June 6, 2017

Heather Harvey: Portrait of a 2017 SVSU graduate

From: Galesburg, MI

High school: Galesburg-Augusta High School

Major: Nursing

Future: Registered nurse at Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo 

Inspired by a love of math and science, Saginaw Valley State University new alumna Heather Harvey decided on a nursing career when she was in high school. 

"Nursing always seemed like the right fit," she said. "For me, the end goal would probably be a pediatric nurse because I've always loved kids. My mom runs a daycare out of her house so I grew up with kids. I was always just surrounded by them."  

A native of Galesburg, Harvey plans to stay in Michigan; she accepted a job as a registered nurse at Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo. She graduated from SVSU in May 2017.  

After visiting a local college fair during her senior year of high school, Harvey encountered SVSU for the first time.  

"I hadn't heard of SVSU before that night," Harvey said. "When my dad saw the table for SVSU and they told me I qualified for the President's Scholarship, I knew it was something I was going to have to look into." 

Attracted initially by SVSU's excellent nursing program and scholarship opportunities, Harvey quickly found that SVSU felt like home and decided it was the place to bring her energy and optimism. 

"It was the middle of winter when I first visited the campus, but it was great," she said. "I was lucky to receive that scholarship and lucky to be a direct admit into the nursing program."  

Applications for the nursing program are typically submitted after a student has fulfilled their academic prerequisites. Harvey was one of a limited number of high school seniors admitted to the program prior to beginning classes at SVSU 

"After that, I was guaranteed a spot in the nursing program," she explained.  

Through her clinical experiences, Harvey explored a nursing path she never anticipated.  

"We have an internship and leadership semester where you get to work one-on-one with a nurse," she said.  

"I was in the OB unit, which is labor and delivery. I never thought I would go into that department, but I really enjoyed it. In your last leadership semester, the goal is that by the end you are able to take your nurse's full patient load by yourself." 

Harvey worked 12-hour night shifts on the weekends at MidMichigan Medical Center in Alma; she racked up more than 170 hours to fulfill her leadership requirements.  

Harvey excelled academically, but she also found other avenues to express her enthusiasm. She served as a student representative for Peer Health Education, where she served on the wellness committee, encouraging fellow students to pursue healthy lifestylesShe was also actively involved in Forever Red, SVSU's student advancement organization, and served as the vice president of Enhance – one of the three pillars that make up Forever Red's mission.  

"Forever Red really helped me develop into the person I am while developing my leadership skills along the way," she said.  

The organization proved the perfect fit for Harvey to fully unleash her talents and influence change in meaningful and lasting ways. She co-founded an initiative called "I Heart SV Week," which started in 2016 as a weeklong event dedicated to the importance of giving back to SVSU and educating students.  

"It's about student scholarships and Red Pride," Harvey explained. "Forever Red has decided to keep it going and I'm excited to see where they take it." 

Bryan Crainer, SVSU's associate dean of student life and leadership programs, advises Forever Red and worked closely with Harvey during her time in the program. 

"In the last couple of years, I have been witness to tremendous growth in Heather's leadership abilities," Crainer said. "Whether it came in the form of serving on the board of directors for Forever Red, chairing committees, planning and facilitation on large-scale, campus-wide programs, or leading a team of her peers in her role as intramural sports coordinator, she leads with purpose and passion." 

Harvey was recently given the opportunity to speak at an appreciation luncheon for SVSU donors hosted by the SVSU Foundation 

"As the chairperson for 'I Heart SV Week,' Heather was able to express her strong feelings about giving to SVSU from a student's perspective," Crainer said. "That message was powerful and motivating." 

Alongside her active involvement within student organizations, Harvey also held two jobs at SVSUworking as a mentor in the nursing simulation lab, and as the intramural coordinator for Campus Recreation. She also taught a fitness class at the Ryder Center called Body Sculpt.  

Harvey engaged in additional volunteer service, as well, participating in Alternative Breaks, a student-run organization that sends its members to different locations across the U.S. to participate in a range of service projects over regular school break periods.  

"We went to Savannah, Tennessee for the trip, which was really fun," she said. "We were there to help with abused and abandoned animals to aid in rehabilitating them. I'm happy I had the opportunity to be a part of it." 

After four full years of inspiring others and finding her inspiration, Harvey is eager to embrace her career aspirations and continue to care for others 

"I'm excited to see where I go from here," she said. 

June 6, 2017

Sarah Albanawi: Portrait of a 2017 SVSU graduate

From: Saudi Arabia

Major: electrical engineering

Future: college professor or researcher 

Driven to solve complex problems, Sarah Albanawi knows her choices defy some preconceptions.

The May 2017 graduate of Saginaw Valley State University began her push against convention the day she decided to move across the planet to pursue a bachelor’s degree. And the native of Saudi Arabia continued to defy convention when she decided to pursue that degree in electrical engineering, a choice of study rarely pursued by women.

“It was difficult and challenging for me,” Albanawi said of her choices.

As it turned out, Albanawi was more than ready to face “difficult and challenging” exams — and pass them all with flying colors.

“Challenging topics of science interest me and is great motivation for me,” she said.

Albanawi also is motivated to empower others who share her experience.

“One of my ultimate goals is to raise awareness of the importance of diversity in STEM education and work environments,” she said.

Determined to overcome the challenges before her, Albanawi passed many tests – academic and otherwise – to complete her degree.

The first test came in the form of a language barrier. Albanawi began studying the English language in sixth grade, and her teenage habits weren’t all that different from her American counterparts: She was a fan of the music, movies and books that were popular stateside. So, when it was time to move to the United States in the winter of 2013, her handle on the language allowed her to move relatively quickly through SVSU’s English as a Second Language program compared to many of her international student peers.

Albanawi’s early interest in American pop culture also buffered the culture shock that can accompany some international students’ move to a new nation. In fact, initial homesickness inspired her to listen to more Arabic music than American music for the first time in years.

Family also helped the transition to attending school in America. She first learned about SVSU from cousins who attended the university. Their familiarity with the institution and their presence in the hallways during her early years at SVSU helped her adapt to the surroundings.

Her decision to pursue a degree in electrical engineering was inspired by her proficiency in the sciences while she was a student in Saudi Arabia. Her earliest academic interests involved communication- and journalism-related pursuits, but after she scored well in tests related to engineering, educators encouraged her to pursue studies in those fields.

After exploring the electrical engineering program at SVSU, she was sold.

“There is always something interesting to learn every day, which served as a great motivation for me to know more and learn more, and also to find a topic of interest that I will be focusing on in my graduate study later,” she said.

“Analysis, critical thinking and problem solving is what engineering all about, and what challenged me the most — and motivates me — in the field. We have to solve real-world problems and be accustomed and prepared to many failed attempts before finally coming up with a great solution.”

One of Albanawi’s mentors at SVSU was Rajani Muraleedharan, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and faculty adviser to SVSU's chapter of the Society of Women Engineers.

“Sarah is a talented young engineer, and a leader-in-the-making who will empower women and minorities in engineering globally,” Muraleedharan said.

During Albanawi’s first few electrical engineering classes, she was the lone female student.

“That made it awkward for a little bit of time, but at some point, I convinced myself that I was capable of doing engineering,” she said. “That pushed me to work harder.”

She credited some of her success over the years to the help of faculty such as Muraleedharan and Altaf Rahman, professor of electrical and computer engineering.

“My professors have supported me in so many ways,” Albanawi said.

She applied what they taught her in classroom and laboratories to a capstone project which is required for engineering students to graduate. For that project, Albanawi and some of her classmates designed and built a “smart kennel” made to release animals from their enclosures for bathroom breaks. The technology is triggered in part by systems that utilize sensor technology and Wi-Fi to wirelessly monitor the pet. The pet is rewarded for returning to the kennel when the technology releases a treat and plays a personalized message of encouragement along the lines of “Good boy.”

The project aims to reduce the number of pets turned away by owners due to the owner’s active lifestyle.

Muraleedharan was impressed with the work.

“Sarah's project outcome shows her passion and hard work in delivering a successful project, Muraleedharan said.

The next challenge facing Albanawi involves choosing a graduate school to pursue a master’s degree or Ph.D. in an engineering-related program. Eventually, she hopes to work as a researcher in engineering or a college professor who challenges students the way SVSU challenged her.

“My long-term goals are achieving a successful professional career in STEM education, conducting research and development, as well as becoming an active member of the society of engineers to encourage development, innovation and research,” she said.

Albanawi said she will remember her time at SVSU fondly.

“I’ve made a lot of great memories here,” she said. “I’m grateful for this journey, and I know my hard work has paid off.”

June 6, 2017

Jarrod Eaton: Portrait of a 2017 SVSU graduate

From: St. John's

High school: St. John's High School

Major: health science

Future: graduate student, University of Michigan School of Public Health’s Master of Global Health Epidemiology program 

In the wake of the April 2015 Nepal earthquake, Jarrod Eaton felt the world shake beneath his feet. Literally and figuratively. 

Literally, the Saginaw Valley State University student was on the ground in the Asian nation — helping those affected by an initial earthquake that registered a whopping 7.9 on the Richter scale — when an aftershock that registered 6.7 rattled his world. 

Figuratively, those ongoing tremors and the resulting damage he witnessed inspired Eaton to solidify his commitment to develop as a servant leader and help people whose health is in peril, as he did for those in Nepal. 

“We saw a lot of roads cut off from fallen buildings in these highly-populated cities, where people were in need and the likelihood of the spread of disease was increased because of their isolation,” said Eaton, the lone SVSU student who accompanied a team of faculty from the university in helping the Nepal aid efforts.  

“People were really struggling to control the spread of diseases. That really sparked my interest in the study of the spreading of diseases.” 

He coupled his ambition with passion that fueled a remarkable two-year finish to an already-notable SVSU undergraduate experience that included his election as president of the student government body, Student Association, in 2015. 

Eaton earned his bachelor’s degree in health science in May 2017, and plans to carry that momentum with him this fall to the University of Michigan School of Public Health. There, he will pursue a master’s degree in global health epidemiology en route to a career studying the spread of diseases. 

Eaton already has earned international praise for his work. 

In March 2017, he presented research at the 2nd World Congress on Public Health and Nutrition in Rome, Italy. Eaton discussed his study on the contributing factors surrounding influenza vaccination rate disparities among college-aged populations. His project was titled, “Vaccination of Influenza on College Campuses: A study to identify the correlation of determinants on influenza vaccination rate disparities.” 

James Collins, Ph.D., SVSU executive-in-residence for health sciences, served as the faculty mentor and adviser for Eaton’s study. Collins said it was unusual for an undergraduate to be invited to present at such an international conference. 
“Jarrod had to compete with people in the public health field with professional and advanced degrees,” Collins said. “He wrote a fine summary of his proposed research.” 

If it was unusual for an undergraduate to be invited once to present at an international conference, it was almost unimaginable for that same student to be invited to a second international conference to present on a completely different topicLess than a month after the Rome trip, Eaton flew to London, England for the Student Global Leadership Conference 

Alongside?Rene HernandezSVSU assistant professor of health sciences and one of the faculty members who joined him in Nepal, they discussed their relief work from two years earlier. The elapsed time has not dulled the images Eaton witnessed in the reeling nation. 

“One of the hardest scenes was at a tent village we visited near the end of our week there,” he said. “We came across this girl whose school, we learned, had collapsed. Her friends and teachers had passed away. That was daunting to me; that these people lost everything. A lot of that was hard to grasp until I came back home.” 

Before Nepal, Eaton had never traveled outside of the United States. SVSU provided the support that empowered him to travel across the ocean three times in the span of two years. The experiences helped him better appreciate his close relationships with professors, and the many opportunities SVSU offered him. 

“My advice to students would be this: Never think you aren’t good enough to apply yourself, or that you aren’t experienced enough to engage in all the opportunities at SVSU,” Eaton said, “because maybe you are more qualified than you think you are.” 

June 5, 2017

SVSU alum to study Theodore Roethke's 'North American Sequence' as scholar

A Saginaw Valley State University alumnus and literary scholar will return to the institution this summer in part to study one of the later writings of 20th century poet and Saginaw native Theodore Roethke.

Brandon Rushton, 2012 SVSU graduate, recently was named the second recipient of the university’s Fredericks-Follett-Roethke Graduate Fellowship in the Arts & Humanities. The fellowship supports an individual’s visit each year to SVSU to study one of three collections housed on campus: Roethke, sculpture artist Marshall M. Fredericks, or British author Ken Follett.

Rushton will spend a month on campus beginning Monday, June 26, immersing himself in Roethke’s poetry and related material, with a particular focus on “North American Sequence,” a series of six poems published posthumously in the 1964 Roethke collection titled “The Far Field.”

“I’m hoping to discover the head space Roethke was in when he was writing ‘North American Sequence,’” Rushton said. “It was very different from the work he was doing up until that point in his life. I want to trace where that came from.”

Rushton, a Flint native who currently serves as a lecturer of English at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, said he first read Roethke in anthologies while studying at SVSU as a double major in creative writing and history.

Years later, Rushton gained a new appreciation for Roethke while reading his longform work in “North American Sequence,” which explores the author’s spirituality as he travels to locations spanning Michigan to the Pacific Northwest.

“I want to know why he turned to this long, expansive poem,” Rushton said. “It will be great to sift through the materials at SVSU in search of answers. It’s a wonderful opportunity.”

He also hopes to chart Roethke’s influence on other poets. Rushton plans to create a database highlighting the 13 recipients of the Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize — offered once every three years since 1968 — and include analyses on how Roethke may have influenced each authors’ work.

Rushton also plans to use his studies as inspiration for a manuscript of his own poetry.

Roethke, among Saginaw's most famous native sons, is considered one of the most influential American poets of the 20th century. His nine books of poetry and other writings earned him every major award available to an American poet, including two National Book Awards and the Pulitzer Prize. In 2005, Roethke's widow, Beatrice Roethke Lushington, enhanced the existing Theodore Roethke Collection at SVSU through the donation of her personal collection of first editions of her husband's work and ten books of literary criticism about Roethke.

Other materials in the Roethke Collection include extensive files related to the Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize. The Theodore Roethke Home Museum, located off-campus in Saginaw, serves as an additional resource and is maintained by the Friends of Theodore Roethke, an organization which donated numerous documents to the Roethke Collection at SVSU.

Rushton's project follows last year’s study of Fredericks’ sculptures by the first recipient of the Fredericks-Follett-Roethke Graduate Fellowship in the Arts & Humanities, Nick Hartigan, who at the time was a fifth-year University of Michigan doctoral student specializing in 20th-century sculptures

June 5, 2017

Strong interest for SVSU Education Employment Fair

Saginaw Valley State University is seeing a growing demand for teachers, and will hold a job fair for positions in the education industry Tuesday, June 13 from noon to 2 p.m. in Curtiss Hall. The fair is open to the public.

SVSU’s Career Services office is organizing the fair, which will include more than 45 school districts, most of them local. School districts are looking for K-12 teachers, substitutes, principals, assistant principals and teachers for special needs students.

“With the retiring of teachers and fewer education students graduating, the demand for teachers is high,” said Bill Stec, SVSU assistant director of Career Services. “We have received over 850 postings for teaching positions over the past year through Career Services.”

The Education Employment Fair will offer opportunities for current education students, graduates, and current educators.

“This fair gives current students the chance to get beyond student teaching and build relationships,” Stec said.

Craig Douglas, dean of SVSU’s College of Education and a former K-12 superintendent, has received numerous phone calls from school officials seeking educators.

“The need for quality candidates is at an all-time high level,” he said. “When schools look at us, they know we provide our students with solid field-based experiences.”

“A large percentage of May graduates with whom I spoke either have job offers or have strong leads already. This is sooner than I recall, with a greater rate of success. Thus, this June job fair may be schools’ last, best chance to grab a hold of an SVSU candidate.”

May 31, 2017

Thanks to his family and campus, Napoleon Lewis' legacy at SVSU stands strong years after his death

By Justin Engel

Alberta Lee has an image in her mind. An early memory from childhood, circa 1970something

She’s sitting with her siblings in the bleachers of a basketball game at Saginaw Valley College, her father working security nearby. Napoleon Lewis Sr. — “dad” to her — stands out in the crowd. But not because he’s an intimidating authority figure keeping order. On the contrary, those surrounding the Shreveport, Louisiana, native are drawn to him. He smiles, they smile; followed often by laughter, like they had known each other for years. 

Maybe some of them are familiar with her father, his daughter wonders, but it’s just as likely they’re relative strangers. Lewis made friends with haste, after all ... and in abundance.

“He connected with people like that,” Lee, 56, says now. “People talked to him so easily, and he was full of advice that you could trust. He loved engaging with them.”

And they loved him back. Still do. 

Twenty-one years after Lewis died at age 71 of bone cancer, SVSU reaffirmed its affection for one of its earliest and most beloved members by granting him emeritus status in October 2016.

It’s an honor bestowed upon 81 people in the school’s history. A portrait of Lewis now is on display alongside framed photos of the others in the university’s Emeriti Room. It’s a physical link to his legacy at the campus.

Spiritually, his children carry that torch. 

Lee, a 1982 graduate and SVSU’s Alumni Relations coordinator from 1986-89, and three of her seven siblings are linked to the school — even without their father’s history there — as students and workers. Ava Lewis, 60, earned the first of four degrees in 1979 and has worked as a professor of nursing since 1994. David Lewis, 53, earned the first of three degrees in 1987 and serves as director of School and University Partnerships. Napoleon Lewis Jr., who attended classes briefly on campus, worked in the Graphics Center for 17 years before his death in 1994. 

“Dad would be grinning from ear-to-ear that we’re working here,” Ava Lewis says of her and David. “He thought of Saginaw Valley as the end-all, be-all. He really was a champion of this place.”

Napoleon Lewis Sr., who served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific during World War II, arrived in Saginaw from Texas in the 1950s. He moved there to join the automotive industry workforce, and eventually opened a business — South End Barbershop — in 1962. 

His children remember how Lewis’ affable nature attracted whole neighborhoods to the shop. Customers considered him family. The depth of his hospitality seemed unending. There were occasions he loaned his vehicle to fellow Southern natives who needed to return to their hometowns for funerals.

“You can talk to people to this day about him, and a smile will come to their face,” David Lewis says. “Dad had that embracing style, and the greatest compliment is when someone would compare us to him. We’re working with the social capital that our father began.”

Napoleon Lewis extended that capital to SVSU beginning in 1971. His duties involved patrolling the campus hallways, dormitories and athletics events, sometimes with his children in tow. Few people during those early years on campus failed to recognize him. Many were charmed by him. Some became lifelong friends.

Soon after Lewis was hired, former head coach Muddy Waters brought Lewis aboard as the football team’s first equipment manager. Lewis formed bonds with members of the men’s basketball team, too. Not long before Lewis died in 1995, one of those basketball players from the 1970s learned of his friend’s illness and returned to Michigan from Europe to visit.

“A lot of those players embraced him as a father,” David Lewis says. “He was that close to them.”

When Napoleon Lewis’ biological children began attending classes at SVSU and moving into its dorms, he often stopped by their rooms during evening shifts to visit with them. And with others.

“There were times when I was talking to him when my roommates would get into the conversation and start talking to him like he was their dad,” Lee says. 

“I remember thinking, ‘Wait, do you mind if I have a moment with my dad?’ We all enjoyed it when he came around.” 

Lewis stepped down from his duties at SVSU in 1986, but returned on a part-time basis in 1991, largely working from a parking booth at the entrance of a now-defunct lot on campus. Even with a more limited exposure to the campus population, Lewis managed to charm a new generation of SVSU people during those final years.

“It was an awesome feeling to see everyone react that way toward him because we, as his children, felt that way about him all the time,” Ava Lewis says. “He touched so many lives here.”

His five living children and wife, 90-year-old Nelia, attended the October Board of Control meeting where the family’s former patriarch received emeritus status. Afterward, they posed for a photograph together, holding the piece of paper that formally established the onetime security guard’s status among SVSU’s most revered figures.

The significance of that paper wasn’t lost to members of the family who saw firsthand how their father once inspired so many smiles on campus.

“Now he’ll be here forever,” Ava Lewis says. “He belongs here.”

May 30, 2017

SVSU engineering students aiming to assist in pet surgery recovery with automated intensive care unit

When dogs undergo surgery, veterinarians often must suture a nasal oxygen catheter to the animal, making for an uncomfortable recovery. Four Saginaw Valley State University electrical engineering students are working to ensure that is no longer necessary for a Saginaw County pet emergency hospital.

Students Amen Al Abbas of Saudi Arabia; Jonathan Claus of Hawks, Michigan; Michael Papesh of Saginaw, Michigan; and Zwe Thiha of Myanmar are in the development phase of creating an automated intensive care unit for Great Lakes Pet Emergencies in Carrollton Township. The unit is a three-pet sealed cage with oxygen sensors and temperature and air filtering controls.

“There is an issue where if we program something wrong, we do something wrong, the pet’s health could possibly be at risk,” Claus said. “So there’s definitely a strain to ourselves of making sure that we do everything with the utmost care and reliability.”

The seniors are halfway through their capstone project. In the first semester, the students plan their project, conduct a feasibility student and, in some cases, begin programming. The students spend much of their second semester working on and testing their prototype.

Some projects are completely student-driven, while others feature student groups collaborating with an external client such as Great Lakes Pet Emergencies. The pet ICU is the latter; Ryan Dowling, the operations manager at the hospital, proposed the project.

“The best solution in the industry is the ICU cage,” Dowling said. “We needed some expertise on how to create an electronic control system, and the best way to do is to reach out to people in that field. We thought it’d be a good opportunity for students to get a hands-on project.”

Dowling, who meets with the students regularly, said his experience working with SVSU students on four separate projects has been “nothing short of fantastic.”

“Even if they come up with a challenge on how to fix something, they don’t hesitate to ask the right people and get the right answers,” Dowling said. “And they do it rather quickly. As an outside company, it’s been phenomenal. There is an incredibly bright group of students in the engineering department.”

Along the way in their first semester working on the project, the students determined they needed a new, more expensive oxygen sensor. Dowling agreed to make the purchase.

“Clients have to make a tradeoff where either the cost is important or the reliability is important,” said Rajani Muraleedharan, SVSU assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and the faculty adviser for the ICU project. “So for their project, it is life. It is not human, but it’s still a pet. So they have to make sure they make the right call.”

The fact that pets will rely on the ICU for their recovery, as well as the real-world functionality of the project, was appealing to Claus.

“Everyone goes into senior design knowing that this is our last real chance for discovering what we don’t know and for getting that experience that’s really going to translate into our lives as engineers,” he said. “Whereas some projects might get built, they’re on display, they get shoved into a cabinet somewhere, they gather dust, we’re doing an actual job that someone would contract engineers to do. … This is going to be used, this is something that should last and that we are responsible for.”

Usability, then, will be a primary goal, as those working in the pet hospital do not share the same engineering background as the students.

“It has to be very easy to use,” Muraleedharan said. “They’re not going to know anything about programming. All they’re going to see is a good graphical interface, and that’s all they’re going to have to work with. So it has to be simple, it has to be very clear, and it has to do its job the right way.”

Testing also will prove key. Dowling will handle testing with live animals, but the students must ensure the network they build, with different professional programming languages, communicates correctly. Each partition of the cage will have its own unit.

“Getting all that to mesh is tricky,” Claus said. “This is something normally done by somebody with years of experience. This is something we have touched on in school, but never to this level.”

Thiha, who is from the Asian country of Myanmar, likens using programming to make technology function to “real world magic.”

“That’s how I see it, it’s like casting a spell,” he said. “It’s just working.”

Capstone projects are important opportunities for international students such as Thiha and Al Abbas, who is from Saudi Arabia, to learn real-world skills and complete a project that they can feature on a resume.

“They both get to work with American kids and get to know the work ethic,” Muraleedharan said. “Sometimes, international students don’t get to be an intern anywhere. So this is their best choice to make.”

Another aspect of the students’ work in their first semester was considering whether their methodology for the project should share any similarities to existing similar systems, which cost a minimum of about $9,000. Not factoring in the cost of the cage, Dowling has poured in more than $2,000 into the project, but this one is different than those on the market because it is tailor-made to what Great Lakes Pet Emergencies needs.

“I’d like to believe that when it’s done, it’ll be at least comparable to anyone on the market and as reliable,” Claus said.

“I think they will be successful,” Muraleedharan said. “But they will be facing a few road blocks getting there.”

May 30, 2017

As judge, minister and citizen, Manvel Trice is on a mission to make a difference in Saginaw

By Justin Engel

Manvel Trice III doesn’t reside in Room 306 of the Saginaw County District Court. He presides there.

Still, the courthouse’s newest judge speaks about his position as if the role was more comparable to that of a household’s authority figure as opposed to a law enforcement official appointed by the state of Michigan. And he speaks about the work he performs in his courtroom — Room 306 — as if he was providing parental-like guidance to those living beneath his roof. 

To Trice, that makes his responsibilities more than simply a job. He is on a mission to work as a steward for the place he calls “home” and serve as a role model to the residents he considers extended family.

“I want to help the Saginaw community continue to be a successful, thriving community once again,” he said. “This is my community. Our community.”

Born in the city of Saginaw and raised in Saginaw County’s Bridgeport Township, Trice’s sense of civic responsibility was initially shaped by the blue-collar upbringing his mother and father provided during his formative years. 

Later in life, he was empowered and encouraged to pursue a career in law by two mentors he met while enrolled as an undergraduate student at SVSU in Saginaw County’s Kochville Township.

“I wanted to be someone who could become part of the solution rather than someone on the sidelines, talking about solutions,” he said. “Now I have a broader platform to help people.”

That platform extends beyond the courthouse in Saginaw’s Old Town district and involves tools other than his judge’s gavel. Trice, an ordained minister, also strives to make a difference in people’s lives on a metaphysical level.

“There is a spiritual component to the revitalization of Saginaw,” he said. 

“I try to use my position as a minister to help people with issues of the heart. I prefer to address the whole person; body, soul and spirit.”

Trice and his at-home family — his wife, Caressa, and their 3-year-old daughter, Maya — are active with nonprofit organizations and charities involved in addressing Saginaw’s social challenges.

His day job, though, keeps him plenty busy tackling one of the community’s largest challenges: crime. It’s a responsibility he approaches with a passion he learned early in life.

“When I was young, I didn’t know I was going to become a judge,” Trice said. “But the lessons my mom and dad taught me molded me, so in large part, they are responsible for who I am. The things I was taught as a child — patience, love for community, and family values — all are important qualities for any judge to have.”

His parents’ influence also provided another important lesson he applies to different aspects of his life.

“With anything in life, if you’re going to take on a project, you need to do it with passion and commitment,” he said.

Trice credits the beginnings of his devotion to law to two men he met while attending SVSU in the late 1990s: then-President Eric Gilbertson and current President Don Bachand.

At the time, Bachand was Trice’s criminal justice professor.

“There were things he taught me that were critical to my success today professionally,” Trice said of Bachand. “He also taught me things about being a man; things that supplemented what my dad and other men taught me.”

Bachand, a former Detroit policeman, was instrumental in Trice landing his first jobs relating to law enforcement. Trice served as a youth care specialist at the Saginaw County Juvenile Detention Center and later as a data collection specialist for the Saginaw Gang Task Force.

While at SVSU, Trice also enrolled in a Constitutional law course taught by Gilbertson, a former attorney.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” Trice said of the class.

What may have been an even more important experience was a meeting Gilbertson once requested with Trice.

“He invited me into his office and really opened the door to the law,” Trice said. “He encouraged me to attend law school and told me what I needed to do to become eligible. No one had ever before encouraged me to pursue the law. He saw something in me that I didn’t necessarily see in myself.”

Soon after, Trice began taking law school admissions tests and speaking with admissions representatives from institutions across the country. After earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from SVSU in 1998, he attended the Michigan State University College of Law, where he graduated in 2001.

“I would not have chosen that path if not for the sage wisdom of Drs. Bachand and Gilbertson,” he said.

Trice became a defense attorney at Braun Kendrick PLC in Saginaw from 2001 to 2011. Then he was hired as an assistant prosecutor for Saginaw County until 2015, when he spent 11 months as an assistant U.S. attorney. Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Trice as a Saginaw County District Court judge in 2016, when he replaced the retired M.T. Thompson.

At Trice’s swearing-in ceremony in August, Gilbertson was in attendance. Bachand was chosen by Trice to ceremoniously present him with his judge’s robe at the event. 

Bachand addressed those in attendance, praising his former student.

“SVSU is honored to have graduated Manvel Trice,” said Bachand, who discussed Trice’s work with SVSU’s Alumni Relations board and willingness to mentor students.

“He’s also really good at talking to young people about life and decency, honesty and fairness,” the president said.

The comments were the ultimate compliment for Trice, who prides himself on providing a positive influence on others, both inside and outside of Room 306.

“It behooves us as professionals to try and bring out the best in people,” Trice said. 

“Now that I’m in a position to do so, I feel an obligation to help others realize their full potential. For those of us who want to see Saginaw thrive, we all have to do our part. This is my part.”

May 26, 2017

SVSU research shows police in greater Saginaw respond faster than national average

Data analyzed by a Saginaw Valley State University professor shows that the average time it takes police to respond to serious crimes in the Saginaw region is significantly less than the national average.

During the three-year interval of 2013 through 2015, the average time it took police to respond to a call of a “part one crime” in the city of Saginaw and immediate surrounding areas was just more than 7 minutes. That is about 36 percent quicker than the national average of 11 minutes, which was reported in 2013.

Andrew Miller, SVSU associate professor of geography, analyzed some 45,000 calls that Saginaw County 911 received in that time period regarding crimes such as assaults, burglaries and robberies.

“We’re getting really good response time over almost the entirety of the region,” Miller said.

Saginaw County 911 provided the data to Miller as part of an ongoing partnership between SVSU and local law enforcement agencies through the Saginaw County Crime Prevention Council.

“It’s fantastic to see we’re below the average,” said Randy Pfau, the director of Saginaw County 911. “It tells us that we’re doing our job efficiently here on our end. There’s always room for improvement, but it’s great to hear that we’re where we need to be.”

Pfau and his staff chalk up the success to Saginaw County agencies having the mindset that they are all in the public safety battle together.

“It has everything to do with collaboration,” Pfau said. “Everyone at every level working together.”

Miller did not just determine an average response time. Working with Ashlee Oaks, an international studies major from Trenton who graduated SVSU in May; and Dan Johnson, a 2015 SVSU alumnus, he also examined how much quicker or slower an average time was in a specific location.

“Call response times are great, but if the police are repeatedly being called to one location over another, the response time should be faster to areas in need,” Miller explained.

To create such a tool, Miller incorporated both call response times and density of 911 calls for service to produce a map that showed which areas “needed improvement” or had times that were “acceptable” or “good.”  Miller presented his findings to the Saginaw County Crime Prevention Council earlier this month.

“We want to give police agencies something that they can see and say, ‘OK, we now know these are the areas where we have to get better response times,’” Miller said.

“We live in a visual world,” Pfau noted. “We know what the numbers are, but to see them in this aspect is great to give you that perspective that all that time and effort and hard work is fruitful and very positive for our community.”

Miller's findings were the latest in a series of presentations he has delivered related to public safety. He and numerous SVSU students first mapped out crime “hot spots” in the Saginaw region and recently analyzed the impact that blight reduction had on crime in the area.

“It’s absolutely great to have that level of professionalism right here in our backyard,” Pfau said of Miller and SVSU. “We work closely with them all the time. Depending on what the concern or situation is, I know we can always call them and they’re a fantastic resource for us.”

Saginaw Township Police Chief Don Pussehl, who leads the Saginaw County Police Chiefs Association, added the relationship between SVSU and local law enforcement is “fantastic.” He credited SVSU for a sustained commitment to the community.

“I've seen over the last five to six years an increased input from faculty members from SVSU,” Pussehl said. “Their willingness to engage in the research and give students an opportunity to have real life experience is a benefit to the community. It sheds a very positive light on SVSU and what their students are doing.”

Pussehl added that former President Eric Gilbertson was a founding member of the Saginaw County Crime Prevention Council, and current SVSU President Don Bachand has maintained the relationship. A former Detroit police officer and SVSU criminal justice professor, Bachand also has a particular interest in research aimed at reducing crime.

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 http://inmoovkhs.weebly.com/.

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.