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March 11, 2015

Islamic studies expert to give lecture at SVSU

Saginaw Valley State University will welcome a world-recognized leader in Islamic studies for SVSU's annual Raana Akbar Memorial Lecture Series on Thursday, March 19, at 6 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall.

Imam Achmat Salie, director of the Islamic Studies Program at the University of Detroit Mercy, will deliver a presentation titled, “Muslim Americans as Cultural, Spiritual and Political Citizens.”

Speaking on philanthropy, global ethics, architecture, democracy, spiritual values, non-violence and green housing, Salie has been invited to share his story at venues across five continents. He completed a bachelor’s degree at Darul Uloom Newcastle in South Africa, and an M.B.A. and Doctor of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.

This will be Salie’s second public appearance at SVSU; he delivered the invocation during President Donald Bachand's investiture ceremony last June. His upcoming talk is free of charge and open to the public.

The annual Dr. Raana Akbar Memorial Lecture Series on Islam and Culture at SVSU was established by Dr. Waheed Akbar, a Saginaw-based orthopedic surgeon, and the couple’s children, Akbar, Zainab, and Ahmed, in memory of their wife and mother, who passed away in 2009.  Raana served on the SVSU Board of Control; Waheed currently serves on SVSU’s Board of Fellows, a community advisory board.

March 10, 2015

Professional Profile for February 2015

• Martin Arford, associate professor of geography, was presented the Osprey Award for Outstanding Conservation Volunteers by the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy for the work at the Frankenlust Township Park and the invasive species removal that he coordinated with the help of SVSU student volunteers.

• James Bowers, assistant professor of criminal justice, and Poonam Kumar, director of online/hybrid learning, co-authored an article titled “Students’ Perceptions of Teaching and Social Presence: A Comparative Analysis of Face-to-Face and Online Learning Environments” that was accepted for publication in the International Journal of Web-based Learning and Teaching Technologies, 10(1), 2845.

• Ann CoburnCollins, director of academic programs support, recently attended the Innovations for Adjunct Faculty Support conference in Phoenix, Ariz., where she gave three presentations: “Creating an Inclusive Orientation Process”; “Developing Adjunct Faculty for Improved Student Success”; and “Developing and Resourcing an Adjunct Faculty Support Center. 

• Danilo Sirias, professor of management, provided training for 112 math teachers on his Problem Solving Maps methodology in Manila, Philippines. He was sponsored by Theory of Constraints for Education and hosted by the Rotary Club of Makati Central. More than 1,000 Philippine teachers have been trained on this methodology.

• Marilyn Skrocki, associate professor of health sciences, and Poonam Kumar, director of online/hybrid learning, gave an invited session titled “Strategies to Support Student Retention in Online Courses” at the Transforming the Teaching & Learning Environment: the 2014 PASSHE virtual conference, organized by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

• Stephen Taber, professor of biology, had a manuscript titled “The Previously Unknown Female of the Fungus Gnat genus Paratinia Mik (Diptera: Mycetophilidae) with Notes on Nearctic Males” accepted for publication in Southwestern Entomologist magazine.

• Bob Tuttle, professor of mechanical engineering, was selected by the American Foundry Society to receive its 2015 Applied Research Award for his “Ultrasonic Testing Gage R & R Study.” 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.

• Gardner Umbarger, associate professor of teacher education, presented at the 16th International Conference for the Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities-CEC in Clearwater Beach, Fla., in January. The topic of his presentation was “The Ethics of School Immunization Exemption Laws.”

• Scott Youngstedt, professor of anthropology, presented a paper titled “Water Vendors, Gender, and Islam in Niamey, Niger” at the 113th annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association

March 10, 2015

Professional Profile for January 2015

• James Bowers, assistant professor of criminal justice; Kim Lacey, assistant professor of English; and Poonam Kumar, director of online/hybrid learning, presented “Teaching Presence on the Rise: Engaging Undergraduate Students in Online Course” Nov. 15, 2014, at the Bucknell Digital Scholarship Conference.

• Brandon Haskett, assistant professor of music, recently published two articles: “A Case Study of Early Professional Development Opportunities for Steel Band Directors in the United States: The Haystack Steelpan Program,” in Visions of Research in Music Education (December 2014); and “A Survey Study of U.S. Collegiate and K12 Steel Band Directors’ Attitudes Relating to Steel Band Curriculum and Pedagogy” in Update: Applications of Research in Music Education (November 2014). Also, Haskett presented “The Development of K- 12 and Collegiate Steel Bands in the U.S.” at the Percussive Arts Society International Conference in November 2014.

• Robert Tuttle, professor of mechanical engineering, and Yousef Jabbari, associate professor of mechanical engineering, have received a $21,359 grant from the American Foundry Society for their Thermal Property Trends in Green Sand. This project focuses on determining how the thermophysical properties of foundry molding sands vary with temperature and sand composition. Results from this project will improve the performance of the solidification simulation software by creating new thermophysical property data sets and developing a better understanding of the effect of molding sands on removing heat from a casting. 

• Sara Beth Keough, associate professor of geography, and Scott Youngstedt, professor of anthropology, have co-authored an article that was published in Vol. 57, no. 4 (2014) of the peer-reviewed journal, FOCUS on Geography. The article is titled “The Material Culture of Water: Transportation, Storage, and Consumption in Niamey, Niger.” Funding for fieldwork in Niger was provided by the American Geographical Society’s McColl Fellowship and an SVSU Faculty Research Grant.

• Jeffrey Koperski, professor of philosophy, has published his first book with Wiley-Blackwell: The Physics of Theism: God, Physics, and the Philosophy of Science.

• Helen Raica Klotz, Christina Montgomery, and Christopher Giroux, with Crystal Brinson, Zach Gibson, Taeler Singleton, Kramer Stoneman and Ka Vang, published “‘Developing Writers:’ The Multiple Identities of an Embedded Tutor in the Developmental Writing Classroom” in Praxis: A Writing Center Journal (12:1), December 2014.

• Anne Tapp, professor of education, and Joe Jaksa, associate professor of criminal justice, presented “The Role of Technology in Virtual Mentorships and Internships” at the 13th Annual International Conference on Education, Jan. 8 in Honolulu.

March 10, 2015

Professional Profile for November 2014

• Emily J. Beard, assistant professor of English, presented a paper titled “‘Reacting’ to the needs of the Composition Student: Employing Reacting Pedagogy in the Writing Classroom” at the Writing Across the Peninsula conference, Oct. 10 in Marquette. Also, Beard presented a webinar titled “Tapping into Student Success: Using MindTap to Promote Richer Learning Outcomes” as part of the Cengage Learning Fall Webinar Series, Oct. 24.

• Elson Boles, professor of sociology, presented a seminar titled “The Flipped Classroom and Team-Based Learning” at the annual Professional Issues in Higher Education Conference at Michigan Education Association headquarters, Oct. 24 in Lansing. Also, Boles began his tenure this fall as vice president, four-year colleges of the Michigan Association of Higher Education.

• Marlena Bravender, assistant professor of education technology, presented “What would you do? Student experiences with online simulations” at the annual Lilly Conference, Oct. 18 in Traverse City.

• Geoffrey V. Carter, assistant professor of English, presented a talk and film titled “Crime, Culture and Chicane Lanes: A Hidden History of Michigan Pinball” at the Cultural Rhetorics Conference, Nov. 1 at Michigan State University.

• Garry Johns, professor of mathematical sciences, presented two papers that he co-authored with Jan Hlavacek, assistant professor of mathematical sciences. First, he presented “Rainbow-colored paths” at the 45th Southeastern International Conference on Combinatorics, Graph Theory and Computing, March 3-7. The paper will be included in the conference proceedings. Also, Johns presented “The strong rainbow connection number and maximal cliques” at the 28th Midwest Conference on Combinatorics & Combinatorial Computing, Oct. 22-24.

• Sara Beth Keough, associate professor of geography, gave a research presentation at the University of Western Ontario as part of the Fall 2014 Colloquium Series for the Migration and Ethnic Relations Graduate Program. Her presentation was titled, “Migration to Fort McMurray, Alberta: Implications for Urban Planning and Social Capital in a Resource-Dependent Community.”

• Rhett Mohler, assistant professor of geography, presented a paper titled “Determining the timing and potential cause of a swampy, chronically hypoxic reach of the North Branch of the Kawkawlin River” at the 37th Applied Geography Conference, Oct. 15-17 in Atlanta, Ga. This work was co-authored by Nick Ross, a student who has since gone on to graduate school in the field of geographic information systems at Chicago State University.

• Paul Munn, professor of English, published the article “Puissance, Jouissance, and Communication: Mediating John Ashbery’s ‘The Salve Merchant’ in the Context of His Planisphere” in the journal Imaginaires 18 (2014).

• Stephen Taber, professor of biology, has a manuscript titled “A New Nearctic Species of the Fungus Gnat Genus Dziedzickia Johannsen (Diptera: Mycetophilidae)” accepted for publication in Southwestern Entomologist magazine.

February 27, 2015

SVSU Students Teach Kids to Draw Comics

A group of Saginaw Valley State University students, the SVSU Comic Strippers, will conduct two free workshops on drawing comics for youth ages 8-16.

The first workshop will take place Saturday, March 14 at 11 a.m. at Zauel Library, 3100 N. Center Road in Saginaw Township.  The second workshop is Saturday, April 25 at 11 a.m. at Butman Fish Library, 1716 Hancock Street in Saginaw.  

The SVSU Comic Strippers has been a registered student organization since 2009, dedicated to advancement and appreciation of their comic artwork, sharing resources and development of their skills. This year's club officers are James Hansen, Jolyn Ohlendorf and Neil Richardson.

The Comic Strippers club has taught successful workshops in 2012 and 2013 at Zauel Library. In the past they have taught skills in layout and design, Japanese-style manga characters, realistic human faces, and tentacle-faced monsters.

For more information on the Zauel Library workshop, please contact Jennifer Harden at (989) 799-2771 or

For more information on the the Butman Fish Library workshop, please contact Kristine Swanson at (989) 799-9160 or

February 27, 2015

SVSU to host annual college night; first time in spring

Saginaw Valley State University will host Great Lakes Bay Region College Night Monday, March 16 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in SVSU’s Groening Commons and Curtiss Hall. Previously, this event has been held in the fall; it is being moved to spring to give regional high school students more time to research and explore different college options.

“This is a prime opportunity for local high school students, especially juniors and sophomores in the Great Lakes Bay Region, 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.”

The college night will give high school sophomores and juniors from the Great Lakes Bay Region a head start in learning about college and the opportunities it has to offer.

Admission representatives from more than 40 colleges and universities will be present to provide students and parents with information about financial aid, scholarships, academic programs, career opportunities, housing, clubs, athletics, and other college-related topics. Recruitment officers from the U.S. Armed Forces will also be present to supply information to interested students.

A financial aid presentation will begin at 7 p.m.

There is no charge to attend. For more information, contact SVSU’s admission office at (989) 964-4200 or visit

February 26, 2015

SVSU theatre alum influences arts scenes in U.S., abroad

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:

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.”

February 26, 2015

SVSU names Wierda to lead STEM initiatives coordination

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.   

February 25, 2015

SVSU Honors Outstanding Graduates at Alumni Celebration

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.

February 18, 2015

Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson to speak at SVSU

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.

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