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Steven Shindler (A.B. 1985) and his wife, Mary Kay Kosnik (A.B. 1983), both earned economics degrees from LSA, graduating only two years apart. But it wasn’t until later, when they were each pursuing an M.B.A. at Cornell, that the two met and bonded over their mutual love for U-M. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Shindler is the CEO of NII, a wireless communications company operating in Latin America, and Kosnik is a former management consultant, now pursuing a master’s in education. They’re still U-M devotees—in fact, of their three children, two graduated from LSA with economics degrees. (At the graduation of their daughter Danielle (A.B. ’16) last year, the couple realized that four out of five of their family members had taken classes with Department of Economics Chair Jim Adams, decades apart—a first, reports Adams.)
Shindler and Kosnik credit much of the success they’ve had in their careers and lives to the liberal arts education they received at Michigan. They have long been dedicated to LSA’s continued pursuit of excellence, as donors and members of the Dean’s Advisory Council.
“The term ‘critical thinking’ may be overused, but when I work with liberal arts students, they’re the ones stepping back and asking more questions, looking for the ways that things connect,” says Shindler. “By bringing that perspective, he or she also makes the people around them think in that way. This is where new ideas come from; they’re the big questions that move things forward. Liberal arts students are the ones asking proactive questions and making everyone around them better.”
Now, the pair is giving a gift of $1 million to LSA’s next great investment in the liberal arts: the LSA Opportunity Hub.
Building a Hub for the Future
Two years ago, at the request of Dean Andrew D. Martin, Shindler and Kosnik chaired a committee to investigate how LSA could ensure its students had the tools they needed to connect their education to life outside the classroom. The committee conducted extensive research, and their conclusions have assisted LSA through its rapid expansion of summer internships, and in reviewing ideas related to connecting students with alumni both during college and after graduation.
“When I look at liberal arts at U-M, I think of all it has to offer,” says Shindler, “the depth and breadth of academic excellence are unparalleled. The second key element is the campus environment and school spirit of the University and Ann Arbor—U-M becomes a part of you. The third leg of the stool, the key piece that was missing, was a way to help students connect their education and passions to careers and other opportunities.”
Kosnik and Shindler’s work also helped contribute to the foundation for the new LSA Opportunity Hub, which will be a physical and virtual space for liberal arts students that will facilitate access to internships, funding, employer partnerships, and alumni mentors. The Hub will allow students—at any stage in their academic career—to explore diverse opportunities, discover what matters most to them, and put their liberal arts education to work. Whether a first-year student just beginning to discover their own interests, or a senior preparing for an interview for their dream job, they will have a full suite of resources available to them to grow and learn, both inside and outside the traditional classroom—and preparing them for the world beyond the University.
“Based on the research we’ve done, no one else has anything like this,” says Kosnik. “From the day a student walks onto U-M’s campus—maybe even the day they choose U-M—they will be able to use the Hub to find a mentor or a place to just connect the dots between what they’re learning and how they might use it out in the world.”
“We are truly inspired by the Opportunity Hub, which we think is the next greatest development at the University of Michigan,” says Kosnik.
And they’re asking other believers in the liberal arts to lend their support for the next generation of LSA students, too.
“We hope to inspire more people to realize the value of the Opportunity Hub,” says Shindler. “Please consider making your gift contributions towards the Hub to allow it to deliver on its promises. Help make our students’ futures even brighter.
“We would love for others to join us.”