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November 18, 2014

SVSU students win ‘Battle’ and raise $32k for suicide awareness/prevention

Saginaw Valley State University's student-led Battle of the Valleys competition last week resulted in raised $32,294 for the Cory Rivard Jr. Promise Foundation, a group based in Algonac, Mich. that educates college students on preventative measures for suicide, depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses.

Emily VanFleteren, a physical education major from Troy and SVSU’s 2014 Battle of the Valleys chair, said she was proud of the volunteers and supporters who contributed to the cause.

“It was a wonderful feeling to be out on the field with the Rivard family to hand them the check from SVSU,” VanFleteren said. “I could not be happier with how the week turned out, and I am definitely proud to be a part of such a wonderful student body who is so dedicated to and passionate about giving back through Battle of the Valleys.”

Begun in 2003, the annual fundraising competition pits SVSU against Grand Valley State University. This year’s contest concluded Saturday, Nov. 15 when the rival football teams played each other at SVSU. The Battle of the Valleys results were announced at halftime of the game. GVSU students collected about $7,000 this year for the Grand Valley Children’s Fund.

SVSU now has bested GVSU for nine out of the 12 Battle of the Valleys competitions.  During the past 12 years, SVSU students have raised $306,789 for a variety of charitable causes.

November 13, 2014

Bullock Creek students measuring more interest in math and science, thanks to Dow Corning Foundation and SVSU

Atop Bullock Creek Middle School sits a recently-installed miniature weather station that will help 42 eighth grade pre-algebra students better understand how the environment could energize their campus.

While that task is the machine's literal purpose, the technology serves a symbolic function as well. Education advocates hope the device is one of several metaphoric instruments that power these students' pursuit of careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Their teacher, Ashley Meyer, is one of those education advocates, as are the individuals who selected her to participate in the Dow Corning Foundation-Saginaw Valley State University STEM Community Partnership. As part of the initiative, Meyer and 12 other teachers from across the Great Lakes Bay Region are receiving academic assistance and funding to support STEM-related studies such as the environmental project underway at Bullock Creek Middle School.

The goal is to pique K-12 student interest in the sciences in hopes those pupils one day will fill the state's growing STEM-related jobs pool.

“I want to change their attitudes toward math,” Meyer said of her students. “Hopefully, it works.”

The STEM partnership has teamed her with Garry Johns, SVSU professor of mathematics. Over the next year, they will continue to generate study plans - such as the experiment involving the weather station - meant to resonate with young students.

The 42 students in Meyer's fourth- and sixth-hour pre-algebra classrooms are among the inaugural class exposed to the STEM project. Their first assignment is to answer the question: Which alternative energy source would best suit Bullock Creek Middle School?

The assignment links mathematics to science – two subjects students rarely see as related, Meyer said. Over the course of the academic year, students will measure energy outputs from devices relating to both solar- and wind-produced power. Meyer already has collected data on energy use at the school, located just a few miles south of Midland.

“We're asking, ‘Should we go and get a solar panel? Should we invest in a wind turbine? Should we stick with the electricity we use right now?’”

A $254,000 Dow Corning Foundation grant is funding the technology supporting the classroom projects for Meyer and her 12 peers involved in the partnership.

For Meyer's project, that funding so far has supported both the small weather station and small, handheld solar panels. The data gathered from the technology will aid in the class research.


‌Meyer, a 2013 SVSU mathematics education graduate, said she is considering asking her students to present their findings to the Bullock Creek school board at the end of the academic year.

The work also is intended to connect to the new common core standards for eighth grade math, as adopted by the Michigan State Board of Education in 2010.

While the students only recently began their research, some already are excited by its prospects. The group recently spent a classroom hour on their school's front lawn. There, they set up the small solar panels, adjusted them at various angles and recorded the sun's energy measurements as provided by calculator-like devices attached to the panels.

Student Megan Sieffert saw immediate value in the hands-on approach.

“It's much more fun to do this than to read about it in books,” the eighth grader said. “This is a good idea to help us understand how this connects to the real world.”

Her classmate, Nataleigh Nadobny, seemed to agree.

“I'll remember this better than books,” she said.

Meyer said she hopes such sentiments are shared by all of the participating students by year's end – and beyond. She plans to continue the project in future eighth grade classrooms while also adapting the project to fit the curriculum of other grade levels.

“I also have a sixth and seventh grade math class, and when they saw the solar kit sitting in the side of the class, they would ask, ‘Oh, are those for us?’ I had to say, ‘No, those are for my eighth graders.’ So they're excited and they're hoping they have me next year so they can do this,” Meyer said.

“That was a good sign.”

November 13, 2014

Retiring Dow vice president to address SVSU graduates

A leading executive of The Dow Chemical Company will serve as the keynote speaker during two Saginaw Valley State University commencement ceremonies in December. David E. Kepler, executive vice president, chief sustainability officer and chief information officer, will address graduates Friday, Dec. 12 and Saturday‌, Dec. 13.

Earlier this year, Kepler announced he would retire after 39 years at Dow. He has been considered one of his industry's leaders in information technology deployment. Recognized for his influence in cyber security and risk management, Kepler was appointed to the U.S. National Infrastructure Advisory Council, a group that advises U.S. presidents on issues relating to the security of U.S. infrastructure sectors and their functional systems, physical assets and cyber networks.

Kepler has been responsible for environment, health and safety resources at Dow. He has served as chairman of the team that provided executive oversight for the company's sustainable performance. His responsibilities have involved leadership for Dow's Business Services Group; he also has provided oversight for the company's Canadian region.

Kepler has been a member of the board of directors at Teradata Corporation, an analytical data solutions company; the Toronto-based TD Bank Group; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and the National Safety Council. He also has served as board chairman of the MidMichigan Innovation Center, a nonprofit committed to growing Michigan small businesses.

Kepler resides in Midland with his wife, Patti. Both have been active in the community and are member’s of the United Way's Alex de Tocqueville Society.

The first of two SVSU commencement ceremonies will be held Friday‌, Dec. 12, at 7:30 p.m. in the Ryder Center. Graduates from the colleges of Health and Human Services, and Business and Management will be recognized.

The second ceremony is Saturday‌, Dec. 13, at 11 a.m. in the Ryder Center. Students from the colleges of Arts and Behavioral Sciences; Education; and Science, Engineering and Technology will be recognized.

November 11, 2014

SVSU student, staff receive top honors for service to residential students

Saginaw Valley State University was recognized by its regional peers for offering exemplary residential experiences for its students during the 2014 Great Lakes Association of College and University Residence Halls Conference at Indiana State University. SVSU received the award for National Residence Hall Honorary Outstanding Chapter, the highest regional honor a chapter can obtain.

In addition, Haylie Chamarro, an elementary education major from Oxford, received the Student of the Year Award.

“I was honored that people would think to nominate me, and then when I found out I won, it was disbelief,” Chamarro said. “I wasn't doing what I was doing because I was trying to get Student of the Year. I was honored.”

Chamarro's student peers nominated her for the award. Several members of SVSU's student housing community wrote letters of recommendation, including them in a bid proposal that also documented Chamarro's many responsibilities as a residence hall leader.

“Because of her hard work as a student, a resident assistant and a leader, they decided she was worthy of the award,” said Michele Gunkelman, SVSU director of residential life.

Gunkelman also was honored. She received the Hallenbeck Service Award, which recognizes a full-time housing or student affairs professional for his/her outstanding continuous service to his/her university community.

“The recognitions earned by Haylie, Michele and our NRHH chapter are well-deserved,” said Merry Jo Brandimore, SVSU dean of students and associate provost for Student Affairs.

“SVSU has a significant history of participation and recognition in the state, regional and national organizations that focus on residential student leadership development. Our record of accomplishment isn't surprising considering the legacy of consistent effort and dedication demonstrated by our students and staff.”

The Great Lakes Association of College and University Residence Halls includes colleges and universities in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ontario and Wisconsin. In all, 11 residential-student leaders represented SVSU at the conference, held October 31 to November 2. They attended leadership development sessions and networked with other college students; the delegation was advised by Jamie Franklin, SVSU resident director.

SVSU attendees included  Khindra Clarke, Charles Ferens, Daniel Hill, Mackenzie Hughes, Pedro Marin, Ashley Murdock, Haley Sedlar, Ashley Stanton and Alexander Williamson. National Communications Coordinator Tiffany Johnson and National Residence Hall Honorary Communications Coordinator Rebecca Tomasek also attended.

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. 

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