With health care careers receiving more attention than ever, society sees the critical role of nurses, especially hardworking and compassionate nurses like JaJuan Cook.
Currently in his senior year of the nursing program at Saginaw Valley State University, Cook was drawn to health care after seeing how influential nurses are during some of the hardest parts of people’s lives. Cook was inspired by their ability to comfort people who are in pain and make a positive impact during difficult moments.
“As a nurse you get those personal connections and can help people at their lowest when they are in times of need,” said Cook. “I know how difficult it is and you’re not yourself. The people who help you get better are inspirational. It’s life-changing.”
A Detroit native, Cook’s first experience with SVSU was far before he was looking at college choices as a high school senior.
“In fifth grade I attended a music camp here and stayed in the dorms. I was able to walk the campus and experience everything,” he said.
This experience stayed with him and when he was reintroduced to SVSU by a high school recruiter, he was reassured that it was the perfect fit for him.
Just as he loves the personal connections he is able to make as a nurse, he also loves the personal connections he has built at SVSU.
“In nursing we have cohorts — it’s more personable,” said Cook. “I made great friends. I get to really connect with my professors. They get to know their students and help them. They give you all the tools you need.”
Cook credited Jaime Huffman, SVSU assistant professor of nursing, for laying the groundwork for the nurse he would become. She taught one of his first nursing classes.
“She really helped prepare us. I don’t think I would be where I am now without that foundation,” he said.
Cook gained hands-on skills through the simulation labs at SVSU and his clinical rotations, which have been especially instrumental in preparing him for his career. He is currently completing a clinical rotation in a pediatric unit, and he will be in the ICU next semester.
“I’ve gained so much experience. You are able to apply what you learn in the classroom and experience it firsthand. It makes everything click,” he said.
He is especially appreciative of his internship experience and the impact this has had on his future nursing career.
At SVSU, student nurses are paired with a current nurse at their hospital of choice for 14 shifts. This gave him one-on-one attention and practical experience that propelled his confidence and abilities.
“It allows me to get comfortable and prepare for my next steps. I know a lot of schools don’t do that, and I really enjoy this experience,” said Cook.
He has become connected to his patients, as well as the community he has become part of in the Great Lakes Bay Region.
He has volunteered at many community events, including administering shots at flu and COVID-19 vaccine clinics held at SVSU. He also has written cards for the elderly and helped at Underground Railroad, a nonprofit that serves victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Many of Cook’s volunteer opportunities came through his involvement as a Thompson Scholar. Bob and Ellen Thompson created the Thompson Working Families Scholarship to provide scholarship support for students from hardworking families. The Thompson family recently donated an additional $6 million gift to SVSU for this scholarship program.
Part of the renewal requirements for this scholarship include community involvement and volunteering, which made Cook appreciate this scholarship even more.
“It’s been a big help. I don’t have to focus as much on student loans,” said Cook. “I was able to learn more about this area and outreach programs. It’s more than just monetary — I got a lot out of it.”
As Cook looks to the future, he will take this spirit of giving back and all the skills he has gained through SVSU’s nursing program.
“After I get a few years of experience I want to go into travel nursing so I can go to new states and new areas while still practicing,” said Cook. “You have the autonomy to choose where you want to go. You get to see different areas, meet different types of people and gain valuable experience.”
Ultimately, he plans to specialize in the nursing field.
“I also want to get my certification as a CRNA — certified registered nurse anesthetist — to help people with pain management through surgery. I want to be able to help in such a painful process,” he said.
As Cook looks to the future and prepares for his graduation in May, he is looking forward to things to come and using all the skills he gained at SVSU.
“In areas that I used to struggle, I am now flourishing on my own. With all the practicing, clinicals, skills labs, internships and working with our own patients, I definitely feel prepared,” said Cook.
“I’m most excited about being able to use the experience that I’ve gained and use it wherever I go.”
Saginaw Valley State University will host Mona Hanna-Attisha, M.D., the Flint pediatrician whose research proved that children were exposed to lead from the Flint water supply, on Monday, Oct. 25 at 6:30 p.m. Guests can attend this free community event in person or watch the lecture virtually.
Hanna-Attisha ― or Dr. Mona, as she is affectionately called ― will recount her role in uncovering the Flint water crisis, discuss the city’s current challenges and emphasize the importance of advocacy in health and medicine.
Hanna-Attisha is the author of “What the Eyes Don’t See: A story of crisis, resistance, and hope in an American City.” She is founder and director of the Michigan State University and Hurley children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative and an assistant professor in the MSU College of Human Medicine.
This lecture is made possible through Saginaw Valley State University’s Early Assurance Program partnership with MSU of Human Medicine and is sponsored, in part, by an SVSU Foundation Resource Grant. The lecture is part of the annual Your Health Lecture Series initiative between SVSU, MSU College of Human Medicine and Mid-Michigan Health.
Register for the event here. Registrants will be able to select their viewing preference. A livestream link or lecture location information will be sent following registration.
Two recent Saginaw Valley State University graduates have been rewarded for their commitment to caring for underserved populations in healthcare.
Kaitlyn Bailey, a 2018 health sciences graduate, and Lauren Richardson, a 2021 biochemistry graduate, each received the HRSA (Health Resources & Services Administration) National Health Service Corps Scholarship, which provides full tuition and fees, plus a monthly stipend for living expenses, to students pursuing eligible primary care health professions training. In return, scholars provide primary care health services in areas that have a shortage of primary, dental or mental health care providers for a number of years after graduation.
Bailey is pursuing a Master of Physician Assistant Studies at MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston. The Grand Rapids native said she always had a soft spot for underserved communities, but a study abroad trip to the African nation of Zambia with Rene Hernandez, her mentor and SVSU associate professor of health sciences, cemented that interest into a passion.
“Kaitlyn was really adamant to not just limit her understanding to textbook knowledge, so she sought lots of experience to help her grow and just explore more about the needs of such communities,” said Heidi Lang, SVSU pre-health professions advisor.
Richardson is in dental school at Midwestern University in Chicago. The Grand Ledge native’s undergraduate experience was enriched by partnerships with local organizations.
“Lauren’s most notable experience with was with Great Lakes Bay Health centers, specifically volunteering with and shadowing Dr. Joseph Vanfleteren as they provided dental care to the underserved,” said Lang.
The HRSA NHSC Scholarship Program is highly competitive. Only 11% of those who applied in 2020 earned awards (251 recipients out of 2,250 eligible applicants).
“Opportunities like this are few and far between,” Lang said.
Other SVSU alumni have also received the scholarship. Caitlin Durkee, a 2020 graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, received the scholarship for dental school at the University of Michigan. Logan Schuiteman, a 2014 graduate (B.S., biology), received the scholarship while pursuing her degree at the University of Louisville and is a practicing dentist in Appleton, Wis.
While Saginaw Valley State University came out on top of Battle of the Valleys, nonprofit organizations in Midland and Grand Rapids were the big winners of the yearly fundraising competition.
At the end of the intense weeklong fundraising competition with Grand Valley State University, SVSU held on to the trophy and presented the Children’s Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region a check for $41,765.58. The Children’s Grief Center provides a healing environment for children, teens and their families grieving a death. The Center provides peer support at group gatherings for children and families in Midland, Bay City and Saginaw.
SVSU Student Association presented the check to the Children’s Grief Center during the SVSU-GVSU football game Saturday. Oct. 2. The home game’s final score was 49-17 in Grand Valley’s favor.
“It was really rewarding to spearhead Battle this year,” said Josie Koenigsknecht, a communication major from Fowler who co-chaired the initiative with Madeline Lowry, a rehabilitative medicine major from Lake Orion. “Seeing the passion from the community – both on campus and in the surrounding communities – was amazing!”
Camille Nitschky, executive director of the Children’s Grief Center, was appreciative of the work the SVSU Student Association did to make Battle of the Valleys a success.
“We have been honored to be the beneficiary this year,” Nitschky said. “Being part of this incredible team ― the Student Association, planning, being on campus to do outreach and create awareness about who we are ― has been an experience we will cherish. Most importantly someone may have learned about our mission and that we are here to support them in their grief and that they are not alone. That’s really the most important thing of all.
“Thank you to all the students, student organizations, the Greek communities, our amazing SVSU interns, and all the businesses who supported this wonderful event with their time, talents and treasure. We’re here to stay and Battle of the Valleys was just the beginning of the great things we can do together.”
Koenigsknecht also praised the Children’s Grief Center for its involvement.
“The Children’s Grief Center was at every event, which was great to see. They really engaged with our students and invited them to volunteer at the Children’s Grief Center meetings, and they now have a long list of potential volunteers.”
Nitschky and her team valued the opportunity to participate. “We loved being part of the everyday outreach on campus. Being able to share our mission with students, pass out our little heart pins and witness the engagement of the entire student body in raising awareness and funds for our grief center was amazing.”
She said the Center will use the funds to directly support the groups in Bay City, Midland and Saginaw, and also to purchase supplies and to provide onsite peer support school grief groups, including a group at SVSU, for students who have experienced a death. Further, the funds will help the Center meet a matching grant of $100,000 from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation.
Battle of the Valleys harnesses the friendly rivalry between SVSU and GVSU to raise funds for charitable organizations in each university’s respective community. After GVSU stepped down from the competition in 2019, SVSU continued the fundraising initiative as “Battle of the Valley.” In 2021, GVSU re-joined the competition, and the friendly rivalry was back in action.
This year, SVSU’s fundraising total eclipsed the total of the last two years combined. This was the 14th year that SVSU won the competition, which began in 2003. In 2019 and 2020, SVSU held its own fundraising effort because GVSU had withdrawn from the competition.
Koenigsknecht suspects Grand Valley’s re-entry into the competition may be part of the reason for this year’s outstanding success.
"We had a huge jump from last year,” she said, “which may be because Grand Valley is back in the competition and more students are back on campus.”
An SVSU student’s passion project will mark the first in-person theatre production of the 2021-22 academic year.
Jaden O’Berry, a theatre major from Flint, will direct “Lonely Planet” by American playwright and theatre director Steven Dietz.
Dietz won the PEN USA Award in Drama for “Lonely Planet,” which explores friendship and fear between Jody (played by Ethan Bach) and Carl (played by Jared Kaufman) at the height of the AIDS epidemic. The play is suited for audiences 13+ and will run from Wednesday-Saturday, Oct. 6-9 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 10 at 3:00 p.m. in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts.
The production is part of the SVSU theatre department’s Studio X.P. (experience) Program, in which students propose a production of their choice, then cast and direct the play. Peggy Mead-Finizio and Tommy Wedge, both SVSU assistant professors of theatre, have served as advisors for Studio X.P. productions since the beginning of the program in fall 2018.
“Most university theatre programs have limited options for undergrad students to direct productions,” said Mead-Finizio. “Having those resume credits as an undergrad stands out when students are seeking internships and jobs.”
Wedge and Mead-Finizio advise the student director and student technical liaison, respectively.
“I try to be Jaden’s ‘gut-check guru,’ a voice of experience where she can check in on how to move forward when presented with the seemingly never-ending obstacles that come a director’s way,” said Wedge.
O’Berry, who will graduate in May 2022, won a lighting design competition at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Region III Festival in 2020, and her lighting design was used in an SVSU production of “Roustabout” in February of 2020. O’Berry was selected for the Roberts Fellowship, an SVSU Program of Distinction, for the 2021-22 academic year.
While O’Berry is the director, she sees the production as a collaborative process with the entire crew.
“I provided the structure of what I wanted and the designers have been able to follow it through and add their own flair,” she said.
In her vision for the play, O’Berry wants to create “mic-drop moments” ― specific vignettes in important scenes that help carry the play’s message.
“We know what the end goal is for the show, but we don’t want the audience to know that we know what the end goal is,” O’Berry said. “It has to be a surprise for us every night. That’s the joy of live theater; it’s never the same way twice. We want to make sure that we’re getting everything across that we should and paying respect to the story.”
O’Berry chose the play because of the present-day parallels of the COVID-19 pandemic and for LGBTQ+ representation.
“The HIV and AIDS epidemic was big in the 1980s, and the reason I chose this piece is because as a queer person, I’m always looking for representation on larger scales and larger stages,” she said.
“I think the play didn’t resonate until COVID hit as hard as it did. I think that’s the best part about this play and what makes Steven Dietz such an amazing playwright. He truly encapsulated what it means to be human and to have those fears and those doubts about going out and facing the world.”
Bach, a communication and theatre education major from Essexville, has appeared on the SVSU stage as Robert in “Proof” and in other Studio X.P. productions. He feels that having a peer as a director makes the experience more real and in the moment.
“We know each other as classmates and friends, so it’s a different experience in regard to how we communicate with one another,” he said.
“We have a lot of the same ideas and feelings towards theater,”
Kaufman, a communication and theatre education major from Bay City, has competed for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship's regional award through the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.
Tickets for “Lonely Planet” are $15 each and can be purchased either online or at the box office (two hours prior to an event). When tickets are purchased online, a link will be sent to your email to print or present as a mobile ticket.
Saginaw Valley State University students are back on campus in full force, and one of the student body’s most meaningful traditions is gearing up to be stronger than ever, with Grand Valley State University back in the competition.
Battle of the Valleys harnesses the friendly rivalry between SVSU and GVSU to raise funds for charitable organizations in each university’s respective community. After GVSU stepped down from the competition in 2019, SVSU continued the fundraising initiative as “Battle of the Valley.” GVSU has re-joined the competition, and the friendly rivalry is back in action for 2021.
“Going forward, both schools are only counting the profit after fundraising costs toward the final total,” said SVSU Student Association Battle Co-Chair Madeline Lowry, a rehabilitative medicine major from Lake Orion. “This was done to create a level playing field for both schools.”
Battle of the Valleys, a fundraiser organized by SVSU’s student government, has remained a proud tradition at SVSU since 2003. Each year, a student-selected nonprofit benefits from funds collected during a series of fun activities often hosted on campus.
This year, proceeds from Battle will benefit the Children's Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region, whose mission is to provide a healing environment through peer support for children, teens and their families grieving a death. Money raised in this year’s competition will go toward expanding their services.
“It's fun to compete, but we're here for the fundraiser and to help our beneficiary, ultimately,” said Josie Koenigsknecht, SVSU Student Association Battle Co-Chair. Koenigsknecht, a communication major from Fowler, has been a student representative for Student Association since fall 2020.
During last year’s “Battle,” SVSU raised over $18K for Bay Area Women's Center.
“We have a small campus and we bring together so many students, faculty and alumni to raise money for this one cause every single year,” said Lowry. “In the 19 years we’ve been doing this, we’ve raised over half a million dollars for local charities, which is incredible. I just love that our community did that.”
The 2021 BOV – the 19th – kicks off on Sunday, Sept. 26 with a 5K color run/walk and will culminate with the presentation of a check to the Children’s Grief Center during the SVSU-GVSU football game on Saturday. Oct. 2. This year’s game will be held at SVSU.
The public is invited to participate in the 5K color run/walk, which will be held at the SVSU College of Health and Human Services building starting in parking lot G. Check-in begins at 12 p.m., and the race will start at 1:00 p.m. Runners must be checked in by 12:45 and at the start line by 12:50 p.m.
Participants can preregister or sign up on Sunday. The cost is $30 for a standard package, consisting of the registration fee, Battle of the Valleys t-shirt and snacks. The $50 Battle Bundle includes registration, BOV t-shirt, crewneck, sticker and snacks. Payment can be made by cash, Venmo or credit card.
The lineup for campus events this year features old favorites, such as the date auction and pie-a-professor, and new events like inflatable sports and a pageant/talent show.
“I served as Battle chair two years ago, so it’s really exciting to see people getting excited about events again,” said Lowry.
Battle of the Valleys receives sponsorship support from SVSU Support Staff Association, Jolt Credit Union, Maier & Associates and SVSU Student Life.
The public can purchase BOV apparel at on-campus table sits throughout the week and online at https://www.svsubattle.com/shop starting Sunday, Sept. 26 at 12 p.m. Participants can donate to the fundraiser and view the lineup of events online at svsubattle.com.
For the seventh consecutive year, the Michigan Veteran Affairs Agency (MVAA) has recognized Saginaw Valley State University as a Veteran-Friendly School for the 2021-2022 academic year.
“We take pride in meeting the seven criteria set forth by MVAA and we are committed to supporting our military-connected students through their entire educational pursuit,” said Bethany Alford, SVSU director of Military Student Affairs, special assistant to the provost and dean of students. “I always appreciate this designation a little more because it is specific to Michigan, and we consistently rank at the Gold level.”
The Veteran-Friendly Schools (VFS) program recognizes postsecondary institutions for their commitment to supporting the needs of veterans and military-connected students. Schools are granted Gold-, Silver- or Bronze-level status based on seven criteria:
Gold-level status is granted to institutions meeting six or seven of the criteria. Institutions meeting four of the criteria earn Silver-level status, and those meeting three of the criteria are granted Bronze-level status.
SVSU is one of 37 institutions to earn Gold-level status this year, according to an announcement from the MVAA. Since the program was created in 2013, there has been a steady increase in the number of schools dedicated to enrolling student veterans.
“Since its inception, the Veteran-Friendly Schools program has recognized those institutions that have the drive and passion for serving those that have served in the military,” said Chris Taylor, MVAA education analyst. “I'm excited to see the number of schools who continue to innovate in their programming grow, particularly after a pandemic changed the face of education at all levels, including our post-secondary institutions.”
Alford noted that SVSU continues to improve service for veterans and military-connected students.
“One area that we continue to review and expand is our system to evaluate and award credit based on military training and experience,” she said. “Our faculty has been supportive, our registrar’s office innovative, and the administration encouraging as our military credit committee works to create new direct equivalencies. This expedites the path for our military-connected students to complete their degrees and begin their careers.”
SVSU’s Military Student Affairs office is dedicated to the needs and concerns of all military-affiliated students. The office provides a number of services designed to help both active and veteran military students navigate the university landscape to successfully complete their degree and transition into graduate school or the workforce. Three percent of SVSU’s student body is affiliated with the military.
Alford added that the office space is being renovated and will include more computer space, a private study room, a comfortable resource area, a private conference room, and a small kitchen area for refreshments.
This year, SVSU also has been recognized with a Military Times Best for Vets: Colleges ranking and with the Military Friendly Silver Designation by the company VIQTORY.
Through a collective commitment to supporting one another and overcoming challenging circumstances, Saginaw Valley State University earned designation as one of the 2021 Great Colleges to Work For®. It is the sixth consecutive year the university has received this recognition.
SVSU was the only public university in Michigan named to the Great Colleges list this year. In all, 70 higher education institutions across the United States were recognized with the honor.
“Our shared commitment to our university community makes SVSU a great place to work and a great place to learn,” said SVSU President Donald Bachand. “We showed this yet again through our response to the pandemic. We emphasized health and safety as we opened our classrooms and opened our residence halls in a safe way. When vaccines became available, we drew upon existing relationships to expedite vaccinations in our region. Nearly 50,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered on our campus.
“When it mattered most, we showed we truly care about the health and welfare of our faculty, staff, students and community.”
Institutions that have been recognized as 2021 Great Colleges to Work For will be officially announced in "The Chronicle of Higher Education" on Sept. 17. They also will be included in a special section of the Great Colleges Program website, GreatCollegesList.com.
The Great Colleges to Work For program was co-founded in 2008 as a partnership between The Chronicle of Higher Education and ModernThink, a strategic human capital consulting firm. The program was funded this year by ModernThink, which shared the results in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
SVSU – which employs more than 700 people full time – has made the list each of the six years it applied.
Each institution on the list is recognized in specific categories. SVSU was honored in two categories: compensation and benefits for the fifth consecutive year and collaborative governance for the second consecutive year.
The list was determined based on a survey of 196 higher education institutions as well as analysis of demographic data and workplace policy. The survey distributed earlier this year to staff and faculty members online examines individuals' evaluations of their respective institution.
“Leadership in crisis is both art and science,” said Richard K. Boyer, principal and managing partner at ModernThink. “The leaders at this year's recognized institutions guided their institutions through unprecedented challenges with vision and transparency, all while modeling a spirit of partnership and genuine care for their fellow colleagues.”
The Great Colleges to Work For® program is one of the largest and most respected workplace recognition programs in the country. Now in its fourteenth year, it recognizes the colleges that get top ratings from their employees regarding workplace practices and policies. For more information visit www.GreatCollegesProgram.com.
Artists from across the nation and around the world are displaying their works at Saginaw Valley State University’s Art Department Gallery as part of the “POST(AL) PANDEMIC” mail art exhibition on display through Wednesday, Sept. 15. A reception will be held Thursday, Sept. 9 from 4-6 p.m. in the gallery, which is located in the Arbury Fine Arts Center. The university’s health and safety protocols will be observed, and face coverings are required.
The exhibition explores the questions: Is there life—or an artistic vision of it—after gloomy 2020 and 2021? Is the infection demon (Covid-19 & variants) now defeated, battling us, or simply lying in wait to spring again?
Sara Clark, studio art technician in SVSU’s department of art, said the mail-in art exhibition was conceived as a means to welcome students to campus. Calls to send artwork were issued through groups that engage in mail art, an artistic movement dedicated to sending small-scale works through the postal service.
The University Art Department Gallery has received submissions from students, alumni, faculty, staff and artists in nine states and eight countries outside of the United States.
Submitted works represent artists’ reflections of disease and melancholy, lifestyle, hope and optimism, as well as expressing appreciation for the world’s postal systems that have helped keep people connected while socially isolated.
The term “mail art” was coined in the 1960s to identify a form of artistic practice in which an international network of participants uses the mail to make art and share it with others. Also called “postal art” or “correspondence art,” mail art has been used by artists as an alternative means of producing, distributing and receiving art. With letters, postcards, and packages—as well as material that tests the limits of what can be posted—mail artists circumvent traditional elite modes of display and distribution (such as museums and commercial galleries) in favor of the more accessible spaces of the modern post.
SVSU is pleased to share the works of artists from around the world through an exhibition that creatively sidesteps the art market and political censors to gauge the pulse of society.
All gallery exhibitions, lectures and receptions are free and open to the public. Click the following link for open gallery hours or call (989) 964-2291. The University Art Gallery is in the Arbury Fine Arts Center on the campus of Saginaw Valley State University, svsu.edu/go/visit/maps/.
One of Saginaw Valley State University’s club sports teams has something to cheer about. The university’s Cheer team recently won two of the three competition events at the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) College Camp in Louisville. In the intermediate small coed division, SVSU’s Cheer team won the Rally Routine Championship and the Game Day Championship. The team also earned a silver bid to attend the NCA College Nationals Championship in April 2022. The silver bid gives the team priority registration for the championship competition and will result in significant cost savings.
"The hard work and dedication that was displayed by each athlete resulted in huge team success,” said Frances Mills, head coach of the Cheer team. “I am so proud of everything this team has accomplished so far this year.”
The SVSU Cheer team attended the three-day camp at the University of Louisville from July 31 to August 2. The camp was one of nine NCA overnight and resort camps held this summer. The SVSU Cheer team participated in a variety of skill- and team-building classes leading up to evaluations and competitions.
All 25 athletes on the Cheer team attended the camp. They are:
Crum, Franz and Marsiglio are team captains.
Mills said 15 cheerleading teams attended the camp. SVSU was one of three teams in the intermediate small coed division, which also included DePaul University and Bellarmine University. In addition to the Rally Routine and Game Day competitions, SVSU competed in the Game Day Runoff.
Cheer is one of 21 club sports at Saginaw Valley State University. Club sports allow students to continue to compete in their sport of choice at a collegiate level, improve their athletic skill set, and gain opportunities for personal growth and development of leadership skills.
SVSU’s fall term will begin Monday, August 30, and the club sports are preparing for a full fall semester.
“I am excited for the future of this very talented group of athletes,” Mills said.