With next week's FIRST Robotics state championship approaching quickly, some teams have already qualified. Among them is BlitzCreek Robotics of Bullock Creek High School. What is special about that team? Its mentor, John Leonard, is a laboratory support coordinator at SVSU ... and a finalist for the Woodie Flowers Award. This is an honor dedicated annually to one outstanding mentor advising a FIRST Robotics team in the worldwide competition. We will learn the winner later this month, but John's status as a finalist speaks volumes about his hard work and dedication to his team. So does the nomination letter written by one of his students. Here is an excerpt: "He brings smiles, laughs and innovation to our team. Being without Mr. Leonard would be like having a heart without arteries. He is an inspiration, a teacher, a friend, but most importantly, a mentor that keeps our team strong and on their toes." What a testimony. Good work, John.
We are still seeking volunteers for FIRST Robotics. If you are able to dedicate a few hours to help our FIRST Robotics guests between next Tuesday and Saturday, please visit the online volunteer signup page. For those signing up, there are still two volunteer orientation sessions remaining: Monday at 9 a.m. and noon in Curtiss Hall's Banquet Room C. Please plan to attend to receive your volunteer t-shirt and important information about the event.
Friday marks the kickoff of the United Way campaign at SVSU with a $5 breakfast event from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at the Marketplace at Doan. We have many great partnerships with our local United Ways, which are doing vital work in our communities. I encourage you to consider supporting them. Donors will be entered into a weekly drawing for a $50 Meijer gift card each week this month. At the breakfast, a new United Way video will be shared, featuring many SVSU faculty, staff and students.
Three valued members of the College of Arts & Behavioral Sciences are bidding farewell after this semester. A reception was hosted Tuesday for retiring faculty members Ricardo Pastor, a professor of modern foreign languages with 41 years at SVSU; Gerald Peterson, a professor of psychology with 37 years at the university; and Paul Munn, a professor of English with 30 years here. That is a collective 108 years of service! Ricardo beat me to SVSU by 1 year, but otherwise, I have had the pleasure of working alongside these outstanding educators for their entire careers here, including when I served as a fellow faculty member and dean of their academic college. If you see them in the hallways over the course of the next few weeks, please thank them for their dedicated work in changing the lives of thousands of students for the better. I wish them the best in retirement.
With the end of the semester right around the corner, a number of our traditional senior showcase events will begin to fill up the campus calendar. Among the first is the Honors Program Thesis Presentation planned for this Friday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., in Gilbertson Hall. In total, 17 students will present on their research from academic departments including art, biology, chemistry, communication, criminal justice, English, history, international business, kinesiology, political science, and social work. If you can spare some time Friday, I would encourage you to attend this always-engaging event.
There are a number of exciting arts-related events planned for the next week including three musical performances. First up is a performance from the Flute Choir, directed by Townes Osborn Miller, an instructor of music. The Flute Choir - which features community members as well as students and faculty - will perform Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Founders
Hall. Musical selections for this concert include work composed by both historical and contemporary musicians, from 18th-century Austrian composer Joseph Haydn to Gary Schocker, a flutist who has worked alongside some of today's most respected orchestras and symphonies in the world.
On Monday at 7:30 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall, the Valley Steel and Percussion Ensemble groups will perform in a concert together. On the program are musical selections from an award-winning composer from the island of Trinidad, Len "Boogsie" Sharpe, as well as work from David Maslanka, a composer from the U.S.
Next Thursday, April 12, at 7:30 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall, award-winning jazz vocalist Kathy Kosins will join the SVSU Jazz Ensemble in a concert performance. Kosins has released five critically-acclaimed solo albums and has recorded with popular jazz artists such as Terell Stafford, Randy Brecker, and Michael Henderson. All three concerts are free and open to the public.
My thanks to Joseph Ofori-Dankwa, Harvey Randall Wickes Chair in International Studies, for leading a Cultural Competency session for about 40 colleagues Thursday on the concept of “diversimilarity,” which is the concurrent and strong dual emphasis on cultural diversity and similarities. When we understand each other better, including our differences and our similarities, we can work together more effectively.
Congratulations to Rachel Florence-Spaetzel, our director of Orientation Programs. She was recognized recently by NODA Region VII, an organization that provides professional development for higher education orientation, transition and retention employees. Rachel earned the Outstanding Orientation, Transition and Retention Professional Award because of her excellent work here at SVSU. Rachel is a Cardinal lifer. She enrolled as a student here in 2003 - when she was a member of the Foundation Scholars Program - and joined the Admissions staff in 2007. She has been working hard for Orientation Programs since 2011. I am pleased she is being recognized for her efforts to ensure newly arriving Cardinals have a great introduction to our university.
Our talented theatre department will be staging their latest production next week. Performances of the play "Stick Fly" are scheduled Wednesday to Saturday, April 11-14, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, April 15, at 3 p.m. in the Malcolm Field Theatre of Performing Arts. Written by Detroit-born Lydia R. Diamond, The New York Times described this play as a "juicy family drama" that follows an affluent black family, the LeVays, as they vacation in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. The two LeVay sons, Flip and Kent, bring their respective romantic partners home to meet their parents, but clashing personalities and ideologies cause tensions to bubble over. Tommy Wedge, an adjunct instructor of theatre, will direct the play. You may remember Tommy's riveting direction on our production of "Raisin in the Sun" last academic year. Tickets are $13 for the general public and $10 for students or attendees 60 and older.
I would like to thank everyone who helped bring J. Luke Wood to campus this week. The Dean's Distinguished Professor of Education in the College of Education at San Diego State University, Wood spent the day speaking to students and members of our community about his effort to encourage dialogue and understanding regarding the issues facing black boys and men in education. This was an important topic, and I was pleased he was able to share his story and thoughts with our campus community.
Here is a final reminder that, if you are among the faculty and staff selected for the latest Great Colleges to Work For survey, please take the time to complete it. The results will provide essential information for our decision-making. The deadline to complete the survey is this Friday.