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November 11, 2014

SVSU earns ‘Best for Vets’ recognition for best military services

Military Times recognized Saginaw Valley State University as part of its Best for Vets: Colleges 2015 rankings announced Monday, Nov. 10.

SVSU was ranked No. 60 among 140 institutions in the 4-year schools category, as ranked nationally by the independent media organization dedicated to news and information about the military.

The Best for Vets: Colleges 2015 rankings evaluate many factors that make an organization a good fit for service members, military veterans and their families.

The survey-based initiative requires schools to document services, special rules, accommodations and financial incentives offered to military and veteran students. It also considers the institution's culture for veterans on campus.

“We factor in what is, to our knowledge, the most detailed school-by-school data on veteran students' academic success anywhere, including graduation, retention, persistence and course completion rates,” said Amanda Miller, editor of Best for Vets.

Two years ago, only 11 percent of the hundreds of schools surveyed could provide that level of detail. This year, that figure is up to 45 percent, Military Times reports.

“By recognizing only the schools that do the most, we believe we're helping to raise the bar in veteran student services,” Miller said.

The rankings will be published in the issues of Army Times Navy Times, Air Force Times, and Marine Corps Times. The rankings also will appear in the November issue of Military Times EDGE magazine, as well as online at,,,, and The rankings also are available at

News of SVSU's ranking arrives about one month after the university was recognized by being named to the Military Friendly® list of schools for the fourth consecutive year. Selected by Victory Media, the list honors the top 15 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools that are doing the most to embrace America's military service members, veterans, spouses and dependents as students, and ensure their success on campus.

November 7, 2014

SVSU gears up for annual Battle of the Valleys fundraising competition

Saginaw Valley State University will commence another student-led Battle of the Valleys fundraising competition with Grand Valley State University starting Sunday, Nov. 9. It culminates with the rival football programs' 1 p.m. game Saturday, Nov. 15, at SVSU's Harvey Randall Wickes Stadium.

This year's efforts will carry an added personal meaning for student organizers familiar with the namesake of the SVSU charity partner, the Cory Rivard Jr. Promise Foundation.

Cory Rivard Jr. was a GVSU student who committed suicide in January 2011. Josh Rivard, his younger brother, graduated from SVSU in May and is now in graduate school.

SVSU Battle of the Valleys chair Emily VanFleteren, a physical education major from Troy, said she and other SVSU students met Cory Rivard Jr. several times years ago when he visited his younger sibling at the Saginaw campus. Now, she hopes to raise $35,000 for the Rivard family-established foundation in Algonac, Mich., which educates college students on preventative measures for suicide, depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses.

VanFleteren said the foundation's tag line, “A Hug From Above,” perfectly encapsulated Cory Rivard, Jr.'s affable nature with friends and strangers alike.

“He was a great kid,” she said. “This hits home for me, and for a lot of people on campus who had met Cory or who know Josh.”

Rivard's status as a GVSU student with close SVSU ties also drives home another important message regarding Battle of the Valleys.

“Although there's a rivalry, we're fighting for great causes together,” VanFleteren said. “It helps put this rivalry in a positive light.”

Members of Rivard's family will attend some of the week's events, all of which are open to the public. Events planned outside of campus include late-night fundraisers at T-Dub’s pizzeria and pub across the street from campus, who will donate a portion of proceeds to the cause.

One new event this year, is a combined effort with the Saginaw Spirit hockey team for their game with the Windsor Spitfires Friday, Nov. 14, at 7:11 p.m. at the Dow Event Center in downtown Saginaw. Tickets purchased using the username "SVSU" and password "spirit" will contribute $5 from each ticket purchased to support Cory Rivard Jr. Promise Foundation. SVSU student volunteers will collect donations and sell Battle of the Valleys T-shirts and sweatshirts, along with glow sticks, inside the arena. Valley Voices, a choir group featuring SVSU students, will sing the national anthem.

SVSU's campus will host several Battle of the Valleys events throughout the week too. That schedule includes a kickoff party Sunday; a date auction Monday, Nov. 10; attendees purchasing Cool Whip pies to throw at members of SVSU's Student Association and resident assistants Tuesday, Nov. 11; a pep rally Wednesday, Nov. 12; and a talent show Thursday, Nov. 13.

For more details on each event, visit‌. You also may donate online from the website.

At all events, SVSU Battle of the Valleys-themed T-shirts and sweatshirts will be sold for $10 and $20, respectively, or for $25 if purchased together.

All week long, students will collect donations at the intersection of Bay and Tittabawassee.

GVSU, meanwhile, will raise funds this year for The Grand Valley Children's Fund, a university-led initiative. Various organizations working with children can apply for mini-grants from the fund.

Since 2003, SVSU and GVSU have raised $432,963 during Battle of the Valleys for various charities and foundations. SVSU has collected $274,498, or 63.3 percent of the total, and out-raised GVSU during eight of the 11 years.

Last year, SVSU raised $25,185 for Area 22 Special Olympics Michigan, an organization that yearly sends hundreds of special-needs athletes to SVSU to compete.

November 6, 2014

SVSU's Cardinal Singers invited to statewide convention

Saginaw Valley State University’s Cardinal Singers were selected to perform at the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) state convention Oct. 24.

This was the first time an SVSU choir was invited to sing at an ACDA convention. The choir was selected by an esteemed group of choral directors through a blind audition.

The Cardinal Singers attended the conference at the First Presbyterian Church in Flint.

Kevin Simons, assistant professor of music at SVSU, conducted the Cardinal Singers.

“This was a major milestone for the choral program and music department at SVSU,” Simons said. “It’s a huge feather in our cap. In vocal performance, it’s the equivalent of the Detroit Lions making the playoffs in football.”

The ACDA was founded in 1959 and is a nonprofit music-education organization with the purpose of advancing choral music. Divided into seven geographic divisions and 50 state chapters, the ACDA consists of choral directors who represent more than 1 million singers across the United States.

Nine outstanding Michigan choirs in four concert performances were highlighted at the 2014 conference.

The Cardinal Singers are the chamber vocal ensemble at SVSU. The group sings a wide array of literature, from Josquin to contemporary jazz. Founded in 2008, Cardinal Singers is directed by Simons and accompanied by Cheryl Cheger-Timm. The group has been invited to sing at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and have sung with the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra.

Simons is the director of music and organist at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Saginaw. Simons also serves as a board member for the Michigan chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing and as a director for the Sewanee Church Music Conference.


November 5, 2014

SVSU student manages growing home health care agency

While most college students typically finish their education before diving into the profession their degree will support, circumstance and opportunity combined to thrust Rachel Gregus into the challenge of performing both feats at the same time.

The Saginaw Valley State University student is about one year shy of earning a bachelor's degree in health science. She's also more than one year into serving as co-founder and manager of a home health care agency employing 15 people and serving 60 others in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

“It's definitely a lot of work,” she said of her work both academically and with her company, Safe Hands Warm Hearts Inc. “It's something that started out as a little idea and unfolded into something big.”

And, judging by the size of the clientele already established, it's something that Gregus has managed to steer with early success.  The road preceding this stretch of success, though, had a few more twists and turns.

A 2007 Swan Valley High School graduate, Gregus said she struggled to find her calling early on in college. She dabbled in academic majors ranging from psychology to forensic science.

“I kind of threw my hands up in the air and said, ‘What am I doing,’” she said. “I was so restless. I have to have some kind of direction.”

A nursing assistant at HealthSource of Saginaw from 2010 to 2013, Gregus eventually decided to expand on her health care interests by pursuing SVSU's health science degree. Her focus was strengthened further when a close friend with engineering degrees focused in health care approached her about developing an agency that would tend to those in need of home health care.

“He asked what I knew about it, and I decided to entertain myself with some of the questions he was asking,” Gregus said of the company's owner, Udit Parikh.

What started as curious detective work online quickly transformed into the development of a functioning business.

“Before I knew it, I was creating policies and procedures,” she said.

By September 2013, Safe Hands Warm Hearts Inc. was in business.

More than a year later, the agency services about 60 people - largely an elderly population in Saginaw, Bay and Midland counties. The company also provides care for residents of Wescourt Independent Senior Living apartments in Saginaw. Gregus said the company is currently expanding coverage into Lansing.

“Once we do that, we would like to serve surrounding states, and possibly franchise,” Gregus said.

Along with her work life, Gregus has plans beyond the foreseeable future for her academic life. She eventually wants to pursue a master's degree in health care-related studies - possibly international health care or health care ethics.

“Balancing being a young manager and a student at the same time is tough,” she said. “There's a reason why people do this after they graduate, but I love what I do. It's been very rewarding.”

November 5, 2014

Dow Corning Foundation and SVSU growing ‘love of science and math’ at Bay City Western Middle School

The final bell rings, marking the end of another school day, but instead of emptying, Bay City Western Middle School's Room 229 begins to fill with students. Before long, teacher Allison VanDriessche's sees a criss-crossing blur of activity, energy and enthusiasm.

It's a typical scene in her new after-school science program, where 30 students performing the day's biology-based experiments become, themselves, a living demonstration of causality.

The cause: VanDriessche and her forward-thinking curriculum, inspired in part by her participation in the Dow Corning Foundation/Saginaw Valley State University STEM Community Partnership.

The planned effect: Generating student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics - or STEM - that endures throughout their academic lives and perhaps beyond that. The hope is that the Dow Corning Foundation/SVSU partnership will inspire students such as those in VanDriessche's program to eventually pursue a profession in Michigan's many STEM-based industries.

It's still early in the initiative, VanDriessche admits, but the results appear promising so far.

“They're having a positive experience,” she said of her students.

In the after-school program's first weeks, VanDriessche's experiments involve students creating a system of symbiosis between plants, worms and fish. In one corner of the room is an aquarium of goldfish. In another corner is a container of soil housing worms. When the students are finished building the networked infrastructure, the worms and fish will produce food for the plants, and vice versa.

The project fits the young aspirations of students such as Katelyn Skelley.

“I love science and math,” she says. “I want to do aquaponics because I like fish.”

Skelley prefers the hands-on work of VanDriessche's after-school program rather than the textbook-and-test approach of some of her previous science classes.

Jason Perry, another sixth grader participating in the class, shares that sentiment.

“I love working with plants and animals,” said Perry, a self-professed prospective veterinarian. “I'm learning a lot here.”

So is VanDriessche. The teacher says the Dow Corning Foundation/SVSU STEM Community Partnership continues to be a boon to her own development as an educator.

Over the summer, she began working with Amanda Ross, SVSU lecturer of biology, as part of the STEM collaboration. Since then, the two brainstorm ideas for assignments aimed at stimulating interest in science from the middle school crowd.

VanDriessche isn't alone in the effort. In all, 13 teachers from K-12 school districts across the region are paired with SVSU as part of the partnership, funded by a $254,000 Dow Corning Foundation grant.

“I've learned a lot at Saginaw Valley,” VanDriessche said. “It's been interesting to implement what I've learned in the class.”

Her students appear to feel the same way. About an hour after they began handling plants, monitoring goldfish, examining soil and seeds, and building the physical infrastructure that will bring all those elements together, the day's program is finished.  

After her sixth graders leave Room 229 to meet their waiting parents and bus rides home, the room is much more quiet and their projects much further along than when the day began.

“That,” VanDriessche said, “is organized chaos right there.”

And, so far, it's working.

November 4, 2014

SVSU Flute Choir in concert Thursday

Saginaw Valley State University's Flute Choir will perform in concert Thursday, Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m. in SVSU's Founders Hall; it is free and open to the public.

Townes Osborn Miller, an adjunct instructor of music, will direct the choir, which includes SVSU students and faculty. Flute Choir members are: Emily Bass, Jessica Chrysler, Breanna Hillard, Jane Girdham, Jane Jaksa, Courtney McGee, Kaitlyn Richard, Bethany Weller and Nola Welter.

The concert will feature selections by French composers Gabriel Fauré, J.B de Boismortier and Eric Satie as well as Spanish composer Isaac Albeniz and Austrian composer Franz Schubert.

For more information, contact Townes Osborn Miller at or the SVSU Department of Music at 989-964-4159. 

November 4, 2014

SVSU jazz concert to feature music of Freddie Hubbard

Saginaw Valley State University jazz artist-in-residence Jeff Hall will lead a concert ensemble with five guest musicians as they perform the music of jazz legend Freddie Hubbard Saturday, Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m. in SVSU's Rhea Miller Recital Hall. Admission is $12 for the general public, and $5 for students and senior citizens.

The late Hubbard is regarded as one of the great jazz trumpeters of all time. He gained fame by playing with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in the 1960s, which followed a tour of Europe with Quincy Jones in 1960-1961.  Hubbard also toured with Herbie Hancock's acoustic V.S.O.P. Quintet in 1977.

By the early 1970s, Hubbard’s distinctive music made him a pacesetter in jazz. The albums "Red Clay” and “Straight Life” are considered to be among his finest recorded work.

A Saginaw native, Hall worked as an adjunct instructor at SVSU from 1974-2005 when he accepted the artist-in-residence appointment. After attending Berklee College of Music in Boston, Hall returned to Michigan and has toured with bands such as Great Lakes Express and Method, while playing alongside noted jazz artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt, Joe Henderson and the J.C. Heard Orchestra.

For the concert, Hall will be joined by five guest musicians. They are:

•    Chris Bickley, a saxophonist and flutist who lives in Traverse City and is the leader of the Bay Area Big Band. He is the founder of the Bay Area Music Foundation, which offers music scholarships, educational programs and musical instruments for gifted and underprivileged students. He has worked with renowned artists such as Kenny Rogers, Mel Torme and Gladys Knight.

•    Jack Dryden, a bassist who has played with the Detroit Symphony, the Boston Pops and the Toledo Symphony Orchestra. He has recorded with Aretha Franklin, The Four Tops and Anita Baker. He is an active clinician and educator at Berklee, the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, Western Michigan University, and the Interlochen School for the Performing Arts.

•    Paul Finkbeiner, a trumpeter and flugelhornist who has performed in jazz groups all over the world, including the Orange County Jazz Festival in Los Angeles, the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and the symphonic hall of the Auditorio Nacional de Música in Madrid, Spain. He has appeared on several albums with artists such as Jan Krist and Phil Ogilvie's Rhythm Kings.

•    Arlene McDaniel, a pianist who has performed at Lansing's Old Town Jazz Fest and the Michigan Jazz Festival in Livonia. She is on the faculty at Michigan State University’s Community Music School and Hillsdale College.
•    Peter Simonson, a drummer who has performed with headliners such as Mark Murphy and Deborah Brown. In 2003, he received a Special Achievement Award from the Central Iowa Community Jazz Center.

For more information, call the SVSU Department of Music at 989-964-4159, or the SVSU box office at (989) 964-4261.

October 29, 2014

Piano-Violin combo Duo Diorama to perform in concert at SVSU

The internationally acclaimed Duo Diorama will perform in concert Saturday, Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m. in Saginaw Valley State University's Rhea Miller Recital Hall as part of SVSU’s Rhea Miller Concert Series. The duo includes Chinese violinist MingHuan Xu and Canadian pianist Winston Choi.

Comprised of two renowned soloists who can effectively blend their distinctive personalities together, the duo maintains an active performing and touring schedule. They have performed extensively throughout Asia, North America, South America and Europe.

Recent performances at the Colours of Music Festival in Canada and the Mammoth Lakes Musical Festival in California were met with critical and audience acclaim. Xu and Choi are also the inaugural recipients of the Banff Centre's Rolston Fellowship in Music.

Duo Diorama performs well-known standard works, as well as approachable, captivating avant garde music.

Xu was a winner of the Beijing Young Artists Competition and gave her New York debut at age 18 as a soloist with the New York Youth Symphony Orchestra. The sought-after chamber musician has performed in recitals in China and North America. Xu is a member of the music faculty at Loyola University of Chicago.

Choi was Laureate of the 2003 Honens International Piano Competition in Canada and winner of France's Orleans International Piano Competition. He is a prolific recording artist and a regular recital performer with orchestras throughout North America and Europe. Choi is an associate professor and head of piano at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.

This concert is part of SVSU's Rhea Miller Concert Series, made possible by a generous gift from Rhea E. Miller, a long-time friend of SVSU. Her gift, administered by the Miller Trust for Music Education, has provided the university with the opportunity to offer outstanding performances by nationally and internationally acclaimed musical artists at no cost to the audience since 1993. 
For more information, call (989) 964-4159 or, from Midland, 695-5325, ext. 4159, or email

October 28, 2014

SVSU, community to celebrate Theodore Roethke during week-long festival

Poetry lovers, arts aficionados and supporters of Saginaw will celebrate the community-wide Theodore Roethke Poetry & Arts Festival this November, sponsored in part by Saginaw Valley State University.

Poetry readings, prize ceremonies, plays, history tours, wine tastings and appearances by nationally-renowned author Tim Seibles are among the events planned for the Nov. 7-12 festival named in honor of Roethke, a 20th century Pulitzer Prize-winning poet from Saginaw. Seibles is the recipient of the 13th triennial SVSU Board of Fellows Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize for his book “Fast Animal,” a collection of work that threads life's journey from childhood to adulthood.
The festival is made possible in part by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Venues stretch across the Great Lakes Bay Region, from Saginaw to Bay City to Midland. Below is the festival schedule. Unless otherwise indicated, events are free and open to the public.
Poetry slam

Friday, Nov. 7, 7 p.m.
Marshall Fredericks Sculpture Museum, SVSU
Adults and students from middle school to college are invited to participate in the poetry slam. A panel of judges will select the winners. Preceding the slam at 6 p.m. is a presentation by STEPS Montessori.

"Letters From Home"

Saturday, Nov. 8, 2:30 p.m.
Roethke home, 1805 Gratiot in Saginaw
Members of the River Junction Poets will read letters written from and about Roethke's home.

"Ted (Roethke) Talk and Tasting"

Saturday, Nov. 8, 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Creative 360, 1517 Bayliss in Midland
Mike Kolleth, vice president of Friends of Theodore Roethke, will present a history of the poet through the Roethke Museum's collection of books and manuscripts. The event will feature a wine tasting. Admission is $10 in advance or $16 at the door.

"First Class" play production

Sunday, Nov. 9, 3 p.m., and Monday, Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m.
Rhea Miller Recital Hall, SVSU
Playwright, teacher and former Roethke student David Wagoner will present this one-man play that offers an insightful portrait of Roethke. Steve Erickson, SVSU professor of theatre, stars in the production.

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute classes

Monday, Nov. 10, 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
SVSU's Curtiss Hall, Curtiss 129
Attendees 50 and older - members and non-members of the OLLI program - are invited to attend three classes beginning Nov. 10 when Kolleth presents a history of Roethke. In the first class, Kolleth, book collector Jett Whitehead and Melvin J. Zahnow Library Interim Director Anita Dey will participate in a panel discussion about book collection. A Nov. 17 class will feature SVSU assistant professors of English Lynne Graft and Ruth Sawyers analyzing Roethke poetry. A Nov. 24 session will involve a tour of Roethke's home. The total fee for the package of sessions is $32.

"From a Greenhouse"

Monday, Nov. 10, 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Dow Gardens, 1809 Eastman in Midland
Seibles, a 2012 National Book Award finalist for "Fast Animal," will read select poetry.

The SVSU Board of Fellows Triennial Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize

Tuesday, Nov. 11, 7 p.m.
Rhea Miller Recital Hall, SVSU
Seibles will be honored as the 2014 winner of the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize - awarded once every three years since 1968 - for his book of poetry, "Fast Animal." A book signing will follow the ceremony.

Michigan Jazz Trail Big Band concert

Wednesday, Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m.
Bay City State Theater, 913 Washington Ave. in Bay City
This concert will feature a 19-piece orchestra and vocalists Molly McFadden and Ron Trombly performing jazz from the 1930s to '50s in tribute to jazz aficionado Roethke. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

In addition to the festivities, SVSU's Zahnow Library will feature a Roethke display in its Roberta Allen Reading Room from mid-October until the festival's close.
For more information on the events, visit

October 28, 2014

Nursing Student Aims to Reduce Malaria Selling Mosquito Nets

Nursing major Sarah Lewan has an impressive list of honors and activities related to her academic and student life at SVSU. The Royal Oak native is a recipient of a Presidential Scholarship and is a University Foundation Scholar. Lewan is also involved in His House Christian Fellowship, one of more than 130 registered student organizations on campus, and is a member of Living Center Community Council, a residential complex advisory group. All impressive, but what makes Lewan’s story really amazing is Project Sunset. 

In fall 2011, Lewan received a letter from a non-profit agency asking for financial support to help buy mosquito nets for communities in Africa where malaria runs rampant. Most who die from malaria are kids; more than 500 million victims worldwide die from this disease each year. Lewan was moved, but calculated that the cost of each net was higher than it needed to be, simply because of organizational overhead. So, she decided to do it herself. Lewan enlisted the help of a graphic designer friend to design a t-shirt. Sales of t shirts would buy mosquito nets. The first 50 were sold even before they arrived; today, she is sending orders to people around the world.

Thus was born Project Sunset. And the “global headquarters?”—her dorm room in SVSU’s Living Center Southwest. 

Just as Lewan had taken the time to analyze the cost difference between sales through a large non-profit and what she would be able to do on her own, she began to think about the purchase of the nets. She knew that weavers in Ghana create the same nets, and their livelihoods depend on those sales. A well-intentioned project on one hand could devastate a local economy on the other. And so Lewan decided to buy local. 

“When I began fundraising for mosquito nets,” Lewan said, “I had no idea I’d be the person to hand-deliver them.” But she did. In June 2012, she spent 12 days in Gabon, giving out nets and sharing with the locals how the nets work to save lives. Leaving one village, she met a man who predicted, “You’ll be back.” Three weeks later, the man called her to say that his organization—E4 Projects—wanted to adopt her work. Soon after, E4Projects featured Project Sunset on its website ( 

Since then, Lewan has attended, by invitation, the International Justice Conference. In March, she was part of a 12-person “medical impact” team that visited Gabon. Once again, Lewan’s Project Sunset was there to distribute nets. Lewan plans to graduate with her B.S.N. in December 2015.

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