Education Beat: UM – Flint Critical Issues Conference Friday and Saturday highlights teaching and learning in the era of COVID

By Harold C. Ford

The University of Michigan-Flint (UM-F) is hosting a critical issues conference starting at 6 p.m. Friday May 19 and continuing  from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 20. at its downtown Flint campus. The conference will focus on the state of affairs in education during the time of a pandemic.  

Conference overview


Friday’s events begin with dinner at 6 p.m. in the UCEN Michigan Rooms followed by a keynote address from Alicia Meriweather, deputy superintendent for Detroit Public Schools. A panel discussion at 7:15 p.m. with four featured panelists is to include, among others, Kevelin Jones, Flint Community Schools superintendent, and Jason Wilson, vice president of student academic success at Mott Community College.  


The Saturday schedule begins with a one-hour student panel at 9 a.m. in the Michigan Rooms at UM-F. Panelists will include students from the UM-Flint and Durand High School.  

During the day, the conference features three interest sessions that offer attendees several choices of education-related topics and speakers. A sampling:

  • 10:15-11 a.m.: “What Data Tells Us … During COVID-19”; “Changing Landscape in Higher Education…”; “…Designing and Sustaining a Humanized Classroom”; “Cross-Curricular Instruction…”
  • 11:15 a.m.-12 noon.: “…Students with Multiple Disadvantages”; “When Mirrors are Non-Existent, Broken, or Removed…”; “Humanizing the ELA Classroom”; “Student Consent as Power…”
  • 1:45-2:30 p.m.: “The Academic Coach’s Toolbox…”; “Engagement: Reimagined and Realigned”; “Fostering Emotional Intelligence…”; “…Mindfulness in the Classroom Space”

A lunch from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m. features keynote speaker Charlotte O’Connor, owner of an academic coaching business. O’Connor will reflect on the impact of remote learning during the COVID era. The overview prepared by forum organizers acknowledges that “Covid era gaps in student academic skills became apparent” even among “top achievers.” O’Connor will tout the benefits of academic coaching. 

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Both days of events are open to the public. Friday’s dinner event is free. There is a $50 fee for attendance at both the Friday and Saturday programs.  Interested persons can visit the UM-F lint website for further information.  

Forum transitions into conference

According to Laura McLeman, director of the Thompson Center for Learning & Teaching (TCLT)  at the UM-F: “This is the first year we are holding the Frances Willson Thompson Critical Issues conference. The conference is an expansion of the Thompson Critical Issues Forum (CIF) that the University has held for over 40 years.” 

In the past, CIF has featured well-known speakers such as Newt Gingrich (2009), Madeline Albright (2010), Geoffrey Canada (2011), and Jane Goodall (2018). 

“This year we wanted the speakers to be more familiar with the educational landscape present within Michigan,” McLeman said,  “as well as to be able to speak to both the K12 and higher educational contexts.”  

EVM Education Beat reporter Harold Ford can be reached at

Author: Tom Travis

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