You could say Tommy Wedge has been preparing for this moment since the day he first opened the pages of “A Raisin in the Sun” while in high school. The Lorraine Hansberry classic has informed every play written in the last six decades, said Wedge, now an experienced theatre professional.
Still, the celebrated story of a struggling black family in 1950s Chicago continues to surprise Wedge even today as he prepares to direct an adaptation for the stage at Saginaw Valley State University.
“This is a play that touches on race, and here I am, a white man from South Dakota, directing this pillar of black literature,” Wedge said. “It’s been a wonderful learning experience for me, trying to honor that.”
The adjunct instructor of theatre said the time was right for SVSU to host “one of the best plays of the last 60 years.”
“We have such a talented pool of actors of color,” Wedge said of the production's largely black cast. “We have some fun things in mind for lighting and the setting, but a lot of this production is going to showcase the very realistic and naturalistic elements of the play. This is a daunting play to produce because it’s so richly-written, but the cast members are really showing their acting gifts.”
Donté Green, a theatre major from Detroit, will play the lead, Walter Lee Younger, the patriarch of the black family featured in “A Raisin in the Sun.”
“He brings a lot of gravitas and confidence to the role,” Wedge said of Green, whose previous SVSU roles include Cassio in “Othello” and Brom Bones in “Sleepy Hollow.”
Walter Lee Younger was perhaps most famously portrayed by Sidney Poitier, who was cast both in the Broadway production from 1959 to 1960 as well as the 1961 Hollywood film.
“It was an extremely popular play, and the first black play that really punctured the American experience,” Wedge said of Hansberry's tale. “It was universally popular for all audiences.”
The plot follows members of the Younger family as they clash with racial politics — and each other — after being offered a substantial sum of money to sell their home in an effort to ease the anxieties of white neighbors.
“It’s a serious play but it has some very lighthearted moments too,” Wedge said. “It’s about the journey of a family. No matter what your experience, you’ll be able to identify with the story and enjoy it.”
While Wedge has never been involved in a production of “A Raisin in the Sun” before, he is familiar with the play’s world. In spring 2015 at Saginaw-based Pit & Balcony Theatre, he directed an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Clybourne Park,” which takes place in the formerly all-white neighborhood where the Younger family lived 50 years earlier.
Both plays are challenging, sometimes uncomfortable character studies that allow Wedge and his cast to explore — and learn — more about the human experience, he said.
“During rehearsals, there have been a lot of moments where I’m helping the cast try to find these truthful moments they can capture,” Wedge said. “They’re learning a lot about themselves and I’m learning a lot about myself as a director. It’s been a pleasure being part of that.”
Wedge hopes audiences are similarly pleased after the curtains open for “A Raisin in the Sun” during showings at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, Nov. 16-19, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20, in SVSU’s Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. Tickets are $13 for the general public and $10 for students or attendees 60 or older.
For more information or to order tickets, contact the SVSU box office at (989) 964-4261. Click here to purchase tickets online.
Saginaw Valley State University recently drew national attention for its students’ dedication to helping their fellow students financially.
Eliza Lanway, a communication major from Gaylord and the current Student Life Program Board coordinator at SVSU, spoke at the National Association for Campus Activities Conference Thursday, Oct. 27 in Covington, Kentucky.
Lanway presented the new and improved program plan for SVSU's annual Streetfest event at the national conference.
Traditionally, Streetfest has been a day of fun for SVSU students to relieve stress as they prepared to take final exams. During Streetfest 2016 this past April, students also raised money to benefit Forever Red's Student Giving Campaign, which ultimately provides scholarships to SVSU students.
Tony Cianciolo, SVSU assistant director for Student Life, said that Lanway was one of the students leading the charge for change.
“Eliza had an immense drive to change SVSU's already very successful Streetfest from a purely entertainment-focused event to adding a whole new side to the event,” he said.
Cianciolo added that Lanway's ultimate goal was to make the event about fundraising for student success.
Program Board reached out to local businesses and other campus organizations seeking sponsorships. Sponsors’ business names and logos were placed on lawn signs as well as Streetfest t-shirts. The idea was to preserve the integrity of the event while also giving it a new purpose.
Because of her involvement in the communication program at SVSU as well as experiential learning through Student Life, Lanway was well-prepared for her speech at the conference.
“I feel a lot more comfortable leading meetings, setting up programs for other people – things like that,” she said. “I really appreciate having those skills now.”
Lanway said she is proud to be a part of what they have accomplished, as she prepares to graduate in December.
“It's super exciting because I'm leaving it in a good place,” she said.
Streetfest 2016 was a trial run of this new structure, and set an ambitious goal of raising $12,000 through sponsorships and advertising. They raised more than $4,000 for student scholarships the first year and will work to build on that amount.
“This is a long-term growth process and that's something I wanted to relay in my presentation,” Lanway said. “We're already in the process of setting up for this year's event and selling a little bit earlier.”
Saginaw Valley State University recognized seven of its graduates and one future graduate who are excelling in their careers and improving their communities at its annual Alumni Celebration Friday, Oct.28. Five alumni were honored with the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest award presented by the SVSU Alumni Association. In addition, the Young Alumni, Veteran Alumni and Future Alumni awards were bestowed.
The Distinguished Alumni Award is presented to an SVSU graduate in recognition of distinguished service and accomplishment in any field of human endeavor that enhances the prestige of the university.
In the College of Arts & Behavioral Sciences, David Points received the 2016 Distinguished Alumnus honor. Commander David S. Points is the former Director of the Joint Information Bureau, Joint Task Force -160 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was recalled to active duty and worked as a public affairs officer on the “U.S. Navy's Napalm Outreach Team” in several states and was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal. Points completed a bachelor’s degree in 1976; he later completed a law degree and a Ph.D. His public service includes a term as a Michigan state representative. Points is currently the sole owner of Mahon Communications, Inc. which owns and operates WFJX AM, FOX Radio 910 in Roanoke, Virginia.
In the College of Business & Management, the 2016 Distinguished Alumnus award was given to John Stadwick. He began his career with General Motors in 1984 and has served in various leadership positions, including a stint as vice president of GM China; he is currently the global customer experience officer for GM. Numerous organizations and publications have recognized Stadwick for his professional accomplishments and community service. In 2013, Forbes magazine named him to its “Global Meets Local” list of top influential leaders of global corporations. Stadwick completed a bachelor's degree in business management in 1983, and was a two-time All-American member of SVSU’s national championship track and field teams in 1982 and 1983.
In the College of Education, Robert Loftus received the 2016 Distinguished Alumnus honor. He received a football scholarship to play at SVSU, and had a memorable and inspiring playing career. Loftus played for SVSU’s first football coach, the late Frank “Muddy” Waters, and was named one of the captains for the team his junior and senior year. Loftus graduated in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education. He has held teaching, coaching and administrative positions within secondary education. Currently he is the owner and president of Loftus and Associates, income development specialists for the auto industry.
In the Crystal M. Lange College of Health & Human Services, the Distinguished Alumna award was given to Sarah Fechter. Founder of Sarah Fetcher Fitness, she has helped members of the community achieve a better and healthier life. She has received multiple awards such as the Great Women of the Great Lakes Bay Region, Business of the Year in 2013, and most recently a RUBY Award. Fechter's business continues to grow and evolve; she currently employs a team of 14 including five SVSU kinesiology students. Fechter completed a bachelor’s degree in exercise science in 2007.
In the College of Science, Engineering & Technology, John Tolfa received the Distinguished Alumnus honor. Upon graduating from SVSU in 1985 with a degree in chemistry and a minor in Mathematics, Tolfa was hired by CPI Engineering Services Inc. in Midland, where he worked on research and development. In 2010, Tolfa co-founded Xaerus Performance Fluids International, a company that develops, manufactures and exports specialty lubricants around the world. Two of the senior chemists at Xaerus are SVSU alumni; he also provides internship opportunities for SVSU students. Tolfa is an inventor of several patents related to synthetic lubrication and bio-based industrial chemistries.
The Young Alumni Award recognizes an individual who has graduated within five years, contributed to student and campus life, has a strong affinity for and connection to SVSU, has been recognized for a strong work ethic, and has shown evidence of professional achievement and civic service. The 2016 recipient is Chunchun Tang, who arrived at SVSU from Shenyang, China and graduated in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in English literature. In 2013, she earned a master's of science in international education development from the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania. Tang's high skills in international exchange and cross cultural education led her to pursue an internship with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, known as UNESCO. She currently serves as director of international programs at Oxford Community Schools in Oxford, Michigan.
New in 2016 is the Veteran Alumni Award, presented to an outstanding alum who served in the military. The inaugural award's recipient is Matthew Schiebner, who graduated from SVSU with a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2004, and earned his master's degree in nursing as a nurse practitioner. He started his nursing career in the United States Air Force as a medical officer. Schiebner was presented with a company grade officer of the quarter honor for his outstanding leadership during wartime while training new recruits and caring for the active duty and veteran soldiers in the hospital setting. He is currently practicing primary care for all ages at Great Lakes Medical Center in Bay City. Additionally, Schiebner has been employed at Covenant Med Express since 2011, where he provides his services in an urgent care setting.
The Future Alumni Award is presented to an SVSU student of junior or senior class standing who meets the same criteria as the Young Alumni award. The 2016 recipient is George Copeland, a business administration major and communication minor from Southfield who is expected to graduate in December. While at SVSU, Copeland has served as a resident assistant in M.J. Brandimore House, and has been an active member of several student organizations. Copeland is also the youth pastor for The Nations Church in Saginaw, where he strives to help people reach their goals and fulfill their purposes.
Saginaw Valley State University students showed their passion to help their community. The streak continues.
For the ninth consecutive year, SVSU won the annual week-long Battle of the Valleys fundraising competition with Grand Valley State University.
“I’m so impressed with the dedication everyone showed all week long during this fundraiser,” said Samantha McKenzie, whose nonprofit benefited from SVSU’s $26,000.25 in collections. “Everyone did a fantastic job.”
McKenzie, president and CEO of Hidden Harvest, said the funds will support her Saginaw-based organization's mission of supplying Great Lakes Bay food pantries while also helping it develop a partnership with the Diaper Alliance, a Midland-based nonprofit that provides diapers to families in need.
“Student and community support like this makes our big goals and aspirations seem possible,” McKenzie said.
The competition kicked off Sunday, Oct. 30 and concluded when the collection totals were announced at halftime of the football game between SVSU and GVSU Saturday, Nov. 5 at SVSU’s Harvey Randall Wickes Memorial Stadium.
Emma Eldred, an SVSU nursing major from Lake Isabella and the philanthropy chairperson for the SVSU Student Association, wept for joy when she learned her university’s inspired effort would preserve a prized bragging right.
“It was a great feeling,” Eldred said. “So much work went into that effort.”
Battle of the Valleys 2016 was “one of the most rewarding” — and most challenging — experiences of Eldred’s life. Along with coordinating the initiative’s daily lineup of events, she also had a demanding week academically with two exams and nursing clinical placements, in addition to regular classes.
“Luckily, I had so much help from my committee and friends on Battle of the Valleys,” she said. “It was all worth it.”
Over the 14-year history of Battle of the Valleys, SVSU students have now supported community causes with a combined $357,329 in donations.
This year, GVSU students raised $17,000 for Laker Children’s Fund, a nonprofit that awards grants for Kent and Ottawa county-based organizations specializing in childhood health programs. In total, the two universities have collected $552,150 since 2003.
Saginaw Valley State University student tutors demonstrated dedication to support aspiring writers during a creative writing workshop for 12 students for students from Bad Axe and Merrill high schools Friday, Oct. 28.
Two tutors from SVSU’s Writing Center, Victoria Phelps, a literature major from Rochester Hills, and Brianna Rivet, a creative writing major from Bay City, facilitated the workshop.
Chris Giroux, SVSU associate professor of English, worked with the pair to submit a grant proposal, “The Prose Project: A Service-Learning Opportunity Uniting Writing Center Tutors and Area High School Students,” that was approved for funding by the SVSU Foundation.
In June, Giroux, Phelps and Rivet attended a week-long writers’ workshop held at the Interlochen School for the Performing Arts, providing an opportunity to engage with and learn from creative writers, who inspired them to create this workshop.
After months of studying and researching, Phelps and Rivet combined their creativity and determination to develop a the day-long workshop, focused on the writing of fiction, specifically for rural high school students. They partnered with high school teachers Stephanie Anderson of Bad Axe and Allison Jordan of Merrill, both of whom are active participants in the National Writing Project.
The SVSU students plan to collect some of the high school students' work in the next weeks to keep up with their progress. The materials and lesson plans created by Phelps and Rivet will also be shared with the tutors who staff the Saginaw Community Writing Center, located at Butman-Fish Library in Saginaw.
The Saginaw Valley State University International Student Club is hosting its annual International Food Festival Tuesday, Nov. 8 in the Marketplace at Doan cafeteria on the campus of SVSU. The public is invited.
SVSU international students are expected to welcome some 2,000 attendees and invite them to taste cuisine from 14 countries on four continents, as students from those regions prepare dishes from their native cultures.
Students, faculty, and staff from across the globe will partner with SVSU Dining Services to cook for the public. Among the nations represented will be China, Costa Rica, France, India, Japan, Nepal, and Taiwan.
Featured dishes inclue French “Camembert,” a potato wrapped in bacon; “Okonomiyaki,” a Japanese-style pizza; Chinese ham fried rice and lotus seed soup; and Taiwanese boba milk tea as well as marbled tea eggs.
The International Food Festival rums from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The cost is $8.75 per person for the public; SVSU students may use their meal card.
Based on past attendance, about 2,000 diners are expected to attend. The cafeteria will be decorated with flags and banners from the different cultures represented.
More than 700 international students attend SVSU.
For more information on the food festival, contact Zach Myers, marketing manager for SVSU Dining Services, at (989) 964-2118 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Samantha McKenzie’s earliest memories include helping her grandmother deliver food from their Kingston church to elderly parishioners who weren’t able to attend Sunday services.
Emma Eldred, a Saginaw Valley State University student who hails from Lake Isabella, has similar childhood memories of helping her church provide food for the needy.
The two women will share another commonality soon: Both are dedicating their time to encourage contributions to an annual fundraising competition between SVSU and Grand Valley State University to put more food on the plates of needy families in the Great Lakes Bay Region.
“Battle of the Valleys is such an important event,” said McKenzie, president and chief executive officer of Saginaw-based Hidden Harvest. “It’s amazing to see what the students at SVSU are able to accomplish.”
This marks the 14th consecutive year SVSU and GVSU students have competed to raise more funds for their respective charity. Each university annually selects its own respective charity partner. In addition to supporting a community cause, the winning university earns a year’s worth of bragging rights and the right to display a 3-foot-tall trophy affectionately known as “Victoria.” That trophy has remained on SVSU’s campus for eight consecutive years.
McKenzie hopes to help extend that streak into 2017. Her organization, a nonprofit that provides food for pantries and kitchens across the Great Lakes Bay Region, is SVSU’s charity partner for this year’s Battle of the Valleys competition, which spans the week beginning Sunday, Oct. 30.
“SVSU is definitely going to win it,” said McKenzie, a 2005 SVSU graduate. “Definitely.”
Eldred hopes McKenzie’s prediction pans out. Eldred serves as philanthropy chairperson for the upcoming contest. For nearly a year, the SVSU nursing major has planned for the 2016 Battle of the Valleys week, which involves a daily lineup of coordinated collection efforts and fun activities on campus.
“As any normal chair would be, I’m very nervous,” she said. “It’s going to be a busy week. I have high goals.”
Eldred’s predecessors have set a high standard. SVSU and GVSU have raised a combined $508,819 since the competition began in 2003. SVSU has collected $331,329 of that total, which includes last year’s $24,540 intake. The school’s largest collection was $47,278 for Bay and Saginaw county chapters of Habitat for Humanity in 2008. SVSU has eclipsed $10,000 every year except the first Battle of the Valleys.
McKenzie remembers that inaugural campaign from when she was an undergraduate.
“It was a fledgling operation at the time, but the excitement on campus for this event already was there,” she said. “It’s amazing to see how it’s grown. Not surprising, though.”
McKenzie said SVSU students are a community-minded bunch. Even outside of the Battle of the Valleys competition, students have contributed mightily to Hidden Harvest over the years. Her organization’s records show a number of SVSU student donation drives over the years have resulted in the collection of 19,000 lbs. of canned goods for Hidden Harvest. In addition, SVSU Dining Services has contributed 122,707 lbs. of food to the nonprofit since 2000.
“It’s been a great partnership,” McKenzie said. “I’m very proud to be a Cardinal.”
The winner of this year’s Battle of the Valleys contest will be announced during halftime of the football game between SVSU and GVSU, which kicks off at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5 at SVSU’s Harvey Randall Wickes Memorial Stadium.
For a complete schedule of Battle of the Valleys events, visit www.svsu.edu/battleofthevalleys/.
A black top hat balanced on his raised right leg, Wallace Goodridge rests his left forearm atop the same wooden easel where his brother, William Goodridge, is perched in a similar pose, inches away. Together, in the Saginaw photo studio they own, the siblings stare forward at the camera. Each awaits the telltale signs that indicate a photograph has been taken. Prop foliage surrounds them. A canvas in the background portrays a painted wooded landscape. A Dalmatian rests lazily at their feet. The easel between the brothers hoists a sign, and it bears a message:
“1879 Happy New Year To All.”
Wallace and William Goodridge are not alive now, to say the least. They died more than a century ago. Yet the nearly 140-year-old photograph that froze their moment in time together in 1879 breathes with life today.
For one, their late-19th century camerawork produced an image stunningly vivid in detail, allowing modern eyes to see its story told in past or present tense. Secondly, the story of this particular family in this particular portrait carries historical significance that endures to this day. Historians have chased this story. They still are.
John Jezierksi began his chase decades ago. The effort landed a copy of the New Year’s Eve photograph — along with dozens of other compelling pictures produced by the Goodridge brothers — in the secured archive room on the first floor of SVSU’s Zahnow Library. There, the university serves as a steward to a legacy that touches on Saginaw history, photography history, black history, and American history, all at once.
Jezierski, who retired in 2006 as an SVSU professor of history, recognized the power of the Goodridge brothers’ legacy almost immediately upon arriving in the region in 1970 to begin his career with the faculty. While teaching and researching Michigan history, he was exposed to images of Saginaw and its people, dating back to the community’s booming white pine lumber industry days. Many of those pictures were credited to the Goodridge brothers, who successfully operated as professional photographers from 1847 to 1922.
“I kept coming across these photographs linked to this one family, but there wasn’t a whole lot of information about them,” says Jezierski, who lives in Portland today. “Their photographs were so compelling. I had to know more.”
So he spent years reading through newspaper articles about the siblings while researching their photo collection. Jezierski then wrote a biography on the brothers, “Enterprising Images,” published in 2000.
The 368-page book chronicles the 75-year span of their photography businesses, which began with a third brother in their hometown of York, Pennsylvania, and continued in the Saginaw region in 1863, when Wallace and William Goodridge relocated there. “Enterprising Images” also highlights their international acclaim, which included the inclusion of their photography in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s exhibit at the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris.
“Their work was significant on many levels,” Jezierski says.
For one, photography was in its infancy when the Goodridges opened up shop in 1847. The earliest known photograph to include people was produced less than a decade earlier. So the Goodridges weren’t simply creating the first photos in their communities’ history. They were creating some of the first photographs of communities in history.
What made this feat especially impressive was the color of their skin. They were a black family that began operating a successful company 18 years before the U.S. Congress passed the 13th Amendment, which freed black slaves across the country.
The Goodridges avoided enslavement. They were born to the free son of a black slave woman and a white man, and lived in northern states that abolished slavery decades before the amendment did so nationally. Regardless, racial divides remained wide and violent during the years the brothers prospered. The final Goodridge photo, after all, was produced nearly a half-century before the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
“They managed to succeed in a very difficult world,” Jezierski says. “They did it without emphasizing their heritage. Many early black photographers photographed black people and culture. The Goodridge brothers succeeded by serving the white community, too.”
Still, the siblings contributed substantially to a movement meant to humanize blacks at a time when blacks often were treated as less than human, says Deborah Willis, an award-winning author considered one of the nation’s leading historians on black photography.
Willis, chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, first researched the Goodridge brothers in the 1970s. In their images of black families, she recognized an answer to a call for action from Frederick Douglass, a slave-turned-social reformer and one of the most influential black voices of the 19th century.
At the time, many photographs portrayed blacks poorly, sometimes in images where they posed while performing slave work or stealing from whites. Douglass, concerned about how such imagery was influencing the nation’s perception of blacks, called on blacks to “arm themselves in the war of images,” Willis says.
“Frederick Douglass believed photography was biography, and if you look at a photograph, you can see a person’s character,” she says.
The Goodridge brothers’ photos of blacks — including their self-portraits — showed them in the same dignified manner displayed in many photos of whites at the time.
“You found real joy in those images; a real understanding of the importance of family life, and the importance of documenting it,” Willis says.
“When they began to take pictures of themselves and put them into photo albums to show to their family members, that’s a real light bulb, ‘ah-ha’ moment where you understand a representational system in action.”
These days, Rose San Miguel oversees the Goodridge catalog in Zahnow Library. Occasionally, the SVSU archives specialist, out of curiosity, opens the emerald green cover of the photo album that protects those images of 18th century family portraits, lumberyard scenes and early Saginaw.
“It’s fascinating to see what life was like around here back then,” the SVSU archives specialist says. “With a lot of these pictures, it’s amazing what kind of detail there is.”
The daguerreotype-style photos are copies Jezierski collected during his book research. He later donated the photos and his notes to the university archives, which house mementos of the region’s rich history as well as materials and research papers from students and faculty of the past and present.
“There’s a lot of history in this room,” San Miguel says. “It’s important that we keep these items safe and secure. It’s an important role we sometimes play for the community; preserving its history.”
Sometimes that role extends to sharing the history. New York City-based filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris used the Goodridge brothers’ work stored in Zahnow Library as part of his film, “Through A Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People.” The documentary aired on PBS in February 2015 as part of the Independent Lens film series. It remains available online and in Zahnow Library’s DVD collection.
The movie explores the role of photography in shaping the identity, aspirations and social emergence of blacks throughout history. Willis is featured in an interview, discussing the Goodridge family’s contribution to that history.
The photo of Wallace and William Goodridge on New Year’s 1879 makes an appearance in the film, too, providing imagery as Willis describes how the brothers helped open the eyes of a nation to the new world of photography and a new way of thinking about their fellow man.
Saginaw Valley State University student Erik Breidinger recently earned top honors for presenting his community-minded research on the Kawkawlin River. A communication and geography double major from Auburn, he won first place in the undergraduate paper presentation category at the American Association of Geographers East Lakes/West Lakes conference Friday, Oct. 14 at Northern Michigan University.
Breidinger presented his paper titled “Mapping land cover changes along the Kawkawlin River using object-based classification of 1938 and 2014 aerial photography.” Marty Arford, SVSU associate professor of geography, and Rhett Mohler, SVSU assistant professor of geography, traveled with him for the conference and have provided research guidance.
To conduct the necessary research addressed in the paper, Breidinger and Mohler used eCognition Developer software that employed remote sensing to gather imagery to study Earth's surface.
“It looks at how we've used the land, and how that's changed from 1938 to 2014,” Breidinger said, “using a combination of really old paper photographs and new, really high tech satellite imagery, and how we merged those together to make a map where you can instantly tell what's changed and what hasn't.”
The 15-minute presentation was followed by a question and answer session at the conference.
“The Q and A was really helpful because I'm an undergraduate, and everybody else at these conferences are usually master’s or Ph.D. students,” Breidinger said. “They always have really good questions and they kind of suggest places for me to go with the research.”
Breidinger’s research was supported through SVSU’s Saginaw Bay Environmental Science Institute and the SVSU Foundation Resource Grant program. The grants allowed Breidinger and Mohler to purchase the software package, giving SVSU students unlimited access for research purposes.
Previously, the geography department only had access to tools that broke images down into pixel. From there, they would have had to compare the pixel colors to differentiate what has changed over time from what has not. Breidinger explained that this analysis method would have made the incorporation of old black and white photography very difficult.
The new software uses a program “that doesn't rely on pixels, but breaks images into objects. So now, we can say this polygon got bigger or changed in shape,” Breidinger explained.
Following his regional honor, Breidinger will present his research paper at the national level in Boston next April. There, all winning projects from the regional competitions will congregate. Breidinger and Mohler attended the national conference last year as well, which took place in San Francisco.
Mohler, the professor, said “ the end result of this project was to create land cover maps of the Kawkawlin River watershed, and to prove that eCognition software would be able to classify land cover types in older, 1930s black and white aerial photography. Both goals were accomplished.”
Breidinger has a few more semesters to complete at SVSU. During that time, he plans to remain actively involved in research within the geography department as well as competing for SVSU’s forensics team, which he credits for much of his love for public speaking. The forensics team, advised by Amy Pierce, associate professor of communications at SVSU, competes in both state and national tournaments. Breidinger has been successful in that competition circuit too, earning several first-place finishes.
They say everyone loves a good comeback story.
And right now there’s a comeback tale playing out across the state that Craig Douglas is excited about.
Douglas, the dean of SVSU’s College of Education, said the demand for teaching jobs in Michigan is experiencing a stark rebound after years of decline. As a result, aspiring teachers who once faced an uncertain job market upon graduation now have plenty of options.
“Teaching graduates are a hot commodity right now,” Douglas said. “The market is very aggressive in Michigan and it’s happened quickly.”
Recent data supports Douglas’ claim. According to Tom Barnikow, assistant director of Career Services at SVSU, 546 teaching openings were posted in 2012 to the Cardinal Career Network, an SVSU service that tracks job openings for students and alumni. Last year, that number swelled to 849 — a 35.6 percent increase — and there is reason to believe openings will continue to grow as seasoned teachers retire or take buyouts. Some estimate nearly one-third of the teaching jobs in the state will turn over in the next few years.
“SVSU has a very good reputation of producing high-level teachers,” Barnikow said. “But with this influx of jobs in the state of Michigan, when districts come to us, we just don’t have enough people to fill them all.”
William McDonald is familiar with this demand. The Saginaw High School graduate arrived at SVSU in 2010, when demand for teachers was at its lowest. After the elementary education major graduated with a bachelor’s degree in December 2015, he had eight job offers waiting for him. Those offers came without him ever putting in a single application.
“I’m so thankful to all the faculty and staff who were so supportive of me,” said McDonald, who accepted a job this year at the Saginaw-based K-8 charter school, Francis Reh Public School Academy.
“Having all those offers when I graduated was phenomenal and it just shows what an awesome program SVSU has. Hard work and dedication pay off.”
The resurgence of teaching jobs in Michigan was, in some ways, the result of a perfect storm, experts say.
In the early 2000s, as manufacturing jobs dried up and the state’s economy slowed, the population started to decline as people left the state. According to U.S. Census Bureau counts, Michigan lost nearly 55,000 citizens between 2000 and 2010, making it the only state in the nation to decline in size during that time.
With the decline in population came a lower demand for teaching jobs, as school enrollments dropped, districts downsized and many teachers were laid off to cut costs. “You can’t find a teaching job in Michigan” became an infamous warning cry and students elected to pursue fields outside of education.
Jennifer Moeller remembered that dry spell for prospective teachers although, ultimately, she “was blessed” with a job offer within one year of earning a bachelor’s degree in education from SVSU in 2002.
“I was one of 100 applicants for some of these jobs,” she said. “In some cases, I was hand-delivering my résumés to try to get an interview. A lot of the students I graduated with, meanwhile, were leaving the state.”
Moeller was able to pay bills with the help of her husband’s salary while she waited for an opportunity locally. That opportunity arrived in 2003 when Saginaw Township Community Schools hired her. She remains there today, working as a kindergarten teacher at Hemmeter Elementary School.
“It’s very different now,” she said of the state’s K-12 job prospects. “We’re also seeing a huge need for qualified substitute teachers. When I was in school, it was hard to even find a job as a sub.”
A shift in the job market happened in the last 12 to 18 months when a stabilizing population coupled with veteran teachers stepping aside drove in-state demand to a level unmatched since the late 1990s, Douglas said. That demand is even greater given the aggressive ways other states recruit Michigan’s teaching graduates. Douglas and Barnikow said states such as Texas, Arizona and Alaska frequently recruit in Michigan, particularly at SVSU. Recent surveys indicated more than 95 percent of SVSU education graduates found full-time work or enrolled in graduate schools.
“If there is a candidate from SVSU, they do get a second look because school administrators know how much experience our graduates have,” Douglas said.
“Our program provides students with three times the amount of field experience other programs would provide, and when it comes to teaching, nothing beats experience.”
Douglas and Barnikow have now turned their attention to recruiting for the College of Education, where enrollment declined 55 percent in the last five years in part because of the earlier K-12 jobs dry spell. They’ve organized informational sessions, talked to parents at orientation and used social media to try to get the word out about the dire need for good teachers.
“The majority think the jobs aren’t there so parents tell students to go in different directions, away from teaching,” Barnikow said. “We’re trying to change the mindset from the last 10 years. There are teaching jobs in the state.”
Whether you are seeking teacher certification for the first time, renewing your certification or pursuing graduate work to take you to the next level, discover why over 11,600 teachers have chosen the nationally accredited programs at SVSU.