• Group of students in lecture hall

    Custer Speaker Series

    Open to the public, our lecture series is designed for students to hear industry leaders about non-technical skills and experiences that will boost their career.

Custer Speaker Series

"The speaker series is a learning experience that will challenge and excite you. I hope it will show you what an exciting future you can have and gives you a real-work experience along with some out of the box learning." - David Custer, CEO, Custer, Inc., and sponsor of the Custer Speaker Series

Open to the public, our speaker series is designed for students and community members to hear from professionals on topics that broaden attendees’ understanding of the world and add depth to experiences. It is also an opportunity for our alumni and community members to engage with our students, potential future employees.

  • Stewardship through Bees and Seeds, April 5
    Team with large feed house

    Join us April 5 for a Custer Speaker Series event featuring WMU gardeners Sharon Mullins and Laura Moss who will share their experience supporting bees, collecting and planting native seeds, and restoring the ecosystem on campus.

    • Tuesday, April 5, 12:30 p.m.
    • C-136 Floyd Hall on WMU's Parkview Campus
    • Lunch provided

    Mullins and Moss have built a pollinator house for native bees on the Western’s Parkview campus to support bees and all pollinators. They also collect and plant native seeds on campus, often sharing seeds with the WMU community. Restoring the ecosystem on campus is their favorite part of about their job!

  • Student Research Presentations

    During this session, you will hear from two Ph.D. students working in the Energy Efficient and Autonomous Vehicle lab about their exciting research projects.

    • March 22 at 12:30
    • D-132 Floyd Hall on WMU's Parkview Campus
    • Lunch provided

    Farhang Motallebi

    Mobility Energy Productivity Evaluation of Prediction-based Vehicle Powertrain Control Combined with Optimal Traffic Management

    Farhang Motallebi, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering, will share details about his research—Mobility Energy Productivity Evaluation of Prediction-based Vehicle Powertrain Control Combined with Optimal Traffic Management. Araghi works under Dr. Zachary Asher in the Energy Efficient and Autonomous Vehicles Lab. He received his Master of Science in automotive engineering at Iran University of Science and Technology. His research interest is in vehicle automation and intelligent transportation infrastructure. He is focusing on developing technologies in optimization, control and machine learning to improve energy efficiency and mobility for automated vehicles.


    Johan Fanas

    Performance Evaluation of an Autonomous Vehicle Using Resilience Engineering

    Johan Fanas, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering, will present information about his research project—Performance Evaluation of an Autonomous Vehicle Using Resilience Engineering. Fanas works under Asher in the Energy Efficient and Autonomous Vehicles Lab. He received his Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering at Technological Institute of Santo Domingo and his Master of Science at Western. His research interest is autonomous vehicles, robotics and artificial intelligence. He focuses on developing new system evaluation metrics for autonomous vehicles, localization, controls and using artificial intelligence to improve operational resilience

  • Greg Dobson, COO and Principal, AVB, March 1

    Bringing Costco to Kalamazoo: AVB’s Perseverance and Success

    Join us for a special presentation about perseverance and positivity with Greg Dobson, chief operating officer and principal at AVB Inc., a regional leading development company. Hear how the organization’s endurance brought Costco to Kalamazoo. Students, faculty, professionals, and community members will learn what it takes to address the challenges in making a project come to life in any professional role or industry. The construction on the 40-acre development of Corner @ Drake began in November of 2013, but land acquisition and planning took place over the course of more than 20 years as AVB envisioned the long-term potential of the property.

    Join us for an inspirational presentation on perseverance, leadership and success.

    • March 1, 2022
    • 4:30 p.m., followed by a Q&A session
    • Refreshments following presentation
    • WMU, Fetzer Center

    About Greg Dobson

    Greg Dobson is COO and Principal of AVB, a leading construction and development firm dedicated to great homes, buildings and developments. A Western alumnus, Dobson first studied paper science, then earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in 1991, followed by a Master of Business Administration in 1995. From 1991 until 1998, he was assistant to the president under Western’s fifth president, Dr. Diether H. Haenicke. He then  worked as associate athletic director responsible for external affairs and four sports before joining the AVB team in 1999. In 2006 he invested in the firm as a partner and became principal and chief operating officer. He currently serves as president of the WMU Alumni Association.

  • Ricardo Diniz, Solo Sailor and Inspirational Speaker

    Video of Meet Solo sailor, Author, Coach and Actor, Ricardo Diniz, from Portugal.

    Leadership: Even as a solo sailor it’s always about teamwork first

    But when I look back at every country visited, every ocean sailed, every hike in nature and every smooth flight , it wasn't so much about the places but the people who made those places mean something. —Ricardo Diniz

    Ricardo DinizSolo sailor, coach and entrepreneur

    Ricardo Diniz has sailed the equivalent of nearly four times around the world, with more than 100,000 miles logged. He has become a weather router and expedition manager for climbers, rowers and sailors. In addition to his sailing and other related skills, Diniz is an author and entrepreneur.

    Join us for an inspirational presentation on leadership.

    • November 4, 2021
    • 4:30 p.m.
    • WMU, Fetzer Center
  • Dr. Barbara Oakley: Educator. Writer. Engineer.

    Photo of Dr. Barbara OakleyLearn How to Learn: Powerful Mental Tools To Help Master Tough Subjects

    • Thursday, Sept. 16, 4:30 p.m.
    • Fetzer Center on WMU's main campus (2251 Business Court).
    • Author of A Mind for Numbers, Oakley will provide free books to first 75 WMU students and faculty attending the event. 
    • Book signing and light snacks to follow talk.
    • Hosted by the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Dr. Matthew Cavalli, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs.


    Cover of Oakley's book A Mind for NumbersAbout Barbara Oakley

    Barbara Oakley, Ph.D., is the bestselling author of A Mind for Numbers, a professor of engineering at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, and a Professional Engineer. Her research involves bio-engineering with an emphasis on neuroscience and cognitive psychology. Oakley is an internationally recognized expert on learning and on creating high-quality online materials for massive open online courses. With Dr. Terrence Sejnowski, Francis Crick Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, she co-created and teaches one of the world's most popular MOOCs, Learning How to Learn.

For more information about the Custer Speaker Series, contact Carey Schoolmaster.