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Archive for April, 2013

Gregory Fournier

April, 2013

By Paul Martell

 

Greg is the author of the award-winning Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel. He also happens to be an EMU Alumnus. EMU serves as a launching point for Greg’s story

If you were to read the blurb on the back-cover of Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel, you would learn that it takes place in the Motor City during the late 60s, and tells the story of Jake Malone. Jake is a young, white, suburbanite who finds himself working in the dank recesses of Detroit’s Zug Island.  How does he get here? Well, Jake is kicked out of University and needs to find work. This singular alteration in Jake’s path sends him on a journey he is unprepared for. His journey will be filled with danger, racism, violence, and a healthy portion of humor.

What you would not learn from the back-cover plot synopsis is that Jake Malone is Greg Fournier; at least for the most part.

Greg Fournier is a 1977 graduate of Eastern Michigan University. He earned both a Bachelor of Applied Science in English Language and Literature, as well as a Master of ImageArts in World Literature. Greg was not always so studious.  It was only Greg’s first year at EMU when he was “thrown out of Best Hall for drinking.” According to Greg, he was then dismissed for one semester, and had to find work. Greg needed money. This is how he came to work at Zug Island, a place he would call, “the dirtiest, coldest hell-hole.”  Work at Zug Island was grueling, physical labor, and racial tension added to the stresses of Greg’s employment. Then the Detroit Riots broke out. According to Greg, this harsh time in Detroit’s history would provide him a, “crash-course in race relations, and really start my life as an adult.” Zug Island introduced Greg to his first, real African American friend and provided him the inspiration and basis for his first award winning novel.

After enduring Zug Island, Greg returned to EMU with a new-found passion for education and adherence to rules. Greg says, “It was just amazing how much my grades improved when I got back to Eastern.” He quickly earned his first degree and began teaching English at Ypsilanti High School while working toward a Master’s.  Throughout Greg’s teaching career, he worked in Ypsilanti and eventually moved to San Diego, California (where he currently lives). He even spent a year teaching English at EMU. During these years, Greg would write. He wrote short stories, poems, text books, and stage plays. Then Greg decided, “I am never going to teach summer school again,” and used his summers to compose something else. He began to write about his experience at Zug Island. He was writing his own story. He wrote about his first car, about school, and about his first African American friend who would, “open up a whole urban world” for Greg. It all seemed to flow, and Greg knew he was writing a novel.

Greg retired from teaching and focused all his effort into writing the story about Jake Malone, and he wrote it well. Zug Island: A Detroit City Riot Novel is a 2011 Best Books Award Finalist, and received an honorable mention at the Los Angeles Book Festival. It has received overwhelmingly positive reviews, and provides a no-nonsense perspective on the harshest event in Detroit’s history. For Greg, the real value of the book lies in the exposure it has brought him. “This is a blue collar book full of the words which made Detroit famous. The real value is in the doors it has opened. You can’t just enter this profession and be successful; you have to build an audience.” Greg now has an audience; he also has another story to tell.

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Greg is now working to write The Rainy Day Murders, a historical story set in Washtenaw County. Greg had just returned to EMU from Zug Island, and was residing in South campus when he found out he was living one block from a serial killer. John Collins was convicted in 1969 of murder. The jury found Collins guilty of one of the seven killings he was accused of. Greg is convinced he is responsible for more than has been reported, and his next work will lay out the evidence. Greg says, “I discovered John Collins was a suspect as I was walking back from the Corner Grill.  I was walking past his place; it was full of police cars, and they were collecting evidence from the garage and his room.” He was immediately fascinated by the case. Greg had personally encountered Collins on four occasions, and says they were all negative.

Greg hopes his book will address many rumors which were passed around about the “Michigan Murders.” He says there is a lot of “cover up” going on in the John Collins case, which Greg aims to expose. “I am trying to tell the history, it is a history which is not liked, but you don’t get to choose your own story.”

Today, Greg Fournier spends seven days a week writing and researching the Rainy Day Murders. The first draft is almost complete. He says he is living his dream, “I have always been dabbling with words…it’s so great to be able to indulge my hobby.” In all that Greg has written, EMU has been a key factor in the foundation of his stories. “EMU really helped me to create a life, and frankly, it gave me a life.”

Greg Fournier has a compilation of experiences which tell a dramatic, raw story, and he is writing it all. He has an audience and a story, where it will lead him remains to be seen.

If you would like to connect with Greg, or learn more about Zug Island or The Rainy Day Murders check out his BLOG HERE.

By Paul Martell

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April, 2013

By Paul Martell

William “Bill” Swelbar’s career path has been less than conventional, however, hard work, good judgment and no small measure of tenacity has brought him success

 

“Never say never; never ever give up. Because, ultimately, your hardest work will pay off.” Bill Swelbar’s life has reflected this idea in many ways; beginning with his experience as a flight attendant out of Detroit Metro when he first enrolled at Eastern Michigan University.

“I don’t know if I chose EMU, or if EMU chose me,” said Swelbar. He had just finished 2 years in under grad at the University of Minnesota. While studying there, Bill experienced Imagedifficulty, “In trying to incorporate all things important in life at the time: beer, going to class or not going to class, going to work, girls, beer and getting up to do it all again, one thing was clear – I was not getting much out of school that felt particularly inspiring. “ Around this time, Bill’s cousin encouraged him to look into becoming a flight attendant. She had worked as an attendant for some time, and was confident the job-schedule would allow Bill to finish his degree. Eventually, Bill was hired by North Central Airlines and began training. This job would serve as Bill’s introduction into an industry which would shape his life’s work.

Clearly, Bill does not mind a challenge, “My flight schedule was absolutely unattractive.” However, he wanted to finish school, so he would make it work. Bill ended up flying an illegal overnight shift, which would allow him time during the day to attend class. Upon enrolling at EMU, he decided to major in Economics. “I don’t know why,” said Bill, “Actually, it was a course that I had taken at University of Minnesota, enjoyed the subject matter and did very poorly in.” Bill decided Economics was what he wanted and took on the task.

Bill remembers his education at EMU quite fondly. There were fewer than 25 students in the program at that time, and Bill said the faculty was paramount in adding to his experience. “It all begins with the faculty of the Econ department. I was truly motivated and inspired by the late Mary McCarthy,” said Bill. He says Professor McCarthy left a mark on him because of how difficult, yet rewarding her teaching methods were. Bill took 15-18 credits per semester and flew daily from Detroit to Traverse City, ended up in Sault St. Marie and then reversed that order home at 5:30 the next morning. He would often sleep and study in the basement of the airport.  Bill graduated from EMU with a Bachelor of Science in Economics in 1982.

From this point, Bill moved to Washington D.C. where he set up the first Economics Finance Department for the Association of Flight Attendants during a tumultuous period in the industry. He also attended The George Washington University School of Business and earned a Master of Business Administration in finance. In addition to these commitments, Bill also worked part time for a consulting firm where he was able to learn even more about the aviation industry. “By doing my day job, part time job, and studying at George Washington; my schedule was again relentless. No silver spoon here,” said Bill.

Eventually, Bill took a job serving as a director at Airline Economics, and from there, started his own consulting firm. Bill operated for seven years and sold his business to GKMG Consulting Services. He stayed on as a managing director for 3 years then GKMG was sold. Undeterred, Bill again started a consulting firm, ECLAT, which focused on labor cost restructuring, regulatory matters, investor relations and advocating for airports. Bill operated ECLAT for 5 and a half years. January of 2002, Bill was asked to speak on Capitol Hill. He was covering what the airline industry would look like after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Peter Belobaba, Principal Research Scientist at MIT’s International Center for Air Transportation, heard Bill’s speech and asked him to lecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This led to Bill’s current position holding a chair on the Research Board at MIT. By 2006, Bill had just finished completing negotiations at 3 bankrupt companies and realized, “I can’t do this anymore…”said Bill, “so I committed financial suicide at age 48 and left the partnership.”

Currently, Bill is a Research Engineer in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s International Center for Air Transportation and teaches Airline Economics and Finance at MIT. Bill is, “Blessed to work with students that are of incredible caliber. It reminds me a lot of EMU.” He is also honored to be a member of the board of directors at Hawaiian Airlines. He has been interviewed for many media appearances, and focuses time writing for swelblog.com, Bill’s personal site where he, “takes a hard look at the airline industry and the people who run it. No apologies. No reservations. No sacred cows.” Bill is also a “rabid golfer.”Image

“This is an interesting time in my life. I’ll be 55 in May and, at some point, I need to figure out what I am going to do when I grow up.” Bill is very happy with where he has ended up, and is glad to be enjoying his passion. He also remembers EMU as a pinnacle contributor to his life, “What EMU did is afford me a path where I have been able to enjoy professional success, which has allowed me to enjoy time with my family.”

–        Be sure to check out swellblog.com to keep up with Bill and all things airline-relevant

 

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KAITLYN DUGAS

April, 2013

By Paul Martell

Kaitlyn Dugas is a political science major who is showcasing her Eagle pride all over the world

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Kaitlyn takes advantage of many of the opportunities EMU has for students

Much of the experience we take away from our work, or our schooling, is entirely up to us. Many people choose to commit to the minimum. The ideology here is to expel the least  effort necessary to meet required goals. Kaitlyn Dugas finds herself on the other side of the Bell curve. She understands there is a greater return on investment in getting involved than in staying unattached. It is for this reason she chose to attend EMU.

“What kept me here was the opportunity to do all sorts of practical research and join teams” said Dugas. She very quickly found her niche in the University during a Political Science lecture. In class, Dr. Barry Pyle mentioned the Mock Trial Club, and encouraged students to get involved. “My grandma always said I should be a lawyer because I like to argue, so I decided to try out,” said Kaitlyn. It was not long before she realized Mock Trial was going to be something she loved. Simply put, mock trial is exactly what it sounds like. Teams from multiple colleges and Universities compete in a synthesized court trial. Kaitlyn excels in the attorney role. In 2012, she took the first place attorney award, and this year, she was the youngest team captain EMU has had.

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Kaitlyn is showing International Eagle Pride, sporting her EMU Tee in front of a structure local Romans call “The Wedding Cake.”

Mock Trial was not the only extracurricular which Dr. Pyle would introduce to Kaitlyn. “Again, I was in Dr. Pyle’s 215 class. He came in and told us he needed a research fellow for the Undergraduate Symposium.” She met with him, and they have been research partners for the last two Symposiums. This year, she presented her research titled: Israel & the Politics of Divorce: an Exploratory Analysis.

As if Kaitlyn was not already busy enough, she recently returned from studying abroad in Italy. She went with Professor Delph and a group of 16 students to Florence, Rome and other key locations. “Rome was just beautiful, and it didn’t hurt the experience that we never had a bad meal,” said Dugas. “I can’t imagine doing what we did everyday: we’d go to lecture, get pizza, and eat in St. Peter’s Square.” Kaitlyn, and the other students, learned much about the Medici and other cultural topics. Many of the lectures took place at historically famous locations such as the Sistine Chapel, museums and more.  “The classes didn’t feel much like classes at all as we were standing in front of Raphael’s paintings at the Vatican Palace.”

Kaitlyn says there was not a huge amount of free time on the trip as there were many planned activities. However, when the group did have a few hours, they would regularly head to the town market to practice their bargaining skills with local vendors. A group of textile and clothing students were on the trip, they seemed to relish bartering and debating over the quality and price of leather goods being sold in the market.

Kaitlyn has a 10 week trip planned to study in Oxford, England. She leaves April 16, and will be studying either international politics or economics. She is very excited, and hopes to live in dorms with local students. After Oxford, she is off to Washington D.C. with Dr. Bernstein.

To Kaitlyn, EMU is, “The opportunity to do everything I wanted coming out of high school. It has also allowed me a lot of opportunities I didn’t think I would stumble upon, but I did.” Whether cross-examining a witness, studying historic culture, or singing “We are the Champions” by Queen in a karaoke bar in Italy; Kaitlyn is making the most of her Education.  Currently, Kaitlyn is deciding between going to law school or grad school to work toward her PhD. She hopes to one day work in the legal department for a multinational organization, or conduct research for a University.

“Eastern shapes my life, at least that,” said Dugas. Taking advantage of all opportunities available has set Kaitlyn up for success, as well as actualize her as a person much more than “just getting by” ever could. We will see what other adventures Kaitlyn has when she returns from the United Kingdom late June, 2013.

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