Saginaw Valley State University has once again earned the title of “best dorms” in the nation among public universities. SVSU has earned this recognition each of the past three years from Niche, a higher education website that uses data analytics and student satisfaction surveys to determine its rankings.
In the 2022 rankings, SVSU’s residential facilities rank fourth overall among colleges and universities in the U.S., including both private and public institutions.
Courtney Vanest, an occupational therapy major at SVSU, is one of the many students who has enjoyed the benefits of SVSU’s award-winning dorms and campus. She has lived on campus for four years and is going into her second year of supporting other students as a resident assistant.
Even though her hometown of Reese is close to campus, she chose to join the other 70% of first-year students who live on campus at SVSU.
“I chose to live on campus because I wanted to get connected with a wider array of students and wanted the ease of accessing campus resources,” Vanest said. “My home is only 20 minutes away from campus, but I know that I would not be as involved or have made as many connections had I not been an on-campus resident.”
Vanest feels at home at SVSU and loves all the amenities she is able to enjoy as a residential student. The welcoming environment and community atmosphere made her feel comfortable as she transitioned to being a college student.
“SVSU dorms are truly top-notch quality,” she said. “All dorms are air-conditioned; provide free amenities such as microwaves, full refrigerators, desks, storage space, and tables and chairs for comfort; and offer secure and safe access through requiring student ID in the living centers and personal keys in the townhomes.
“I often forget that I am living on a college campus because of how homey and comfortable the dorms are — it really is like a miniature village.”
“My favorite part about living on campus has been the convenience of involvement. There are always activities happening on campus, and living in the residence halls makes it so easy to become involved and find my place in my new home,” Vanest said. “Similarly, the more that I am able to get involved through on-campus programs, the more I am able to build meaningful relationships with other students and staff.”
Living on-campus has been one of the best parts of Vanest’s college experience, and the opportunities she has gained have helped her develop personally and professionally.
“It is from living on campus that I met my best friends, joined clubs that I am truly interested in, found the mark I wanted to make at college, and grew as a student and future professional. I am so grateful for the relationships I built and opportunities SVSU offers that make residential living amazing.”
SVSU earned several other high rankings from Niche as well, most notably the No. 1 best college campus in the state of Michigan.
A research project by three Saginaw Valley State University students is helping bring to light the history of Theodore Roethke, a Saginaw native and one of the greatest American poets of the 20th century. Their work contributed to the success of a series of open houses at the Roethke House and Stone House Thursday, August 12 – Saturday, August 14.
Ethan Alt, a creative writing major from Chesterfield Township; Madeline Bruessow, an English major from Kawkawlin; and Amber Campbell, a history major from St. Louis; conducted the research projects under the supervision of Sherrin Frances, SVSU professor of English and a member of the Friends of Roethke Foundation board of directors.
Frances teaches a class in the English department that introduces students to archival work and small museums. She said the students spent the winter semester cataloging the Theodore Roethke Museum’s collection. In the spring, they developed a new museum tour and trained local high school students as tour guides.
“The work was funded by two generous grants awarded by SVSU’s Undergraduate Research Program,” Frances said, “one to catalog the collection in specialized museum software and another for interpretive planning, which let the students put their deep catalog knowledge into practice creating exhibits and writing the tour narrative.”
Additionally, six students in SVSU’s College of Education created literacy activities inspired by Roethke’s poetry, which they shared with children during the open house on Saturday. Five of the students are elementary education majors: Alyssa Crawford and Caitlynn Hancock, each of Midland, Anna Plotkowski of Clinton Township, Kimble Darbee of Bay City, and Alexis Dropps of White Lake. Jonathan Livermore, an English education major from Bay City, also worked on the literacy activities.
SVSU students Alyssa Crawford, (left) a special education major from Midland, and Lexie Dropps (right), an elementary education major form Waterford, teach an arts and crafts project with Gwen, age 3 (left); James, age 5; and Eleanor, age 7; during the open house at the Roethke House Open House event in Saginaw Saturday, Aug. 14.
“The Roethke House and Stone House are an important part of Saginaw’s story, and they provide a place where visitors can feel inspired by the power of poetry and the power of writing,” said Frances. “Local access to the small home museum for a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet offers tremendous opportunities for SVSU students who want to be writers, historians, archivists, curators, teachers, or so many other professions within the humanities.”
SVSU students, faculty and staff joined with others for a community open house in Saginaw at the Roethke House, at 1805 Gratiot Ave., and the Stone House, adjacent to the Roethke House at 1759 Gratiot Saturday, Aug. 14.
The open houses were hosted by the Friends of Theodore Roethke Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to promoting, preserving and protecting the literary legacy of Theodore Roethke by restoring his family residences for cultural and educational opportunities. The Roethke House, at 1805 Gratiot Ave. in Saginaw, was Roethke’s childhood home. The Stone House, adjacent to the Roethke House at 1759 Gratiot, was owned by Roethke’s uncle. “We are fortunate to have such a resource in our area,” Frances said. “We are even more fortunate that the Houses are supported by our community and that SVSU facilitates and funds formal research projects and internships.”
Saginaw Valley State University students who submit their proof of vaccination against COVID-19 can win $1,000 scholarships and other incentives. The university today launched “Your Shot to Win Big,” an incentive campaign for students who are vaccinated against the virus.
“The most effective action you can take to protect yourself and our campus community against COVID-19 is to get vaccinated,” said Donald Bachand, SVSU president. “Even with the emergence of the Delta variant, the data shows that vaccines continue to be highly effective, particularly in protecting against serious illness, hospitalization and death.”
Survey data shows that more than 70% of SVSU students are vaccinated. Students who have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine could win one of five grand prizes of a $1,000 scholarship during the sweepstakes, which will run from August 9 to September 5. There will also be weekly drawings for $100 gift cards for SVSU’s Barnes and Noble bookstore, on-campus dining, and gift cards to local attractions and businesses in the Great Lakes Bay Region.
To enter the sweepstakes, students should register online at svsu.edu/winbig between August 9 and September 5. They must provide proof that they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
SVSU has partnered with Meijer Pharmacy to vaccinate nearly 25,000 individuals since January, including students, faculty, staff and community members. Meijer Pharmacy will hold a back-to-school vaccination event at the Meijer Pharmacy, 3360 Tittabawassee Rd., Saginaw on Sunday, Aug. 29.
In the fall 2021 semester, 80 percent of SVSU’s undergraduate classes are expected to be taught face-to-face. Face masks are required to be worn in classrooms through September 15.
“Safeguarding the health and well-being of the campus community is and always will be our top priority,” Bachand said. “We will continue to monitor health conditions and public health guidance and adjust our expectations accordingly.”
Saginaw Valley State University has hired a leader with experience as an epidemiologist, researcher and community health specialist to serve as the new dean of the institution’s Crystal M. Lange College of Health & Human Services.
Marcia Mastracci Ditmyer comes to SVSU after serving as the associate dean for education and professor in residence with Emeritus at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), School of Dental Medicine where she provided leadership and assumed oversight for all educational programs and learning environments within the school. Her appointment begins August 1.
“I am very excited and look forward to working side-by-side with the outstanding students, faculty and staff at SVSU,” Ditmyer said.
Ditmyer’s experience and expertise are wide-ranging, from risk mitigation to leading complex change initiatives to building partnerships across a variety of stakeholders, including K-12 institutions, businesses and government agencies. At UNLV, she facilitated the establishment of an interprofessional academic health center and most recently spearheaded the COVID-19 Response Team, using evidence-based best practices to maintain the continuity of education, while ensuring a safe and healthy environment for faculty, staff, students, and patients.
Deborah Huntley, SVSU provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, said Ditmyer’s strong record of professional service, leadership, research and teaching made her the right choice for the position.
“Dr. Ditmyer has a strong commitment to interprofessional education and an impressive portfolio of successful leadership experiences” Huntley said. “She is an outstanding choice to lead SVSU’s exceptional programs in SVSU’s College of Health & Human Services.”
A Michigan native, Ditmyer received an MBA from Central Michigan University, a Master of Science from California College for Health Sciences, and a PhD from the University of Toledo. She also holds the Master Certified Health Education Specialist credential from National Commission for Health Education Credentialing. Her formal training has allowed Ditmyer to work as an epidemiologist, researcher, and community health specialist.
Early in her career, Ditmyer worked in the automotive sector. In her 19 years at UNLV, she gained interprofessional experience working within a variety of health science professions, including medicine, dental, nursing, community/public health, occupational therapy, physical therapy, kinesiology and nutrition sciences, social work, and mental health counseling. She also is a senior consultant for the Academy for Advancing Leadership.
Ditmyer is a health and fitness enthusiast and believes in a holistic approach to wellness, centered on the principles of inclusion, empowerment, and personal wellbeing.
SVSU’s Crystal M. Lange College of Health & Human Services provides a knowledge- and skills-based education, combining theoretical courses with clinical or fieldwork experience components to equip students for careers across the health care field. For more information about SVSU’s College of Health & Human Services, visit svsu.edu/collegeofhealthhumanservices.
Racing through a narrow figure-eight course at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Ben Stull had a few thoughts going through his mind: Don’t hit cones, hit my apex points, slow down my movements, be smooth. The mechanical engineering major’s performance helped secure a 16th place finish in SAE International’s Collegiate Design Series (CDS) Formula SAE® competition July 7-10. This was the sixth time the team has placed in the top 20 overall in the international competition.
“This competition was, by far, the hardest of the three I have competed in,” said Ed Tomczyk, a mechanical engineering student from Grand Blanc and captain of the team. “We had technical inspection issues and mechanical troubles that we have never dealt with at competition.”
Those issues meant the team had to repeat the technical inspection and soundcheck, but the members were determined to overcome all obstacles.
“It was another successful year, even though the team didn’t do as well as they’d hoped,” said Brooks Byam, professor of mechanical engineering and Cardinal Formula Racing Team advisor. “There was a big disruption that resulted from a rules interpretation that affected the team from Thursday afternoon until late Friday morning, but the students persevered and ended up with a good result. I am proud of how they handled that difficult situation.”
Cardinal Formula Racing’s continued success at the CDS competitions is noteworthy because it is one of the smaller teams and one of the few composed entirely of undergraduate students. The team placed ahead of several larger schools, including the University of Florida, Northwestern University and Virginia Tech. Forty teams competed in this year’s validation event, which included five dynamic events:
The team’s best showing of the competition was the skid pad event―the course Stull drove―with a 10th place finish. The team placed 17th in autocross, 18th in acceleration and 19th in endurance/efficiency. Other drivers were Ethan Brown, a mechanical engineering major from Kimball; Tobias Pfeiffer, a mechanical engineering major from Grosse Ile; and Tomczyk.
Other team members who participated in the competition were:
For Stull, a novice on the team, the Formula SAE competition delivered a valuable learning experience.
“I learned a lot about the auto industry, how the Formula SAE works, racing rules and regulations, the design-to-production process, and how great of an opportunity it is to be able to compete and be part of the team,” he said. “I also have my name and resume with a lot of employers.”
A group of Saginaw Valley State University students will fuel their passion for leadership and service through their participation in the Roberts Fellowship program.
“The Roberts Fellowship program challenges talented, hard-working students to expect more of themselves, to do more, and to be more than they originally thought possible,” said Julie Foss, SVSU associate professor of modern foreign languages and chair of the Roberts Fellowship program. “The 23rd class is another outstanding group of students who are well-equipped to grow into more effective leaders and global citizens.”
Students are selected for the Roberts Fellowship on the basis of demonstrated academic achievement, campus and/or community service, leadership potential, and potential to engage with diverse cultures and perspectives. One of SVSU’s Programs of Distinction, the program provides outstanding students with the academic, professional and service opportunities that help students develop leadership skills.
Throughout the 2021-2022 academic year, the 12 Roberts Fellows students selected for the 23rd class will participate in weekly seminars, engage in a year-long service project of their own creation and interact with campus and community leaders. The program culminates in an international travel experience that exposes students to professional and cultural differences in different countries.
The Roberts Fellowship program was established through a gift from Donna Roberts, who served as corporate secretary and assistant general counsel of Dow in the 1990s.
Members of the 23rd Roberts Fellows cohort are:
Zachary Archbold of Midland, a cell biology, molecular biology and biomedical sciences student
Alivia Barres, a chemistry major from Bay City
Kacy Clark of Freeland, a communication major
Max Gervais, a computer information systems major originally from Troy
Warren Jacobs, Bay City, majoring in biochemistry
Jaden O’Berry, of Flint, a theatre major
Talia Pruiett, Bay City, majoring in social work
Skyler Steward, a biology major from Auburn
Paige Talaga of Auburn, majoring in elementary education and English language arts
Glecia Tatum, a theatre major originally from North Carolina and now residing in Saginaw
Rhossa Umutoniwase, an international student from Rwanda majoring in biochemistry
Brianna Vanderstelt of Middleville, a psychology major
Saginaw Valley State University’s commitment to serving military veterans has been recognized with a place in the Military Times Best for Vets: Colleges rankings. SVSU ranks 15th among four-year public institutions in the Midwest and is among only 189 four-year public institutions nationwide to achieve this distinction. In addition to the Best for Vets: Colleges ranking, SVSU has been recognized as a Military Friendly School and as a Gold-level Veteran-Friendly School by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency.
“This ranking demonstrates that SVSU strives to be military-friendly,” said Bethany Alford, director of Military Student Affairs and a senior chief in the U.S. Navy Reserve. “We appreciate the sacrifices our military-affiliated students have made for our country, as well as their grit and determination in pursuing a degree. It’s important that we provide them with the resources that will help them succeed.”
Each year, Military Times surveys colleges and universities across the country to ask about their programs for veterans. The survey results are analyzed — along with public data about the institutions — to create an official ranking, which is found at colleges.militarytimes.com.
SVSU’s Military Student Affairs office is dedicated to the needs and concerns of all military-affiliated students. The office provides a number of services designed to help both active and veteran military students navigate the university landscape to successfully complete their degree and transition into graduate school or the workforce. Three percent of SVSU’s student body are affiliated with the military.
Harley Davidson, an elementary education major serving as a staff sergeant (E6) in the Michigan Army National Guard, credits the Military Student Affairs office with helping her navigate the process of using her military benefits to pay for college.
“When I started off at SVSU, I was a transfer student who was also new to using my military benefits,” said the Pinconning resident. “The Military Student Affairs office helped to get everything I needed taken care of. They have also been great about giving me and other students a comfortable place to have questions answered and to relax and study. I now work in the office while I’m taking classes. The office has given me the opportunity to connect with other veterans and service-connected students, do rewarding work and connect with many other offices and resources on campus.”
“The Military Student Affairs office has given me and other military-affiliated students a place where we can get assistance with our educational benefits and also a community with understanding individuals,” said McClain Mercer, a political science major living in Bay City. Mercer, who served in the U.S. Army JAG Corps from 2016-2020, said SVSU is helping him prepare for a career through programs and organizations like the Student Law Club and Forever Red.
For 10 years, Military Times Best for Vets: Colleges has been a top resource for veterans to help with their education decisions. This is the seventh year SVSU has made the list.
This year’s rankings now include an individual web page for each school, with information that will help veterans make important decisions about their career planning and how to use the education benefits they earned through military service.
Recognizing the tremendous support the Children’s Grief Center offers grieving children and families throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region, SVSU’s Student Association has selected the organization as its charitable partner for the 2021 Battle of the Valleys. The 18th annual fundraising competition, which harnesses the friendly football rivalry between SVSU and Grand Valley State University to raise funds for charitable organizations in each university’s respective community, begins Sept. 26.
“We selected the Children’s Grief Center mostly based on the services they provide to children and their families,” said Madeline Lowry, co-chair of the 2021 Battle of the Valleys. “Even through this tough time with the pandemic, they have been receiving increased participants as children and families lose loved ones.”
Lowry, a rehabilitative medicine major from Lake Orion, added that 44 organizations applied to be selected to receive funds raised by SVSU students during the competition.
Camille Gerace Nitschky, executive director of the Children’s Grief Center, said that the organization is supported solely through donations, grants, memorials and bequests. “We are so honored and so excited to be part of this wonderful event,” she said.
“The Center stood out amongst the other applicants because of its passion for helping others, its strong mission, and it is an amazing resource for those in need,” added Battle Co-Chair Josie Koenigsknecht, a communication major from Fowler.
Battle of the Valleys 2021 marks a return to its competitive roots following Grand Valley’s withdrawal from the competition in 2018. SVSU continued to raise funds in 2019 and 2020. Since 2003, the SVSU Student Association has donated more than $464,000 to Great Lakes Bay Region nonprofits. The annual fundraising competition is held the week preceding the SVSU-GVSU football game. Between 2003 and 2018, SVSU won the Battle challenge 13 out of the 16 years.
The 2021 Battle of the Valleys – the 18th – kicks off on Sept. 26 and will culminate with the presentation of a check to the selected beneficiary during the SVSU-GVSU football game on Oct. 2. This year’s game will be held at SVSU.
An SVSU geography professor is conducting a study on the effectiveness of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s treatment of invasive species at the Frankenlust Township Nature Park in Bay City with support of a grant from the Environmental Endowment Fund of the Bay Area Community Foundation. Rhett Mohler, associate professor of geography, successfully petitioned for the $6,599 grant from the Environmental Endowment Fund of the Bay Area Community Foundation for his “Monitoring Invasive Species” project. The project period is May 11, 2021 through August 31, 2023.
The goal of the project is to monitor the effectiveness of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s treatment of invasive species at the Frankenlust Township Nature Park and inventory desirable species.
“This type of research has the dual benefit of serving the community while also allowing our students to gain experience in their fields of study,” Mohler said. “Additionally, invasive species continue to be a large problem, so this type of work is very timely and needed.”
Mohler will hire one student employee to assist with research.
Mohler has identified four community-minded goals for the project:
Mohler joined the SVSU faculty in 2012. He has been active in research throughout his career at SVSU. In 2018, he received the Ruth and Ted Braun Fellowship to expand his efforts to map two invasive plants in the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, south of Saginaw. In 2014, he investigated the environmental history of a stretch of the Kawkawlin River as part of the Saginaw Bay Environmental Science Institute.
Five members of SVSU’s Roberts Fellowship Program have created a place for children from the Great Lakes Bay Region to memorialize their loved ones. The students devised the garden as their service project, which is a component of the Roberts Fellowship. The garden is located near the entrance to the Children’s Grief Center’s new headquarters at 4708 James Savage Road, Midland.
On Saturday, May 1, 11 children and their families, who participate in Children’s Grief Center groups in Midland, Bay City and Saginaw, attended the “Growing Grief Into Gardens” event at the Center’s new office. Children were invited to plant a flower and paint rocks in memory of their loved ones who had passed away.
“We decided we wanted to work with the Children’s Grief Center because of the pandemic,” said Madelene Cifrulak, a nursing major from Midland. “Everyone has experienced loss in some way this past year.
“We decided to plan a garden project because being outside and working with your hands is therapeutic for most people. Also, the process of planting something, tending to it and watching it grow reflects the grieving process,” she said.
The 2020-2021 Roberts Fellowship cohort consisted of 10 students. They split into two groups of five to work on service projects. The memorial garden group included:
Children’s Grief Center Executive Director Camille Gerace Nitschky, said, “We were delighted with the wonderful event we had on Saturday, Growing Grief Into Gardens, created by the Robert Fellows. Their thoroughness in the planning and then bringing it all together with our children, teens and families was so incredible after not seeing our kids for the last year except in Zoom meetings. It was beyond what we could have ever hoped for, and we will have our Grief Gardens for years to come to honor our people that have died.”
The Roberts Fellowship Program focuses on leadership from a global perspective. Each year, approximately 10 outstanding students from a range of disciplines participate in the year-long program, attending weekly seminars, engaging in a year-long service project, and interacting with campus and community leaders.
The Roberts Fellowship Program was established through a gift from Donna Roberts, who served as corporate secretary and assistant general counsel of Dow in the 1990s.