It wasn’t all bad: 2020 brought positive changes too

December 21, 2020

Even though it has been a tough year, good and great things are still happening. Your UM-Dearborn community shared bright spots they had during the past year.

Collage of photos of good news!

This article was originally published on December 21, 2020.

Well, 2020 has been one to remember. But, even though it has been a tough year, good and great things are still happening. Your UM-Dearborn colleagues wanted to share some of theirs with you.

Even when virtual, professors and students created lasting connections and memories.

“At the beginning of my Psychology Internship synchronous class today, the students all arrived promptly, but no one had their camera on. As I was about to begin, I mentioned that I missed their smiling faces. (Student) Layla Obad jumped in and stated that the students had something they wanted to do first. At that cue, all of the students turned on their cameras holding signs aloft saying in various words, ‘Thank you Prof. Loeb.’ I was stunned. In 50 years of teaching, I have never had such a wonderful surprise. Who knew that it would take a pandemic for me to realize what a spectacular group of appreciative students we have.”
Roger Loeb, psychology professor

Furry friends kept us moving forward.

Rosie“My dog Rosie and I walk a mile together twice a day. This started in March 2020. I couldn't manage it when I was commuting to work. My dog started to have some health issues this summer, but they have all resolved and she's fine. I might actually be getting more exercise during shutdown than before. In addition to walking with Rosie, I do Zumba classes in UM-Workplace. I love those!”
- Patti Martin, CASL Internship and Career Management Center experiential learning coordinator



Wally“Instead of having a wedding celebration this year, my partner and I welcomed a corgi puppy to our family. Wally is now five months old. Raising a puppy has kept life interesting while spending so much time at home. We are now a three-dog household, so there's rarely a dull moment.”
Ali Pavlicek, START academic adviser





Celebrating family moments is always an important part of life.

Barrett Michael“We welcomed our first baby in February 2020 - Barrett Michael.”
Jess LaGrange, academic success coordinator






Ken's Son

“My son is on the mountain bike team at his high school. He finished the year fifth in the state for Junior Varsity. We were all fortunate and happy that he was allowed to race safely and complete his season. His races got us out of the house during the late summer/early fall.”
Ken Kettenbeil, External Relations vice chancellor








William Paulus“My wife Sarah and I welcomed William Quincy Paulus on Sept. 14.”
Carl Paulus, executive writer






Teams worked together to help community members in need.

Office of RegistrarThe Office of the Registrar worked together with friends and family to raise around $1,000 to help children in the community through Christ Child House, which is a treatment home for boys ages 5-16 who have experienced trauma. Among items donated were a sweatshirt and sweatpant outfit for all 17 boys, several hygiene items, a card with a lip balm for every boy, Nike socks for all the boys, a blanket for every child, and toys. “I am so grateful for my coworkers and their generosity. I hope that everyone has a merry Christmas and happy holidays as this year comes to a close.”
-- Sarah Drogheo, degree audit and systems specialist

Some cut through government red tape

“I finally achieved student loan forgiveness through the PSLF (Public Service Loan Forgiveness) program.”
Jessica Bixby, social media specialist

And UM-Dearborn students were able to have a trip to remember (one week before the pandemic began).


Geology Professor Jacob Napieralski and his geology students recently had a Zoom session where they recalled their adventure on the Caribbean island of Montserrat for a Study Abroad experience that took place right before the pandemic set in.

Napieralski, who’s previously traveled with students to Iceland and Cyprus for Study Abroad courses, said this one was particularly important. And not just because it took place in early March just before pandemic-related changes started to take place. It also marks a decade of Napieralski-led Study Abroad trips and it is where Napieralski did his doctoral research 20 years earlier.

Professor NapieralskiBecause of volcanic activity he was last there, the Montserrat terrain looked very different from what Napieralski remembered — which is especially exciting for both seasoned and future geologists.

“The airport that I used 20 years earlier was gone. It was completely covered by volcanic rock,” he says. “I was able to take them to site the airport once was, but it was buried under 30 feet of volcanic material.”

Senior Kelsey Young is considering a career as a volcanologist — that’s a geologist who studies volcanic formation and activity — and said the trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Young said not only did she see physically how land changes, she also learned more about natural disaster response and community impact.

Lessons also came in the form of living in the community and taking day-long hikes in uninhabited biodiverse areas.

“We are already thinking about how we can plan another trip like that when we are able to,” Young said. “It was an amazing experience and a really positive memory we’ll always associate with 2020.”