Why/what do you enjoy most about being an Alumna of UM-Dearborn? What activities/alumni committees are you part of? 

Myra: I enjoy that I still have a relationship with faculty, staff, and former classmates.  Serving on the CASL Scholarship Committee is a privilege and a joy!  Through this Committee, I serve both UM-Dearborn and the students!  It excites me that I am able to help students get the financial support they need to succeed in their education!

What hobbies do you enjoy? 

Myra: I LOVE watching Star Trek!!!  Cooking and baking are also hobbies I really enjoy!  Even more than watching Star Trek and cooking/baking - I enjoy spending time with my friends and family.


Erin Byrnes personifies what it means to be dedicated. In the following video, learn how Byrnes uses her degree in Women's and Gender Studies to advocate for women in her professional role as a U-M employee, and in the community as a councilwoman for the city of Dearborn. Byrnes also shares why she's passionate about the continued success of the CASL Alumni Affiliate. 

CASL Alumni Spotlight
Feminism, community action, those are things I learned a lot about during my time as a student here.
Erin Byrnes, CASL Alumna

Erin Vestrand is a CASL alumna who majored in psychology and minored in sociology. She currently works as a Development Associate for her alma mater and took a few moments to chat about her life as an alum thus far. 

Why did you choose to major in psychology? 

Erin: Psychology helped me understand that anxiety is real, but can be managed successfully. I want to be a positive influence for others.

What was one of your greatest accomplishments as a student? 

Erin: Being named a “2014-2015 Top Student in Psychology.” I was also accepted into the U-M Undergraduate Psychology Honors Program. 

Please discuss more about the work you do on campus. 

Erin: Everyday is different, but I’m part of the development team. I handle the research, data and reporting for my team. Some days I prepare report analytics, collaborate with gift officers, and find alumni that may be good to connect with. I also do monthly reports that project fundraising production and goal projection. I also prepare all research documents for the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor. I report to Eva Gogola (another UM-Dearborn alum!).  

What hobbies do you enjoy? 

Erin: I go to the gym 3-4 times/week, I’m super close to my family, especially my sister (who’s four years older) and niece. I also spend time with my boyfriend and I love music (literally every kind possible), and reading. 

What do you value in your work and legacy here at UM-Dearborn? 

Erin: I enjoy meaningful work, and I believe I’m doing that here. Even though it’s not me making that direct impact (i.e. finding the cure to cancer), I may be able to help a student get a scholarship and that student can in turn go on to find a cure for cancer and make an impact on others and the world.  





CASL Alum Jonathan Franco, who majored in Communication, returned to his alma mater to share his love for music. Franco performed a mini concert for students in professor Liz Rohan’s class when the semester resumed after Spring break. We had a chance to catch up with Franco and speak to him about life as an alum. 

How long have you been playing/writing music?
Jonathan Franco: I've been playing/writing music essentially since I was old enough to hold a guitar - with varying degrees of quality, as you can imagine. My dad plays and writes music as well, so I started early and never really stopped.

What musicians (past, present, both) inspire you? 
JF: Far too many to list! The Microphones, Mount Eerie, Leonard Cohen, Éliane Radigue, Silver Jews, Hiroshi Yoshimura, Yo La Tengo, Jim O'Rourke, Bill Callahan, Duster, Elliott Smith, my friends, and my band mates.

What was your major in college and how has that degree helped you in your musical profession? 
 I was a communication major, which gave me the opportunity to take a lot of writing, film, audio, and visual art classes. My poetry classes and independent study with the late Professor Bill Linn had a particularly profound effect on my lyric-writing, as did my creative writing class with Professor Tija Spitsberg. My film and audio classes with Professor Jennifer Proctor certainly influenced my use of field recordings and my branching into sound design and soundtrack work for film, which, in turn, has influenced my own music. I'm very grateful for the knowledge and experience I gained while in school.

Your favorite genre of music is ... and why?
 That's a tough one. I'm quite bad at picking favorites. I tend to look for music with interesting or unusual uses of sound and thoughtful lyrics. A lot of what I listen to probably falls into the indie category, though that tends to be very broad and not always the most accurate descriptor. I also love a lot of instrumental ambient / sound collage / musique concrète music. 





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