May 26, 2017

SVSU, Dow Corning Foundation STEM program rewards Kingston teacher's eye for the future

“Robots shall inherit the classroom” reads the tagline on Matt Ferguson’s Kingston High School-based webpage featuring his Robotics course’s trials and tribulations.

It’s a maxim that may sound hyperbolic to some, but to Ferguson and his students, it’s a work in progress. In Room 39 of the high school — surrounded by the rural landscapes of Michigan’s Thumb region — a high-tech endeavor is underway that one day (soon) could result in a robot inheriting some of Ferguson’s classroom responsibilities.

“Maybe by this time next year,” Ferguson said of his timeline to finish building InMoov, a life-sized 3D-printed robot whose blueprints are available as an open source project for educators and hobbyists alike.

That time line reached much deeper into the future before Ferguson became involved in the Dow Corning Foundation/Saginaw Valley State University Community STEM Partnership. That initiative has provided resources and training since 2014 for K-12 teachers interested in ramping up student interest in the sciences. In 2016, Ferguson was selected to participate in the program along with 27 other educators from 14 schools in 12 districts spanning Bay, Midland, Saginaw and Tuscola counties.

That same cohort of K-12 teachers will provide presentations on their resulting projects during a symposium Tuesday, May 30, from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in SVSU’s Curtiss Hall. The event is free and open to the public. Ferguson will be among the presenters. He plans to bring InMoov to the occasion.

“We wouldn’t be working on the InMoov project right now if it weren’t for the fellowship,” said Ferguson, who received a bachelor’s degree in art education from SVSU in 2005.

The Peck native began eyeing InMoov years ago, but lacked the resources. Through the Dow Corning Foundation/SVSU Community STEM Partnership, he received $2,000 in funds along with grant-writing skills — offered as part of the program’s professional development courses — that helped him successfully lobby for additional support from other sources. He used the financial support to buy the materials that make up InMoov as well as the 3D printers that shaped those materials into the life-sized figure.

Stephanie Brouet, an SVSU associate professor of chemistry and one of the STEM partnership’s coordinators, remembered speaking for the first time last year with Ferguson about his ambitions to build an InMoov model.

“It’s astonishing what he and his students have been able to do since then,” she said. “I was thinking, by this point, he might have the 3D printers. They’re much farther along than I thought they would be.”

Ferguson and his Robotics class first began printing parts for InMoov in November 2016. The venture began with construction of a faceplate. Since then, the group has built nearly 100 items on a 400-item checklist of InMoov parts.

Students involved in the project say they are inspired by it.

“This has definitely increased my interest in the sciences,” said Nathan Scott, a Kingston High School senior who helped design the website showcasing the project at

The Dow Corning Foundation/SVSU Community STEM Partnership is aimed at influencing 4,000 K-12 students — such as Scott — within the region. Funded by a Dow Corning Foundation grant, the project connects teachers with SVSU faculty as they work on ideas for stimulating student interest in STEM.

Finished InMoov models do not feature legs. Their life-like anatomy begins above the waist, which is fastened to a platform with wheels. Already, Ferguson’s robot is mounted on such a platform. Batteries, circuit boards, gears and sprockets also are attached. While the InMoov head isn’t finished, its face features enough parts necessary to move its neck, mouth, and eyelids, all controlled by humans through a computer program.

The torso and arms remain on the to-do list. Once the body is fully constructed and operational — a task that Ferguson estimates could take another year — he hopes to shift his focus to installing InMoov with artificial intelligence capabilities.

Such an upgrade would allow the robot to perform more commands without human control. Some of the tasks Ferguson envisions for InMoov include the robot taking classroom attendance using facial recognition software and running errands to the school’s main office using navigational technology. Ferguson is considering installing a camera system that would allow students to “see through the robots eyes” using a virtual reality headset.

The applications for InMoov are virtually limitless, and Ferguson said he anticipates new generations of students will inspire the pursuit of new functions for InMoov. 

May 23, 2017

SVSU honors outstanding patient care by 7 nurses across the region

Saginaw Valley State University celebrated the dedicated care and leadership delivered by seven registered nurses in the Great Lakes Bay Region during the seventh annual Carleen K. Moore R.N. Nursing Excellence awards ceremony Monday, May 22.

Established by SVSU’s Department of Nursing through generous support provided by Terry Moore and his wife Carleen K. Moore, the awards recognize outstanding nurses in multiple career paths, including clinical bedside nurses, nurse educators, nurses in the community, and nurses in long-term care and rehabilitation facilities.

The 2017 recipients include:
•    Cathy Campbell, who works for Covenant HealthCare in physical medicine and rehabilitation; she received the Long Term Care/Rehabilitation award. Her nominators wrote, “Cathy is the clinical nurse specialist for (the transitional care and rehabilitation) departments and coordinates and supports the care for the most complex of those patients. She challenges, mentors, and coaches the team. She collaborates and coordinates with the medical staff. She is the ‘go to’ person on both units. Cathy will do the necessary research to guarantee that the best evidence-based practice is implemented. Her focus is on providing the best patient care possible to provide quality outcomes.”

•    Jackie Dost, who works in the emergency department of Saint Mary’s of Michigan; she is one of four recipients of the Acute Care Nursing award. Her director wrote, “She has enjoyed a long career in the Saint Mary’s emergency department. Jackie impacts the lives of all she encounters, both patients and peers with her wit, laughs and never-ending attempts to make situations fun.” Her nominator added: “Jackie is a member of the Saint Mary’s human trafficking task force. The goal of the task force is to raise awareness of the signs of human trafficking and to provide victims access to necessary community resources.”

•    Rebecca Morgan, who works in McLaren Bay Region’s OB/Family Birthplace; she is one of four recipients of the Acute Care Nursing award. Her manager wrote, “Becky does all of the childbirth education and breastfeeding classes, as well as coordinating the Daddy Boot Camp classes that are completely conducted by fathers for new fathers. She frequently adjusts her schedule to meet the needs of new parents. Recently she supported an expectant teenage mother, 14. This young lady and her mother were too uncomfortable to attend the regular childbirth classes due to her age. Becky arranged a separate one-on-one session that would fit with the young patient’s school schedule.”

•    Gordon Siu, who works in the neuro-trauma ICU at MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland; he is one of four recipients of the Acute Care Nursing award. His supervisor wrote, “Gordon cares for many different types of patients. He is well known for his trauma expertise. He will be the first to jump in and help when and where it is needed.” His nominator added: “He is a patient advocate and continuously strives to exceed patient expectations. He has been a clinician to sit with patients and families to educate and support their need to understand.”

•    Trisha Slough, who works in the surgical services department at Saint Mary’s of Michigan Towne Centre; she is one of four recipients of the Acute Care Nursing award.  Her director wrote, “Trisha is always very eager to learn. She runs the day-to-day patient scheduling. She works with physicians and facilitates the daily assignments for a staff of more than 20. She is an RN that is able to provide patient care in pre-op, recovery and in the operating room as a circulator. Recently, we needed someone to temporarily take on the role of Material’s Surgical Supervisor. She took on the role, quickly learning the requisition process, computer system, and how to interface with our vendors.”

•    Jennifer Swartz, who works as a workforce development specialist at MidMichigan Health; she received the Nurse Educator award. Her manager wrote, “Jen was instrumental for single-handedly securing availability of computer access for students during the transition from Cerner to EPIC. Jen has made it a priority to secure access for all of the students that come to MidMichigan Health for a clinical experience. She has effectively communicated the need for over 300 students coming to MidMichigan each year to practice accessing the medical record and documenting in the medical record.” Swartz also teaches for multiple nursing programs in the region. Swartz completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees at SVSU, and is currently enrolled in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

•    Julie Wright, who works as a community nurse educator for MidMichigan Health in Clare and Gladwin counties; she received the Nursing in the Community award. Her nominator wrote, “Julie has been a key driver in reaching our at-risk populations by providing various educational opportunities in both Clare and Gladwin counties. She specifically has been an integral piece of our implementation and expansion of childbirth prep classes in order to improve infant and maternal health. Julie will leave a legacy for ‘good’ for many years by creating vision, inspiring others, and using her power and influence to effectively guide ordinary people to produce extraordinary results.”

The awards were presented during a ceremony at SVSU Monday, May 22.

Carleen K. Moore worked as a licensed practical nurse for almost 15 years before returning to nursing school to become an registered nurse. She then worked in the critical care units at MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland for the next eleven years before retiring from full time nursing in 2001. Carleen and her husband, Terry, believe in the importance of recognizing and encouraging nurses who demonstrate excellence in their field.

May 22, 2017

Isabelle Pacitto: Portrait of a 2017 SVSU graduate

From: Hartland

High school: Hartland High School

Major: Social Work

Future: Graduate school at the University of Michigan 

Isabelle Pacitto came to SVSU with a passion for helping others and leaves inspired to make it her life's work, thanks to engaging with a campus community filled with servant leaders.

A social work major from Hartland, Pacitto expected the usual stress and long hours of being a college student, but she was surprised at how "right" SVSU felt for her, and how it not only fueled her passion but also paired it with professional purpose.

"The best thing SVSU could have done for me was linking me with the hands-on opportunities in the community and outside of the classroom," she said. "Being a victim advocate for the Sexual Assault Center, a branch of Child and Family Services of Saginaw, was a requirement for class my very first semester here and I'm still engaged with that."

Pacitto's time at SVSU helped her find the program that was right for her.

"I think I've always wanted to do the work that social workers do, even before I knew what the social work profession really was," she said. "To me, social work is the most practical, hands-on way I could think of to just work with people – whether that be an individual or a family or a community – to help affect positive change."

On top of schoolwork and the required hours of volunteer work within her field, Pacitto worked as a tour guide on campus and as a resident assistant in MJ Brandimore House, a campus residence hall – and she still graduated in just three years.

Jamie Franklin, SVSU resident director, worked closely with Pacitto during her time as a resident assistant.

"The impact she has had on the SVSU community will be felt for years after her graduation as she has recruited and mentored many young students," Franklin said. "Graduating in three years often does not leave a lot of time to leave a lasting legacy; however, her attitude and love for people will continue to show in the people she had an impact on."

In connection with her program, Pacitto's field placement connected her with Innerlink, a runaway and homeless shelter and a division of the Saginaw County Youth Protection Council, where she worked as a social work intern.

Pacitto worked with those individuals ages 17 to 20 who find themselves with nowhere to go.

"I think, with any of the populations I've worked with, it's just a real privilege to be able to walk alongside someone when they're most vulnerable," she said.

Pacitto also participated in a study abroad opportunity through SVSU that took her to India in the summer of 2016.

"It was 10 weeks – basically all of this past summer. I think it really connected well with my passion for women's issues," she said.

"I'd eventually like to go back and do some sort of research in that area in India because there's not a lot of available research on it. I'd love to do international social work of any sort but I have a particular interest and connection with that country."

Pacitto stated that she would recommend studying abroad to anyone. Not only did it benefit her in her career path, but it also increased her confidence in her own abilities.

After three years at SVSU, Pacitto is proud of her accomplishments within the university and in the community. She has made lasting relationships with peers, mentors and professionals within her field.

"It's really the little things that make a college experience special," she said. "I'm just thankful and appreciative of the people who have taken the time to help me grow – whether that be my professors, residence directors, my friends, roommates or my staff. The people here are different than anywhere else."

Pacitto now heads to graduate school at the University of Michigan to pursue a master's degree in clinical social work.

"Because of what I've learned at SVSU, I feel better going into grad school," she said. "I'm confident in my skills as a bachelor's-level social worker at this point. I'm just grateful for the opportunity to be an engaged member of a school and of a community."

May 22, 2017

Sarah Tennyson: Portrait of a 2017 SVSU graduate

From: Saginaw Township

High school: Baptist Christian High School 

Major: Communication

Future: Helping Disadvantaged individuals


‌‌“I like to stay positive and keep a positive outlook on life.” 

Sarah Tennyson's optimism at first might seem odd coming from someone once kept alive by a feeding tube, she admitted.

In her world, though, there is plenty to celebrate, and her celebration grew more jubilant recently when the Saginaw Township native joined more than 1,000 of her Saginaw Valley State University student peers who participated in the May 2017 commencement ceremonies.?

Tennyson, 30, has two classes still to complete, but participated in the May ceremony, which she found fitting. She always imagined celebrating her accomplishment in the mellow comforts of springtime. It was a fantasy that pre-dated her brush with a disease that nearly prevented her from living to see such a day at all.

Tennyson was no stranger to overcoming obstacles when that dangerous medical condition upended her world during her late 20s. Her first medical obstacle arrived on the day of her birth. Born three months earlier than expected, Tennyson as a baby was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that impairs motor functions. As a result, she has spent her life in a wheelchair.

More medical hardships followed, but Tennyson continued to pursue college education, and she has made quite an impression on Dick Thompson, SVSU ombudsman, whose tenure at SVSU began in 1970. He called Tennyson “one of the most positive and caring students I have ever had the pleasure to work with.”

Thompson helped Tennyson navigate some of the logistical challenges that emerged when her medical condition threatened to derail her studies.

“I admire her for her courage and determination,” he said. “She is the best of the best.”

During her K-12 years, Tennyson attended a school for individuals with disabilities before eventually graduating from Community Baptist Christian High School in Saginaw. She still lives in the home where she was raised, and said her parents and older sister — along with a deep faith in her Christian beliefs — provided a support system that allowed her eventually to pursue a postsecondary education. She earned an associate’s degree from Delta College in 2009, and then enrolled at SVSU.

Tennyson’s tenure at the university, though, was derailed five years ago when she suffered what she initially believed was a “stomach bug.” The problem persisted for about a week by the time Tennyson was scheduled to participate in SVSU’s Sims Public Speaking Competition in November 2012.

“I told myself, ‘I’m not going to miss this speech competition,” she said, “but by the end of the day, I was in the ER, vomiting.”

The situation grew serious enough that medics — fearing for her life — removed her gall bladder and inserted a feeding tube into her body.

“They didn’t know what was going on at first,” she said.

Eventually, doctors diagnosed her with gastroparesis, which is a disorder that stops or slows the movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine.?

For a time, her weight dropped from 100 lbs. to 75 lbs. Problems persisted until she switched to a new doctor, whose prescriptions helped her recover some of her physical strength in the ensuing years.

“I’m not where I want to be quite yet,” she said. “I’m getting there.”

The medical challenges slowed — but didn’t stop — the pursuit of her bachelor’s degree. She returned to SVSU in fall 2013 but dropped out before the end of the semester.

“Trying to get myself back to school was a roller coaster ride,” she said. “I would take two steps forward, then one step back. There were times when I didn’t think I was going to be able to finish.”

She returned to SVSU again in August 2016, when she signed up for a single kinesiology course.

“I was in physical therapy at the time and I wanted to know how my body worked,” she said.

Despite falling seriously ill again in November 2016, she has remained enrolled at the university, with expectations that she will earn her degree this year. Along with her family, friends, faith and her medical support team, Tennyson credited SVSU staff and faculty with aiding her in those academic pursuits.

“I’ve had a huge support system,” she said.

While she is quick to give others credit, Thompson said Tennyson’s sense of determination and persevering spirit were the most important factors in her accomplishments.

“Despite all her challenges, Sarah never gave up on her dreams,” he said.

After earning her bachelor’s degree, she hopes to pursue a career helping others with disabilities and social challenges as they strive to reach their potential. That sort of ambition is familiar to Tennyson.

“Everyone has their difficulties,” she said. “Some are just more visible than others, like mine. I had a lot of support to get to where I am, and now I want to give back to others.”

May 22, 2017

Kevin Finley: Portrait of a 2017 SVSU graduate

From: Flint

High school: Flint Southwestern Academy

Major: Accounting

Future: The Dow Chemical Company, accounting department 

As a future accounting asset to The Dow Chemical Company, Kevin Finley crossed the graduation stage in May 2017 with excitement and a firm sense of purpose after five years at Saginaw Valley State University. The Flint native has replaced childhood scars with an ever-present smile, having learned many valuable lessons inside and outside the classroom.

"In leadership and in life, it's not just about the grades," Finley said.

Finely has the grades – he made the Deans' list all 10 semesters, studying professional accountancy – but it was getting in touch with his values and those of his university, and putting those values into action that taught him as much or more.

"SVSU has taught me that there's more to life than just being smart. Do you care about the community? Are you humble? Do you want to see others around you succeed with you? In life, you can't do anything by yourself and SVSU has that community focus that I really appreciate."

With aspirations to start his own mentorship program one day, Finley started planning out his future while in high school at Flint Southwestern Academy where he took his first accounting class. There, he discovered not only his proficiency in the field, but his love for it as well.

"It just made sense to me," he said.

After discovering this passion, Finley took a tour of SVSU during his senior year of high school. Though he had been considering some other universities at the time, the welcoming campus of SVSU and the friendly people who inhabited it convinced him to enroll.

"I felt like I could really make an impact at SVSU and it was big enough to meet a lot of people but it was small enough to still make an impact," he said.

Finley certainly stood out. As a member of the Roberts Fellowship Program – a student leadership development initiative at SVSU – he built upon his leadership and academic achievement through service projects and study. Finley and nine of his classmates traveled to Asia in May as the culmination of the program.

"One of the goals of the program is to become well-rounded in global citizenship while making us aware of different social issues in different areas of the world," he said.

Recognized by his fellow students, Finley beamed with pride after being elected to Homecoming Court in the fall of 2015.

"It was just an honor to make court – just to have that experience was kind of cool," he said. "I thought, 'Wow. I affected people enough on this campus to even make court.'"

Students knew Finley because he signed up for nearly every high-profile position a student can have. He worked as a resident assistant, a campus tour guide, and an orientation leader, helping new students acclimate to SVSU.

Through his involvement with Delta Sigma Pi, a business fraternity, Finley built his résumé further. He worked his way up, eventually serving as the vice president of finance for a year and a half before serving as the fraternity's president for a year. Finley was awarded the Huron Regional Collegian of the Year in 2016 for Delta Sigma Pi; the award is presented to a member of the fraternity who represents the distinguished values and ideals of the organization through achievement, participation and character.

Finley's drive and determination saw him serve as an accounting tutor in SVSU's tutoring center as well as a research assistant in the Office of Institutional Research. He also worked as an intern with The Dow Chemical Company, where he made connections and secured a full-time job after graduation.

A first-generation college student, Finley remembers a time when the future didn't always look so bright.

"Where I came from, no one really expected me to be a leader," he said. "No one expected me to make Homecoming Court. No one expected me to do all the stuff I'm doing. SVSU allows you to grow your confidence here."

Personal perseverance shaped Finley's confidence.

"I was beaten up really badly in high school," he said. "I was really, really frustrated but then I realized, it's not about who does what to you. It's about your response. I can say, 'I don't want to see that happen to someone else so let me show people that there's more to life than negativity.' I don't want to let stuff like that hinder me. I just want to stay positive."

Finley spreads that positivity through his connections at SVSU, in the community and in his hometown.

"My ultimate goal is to become a CFO – a chief financial officer – of a company, and, although I have a passion for accounting, I also have a passion for mentorship," he said. "Coming from Flint, Michigan, I've always told myself that I wanted to give back by starting a mentorship program or possibly doing a scholarship for people growing up in the Flint area."

Finley learned from multiple mentors to him during his time at SVSU.

"I was really lucky to have great mentors in my life," he said. Among those mentors were Ian Philbrick, a former resident director with SVSU Residential Life.

"He taught me about leadership and he held me accountable. Stuff like that is intangible. You can't put a value on it," Finley said.

Another mentor was Nick Wagner, SVSU's director of institutional research. "He wants to see you succeed. He gives his all to the community and he would always make time for students," Finley said.

Wagner has worked closely with Finley over the course of his time at SVSU and spoke highly of him as both a student and a young professional.

"Kevin has been one of the most unique and profound students I have ever had the chance to interact with at SVSU," Wagner said. "He displays a constant desire to learn and become better all while being selfless and humble. He is a student the university should be extremely proud of and has set the standard for what it means to be a student leader."

With his post-graduation plans locked down, Finley is excited to see where his future will lead. Hard work and dedication certainly play a large role in Finley's story but he also finds motivation in an optimistic attitude and these words of wisdom:

"Be honest with who you are as a student leader," Finley said. "The biggest thing I could recommend to anyone would be to pursue your passion. Even if it takes a little longer, do what makes you happy."

May 19, 2017

SVSU hosting open house for new master’s program in computer science & information systems

Saginaw Valley State University is hosting an open house for students interested in learning more about the new master’s degree program in computer science and information systems approved by the Board of Control earlier this month. SVSU professors will be on hand from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 23 in Pioneer Hall room 238 to answer questions and provide information about the program.

The SVSU curriculum is designed to prepare graduates to work as software developers, system analysts, programmers, system engineers, and in other information technology positions.

In developing the program, SVSU faculty solicited feedback from auto companies such as Ford and Nexteer, as well a number of other firms from Auto-Owners Insurance to Yeo and Yeo. Government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Defense, also evaluated the proposal. All of the reviewers indicated a growing demand for informational technology professionals with advanced degrees and supported SVSU’s proposed program.

SVSU will begin offering classes this fall toward the master’s degree program in computer science and information systems. Courses will be offered in three formats to serve working professionals: fully face-to-face instruction with evening classes; fully online classes; and hybrid courses that include both face-to-face and online learning.

The new graduate program expands upon successful bachelor’s degree programs at in computer science and information systems. SVSU students have fared well in online programming competitions; SVSU currently ranks No. 74 in the world at on such competition site (

For more information about SVSU’s master’s degree program in computer science and information systems, visit

May 19, 2017

SVSU student awarded national honor as Outstanding Senior in French

Recent Saginaw Valley State University graduate Tory Thompson has received a national honor. The American Association of Teachers of French selected him to receive a 2017 Outstanding Senior in French Award.

Students are nominated for the award by faculty members based on academic excellence and an exceptional commitment to the study of French.  Students are required to have completed at least three years of French study at the time of graduation and be non-native speakers of French.

A French major from Saginaw, Thompson began studying French at SVSU at an advanced 300 level while still enrolled at Clio High School as part of the dual-enrollment program. He worked as a French language lab assistant and French tutor during the winter 2016 semester. That same year, Thompson studied French at Université Lyon in Lyon, France for a semester in the fall.

Thompson was also a member of Alpha Mu Gamma, the national foreign language honor society as well as  La Société Française, SVSU's French club.

The AATF was founded in 1927 and is the largest national professional association of French teachers in the world with nearly 10,000 members.  Its mission is to promote the study of the French language and French-speaking cultures and literature.

Thompson plans to pursue graduate school in linguistics.

May 17, 2017

SVSU Cardinal Formula Racing finishes as top undergraduate team for 3rd straight year; Places 6th in the world in acceleration

The Saginaw Valley State University Cardinal Formula Race team sped its way to another impressive performance, posting the top Cardinal Formula Racing practicing prior to races.score among exclusively undergraduate programs for the third consecutive year at the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers Collegiate Design Series May 10-13 at Michigan International Speedway.

SVSU placed 45th overall among the 120 colleges and universities from across the world who competed. The Cardinals finished ahead of schools such as Michigan Tech (No. 51), Penn State (No.63) and Purdue (No. 67).

As has become a team trademark, SVSU again designed and built one of the fastest college race cars in the world, finishing sixth in the acceleration category. SVSU has won the acceleration event twice, in 2008 and 2014.

The team has set high standards for itself. Brooks Byam, SVSU professor of mechanical engineering and the team's faculty advisor since 1998, is fiercely competitive and wanted an even better showing, but he knows the students gave it their all.

“I am pleased given the level of competition and all new leadership on our team,” he said. “The students worked their tails off over the past year, and those that are returning are already excited to get started on next year's race car.”

The annual FSAE Collegiate Design Series competition features 120 teams from world-renowned colleges and universities with esteemed mechanical engineering programs. This year’s competition was won by the University of Stuttgart from Germany.

Teams from higher education institutions across the globe design and build Indy-style race cars to compete at the series, which features multiple competition categories such as endurance, acceleration, autocross, cost, presentation, and skid pad.

For more information on SVSU’s Cardinal Formula Racing program, visit

May 17, 2017

SVSU student shows perseverance to complete degree

Emotions filled Natalie Jacobs as she crossed the stage during Commencement exercises at Saginaw Valley State University Saturday, May 6. Her seven years of college culminate a lifetime of determination overcoming medical challenges.
A graduate of Farmington Hills Harrison High School, Jacobs recalled her family's feelings when she arrived at her SVSU residence hall in August 2010.
"My grandma was so excited, she cried," Jacobs recalled. "My parents didn't know if I'd make it, living on my own."
Jacobs has a diagnosed learning disability, but she also possesses a remarkable work ethic and incredible resolve. A communication major, she is scheduled to complete her final two courses this summer.
Her hardest course? "Biology. I enjoyed the course, but it was hard," Jacobs said.
Her parents, Paul and Lori Jacobs, wrote a letter to SVSU President Don Bachand, expressing their appreciation.
"It is clear without the encouragement of many, many professors she wouldn't have made it," the couple wrote. "They believed in her as much as we did. Natalie is a hard worker and understands that she has to work harder than most to pass her courses. She regularly would visit her professors during office hours, and asked them for help and support.
"That support - and acceptance at all levels of the university of a student with disabilities - was provided without hesitation by most of her professors. It was remarkable how many went out of their way to help her. No corners were cut, but for a student that required additional support, it was provided every step of the way."
Natalie Jacobs said Daniel Villaire, SVSU lecturer of English, provided encouragement at a particularly difficult juncture when she questioned whether she could finish what she started.
"He helped me get my college career on track," she said. Natalie's college career is nearly complete. Her life after college is about to begin.
"The investment made by society and by your staff will pay off for decades to come," her parents wrote, "and we hope it encourages and inspires everyone involved that this is worth it."

May 16, 2017

Mackenzie Allen: Portrait of a 2017 SVSU graduate

From: Saginaw Township

High school: Valley Lutheran High School

Major: Biochemistry

Future: Michigan State College of Human Medicine, M.D. program 

Mackenzie Allen arrived at Saginaw Valley State University with her sights set on an academic path that would lead her to a profession helping bodies heal. The Saginaw Township native departs with her aspirations confirmed and her prospects bright thanks to a community-minded commitment to hands-on education. 

The future physician will begin her studies at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine with more than two years of experience in a Saginaw hospital emergency roomthanks to an extraordinary experiential learning opportunity through SVSU. 

Allen participated in SVSU's Medical Scribe program, an innovative partnership that pairs undergraduate students with physicians at Saginaw’s Covenant HealthCare. Allen, who graduated from SVSU with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry in May 2017, and other scribes assist the professionals with medical documentation. 

“It’s been an incredible experience,” said Allen, a first-generation college student. “You get to see how doctors work and how they approach difficult situations. There are also the social aspects and basic medical processes we get to learn.” 

The program involved a number of responsibilities, largely involving taking notes while doctors and nurses worked with patients. Allen also watched personnel perform medical procedures and assisted with gathering medical equipment. 

“It definitely opens your eyes to the profession,” she said. “Going into college, you’re not as experienced in this world, but after being in the ER in downtown Saginaw for a certain amount of time, you see what people are dealing with.” 

Filled with a spirit of servant leadership, the experience solidified Allen’s ambition to become a doctor, which dates back to her fascination with human anatomy studies at Valley Lutheran High School.  

“There were situations that shook me, with some of the patients having harsh backgrounds and not many resources when they came in,” she said. “A lot of people are at their lowest moments there. I just want to try to make their care better, and steer them in the right direction.” 

It’s an outlook such as that one that gives Heidi Lang, SVSU’s pre-health professions advisor, confidence that Allen possesses the qualities necessary to excel in the health care industry. 

Kenzie has great attention to detail as well as an intrinsic motivation to learn, to grow, and to improve,” Lang said.  

She has been a tremendous asset to SVSU, participating in multiple student organizations, volunteering and working in local health care settings, and excelling in her studies. 

Lang was impressed with the Allen's commitment to being a worldly health care worker. Allen’s academic minor was Spanish, and she used the second language during an internship with Saginaw-based Great Lakes Bay Health.  

In the summer of 2016, Allen helped workers with the community health care center provide medical check-ups for Spanish migrants working in Michigan for the summer.  

“A team of us would drive out to the farms where they were working and make sure they were getting the resources they needed,” she said. “Some of them needed help, and we were there for them.” 

Lang said Allen was an outstanding undergraduate with great potential as a prospective physician. 

She will be missed, but we look forward to following her journey,” Lang said. 

It is a demanding journey, to be sure, but Lang and others are convinced Allen has what it takes and that she will be motivated by her desire to lead a life filled with caring for others.