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December 18, 2019

First-person perspectives from first-generation college students: Talia Pruiett, of SVSU

The following is a part of a series of first-person narratives from SVSU students who are part of the first generation of their families to attend college. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find links to additional student stories.

The following is a first-person perspective from SVSU student Talia Pruiett:

For me, college was always the goal. I had no idea where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do– I just knew I needed to go to college. I wasn’t exposed to many careers and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study, but my high school really pushed going to college and I always felt that was the right thing for me. My parents were supportive as well, but neither of them had gone to college and they didn’t know much about the admissions process. I worked hard and dual-enrolled to earn college credit while still in high school, and my financial situation was the biggest factor when deciding where I wanted to continue my education.

I knew that I was going to be paying for college on my own, so it was deciding what was best for me and what was financially the best. Saginaw Valley State University had the most opportunities. I completed my FAFSA, and I would highly encourage every single person to do that. I was determined and applied for a lot of scholarships. I was awarded two from SVSU, as well as an opportunity grant, which meant that I didn’t have to take out any loans for my first year of school. I also work on campus as an orientation leader, tour guide, and in the counseling center, which helps offset costs as well.

When I arrived at SVSU, it was just really surreal. You go to school for 12 years and college is the light at the end of the tunnel. I was excited to come here. I wanted to get involved and make the best of it.  I was a little nervous but very driven and determined. I wanted to learn more about the world around me. I was excited to get a new start and I felt like SVSU was the best place to do that.

Coming from a small high school, I was nervous about making friends, and I think all the events and clubs helped me find my best friends and break out of my shell. You don’t realize how much you learn about yourself until you get involved in things. I joined the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, an intramural basketball team, volunteered with the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and Cardinal Volunteers, and will be going on a study abroad trip to Mexico soon as part of my Spanish minor.

I also joined Alternative Breaks, an SVSU program that sends students to volunteer for nonprofits across the country during the university’s holiday breaks. I traveled to South Carolina and worked with youth in the juvenile justice system, and I realized I had a passion for helping others. That really solidified it for me. When I got back, I talked to the Career Services Office and my department chair, then switched my major to social work.

As a freshman, I was part of a first-year transition program as SVSU, and my coordinator was very supportive and helpful. She was always approachable when I had questions about my major and class schedule, or if I needed advice. She always reassured me that everything was going to be ok and pointed me in the right direction. She’s helped guide me in a lot of ways and I’m so appreciative of that.

Now, to share my experiences, I work in the King Chavez Parks (KCP) grant program to coach and mentor other first-generation students. I absolutely love working with them and learning from them. I build relationships, get insight on what they need with resources, make sure they’re doing ok in their classes and getting acclimated, guide them with study habits, and help set the foundation for them to be successful students.  

If anyone’s having troubling transitioning to college, I would encourage them to reach out because there are resources and people who are there to help. It may be challenging, but if you do what you’re supposed to do and do it right, then good things will happen.

The following are links to additional first-person perspectives from first-generation college students:

Paloma Barba

Lindsey Mead

Jessalyn Gaskin

Mitch Hughes

December 18, 2019

First-person perspectives from first-generation college students: Mitch Hughes, of SVSU

The following is a part of a series of first-person narratives from SVSU students who are part of the first generation of their families to attend college. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find links to additional student stories.

The following is a first-person perspective from SVSU student Mitch Hughes:

As a first-generation college student, I knew I always wanted to pursue a four-year degree. I’ve faced a lot of obstacles, but I’ve learned that it’s how you overcome those challenges. I was never really gifted anything. I’ve worked for everything I have.

In high school, I took several advanced placement courses to earn over 20 college credits and balanced three varsity sports, including two in the same season. I had always enjoyed playing golf with my family but didn’t begin playing seriously until my freshman year. I worked hard to improve my game and, by my junior year, I was in contention to play collegiately.

The opportunity to compete in Division 2 athletics, as well as the scholarships I received, played a big role in my decision to attend Saginaw Valley State University. I earned the President’s Scholarship, as well as other private scholarships, which prevented me from having to take out any loans.

I was excited to start college, but I was always worried about classes being extremely hard, meeting new people, and fitting in. However, my reservations were soon resolved. I’ve earned a spot on either the Dean’s List or President’s List every semester and my teammates were supportive and helped me to open up. It’s like a family. I built a bond with a bunch of people. I’m going to talk to them for the rest of my life. We’re always there for each other when we need it. It’s a big reason why I’ve done so well.

I had a lot of support, but I faced many challenges as well. Our team has a large roster and only the top few players get to compete. I didn’t have the chance to compete as an underclassman, but I was determined to be in the lineup for my senior season. I dedicated myself to early morning workouts and the team’s weekend practices, as well as practicing on my own during the week in between my class schedule. My hard work paid off and I competed in nearly every competition, even earning a top-10 finish individually and helping my team reach several top-5 finishes. I love the competition. I forgot how much I missed it. 

I faced obstacles as a mechanical engineering major as well. I was always good at math and my grandparents worked in engineering, so I was interested in the field and drawn to the problem-solving aspects. I love the challenge. No two problems are ever the same. There’s something new every day. It makes you think.

When I tried to get work experience in my field, it was hard to get a co-op for a while. It took two years to get one. I kept fighting though. After a couple of years of applying but not getting a position, my professor recommended me for a co-op with a manufacturing company in Saginaw. It ended up being a great fit and I’ve worked there for several months, with my supervisors entrusting me with a lot of responsibilities. I work 15-20 hours per week and I help design parts, modify drawings, run vibration tests, and help the guys who are building machines in the shop.

This experience has helped me in my classes as well. In my senior design course, my group is developing a ladder-like cart system for the company we’re working with. We designed a custom hand truck with a system that can ride up the rungs of a ladder and be pulled up by a pulley or winch system. Some groups have to modify a system, but ours is brand new. There’s nothing in the world like it. We have weekly group meetings, and I contribute about 8-10 hours per week individually on the project. 

While I really enjoy everything I’m working on, it’s been a challenge learning how to balance working, going to school full-time, and being a varsity athlete. It’s a grind. You really have to teach yourself how to have a schedule, because when you get off your schedule, that’s when the stress and anxiety kicks in and you’re behind. It definitely puts a lot of stress on you, but it also makes life interesting in a way because I’m always doing something.

Although it’s a challenge, it’s something I embrace because I have this underlying desire to be great. To prove everyone wrong and to prove that I can be someone. There’s something burning inside me. There’s a fire.  

I’m really grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve had at SVSU because, besides giving you a degree and education, it gives you a chance to learn about yourself. It’s really a life changing experience. You realize you have more potential than you think you did. Over the years, I’ve realized this is an amazing place and I’m really glad I came here.

The following are links to additional first-person perspectives from first-generation college students:

Paloma Barba

Talia Pruiett

Jessalyn Gaskin

Lindsey Mead

December 18, 2019

First-person perspectives from first-generation college students: Paloma Barba, of SVSU

The following is a part of a series of first-person narratives from SVSU students who are part of the first generation of their families to attend college. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find links to additional student stories.

The following is a first-person perspective from SVSU student Paloma Barba:

With the support of my family — and now a statewide organization that recognizes my leadership qualities — I am hoping to follow in my older sister’s footsteps as a first-generation college graduate.

My name is Paloma Barba. I am a senior business management major from Detroit. I recently earned the Hispanic Latino Commission of Michigan's Future Leaders Scholarship. I was one of nine Michigan college students to earn the $1,000 scholarship. I was surprised because I honestly did not expect to receive the scholarship since it was very competitive.

To apply for the scholarship, I wrote an essay explaining why I believe I deserved the scholarship as well as why it was important for Hispanic students to earn higher education degrees.

I wanted to apply so I could help finance my college education. I come from a large family, and therefore my parents cannot support me financially. I saw an opportunity, and I seized it.

The scholarship will help me pursue my dreams, along with the support of my family. My parents have always encouraged my siblings and I to go to college and learn because knowledge is power.

My older sister, Berenice, inspired me to attend college. Berenice is a graduate student at SVSU now, and she received her bachelor's degree in business administration earlier this year. My older sister was the first one in the family to graduate with a bachelor's. I feel like she deserves most of the credit for my success because she basically paved the way for everyone in our family and, most importantly, for my siblings and me.

I just hope that, after I graduate, I can offer the same support that has been offered to me.

The following are links to additional first-person perspectives from first-generation college students:

Talia Pruiett

Jessalyn Gaskin

Lindsey Mead

Mitch Hughes


December 18, 2019

First-person perspectives from first-generation college students: Lindsey Mead, of SVSU

The following is a part of a series of first-person narratives from SVSU students who are part of the first generation of their families to attend college. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find links to additional student stories.

The following is a first-person perspective from SVSU student Lindsey Mead:

As a first-generation college student, my parents instilled in me that it’s best to pursue a career that inspired passion within me. At Saginaw Valley State University, I followed that advice and it has led me both on the path to study law and to help communities in need.

My parents always pushed me at least to follow my passions. As long as they knew I was trying my best, they were proud of me. That has been the most motivating factor for me; knowing that failure was an option and okay.

As an English major and pre-law student from Saginaw, I became involved with two groups my sophomore year that put me on the path to studying law: SVSU's Alternative Breaks program and the moot court team. When I applied to be a site leader for Alternative Breaks — an initiative that sends SVSU students to volunteer for national nonprofits during the university’s holiday breaks — I knew it was a risk because I had less experience with the program than most site leaders.

It was the first time I’d applied for something that was a stretch; where there was an opportunity to fail. When I got selected as a site leader, it made me want to rise up to the occasion. My passion for helping disadvantaged communities was enhanced by the experience. Alternative Breaks exposed me to communities outside of my own, struggling and prospering in ways that Saginaw isn’t.

A late start to my first season as a competitor for moot court could have been my excuse to not do as well ... or to quit. But I rose to the challenge and have qualified and competed in nationals for the past two years.

Acting as teams of two attorneys, students competing in moot court tournament are tasked with arguing two hypothetical legal cases based on real-life courtroom battles. The competition is judged based on the clarity of the students' argument, their public speaking skills, their ability to answer questions, and how well they know the law and the case.

The competition fit my passion for fighting to help others in need. What I want to do is advocate for people, and so moot court was the perfect stepping stone not only to my friend group – the people I’m closest with – but to my career path.

As a member of the 20th class of Roberts Fellows, one of SVSU's most prestigious student leadership development initiatives, I traveled to China, Taiwan, and Japan with my cohort last summer. The Roberts Fellows program focuses on fostering students with a strong interest in community engagement, and I used this program to help a local non-profit I already had ties to. Other Roberts Fellows and I organized a fundraiser to help pay for renovations at Community Village, a local assisted living facility, by inviting people to participate in a bowling tournament to raise funds for the cause. It was the first time I’d been placed in a room with that many leaders. It was the first time where I had to know when I needed to step down and follow.

After taking the LSAT in the fall, I continue to set high goals for myself. I am in the process of selecting a law school to attend.

The following are links to additional first-person perspectives from first-generation college students: 

Paloma Barba

Talia Pruiett

Jessalyn Gaskin

Mitch Hughes

December 16, 2019

SVSU Board approves room and board rates, faculty sabbaticals

The Saginaw Valley State University Board of Control approved room and board rates for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years during the Board’s regular meeting Friday, Dec. 13. 

Overall, rates are increasing by less than 2 percent each of the next two years, and some rates will see a minor reduction.

For freshmen who choose a shared bedroom unit in one of the Living Centers, rates will drop from $10,030 to $9,990 for each of the next two years, including their meal plan. Freshmen who choose a single bedroom unit will see rates rise next year from $10,440 to $10,850 in the First Year Suites, and in the Living Centers, rates will increase from $11,156 to $11,378 for single bedroom units.

Similarly, returning students in some shared bedroom units will see slight decreases in their rates, while most other rates will rise modestly. The total weighted increase for 2020-21 is 1.87% and the total weighted increase for 2021-22 is 1.74%.

The Board also approved 11 faculty sabbaticals for faculty members who will pursue a variety of research projects in their respective disciplines during the 2020-21academic year. Those who were approved for sabbaticals were:

  • Arundhati Bagchi Misra, mathematical sciences
  • Emily Beard-Bohn, English
  • Ranjana Dutta, psychology
  • Andrea Frederick, nursing
  • Rosina Hassoun, sociology
  • Julie Lynch, psychology
  • Jennifer McCullough, communication
  • Rhett Mohler, geography
  • Travis Pashak, psychology
  • Khandaker Abir Rahman, computer science
  • Peter Rose-Barry, philosophy 

In other action, the Board:

  • Passed a resolution of appreciation for Jenee Velasquez, who completed her 8-year term on the Board in August.
  • Passed a resolution of appreciation for Scott Carmona, who completed his 8-year term on the Board in August.
  • Passed a resolution to grant undergraduate and graduate degrees.
  • Approved confirmation of board members for previously authorized public school academies.
  • Authorized the establishment of a new public school academy, iLead Academy, to be located in Canton, Michigan.
  • Approved a revised Code of Student Conduct for 2019-20.
  • Approved a revised Academic Integrity Policy for 2019-20.
  • Approved a revised Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy for 2019-20.
  • Approved 1.75 percent raises for the 2020 calendar year for executive staff. President Bachand’s salary was set at 298,500; Deb Huntley, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, will receive a salary of $238,700; and James G. Muladore, Executive Vice President for Administration and Business Affairs, will be paid $227,000.

December 16, 2019

State budget expert to visit SVSU

An expert on the subject will discuss the state budget and policy plans in Lansing during a presentation at Saginaw Valley State University on Monday, Dec. 16.
Jeffrey M. Donofrio, the director of the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity at Michigan Economic Development Corporation, will visit as part of a Great Lakes Bay Economic Club luncheon event scheduled in SVSU’s Curtiss Hall banquet rooms.
The program begins at noon. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. Attendance costs $35 for guests or $25 for members of the Great Lakes Bay Economic Club.
Donofrio was appointed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s transition team as special advisor for jobs and economic development in 2018. He previously served as district director for U.S. Rep. Sander Levin as well as U.S. Rep. John D. Dingell.
Donofrio also worked as transportation policy advisor to Gov. Jennifer Granholm as well as the executive director of workforce development for Detroit.
For more information about this event and to register, go to this link:

December 11, 2019

SVSU forensics team places first in home tournament, students qualify for national championship

The Saginaw Valley State University forensics team won first place at the fall Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League Tournament on Saturday, Dec. 7. This is the first time SVSU has hosted or won this tournament.

“We could not have been successful without the hard work of each and every student," said Ryan Rigda, co-adviser of the SVSU team and a lecturer of communications. 

"This was largely a team effort and demonstrates the start of a very promising future for the SVSU forensics team."

As a result of their performance at the SVSU-based tournament, six SVSU students qualified to compete in the National Forensics Association Championship Tournament, which will be hosted by University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in April. Those students and their Dec. 7 tournament performances are as follows:

  • Hannah Ducolon, an elementary education major from Bay City, placed first in the programmed oral interpretation category.
  • Lydia Greania, a psychology major from Essexville, placed second in the programmed oral interpretation category.
  • Mikayla Rigda, a communication major from Birch Run, placed first in the informative speaking category.
  • Justin Russell, a marketing major from Kimball, placed second in the duo interpretation category and fourth in the dramatic interpretation category.
  • Austin Teeple, a communication major from Bay Mills, placed first in the impromptu speaking category and fourth in the persuasive speaking category.
  • Sara Vasquez, a political science major from Alma, placed third in the extemporaneous speaking category.

Four additional students — who earned invitations to the national championship as a result of their performance at a September tournament — also earned top awards at the Dec. 7 contest. Those students and their Dec. 7 tournament performances are as follows:

  • Jessica Carpenter, a communication major from Saginaw, placed fourth in rhetorical criticism.
  • Imani Clark, a communication major from Saginaw, placed third in poetry interpretation and programmed oral interpretation.
  • Savannah Senyk, a communication and theatre education major from Smiths Creek, placed second in duo interpretation and dramatic interpretation as well as fourth in prose.
  • Simone Vaughn, a communication major from Saginaw, placed second in persuasive speaking.

In total, 11 SVSU students are qualified to participate in the April national championship. Monae Colvin, a criminal justice major from Detroit, qualified after a strong showing during the September tournament.

The next tournament the SVSU forensics team will compete in is at Northwood University in February.

Amy Pierce, an SVSU associate professor of communication, serves as co-adviser for the forensics group along with Rigda.

December 11, 2019

SVSU to collaborate on restoration effort to preserve historic Saginaw mansion

A collaboration between historical preservationists and the Saginaw Valley State University-operated Saginaw Community Writing Center aims to raise awareness and money for transforming one of Saginaw’s most iconic homes into a multi-use community space.

SVSU's Saginaw Community Writing Center, the Saginaw Art Museum and the group preserving the historic Charles Lee Mansion structure in Saginaw will host a poetry slam contest — with cash prizes to the top three winners — Thursday, Dec. 12, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Charles Lee Mansion site at 633 S. Washington in Saginaw. The poetry contest coincides with an open house at the mansion from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. the same day.

While there is no cost to attend either event, a free-will donation will be held to support the renovation of Charles Lee Mansion.

Built by lumber baron Charles Lee in the late 1800s, the historic site was saved from demolition in 2018 when Ann Arbor Builders, Inc. agreed to a development deal with the City of Saginaw, which owned the property. The preservation effort involves restoring the mansion and creating within it a community meeting space and a shop selling Saginaw-centric items.

Helen Raica-Klotz, co-director of SVSU's Saginaw Community Writing Center, took a tour of Charles Lee Mansion and immediately wanted to collaborate.

“Saginaw is a city that’s rich with history, and I think that any community writing center needs to work to recognize and honor the history of that particular community, as well as the efforts of individuals who are trying to improve the region as a whole,” she said.

Alex Mixter, the project manager for the Lee Mansion Restoration Project, has indicated he wants the site to serve as a "front door to Saginaw" for visitors.

“Alex and all the volunteers that have worked at the Lee Mansion have done a marvelous job over the years of fundraising, of putting in time and labor to preserve this space,” Raica-Klotz said. “For us to come and celebrate through a poetry reading — particularly in Saginaw itself — is a really nice way of supporting their work.”

To learn more about the restoration project or to donate to the Lee Mansion Restoration Project, go to

The Saginaw Community Writing Center is operated by SVSU staff and student tutors, who help residents with writing-based activities during scheduled sessions throughout the Saginaw community. The community writing center was established in part through a partnership with the Saginaw Community Foundation.

December 11, 2019

SVSU student named to fellowship program for nation's top collegiate journalists

With a drive to keep a community informed and a talented way with words, Saginaw Valley State University senior Kaitlyn Farley earned a spot in a program designed to develop some of the nation’s top college journalists.

The Warren native was selected to the National Newspaper Association Foundation's News Fellows Program. The opportunity will send her to a paid-for community journalism workshop in Washington, D.C. from March 18-21.

“I’ve never flown before,” she said. “I’m excited about the whole experience.”

During the workshop, Farley and her peers will work with veteran journalists to develop skills that allow community newspaper reporters to pursue hot button issues impacting readers. Farley — a double major in history as well as professional and technical writing — also will learn more about reporting in politics as part of the National Newspaper Association Foundation program. It's an opportunity that will connect her with lawmakers and legislative staff working in Congress.

Jodi McFarland Friedman, the staff adviser for the SVSU student newspaper where Farley serves as editor-in-chief, said Farley's spirit of determination is reflected in the quality of journalism she produces.

“When a student is on fire for the free flow of information, speaking truth to power and journalism that shines a light on her campus, it shows,” said Friedman, the former editor of The Saginaw News. “These qualities shine in Kaitlyn Farley.”

A first-generation college student in her family, Farley during her freshman year began writing stories about SVSU-hosted musical performances for the student newspaper, The Valley Vanguard. It was her first-ever journalistic endeavor. Informed by her own experiences as a musician — she even played bassoon for a short time with the SVSU Concert Band — Farley approached each assignment with a desire to bring an expertise and authenticity to the publication’s coverage of musical performances.

“I knew the jargon for music, and so I liked bringing that kind of writing to The Vanguard,” she said.

Farley’s pursuit of authentic coverage helped elevate her from niche writer to newsroom leader. As a sophomore, she earned a spot as editor of the arts and entertainment section. By her junior year, she was named editor-in-chief, a role she retained as a senior.

With an ambition to diversify her reporter portfolio, Farley has ventured outside of music journalism. Her byline often has appeared on The Vanguard’s front page, sometimes attached to the publication’s most in-depth reporting about news items impacting her campus readers. Her growing savvy for investigative journalism inspired her to share those experiences with her staff, passing along lessons learned about reporting tactics including how best to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

“We know a lot more about journalism this year than we did last year,” she said of her staff of 23 students.

Farley’s fondness for the newsroom environment extends beyond her growing love of journalism. She said her staff’s camaraderie makes for a fun, relaxed atmosphere that offsets the seriousness sometimes associated with reporting. To lighten the mood, the group attends movies and visits cider mills together. In The Vanguard newsroom, Farley and her co-workers pause weekend production shifts to feed an office betta fish they named Gil Finley.

“We say he’s our HR rep,” Farley said, jokingly.

Friedman said she was impressed with Farley’s ability to excel as both a journalist and a leader — all while seeking a university education.

“Having been a first-generation college student myself, I can relate to the drive, passion and self-direction that pursuing a college degree in those circumstances requires,” Friedman said.

“Kaitlyn’s college career is self-financed through well-earned scholarships and many side jobs. She juggles the demands of multiple employers, a full course load and The Vanguard with aplomb. It isn’t, but she makes it look easy.”

The 2020 winter semester will be Farley’s last at The Vanguard and SVSU. She anticipates earning her bachelor’s degree in May. She recently accepted a reporter internship position with The Saginaw News/MLive for next summer. She plans eventually to chase a full-time job in journalism or another industry that could benefit from her writing skills and leadership abilities.

December 6, 2019

SVSU staff, faculty art highlighted in Midland Center for the Arts exhibition

Saginaw Valley State University staff and faculty members are showcased as part of a Midland Center for the Arts art exhibition open to the public now until early January.

The exhibition — which also features artwork from faculty from Delta College and Mott Community College — was organized in part by Tisch M. Lewis, coordinator of the SVSU University Art Gallery, along with museum staff.

“My goal was to highlight the hard-working artists from SVSU, Delta College and Mott Community College, as they are normally seen as educators first,” Lewis said.

The exhibition ends Sunday, Jan. 5. Admission costs $10 for adults, $7 for individuals aged 4 to 14, and free for children under the age of 4. For more information about tickets and the museum, go to

Art displayed in the exhibition includes ceramics, photography, paintings, sculptures, and printmaking, among other mediums.

“The works vary in style and content, varying from social justice issues to mere appreciation of the media the artist works in,” said Lewis, whose work also is displayed in the exhibition.

Among the other SVSU staff and faculty members on display at the Midland Center for the Arts exhibition are the following:

  • Tamar Aldrich, an adjunct faculty member with the SVSU Department of Art
  • Sherri Archer, an adjunct faculty member with the SVSU Department of Art
  • Shaun E. Bangert, professor of art
  • Sanford Buchalter, an adjunct faculty member with the SVSU Department of Art
  • Thomas Canale, professor of art
  • Sara Brooks Clark, studio art technician
  • Phillip Hanson, lecturer of art
  • J. Blake Johnson, professor of art
  • Hideki Kihata, professor of art
  • David J. Littell, an adjunct faculty member with the SVSU Department of Art
  • Michael Mosher, professor of art/communication and multimedia
  • Andrea Ondish, curator of education at SVSU’s Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum

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