What do the Israeli Army, teaching occupational therapy and SVSU student mentoring have in common? Maybe the better question isn’t “what” they have in common, but “who.” The answer is Liat Gafni-Lachter, assistant professor of occupational therapy.
Prior to moving to the U.S. in 2008 and joining SVSU in 2011, Gafni-Lachter completed her compulsory service as a medic in the Israeli Army. After a short time, she began training medics (and then ultimately, trained the trainers), and discovered her love of teaching.
Something she learned as a 19-year-old working with all sorts of people—from combat soldiers to MD.s—was the value of a respectful, relationship-based approach to the job.
Upon completion of her military duty, Gafni-Lachter discovered something else: that she was passionate about her choice of occupational therapy as a career. “It is the perfect combination of all that interests me—scientific, medical, psychological, developmental, in-depth critical thinking and art helping a client find a path back to health.”
Gafni-Lachter said what she enjoys most about teaching at SVSU is how relationships with students are valued at an institutional level. “At a lot of larger universities, it’s hard to find professors who are available to talk to students, let alone relate to them. I find my students the most rewarding part of the job. I enjoy engaging them in meaningful conversations, asking them, ‘Who do you want to be? Do you want to make a difference?’”
Much of what Gafni-Lachter learned in the army has been translated into her teaching philosophy and learning expectations of herself as well as of her students. “I expect myself to be knowledgeable, and I expect the same of my students. I think my students would say I am tough in terms of my professional expectations. I want them to work hard, and in the end, have a sense of pride and a feeling that they have gained something from the class.”
The importance of great mentors is another take-away from her army experience that Gafni-Lachter has brought to the O.T. program. “In O.T., much of the learning is a reflective practice, and that comes from interacting with someone who is asking tough questions.” Seeing an opportunity in O.T. to enhance the classroom and fieldwork education, Gafni-Lachter revised the second-year leadership course she teaches and created a mentoring program. Early indications from second-year mentors and first-year mentees suggest success.
From the Israeli Army to University Center—it makes perfectly good sense to Liat Gafni-Lachter.
In her fourth year of teaching at SVSU, Julie Foss, assistant professor of modern foreign languages, is enthusiastic about sharing the French language with students on a daily basis. “I love the exchange of energy in the classroom. The most rewarding thing is to see students grow in the language and acquire a love for the culture.” As the only full-time MFL faculty member in French studies, Foss enjoys the challenges and rewards of shaping and working with the program.
“The nature of teaching a foreign language requires smaller class sizes,” Foss said, “and I love that because even though I teach students at varying levels of proficiency, I still get to know them on an individual level.” Not only does Foss thrive in the classroom teaching French and foreign language teaching methods, but she also looks forward to time she spends as the advisor of the SVSU French Club, La Société Française. “Exposure is everything; the more contact students have with the language, the more proficient they become,” Foss said. It’s for this reason that Foss encourages students to immerse themselves as much as they can, including conversation hours and attending events like the French film series presented throughout the academic year.
Although teaching wasn’t the career she originally anticipated after graduating with her bachelor’s degree in French and history, Foss knows now that the classroom is where she belongs. After briefly attending law school and working in the mortgage industry for 10 years, Foss wanted a change. It wasn’t until she was working as a hiring manager training new employees that she considered teaching as a possible career choice.
Because everything-French had remained a constant in her life—the literature, art, music, and movies—it was easy for her to recognize that the language was something she was passionate enough about that she could teach it and love doing so. Foss returned to school, earning her secondary teaching certification and master’s degree in French from Eastern Michigan University and a Ph.D. in French Language and Literature from Michigan State University.
Hoping to inspire her students in the same way she was inspired, Foss comments, “My high school French teacher was so passionate about the language, it was hard to resist. Once I started learning the language, I fell in love with it all—the language, the history, and the culture; I want to do the same for my students.”
An SVSU professor will travel to Africa to further her research after receiving a highly competitive fellowship from the American Geographical Society.
Sara Beth Keough, associate professor of geography, was selected to receive the 14th annual McColl Fellowship, given to only one scholar each year.
The American Geographical Society selects the McColl Fellowship recipients who, according to its guidelines, “think like geographers and write like journalists.” Founded in 1851, the American Geographical Society is the oldest geographical organization in the United States.
Keough had applied for the fellowship previously and when she received a thin envelope very soon after the application deadline, she was surprised that her proposal was chosen.
“In my experience, thin envelopes mean bad news, and early responses typically mean bad news,” she said. “You know they weed out the bad ones first. So when I opened it and it said ‘Congratulations!’ I was very excited.”
Keough will use the grant to cover travel costs to Niamey, the capital of Niger, in December 2013 to complete a project that will explore water consumption, storage and transportation in the West African country.
“A lot of social scientists and geographers have looked at health and access to water, especially in drought-stricken areas like Niger, but nobody has really looked at the objects,” Keough explained. “What holds the water? What contains the water once it is in a private residence? When you think about all the different ways in which water is carried and stored and transported, it has implications for economics, and for politics and for health.”
Joining Keough on the trip and in the research will be Scott Youngstedt, SVSU professor of sociology. He specializes in anthropology and is a scholar of the people and culture of Niger. Youngstedt also speaks Hausa, the country’s most common language, allowing the pair to study the practices among the population more widely.
As editor of the scholarly journal Material Culture, Keough says that receiving national scholarly recognition is valuable for SVSU’s geography department and regional state universities generally.
“I think it’s really important for our department and our program—this is an international award,” Keough said. “In the list of previous winners, I don’t see any regional state universities.”
John Stadwick, 1983, B.B.A., came to SVSU in 1978 as a student athlete. A member of the track team. John was a three time All American and part of the 1982 and 1983 Mens Indoor National Track Chamoionship team. Today, he serves as vice president of Shanghai-GM Automobile Co. Ltd. (Shanghai-GM) and Vice president of sales, service and marketing for General Motors China.
Lessons learned as a student athlete helped him achieve success in his professional career.
“On the track team, everybody had different specialties, different strengths,” John said. “We learned to leverage them. This translates into the working world where you identify and leverage individuals’ strengths to build a winning team.”
A native of Harrison Township near Detroit, John chose SVSU because the university was building a nationally-recognized track and cross country program.
“When I was in high school, I received a recruitment package from [track coach] Dr. [Doug] Hansen,” explained John. “I wanted to continue running track and cross country in college, and SVSU seemed to be a good ?t.”
Not only was SVSU a good fit for the college freshman, it was a good place to “grow up.”
“Going to college is [often] the first time you live away from home,” John said. “So it’s a big growth time emotionally, physically and psychologically. SVSU provided a positive environment for my growth and development. Those years were very influential in providing me with a solid foundation that I use in decision-making every day of my life.
“A couple of great coaches — Ed Skrelunas and Doug Hansen — acted as mentors to a bunch of young men and women,” John said. “They instilled some pretty good values: integrity, trust, dedication and teamwork. These helped me in my career, especially as I work around the world. You have to build trust; your colleagues need to believe in you, and you need to believe in them.”
John’s road to success has taken him across the country and around the world. After earning his Bachelor of Business Administration in 1983, he joined the district manager-in-training program at GM’s Oldsmobile division in Lansing.
Working for a global company, John realized there were many opportunities outside of southeast Michigan.
His career has taken him from New York to California and points in between. In the late 1990s, John left Oldsmobile to join GM’s corporate office. His first overseas opportunity came in 2004, when he moved to Mexico as director for General Motors Service Parts Operation for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.
By that time, John and his wife, Andrea, had three children. The move to Mexico gave them all a broader perspective on the world.
“When we moved to Mexico, my daughter participated in a United Nations event with kids from all over the world,” John recalled. “They talked about global politics and shared personal perspectives. My kids’ experiences really made them global citizens.”
Although John hadn’t experienced international travel as a student, he said his experience at SVSU helped prepare him for life abroad.
“Reflecting back, my first roommate was a kid who grew up in Greece,” John said. “Lou Iordanou and I became best friends and are still friends. That was my first exposure to a different culture and language.
“Being on the track and cross country teams taught me how to adapt and adjust to people from diverse backgrounds. I didn’t realize I was even learning those lessons, but they came into play later.”
While in Mexico, John learned to speak Spanish, which led to an appointment as regional director of aftersales for GM Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. In 2009, he accepted the position of vice president of aftersales for GM International Operations in Shanghai. In 2010, John became president and managing director of General Motors Middle East Operations, based in Dubai.
John’s success earned the attention of Evo Middle East, a leading auto publication, which named him “2011 Man of the Year.” In 2013, Forbes Middle East included John on its “Global Meets Local” list of top in?uential leaders of global corporations’ regional operations.
Late last fall, John once again packed up his office and returned to Shanghai.
John credits his experience at SVSU as a positive influence and essential in the development of his successful life and career. Because of that, he supports the university.
“I’m not sure I’d be where I am if I had not gone to SVSU,” he said. “I believe in giving back. I want to make sure other students have the same opportunities that were available to me.”
As for his many moves around the world, John credits his wife. “When traveling and relocating around the world, you need strong support from your spouse,” John says. “My wife has moved our family multiple times. I could not have done it without her.”
The road from SVSU to Shanghai has been interesting for John Stadwick, and he’s eager to see where it takes him next, and so is SVSU.
Don’t forget that tomorrow is the cyber security presentation by a visiting FBI specialist. The talk will be in the Ott Auditorium from 1-2pm. Come one, come all, come learn about how to keep yourself safe with technology!
The Internet and email are powerful tools. They are also a significant avenue of vulnerability for online systems and sensitive information. Stealing usernames and passwords or tricking victims into downloading malware via email or malicious sites has become big business, and is a leading path for data breaches.
This bulletin outlines four basic steps to take to defend against such attacks. None of these alone will prevent all attacks, but together they provide a layered defense that significantly reduces risks.
The bottom line - there are a lot of bad guys trying to fool you into giving them your logon credentials or download malware. Keep your guard up on the Internet and with email messages and follow these four steps to put up a layered defense.
Diamond Weakley had a sense she wanted to become a science teacher someday. Now, the seventh grader at Thompson Middle School in Saginaw is quite sure of it.
“Classes like this help me feel that way,” Weakley said of the learning taking place inside the science class of teacher Lori Hall.
Hall is tasking Weakley and 70 of her peers with growing plants without the use of soil. It's a long-established practice known as hydroponics, but putting that practice to play inside Hall's classroom is a new initiative she said was made possible by a Saginaw Valley State University and Dow Corning Foundation partnership aimed at piquing K-12 student interest and improving attitudes in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
“They're getting excited about the work,” she said of her students. “They want to come to class. None of them are tardy.”
The Dow Corning Foundation/SVSU STEM Community Partnership this year began training and funding supplies for 13 select K-12 teachers - including Hall - in Saginaw, Bay, Midland and Tuscola counties.
Last year, Hall said her science teachings largely relied on study assignments and exams. With the training and resources provided by the STEM partnership, this year's classroom activities focus more on hands-on learning.
“It's more application than investigation,” she said. “They're designing, they're investigating and they're figuring out problems instead of looking up the answers. They're more involved.”
Hall's hydroponics assignment involves tasking groups of two to four students with building an apparatus that will grow plants without the use of soil. One of the early stages of the project involved constructing a network of pipes that eventually will feed water to the plants.
During an early October class, Weakley and her two group members were drilling holes into the pipes when the girl reminded her peers of a lesson learned:
“We're all going to have to help, because you remember what happened last time,” Weakley said, getting a laugh out of the group.
“What happened last time” was that her teammates, Tamareyon Steward and Xavier Walker, weren't holding the pipes steady when Weakley began drilling, causing some of the equipment to come undone.
It was a lesson learned by all in the group. That element of teamwork has boosted the impact of STEM education. Hall said she also has noticed the improved learning outcomes in several special needs students whose work with the hands-on assignments has become indistinguishable from the rest of the students.
“They don't need as much help,” Hall said of special needs students this year compared to previous years.
Yet they do have help - as does Hall herself. She is working together with Amanda Ross, SVSU lecturer of biology, as part of the project. Each teacher involved in the program is teamed with SVSU faculty as part of the partnership, which was funded by a $254,000 Dow Corning Foundation grant.
“I feel like I have more resources and more connections now at Saginaw Valley,” Hall said. “I can call them up and say, ‘Hey, tell me what you think about this.’ I feel like I have a connection out there. It's been so helpful.”
Author and investigative journalist Amanda Ripley will explore the state of America's school systems during a lecture at Saginaw Valley State University.
Ripley's talk, “A Global Quest To Save America's Schools,” is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m. in SVSU's Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. The event is free and open to the public.
Ripley is an investigative journalist for Time, The Atlantic and other magazines, as well as the author of “The Smartest Kids in the World - And How They Got That Way,” a 2013 New York Times bestseller.
In her book, Ripley details three American students who exchanged education in the U.S. for school systems in Finland, South Korea and Poland, respectively. Ripley's research explores how these countries reformed education over one decade to create a system where children bought into the promise of education.
For Time and The Atlantic, Ripley's investigative reporting has explored the science of motivating children as well as how online learning courses are changing the landscape for college students on a global scale.
Ripley has appeared as an expert on TV networks such as ABC, NBC, CNN and FOX News. She has presented at the Pentagon, the Senate, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, along with conferences regarding leadership, public policy and education.
Today, she works as an Emerson Fellow at the nonprofit think-tank New America Foundation in Washington, D.C.
Ripley's appearance is co-sponsored by SVSU’s College of Education, Gerstacker Fellowship Program and the Dow Visiting Scholars and Artists Program. The event is part of the university's annual Fall Focus speaker series.
At the age of 18, Hideki Kihata moved to Michigan from Tokyo, Japan, to be a photojournalist. “I was inspired by the great American photojournalists working for Life magazine,” he said. After completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and photography, and then a Master of Fine Arts in photography (the terminal degree in his discipline), he accepted a position at SVSU in 1987.
Kihata is passionate about art. “I tell my students that art reflects the basis of creativity that can be applied to anything. No matter what field you finally go into — whether business, law, medicine — creativity is what allows you to excel. And you create things by looking into yourself.”
In his own artwork, Kihata has used his internal focus to create photographic work that has been exhibited widely and has won numerous awards. He believes that exhibiting regularly is important for any artist in the same way that musicians need to perform in public. “Performing music in front of people is the end product of hours of practice for musicians; the performance is the end product,” Kihata said. “Exhibition is our performance.” For his efforts, he has been recognized with awards such as the Muscarelle Museum of Art “Purchase Award” and the Earl L. Warrick Award for Excellence in Research, SVSU’s highest award for scholarship or artistic endeavor.
Kihata is passionate about the mission and purpose of SVSU as well. “I consider myself fortunate to be part of this university,” he said, “because I believe teaching means understanding students, spending time with them, listening to their concerns.”
Kihata has brought his experience and his understanding and listening skills to a leadership role within the art department. He has been elected and re-elected by his colleagues to serve as chair for the past 17 years. But he prefers the term “mediator” to “leader.”
“I have one vote, and it is the same as every member of the department. I have tried to be the person who gathers us together to discuss the important issues.”
Nevertheless, Kihata has been chair during a period of significant growth within the department, with the number of students increasing three-fold and the number of full-time faculty increasing at an equal rate.
A resident of Midland, Kihata lives with his wife Ayumi, 1997, B.F.A.; 2000, M.A., and their two sons, Noah and Naoki, in a house designed by associates of famed architect Alden B. Dow.
With nearly three decades at SVSU, Kihata remains proudest of his work with students.
“We provide opportunities,” he said. “Students come to us from a wide range of backgrounds — academic, cultural, social. I marvel at where some of them are now. I suppose I’m proudest,” he said, “that some of my former students are now professors.”
Most people would never realize that wading into a river and turning over a rock disturbs the home of dozens of different living organisms.
But Art Martin isn’t like most people. The associate professor of biology is an expert researcher on aquatic ecology. Since joining the
“I’ve always wanted to do research at an institution that emphasizes teaching, which is exactly why SVSU is a good fit for me,” said Martin, who earned his Ph.D. in behavior neuroscience (i.e., “how animals make decisions”) and has engaged in post-doctoral studies of how hormones impact animal behavior.
“I really like having the flexibility to research ideas that are of interest to me,” Martin said. “I can take my students out of the classroom or lab and go into the field to collect invertebrates, which allows us to assess the quality of an ecological system. For example, certain species that exist in one spot but not in another let us draw conclusions about the quality of the aquatic systems in our region.”
And these studies, Martin said, are of great interest and value to environmental agencies on both a state and national level. In recent years, Martin — in collaboration with David Karpovich, H.H. Dow Endowed Chair in Chemistry at SVSU — has received several grants that provide financial support to conduct water quality research. (See sidebar, below.)
“The difference between working in a lab or in the field is that the research scenarios are less controlled in the field — so you’ll see what really happens as compared to when you control what happens in a laboratory,” Martin said. In the field, “students are learning how to collect samples and how to analyze them — which are experiences they never forget.”
As a result of the field-based experiences, Martin said students learn to see their environment in different ways. “They begin to realize what happens in small eco-systems,” Martin said.
Including what might be found living under a rock.
Saginaw Valley State University will host Saginaw County College Night Monday, Oct. 27 at 6:30 p.m. in the Curtiss Hall banquet rooms.
About 45 colleges will be in attendance to provide resources and opportunities for local high school students and their families. Michigan public universities will be represented as well as Michigan private universities, Michigan community colleges and universities from Ohio and Indiana.
Students and parents will have the opportunity to speak with admissions representatives from the colleges and universities. Representatives of the U.S. Armed Forces will also be in attendance.
“This is a prime opportunity for Saginaw County high school students, especially juniors and seniors, to explore a wide variety of college options in one setting,” said Jennifer Pahl, SVSU director of admissions. “Whether you are just starting your college selection process or are close to making your decision, this event can provide valuable information to help you make the best choice for you.”
A presentation by representatives of SVSU's Scholarships and Financial Aid office will be given at 7 p.m. Students and families will receive information on how to finance their college education. Tips on how to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and how to identify scholarships and grants a student may qualify for will also be given.
For more information, contact the SVSU Admissions Office at (989) 964-4200.