February 8, 2017

SVSU professors receive Braun Fellowship to improve health of pregnant women, write poetry collection

Two Saginaw Valley State University professors have received support from SVSU for their scholarly activity. Arra Ross, associate professor of English, and Rebecca Schlaff, assistant professor of kinesiology, have been selected for the Braun Fellowship.

Ross intends to write and publish a book of poetry, while Schlaff will further her growing community-based research aimed at improving the health of pregnant women and new mothers. Each will receive research support grants totaling up to $37,500 over the next three years to further their scholarly and professional activities. Funds may be used for research expenses, equipment, travel and/or other related support.

Ross plans to author a full-length poetry collection that will build on the work of her first poetry book, “Seedlip and Sweet Apple (2010),” which followed the historic personage Ann Lee to explore the spiritual roots of the Shaker religion in the mid to late 1700s. She also plans to submit poems for publication in leading literary journals.

Two sacred mythic figures, Mary Magdalene and the Old Norse fertility figure Frejya, will be examined by Ross in her work. Some of her poems will ask questions about dogma and judgment, and about compassion and faith, drawing from the gnostic gospel, The Gospel of Mary. Ross previously received an SVSU Research Grant which funded extensive place-based research into Scandinavian prehistory and Old Norse religion, which provides a foundation as she explores ideas about abundance and scarcity, both within the human psyche and on a larger scale.

Ross joined the SVSU English faculty in 2010. She completed a bachelor’s degree at Macalester College in Minnesota and a Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska. In addition to her previous book, she has written more than a dozen poems and short stories that have been published in literary journals. In 2015, Ross was invited to present at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs national conference.  

Schlaff, assistant professor of kinesiology, will expand her community-minded research to target postpartum depression and mental health outcomes among pregnant women and new mothers. Poor postpartum mental health has been found to be associated with negative maternal, fetal, and childhood outcomes. Little is known about the impact of initiating or continuing physical activity and healthy eating through participation in interventions during pregnancy on physical and mental health in the postpartum period.

Since joining the SVSU kinesiology faculty in 2012, Schlaff has worked to develop and implement a behavioral physical activity and nutrition intervention for pregnant women; this began in April 2016. The data will be used for scholarly publications and presentations; applications for grant funding; and will add knowledge to the field to help pregnant women at a vulnerable time in their lives.

Schlaff completed a bachelor’s degree at SVSU and a Ph.D. at Michigan State University. She has authored or co-authored 19 articles and abstracts that have appeared in scholarly journals. Schlaff also has been awarded eight research grants, including a 2015 grant of more than $19,000 from the Allen Foundation in Midland to study a pilot nutrition and physical activity intervention for pregnant women.

Established in 2005, the Braun Fellowship program was created through a $1.5 million endowment from the Saginaw-based Harvey Randall Wickes Foundation. Administered by the Saginaw Community Foundation, the program's purpose is to recognize the exceptional accomplishments and potential of select SVSU faculty and staff. It is named in honor of Ruth and Ted Braun of Saginaw.