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November 21, 2019

SVSU recognizes distinguished alumni from diverse industries

Military veterans, business leaders, and coaches were among the eight individuals whose accomplishments and dedication to excellence were recognized by Saginaw Valley State University’s Alumni Association.

The group selected five individuals to receive its annual Distinguished Alumni award — one for each of SVSU's academic colleges. They are as follows:

  • Ricky Brown for College of Arts & Behavioral Sciences
  • Jill Dralle for the College of Science, Engineering & Technology
  • Jean LaClair for the College of Education
  • Mary Kay Smith for the Crystal M. Lange College of Health & Human Services
  • Greg Wischmeyer for the Scott L. Carmona College of Business

Three other honorees received recognition by the SVSU Alumni Association. Tony Goble received the Veteran Alumni award. Darrin Flowers and Emily Short both received Young Alumnus awards.

The group was honored during a ceremony at SVSU earlier this month. To watch videos featuring recipients, go to

Biographies of each recipient are as follows, along with a video feature for each:

Ricky Brown

Brown received his bachelor’s degree in speech from SVSU in 1985 and later earned a master’s degree from Central Michigan University in 1991. As director of Multicultural Student Initiatives at Kettering University, Brown has traveled across the U.S., Mexico, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the Caribbean islands to help African-American, Hispanic and Native American students in the STEM fields. He also received Kettering’s first-ever “Pillar of Excellence Award,” the highest honor a staff member can receive.

Jill Dralle

Dralle earned her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from SVSU in 1993. Dralle — whose maiden name is Jill Schafsnitz — is the COO of Saginaw County’s largest employer, Nexteer Automotive. She serves on the board of directors for Saginaw Community Foundation. Dralle was recognized by Great Lakes Bay Magazine with its Business Executive Award for female leaders in 2013. In 2014, she was honored by Inforum with an Inner Circle Award.

Jean LaClair

LaClair graduated from SVSU in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in physical and health education. LaClair works for Bronson Community Schools as assistant principal, athletic director, and head volleyball coach. She received numerous awards from regional and national associations for her work as an athletic administrator and volleyball coach. She is one of the most successful volleyball coaches in Michigan, ranking fifth in the state for all-time wins in an entire career.

Mary Kay Smith

Smith is the director of the Learning and Assessment Center at Michigan State University. She earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from SVSU in 1985. Smith serves as chair of accreditation for the International Society of Simulation in Healthcare (SSH) and the Quality Assurance Chair for the American Heart Association Great Lakes Emergency Cardiovascular Care Committee.

Greg Wischmeyer

Wischmeyer served in the U.S. Army from 1975-78, receiving an honorable discharge as a sergeant. He used the G.I. Bill to attend Delta College and SVSU, where received his bachelor’s degree in management in 1984. Since 2010, Greg has served as president and CEO of Neighborhood Mortgage Solutions. He has been involved in the Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce for the past 12 years and is a member of the Michigan Credit Union League Mid-Michigan Chapter.

Tony Goble

After lettering in baseball and graduating from SVSU in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, Goble enlisted in the U.S. airborne infantry in 1991. He is still serving and has reached the highest level of technical and tactical expertise as a chief warrant officer 5 and serves as command chief warrant officer. He has spent over 25 years working as a Green Beret and was deployed nine times in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Some of Goble's significant awards include the Bronze Star Medal (five awards), Meritorious Service Medal (three awards), Army Achievement Medal (three awards), Good Conduct Medal (three awards), Army Commendation Medal, as well as National Defense Medal with two Campaign Stars. 

Darrin Flowers

Flowers works at University of Detroit Jesuit as a 7th and 8th grade social studies instructor, moderator of the Black Awareness Society of Education (B.A.S.E.), 7th and 8th grade track coach, and high school bowling coach. As a coach, Flowers won a Catholic Youth Organization Track Championship, and a Division I State Championship for bowling in 2014. He was voted Division I Coach of the Year in 2015-16. Flowers received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from SVSU in 2007.

Emily Short

Short works as a project manager at Spicer Group. She has implemented innovative strategies to address surface water pollution in Ingham, Berrien and Manistee counties as well as other communities in Michigan. Short also mentors young undergraduate students to provide them with better choices for their career path and serves as a role model for high school students in the community of St. Johns. She received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from SVSU in 2016.

November 20, 2019

Four SVSU students headed to moot court national tourney; more could qualify after upcoming contest

Through determination and hard work, Saginaw Valley State University’s top-ranked moot court program will continue its decade-long streak sending competitors to a national championship.

After an impressive performance at a tournament in Cleveland last weekend, four students already have qualified for the American Moot Court Association national competition in Baton Rouge in January. An SVSU-hosted regional contest next weekend could result in even more students qualifying.

Acting as teams of two attorneys, students competing in moot court tournaments are tasked with arguing both sides of 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.

SVSU’s moot court program placed second and fourth during a regional tournament hosted at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law from Nov. 15-16. The strong showing resulted in national tournament qualifications by four students from two SVSU teams: The pairings of Ashley French and Joshua High as well as Justine Brabaw and Erik Byron.

"SVSU moot court students excel in this competition because of the incredible amount of hard work they put into preparing for the competition,” said Julie Keil, the SVSU associate professor of political science who serves as the team’s co-adviser.

“All four of these students met weekly over the summer and did a three-day camp to help prepare them for the competition. They're talented, but success comes from hard work and commitment — not just talent."

The Cleveland tournament marked the first time two SVSU moot court teams were among the teams in a tournament’s semifinal round.

Two SVSU students also placed in the top 10 in the tournament’s individual competition for the orator’s award: Brabaw received eighth place and Byron earned tenth place.

French is a political science major from Bay City. High is an accounting major from Traverse City. Brabaw is a political science major from Breckenridge. Byron is a political science major from Birch Run.

SVSU will host the American Moot Court Association's Great Lakes Regional tournament this Friday and Saturday, Nov. 22-23, when 36 teams from the Midwest will compete. SVSU will be represented by six teams there.

The outcome could result in SVSU sending more students to the 80-team national tournament scheduled Jan. 17-18 at Southern University Law Center. 

SVSU’s moot court program is ranked No. 17 nationally by the American Moot Court Association in part because of the university’s long tradition of representation at the final tournament. At least one SVSU team has qualified for the nationals each year since the moot court team was established in 2010.

The program was founded by Keil. She is assisted by co-adviser Amy Hendrickson, associate professor of law, along with alumni of the program.

November 20, 2019

SVSU student-vocalists earn top honors at state competition

Students passionate about vocal performance led Saginaw Valley State University to an impressive appearance at the Michigan chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competition earlier this month.

Two SVSU vocalists earned first-place awards while two of their peers received third-place honors.

“Our voice students work diligently for months and years in their preparation for NATS competitions,” said Kevin Simons, SVSU associate professor of music.

“These results show that they are being well prepared by their teachers at SVSU to compete against singers from all over the state.”

Simons said the recent performance marked the best ever showing for SVSU at the annual competition.

Two music education majors placed first in their respective categories. Seth Bearden, of Fife Lake, earned the honor in the Lower College Musical Theater category. Audrey Bergey, of South Boardman, received the award in the First Year College Treble category.

Two music majors from Saginaw, meanwhile, earned third-place awards. Katie Fassone received the honor in the Advanced College Division, which also featured competition from students enrolled in graduate schools. Halie Kellett earned her award in the Lower College Musical Theater category.

The competition was hosted Nov. 2 at Hope College. It involved students performing songs before a panel of NATS members scored those performances based on vocal technique, diction and musicianship.

November 18, 2019

Guitarist, pianist to perform Wednesday concert at SVSU

Brad DeRoche, guitarist, and Wendy Chu, pianist, will perform classical music together during a concert Wednesday, Nov. 20, at 7:30 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall on Saginaw Valley State University’s campus.

This event — presented by SVSU's Department of Music — is free and open to the public.

DeRoche is a local guitarist who performs in a variety of events and teaches. He became a music educator after receiving his doctor of musical arts degree focusing on classical guitar performance from the Eastman School of Music. He is currently a chair at Delta College’s music department in addition to directing the guitar programs at both Central Michigan University and SVSU.

Chu has been playing the piano since the age of four. After moving to the U.S. to further her education and passion for music, she earned her doctor of musical arts degree from Michigan State University as well as double master's degrees of music in piano performance and music education from CMU. Now she teaches at Delta College and her private studio.

Musical selections for the SVSU performance include an assortment of classical music from European artists including “Gran Duo Concertante, Op. 65” by 19th-century Italian composer Ferdinando Carulli; “Fantasia for Guitar and Piano, Op. 145” by 20th-century Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco; and “Noches de España” by modern-day French composer Erik Marchelie.

For more information and a detailed list of music department events and performances, please visit

November 15, 2019

Mental health crisis in black communities focus of SVSU student's award-winning speech

A Saginaw Valley State University student’s passion for raising awareness about the mental health crisis in black communities recently helped her take home the top prize for a longstanding annual public speaking contest at the institution.

Simone Vaughn, a communication major from Saginaw, was the first-place prize recipient during the 30th annual Sims Public Speaking Competition Friday, Nov. 8, at SVSU. A panel of judges selected Vaughn for her presentation, titled “Black Hole: The Mental Health Crisis in the Black Community.”

Vaughn will receive a $400 cash prize.

Vaughn is accustomed to presenting to crowds. In July, she was voted the titleholder of Miss Saginaw County, which is part of the Miss America Organization that offers scholarships to women across the nation.

Five other students earned cash prizes for their speeches during the Sims Public Speaking Competition. They are as follows:

  • Kailey Johnston, a communication major from Shelby Township, earned second place and $250 for her presentation, titled “Stopping Alt-Right Groups From Recruiting Teen Boys Online.”
  • Jessica Davis, an elementary education major from Fowlerville, received third place and $150 for her speech, titled “Secondary School Start Time.”
  • Mikayla Rigda, a communication major from Birch Run, earned $50 as a finalist for her presentation, titled “Adoption Laws in America.”
  • Brittany Rubio, a communication major from New Haven, received $50 as a finalist for her presentation, “Campus Housing Safety.”
  • Austin Teeple, a communication major from Bay Mills, eared $50 as a finalist for his speech, titled “Palm Oil.”

SVSU's annual Sims Public Speaking Contest is sponsored through an endowment funded by Larry and Linda Sims, longtime supporters of the university. Larry Sims recently retired as president and chief executive officer of the United Way of Saginaw County. Linda Sims recently retired as SVSU’s executive director of communications and external affairs. She previously served as chair of the university’s Board of Control.

November 15, 2019

Former student-actor returns 'home' to direct SVSU production of 'Émilie'

Once a talent on the stage during her days as a student, a Saginaw Valley State University alumna will return to her alma mater next week, this time moving behind the curtains to direct a production of "historic" proportions.

Brianne Dolney, a leading cast member in campus productions before her May graduation, will sit in the director's chair for the SVSU production of “Émilie: La Marquise Du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight.”

Performances of the Lauren Gunderson-penned play — a fictional account of a real-life historical figure struggling with her genius legacy and love life — are scheduled Friday and Saturday, Nov. 22-23, at 7:30 p.m. in SVSU's Black Box Theatre. The venue is located in Curtiss Hall, room C180. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online or at the SVSU Box Office.

Dolney's return to the SVSU stage comes months after her most recent acting performance playing one of the three leads in the April 2019 production of "9 to 5: The Musical." She portrayed the character made famous by Jane Fonda in the 1980 film. Dolney's other recent SVSU stage credits include “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” in February 2019, “The Servant of Two Masters” in October 2018, “Death by Design” in February 2018, and “Decision Height" in October 2017.

“It’s really awesome to be able to come back and take on something new in a place that feels like home to me,” she said.

“I think it’s the perfect scenario for my first big directing experience because I’m in an environment I’m comfortable in and have the support of mentors that I’ve been working with all throughout my college experience.”

The production is part of the theatre department's Studio X.P. Program, in which students and alumni are provided an opportunity to direct a play under the guidance of SVSU faculty members. Assistant professors of theatre Margaret "Peggy" Mead-Finizio and Tommy Wedge will serve as advisers this time.

Dolney graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science in May 2019. Since then, she has been traveling and working full-time in a classroom with special needs children and children with autism. The Bay City native said she was excited for her return to the performing arts and, specifically, working as a director on a play that inspired her.

“I wasn’t very familiar with ‘Émilie’ prior to being offered the director position, but as soon as I read it, I fell in love,” she said.

Gunderson's play, published in 2010, offers a theatrical rediscovery of one of history’s most intriguing women. The play's title character, Émilie du Châtelet, was a real-life French philosopher, mathematician, physicist and author from the 18th century. In the play, Émilie spars with her companion and lover, Voltaire, while defending the groundbreaking legacies for which she was denounced until after her death.

Dolney said audiences should expect to be “totally enlightened” when coming to see “Émilie."

“This is a story about an amazingly significant woman of the 1700s who has somehow been brushed over by history,” Dolney said. “Like so many other women of significance from the past, the light is finally being shed on Émilie’s story — it only took three centuries.”

The play is rated for audiences 16 and older due to strong language and mild adult themes. 

For more information, please contact the SVSU Box Office at (989) 964-4261.

November 14, 2019

SVSU Flute Choir to perform Friday concert

Saginaw Valley State University’s Department of Music will present the SVSU Flute Choir concert on Friday, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m. in Founders Hall on campus.
This musical performance is free and open to the public.
Musical selections for the concert include songs composed and arranged by modern composer Phyllis Avidan Louke in addition to historical musicians including German composers J.J. Quantz, of the 18th century, and Franz Abt, of the 19th century.
The SVSU Flute Choir is open to membership from participants outside of the SVSU community. The ensemble is directed by Townes Osborn Miller, an instructor of music at SVSU.
For more information about Friday’s concert, please visit or call the SVSU Department of Music at (989) 964-4159.

November 13, 2019

SVSU Cardinal Singers and Concert Choir to perform, raise awareness about mental health issues

Musicians with Saginaw Valley State University's Cardinal Singers and Concert Choir groups, inspired to shine a light on social issues, will perform a concert this week aimed at raising awareness about mental health challenges. The concert, titled “Threads of Joy,” is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 14, at 7:30 p.m. in SVSU's Rhea Miller Recital Hall.

Kevin Simons, SVSU associate professor of music and the performance's director, said this is the first SVSU choir concert to explore such a socially-relevant topic.

“I selected the music for this program to help our singers, university and community better understand some of the problems with how we talk about mental illness, and to celebrate the contributions of artists who experienced mental illness themselves,” Simons said.

The concert will feature selections such as “Threads of Joy” by composer Dale Trumbore; “In meinem garten, op. 29 n. 2” and “Der träumende See, op. 33 n. 1” by 19th century German composer Robert Schumann; and “You Will be Found” from the Tony award-winning musical “Dear Evan Hansen” by American songwriting duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

The two SVSU ensembles — with a combined 41 vocalists — will be joined by Amanda Stamper, piano accompanist.

The concert is free and open to the public.

For more information about the event, contact the SVSU Department of Music at (989) 964-4159 or visit

November 8, 2019

At your service: SVSU receives ‘Best for Vets’ ranking for sixth year

For the sixth consecutive year, Saginaw Valley State University has been recognized for its support of military-affiliated students, earning a place in the Best for Vets: Colleges 2020 rankings by Military Times.

SVSU is rated No. 104 among all four-year institutions nationwide in the 2020 rankings by the independent media organization dedicated to news and information about the military. This year, SVSU placed second out of all Michigan four-year institutions.

For a school to be placed on the Best for Vets list, colleges and universities are evaluated on policies and programs offered to service members, military veterans and their families. To be considered for the list, colleges and universities complete a comprehensive survey which is evaluated by Military Times. Institutions were then ranked based on survey responses and data collected by three different federal agencies. 

Bethany Alford, SVSU’s director of Military Student Affairs, said her office staff takes pride in creating a friendly and welcoming place on campus.

The SVSU Military Student Affairs office assists students and family members with paperwork, accessing their federal benefits, academic advising, and generally serving as a “one-stop shop” for military-affiliated students.

“We are consistently looking at ways to better serve our military-connected students, whether it's referring them to resources on or off campus, to reevaluating the education and training they've received in the military for academic credit,” she said. “We will strive to always be a top choice to military-connected students and work hard to show how much we value them on our campus.”

The Military Student Resource Center is also provided for use by any military-affiliated student at SVSU.

Services the office provides are veteran orientation, Veteran Peer Support group and the Student Veterans of America group.

November 7, 2019

SVSU selects K-12 educators for Gerstacker leadership program

A new group of K-12 education leaders committed to professional growth will join the Saginaw Valley State University Gerstacker Fellowship program in 2020.

As part of the initiative, 11 teachers, principals, and program administrators from across Michigan will receive concentrated leadership training over a 1-year period. The experience will include an international trip to Japan in June.

Previous overseas trips have included China, South Korea, Poland, Taiwan, Finland, and Germany.

These trips send participants to educational institutions, where participants learn about international educational systems and corporate settings. There, they discover how leadership plays out in different cultural and economic settings. 

Last year’s group visited Finland and Germany. Their stops included K-12 schools, Helsinki University, Hochshule Ansbach, secondary German vocational schools and numerous cultural sites.

The program was established in 2005 with a $1.5 million endowment from the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation of Midland. Participants are known as Gerstacker Fellows. They meet monthly on weekends.

Experts in the field instruct the group on subjects such as organizational leadership, ethics, finances, communication, human resources, entrepreneurship and education with a global perspective.

Those selected to participate in the 2020 program are as follows:

  • Joseph Amabile; IB coordinator/professional learning community leader, Oxford Public Schools
  • Deedra Baker; intervention teacher; Mt. Morris Consolidated Schools
  • Laura Chang; instructional consultant, literacy coach, and interventionist, Vicksburg Community Schools
  • Margaret Doan; elementary principal, Midland Public Schools
  • Tamara Johnson; executive director of fiscal services, Saginaw Public Schools
  • Jason Kowalski; assistant elementary and middle school principal, Carrollton Public Schools
  • Nathan Mausolf; assistant high school principal, Birch Run Schools
  • Scott Miklovic; director of technology and innovation, Elkton Pigeon Bayport Laker Schools
  • Justin Shaner; assistant middle and high school principal, Bay City Public Schools
  • Molly Sholten; instructional coach, Institute for Excellence in Education, Mount Pleasant
  • Penny Miller-Nelson; assistant superintendent, Midland Public Schools

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