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May 6, 2019

Strong work ethic drives SVSU Indy-style race team on eve of international competition

A year’s worth of hard work, dedication, late nights and early mornings will culminate with the literal and metaphoric rubber meeting the road this week for Saginaw Valley State University’s Cardinal Formula Racing team as it faces the world’s top collegiate talent in Indy-style racing.

And team members have high expectations when competition gets underway at the annual Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) Collegiate Design Series May 8-11 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan.

“We’re expecting a top-10 finish,” said Jared Greshow, a mechanical engineering major from Bay City who serves as Cardinal Formula Racing’s team captain this year. “That’s been the goal since we started this last year, and I’m feeling good about this car now that we’re ready to compete. It looks good and it feels good.”

A top-10 finish would be the program's third in its history. The 2002 team placed sixth and the 2005 crew finished fifth. Each year, a multidisciplinary team of SVSU students design and build an Indy-style race care to compete against colleges and universities from around the world.

For four consecutive years, SVSU’s team has recorded the highest finish of any exclusively undergraduate program. Brooks Byam, an SVSU professor of mechanical engineering and the team’s adviser since 1998, said this year’s team has possessed an advantage in its preparation.

“We had an inexperienced team last year, which led to an experienced team this year,” Byam said. “They know when to be an engineering team, and then when to be a race team.”

Among those experienced students was Greshow, who was involved in the 2017 and ’18 teams. The 2019 model will benefit from at least one important lesson learned from earlier builds, he said.

“We wanted to spend less time in the theoretical design phase and more quickly move to building the car,” Greshow said. “We wanted to be able to test it earlier. In this contest, being able to test your work can really help.”

Last year’s team scrambled in the week leading up to the FSAE competition after an engine failed. Greshow said a similar complication challenged this year's team, but because the vehicle was built sooner, the problem was resolved well before the event.

The team applied the first component to the car's frame in early July 2018 and began test-driving the vehicle in January. Both milestones arrived relatively early compared to previous years, he said.

“We’ve pulled a couple of all-nighters in the past few months to get to this point,” he said. “All the hard work is worth it.”

This year's FSAE field features 119 teams from countries across the world including Austria, Brazil, Germany, Poland and Venezuela. The level of participation from outside the U.S. has increased the level of the competition's talent immensely in recent years, Byam said.

Still, Cardinal Formula Racing consistently performs well. Twice SVSU has built the fastest college race car in the world, winning the event’s acceleration category in 2008 and 2014. The team placed No. 24 overall out of 120 competitors last year.

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

For more information about the FSAE Collegiate Design Series competition, visit

May 2, 2019

Consumers Energy CEO to deliver SVSU Commencement address

Saginaw Valley State University graduates will hear from Patti Poppe, president and CEO of Consumers Energy, during Commencement exercises Friday, May 10 and Saturday, May 11.

Through their hard work and commitment, nearly 1,100 students are expected to complete degree requirements, and 992 individuals have indicated they plan to don regalia and participate in their respective ceremony. SVSU has 921 students expected to complete bachelor’s degrees and 177 who will receive master’s or other advanced degrees.

Students graduating in the colleges of Business & Management and Health and Human Services will participate in the Friday ceremony at 7:30 p.m. Students graduating in the colleges of Arts & Behavioral Sciences, Education, and Science, Engineering and Technology will take part in the Saturday ceremony at 11 a.m. Both ceremonies are held in O’Neill Arena of the Ryder Center.

As is tradition, SVSU President Don Bachand will congratulate each graduate as they cross the stage.

Poppe is president and chief executive officer of Jackson, Michigan-based CMS Energy and its principal subsidiary, Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest utility and the nation’s fourth largest combination utility. Consumers Energy provides electricity and natural gas to 6.7 million of Michigan’s 10 million lower peninsula residents. She was named to this position in July 2016.

Poppe held a variety of automotive management positions and served as power plant director at Detroit, Michigan-based DTE Energy before returning to her hometown of Jackson to join Consumers Energy in 2011.

Poppe earned a master’s degree in management from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. She also completed a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in industrial engineering from Purdue University.

As president and chief executive officer, Poppe has focused on the company's triple bottom line commitment to people, the planet and Michigan's prosperity.

The Consumers Energy Foundation supported the Consumers Energy Talent Program for SVSU engineering students, as well as high school students who enrolled in SVSU’s Engineering Careers and Concepts course. Senior electrical or mechanical engineering students at SVSU applied for funding from Consumers Energy for senior design capstone projects focused on alternative energy. To qualify, students were required to propose a novel idea, plan the time line, budget for supplies and conduct research and development activities accordingly for a two-semester project.

For those unable to attend Commencement exercises, SVSU will provide a live video stream of each ceremony. The link and additional information can be found online at

May 2, 2019

Calendar established for SVSU's 'Battle' fundraiser; nonprofits encouraged to apply now

Saginaw Valley State University students are determined to continue to support charitable causes in Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region. They invite nonprofit leaders in the community to submit applications by May 24 to become the beneficiary of SVSU's new-look Battle of the Valley campaign, which has raised more than a half-million dollars for organizations since 2003.

The deadline was established by SVSU's student government — known as Student Association — along with other important dates for the week-long fundraiser now scheduled to take place this fall from Oct. 6-11.

The calendar was established in the wake of a makeover for the yearly tradition that previously involved a fundraising competition between the students of SVSU and Grand Valley State University. GVSU students withdrew from their role in March.

SVSU students' passion for philanthropy inspired Student Association leaders to quickly move to continue the fundraiser, now organized exclusively by SVSU and re-branded as Battle of the Valley. Student Association recently appointed Madeline Lowry, a rehabilitation medicine major pursuing studies in occupational therapy at SVSU, to serve as the chairperson for Battle of the Valley.

The Lake Orion native said she treasures the annual fundraiser for the way in which it unifies students, faculty, staff and friends of SVSU who enthusiastically support local causes.

“This year, we have the potential to reinvent ‘The Battle’ and make it whatever we want it to be,” Lowry said. “My vision for 2019 is to not only continue to fundraise money like we have in the past, but to also help our community understand why we ‘battle’ and learn about the benefactor that is chosen.”

Student Association will reveal this year’s charity partner in early June.

SVSU students raised $36,210 or the Barb Smith Suicide Resource and Response Network during the Battle of the Valleys fundraising competition in October 2018. Between SVSU and GVSU, the universities raised a combined total of $652,385 since Battle of the Valleys started in 16 years ago. SVSU contributed $425,657 — or 65 percent — of that total.

SVSU Student Association student leaders anticipate the efficient reorganization of the annual tradition means the fundraising will not skip a beat in terms of amount collected this year. In fact, the 2019 fundraiser will take place during its traditional timeframe: the week leading up to the football game between SVSU and GVSU.

Without GVSU's participation, though, SVSU will change one element of the fundraiser's traditional calendar of events. Rather than revealing the total funds collected during halftime of the GVSU game played in Allendale this year, SVSU students instead will shift that ceremony to halftime of the first home football contest after the fundraising week. The ceremonial check will be presented during halftime of the SVSU game vs. Ashland University Saturday, Nov. 2 at Wickes Memorial Stadium.

Nonprofits interested in submitting applications to become the 2019 charity partner should go online to A link to the online application is available near the bottom of the webpage.

April 30, 2019

SVSU students honored for outstanding tutoring of peers

Four Saginaw Valley State University students who support their classmates have received the annual Mayme Hamilton Award in Excellence in Tutoring by Students.

The award was established by the family of the late Mayme Hamilton to recognize the efforts of outstanding SVSU student tutors, who are selected by judges from the three on-campus tutoring centers. The applicants submitted an essay that explains the characteristics of a good undergraduate tutor, and how they personally demonstrate those attributes.

The four students who received the award are:

  • Brendon Cousino, a mechanical engineer major from Ottawa Lake, tutors at SVSU's Math and Physics Resource Center
  • Carlee Giordano, a social work major from Alpena, tutors at SVSU's Center for Academic Achievement
  • Katelyn Hejza, a marketing major from Fraser, tutors for the accounting and economics departments
  • Emma Kirsch, an elementary education major from Clinton Township, is a tutor at SVSU's Writing Center

Helen Raica-Klotz, director of SVSU's Writing Center, said she is thankful for these awards, because they support the tutors who do so much for students across campus.

“We are grateful to the family of Mayme Hamilton for honoring these student tutors, who work to support other students' abilities to succeed at our university,” Raica-Klotz said.

Hamilton became a teacher in Canada when she was 18 years old. After moving Michigan in 1929, she put her career on hold to raise her 10 children. Still wanting to educate others, she used her teaching education to begin tutoring her children, neighbors, nieces and nephews. Soon after, she began to voluntarily tutor at SVSU as well.

The students were presented with their awards during a luncheon on Friday, April 19 in SVSU's Emeriti Room.

April 25, 2019

SVSU alumna, Dow chief sustainability officer to address students

Saginaw Valley State University students will have an opportunity to hear from a graduate who has risen to a leadership position for one of the nation’s leading companies. Mary Draves, vice president and chief sustainability officer for Dow, will serve as a guest speaker during SVSU’s Science and Engineering Symposium.

The symposium will take place Friday, April 26, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in SVSU's Pioneer Hall. Draves will speak from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Draves was named a 2018 distinguished alumna at SVSU. She completed a bachelor's degree in biology in 1994, and a master's in technological processes in 2001, both from SVSU. She has worked at Dow for 25 years, most of that time spent in the Midland site in a variety of leadership roles.

Draves began her time at Dow in the Toxicology and Environmental Health Research Lab, and she also spent some time in the Environmental, Health and Safety group.

The SVSU Science and Engineering Symposium is aimed at recognizing student achievement, inspiring innovation and promoting collaboration between SVSU students and faculty. Both student and faculty research will be presented.

The student work can be of several types, including student research and design projects, special course work projects, or other original work.

Examples of student research and design projects include independent study research projects, engineering senior design projects and extracurricular projects. Special course work projects can include laboratory independent projects, extensive research reports and literature reviews assigned to an entire class.

April 25, 2019

SVSU student earns national title in collegiate forensics competition

Participating in only his third competition ever on the college forensics circuit, a Saginaw Valley State University senior this week became a national champion.


Dan Visnovsky, a political science major from Sparta and a member of SVSU's forensics team, qualified to compete against the best U.S. college talent at the National Forensic Association Tournament April 18-22 in Santa Ana, California. A panel of judges at the public speaking-based competition crowned him the first-place award recipient in the novice category of extemporaneous speaking, which featured students who had participated in fewer than six college forensics competitions.


In total, 180 college students competed in the extemporaneous speaking category, where the finalists participated in four rounds of play.


Success requires intense study and preparation. In each round, participants are asked to respond to a question related to world politics, allowed 30 minutes to research and develop an answer, and then must deliver their statement in seven minutes to a panel of three judges – all in front of a crowd of their peers.


Visnovsky had competed in only two forensics tournaments before winning the national title in his third appearance.


“I was a little nervous,” he said. “I had very little concept of how well I would do. They were challenging questions.”


Visnovsky said his interest in reading about world politics aided in his performance.


“Although at this tournament, the questions were more focused on international economics, and I'm more familiar with foreign policy,” he said.


For the fourth and final round, Visnovsky was asked to present a strategy for defeating a political party in Finland. Ryan Rigda, an SVSU lecturer of communications and an assistant director for the university's forensics team, was in the audience when Visnovsky delivered the winning speech.


“It just amazed me how he was able to speak about the subject so logically and coherently,” Rigda said. “It was like he was from Finland.”


Visnovsky and Jessica Carpenter, a communication major from Saginaw, were the first students ever to represent SVSU at the national tournament level.


“It was a blast,” Visnovsky said of the experience at the five-day tourney. “I was not expecting that I would win.”


As a senior about to graduate from SVSU next month, it marked Visnovsky’s final tournament, but SVSU’s forensics program is building for the future. It was founded in 2000 by Amy Pierce, an SVSU associate professor of communication who remains the team's coach.


Rigda said he hopes the team's appearance in the nationals inspires more student participation for next academic year. Rigda's sister, Mikayla Rigda – who competed at the nationals this week as a Delta College student – plans to enroll at SVSU in the fall and join her brother's team. And five members from this year's team are expected to return.


After Visnovsky graduates in May graduation, he said he will participate in a fellowship program at a state policy organization in Austin, Texas. He hopes one day to attend graduate school in pursuit of a career working for political nonprofit organizations.

April 25, 2019

Sociological study of Flint water crisis fallout part of SVSU student research symposium

A Saginaw Valley State University student turned her passion for understanding the human effects of the Flint water crisis into a nationally-presented research project that will be among about 80 research initiatives presented at SVSU this week.

The annual Undergraduate Research Project Student Symposium is scheduled Friday, April 26, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in SVSU’s Gilbertson Hall. The public is invited to attend the event, which will feature students explaining research performed in a variety of academic fields.

Among those presenters will be Alexandria Miller, a sociology major from Saginaw, whose Flint water crisis-related research began as part of a pilot study in an independent studies course at SVSU. Since then, her work has developed into part of a course curriculum and was featured at a national conference.

“It's probably one of the most important things I've done in my undergraduate career,” Miller said of the research opportunity. “There's the things you hear about that are going to make you successful after graduation – like participating in an internship or co-op – and I think service learning is right up there, as well.”

To start the research, Miller surveyed 30 Flint residents in 20-minute, face-to-face interviews. She sought to better understand how the water crisis impacted the community sociologically.

“We're looking at how they have developed methods of resilience in the wake of the Flint water crisis, and how their relationship to water itself has changed,” Miller said.

Her results attracted the interest of individuals beyond Michigan. She was invited to present her early findings as part of a poster presentation at the Society for Applied Anthropology in Portland, Oregon on March 22.

Now other SVSU students are benefiting from the research project.

Miller's faculty adviser, Rosina Hassoun, SVSU associate professor of sociology, incorporated the research project into her Sociology of Medicine course at SVSU. After receiving a grant from the SVSU Foundation to expand the number of people surveyed in Flint, students in the class are adding to the data Miller began collecting.

With the help of community partners in Flint, Hassoun's students recently conducted 38 new face-to-face interviews with Flint residents to expand the survey findings. Hassoun said Miller plans to conduct another 30 surveys on her own while her classmates will conduct another 32 surveys over the course of the spring.

Hassoun said the data will paint a portrait – using both quantitative and qualitative data – showing how Flint residents are coping in the aftermath of the water crisis. Hassoun said she plans to publish the findings from the research in academic journals.

At the Undergraduate Research Project Student Symposium, Miller plans to describe the research's methodology and findings. Her classmates will present a panel presentation on their experience with the study and with service learning in the classroom.

Other research projects scheduled to be presented at the symposium include studies on topics including the public's perception of genetic testing, the effect of teacher salary on student outcomes, mental health issues in Japan, and the demographics of opioid use in Saginaw County, among others.

For more information about SVSU's Undergraduate Research Program, go to

April 22, 2019

Determined study results in medical school research opportunity for SVSU biology student

Saginaw Valley State University student Cole Pero has worked hard in the classroom and in the lab, and it has resulted in an extraordinary opportunity to continue his academic career.

Graduating from SVSU in May, Pero has been accepted to begin his Ph.D. studies at University of Massachusetts Medical School, and he credits several factors for his success, including his introduction to student research through SVSU's Honors Program.

“The biggest thing is the research experience,” Pero said. “I would have never even been interested in this route if I hadn't had the research experience. Doing the research myself, I realized I liked it.”

Pero, a graduating biology major from Bay City, has steadily focused his academic interests by learning practical skills through job shadowing, research and the guidance of his mentor, Sylvia Fromherz, assistant professor of biology.

Pero's research – performed with the guidance of his professor and the wisdom gained from his job shadowing – will be featured as one of 52 research presentations showcased at SVSU's annual Science and Engineering Symposium on Friday, April 26, in Pioneer Hall. The public is invited to hear students discuss and demonstrate their work from 10 a.m. to noon.

The research projects presented will include poster, paper and panel presentations on topics ranging from best practices in tutoring to a study on the environmental impact of plastic microbeads.

Being able to not only make meaningful contributions to research as an undergraduate, but being able to lead the research at times, is something made Pero a more attractive candidate for graduate schools, he said.

“It'll be a research degree, but I'm going to a medical school,” Pero said. “I do like that I get to integrate the previous medical interest with the new research interest, so I'll still be learning a lot of the medical applications of the research. I think it's a good fit for me.”

Pero has one key piece of advice for undergraduates looking for a sense of direction:

“Shadowing,” he said, referring to his time observing practicing veterinary and medical professionals.

Pero started his college career intending to be a veterinary technician, which made the choice to major in biology an easy one for him. However, by observing work in the field for hundreds of hours, Pero determined veterinary medicine wasn't for him and moved on to human medicine and neuroscience, eventually focusing on biomedical research.

Starting in the winter of 2017, Pero has carried out research with Fromherz in the area of sensorimotor systems biology, the study of the part of the nervous system that allow animals to control their bodily movements.

“When he started, Cole was on a medical school trajectory, but he quickly caught the ‘research bug’ and absolutely showed himself to have all the attributes suggestive of a great budding scientist,” Fromherz said.

Pero presented his research at the December 2018 joint meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology and European Molecular Biology Organization in San Diego.

“That was a huge learning experience,” Pero said. “It can be very intimidating with all those professional scientists walking around. Just learning how to talk about my research, that's not something a lot of undergraduates get.”

Pero is also the president of the Judy V. Spencer Organization, a domestic violence information and advocacy group.

“I was always more of an introvert; I honestly don't know why I thought I could start an organization,” Pero said. “It definitely helped me become a more confident speaker, and that helps with interviews and with professional development.”

Through all these experiences, Pero has valued the practical knowledge that being a student and researcher at SVSU offered him. Other students should go out of their way to find these types of opportunities as undergraduates, Pero said.

“My research experience here has been a kind of shadowing experience,” Pero said. “Just try things, whatever you think you might be interested in, just give it a try for a while and see if it's right.”

April 18, 2019

The 'Battle' isn't over: SVSU students pledge to continue successful fundraiser

Newly-elected leaders of Saginaw Valley State University's student government promise to continue a fundraising competition that has raised more than a half-million dollars for nonprofits and charities statewide.


Since 2003, students with SVSU and Grand Valley State University have engaged to in a charitable fundraising competition during the annual Battle of the Valleys, a week-long fundraiser that concludes when the institutions' rival football teams play in the fall. In March, though, GVSU's student government voted to withdraw from the competition, leaving the contest's future in question.


But representatives with SVSU's student government — the SVSU Student Association — have announced plans to reconfigure and continue the event on their own.


Members of the outgoing and incoming leadership drafted and signed a public letter of statement that pledges to move forward to identify a charity partner to benefit from a fundraiser this year.


One of those signatures belonged to Hunter Koch, the recently-elected Student Association president who will take office in a few weeks. The St. Charles native studying for a master's degree in public administration said the annual fundraiser was too important to let slip away for SVSU's community-engaged students.


“Student Association found it critical that we maintain our commitment to SVSU and the region because we have always placed an emphasis on philanthropic endeavors, supporting our community and local non-profits, and showcasing that SVSU truly has twice the heart,” said Koch, who received a bachelor's degree in political science from SVSU in 2018.


He said details on the reconfigured event — tentatively titled “Battle of the Valley” — will begin to take shape when the Student Association appoints leadership for the fundraising effort at an April 22 meeting.


One detail that seems certain: This year's funds will be raised exclusively by SVSU's community because it's unlikely a substitute for GVSU could be identified in time for the fall event, Koch said. That could change for the 2020-21 academic year.


“While we would like to have found a new university for the 2019-20 school year, it is not feasible to find a new university to partner with and negotiate an extensive contract with them that would prevent abrupt withdrawals in the future,” he said.


“While this year will focus on SVSU students and alumni exclusively raising funds for a deserving not-for-profit, it is our hope throughout the next academic year to reach out to different universities with similar demographics to SVSU in order to find a phenomenal new partner and competitor for fall 2020.”


In the meantime, Koch and his Student Association leadership say they anticipate support for the fundraiser will grow. Nora Lipetzky, the recently-elected speaker of the Student Association, said she hopes the April 9 statement letter signed by two generations of student leaders will immediately begin to generate excitement among SVSU students.


“Current Cardinals — as well as our fantastic alumni — have expressed such eagerness and excitement for what the future holds for Battle of the Valley at SVSU,” said the political science major from Palos Heights, Illinois.


“Philanthropic work is important to us, especially with local non-profits. It is our hope that Battle of the Valley this year will be bigger and better than ever.”


SVSU students raised $36,210 or the Barb Smith Suicide Resource and Response Network during the Battle of the Valleys fundraising competition in October 2018. Between SVSU and GVSU, the universities raised a combined total of $652,385 since Battle of the Valleys started in 2003. SVSU contributed $425,657 of that total.

April 18, 2019

Asian holiday observed with colorful powder and fun at SVSU event

An enthusiastic celebration of culture and color will return to Saginaw Valley State University this week.


The Holi Festival of Colors is planned Saturday, April 20, from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. largely in SVSU’s James E. O’Neill Arena in the Ryder Center.


Perhaps the most visually-recognizable element of the tradition — a fun spectacle featuring attendees throwing 300 lbs. of colorful powder at themselves and each other — is expected to take place between 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. near the outdoors pond by the Ryder Center.


The South Asian Student Association, a registered student organization at SVSU, organizes the event each year. The annual holiday celebrates the beginning of spring and the victory of good over evil, organizers say. The tradition encourages participants to throw colorful powder at each other.


In addition to the 300 lbs. of powder, the crowd can also utilize about 1,500 water balloons and water-spraying tools as part of the celebration, organizers say.


The event also will include South Asian-based food, dance and music.


Tickets are $10 for the public and $5 for SVSU students. Attendees can pay $5 to participate exclusively in the color throw. Children ages 6 and under can participate for free.


For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or contact the South Asian Student Association at

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