Three Scholars–Three Stories

In the summer of 2012, CEW’s Development Director, Mary Lynn Stevens, traveled to Minnesota to visit Irma Wyman (COE ’49), a CEW scholarship donor. While there, Mary Lynn also contacted several former CEW scholarship recipients and, together with Irma, shared a wonderful evening talking about their scholarship experiences and their lives after leaving the University of Michigan.

In April 2013, Connie Kinnear, a CEW donor, Leadership Council member, and writer of the “CEW Tells a Story” series, was traveling to Minneapolis to visit family and arranged to meet with three of these CEW scholars.

The CEW Scholarships provide funding each year to more than 50 students who have experienced and interruption in their education of 48 months or more. As part of the CEW scholarship application, applicants are asked to write a personal statement focusing on the path that has led to their current academic program and their vision of career and potential impact in their chosen field. Each of the scholarship recipients CEW met in Minneapolis has fulfilled the “promise” she made in a unique, meaningful and impactful way.

Here are their stories:

Sarah Newman, CEW Scholarship donor, with Amy Mecozzi Cho

Amy Mecozzi Cho was a 2003 recipient of a Sarah Winans Newman Scholarship for her studies in medicine. In 2007, Amy graduated from the University of Michigan with both her MD and MBA degrees. Amy is now married, the mother of a young son, and practicing emergency medicine at Fairview Ridges Hospital in Burnsville, MN.

Even as a little girl, Amy knew she wanted to be a physician. After her undergraduate studies, however, Amy took the opportunity to work with a .com start-up company in Austin, Texas. This experience, though a departure from her ultimate goal, gave her insights into business practices that would later influence her medical career.

Once into her medical training, Amy discovered that there is a great need to apply business perspectives in such areas as cost containment and operational procedures that impact healthcare. While still in medical school, Amy entered the MBA program at Michigan’s Ross School of Business. As Amy explained:

“I want to take on leadership positions in medicine. I don’t want to be the person who sits and complains that things don’t work right. I want to be in a position to make it better, to effect positive change. Lots can be improved about medicine. Medicine is more than taking care of patients, the science of medicine. There are many operational issues involved in health care. There are public health issues, and the economics of health care. Health care costs are rising much faster than GDP (Gross Domestic Product). This is untenable in the future. We will eventually be forced to make rationing choices in healthcare. But there are opportunities to remove waste in the system, through technology and better business practices. Our current systems don’t “talk” to each other; doctors don’t work together, and there is a need to remove duplication in testing and procedures. Having my MBA brings credibility to my efforts in medical administration.”

Amy is currently serving on several committees working to implement technology used to enable physician communication across specialty areas to improve patient care. In addition, Amy gives her time to assist younger physicians.

“I have a really strong belief in the power of mentoring, of being a role model. There are not a lot of women as mentors in medicine or in the upper levels of medical administration. I’ve worked with medical students and residents in training. I hope this will make each of us better physicians, providing better patient care.

Amy specifically chose emergency medicine as her specialty, knowing that this area of medicine would allow more flexibility in her roles of wife and mother.

“Emergency medicine is very stressful at times – caring for 8 to 12 patients at once. It definitely calls for multitasking. It’s very high intensity. But, I chose this area because it gives me flexibility, especially important now that I’m a mother. It’s a good field for women; I have set work shifts and can work part time if I want. I’m not on call, and I don’t have a patient practice, so I’m not tied down to one location. It gives me flexibility if we need to move for my husband’s work. I can work anywhere we might live.”


Jane Curry

Jane Curry was a CEW Scholar, receiving her award in 1973. Jane received her PhD in American Culture from the University of Michigan in 1975. She has authored three books and performs around the world in one-woman shows, using humor to educate, entertain, and address issues of gender equality. Jane describes herself as “living in Minnesota with her husband, two cats and a snow blower.”

Sometimes a simple thing can change the direction of a life. When Jane Curry was doing research at Michigan for her doctoral dissertation in American Culture, she happened upon a reference to Marietta Holley (1836-1926), a literary humorist who, during her time, was nearly as popular as Mark Twain. Jane made the study of how Marietta Holley used humor and satire to discuss and influence issues of gender equality as a central focus for her dissertation. This engendered an interest in life on the Mississippi River and led Jane to work as a cruise director on the steamboat Delta Queen and to later publish a book based on interviews with Mississippi riverboat pilots. For 30 years, Jane has been writing and performing one-woman shows, the first of which is called “Samantha ‘Rastles’ the Woman Question."  In this production, Jane becomes Samantha Smith Allen, a character based on Marietta Holley’s books.

As Jane describes her experience:

“When reading for my dissertation, I read a book titled Horse Sense in American Humor.  I discovered Marietta Holley, a 19th century feminist and humorist who wrote on women’s rights and suffrage who was compared at the time to Mark Twain. She wrote 20 books over 40 years. But, nobody had ever heard of her, even my dissertation advisor. So writing about her broke ground in the study of American Culture.

In 1974, just after leaving Michigan, I was a cruise director on the Delta Queen steamboat on the Mississippi. I talked the steamship line into letting me do this job. I felt that passengers on this ship would want to learn about the heyday of the steamboats and all the history on the river. While there, I always loved to watch the river, and listen to the stories the pilots told. These were people who had been on the river for 50 years or more.

After four years on the faculty of Lafayette College in eastern Pennsylvania, I wrote a grant proposal to get faculty leave for a semester to talk with riverboat pilots and write an oral history of the era of the river steamboat. Diesel technology had come to the river, and these people were going to disappear as the steamboats were replaced.

After my leave semester, I really wanted to keep working on this book rather than do all the things necessary to achieve tenure. I was also getting married and moving with my husband to Minneapolis. So with all that, I left academia and spent the next 3 to 4 years writing my book, The River’s in My Blood: Riverboat Pilots Tell Their Stories. I loved the research and took many trips to talk with the river people. They would talk to me because I had been on the river. Each person I interviewed led me to others, and it was great fun.

After getting married and leaving academia, I started acting in what has become a series of one woman shows, acting as one of the characters in Marietta Holley’s books. Now, I’ve been playing her for 30 years!

So, finding Marietta Holley for my dissertation at Michigan really changed the entire course of my life. I’ve made a career out of her humor and causes and from the joy of discovering and writing about life on the Mississippi River. It’s been great fun!"

Books by Jane Curry:

The River’s In My Blood: Riverboat Pilots Tell Their Stories (University of Nebraska Press)
Samantha ‘Rastles’ the Woman Question (University of Illinois Press)
Marietta Holley (Twayne Publishers, US Authors Series)


Nancy Sims

Nancy Sims was a 2007 recipient of a Margaret Dow Towsley Scholarship for her studies at the University of Michigan Law School.  After receiving her Library Science degree from Rutgers University in 2000, Nancy began working as a library technology specialist at U-M Hatcher Library. In that role she became interested in the legal implications of the use of technology, especially regarding public interest issues of the copyright laws and intellectual property laws and that interest led Nancy to return to school. Enrolling in U-M's Law School, she received her JD in 2009 with a specialty in Copyright Law. 

As Nancy describes it, " I began to realize that the law doesn’t work well for educational or small-user personal or artistic uses.  I thought that a law degree would enable me to apply my strong technology and communication skills to the legal issues arising in the area of the use of information found on the internet. I wanted to be able to impact the application of the laws for personal and educational users.

I specialized in copyright law. One summer in law school, I interned with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, based in San Francisco. They focus on copyright issues, especially the civil liberties and civil rights issues of copyright law. They work primarily in situations where people use copyright laws to silence the opinions of others.

At that time, not many people were in the areas of intellectual property law or the public interest issues of copyright laws. It was a growing area at U-M, and has seen much growth since then. So, I was at the right place to get the education I needed for what I wanted to do.

I run workshops for Minnesota faculty and instructors on how they can legally use other people’s “stuff."  Everyone is a little bit worried about what they can and cannot do. Some say, “I think I’m not allowed to use this.” Others think, “It’s educational. I can do whatever I want.” Well, neither opinion is quite right. So what I do involves untangling a lot of misconceptions. I help them understand what they shouldn’t be doing and what they can do. The use section of the copyright law is intended to foster the use of available material for research, commentary, criticism, accessibility, and artistic and educational purposes. 

My job is to help people understand the fair use laws, and to have those I work with understand that if we don’t use these rights, the rights tend to shrink. On a 1-on-1 level, I’m advocating that existing law does allow the use of material for educational and artistic purposes.

Another area of my work involves helping people understand what their own rights are as writers. Many are unaware that they have a copyright on what they write. Academic writers write because they want to publish their results, or because they want to get tenure, or to improve their academic reputation because they want to work with others scholars, or because the wish to transfer to a more prestigious institution. There are a million reasons why they publish, but copyright is not really one of them. I help them understand that they don’t have to transfer their copyright to a publisher. They can retain their rights to provide public access to their research. They can share these rights as they see fit.

I’m very excited about what I’m doing. It is exactly the intersection of my interests in library work, technology, and the law.”

Nancy is also using her expertise in technology and copyright law to reach out to school groups, non-profits, small library consortia, and K-12 teachers throughout Minnesota.

“Again, there are many misconceptions among these groups. They have been misled and think they cannot just simply use materials and information they find on the internet. They have been led to believe they must pay for everything they use or get permission to use it.

Many school teachers and librarians want to limit what kids can do, produce or create on the school’s computers, even for school projects and assignments. They are trying to protect kids from what they perceive as copyright trouble. Once again, I talk with them about the copyright laws and the fair use provisions of the laws."

Nancy’s passion for appropriate use of the fair use provisions of the copyright laws may lead her to a more active role nationally to protect these rights.  She is concerned with talk in Washington about revising the copyright laws. As she says,

“Revising the law is a big issue. Judges make decisions based on the current wording of the law. If the law is revised, I’m concerned about what will happen to all those exceptions for educational, personal, and artistic uses. I worry that all those will be limited. I currently produce filings on these issues, and I want to be involved in advocacy for fair use rights.”