Saginaw Valley State University will host its inaugural student elevator pitch competition Tuesday, Dec. 1 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Curtiss Hall banquet rooms.
Students from multiple universities across the state, including SVSU, Grand Valley State University, the University of Michigan, and Michigan State University have signed up to pitch their new business ideas to a panel of judges in front of a live audience for a chance to win $1,000.
“We are excited to be hosting an event that is engaging students from such a variety of universities,” said Rama Yelkur, dean of SVSU’s College of Business and Management. “SVSU is always looking for new ways to engage students in experiences that help them develop real-life skills, and this is one of our latest efforts.”
The Dow Entrepreneurship Institute, part of SVSU’s College of Business & Management, is organizing the event, as part of a series of opportunities for students to engage in the business start-up experience.
Students will have 120 seconds to present their business idea to a panel of judges from the state's entrepreneurial ecosystem. First place is $1,000 towards the winner's business idea. Prizes are also available for second and third place, as well as an audience choice.
“As an entrepreneur, one of the biggest challenges you face is how to secure funding to bring your idea to life,” said Tom Sesti, director of the Dow Entrepreneurship Institute at SVSU.
“Entrepreneurs across the globe are regularly engaged in pitch competitions as part of their efforts to raise money. As part of our mission to stimulate the creation of new business ventures, we felt it was critical to not only offer student entrepreneurs the ability to develop their pitch skills, but to also provide real financial opportunities to fund their ideas as part of that pitch experience.”
Students seeking to register, or anyone who would like to attend the competition should contact Sesti at 989-964-6073 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Dow Entrepreneurship Institute at SVSU's College of Business & Management was funded by the Herbert H. & Grace A. Dow Foundation. The institute stimulates creation of new business ventures, serves as a resource for research activities aimed at business innovation, and provides internship opportunities with area businesses for student entrepreneurs.
A Saginaw Valley State University student has been honored by the Women's Progressive Club of Saginaw with the Hazel Jones Wright Award for Community Service. Terry Blake, a business management major from Flint, received the award in November for his service activities on campus and in the community.
A senior at SVSU, Blake said his time in college has allowed him to perform community service not only through the organizations he is part of but also out of his love for the community.
“I realized at a very young age that everyone is only a mistake away from needing these services and I choose to give my all with no regrets in every community service project I am able to do,” he said.
Blake is heavily involved on SVSU’s campus, particularly in positions that assist other students navigate college successfully. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi, and the Organization of Black Unity. Blake also serves as a campus ambassador, and he is a founding member of God’s Children of Integrity and the founder and current coordinator of the student ambassadors program in SVSU’s Office of Multicultural Services.
The Women's Progressive Club of Saginaw's objective is to uplift the moral standard, economic, ecology, religion, intellectual and cultural enrichment, education and social welfare of women. The club has been a chapter of the Michigan State Association of Colored Women's Clubs, an affiliate of the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs for more than 50 years.
Saginaw Valley State University's Concert Choir will perform in concert at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 2 in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall. The event is free and open to the public.
Kevin Simons, assistant professor of music, will direct the choir, which includes SVSU students. Emerald Joiner, a music education major from Saginaw, will serve as the concert’s assistant director. Amanda Lewis, who graduated from SVSU as a music major in 2013, will serve as the pianist and organist alongside 47 SVSU vocalists and four instrumentalists.
The concert will feature classic selections from composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Thomas Morley, as well as contemporary selections from musicians such as Dolly Parton.
For more information on this concert or the many other events hosted by SVSU's music department, visit svsu.edu/music.
If you ask assistant professors Meghan Baruth and Becca Schlaff which they like best — teaching or research — they will each answer “both” and say their ability to do both at SVSU is a big reason they are happy to be at the university.
And perhaps what they enjoy most is the active engagement of students in research. This opportunity, they argue, is experiential learning at its best, gives SVSU students a competitive edge for grad school acceptance, and enhances students’ confidence, communication and critical learning skills.
“Focus on Faculty” spoke to Baruth, assistant professor of health sciences, and Schlaff, assistant professor of kinesiology, about a recent research project they oversaw.
What prompted this research project?
MB: We have similar interests in looking at physical activity and healthy eating, so it was easy for us to get together and decide on a project that was evidence-, intervention- and community-based.
BS: Ultimately, we want to develop our own behavioral intervention program through original research. That will happen next thanks to a grant from the Allen Foundation Student/Faculty Research Grant, where we will look at developing a behavioral intervention program for pregnant women that addresses both diet and activity.
Describe the intent of the current project, “Improving Health Behaviors Among Older Adults.”
MB: We worked with inactive adults over age 50 to develop strategies that addressed eating better and exercising more.
BS: Much of the time with our participants was discussion-centered, talking about goal setting, self-monitoring and also creating an environment for social support.
How did the SVSU students benefit?
MB: Three students actually led the research. They coordinated finding participants, led measurement and education sessions, worked one-on-one with participants and entered data.
BS: I love the fact that one of the things they learned is that research isn’t perfect and there is value in failure. Our students get to be engaged and do work at the undergraduate level that is often seen at the graduate level.
We asked the three students involved with the SVSU project to discuss their experience. All noted it was Baruth and Schlaff’s passion and mentoring that gave them confidence and clarity. This put them on a well-planned path to graduate school.
Nathan Peters, 2015, B.S., is enrolled in a Ph.D. program in exercise science at the University of South Carolina. Ultimately, he hopes to perform research and teach at the college level. This is what he had to say:
Dr. Schlaff helped me see that I could do research and teaching rather than either/or, as I love them both. Dr. Baruth talked in class about her own research at University of South Carolina and it was just what I wanted. My advisor at USC said that most applications just offer basic GRE and ACT scores but my vitae read like someone with a master’s degree.
Tatum Goldufsky, 2015, B.S., is enrolled in Michigan State University’s Master of Human Nutrition with a full graduate assistantship. Goldufsky also plans to become a registered dietician, pursue a Ph.D., perform research and teach at the college level. This is what Goldufsky had to say:
I talked a lot to Dr. Baruth, who helped me see I could marry my passions for community-based health, nutrition, physical activity and teaching. Dr. Schlaff sparked my interest in MSU. Both faculty members knew I was very shy and pushed and challenged me. I am where I am because of them.
Valerie Adams, 2015, B.S., is enrolled in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Duke University. Ultimately, she plans to open a physical therapy clinic and specialize in women’s health. This is what Adams had to say:
Dr. Schlaff gave me the courage to approach her because she made it clear in class that she cared about us as people. So, after class, I introduced myself and learned we had a mutual interest in nutrition. She encouraged me in my research efforts and became my honors thesis advisor. The skills I gained from research ranged from learning to look at the big picture to communications, developing an inquisitive view, confidence, working with all members of a team and taking things in stride. For sure, these experiences helped my acceptance into Duke.
There’s a framed photo in Marcia Shannon’s office showing the assistant professor of nursing flanked by friends, the crests of Mount Everest looming in the background.
She points out that the location of the picture is exactly where, years later, someone filmed a video — viewed worldwide — of an avalanche that followed a massive earthquake in Nepal.
“That was scary to watch,” she said.
While Shannon was safe at SVSU during the spring 2015 earthquake, the disaster struck her on a personal level. She has visited the South Asian nation six times, including twice while leading a group of SVSU students on study-abroad trips.
“Nepal is very near and dear to my heart,” Shannon said. “I’ve been going there for 15 years, and I’ve developed a lot of good friendships.”
Seeing the devastation from home, Shannon decided to spearhead a fundraising campaign on campus to support disaster relief and rebuilding. In June, Shannon presented $4,875 in Nepal disaster relief funds to the American Red Cross.
“We had to do something,” she said.
Shannon’s first visit to the nation happened in 1998, when she and her husband spent their 25th wedding anniversary traveling to the base camp of Mount Everest. Most recently, she took a group of 10 SVSU students to Nepal in May 2014. They visited health care facilities, both in highly populated communities such as Kathmandu as well as rural regions. They learned about medical practices and medicines used in that part of the world, and presented studies on non-communicable diseases to audiences that included government officials and academic deans.
The learning goes both ways, Shannon said.
“It’s not just about what we bring to these trips,” she said. “There’s so much to learn from these countries, too.”
Shannon hasn’t limited her students’ study abroad experiences to Nepal. Since arriving at SVSU in 1978, she led academic expeditions to Cambodia, China, Indonesia and Vietnam.
“There’s great value to service learning and study abroad,” Shannon said. “I wish more students would take advantage of that.”
She stressed the importance of understanding other cultures even domestically, considering the growing percentage of minority populations in the United States.
“If you can’t see what others are seeing, you’re missing out,” she said. “I haven’t had a single student go on one of these trips and say, ‘I haven’t been changed.’ That’s what I want to do for students: open up the world for them.”
Saginaw Valley State University’s Cardinal marching band will perform in its 40th annual indoor concert during a send-off performance for its longtime director.
Bill Wollner, SVSU associate professor of music, will direct an ensemble of 112 student musicians Monday, Nov. 23 at 7:30 p.m. in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. Encompassing students of various academic backgrounds, the marching band performs at all home football games and other fall events on campus.
The concert will be Wollner’s last as marching band director. He is retiring in the spring after 34 years as band director.
Wollner described his feelings on his retirement and final concert as marching band director as “bittersweet.”
“We’ve worked really hard over these past 34 years, and there comes a time when you want to move on and do something different,” he said.
Wollner added that, while he’s excited for retirement, he will miss directing and the people he worked with.
“I’ve worked with some of these people for over 30 years, so that’s the part you’ll miss,” he said.
The program lineup will consist of renditions from popular songs such as Fall Out Boy’s “Centuries,” Meghan Trainor’s “Lips Are Movin,” Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” Mark Ronson's “Uptown Funk,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic,” Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” and Styx’s “The Best Of Times.”
The concert is free and open to the public. For more information on the concert, visit SVSU's Department of Music online at www.svsu.edu/music.
A group from Saginaw Valley State University will present their research paper at the 13th annual Global Conference on Business and Economics at Oxford University in England.
George Puia, SVSU’s Dow Chemical Co. Centennial Chair in Global Business, will attend the conference Nov. 22-23 with two alumni and two current students who helped him draft the paper that explores links between culture and entrepreneurial development.
“It is a great honor to present at Oxford University,” Puia said.
“It gives us the opportunity to receive feedback on our research from some truly outstanding scholars. I am also very excited that my colleagues from around the world will have the opportunity see the outstanding students that our College of Business and Management graduates. We are very proud of their work.”
Among those attending are students Zackary Gibson, a marketing major from Davison, and Heidi Hicks, a management major from Saginaw.
Two SVSU alumni also worked on the research paper: Lisa Maroni and Rosalie Stackpole. Maroni, a Royal Oak native who received a bachelor’s degree in international studies in 2010, now serves as assistant director of international recruitment and admissions at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona. Stackpole, a Trenton native who received her bachelor’s degree in marketing in May, works as a marketing project manager at Bloomfield Hills-based Flexible Plan Investments, Ltd.
The group’s paper is titled, “Indulgence, Restraint, and Within-Country Diversity: Exploring Entrepreneurial Outcomes with New Constructs.”
The Global Conference on Business and Economics is sponsored by the Oxford Journal, as well as the Association for Business and Economics Research.
George Corser’s educational background is in the modern sciences. His aspirations in academia, however, call back to ancient Greece.
The assistant professor of computer science & information systems knows well the role of technology in learning. Yet his academic ambitions are inspired by the great Greek thinkers who regularly engaged in forums of intellectual debate.
“In current times, universities are the center of intellectual activity,” Corser said. “They can provide the kinds of forums ancient Greece had. You can learn information online, but do you really think Plato, Aristotle and Socrates would have been as effective if they hadn’t met?”
Providing a 21st century intellectual forum is at the heart of Corser’s work at SVSU. His efforts extend beyond the classroom. They also involve the community.
In August, Corser was responsible for bringing a world-renowned speaker series to the campus when SVSU hosted a TED Talks event. The TED Talks series began in 1984 as a conference where “Technology, Entertainment and Design” converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.
SVSU’s TED Talks featured technology showcases and speakers discussing topics ranging from fatherhood to smartphone security. While Corser spearheaded the idea, he called on students to organize much of the one-day event.
Corser’s desire to get students engaged in learning also extends to his research interest: vehicle network privacy, which focuses on network routers installed in vehicles. The technology has obvious practical applications, but using computers to track vehicles raises privacy concerns.
“We want to learn about the boundaries,” he said. “How do you know some system administrator isn’t using this for nefarious purposes? How do we protect ourselves?”
Corser was hired at the university in 2014, but he has been familiar with the institution for years. His father — who shares his name — was an SVSU mechanical engineering professor before retiring two decades ago.
The younger Corser didn’t join SVSU to follow in his father’s footsteps, however. The university’s relaxed and open work environment appealed to him.
“I’ve never had a moment’s doubt about the decision [to teach at SVSU], and I still don’t,” he said.
Saginaw Valley State University researchers have found that family businesses in the Great Lakes Bay Region exhibit extraordinary longevity, leadership and giving. Results of the research study will be shared with the public Wednesday, Nov. 18 from 4 to 6 p.m. in SVSU’s Curtiss Hall banquet rooms.
“The family business sector in our region is even stronger and more robust than it is nationally,” said Rejeana Heinrich, associate director of the Stevens Center for Family Business at SVSU. “Because family businesses are so vital to a community's economic well-being and its quality of life, it's important to understand the characteristics of family-owned businesses here in our region.”
Rama Yelkur, dean of SVSU’s College of Business and Management, directed the research study. Key findings for family businesses in the Great Lakes Bay Region include:
• These enterprises survive longer than the average in the United States
• CEOs of family businesses serve in this leadership role longer than the national average
• The vast majority of these businesses give back to their communities with some form of philanthropy
“In recent years, a lot of data has been accumulated about family businesses in the United States, and in countries throughout the world,” Heinrich said.
About 30 percent of family businesses survive to the second generation; 12 percent make it to the third generation, and 3 to 4 percent are viable into the fourth generation and beyond.
“Family businesses here are beating those odds, as the average age of a family business in our region is 39 years, compared to 24 years nationally.”
The Nov. 18 program will feature case studies on four Great Lakes Bay Region family businesses: Alloy Construction, Amigo Mobility International, Duperon Corporation, and Glastender.
National research indicates that family businesses employ about two-thirds of the U.S. workforce; account for 65 percent of all wages paid in the U.S.; and generate 64 percent of the country's GDP.
Family business does not necessarily mean small business. About 60 percent of all public companies are family businesses, and about 34 percent of S & P 500 firms are family businesses.
This is a story about family.
Not the family one is born to. Not the kind one marries into. Not the sort one raises, either.
No, this is a story about the family one joins when first attending and then graduating from a university. And this particular story is all about the SVSU family.
It is one that includes change, a subject real to every family; a subject often difficult at first to embrace, but that soon becomes a source of invigoration, new life and opportunity to build new traditions. This family story is about moving into a new chapter that parallels the transformation of the university, the strengthening of a region and the return of alumni long absent from a place they once considered home.
Since arriving as a student at SVSU in the early 1970s, Detroit native Jim Dwyer, 1976, B.A.; 1985, M.A.T., never left this particular “home.” He was hired at the still-fledgling institution shortly after graduating and through the years has held a variety of roles. Most recently, President Don Bachand appointed Dwyer executive director of alumni relations.
The new position meant more than a job change for Dwyer. It represented a shift in the way SVSU engages its former students and helps shape a new vision rethinking how alumni can positively impact the university community.
Dwyer and a growing coalition of supporters are sold on that vision. “We want to let our alumni know that they are a very important part of the university’s strategic past, present and future,” Dwyer said. “We want them to know, ‘You’re still family.’ We want them to know, ‘We need you.’”
With new resources, staff and tactics, Alumni Relations last winter began rolling out a strategically placed welcome mat meant to invite alumni back (see sidebar on page 20 for more details on these strategies).
Whereas the department’s goals previously were tied closely to the SVSU Foundation’s initiatives — the two offices even shared a suite until recently — Bachand’s new vision tasks Alumni Relations with inspiring former students to engage with the university in ways extending beyond fund development.
Those ways include attending more campus events, serving as mentors to students, hiring them as interns, recruiting future Cardinals, and sharing stories about the SVSU experience with others.
“As we seek to advance SVSU’s reputation and draw upon those relationships that can help us recruit bright students, our alumni must be engaged with the university, serving as our ambassadors to a much greater extent and in innovative ways,” Bachand said upon announcing Alumni Relations’ new direction earlier this year.
The hope is that new direction will lead to strengthened support from the community. As noted by Bachand and echoed by Dwyer, this is of particular importance in the area of recruitment, where SVSU is navigating the challenges of a declining number of Michigan high school graduates, uncertain state appropriation levels and competition from other higher education institutions.
Alumni are prime candidates to strengthen that community support. Not just because of their contacts in the community, but also because they are the community. Of the university’s 42,000 living graduates, 15,000 reside within the nine counties closest to campus, and 85 percent live in Michigan.
Dwyer and his staff aim to build support among alumni exponentially, with every alumnus recruited for the cause becoming recruiters themselves. In other words, Alumni Relations wants to send a proverbial snowball down the hill and watch it build into an avalanche of momentum that talks, walks, shares and supports SVSU’s story. Dwyer believes the benefits alumni experience when reconnecting with SVSU grows that momentum.
David Kowalski understands those perks well. The SVSU alumnus — now president and owner of Euclid Automotive in Bay City — has been a beneficiary for years.
But it wasn’t always that way.
Thirty-six years ago, Julia Kowalski gifted her grandson a congratulatory card and a single stick of gum.
Many may have seen this as a modest offering, but David Kowalski knew his grandmother. From her, this was a tribute fit for kings. She had watched him honored earlier during SVSU’s commencement ceremony, and the occasion left her beaming with pride.
“Of all her children, of all her grandchildren, I was the very first she saw graduate,” the younger Kowalski says now of earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration in May 1979. “That was pretty special for her, and that made it special for me.”
Julia Kowalski died two months later.
“Looking back, that was one of my most memorable moments,” David Kowalski said, “that my grandmother was able to see me graduate.”
And as happens with families and work commitments, other priorities commanded his time and attention. Aside from attending some home football games, Kowalski’s interaction with his SVSU family for years was limited to passing glances out car door windows while driving along Bay Road.
“I had no idea what was happening at SVSU,” Kowalski said. He was brought up to speed on the university’s development about a decade ago when his son enrolled there. “When I saw how far [SVSU] had come since I had been here … wow!,” Kowalski said.
It’s that same sense of awe he expects other graduates will experience once they re-engage with SVSU. After all, Kowalski’s renewed interest in his old school proved a fruitful, fulfilling experience. Whereas once his love of the institution was frozen in time — those recollections of a proud grandmother among many lasting reminders of a remarkable undergraduate experience there — his reunion strengthened his kinship with the school.
“There’s this real sense of belonging since I became involved again,” he said. “I belong with this university now.”
As part of his reunion with SVSU, he joined the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors in 2010. He served in that capacity until earlier this year when he was appointed inaugural chairman of the Alumni Ambassadors Council, where former Board of Directors members serve as SVSU ambassadors once their terms on the association expire. They also mentor new board recruits.
Although, not every recruited alumnus has to serve on a board in order to experience that renewed kinship with SVSU. Engagement of all degrees can benefit both the former student and their alma mater.
“This is going to be great for the university,” Kowalski said. “By saying, ‘We want you to be part of something,’ I think SVSU’s relations with alumni will blossom.”
Since Alumni Relations underwent its makeover earlier this year, a number of initiatives have been enacted. Two of the initial changes were substantial and strategic.
Alumni Relations for years operated out of one office within a third floor suite in Wickes Hall. Now the department has an entire suite on the first floor, where windows give visitors a view of Alumni Relations before they even enter the building.
“We’ve gone from being invisible to being the front door,” Dwyer said. “That demonstrates how our alumni are a priority in this new plan.”
Another significant change involves staff size.
One of those first floor windows is in the new office of Kevin Schultz, associate director of alumni relations. Since his hiring in 2008, he had been the only full-time staff member working for Alumni Relations. Now there are four employees: Dwyer; Schultz; Pamela Wegener, associate director; and Linda Schmidt, administrative secretary.
Schultz says his department’s evolution was inevitable. That progression largely falls in line with the school’s development.
“In the big scheme of things, SVSU and Alumni Relations have been going through this growth, and now we’re really gaining traction,” he said. “We’re starting a whole new era with a new commitment to alumni.”
Wegener says the changes have created a comfortable atmosphere in the office and among the alumni who interact with the staff. “It’s been really remarkable,” she said. “It truly feels like home.”
Dwyer has been encouraged by early feedback from alumni. “I’ve been incredibly pleased by the reaction of alumni so far,” he said. “Their willingness to get engaged in a variety of ways — whatever their talents are — shows that people still realize this place is special.”
That feeling of being part of something special at SVSU is contagious, Dwyer said. “As we create this bonding, there’s this sense — and our students and those who are pondering enrolling here can see — that when you come to SVSU, you’re a member of the Cardinal family, and we help each other.
“In the end, it’s all about family.”