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September 28, 2015

Political philosopher to discuss Declaration of Independence at SVSU Fall Focus speaker series

Danielle Allen is a renowned political philosopher with the ability to connect audiences to complex ideas about democracy, citizenship and justice. In her book, “Our Declaration,” she explores the United States’ founding document and its relevance today. A bold, incisive speaker, Allen challenges audiences to look beyond what they think they already know.

Allen will share her story and her work as the second speaker in the 2015 Fall Focus Lecture Series at Saginaw Valley State University. She will give her presentation Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 7 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall; her talk is titled “Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality.”

This year’s series has the theme of “Discovery!,” and features seven speakers who will talk about topics that both test historical narratives and illuminate issues that may shape the future. Eman Mohammed, the only female photographer in the Gaza Strip, was the first speaker in the series on Tuesday, Sept. 22.

In her Fall Focus presentation, Allen will delve into the history of democracy through the framework of the Declaration. She presents the text as a coherent and riveting argument about equality. Challenging so much of our conventional political wisdom, she makes the case that citizens can’t have freedom as individuals without equality among people. With cogent analysis and passionate advocacy, this talk examines the enduring significance of America’s founding text, attempting to reveal what democracy means and what it asks of its practitioners.

Allen was named the director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and is a professor with the university's government department. She is a contributor to the United Kingdom’s Labour party policy review, is on the board of the Pulitzer Prize, and serves as a trustee at Princeton University. She worked on President Barack Obama's first presidential campaign.

All lectures in the Fall Focus series are open to the public; admission is free of charge. For more information on the series, visit

September 16, 2015

SVSU Foundation raises $28 million in record fundraising campaign

More than 200 new scholarships created

By J.J. Boehm

The Saginaw Valley State University Foundation announced it exceeded its $25 million goal and raised more than $28 million during the “Talent. Opportunity. Promise” campaign, making it the largest fundraising effort in university history.

The campaign resulted in a $5 million gift from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation to create the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow STEM Scholars Network. It provides funding to support SVSU student and faculty research, as well as outreach efforts to improve STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) learning among K-12 schools in the Great Lakes Bay Region. The gift is the largest single donation in SVSU history.

“We are deeply grateful to our generous donors, who are committed to providing more scholarships for students, supporting our faculty, and advancing the Great Lakes Bay Region, which has been so supportive of SVSU throughout our history,” said SVSU President Donald Bachand.

At a celebration event with donors Wednesday, Sept. 16, Bachand reiterated the importance of “every gift counts” to demonstrate the impact of all gifts.

The campaign raised more than $8 million for STEM-related initiatives, as SVSU also received a total of $2.7 million from The Dow Chemical Company Foundation to establish the Dow Science and Sustainability Education Center. The center works to enhance STEM education at SVSU and regional K-12 schools.

An estimated 11,000 K-12 students returned to Great Lakes Bay Region classrooms this year to be taught by teachers who participated in STEM professional development experiences offered at SVSU this summer. In addition, SVSU students and faculty are engaged in a number of STEM-based research projects supported through endowments established during this campaign

Donors made major gifts to provide additional opportunities for SVSU students in a variety of other areas, too, including:

  • A $2 million commitment from Bob and Bobbi Vitito to fund the Vitito Global Leadership Institute for SVSU business students.
  • A $1.5 million gift from the Harvey Randall Wickes Foundation to fund the Harvey Randall Wickes Endowed Chair in Nursing.
  • A $1,183,500 gift from the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation to fund the Gerstacker Fellowship II and name the Gerstacker Regional Aquatics Center.
  • A $1 million gift from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation to fund the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation Student Research and Creativity Institute.


Creating additional scholarships was a key campaign priority, as state support for Michigan’s public universities has declined considerably over the years, placing a greater financial burden on students and their families. SVSU benefactors responded by creating more than 200 new scholarships for SVSU students to help defray the cost of their education.

“It was incredibly rewarding to see how donors responded to the call to increase funding for private scholarships,” said Jenee Velasquez, one of the campaign chairs, vice-chair of SVSU’s Board of Control, and executive director of the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation.  “While SVSU has an outstanding track record of maintaining affordability, we know that paying for college can be difficult for students and their families. Scholarship support sometimes can make all the difference in allowing a student to complete a degree and become a more productive member of society.”


The campaign attracted unprecedented levels of alumni giving. More than 2,000 SVSU alumni contributed to the campaign, including two who share the honor of the largest single alumni gifts received. Jan Botz, a 1974 graduate, made a $1 million commitment to establish the Botz Liberal Arts Fellowship, which pairs students in the liberal arts with corporate partners for internships. Scott Carmona, a 1981 graduate and current chair of SVSU’s Board of Control, pledged $1 million to fund scholarships in business and engineering.

“As the youngest of Michigan’s public universities, many of our graduates are now reaching a stage in their lives and careers where they are in a position to give back to their alma mater, and we greatly appreciate their support,” said Andy Bethune, executive director of the SVSU Foundation. “Alumni giving was strong throughout the campaign, and we finished on a high note thanks to the Carmona Family Challenge.”

Included in the Carmona family gift was a challenge grant, where the family pledged to match all alumni gifts received between May 1 and August 15, and 484 alumni made gifts or pledges totaling more than $300,000 during that period.

Campaign Leadership and History

The “Talent. Opportunity. Promise” campaign began in 2011. It was chaired by:

  • John Decker of Bay City, previously an attorney with Braun Kendrick before being hired as SVSU’s general counsel in 2013
  • Brian Law of Bay City, chairman and CEO of Magline
  • Herb Spence III of Saginaw, president of Spence Brothers
  • Jenee Velasquez of Midland, executive director of the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation

The $28 million raised during the “Talent. Opportunity. Promise.” campaign eclipses the $23 million generated during the “Promise for Tomorrow” campaign from 2005 to 2010. SVSU's “Campaign for Distinction” raised more than $13 million from 1997-99, and the “Creating the Future” campaign from 2000-02 exceeded $9.5 million.

September 15, 2015

Photographer Eman Mohammed opens 2015 Fall Focus Lecture Series at SVSU

Eman Mohammed was only 19 when she began capturing photos for a local news agency. Then the Gaza War broke out. As the only female photographer in the Gaza Strip, Mohammed overcame cultural bias, sexual abuse and physical danger to become a powerful journalistic voice documenting the conflict between Israel and Palestine. 

Mohammed will share her story and her work as the first speaker in the 2015 Fall Focus Lecture Series at Saginaw Valley State University. She will give her presentation Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts; her talk is titled “Breaking Taboos and Documenting Devastation: A Woman's Journey.”

This year’s series has the theme of “Discovery!,” and features seven speakers who will talk about topics that both test historical narratives and illuminate issues that may shape the future.

In her Fall Focus presentation, Mohammed will discuss her nomadic childhood with her single mother, her start as a young journalist, and her career – and future – as an internationally-recognized photographer and storyteller. 

Mohammed’s work has been featured by media outlets including the Guardian, Washington Post and CNN, as well as organizations such as UNESCO; it also has been exhibited in New York, Montreal, Dublin and The Hague. In 2013, the British Museum of London acquired some of her work. Mohammed also has been featured as a speaker on the popular TED Talks series. 

Mohammed has expanded her scope to include other Middle Eastern nations. One of her latest projects, "iWar," includes portraits that show the long-term aftermath of survivors and victims of war. The series was photographed over the course of a few days, with each family or person intended to represent the pain and sadness violence can leave behind.

All lectures in the Fall Focus series are open to the public; admission is free of charge. For more information on the series, visit

August 28, 2015

SVSU welcomes expert on climate change effect on small islands

Saginaw Valley State University will welcome a recognized authority on the effect of climate change on small island states. Lorna Veronica Inniss, acting director of the Coastal Zone Management Unit in Barbados, will speak Monday, Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m. in SVSU’s Rhea Miller Recital Hall.

Climate change can be linked to a number of problems unique to small islands, such as rising sea levels that can result in decreased land area, warming sea surface temperatures, human health effects and natural environmental disasters. These are a few examples of the issues that impact the sociological, economic, and cultural futures of these small, independent nations. 

Through her work with the Caribbean island nation of Barbados, Inniss has taken a leadership role in addressing this challenge. She serves as the island’s primary contact to the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, and played a key role in developing the Barbados Program of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States. The program was adopted as a way to understand and address these special challenges; it was implemented within the United Nations Division for Sustainable Development.

Inniss also served as the elected chair of the U.N. Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Caribbean Tsunamis and Coastal Hazards Warning System from 2008-2012. She is the joint coordinator of a group of experts established by the United Nations General Assembly to deliver the first ever Integrated Global Marine Assessment.  Later this year, Inniss will be taking a position as head of the Caribbean Environment Programme, United Nations Environment Programme. She completed a Ph.D. in oceanography and coastal sciences at Louisiana State University.

In addition to her public talk, Inniss also will meet with SVSU faculty, staff and students during her visit.

August 19, 2015

SVSU earns 'Best Dorms' in Michigan ranking, No. 26 nationally

Saginaw Valley State University's campus housing facilities were ranked No. 1 in Michigan by a website grading “Best Dorms” in the United States. 

SVSU was ranked No. 26 nationally.

The website, Niche, calculated the rankings using a weighted formula where 70 percent of a school’s score came from students' satisfaction with their housing. The website surveyed 60,000 students from 903 colleges and universities. The rest of the formula was based upon housing costs, capacity and crime rates; each counted for 10 percent of the total score.

News of SVSU’s stellar review was no surprise to Ashley Murdock, an elementary education major from Oxford. She serves as president of the Residence Housing Association, a student organization for SVSU's residential population.

“We have such a positive energy here, and the residence halls are so homey,” the sophomore said. “We really take pride in them. This ranking doesn't surprise me.”

Before applying to SVSU, Mudrock had not visited the campus housing facilities. 

“Once I saw the residence halls, I knew this was where I was supposed to be,” Murdock said. “It felt so welcoming and open. It felt like home.”

A new crop of Cardinals will have an opportunity to share that feeling when the fall semester begins. Residential students begin moving in Wednesday, August 26. Classes begin Monday, August 31.   More than 70 percent of the freshman class is expected to live on campus, continuing a seven-year trend.

“Once the semester starts, there's always something going on in the residence halls,” Murdock said. “There are a lot of really awesome programs.” 

To view the "Best Dorms" list, go to 

August 18, 2015

SVSU creates graduate fellowship for study of Fredericks, Follett, Roethke

Saginaw Valley State University will welcome scholars to study the art and literature of three renowned figures through a newly established program, the Fredericks-Follett-Roethke Graduate Fellowship in the Arts & Humanities.

SVSU is home to archival collections of popular British author Ken Follett; the late Michigan sculptor Marshall Fredericks; and the late poet Theodore Roethke, a Saginaw native.

“We are fortunate to have these incredibly rich resources at SVSU, and we don’t want them sitting idle,” said Deb Huntley, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “We want to see them used and studied. Through the work of the scholars selected for the fellowship, over time we should gain a deeper understanding of these artists and their legacies, what inspired them, and how they applied their craft.”

Scholars selected for the residency will be graduate students who conduct original research on the works of one or more of the individuals whose collections are housed at SVSU. They are expected to share their findings publicly through a conference paper, published article in a scholarly journal, or other appropriate outlet.

The first recipient of the fellowship is Nick Hartigan, a fifth-year doctoral student at the University of Michigan who specializes in the study of 20th-century sculpture, particularly the period 1965 to 1995. He will conduct a research residency at SVSU during the summer of 2016.

Hartigan’s research will focus on the works and career of Marshall Fredericks, but he also will be introduced to the writings and materials of Follett and Roethke.

In addition to conducting research, Hartigan will speak to SVSU students as a guest lecturer in multiple classes during his residency.

SVSU is home to the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum. Named for the preeminent 20th-century American figurative sculptor who spent most of his career in Michigan, his well-known public works include “The Spirit of Detroit” and the “Cleveland War Memorial: Fountain of Eternal Life.” Fredericks’ collection includes some 200 pieces; few American sculptors have given their entire collection to one institution.

The Fredericks Archives at SVSU were established in 2005, following receipt of the sculptor's business and personal records, and span the 70 years of Fredericks' career from 1928 to 1998. Materials include personal, foreign ministry, and general correspondence as well as special letters and cards received by Fredericks; photographs relating to Frederick's teaching career, projects, civic activities, and personal life; project files, media articles, journals, clippings and books about Fredericks and his work; and numerous other resources.

The Follett Archives at SVSU provide interesting insight into the writing process employed by international best-selling author Ken Follett, and are considered to be the largest collection of such materials in the world. His wide-ranging works include the spy thriller “Eye of the Needle” (1978) and medieval historical fiction such as “World Without End” (2007).  

Follett’s archives at SVSU were initiated in 2000, with the author's gift of his business correspondence, drafts, working notes, handwritten outlines, unproduced screenplays and interview notes. These mostly unpublished working documents relate primarily to Follett's novels and creative works written between 1978 and 2007. Also included in the archives are an extensive collection of his published books, including long-out-of-print novels and children's books published pseudonymously, anthologized short stories, first editions, and a selection of his novels translated into foreign languages.  

Theodore Roethke, arguably Saginaw's most famous native son, is considered one of the most influential American poets of the 20th century.  His nine books of poetry and other writings earned him every major award available to an American poet, including two National Book Awards and the Pulitzer Prize.  In 2005, Roethke's widow, Beatrice Roethke Lushington, enhanced the existing Theodore Roethke Collection at SVSU through the donation of her personal collection of first editions of her husband's work and ten books of literary criticism about Roethke.

Other materials in the Roethke Collection include extensive files related to the Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize from its establishment in 1968 through 2014. The Theodore Roethke Home Museum, located off-campus in Saginaw, serves as an additional resource and is maintained by the Friends of Theodore Roethke, an organization which donated numerous documents to the Roethke Collection at SVSU.

Saginaw Valley State University is a comprehensive university with more than 90 programs of study for its nearly10,000 students. Located on a suburban campus in Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region, SVSU is committed to quality teaching in the classroom, field-based learning, leadership in STEM education (science, technology, engineering, math), NCAA Division II athletics and a broad range of academic and extracurricular opportunities for students to excel.

August 12, 2015

SVSU's K-12 Literacy Specialist Endorsement Program recognized for excellence

Saginaw Valley State University’s literacy specialist program has received accreditation from the International Literacy Association.

“The program excels in its emphasis on helping teachers engage in progressive, research-based practices across content areas,” said Gretchen Owocki, SVSU professor of teacher education.

SVSU’s program is designed for K-12 teachers who have initial certification and want to become more effective literacy teachers in their classrooms or who aspire to work as a reading specialist or literacy coach. 

“Literacy is the key to learning in any classroom,” said Debbie Smith, SVSU professor of teacher education, “and guiding students to read and write in each content area is the best way to promote lifelong learning.”

Literacy specialist students at SVSU engage in field experience in local schools and SVSU’s reading clinic. Many of the courses in the 36-credit graduate program are offered online.

While much emphasis is rightly placed on the importance of early childhood literacy and learning to read, literacy experts say that advanced literacy and reading to learn is increasingly critical in the modern information age.

“Literacy is fundamental to all aspects of education, including 21st century citizenship,” said Vetta Vratulis, SVSU associate professor of teacher education. “Empowering children to become active readers and writers at a young age equips them with the knowledge and skills to achieve their lifetime goals."

For more information, visit, or contact certification officer Kathy Lopez, Owocki at or Vratulis at

August 3, 2015

SVSU and high school educators and students participate in SVSU, Dow Chemical Foundation research projects

Saginaw Valley State University faculty are leading six environmental research studies this summer, working with 10 teachers and 21 students from a dozen K-12 schools in Bay, Gladwin, Midland, Saginaw, Shiawassee and Tuscola counties.

Ten SVSU students also are participating in the studies, which will involve field studies in the Saginaw Bay and its connected river systems.

The studies are coordinated through SVSU’s Dow Science and Sustainability Education Center. The education center is the result of a partnership between SVSU and the Dow Chemical Co. Foundation aimed at increasing interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). 

David Karpovich, SVSU's H.H. Dow Endowed Chair in Chemistry and one of the Dow Science and Sustainability Education Center’s leaders, said the education center and its research projects benefit all participants. 

“The high school students get their first big experience of STEM outside of the classroom by working on real research,” Karpovich said. “The college students also gain very beneficial experience. Most of all, I hope that all of the students are inspired by the program as they decide what careers to pursue.”

“The high school teachers benefit from the experience in many ways from their own professional development to finding ideas for their own classrooms,” he added. “Our faculty certainly enjoy the chance to share their research, but they are especially enthusiastic about the interactions with all of the participants.”

This marks the second summer of the Dow Science and Sustainability Education Center summer research experience. Adrianne Cole was a teacher at Heritage High School in Saginaw Township when she participated in 2014's research initiative.

“I was also able to explore the engineering aspect of STEM - something that had always intimidated me as a biology and chemistry teacher,” she said. “Being part of the overall research on the Saginaw Bay watershed also allowed me to bring my newfound knowledge back to my own classroom and make chemistry relevant to the area that my students live in.”

Since last year, Cole joined SVSU as the university's STEM program manager, putting her in a leadership role with the summer research projects.

Participating local schools for 2015 include:

•    All Saints Central High School in Bay City
•    Bangor Township Schools
•    Bay City Central High School
•    Beaverton High School
•    Bullock Creek 
•    Cass City High School
•    Essexville-Hampton Public Schools
•    Freeland High School
•    Midland Public Schools
•    New Lothrop High School
•    Nouvel Catholic Central High School in Saginaw Township
•    Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy
•    Saginaw Township Community Schools
•    Reese High School 
•    Valley Lutheran High School in Saginaw Township

The Dow Science & Sustainability Education Center at SVSU was funded by The Dow Chemical Company Foundation in December 2013 for the purpose of enhancing STEM education in the Great Lakes Bay Region at all levels. For more information, visit

August 3, 2015

SVSU moot court program attains national top 20 ranking

Saginaw Valley State University’s moot court program is quickly establishing itself among the nation’s best. 

SVSU’s undergraduate program now ranks no. 20 overall in the national rankings and earned a no. 17 finish for the 2014-15 academic year. A relatively young program (formed in 2010), SVSU has quickly climbed ahead of highly regarded schools such as Duke University and the University of Chicago.

“We have progressed so quickly because of the culture of excellence and hard work created by the students in the program,” said Julie Keil, SVSU assistant professor of political science and moot court adviser.  “Students with very busy schedules take time to practice outside of class, go to invitational tournaments and to mentor each other.  We also receive a great deal of support from the university that makes competition at such a high level possible.”

SVSU’s high ranking is based upon strong performances at the American Collegiate Moot Court Association national tournament in Miami last January. Recent graduates Samantha Jackson, a political science major from Goodells, and Rachel Stocki, a business major from St. Clair, together placed 21st in the tournament, losing to the eventual champion. 

The SVSU team of Rachel Cahill, a political science major from Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Jacob Mojica, a political science major from Freeland, also qualified for the national tournament and finished 59th overall. 

In a moot court competition, students act as attorneys in teams of two. They make arguments to a panel of judges by drawing from constitutional law and Supreme Court cases. Judges then decide winners based on public speaking ability, knowledge of cases and of law, and the ability to answer questions.

Jackson is attending the University of Michigan Law School this fall; Stocki is employed as a continuous improvement analyst for a major automotive supplier in suburban Detroit.

Keil, a former practicing attorney, said students reap significant benefits by participating in the program.

“Our students getting into good law schools and graduate schools is not new, but the skills moot court students learn and the relationships they form with the local bar associations, attorneys and judges through this program help them be more competitive for scholarships, as well as helping to ensure success when they get there,” she said. 

SVSU moot court graduates are seeing success at the law school level. SVSU graduate Ashley Hanson Chrysler was part of a Michigan State University College of Law team that won the nation’s largest law school-level moot court competition, topping 202 teams at the American Bar Association’s National Appellate Advocacy Competition April 9‌-11 in Chicago. 

For more information on SVSU’s moot court program, visit‌.

July 22, 2015

SVSU Students Construct Playground Equipment for local Child Care Center

A group of Saginaw Valley State University students will devote a summer Saturday to a service project, as they build and install playground equipment at Great Beginnings Christian Childcare Center in Saginaw County’s Kochville Township. Work will begin at 10 a.m. this Saturday, July 25 and continue until the project is completed.

The students are members of Alpha Phi Omega, a national coed service fraternity. The SVSU chapter has more than 40 members, and event organizer Anna Nowak, an elementary education major from Garden City, expects more than a dozen students to participate Saturday, as well as a few alumni.

SVSU students selected Great Beginnings after learning of the facility’s needs from two of the chapter’s advisers. Mike Major, director of Career Services, and Bob Tuttle, professor of mechanical engineering, both use the center for their children.

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