Innovation & Job News

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Trap, Neuter, Release Program decreasing population of feral cats

The population of Feral Cats has been on the rise over the years and has become a significant problem in certain neighborhoods in Lansing. While for a long time the solution was to trap and kill these cats, Holly Thoms of Voiceless-Mi says, "If that was a good idea, it would have worked by now." Since it hadn't, it was time to try something else. Spurred by local organizations that were fed up with the cats, Voiceless-MI and The Capital Area Humane Society teamed up to try and new solution. 
The Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) program, does just what it says. They trap the animals, neuter them and return them to their home. While this doesn't get rid of the animals immediately, it prevents them from reproducing and deters new cats from entering their territory. Once the cat dies (feral cats have a much shorter life expectancy than house cats) no new cats will come to the area. 

The organization, while purely volunteer based, uses local vet offices, and spay and neuter clinics to fix the cats. "We are keeping the clinics very busy," says Thoms. And while they hope to grow, their ultimate goal is to put themselves out of business by bringing the feral cat population down. 

Source: Holly Thoms, President, Voiceless-MI
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

East Lansing Police offer program to engage, educate the public

Registration is now open for the returning, Citizen's Police Academy hosted by the East Lansing Police Department (ELPD). Last held in 2009, the academy was brought back this year because of interest from the City Manager. 

Participants in the program will be able to learn more about the role of the ELPD in the community. It will benefit both the residents and the department by helping them to communicate better with each other. According to Lieutenant Thomas VanDerWoude , "It puts the police in touch with the residents and helps them see us as people." Through the program, the ELPD hopes to become more aware of the needs of the community. 

The academy will feature both classroom and hands on instruction and include topics such as; Use of force, the legal system, neighborhood watch and more.  Taught by sworn, East Lansing police officers, It will last for six weeks. After that, according to VanDerWoude, they will depend on feedback from participants to decide whether it should be extended. "We want to keep it going," he says, "But it depends on the interest." So far though, the idea has been very well received. They have already received applications and are anticipating more. 
Source: Lieutenant Thomas VanDerWoude, East Lansing Police Department
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Greenlight Bootcamp educates, prepares entrepreneurs

In two weeks the The Greenlight Entrepreneurial Boot Camp will help first-time entrepreneurs through the beginning stages of starting a business. A partnership between Spartan Innovations, Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) and the MSU Innovation Center, this week-long course will provide all the research and instruction a startup could need in one central location.

Starting on August 18th, the boot camp serves multiple purposes within the startup community. Amber Shinn, Marketing Director for the MSU Innovation Center, says, "The more normalcy we can create around starting businesses and a community that is comfortable with taking business risks, the better for the community."  

It also helps keep entrepreneurs in the community. According to Paul Jaques, Director of Student & Community Engagement at Spartan Innovations, before this program, "we had to send people to Ann Arbor, Detroit, or out of state for similar programs." By offering these resources right in the community, Lansing can provide, " strong curriculum, and built-in integration into the local startup community and support."

In addition to creating a supportive community and hands-on help, the camp also gives these businesses a way to quickly assess the viability of their product or business instead of wasting valuable time and money. It also helps the successful ideas, like Poochie Bowl, quickly move into the hiring stage and contribute to the local economy.
Source: Amber Shin, Paul Jaques, MSU Innovation Center
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Life as a Zebra Foundation goes to Washington, raises awareness for invisible diseases

When Katie Dama Jaskoski  and  her sister Allie Dama were both diagnosed as "Zebras" (those with rare, chronic, often invisible diseases) they decided to take their experience and passion and try to help others.  

What started as a simple fundraiser to raise money and awareness, turned into the Life as a Zebra Foundation (LAAZF).  The foundation raises funds and awareness for those suffering from Dysautonomia, Ehlers-Danlos Sybdrome, or Vasculitis. All of these can be debilitating diseases but often invisible and almost impossible to diagnose.

The foundation's most recent accomplishment was a trip to Washington DC to speak with congressional leaders about starting a national day of awareness. The LAAZF was triumphant on the state level in May of 2014 when the Michigan senate unanimously adapted Invisible Illness Awareness Week. "Everyone on both sides was supportive," says Katie Dama, "So we decided to shoot for the National level." Now, after a successful series of meetings in DC with Senators Mike Rogers, Debbie Stabenow and many more, all the LAAZF can do is wait.

In the meantime, their team is growing and Dama says, "Different doors are opening."  They have expanded their board of directors and picked up an advisory board, and a legislative advisor. "It's just a matter of educating the community and finding backers for the foundation."

Source: Katie Dama Jaskoski, Co-Founder
?Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation New Editor

Uber comes to Lansing, changes transporation, creates jobs

Mayor Bernero was one of the first to utilize the newest mode of transportation to come to Lansing, Uber Car Service. An innovative way to catch a ride, users communicate to drivers through an app on their phone and even pay via credit card so no cash changes hands.

Lauren Altmin, a spokesperson for Uber says, "We want to change the way people connect with their cities and transportation."

Altmin says they were eager to come to Lansing as there was a high demand. They'd had many customers requesting a presence in Lansing through their app. And, she adds, "Lansing is an area that attracts a lot of innovative opportunities."  And Uber Ride Share is just that. The service available in Lansing, Uber X, is an affordable alternative to a Taxi Service.

Uber Partners, those doing the driving, essentially build their own small business, a small business that can create a decent income. Across the country, the Uber Platform is creating 20,000 jobs a month and while that may vary in Lansing, Uber is always looking for people who want to earn additional income.

Now they are focused on the future; on finding more users, drivers, and expanding their services. Altmin says they are looking forward to seeing it evolve. 

Source: Lauren Altmin; Spokesperson, Uber Ride Share
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

MSU Extension hosts Friends Day Camp, teaches health, nutrition

Earlier this month, MSU Extension hosted the Friend's Day Camp; a camp that focuses on health, nutrition and keeping kids active.

The major goals of the camp, according to Suzanne Pish, Extension Educator, are to teach kids that physical activity can be fun and affordable and you don't have to go to the gym to stay active. They also learn about nutrition, 4-H and being a good friend.

The camp relies heavily on the support of the community, volunteers and grants to keep growing but this year they were able to hire summer help to assist with the program. They utilize youth assistants, many of who are past participants in the camps. When they are too old for the camp, and not old enough to become a counselor, they can still participate as volunteers and Pish says that's one of the most positive experiences from the camp. "We've had participants who have gone from campers, to volunteers, to counselors. It's great to see their willingness to come back."
The coordinators of the camp are always trying to top the previous year, and this year the campers were given the opportunity to visit the MSU Gardens. Pish says, "For many it was their first experience on a college campus."

The program also has scholarship opportunities for those that can't afford it, "We don't ask questions, we just offer the scholarship." 

Source: Suzanne Pish, Extenstion Educator
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

$1 million gift allows Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Center to look to the future

A $1 million gift has been given to the Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender (LGBT) Resource Center of Michigan State University from an anonymous donor. While the bequest will not be available to the organization until the donor passes away, Deanna Hurlbert , the Director of the center, says the gift will allow them to think further into the future than ever before.

Hurlbert says it was their vision of the future that inspired the donors in the first place. Their goal, she says, is for MSU to "serve as a global hub for issues regarding sexuality and gender identity." The university is already ideally situated to become this hub and this will help attract students,  keep them here longer and also attract some of the best talent in the world.

The gift could potentially be used to support a graduate assistant who could work on research regarding sexual refugees and help international students dealing with identity based issues. It could also fund a doctoral assistant whose goal could be revising the K-12 curriculum and how we view gender identity.

While these are just some of the possibilities, the fact that they can look this far into the future is exciting. "It will allow us to be supportive to generations coming to the university."  

Source: Deanna Hurlbert, Director, LGBT Center
?Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Systems in Motion comes to Lansing, accelerates training, job creation

New to the Lansing area, Systems in Motion is wasting no time when it comes to training their employees to succeed and looking for new hires.  An IT Company that offers a wide range of services from IT consulting to app development and more, their newest office is located in Okemos.

Their team has grown to over 300 employees (most from here in Michigan) and they attribute much of that growth to their Junior Accelerator Program. The program allows them to hire junior level employees from local universities. "It can be really difficult to find an entry-level position after college," says Daria Fellrath, HR Generalist, "But, if you put those people through training, they become extremely productive."

The program provides intensive training with multiple clients in many different areas and after one year, those in the top eighty percent are put on the "fast track" and move up in the company very quickly. "Participants get such an excellent understanding of the environment and become effective leaders," says Fellrath.

With the appearance of their office in Okemos, Systems in Motion will soon be working with Michigan State University on talent sourcing. They will be attending the career fair in the fall and have hosted events inviting IT talent to attend and introduce themselves and to "fill their office with employees." 

Source: Daria Fellrath, HR Generalist
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Lightspeed Communications brings fast, affordable internet, jobs to Lansing

Lightspeed Communication's mission is to bring 1 and 10 gig speed internet into homes at an affordable price. Lightspeed is an internet provider that is building a brand new fiber optic network in cities around Michigan, starting in Lansing. "The internet is where most people get their media and information," says Jason Schreiber, CEO of Lightspeed. They want to make it practical and affordable.  

They are making a significant investment in Lansing and according to Schreiber, "No other carriers have made a move to make an investment in the state." The investment will lead to significant job creation and growth in Lansing. Lightspeed has recently hired 6 people to their construction team and as they prepare to build the fiber optic network they will need to hire even more.

 As they continue to grow and expand to other cities they will also need to add to other departments including marketing and IT. They expect to hire over 50 people in the next six months to a year as they make a move into other cities within the next year.

Schreiber says the response to the service has been overwhelming, signing up 1500 hundred homes in their first 6 weeks. "There is a tremendous need for this service in the area."

Source: Jason Schreiber, CEO Lightspeed Communications
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Scholarship program offers unique opportunities, agriculture education

Piggy-backing off the success of the Demmer Scholarship Program, a program that sends Michigan State University students to Washington DC, the Hal and Jean Glassen Scholarship Program offers equally great opportunities for MSU students right here in Lansing.

Thanks to a grant from the Hal and Jean Glasses Memorial Foundation, the program pairs 12 students with 12 organizations that focus on Michigan's agriculture industry. Students learn about environmental issues and policy making.  
The students not only get an internship at these organizations but also take a class that offers field trips that allow them to see natural resources in action, and other activities. "The ultimate goal," says Pat Stewart, the program director, "would be for the students to, eventually, land a job in Michigan."

Students get hands on, real world experience through both the classes and the internships and opportunities they may not normally get. "Not all students can land internships with the possibility of a job," says Stewart. "The opportunities here are untold."

As this is the first year of the program, there's no way to know yet which jobs will be landed, but Stewart has high hopes for the program next year and they hope to double both the students and businesses participating.

"Ultimately," says Stewart, "It's about the job growth, the experiences and the opportunities."
Source: Patricia Stewart, Hal and Jean Scholarship Program
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

LCC Program teaches adults valuable, workplace skills

Lansing Community College is close to wrapping up a month long program meant to help adult students prepare for a better college experience and also better prepare them for the workplace.

LCC's Gateway to Success Adult Boot Camp, taking place until August 6th, is preparing adults that have been out of the workforce or education system to go back to school. They've brought in employers to help with the program who are interested in different strengths from different generations. Cathy Wilhm, Director, Center for Workforce Transition at Lansing Community College, says, "Education isn't just about learning skills, but also learning what employers are looking for."  Having particular skills may be useless if your potential  employer needs you to work with a team and you never have, "We are creating well-rounded employees," says Wilhm.

After completing assessments to identify possible career paths, students meet with program advisors to set goals. They will take courses related to those fields and also in Microsoft and Internet Basics. There will also be one-on-one learning sessions.

To help with the program, 6 faculty members were brought in and some of those were hired specifically for the program. "We have a ton of people that want in," says Cathy of the growth opportunities for next year. "We will continue to identify opportunities and meet employer demands."
Source: Cathy Wilhm, Director, Center for Workforce Transition at Lansing Community College
?Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

YMCA offers programs for refugee families

While the YMCA of Lansing has been working with refugee youth for a little over a year, they have recently been awarded a $15,000 grant from the Capital Region Community Foundation to extend that service to families. The Refugee Family Strengthening and Parenting Skills Program will begin mid-July at the downtown YMCA.

In the past, refugee adults only received about three months of classes and programming and then were expected to be self-sufficient. According to Kelly King, Executive Director of the Downtown Wellness Center, "There was a need to increase their skill set."

 The program will focus on hygiene, communication, family time and try to teach them what is acceptable in America while urging them to maintain their own traditions and cultures. The hope is that a large percentage of participants will stay on for further programming that will focus on finding jobs, interview skills, resume building, financial management and more.

To help make the program successful, King says they will be hiring translators and interpreters, a few Master's Students from MSU and an immigrant from Iraq to help with both programs. They have also hired on a refugee student from Burma.
King says, "We are really excited to help these folks succeed in the community and call Lansing their home long-term."
Source: Kelly King, Executive Director of the Downtown Wellness Center
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs introduces app to share Michigan art

A project that has been in the works for a few years, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) has introduced an app that will send tourists and residents on an art tour of Michigan.

According to John Bracey, the Executive Director of the MCACA, there is art all across Michigan that even residents don't know about. He wanted a way to let people know about that art.  The building of the app was made possible because of funds provided by the Michigan Economic Development Cooperation, and they made a connection with Venturit out of East Lansing to build it. Bracey says they were excited to be able to hire a local company.

The app will allow users to input their location and then show them the locations of all kinds of art from fountains to sculptures.  They will be able to view individual pieces or build a customized art tour. "The idea is to show a different image of the state of Michigan," says Bracey.

Once the app has been in use for a while, Travel Michigan should be able to provide numbers to show the impact it is having on tourism. While it may be indirect, it will hopefully allow people to visit new neighborhoods and cities and then visit local businesses in those areas.
Source: John Bracey, Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor 

CourseWeaver lands funding, launches new Homework System

CourseWeaver , Lansing based provider of innovative learning solutions and a cloud based Homework System, will close on a $4 million round of funding this summer. This round will allow them to begin building the next generation Homework System.

The current Homework System allows instructors of k-12 courses and university educators to sign up and have an entire class ready in minutes. The system, powered by LON-CAPA, features all the tools instructors could need including the most advanced physics and math engine, individualized assessment and cheat-blocking randomized variables, powerful tools for exam creation and administration, and text book material from major publishers.

According to CEO and Co-Founder, Rob Fulk, their goal is to "totally revolutionize k-12  and university education."
With this round of funding they are able to take even more steps toward that goal and create jobs in the Lansing area. They will need 10 engineers over the next two months and will be recruiting locally.

Courseweaver is making things easier for teachers, cheaper for students, and is also radically changing the publishing industry. Fulk says, "It's like the iTunes of education," allowing both teachers and students to only choose and purchase the materials they need rather than entire textbooks.

They already have customers around the globe, are establishing a Canadian presence and Fulk says they are ready for fall.
Source: Rob Fulk, Courseweaver
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

4-H and Veterinary Science Camps educates, creates opportunities

Last week, the MSU Extensions Program held the first ever 4-H Animal and Veterinary Science Camp.
The goal of the camp's first year according to camp director Julie Thelen, was to better connect Michigan youth with MSU, the professors and the programs so that they are better prepared for life on campus and experiences later in life.

Julie was hired a year ago to expand the curriculum, 4 veterinary students were hired to assist with the program and others are hired annually to help with programs like this. They needed all the help they could get considering the interest in the program. They received 124 applications and had to max participation at 60 students. After the deadline they had 60-80 more interested. They even had an application from Singapore and a few others from out of state. 

Throughout the camp students are given hands on experience, able to work with live animals (some for the first time) and are faced with everything they would need to do to get into veterinary school. At the end of the week they are given real world situations to respond to and have presentations with one of the head professors from the Vet school.

"It's a big deal for them to be able to interact, learn and get behind some of the misconceptions concerning agriculture," says Thelen.

Source: Julie Thelen, Michigan State University Extension Children and Youth Institute
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor
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