Brett Elliott has been decided on his career path for some time: theater.
“If you can imagine doing anything else, then do it,” he said. “If you can't, then start running and never stop.”
Since graduating from Saginaw Valley State University in 2009 with a degree in theatre, Elliott has turned his pursuit into national and international success through his work with well-known theater companies in New England and Chicago. Currently, the Reese native is serving as executive director of the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center — also known as “The Kate” — in Old Saybrook, Conn.
Ric Roberts, SVSU professor of theatre, is proud of Elliott's accomplishments.
“We have had many outstanding graduates from our program, but Brett is seriously taking things to a new level, working with some of the top people in our industry,” Roberts said.
Elliott’s responsibilities at The Kate include overseeing the center’s various productions, which range from musical acts to viewings of both modern and classic movies. The Kate recently entered into a contract with Connecticut Public Television for a 6-part television series focusing on cabaret-style acts. Elliott hopes PBS picks up the series.
“It’s been a great experience,” Elliott said of the new job. “I did a little work here before, and I’m glad to be back.”
He accepted the position in November after returning from Melbourne, Australia, where he spent one month helping adapt a tech-reliant take on Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure.” The updated version was known as “Since I Suppose.”
Previously, he was involved in staging an earlier production of “Since I Suppose” in Chicago, where he moved in 2012 to join the DePaul University/Chicago Shakespeare Theater Master of Fine Arts program. Only two people per year are accepted into this highly competitive program. He graduated in August.
“Since I Suppose” was a pedestrian-based live art event. The experience used screen-based digital technologies to guide participants through downtown Chicago, and later, Melbourne.
Elliott worked as project manager during his two years at DePaul and oversaw each part of the production and execution of the show.
“Essentially, anything that needed to be done to help create the artists' vision, I was tasked with finding a way to make that happen,” Elliott said.
Elliott discussed the technological aspects of “Since I Suppose” at the Theater Communications Group conference in San Diego last year.
The program director for the American Theater Wing, one of the most prestigious theater organizations in the United States, was at the conference. He was impressed and sent a film crew to capture the show’s production in Chicago. This became a part of a video series the American Theater Wing produces about new types of theater. That video is available online here: http://americantheatrewing.org/videos/since-i-suppose-site-specific-theatre/
International travel was a large part of Elliott's time at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. He traveled to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland, the largest theater festival in the world, as the company manager for a Chicago Shakespeare Theater World’s Stage Series production of “Cadre.”
At SVSU, Elliott did primary technical theater work and served as stage manager for many productions. He was named a Distinguished Theatre Scholar recipient.
SVSU hosted the regional Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival while Elliott was a student and on two occasions since. Both times, Elliott returned to serve as production manager.
Roberts said his former student “deserves every single accolade” received in his professional life.
“He was and continues to be one of the hardest working individuals that I have ever known,” Roberts said. “He has raised the reputation of our theatre program in many ways.”
Saginaw Valley State University has assigned a highly respected educator to coordinate SVSU’s focus on improving STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education in the region. Carolyn Wierda has been named executive director of STEM@SVSU; in that position, she will convene those that are involved in STEM initiatives at SVSU.
“I'll be working with those involved in those programs on campus so we can collaborate and enhance our relationships with external partners,” said Wierda, who has been serving as associate dean of SVSU's College of Education. “It's critically important for the university to take a lead in STEM because of the needed pipeline for the region's economy.”
Recent exam results indicate a majority of local high school students are not considered college-ready in the STEM fields despite the growing emergence of job opportunities in related industries within the region.
Wierda also serves as chair of the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance's education council and is one of three leaders for its STEM Impact Initiative.
She will continue in her role as co-director of the university's Gerstacker Fellowship program, a leadership development program for K-12 educators.
Prior to SVSU, Wierda enjoyed a distinguished career in K-12 education, concluding her K-12 career as superintendent of Bay City Public Schools, a post she held for five years. She also served as an assistant superintendent for Saginaw Township and Bay City. Following five years as a classroom teacher in Ohio and Michigan, Wierda served as an elementary school principal for a combined 11 years in Merrill and Saginaw Township schools before moving into her other administrative roles.
Wierda completed a bachelor's degree at Bucknell University, a master's degree at Michigan State University, and additional graduate course work at SVSU.
In her new role, Wierda will work with STEM-geared programs at SVSU. Those initiatives include the following:
• The Dow Corning Foundation/SVSU Community STEM Partnership, which provides professional development for K-12 STEM teachers.
• The Dow Science and Sustainability Education Center, a collaboration with Dow Chemical Co. to support increased educational outreach and research opportunities at SVSU.
• The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow STEM Scholar Network, a program promoting STEM-related research programs for middle school, high school and SVSU students.
• The STEM Program Manager office, which will connect the Dow Chemical Co. STEM ambassadors to area classroom teachers and students.
• The Consumers Energy Engineering Talent Development Program, which develops a pipeline of electrical engineers to meet the region's energy industry needs.
• The SVSU Regional Mathematics and Science Center, which provides leadership, curriculum support, professional development and student services to educators in local school districts.
Wierda’s new appointment is effective immediately.
Saginaw Valley state University recognized six of its graduates and one future graduate at its annual Alumni Celebration Friday, Feb. 20. Five alumni were honored with the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest award presented by the SVSU Alumni Association. In addition, the Young Alumni and Future Alumni award recipients 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, Patrick McInnis received the 2015 Distinguished Alumnus honor. He currently serves as CEO of Fathead, an industry leader of officially licensed sports and entertainment graphics with headquarters in Detroit. Previously, McInnis served as president of Quicken Loans from 2002 to 2009. He completed a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 1988.
In the College of Business & Management, the 2015 Distinguished Alumnus award was given to Dave Abbs. A certified financial planner and owner of Abbs Retirement Planning Advisors in Saginaw, he also is actively involved in the Great Lakes Bay Region, having served as chair of SVSU’s Board of Control and the Saginaw Community Foundation Board. Abbs completed a bachelor’s degree in business with an emphasis in marketing and management in 1983.
In the College of Education, Karen Abbott received the 2015 Distinguished Alumna honor. During her 35-year career in education, she has served as a teacher, administrator and principal; she presently is the elementary principal at Rutherford Winans Academy, a charter school in Detroit. Abbott completed a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1979.
In the Crystal M. Lange College of Health & Human Services, the Distinguished Alumna award was given to Carmella Jones. A registered nurse and an ordained American Baptist clergywoman, she serves as the director of the Faith Community Nurse Program at Holy Cross Health in Silver Spring, Md. Jones completed a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1981.
In the College of Science, Engineering & Technology, Rick Nash received the Distinguished Alumnus honor. Since 2007, he has served as a global product line executive director and chief engineer for Saginaw-based Nexteer Automotive's steering columns and intermediate shafts business. Nash began his career as a project engineer for General Motors after completing a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1988.
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 2015 recipient is Sarah Lockwood, who graduated from SVSU in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. A native of Waldron, she has since completed a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry at Michigan State University – where she received the Outstanding Teaching Award – and currently serves as chief technical officer at LifeBlood, a start-up company in East Lansing.
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 2015 recipient is Valerie Adams, an exercise science major from Washington Township who is expected to graduate with honors in May. She has been accepted into Duke University's Doctor of Physical Therapy program, where she will continue her education in the fall. While at SVSU, Adams has presented at the 2014 National American College of Sports Medicine conference, received a grant to redefine proper nutritional practices for NCAA collegiate athletes, and she is an active member of several student organizations.
Author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson will speak at Saginaw Valley State University Wednesday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m. in SVSU's Malcolm Field Theatre for the Performing Arts. Her talk is part of Black History Month events at SVSU; it is free and open to the public.
Wilkerson is author of the New York Times best-selling book, “The Warmth of Other Suns,” which tells the story of three black citizens who left the southern United States in search of a better life in the north. The book is based off of more than 1,200 interviews that Wilkerson conducted with blacks that participated in this migration from 1915 to 1970. It also addresses the cultural and political effects that this movement had in the northern states.
The book won numerous honors, including the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, the Anisfield-Wolf Award for Nonfiction, and the Lynton History Prize from Harvard and Columbia universities.
As the Chicago bureau chief of the New York Times, in 1994 Wilkerson became the first black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for journalism and the first black person to win for individual reporting. She also has received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, the George Polk Award, and was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists..
Wilkerson completed a bachelor’s degree at Howard University. She has been a guest speaker at more than 100 universities, and has taught at Princeton, Emory, and Boston University.
Immediately following her presentation, Wilkerson will sign copies of her book. For more information, contact SVSU's Office of Diversity Programs at (989) 964-4068.
Saginaw Valley State University will host its annual Taste of Soul and present traditional "soul food" to the campus community and the public Wednesday, Feb. 18 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Marketplace at Doan cafeteria.
This year, the Black History Month event features a “Friends, Family and Food” theme, as representatives of the local community who also are members of SVSU’s Diversity Council, will have dishes featured at the event.
Rehana Khan Brown of the Bridge Center for Racial Harmony will prepare “Granny's Baked Chicken Candied Yams,” while Delena Spates-Allen of Saginaw Future will share “Dee Dee's Peach & Pear Cobbler.” Sheilda Braddock of the United Way of Saginaw County, Rhonda Butler of the Public Libraries of Saginaw, and Cal Talley of the Bridge Center for Racial Harmony also are participating as guest chefs.
The event will also feature a variety of other foods based on recipes provided by African-American faculty and staff at SVSU and prepared in collaboration with SVSU Dining Services.
Admission to the Taste of Soul is $8.25. The public is welcome to attend. SVSU students may use their meal card. The event is sponsored by SVSU's Office of Diversity Programs, Dining Services, Conference and Events Center and Minority Student Services. For more information, call (989) 964-4068.
The Saginaw Valley State University Board of Control approved spending $770,000 to upgrade WiFi in campus residence halls during the Board’s regular meeting Monday, Feb. 16.
Joey Rexford, president of the SVSU Student Association, told the Board that wireless connectivity has been students’ number one issue during the 2014-15 academic year.
Following today’s Board approval, SVSU will install new access points to provide better coverage, double the amount of available bandwidth, and will increase network coverage to accommodate an average of five wireless devices per residential student. Recent estimates have shown SVSU's 2,722 residential students currently have around four devices each, on average.
“We have been working diligently to find an affordable and functional solution,” said James Muladore, executive vice president for administration and business affairs.
Work on the upgrades will begin quickly. Students can expect to see some noticeable improvements during the remainder of the winter semester.
The Board also approved spending up to $415,000 to purchase and outfit a mobile water analysis laboratory for the Dow Science and Sustainability Education Center at SVSU. All of the funding comes from a previously announced grant from the Dow Chemical Company Foundation.
Zahnow Library also will see up to $350,000 in renovations to provide space for the Center for Academic Innovation, among other improvements.
The Board also authorized a new public school academy, Hinoki International School. Michigan’s first dual-immersion Japanese-English elementary school, Hinoki is one of only a few such schools nationwide to teach students all subjects in English and Japanese. The curriculum was developed in partnership with education experts at Eastern Michigan University as part of a $560,000 federal charter school implementation grant. Hinoki becomes the 20th charter school currently authorized by SVSU.
For the 2015-16 school year, Hinoki will enroll students in grades K-5 at a new facility in Farmington Hills that it will share with Schoolhouse Montessori Academy’s preschool programs. The SVSU Board approved a three-year contract with Hinoki.
In other business, the Board:
• Approved granting tenure for 11 faculty:
? Kay Castillo, Assistant Professor of Medical Laboratory Science
? Monika Dix, Assistant Professor of Modern Foreign Languages
? Andrea Frederick, Assistant Professor of Nursing
? Kylie Jaber, Assistant Professor in Economics
? Brandon Haskett, Assistant Professor of Music
? Kaustav Misra, Assistant Professor in Economics
? David Nichols, Assistant Professor of Philosophy
? Arra Ross, Assistant Professor of English
? David Rzeszutek, Assistant Professor of Theatre
? Ross Singer, Assistant Professor Communication
? Vetta Vratulis, Assistant Professor of Teacher Education
• Approved a request from Waterford Montessori Academy, a previously authorized charter school, to expand to serve additional locations.
• Approved an amendment to the agreement with Wolverine Academy, a previously authorized charter school. Wolverine sought to enter into separate contracts with SVSU for its Detroit and Saginaw locations. The Board approved a one-year contract to this effect.
• Appointed a nominating committee for May Board elections.
• Approved the Board of Control meeting schedule for the 2015-16 academic year.
The Saginaw Valley State University theatre department will feature a small cast version of William Shakespeare's classic, “Othello,” Wednesday, Feb. 18 to Sunday, Feb 22.
Written in 1603 during Shakespeare's great tragedy period, “Othello” is set in Venice and Cyprus during the military conflict between Turkey and Venice in the late 1500s.
Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army, promotes a young man named Michael Cassio to the rank of lieutenant instead of his trusted ensign, Iago. When Iago finds out, he is enraged, and plans to seek revenge on Othello by tricking him into believing that his wife, Desdemona, has been unfaithful to him. To further elevate the conflict, Shakespeare adds Desdemona's father, Brabanzio into the mix, who is outraged at his daughter's “secret” marriage, believing the only way Othello could have married Desdemona is by some method of witchcraft.
The play explores a wide variety of themes including racism, love, jealousy, betrayal, revenge and repentance, and thus, it has been the inspiration for many literary and film adaptations, and continues to be performed in both professional and community theatres worldwide.
The SVSU students playing the parts of the four main characters are:
• Jordan Stafford, a theatre major from Detroit, as Othello
• Carl Mizell, a theatre major from Flint as Iago
• Lexee Longwell, a theatre major from Holland as Desdemona
• Donte Green, a management major from Detroit as Michael Cassio
The play is directed by Steve Erickson, SVSU professor of theatre. This version of Othello was originally performed in 2006 by the American Shakespeare Collective in Lansing, and according to Erickson, this version is shorter, and more "clear cut" than the original; cutting the cast from Shakespeare's original 14 members to eight. This performance serves as Erickson's eighth Shakespeare production at SVSU.
With the help of Nicola Imbrascio, SVSU Instructor of English, serving as the play's dramaturge, Erickson and the cast hope to bring elements of Moorish culture and accurate Shakespearean language to the performance.
“It's been a challenge but a good experience for the students to perform Shakespeare,” Erickson said, “in terms of actor training along with stage managing and technician training.”
Performances begin Wednesday, Feb. 18 and will be staged in SVSU’s Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. The Wednesday through Saturday shows will begin at 7:30 p.m. with the Sunday matinee performance taking place at 3 p.m. Tickets are $13 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors [ purchase now » ]. For more information please contact the SVSU box office at (989) 964-4261.
The American Foundry Society has selected Bob Tuttle, professor of mechanical engineering at Saginaw Valley State University, to receive its 2015 Applied Research Award for his “Ultrasonic Testing Gage R & R Study.”
The award recognizes projects that can be practically implemented into the metalcasting industry and on the factory floor. It emphasizes applicable research that has significant impact on metalcasting facilities, and on putting into practice solutions to problems those facilities are facing.
“I think what set Dr. Tuttle and his study apart from the other candidates was immediate relevance of the findings to help solve current problems and involvement with the industrial technical committee members and project participants,” said Thomas Prucha, technical director of the American Foundry Society.
Tuttle’s research involves the ultrasonic testing of steel castings and has helped make advancements in testing standards. The project’s goal was to measure the repeatability and reproducibility of X-ray and ultrasonic testing readings for castings, and to compare the results. This information is now being used in participating foundries as a way to work on permitting ultrasonic testing, as opposed to X-ray standards.
Tuttle joined the SVSU faculty in 2004. He received SVSU’s highest honor for research, the Earl Warrick Award, in 2012. Tuttle’s scholarly work has been published in many academic journals and conference proceedings. He completed a Ph.D. from the Missouri University of Science and Technology.
Tuttle will formally accept his award at the AFS Recognition Luncheon at the 119th Metalcasting Congress Tuesday, April 21, in Columbus, Ohio.
The Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy will present an Osprey Award to the group Friends of Frankenlust Township Park, which includes Marty Arford, associate professor of geography at Saginaw Valley State University, and SVSU student volunteers.
The Osprey Award recognizes individuals, groups and projects that have made great efforts toward conservation. Arford and the SVSU students will be honored for their habitat improvement and site beatification efforts toward the Frankenlust Township Park in Bay County.
The Friends of Frankenlust Township Park have done work to control the invasion of harmful species in the park, and to plant and maintain the park's native vegetation. This has greatly improved the park's wildlife habitat. Arford was coordinator for an invasive species removal project, and recruited SVSU students as volunteers for the project.
They will be recognized at the Osprey Awards for Conservation Excellence Conservancy Fundraiser Saturday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. in SVSU's Curtiss Hall. Tickets are $30 per person. For more information, visit http://www.sblc-mi.org/ospreys.html.
Keshara Mumford arrived at Saginaw Valley State University with a generous nature. Her course work and her relationships with faculty and staff helped her develop that attribute toward a career path.
After graduating from Chandler Park Academy (an SVSU charter school in Harper Woods) in 2011, Mumford began college as a criminal justice major, but the Detroit native found her true calling was helping others, so she switched her major to social work.
“I remember I took Social Work 215 with (Assistant Professor of Social Work) Teresa Beadlescomb, and I loved it,” Mumford said. “It was exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I just didn’t know what it was until then.”
Since then, Mumford’s academic and extracurricular pursuits exemplify why The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recently granted SVSU the 2015 Community Engagement Classification. The designation marks SVSU as a university that is exceptionally connected with the community it serves and whose students demonstrate enhanced learning outcomes.
Early in her college career, Mumford participated in an SVSU Alternative Breaks trip that sent volunteers to Tahlequah, Okla. There, she and her peers painted a youth center and renovated the home of a wheelchair-bound World War II veteran.
“To see a grown man cry and thank us for our services, I thought, ‘Wow, I want more of that,’” she said. “To express that much gratitude was amazing.”
Now Mumford is involved in the United Way of Saginaw County’s Healthy Kids Healthy Futures Partnership AmeriCorps program. For the past two years, she has worked to support and improve the lives of Saginaw youth.
“It gives me a sense of belonging and being connected to the community,” Mumford said.
The opportunity teams her with the Boy Scouts of America’s Water and Woods Field Service Council, where she’s completing 900 hours of service as an outreach facilitator. Her efforts include teaching boys and girls about life skills, health and nutrition, substance abuse prevention and more.
“I talk to them a lot about volunteering, too,” she said. “It’s never too early or too late to get involved.”
And she gets involved in their lives. Recently, Mumford began attending some of the students’ sporting events.
“After the first time I did that, one of the older boys came up to me and said, ‘I really appreciated that because no one ever came and cheered for me,’” Mumford recalled. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is why I’m doing this.’ Now I’ve made a commitment to go to every game.”
Mumford, who expects to graduate in May 2016, said she plans to turn her experiences and social work degree into a career helping others, potentially with a nonprofit organization.
She hopes to continue working with youths during her professional career, as well as teach social work one day.
“The opportunities and the education I’ve had at SVSU helped show me how to connect to the community,” she said. “I want to show others how to connect to their communities too.”