High school: Saginaw High
Future: graduate student, SVSU master’s degree in administrative science
Brandon Jones describes himself as a man of purpose. He does his best to fulfill his genuine purpose every day at SVSU.
As Homecoming King, president of the Valley Voices Gospel Choir, member of Forever Red, student mentor and orientation leader, Jones has had a busy but fulfilling journey at SVSU.
“I don’t believe in labeling or being part of just one group. I have an open and loud personality, so getting involved on campus was natural for me,” he said.
Jones will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business management in May, but plans to stick around SVSU to pursue a master’s degree in administrative science.
The Saginaw native has a passion for students and eventually wants to pursue a career as the dean of students at a university. He loves meeting new generations of Cardinals and hopes to make an impact on students that will stay with them forever.
Nick Wagner, SVSU’s director of institutional research, said Jones provided support to a student success grant-funded initiative, the King-Chavez-Parks 4S program. Jones advised and empowered hundreds of students who enrolled at SVSU, many of whom attribute their academic success to Jones.
“I will always remember the impact he tried to impart, whether it was providing counsel to a student about their semester schedule or just providing some encouraging words so someone could matriculate and persist,” Wagner said. “He willed himself to have a positive influence on many and he has achieved that and so much more during his time here at SVSU.”
Among Jones’ long list of achievements at SVSU, being named Homecoming King in 2015 is one he will always remember. “Breathtaking” is the word he used to describe the experience.
Jones and his Homecoming partner Charnae Keith, who was named queen, devoted hours upon hours into their campaign. They went above and beyond to make sure people remembered them. They even performed their own choreographic rendition of the music video “Thriller” by Michael Jackson. Ultimately, Jones enjoyed the process and was grateful to be recognized for his hard work and sacrifices.
Out of all his experiences at SVSU, being part of the Valley Voices Gospel Choir has impacted him the most. He has thought of the choir members as his family away from home. As president, Jones was responsible for teaching the music, managing the choir and making sure everyone felt they were in a safe place to worship and share their stories. The members of the choir pushed him to grow in his faith and as a leader, and supported him throughout his journey.
As Jones looks back on his experiences at SVSU, he is most grateful for the people he’s met at SVSU. He refers to his support group as his “chocolate chips,” and he claims that they have made him the person he is today. He hopes he has been able to impact people the way he has been impacted.
“If I had an impact on at least one person at SVSU, my job was fulfilled,” he said.
High School: Freeland
Future: graduate student, SVSU, Master of Arts in Public Administration
Lending a helping hand to the community has been at the core of Riley Hupfer’s character throughout his time at SVSU.
Hupfer, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communication in May, has a strong passion for helping those in need. He has demonstrated this through his contributions to several service projects including those for Habitat for Humanity and other non-profits.
“Very few individuals in our society today possess the kind of passion for serving others, and genuine interest in the 'common good' like Riley does,” said Bryan Crainer, SVSU associate dean of student life and leadership programs.
“Those of us that have been in Student Life throughout Riley's college career have been fortunate to watch him grow into a true student leader.”
Hupfer was involved with community service growing up but became intensively involved upon his arrival to SVSU.
“I’ve adopted a mindset that we’re all here together, so let’s work together. If you are privileged or able to give, you should,” he said.
Standing prominently among his list of accomplishments at SVSU is organizing the “Cardboard City” event. The purpose of this event was to raise awareness about homelessness. Students watched the documentary “Living on One Dollar,” and afterwards, slept outside in cardboard boxes. Hupfer facilitated the planning and execution of the event, spending countless hours collecting cardboard boxes and spreading the word.
“Sleeping outside was really uncomfortable,” he said. “Being in the shoes of someone who does it every day was a great experience. I’ll never really know what it’s like to be homeless, but it gave me a new perspective and a higher degree of understanding.”
When asked about the origin of his generous and caring spirit, the Freeland native shared that he was fortunate enough to develop a relationship with an autistic student from Freeland High School. This connection offered him a new perspective and helped him to recognize that people need others to lean on.
Through Alternative Breaks, a student organization that sends students to volunteer across the U.S. during winter and spring breaks, Hupfer has joined seven Habitat for Humanity efforts. He will participate in an eighth service project when he visits Alaska after graduation.
What's next for Hupfer? He is enrolled as a graduate student at SVSU, where he will study in the university's Master's of Arts in Public Administration program in the program's student affairs track. Eventually, Hupfer hopes to seek a job in a university office that works closely with students.
Hupfer is also part of an alternative rock band—called Last Night Saved My Life—with four of his friends from his hometown. They have been playing together since fall of 2010 and have dreams of making it big.
Aside from his band’s success, Hupfer is proud of all that he has accomplished at SVSU and is excited and prepared for what the future holds.
“I’ve learned to be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time it has led me to bettering myself.”
High school: Bishop Foley Catholic
Major: mechanical engineering
Future: product engineer, Elkringer North America
Heading into a profession that is over 75 percent dominated by males is just one more challenge for Megan VanFleteren to overcome.
The mechanical engineering major and Foundation Scholar from Troy has learned to adapt and persevere in the face of adversity, and does so with a positive attitude.
“Yes, it was intimidating at first. There were times I felt overwhelmed, but in engineering, if you’re not stressed, you’re not doing it right,” she said.
VanFleteren collaborated on her senior project with a team of mechanical engineering students. They worked with B&P Process Equipment in downtown Saginaw to help the company separate two types of movement in a commercial mixer. The group has been able to get hands-on experience sitting down with the client, finding out what their needs are and figuring out how to solve their problems.
“Megan has proven that she can effectively perform the necessary engineering duties, is very thorough with great attention to detail, and will follow up to ensure she is meeting all expectations,” said Brian Fitz, engineering supervisor at B&P Process Equipment.
“It has been a pleasure working with Megan and I would recommend her for anyone seeking a well-rounded engineer.”
VanFleteren recently accepted a position as a product engineer at Elkringer North America in Canton, Michigan. Her experiences at SVSU have shown her that she doesn’t want to sit behind a desk all day making models. She would prefer to meet face-to-face with customers to address their needs.
VanFleteren’s determination in the classroom is complimented by her enthusiasm and pride for SVSU.
“Megan is a good student and has always performed well in class. Her strong passion for SVSU sets her apart,” said Brooks Byam, professor of mechanical engineering.
As a freshman, Megan was inspired to get involved on campus by her sister Emily VanFleteren, who graduated last year and is a teacher at Swan Valley Middle School, near Saginaw. Emily was a familiar face on campus to most students, faculty, and staff, which helped open a lot of doors for her sister, but also cast a sizable shadow.
“While we are both very similar, our programs of study are very different,” Megan VanFleteren said. “We were involved in a lot of the same things, but I was able to develop my own leadership style and make my own path.”
Megan’s involvement with the student organization Forever Red has been the most rewarding experience for her at SVSU. She was able to grow professionally and polish her leadership skills as well as network with many influential community leaders. She loved being able to work with students who were likeminded in their quest to serve as a liaison between the student body, and SVSU faculty and alumni.
Forever Red led Megan to her first internship. At a networking event, she made a connection with a man who worked at Control Power Company. Luck would have it that his wife attended Bishop Foley High School, the same small Catholic school in Madison Heights where VanFleteren graduated in 2012. She was able to learn a lot during her internship and loved being thrown into an environment where she was able to observe the electrical power industry firsthand.
Staying involved with SVSU after graduation is very important to her. She wants to create a bond with the students just as the alumni did with her. VanFleteren hopes to be successful enough in her field that she is asked to come back for the Dinner with 50 event that invites 50 alumni to have dinner with 50 students.
“Getting involved on campus has been my favorite part, has made me love SVSU as much as I do, and has made me the person I am today,” she said. “I hope that everyone who comes here has the same feelings about SVSU that I do.”
High school: Lapeer East High School
Major: Economics and Applied Mathematics
Future: University of Oregon, Ph.D. in Economics
Jenni Putz enjoys a challenge. Her research record is extraordinary for an undergraduate, and one of those research interests resulted from challenging herself to step outside of her comfort zone. Far outside.
Her first experience on a plane came in 2015 on a trip all the way to India, and the flight included hitting bad pockets of air turbulence.
“It was really interesting,” the Lapeer native said, a hint of sarcastic humor in her tone. “And when we got to India, it was quite the culture shock. Quite the culture shock.”
The Saginaw Valley State University student, though, traveled with a dozen classmates and three professors as part of a 10-day study abroad trip to explore how India’s businesses operated. With an academic spirit in mind and supportive, familiar faces by her side, Putz overcame those initial anxieties and enjoyed one of the defining experiences of her life.
“That was a great opportunity SVSU provided,” she said. “It seemed like SVSU went by so fast. Part of me wishes I could stay another year.”
Putz graduated in May 2017. A first-generation college student, she completed bachelor’s degrees in economics and applied mathematics in four years, capping off a list of accomplishments that included a research portfolio that rivals many doctoral students.
One of those projects involved her experience in India. Putz researched the benefits of short-term study abroad programs with Kaustav Misra, SVSU?associate professor of economics.
Misra said he enjoyed watching Putz develop as a researcher.
“She has excellent interpersonal skills, a hard-working attitude and strong work ethic, which will definitely help her in the long run,” Misra said. “She has transformed and developed professionally at SVSU. I think she took every single piece of advice she was given by her professors during her undergraduate work.”
Their research found students’ participation in a short-term study abroad program had a positive correlation with influencing their career aspirations and leadership skills. Putz presented her initial findings at the Academy of Economics and Finance Conference in Pensacola Beach, Florida in February 2016.
“There weren’t many undergraduate students at the conference, and they were all in one session, while I presented to a group of people who were all professors,” she said. “It was really scary at first, but it was a really interesting experience to present to people who have been doing this for years and whose job is to do research.”
In India, she observed various foreign and international businesses such as Amazon and pharmaceutical companies.
“I had the time of my life,” she said. “I thought it was a very valuable experience and I’d love to study abroad again. It had a huge impact on my life and I’m really glad my research is connected to that, which makes it mean that much more.”
Putz also presented her research at an undergraduate conference at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, where her paper took third place among 16 competitors.
Not satisfied with a single research interest, Putz later began examining early college initiatives, where high school students can enroll in programs to earn college credit. She presented on that study in Washington, D.C. in November 2016.
During that same month, through her participation in SVSU’s honors program, Putz presented her honors thesis on a third research interest: income inequality. She previously presented those findings at an international conference in Portland, Maine, where she won an award for her work.
“I’m still very much into income inequality research right now,” she said. “I’m planning on studying public economics: How the government allocates resources such as health insurance. It’s an important field nowadays.”
Putz plans to continue that research in August when she will enroll at the University Oregon on her way to a Ph.D. in economics.
“Hopefully that (income inequality research) can turn into something I can write my dissertation on or work with faculty on something else pertaining to income inequality,” she said. “I feel like the things I’m doing my research on are valuable to a larger pool of knowledge.”
Eventually, she hopes to teach economics at the college level. Misra said Putz has the necessary skills to excel in the profession.
“Jenni’s interest in economics, passion for research and ultra-levels of patience for her students will definitely make her a great professor of economics,” Misra said. “Students like Jenni are putting SVSU on the map.”
Maps are something Putz has become more familiar with. Thanks in part to her flight to India, Putz said she’s ready for her next plane ride to Oregon. Living so far from home, though, will offer another new adventure.
“I’ve never lived anywhere other than Lapeer and Saginaw, so I’m definitely a little anxious about that,” she said, “but it should be another exciting learning experience.”
A student employee from Saginaw Valley State University was recognized as the top student employee in Michigan.
Zach Metiva, a computer science major from Standish, was selected by the Midwest Association of Student Employment Administrators as the 2016 Student Employee of the Year for the state of Michigan.
“With my experience at Web Communications, I was exposed to real world experiences that allowed me to progress my skills as a software developer,” Metiva said. “I was also faced with many different challenges everyday. This allowed me to become more proficient in meeting client deadlines as well as accepting feedback to allow for desired changes.”
Metiva received a congratulatory letter, a check for $75 and a certificate honoring his accomplishment.
SVSU supervisors Holly LaRose-Roenicke and Jason Swackhamer nominated Metiva, who was then selected to represent SVSU for the competition. Metiva had worked as a student employee in SVSU’s University Communications and Web Communications departments since May 2014. In their nominating letter, Larose-Roenicke and Swackhamer cited Metiva’s work ethic as one of his leading qualifications.
“Zach conducts himself with a high level of professionalism,” the letter reads. “He is easy to work with, accommodating and is appreciative to be on a team. He gets along well with anyone- from top level administrators, to his peers.”
Metiva has worked extensively on creating pages for multiple SVSU websites such as the mySVSU portal using the program Microsoft Sharepoint. He also created a 120-document Human Resources library for SVSU employee use.
Upon graduating in May, Metiva will begin working full-time as a web developer for Rehmann, a financial services firm in Saginaw.
Two Saginaw Valley State University students have been awarded scholarships to attend a national conference in June.
Mallory Rivard, an elementary education major from Bay City, and Mikaela Ashton, a management major from Grayling, were each given scholarships from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and the AAUW Midland Branch to attend the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders. The conference will be held at the University of Maryland June 2-4.
Both recipients earned the awards with strong academic and volunteer backgrounds.
Rivard has served as a program director for the Youth Volunteer Corps of Bay City, the SVSU Dean's List and the Foundation Scholars Program. She has also been a member of National Society of Leadership and Success and the SVSU Lions Club, and as the current Miss Saginaw County 2016.
Like Rivard, Ashton has had numerous work experiences that have honed her desire to excel in leadership roles. In addition, she is a member of Alpha Phi Omega, a local service fraternity that focuses on projects in Saginaw, Bay City and the SVSU campus.
The National Conference for College Women Student Leaders, attended by more than 1,000 young women, will offer the opportunity to be inspired by women in leadership roles, to honor Women of Distinction, to attend workshops offering leadership skills, to network with young women from across the country, and to explore Washington, D.C.
AAUW advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research. There are AAUW branches in Midland, Saginaw, and Bay City.
Two students from Central Michigan University, Delta College, Northwood University or SVSU are awarded with the scholarships from AAUW each year.
SVSU has been represented frequently at the national conference, with Kimberly Salwey attending in 2015 and Bethany Thrun attending in 2014.
Saginaw Valley State University has established a new scholarship to provide additional financial support for students who reside within the Saginaw Promise zone. The Saginaw Urban and Civic Partnership Scholarship will provide up to $3,000 annually for up to 10 students who meet the criteria and attend SVSU. The scholarships are renewable for up to four years.
President Don Bachand announced SVSU’s commitment to the Saginaw community during his keynote address at the Saginaw Promise luncheon Tuesday, April 26 at the Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy.
“Saginaw is important to us,” Bachand said. “The young people in Saginaw are especially important to us. We want to work more closely with the Saginaw Promise and other groups locally to provide opportunities for lifelong education. Our future depends on it.”
Workforce data by the Lumina Foundation shows that by 2025, 60 percent of jobs in Michigan will require a college degree or postsecondary certificate. Only 33 percent of Saginaw County residents currently have completed at least an associate’s degree.
Students who receive the scholarship will be expected to engage in one or more service projects aimed at encouraging students within Saginaw Public Schools to pursue higher education.
SVSU will begin awarding the scholarships for students enrolling in the 2016-17 academic year.
The Saginaw Promise provides scholarships for eligible students who reside in the City of Saginaw, Zilwaukee, Kochville Township and the portion of Buena Vista Township designated to the Saginaw Public School District. For more information, visit www.saginawpromise.org.
SVSU is nationally recognized for its commitment to community engagement.
In 2015, SVSU received the Community Engagement classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, a distinction achieved by only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities. By their senior year, 84 percent of students have engaged with community employers and agencies in internships, field placements or some other component of their academic preparation.
National research has shown that students who are engaged in the community and on campus are more likely to be successful academically, and to have the critical thinking, problem-solving skills, self-efficacy, and adaptability desired by employers.
The graduating class consists of 990 individuals expected to complete degree requirements who have indicated that they intend to don regalia and march in their respective ceremonies. In all, SVSU will welcome nearly 1,100 people to its alumni rolls, as 937 students are expected to complete bachelor’s degrees and 158 are expected to complete master’s and advanced degrees.
Commencement exercises for graduates in the colleges of Business & Management and Health & Human Services will be held Friday evening. Students completing degrees in the colleges of Arts & Behavioral Sciences, Education, and Science, Engineering & Technology will take part in the ceremony scheduled for Saturday morning.
As is tradition, SVSU President Donald Bachand will congratulate each graduate in both ceremonies as he or she crosses the stage.
Fifer serves as president and CEO of the Healthcare Financial Management Association, a national organization with offices in suburban Chicago and Washington, D.C. He completed a bachelor’s degree in business administration at SVSU in 1982.
The association provides the resources healthcare organizations need to achieve sound fiscal health in order to provide excellent patient care. With more than 40,000 members, it is the nation's leading membership organization of healthcare finance executives and leaders. Working with a broad cross-section of stakeholders, the association identifies gaps throughout the healthcare delivery system and bridges them through the establishment and sharing of knowledge and best practices.
Prior to assuming his current position in 2012, Fifer spent 11 years as vice president of hospital finance at Spectrum Health, in Grand Rapids, Mich. He also spent time with McLaren Health Care Corporation in Flint, as vice president of finance; and at Ingham Regional Medical Center in Lansing, as senior vice president of finance and chief financial officer. Fifer started his career with nine years at Ernst and Young, also in Michigan.
Fifer served as Chair of the Healthcare Financial Management Association Board of Directors in 2006-07. An association member since 1983, he also served as a chapter president and for two terms as a board member. A Fellow of HFMA and a CPA, Fifer is an active community volunteer and runner.
SVSU students to present "Saginaw Revitalization: Drawing on Our Different Strengths"
Thursday, April 21, 5:30 to 8 p.m.
Dow Event Center, downtown Saginaw
Saginaw Valley State University students in the disciplines of business, art, theatre and sociology will share their ideas for advancing the revitalization underway in downtown Saginaw during a special program Thursday, April 21 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Dow Event Center.
These students have devoted a semester to developing strategies for urban redevelopment. One visible reminder of past programs is the 50-foot-tall mural - titled “I Just Like To Make Marks” - affixed along the exterior of the Dow Event Center's parking garage.
In addition to exploring revitalization, community outreach has included SVSU working with the First Ward Community Center in Saginaw to bring students in the center’s after-school programs to campus for art and theatre workshops. The United Way of Saginaw County and Saginaw High School also are partners in the project.
In addition to the presentations, SVSU will honor Charles McNair with the 2016 B.A.T.S. award for Excellence in Community Service. He is a long-time educator for Saginaw Public Schools, and the primary coordinator of the Saginaw African American Cultural Festival.
Saginaw Valley State University recognized six outstanding K-12 employees during SVSU’s first-ever Heroes in Education awards ceremony April 13.
SVSU’s student-led College of Education Leadership Team presented the awards to a mix of teachers, custodians and cooks who made a difference in the lives of students from across Michigan.
“The future of Michigan depends on our children receiving excellent education to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world,” said Craig Douglas, dean of the College of Education. “We are fortunate to have so many individuals at all levels of education determined to see students succeed through their committed service and inspirational examples, and we at SVSU are proud to recognize them for their vital work.”
The recipients are:
• Charles Arnett, a music teacher from Chandler Park Academy, an SVSU-authorized charter school in Harper Woods. Evelyn Shropshire, a building administrator at the academy, said Arnett built the academy’s music program from scratch, applying for grants and using his own hands to construct acoustic-friendly music rooms within the building.
• Sally Burkey, an assistant cook from Freeland High School. Nominators explained that Burkey is a favorite of the students. She recently took the initiative to pack breakfasts daily for a middle school student too shy to come to the cafeteria. After weeks of encouragement, the student began to sit with classmates in the cafeteria.
• Scott Garcia, a custodian from Genesee STEM Academy, an SVSU-authorized charter school in Flint. Rita Cheek, the school’s principal, said Garcia performs beyond the call of duty. “He covers the maintenance, security, student supervision, barbecue chef, motivator and any other task that needs to be completed,” Cheek said.
• Katie Jenkins, a teacher from Carrie Knause Early Childhood Learning Center in St. Louis, Michigan. Jenkins recently battled breast cancer and her mother died. “Despite her loss and heartbreak, she came to work every day and focused on her students and their needs,” said Theresa Vance, a kindergarten teacher at the institution. “She would leave an hour early every other Thursday for chemo treatments but be right back to work the very next day.”
• Gary Karney, a teacher from List Elementary School in Frankenmuth. Nominators said Karney worked hard to engage with students. He often arrived to school early, stayed late, volunteered as a tutor, and worked on weekends. He was credited with helping a special needs student concentrate in class by building the student a desk-sized replica of “his favorite thing:” The Titanic.
• Kathryn Layer, a teacher from Great Beginnings Christian Childcare and Kindergarten in Saginaw. Nominators touted Layer’s efforts to involve her students in service learning activities that included visits to local nursing homes, where classmates read to the elderly and provided company. Layer also was recognized for her work with autistic students at the institution.
The six were selected from among 86 educators statewide nominated for the award.
Douglas says the awards ceremony will become an annual tradition to highlight employees in the education industry who make a difference.