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November 16, 2018

SVSU social work profs take leadership posts to improve the Saginaw community

Two Saginaw Valley State University social work professors will serve in leadership roles at a newly-created community enrichment organization centered in downtown Saginaw.

Vanessa Brooks Herd and Catherine Macomber were voted in as vice chair and secretary, respectively, by the board of the non-profit Saginaw Collaborative Inc.

Saginaw Collaborative Inc. was established by Rev. Jim Williams and other community leaders to turn the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church building in downtown Saginaw into a space for various community organizations and other non-profits. 

“This project represents a coming together of people who have a commitment to the sense of community in Saginaw,” Brooks Herd said. “This is a combination of business people, professional people, grassroots people, small businesses and non-profits who want to infuse the downtown area with maintaining some of the community.”

The church is owned by the Presbytery of Lake Huron, but its congregation can no longer support the upkeep costs of the building and will discontinue its worship services on November 25. The building is over 20,000 square feet and houses classrooms, offices, kitchens, a gymnasium and performance spaces that can accommodate a diverse array of programs. 

The collaborative board seeks to analyze community needs and invite community organizations into the building that meet those needs while complimenting each other.

“We want to bring those people together and say, ‘you're all doing this wonderful work, let's figure out how we can do it together and be supportive of your mission,’” Macomber said.

The professors say they're planning to take an integrative approach to their work with the non-profit and plan to provide SVSU social work students and interns with the opportunity to gain work experience there while creating real change in the community.

“We want to use that center as a base for community involvement,” Brooks Herd said. “What better way to teach community organizing and building communities than being in a place where communities are coming together?”

SVSU has hundreds of social work undergraduate and graduate students who must each put in 450 hours a year of field experience as part of their studies.

“We're talking about thousands of hours of student engagement in the community in downtown Saginaw, working with residents and vulnerable populations there,” Macomber said.

Both professors said they hope that once the space is refurbished and filled with community organizations, it will complement downtown Saginaw's economic renewal with its focus on community enrichment and service. 

“What's exciting for me is to see all of these community organizations that provide services directly to Saginaw residents, their children and their families talking about how they can coordinate more and use Warren Avenue as sort of a community center for that area,” Macomber said.

November 15, 2018

SVSU serves those who served, again earns ‘Best for Vets’ ranking


Saginaw Valley State University has again been recognized for its support of military-affiliated students, earning a place in the Best for Vets: Colleges 2019 rankings by Military Times.


Chaz Fowler, a political science major from Bay City and a Marine Corps veteran, currently serves as a student liaison at SVSU’s Military Student Affairs office. He said the transition from working in the military to returning to civilian life can be hard to navigate, but SVSU’s resources can make it easier,


“Many veterans are commuter students,” said Fowler. “This department gives them a place to be involved and included in university life. It provides a great environment for veterans to be around like-minded individuals and experiences. It really bridges the gap between vets to their academics as well as their community.”


For a school to be placed on the "Best for Vets" list, colleges and universities must be considered a good fit for service members, military veterans and their families.


SVSU is rated No. 101 among all four-year institutions nationwide in the 2019 rankings by the independent media organization dedicated to news and information about the military. This is the fifth consecutive year SVSU has earned the designation.


To be considered, colleges and universities complete a comprehensive survey which is evaluated by Military Times. Institutions were then ranked based on survey responses as well as on data collected by three different federal agencies.


Bethany Alford, SVSU’s director of Military Student Affairs, said SVSU’s assists students and family members with paperwork, accessing their federal benefits, academic advising, and generally serving as a “one-stop shop” for military-affiliated students. They also take pride in creating a friendly and welcoming place on campus.


“Our office creates an environment that is not just for information, but also a great place for conversations with other student veterans,” she said. “They come in and can hear about what's happening on campus, but also can feel the comradery they've missed since leaving the service.”


SVSU will acknowledge receiving the “Best for Vets” honor during a Veteran’s Day event Thursday, Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. in the Curtiss Hall banquet rooms. Colonel Timothy Houchlei, state family programs director for the Michigan Army National Guard, will serve as the featured speaker.


November 14, 2018

SVSU student-produced videos to educate peers on sexual assault prevention

Saginaw Valley State University leaders say a series of student-produced public service announcement videos are aimed at strengthening the campus’ sexual assault prevention education efforts.


Those six videos will be screened publicly for the first time during a short presentation Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 3 p.m. in SVSU’s Groening Commons.


The videos were created as part of a contest related to SVSU’s sexual assault prevention education program known as Bringing in the Bystander. Each video features dramatized situations demonstrating students avoiding sexual assault or helping peers avoid sexual assault.


The videos eventually will be played during on-campus student events including SVSU’s movie-screening series known as Valley Nights, organizers say.


Michele Gunkelman, SVSU’s director of residential life and one of the Bringing in the Bystander program trainers on campus, said the lessons provided in the videos will be powerful for students in part because they are watching their peers advocate for better judgement in critical moments that can lead to sexual assault.


“These videos show their peers experiencing situations that, unfortunately, are too common for college students,” Gunkelman said. “We want our students to be able to intervene in those situations. With these videos, our students are learning these lessons from people they can relate to.”


SVSU’s Bringing in the Bystander sexual assault prevention program began in 2016. Since then, more than 400 people — including students, staff and faculty — have been involved in the initiative’s training workshops on campus. The program advocates for participants to pass along those lessons to peers who have not attended the training sessions. The goal, Gunkelman said, is to impact every student on campus in a positive way.


The video contest was the latest initiative of SVSU’s Bringing in the Bystander, which in March received a $25,044 grant from the state of Michigan to continue the program. SVSU staff and students formed a panel of judges to determine the video contest's award recipients.


In total, 17 students in six groups produced the winning videos. Each group received awards ranging from $500 to $100.

November 14, 2018

SVSU Flute Choir to perform Thursday

Saginaw Valley State University students and faculty members – along with musicians from across the community — will perform a flute concert this week at the campus.


The SVSU Flute Choir will take the stage Thursday, Nov 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the university’s Founders Hall. The event is free and open to the public.


Musical selections for the concert include work composed both by contemporary and classical musicians. The work of 18th century Austrian composer C.W. von Gluck as well as modern-day American composer Daniel Dorff are among the musical selections planned for Thursday’s performance.


The SVSU Flute Choir is open to membership from participants outside of the SVSU community. The ensemble is directed by Townes Osborn Miller, an instructor of music at SVSU.


For more information about Friday’s concert, please visit or call the SVSU Department of Music at (989) 964-4159.

November 13, 2018

SVSU hosting lecture by scholar on North Korea's Nuclear Crisis

An expert in one of the world's most dangerous foreign policy challenges – North Korea's nuclear weapons program – will speak on the topic at Saginaw Valley State University.

Hyun-Wook Kim will visit Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. in SVSU's Founders Hall. His presentation will address how North Korea's nuclear program changed the balance of power in Northeast Asia, and what that political environment means for the rest of the world.

The event is free and open to the public.

Kim has played a key role in shaping South Korea's policies towards China and the U.S. on the issue of North Korea's nuclear program.

He is a professor at the Seoul-based Korea National Diplomatic Academy, which is affiliated with South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Kim also served as an advisory member for the National Security Council and today remains a standing member of the National Unification Advisory Council, an agency formed to advise the president of South Korea on peaceful unification policies between North and South Korea.

Kim received his bachelor's degree in political science from Yonsei University in Seoul. He received his master's degree and Ph.D. in political science from Brown University, and he worked at the University of Southern California as a postdoctoral fellow.

The lecture is part of SVSU's Barstow Excellence in Teaching Humanities Seminar, which was created to promote excellence in teaching and recognize scholarship in the humanities.  The seminar was established through a gift from The Barstow Foundation, which supports education, health and human services agencies and humanitarian causes with emphasis on the greater Midland area.

The lecture also is part of the SVSU 2018-19 Dow Visiting Scholars and Artists Series. For more information about Wednesday's presentation and the speaker series, visit

November 12, 2018

SVSU visiting artist Kevin Cole teams with 2-time Grammy winner Sylvia McNair for concert

Saginaw Valley State University will host a concert featuring a Grammy winner and a musician lauded by the Chicago Tribune as “the best Gershwin pianist in the country.” Kevin Cole and Sylvia McNair will perform together Friday, Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall.

Listen to a radio interview with Kevin Simons, SVSU associate professor of music.

Cole, SVSU’s visiting artist in musical theatre, is internationally recognized for being the leading expert in the music of the late pianist and composer George Gershwin. Cole has played with symphonies all over the world, earning himself the title of "America's pianist."

A Bay City native, Cole is a veteran of SVSU's stage, having performed numerous times for the SVSU community, as well as in venues throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region. This will be Cole's comeback performance at SVSU after surviving major brain surgery last March.

McNair, an American opera singer and two-time Grammy award winner, will be performing alongside Cole. During her three-decade career, she has been featured on the cover of Opera News Magazine countless times and has performed as a soloist multiple times with nearly every major opera company and symphony orchestra in the world. McNair spans the musical realms of opera, oratorio, cabaret, and musical theater, and she has performed with many well-known musicians, including the late Aretha Franklin.

The concert – part of SVSU’s Rhea Miller Concert Series – is free of charge, which is rather extraordinary, said Kevin Simons, SVSU associate professor of music.

“We don't get to hear from artists such as Sylvia McNair every day,” he said. “Then to have it for free and in our own fantastic recital hall is a great opportunity,” Simons said.

In addition to her concert Friday night, McNair will spend the week working with SVSU music students; four students will join her for a master class performance Wednesday evening.

“She and Kevin are friends. When we brought Kevin on staff as our guest artist, he said, ‘What if I brought Sylvia in?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I think we could do that. That would be great.’”

Cole and McNair have performed together numerous times, including in October for concerts in Thousand Oaks and Oxnard, California. Tickets for those shows ranged from $34 to $124 per person.

The Rhea Miller Concert Series is made possible by a generous gift from Rhea E. Miller, a longtime friend of SVSU. Her gift, administered by the Miller Trust for Music Education, has provided the university with the opportunity to offer outstanding performances by nationally and internationally acclaimed musical artists at no cost to the audience since 1993.

For more information, please contact SVSU's Department of Music at (989) 964-4159 or

November 8, 2018

At SVSU competition, Pinconning native earns another public speaking contest victory

Inclusion advocacy was the theme of the winning presentation at Saginaw Valley State University’s 29th Sims Public Speaking Contest.

A panel of judges selected Courtney Perrou, a communication major from Pinconning, as the grand prize recipient. She bested 38 competitors at the Nov. 2 event that annually tasks SVSU students with publicly speaking on a topic of their choice.  

Perrou’s presentation addressed the importance of intersectional feminism in tackling challenges faced by women in minority populations.

“At the end of my speech, I talked about how I’m privileged, and I acknowledge that,” she said. “I recognized that, with this platform, I can be an advocate for those who have been silenced.”

She received $400 as part of her grand prize.

The victory marked her second competitive recognition relating to public speaking in recent weeks. Perrou is a member of the SVSU forensics team that participates in public speaking challenges nationally. In October, she earned a second-place prize at the Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League tournament.

Perrou said her forensics teammates and SVSU professors supported her while she crafted and presented the speech that won the Sims Public Speaking Contest.

"They were my biggest fans there," she said. "Right up until we were speaking, they listened to me recite over and over again. They were literally cheering for me as I exited my rounds."

Perrou and her peers competed over the course of several rounds, eventually leaving six students standing at the finals stage.

Daniel Visnosky, a political science major from Sparta, earned runner-up status and a $250 prize after delivering a speech addressing transgender rights.

Simone Vaughn, a communication major from Saginaw, took third place and a $150 prize with her speech advocating for support for homeless teenagers.

Communication major Alexander Belknap, of Owosso; occupational therapy major Sarah Enge, of Saginaw; and elementary education major Jenny Wisniewski, of Brown City, each received $50 prizes as finalists.

SVSU's annual Sims Public Speaking Contest is sponsored through an endowment funded by Larry and Linda Sims, longtime supporters of the university. Larry Sims serves as president and chief executive officer of the United Way of Saginaw County. Linda Sims is SVSU’s executive director of communications and external affairs, and previously served as chair of the university’s Board of Control.

November 7, 2018

SVSU hosts regional high school students for Foreign Language Day

Saginaw Valley State University will welcome more than 400 high school students from eight regional high schools during the 43rd annual Foreign Language Day at SVSU Thursday, Nov. 8 in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts.

Hosted by SVSU's Department of Modern Foreign Languages since 1976, the day will feature contests between students performing in categories such as song, dance and skit/musical, all in the languages of French and Spanish. The event also includes an international awareness contest, highlighting the importance of foreign language study for 21st century learners.

Students from the following high schools will participate: Birch Run, Caro, Hemlock, John Glenn, Pinconning, Roscommon, Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy, and Tawas.

The skit/musical contest is scheduled from 10 to 11 a.m. The song contest is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. The dance contest is scheduled from 12:10 to 12:50 p.m. The international awareness contest takes places from 10 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.

The event is part of a series of events SVSU is hosting as part of International Education Week.

November 6, 2018

SVSU Board authorizes extending agreement with Aramark

The Saginaw Valley State University Board of Control agreed to authorize an extension of the university’s campus dining agreement with Aramark during the Board’s regular meeting Monday, Oct. 22.

The current contract with Aramark runs through September 2022. The Board authorized the president and/or vice president for administration and business affairs to execute an extension for a contract period up to September 2032.

The Board also authorized negotiating an extension of the current agreement with Covenant HealthCare to provide medical services to students and the campus community at an on-campus facility owned by the university. The current agreement expires in July 2019. The Board authorized the president and/or vice president for administration and business affairs to execute an extension for up to 10 years.

In other business, the Board:

  • Granted emeritus status to Pat Samolewski, who retired earlier this year after 37 years of service in information technology.
  • Granted emeritus status to Robert Maurovich, who served nearly 15 years as vice president of student services and enrollment management before serving an additional five years as an executive-in-residence before retiring in 2015.
  • Passed a resolution authorizing the Vice Chair of the Board to receive and review all Title IX reports with the university president, as may be required by federal or state laws, or university policies.
  • Received and accepted the annual financial audit and federal awards audit for the 2017-18 fiscal year, as audited by Andrews Hooper Pavlik PLC.
  • Approved SVSU’s capital outlay request and five-year capital outlay plan.
  • Approved an investment policy for the SVSU retirement plan; TIAA is the current provider of the plan for faculty and staff.

November 6, 2018

SVSU introduces new speaker series on international topics, starting with focus on Sudan

Saginaw Valley State University's Office of International and Advanced Studies will hold the first event in its new speaker series, The Traveling Tap, Wednesday, Nov. 7  at 5 p.m. at Pierce Road Bar & Grill, located across the street from campus.

This first talk, titled “Off the Beaten Path,” will feature Kate Scott, associate director of International and Advanced Studies and director of SVSU's English Language Program. She will have just returned from a trip to Sudan as an educational ambassador.

Jenna Briggs, senior director of International and Advanced Studies, said the office had been developing the series for months. She said she was inspired by other Michigan colleges who put on similar events around their campuses.

Briggs hopes to foster community engagement through the series, and while she welcomes participation by the campus community, she hopes The Traveling Tap series will appeal to the surrounding community, as well. 

“What we sometimes hear from the community is a perception of academia being inaccessible,” Briggs said. “So, we thought, why not take it off campus? That way we can engage with the community, so they can see that we're super passionate about where our research areas are and where our experience is.”

Future speakers are expected to mostly be SVSU faculty and staff, but some international students have also expressed interest in taking part.

Briggs is in talks with local breweries to host future events in the series, in order to bring speakers into various locales.

The Wednesday, Nov. 7 talk is free to attend, and Pierce Road Bar & Grill will provide free water and soft drinks for guests.

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