7 Questions with Local Educators

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Just for fun, we asked a group of local leaders in education to tell us a few things about themselves … things not typically included in a curriculum vitae. Admit it: we all love the little details! MCM thanks everyone in this esteemed group for taking time to participate.


Darren Bagley
4-H Youth Development Educator
Michigan State University Extension

If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be?
I would teach – without worry about reporting or other bureaucracy, standardized testing, or curriculum that doesn’t fit for the young people I work with.

Is your glass half full or half empty?
The glass is always full – half air and half water. Both the air and water are useful, but used in different ways.

What’s one work-related thing you want to accomplish in the next year?
We are re-starting the Genesee County Citizenship Academy – a program that teaches young people about county government. Most people (youth and adults) don’t understand the huge impact local government has on their lives. We get a young person from each Commissioner’s district and they will work on issues important to youth in the county.

What makes you feel at peace?
When young people use their voices to make positive change in their community and world. I hear so many complaints about young people, but I don’t see that in reality. Many people say, “Children are the future.” Young people are important leaders and improving things NOW, not in some distant future.

What is your most prized possession?
I think I have a mind that is good at asking questions. Some folks think the key to teaching is having a lot of knowledge. I want to ask questions to help folks discover the answer for themselves.

What is your proudest accomplishment?
I am lucky to work with young people who are making a difference. I know it is the young people doing that work, and I cannot take credit for it. When young people work to change the laws of Michigan, do things to care for the Flint River, or work to end hunger in their community, it makes me feel good about the present and the future. But it is not my accomplishment, it is theirs. To me, that makes it even better.

What motivates you to work hard?
I love the “light bulb” moments – when a young person understands something they did not before, and you can see it in their face and hear it in their voice. When you teach someone, that is as close to immortality as we can get on Earth. That person takes that knowledge and shares it with someone else, and it ripples out in ways beyond imagination.


Deacon Sean Costello
Principal, Powers Catholic High School


What was your very first job?
When I was very young, in the summers I would wash my father’s cement tools for $5.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be either a priest or a cowboy.

What do you enjoy most about your career?
It is gratifying to see students reach their potential at a level they didn’t think possible.

What’s the next place on your travel Bucket List and why?
I’m hoping to visit the Philippines with my family soon. My in-laws are from there and they are going to renew their wedding vows. I’ve never been there, but hearing their stories makes me super excited to go!

Do you hit the snooze button or wake up immediately?
Immediately. Fun fact: I have never hit the snooze button in my life!

What’s one thing that can instantly make your day better?
Seeing my beloved wife smile.

What is your definition of success?
I believe that if you strive to be the best version of yourself, you are successful .


Debasish Dutta
Chancellor, University of Michigan – Flint


What do you enjoy most about your career?
My career has been in higher education – I live it, breathe it and enjoy all its dimensions. What I enjoy most is creating something new that positively impacts students, faculty and society at large. This never ends, because society needs change and therefore, the need to create something new is perpetual.

Who is your hero?
I have many heroes! Chuck Vest, former president of MIT, was a UM mechanical engineering professor, later dean and was provost when I started my career in Ann Arbor. Jim Duderstadt was then UM president. I admire both of them tremendously – they were leading thinkers of their time. Their contributions to equity and opportunity for women in academia are profound.

What was your very first job?
I was an engineer in a construction company in a shipyard in India. I worked a lot with Russian engineers in that job.

What’s the next place on your travel Bucket List and why?
I have been fortunate to have traveled to many places in the world. I like visiting new places, but do not have a bucket list. Each new place has something interesting to offer, and I like that.

What’s one work-related thing you want to accomplish in the next year?
I hope to grow student enrollment at UM-Flint.

How would your friends describe you?
I believe they would say that I am intensely focused on making UM-Flint a best-in-class regional public university that brings about economic growth and social well being.

What do you do to keep fit?
I walk as much as I can and when that is not possible, I go up and down the stairs till my dogs go crazy!


Scott Henwood
Principal, Flint Community Schools’ Holmes STEM Middle School Academy


What was your very first job?
My first job as a teen was in landscaping. Just out of college, I worked in marketing and my first job as an educator was health/PE/history teacher at an alternative education school in Mt. Clemens, MI.

What’s one work-related thing you want to accomplish in the next year?
This year, I want to make sure that we build a strong school culture with our families, scholars and staff.

How would you define success?
My definition can be found in the following quote: “Run the race in such a way that you may win it.” I like this quote for many reasons. One: I like to win. I am a competitive person and strive to be successful. However, the biggest reason I like this quote is that it tells us to always prepare ourselves in such a way that we will succeed. We may not always finish first, but we will not fall short because we weren’t prepared.

What’s your most prized possession and why?
These days, it’s my phone! It contains all the pictures of my family and memories we have made, which I can enjoy looking at any time.

What advice would you give your 17-year-old self?
Go with your gut and believe in yourself. Had I taken this advice then, I would have probably become an educator sooner in life.

Who is your hero?
My hero in my life comes from my faith, which is Jesus.

How would your friends describe you?
I think they would say that I’m a passionate guy … creative, solution-driven, fun, faithful, and the type of friend who is always there for people.


Eric Lieske
CEO, Flint Cultural Center Academy

What was your very first job?
​My first job was amazing! My parents owned a small, family-run hardware store on Main Street in downtown Davison, MI. I started working there at a very young age and had the opportunity to learn lifelong skills while working alongside my father for nearly 20 years. It was a special experience.

What’s one thing that can instantly make your day better?​
The best way to start my day is by greeting students as they arrive at school. If I miss this opportunity, I feel like my day is not off to the optimal start. The kids and their families bring a smile to my face each morning and reinforce that the FCCA crew is doing great things!

What’s your most prized possession and why? ​
My family is my most prized possession. They are supportive and appreciative of the work that I’m involved with and tolerate the long hours I am away from home.

What is your definition of success?
In my mind, happiness is success. Obviously, there are many forms of success, but if you are happy, then you are successful.

What’s one work-related thing you want to accomplish in the next year?
This will be the third year of the Flint Cultural Center Academy and the first couple of years have been quite challenging. I hope that my staff are able to experience a school year that is “in place” so that they witness just how truly impactful their work is to the children and families we serve. We need the opportunity to experience a more normal school year, so that we can implement not-so-normal educational experiences for kids. That is why FCCA was built.

What advice would you have given seventeen-year-old Eric?
I would tell him that life is hard. Most every challenge is temporary. Do what you enjoy and what makes you a better person tomorrow than you were today. Dream big!

If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
​Chicken wings from Charlie’s BBQ (Flint Farmers’ Market) and Luigi’s Pizza are my jam!


Dr. Kathryn “Kat” Svinarich
Associate Provost for Assessment & Academic Support
Dean, College of Sciences & Liberal Arts
Associate Professor of Physics
Kettering University

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an astronaut because I grew up in the ‘60s during the time of the Apollo missions. However, a significant vision impairment made that impossible. I can’t drive a car, so I doubt they would have let me fly!

What was your very first job?
I worked for my grandfather in his canvas shop making boat covers, awnings and repairing tents.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
I ate kudu in Zimbabwe – it was excellent and not at all unusual there.

What’s one work-related thing you want to accomplish in the next year?
I hope to increase student success at Kettering University.

What are your hobbies?
All kinds of cooking, especially in the wood-fired bread oven we built with split stones from our property. And worldwide travel with my husband to remote places. Namibia, Zimbabwe and tent-camping north of the Arctic Circle are just some of our adventures.

What is one of your pet peeves?
People who are impolite or unprepared

What do you enjoy most about your career?
I like to feel that my contributions to Kettering University make a difference.


Dr. Beverly Walker-Griffea
President, Mott Community College


What was your very first job?
I wanted to be a candy striper at the local hospital, but decided to volunteer and work with a physical therapist who supported extremely physically challenged children. I loved the work and the children. I had a great learning experience finding out that the children we served were just like me.

Would you rather cook dinner or order in?
I am a foodie and adore cooking and creating gastric delights.

How would your friends describe you?
I asked my best friend to answer this question. These are the words that she shared (that can be printed). “She is loyal, funny, honest, sincere, committed, creative, very busy, family-oriented and spiritual. She loves to dance and eat catfish and macaroni and cheese.” (The rest will be kept under wraps.)

What type(s) of music do you like?
I love music, period! I have favorites in the classical, country, R&B, hip-hop, and neo-soul genre. Gospel and Christian music are my mainstays.

What’s one work-related thing you want to accomplish in the next year?
I would like to ensure that MCC employees and students come back strong after a taxing pandemic that kept us away from each other for 15 months.

Aside from necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without?
I am a “Judge Judy” fan and I’m miffed when I have to miss an episode!

What was your favorite subject in school?
I loved my speech classes and performing during assemblies.

EXTRA: What do you enjoy most about your career?
I enjoy serving a community that allows me to use my skills to positively impact and open up opportunities for Flint and Genesee County residents.

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