Cheyenne Wilton is inspired to help her peers. She is familiar with the studies showing suicide as a leading cause of death among her college-aged peers. Suicide rates are on the rise nationwide.
It's a trend she and her classmates at Saginaw Valley State University hope to play a role in reversing when they engage in a week-long, community-minded fundraising competition to benefit suicide awareness and prevention.
“It's really important that we are trained and looking for the signs and that we know how to help and what to do in those situations,” said Wilton, chair of SVSU's Battle of the Valleys fundraiser.
During the annual fundraising competition, students at SVSU and Grand Valley State University capitalize on the schools' football rivalry to see who can raise the most money for each institution's respective selected charity partner. Students will raise the funds during a series of activities scheduled Sunday to Friday, Oct. 21-26.
For SVSU, the student-led effort will support the Barb Smith Suicide and Response Network. The Saginaw-based nonprofit works to prevent suicide, educate communities and provide no-cost, 24/7 aftercare for those affected when prevention is not possible. Students lead a variety of events and activities on campus and in the community throughout the week to generate donations.
The fundraising total will be announced at halftime of the SVSU vs. GVSU football game hosted Saturday, Oct. 27, at Harvey Randall Wickes Memorial Stadium.
Wilton, a creative writing major from Ortonville, and other students coordinating the week-long initiative hope to raise $40,000 this year.
Caitlin Coulter, president of the SVSU Student Association, was the chair of last year's Battle of the Valleys effort at SVSU, which netted $32,000 for The Mustard Seed Shelter in Saginaw. The biology major from Clio remains actively involved.
Coulter said she expects a great deal of student interest for this year's competition in part because the football matchup with GVSU that caps off the week will be played at SVSU.
“The whole campus gets involved, and it's great,” Coulter said. “We have been planning since last May. This year especially we have had a lot of alumni involvement and a lot of interest in donating or participating, so that's exciting.”
Battle of the Valleys began in 2003, and over the past 15 years, the contest has generated $601,282 in charitable donations between the two universities. SVSU has contributed $389,444 of that total.
Donations can be made at campus fundraising events or through a donation link on SVSU's Battle of the Valleys website at svsu.edu/battleofthevalleys/makeadonation/ between noon on Oct. 21 and midnight Oct. 26.
Campus and community leaders will gather Monday for a groundbreaking ceremony before construction begins on a $25 million building expansion project at Saginaw Valley State University. The 38,500-square-foot expansion, announced earlier this year, will house SVSU's Scott L. Carmona College of Business & Management when construction is expected to finish in January 2020.
The groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 22 at 11:30 a.m. near the entrance to Groening Commons. In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will move indoors to the Curtiss Hall banquet rooms.
The expansion project will create additional space to house the academic college's classrooms, faculty offices and business programs. The new space also will include state-of-the-art technology such as analytics labs and a Bloomberg Trading Room, which tracks stock data in real time. Planners say the upgrades will provide hands-on learning opportunities for students while also encouraging members of the business community to visit campus and engage with students.
Saginaw Valley State University has received additional resources to study environmental conditions in the Saginaw Bay Watershed and improve public health for people living in and visiting communities in the watershed. SVSU faculty, staff and students are performing research aimed at identifying and reducing contamination in regional waterways.
SVSU recently received a $200,000 grant from the Office of Great Lakes, which is a division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, to perform molecular source tracking in the watershed. The research involves tracing the origin of fecal contamination found in the environment to determine whether it originated from humans, cows or other sources.
“This information can potentially be used to eliminate the contamination before it even occurs, which could result in fewer beach closings and safer recreational water,” said Tami Sivy, SVSU professor of chemistry.
Sivy and other SVSU researchers have studied water quality in the Saginaw Bay Watershed for several years. She said finding the answers will involve examining DNA markers extracted from bacteria in water samples.
SVSU is home to one of only two laboratories at higher education institutions in Michigan capable of performing such research.
“The Saginaw Bay Watershed has proven to be a bit difficult to do some types of water quality analysis, so they wanted someone to do this who was committed and familiar with the region,” Sivy said.
The study began in August and is expected to extend into February 2019. SVSU faculty and students will test hundreds of water samples collected during summer 2018.
The project is a continuation of earlier SVSU-led research projects examining bacterial contamination in Michigan waterways. The previous research was supported in part by partners including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and is a collaboration with health departments from Bay, Huron and Iosco counties.
Ten Saginaw Valley State University students are engaged in a year-long leadership development initiative following their selection for the highly competitive Roberts Fellowship.
The program annually challenges SVSU students in both academic course work and extracurricular activities designed to enhance their potential as future political, economic and civic leaders. The program culminates in a trip to Asia to provide the Fellows with an international perspective on leadership. The class recently selected for the program will travel to Asia in May 2019.
This year's class was selected in part for demonstrating outstanding scholarship and leadership potential during their time at SVSU.
The complete lineup of Roberts Fellows for 2018-19 includes:
To qualify, students must have completed between 48 and 100 credit hours with a minimum grade point average of 3.40 and pass a rigorous selection process. Students are chosen based upon their academic accomplishment, a record of university and community service and other evidence of leadership potential.
Students selected to be Roberts Fellows are required to complete a three-credit leadership seminar in the fall and winter semesters, within one or more academic departments. During the year, the Fellows will also meet for informal seminars and discussions with various political, business and civic leaders from throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region. Julie Foss, associate professor of modern foreign languages, and Brian Thomas, director of global engagement and presidential liaison to Ming Chuan University, serve as the group's faculty advisers.
Established in 1999, the program is named in honor of Donna Roberts of Midland, who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to SVSU through her personal generosity and prior service on the Board of Control and the Board of Fellows. A respected attorney, business leader and philanthropist, Roberts retired from the Dow Chemical Company, where she was Secretary and Assistant General Counsel. She is an honorary director of the SVSU Foundation Board.
Saginaw Valley State University students are committed to supporting community causes, and next week they will be raising funds to help a Saginaw-based nonprofit expand its prevention and training efforts to help people recognize and respond to signs of suicidal thoughts.
During the annual Battle of the Valleys fundraising competition, students at SVSU and Grand Valley State University capitalize on the schools’ football rivalry to see who can raise the most money for charity. This year, SVSU students will raise funds to benefit the Barb Smith Suicide and Response Network through a variety of events and activities Sunday, Oct. 21, through Friday, Oct. 26.
The Saginaw-based nonprofit works tirelessly to prevent suicide, educate communities and provide no-cost, 24/7 aftercare for those affected when prevention is not possible, said Barb Smith, the organization's founder and executive director.
“Suicide is the leading cause of death for college and university students between 18 and 24,” Smith said. “If we think about what puts someone at risk, we're talking sleep deprivation, possibly alcohol and other substances, anxiety and not a lot of support.”
Smith founded the nonprofit 30 years ago, and over the next three decades, grew it into a meaningful and effective nonprofit in the Great Lakes Bay Region.
“We started 30 years ago as a grassroots organization and focused mostly on the aftercare of suicide,” Smith said. “Since then, we've really moved forward – and quite quickly in the last couple years – to focus equally, if not more, on prevention efforts.”
Last year, SVSU students raised more than $32,000 for the Mustard Seed Shelter in Saginaw. With the funds raised through the 2018 Battle of the Valleys, Smith plans to expand the organization's evidence-based suicide awareness training sessions in the community and on college campuses.
“We can keep training, but we need the staff to support those efforts,” Smith said. “It would be really nice to have a general fund that we can use to help coordinate large events throughout the year … to offer different trainers who come in and host special events to continue training at all levels.”
Smith said she hopes these training sessions will enable more students to recognize and to help when their peers are in crisis, both in college and as they enter the workforce.
Battle of the Valleys began in 2003, and over the past 15 years, the contest has generated $601,282 in charitable donations between the two universities. Donations can be made at campus fundraising events or through a donation link on SVSU's Battle of the Valleys website at svsu.edu/battleofthevalleys/makeadonation/ between noon on Oct. 21 and midnight on Oct. 26.
A Saginaw Valley State University staff member will pursue her passion for intercultural education when she serves as one of 51 educational ambassadors selected for a trip to the nation of Sudan later this month.
The weeklong visit won't be the first trek to the northeastern Africa for Kate Scott, associate director for SVSU's Office of International and Advanced Studies and director of the English Language Program. She spent three years in Sudan as a third-grade teacher shortly after graduating from SVSU as an elementary education major in 2007.
“It's funny because a lot of my students from back then are college-aged students now,” she said. “I'd love to bring a few of them back to become SVSU students.”
Scott will depart Wednesday, Oct. 24. The purpose of the trip – organized by the Institute of International Education, a New York City-based nonprofit – is to form relationships and exchange ideas between higher education representatives in the Sudan and United States. SVSU will be one of 32 U.S. higher education institutions represented in the group. The group plans to visit 10 Sudanese universities.
Scott said she hopes to establish networks that eventually lead to faculty exchange programs as well as student recruitment from Sudan.
“My heart beats for creating intercultural exchanges through education,” Scott said.
She will travel to Khartoum, the nation's capital. Plenty has changed for the country since she departed it in May 2010. Civil unrest led to the country splitting in two in 2011. The new country, South Sudan, continues to experience conflict between the established government and a rebel group.
Scott said she feels secure about her planned trip back to Khartoum, where she hopes to reunite with a former teaching assistant and as many of her former students as she can.
Her first stint there was a great experience, she said, despite desert temperatures that regularly soared above 110 degrees in her classroom, which had no air conditioning.
“Sudanese people are very hospitable and laid back,” Scott said. “Time is fluid for them and they are almost never in a hurry. They would bend over backwards to make sure you had what you needed.”
It was an experience that has inspired her to continue working in international education and has prepared her to better understand and navigate cultural complexities. When she returned to the United States, she was hired by SVSU as a teacher in the English Language Program, which featured a large Saudi Arabian population at the time.
Scott's recently-assumed role of associate director for the Office of International and Advanced Studies led to her applying for this opportunity.
“This is such a fabulous opportunity to create connections in a place where, historically, we haven't been able to,” she said. “I'm looking forward to it.”
Saginaw Valley State University students elected Kayla Flintoft and Tyler Boylen as the 2018 Homecoming queen and king, respectively.
Flintoft and Boylen were crowned Saturday, Oct. 13 during a halftime ceremony at SVSU's home football game against Northern Michigan University.
Flintoft is a biology and secondary education major from Caro. She is involved in SVSU's Outdoor Adventures program and works for Residential Life. Flintoft also is member of the university’s Foundation Scholars Program.
Boylen is a supply chain management and marketing double major from Gladwin. He works at SVSU's Residential Life and Campus Recreation offices, and serves as a campus tour guide.
Alongside Flintoft and Boylen, eight other students were selected to serve on the Homecoming Court earlier in the month.
The students joining them on the 2018 Homecoming Court were as follows:
Saginaw Valley State University alumna Madalyn McHugh has taken her talent and determination to New York City, where she has landed an internship with the Open Jar Institute, a program that provides learning opportunities for aspiring actors.
McHugh was selected to be part of this year's Open Jar Institute through a highly competitive nationwide selection process. At the institute, she participates in workshops and auditions for national tours for both off-Broadway and Broadway productions.
Kevin Simons, SVSU associate professor of music, taught and mentored McHugh, and recognized her drive to succeed.
“Madalyn was a curious and extremely hard-working student,” Simons said.. “Her work ethic was an example to those around her. She took advantage of every opportunity to get involved and perform both on and off-campus.”
A Caro native who graduated from SVSU in December 2017 with a bachelor's degree in music, McHugh was highly engaged while a student. She participated in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, and as a vocalist, she was a member of two ensembles, Cardinal Singers and SVSU's Concert Choir, where she was a section leader.
From her auditions through the Open Jar Institute, McHugh has been called back for the production of “My Fair Lady,” along with participating in classes with nationally-known choreographer James Gray and Broadway director Susan Stroman.
McHugh recalled how Simons took her aside to talk to her about her career aspirations.
“My goal was Broadway,” she said. “I specifically said that to him, and he said, ‘OK, kiddo. Let’s get you there.’”
McHugh talks about her SVSU experience – including how Simons helped prepare her for Broadway – in a “Cardinal Close Up” video available at https://youtu.be/Ly8veF3MtLA.
Saginaw Valley State University is hosting its annual Art Alumni Show featuring the artistic creations of 27 alumni with arts-related bachelor's degrees.
SVSU's University Art Gallery opened the exhibition today. The exhibition will remain in place until Wednesday, Oct. 31. A reception for the featured artists is planned for Thursday, Oct. 18 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The Art Alumni Show and its reception are free and open to the public.
Tisch Lewis, coordinator of the University Art Gallery, said the show offers the public a chance to have a new appreciation and understanding of art professions.
"Art students are diverse and able to do anything," she said. "A lot of our alumni are professionally working in the art field. It is confirmation for our students that they are on the right track."
Artwork featured at the show includes photography, paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, printmaking and graphic design pieces.
The University Art Gallery is located in Arbury Fine Arts Center at SVSU. The gallery is open Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The gallery is closed Sundays.
After two brain surgeries and one spinal surgery, 20-month-old Joey Stagray has yet to take his first steps. Diagnosed with spinal bifida, he often watches while his 4-year-old sister runs, jumps and plays across their Sterling farm.
But family members say Joey soon could keep pace with his active sibling thanks to the support of Saginaw Valley State University students determined to help him move despite his physical limitations.
Joey and another child with physical disabilities – 4-year-old Finn Edmonds, of Bay City – will take home ride-on toy vehicles modified for their specific physical needs by SVSU computer science, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering students. The mini-vehicles will be given to the families during a gathering Friday, Oct. 12, at 5 p.m. on the first-floor lobby of SVSU's Pioneer Hall.
The occasion will cap off a nearly year-long effort by two groups of SVSU students and one professor determined to help Finn and Joey achieve a form of locomotion using toys built to also bring them joy.
“I sobbed like a baby when I first saw what the students were building,” said Sarah Stagray, Joey's mother. “SVSU has been so kind to us, and we appreciate it greatly.”
The project began with SVSU's Robotics Club, which participated in the annual NASA Robotics Mining Competition at the Kennedy Space Center during the 2017-18 academic year. The contest tasks attendees with participating in projects that involve bettering their communities.
Janel Cavelry, a technology teacher at Bangor Central Elementary with connections to staff and faculty at SVSU, played an important role in helping the club find its community-minded project. She recommended the group adopt an Oregon State University-created program, titled “GoBabyGo,” that involved college students designing modified ride-on toy cars for children with disabilities.
Waliul Matin, an electrical engineering major from Bangladesh who studied at Royal Oak High School and is an SVSU Robotics Club member, was enticed by the “GoBabyGo” concept.
“This is one of the joys of engineering: seeing other people benefit from your work,” Matin said. “And it's been a huge learning experience for everyone involved.”
Cavelry also connected the Robotics Club with a child to support: Finn. The 4-year-old was diagnosed with hydrocephalus – a buildup of fluids in the brain – which led to him developing other disabilities such as aqueduct stenosis and spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy that affect his ability to move.
Under the guidance of Rajani Muraleedharan, the Robotics Club adviser and an SVSU associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, students began a nearly year-long effort to build a ride-on toy car Finn could operate despite his physical limitations.
First, they met with Finn and his parents, Kelley and Brent Edmonds, to shop for the vehicle from Toys 'R Us in December 2017. They selected a police-themed ride-on toy car since both of Finn's grandfathers were retired law enforcement officers.
The project expanded beyond Finn when a group of SVSU electrical engineering students not associated with the Robotics Club decided to adopt the initiative as part of their capstone senior project. Muraleedharan served as their adviser. Cavelry suggested another child – Joey – who would benefit from the students' help.
“If we are successful with this and begin to build more vehicles for more children, we are thinking we might be able to bring the children together for play dates,” Muraleedharan said. “We are trying to build a community where children with special needs explore independence and broaden inclusion for all the children in the society. SVSU's 'GoBabyGo' project impacts not only the field of engineering, but it's about the community too.”
Don Horner, an electrical engineering major working on Joey's vehicle, said the project's importance extended beyond the academic merits for him.
“I was interested in this project because I have three kids of my own, so I could relate to that,” the Bay City resident said. “I wanted to help Joey and his family. This is a great program that really gives back to the community.”
Victoria Anglin, a mechanical engineering major from Millersburg, near Rogers City, has been working on Finn's vehicle. She met Finn and his family several times to consult on the modifications being built.
“I loved seeing the look on his face when he first was able to see it,” Anglin said. “He was super excited. That made it worth the work.”
Kevin Horn, an electrical engineering major from Frankenmuth, said he has worked an average of 20 hours per week modifying Joey's vehicle since the semester began, including spending Saturdays and Sundays in SVSU’s engineering labs.
“I worked last week trying to find a solution to a problem that I ended up solving using one pin,” he said. “This is going to provide sustained enjoyment for the kids that should last them five years, so we want to get it right.”
Joey and his family visited SVSU earlier this month so students could make final modifications based on his growing physical frame. While he isn't old enough to navigate the vehicle on his own, students included a remote-operated component, which allowed his parents to drive it using a remote control.
During their recent visit, Joey's 4-year-old sister, Gabby, took the wheel and drove a few feet as her brother watched with delight from his mother's arms. When Gabby brought the toy car to a stop nearby, he stretched out his arms in her direction.
“I think he wants to get in,” Joey's mother said. “This is so cool.”