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March 30, 2022

Brooke Oleson: FIRST Scholarship Recipient

An extracurricular experience in high school led to a scholarship and career preparation skills.  

Brooke Oleson, an elementary education major from St. Joseph, Michigan, first heard about Saginaw Valley State University after her brother and father came to SVSU for the FIRST State Robotics Competition in 2018. 

Brooke attended a Cardinal College Day and an admissions representative told her that FIRST scholarship opportunities were available, which sealed the deal. She received the 2019 FIRST Robotics Scholarship to attend SVSU and quickly became involved with a number of registered student organizations. 

“I have been president and treasurer of an organization dedicated to female empowerment and multicultural education, treasurer for the gender-inclusive service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, a tour guide for SVSU Admissions and one of the orientation coordinators for SVSU's Orientation Programs.” 

 experiences showed her that it is important to rely on the people around you just as much as they rely on you. 

“SVSU does a lot to make sure their students are growing professionally in a safe environment to fail and grow.” 

Brooke is using the skills she learned during her FIRST experience in her classroom fieldwork. 

“Being able to communicate with people at various levels was essential with FIRST. Using fancy language to show off how much you knew didn't benefit anyone--just like in education. Being able to use language with my students that they will understand is essential for them to learn.” 

“The skill of time management is something all FIRST Robotics students know. Only having six weeks to prepare for a competition is not a lot of time, but we made it work every year. Preparing lessons and making sure those lessons are the appropriate time length is vital for teaching. I don't get more time than my allotted class time, so time management is huge.” 

Brooke is excited to volunteer at the FIRST in Michigan state finals this year at SVSU. 

She has started her classroom fieldwork and is excited to start student teaching. Oleson expects to graduate in May 2023. 

“I love every second I am on campus and the opportunities that SVSU provides me. No matter where I go, I feel like I belong at SVSU.” 

March 29, 2022

SVSU and partners creating Saginaw Chapbook Project

Community invited to contribute to poetry collection

Saginaw Valley State University, in partnership with the Friends of Theodore Roethke and the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center, is providing people in the Saginaw area an opportunity to contribute their poetry to a special collection through the Saginaw Chapbook Project. This initiative is made possible through a $13,750 Community Partners Grant awarded by the Michigan Arts and Culture Council (formerly the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs). Sherrin Frances, SVSU professor of English, applied for the grant and is spearheading the project. 

Frances explained that the project was conceived following a poetry slam at an open house at the Theodore Roethke Museum in August of 2021. 

“Several of us were struck by how much the poets were touching on themes of isolation and loneliness and very COVID-related things,” she said. “We decided that we could put a series together that gives people an outlet for that. 

“The Saginaw Chapbook Project is grounded in the idea that creative writing can positively impact mental health. The grant will help us provide a creative writing outlet for adults living in the Saginaw area – and possibly across the state – with the opportunity to document their mood, reflecting the mood of Saginaw, during the COVID pandemic.” 

The project consists of four major components: 

  • A virtual speaker series, hosted by the Friends of Theodore Roethke, featuring artists and writers from around the U.S. 
  • A series of virtual poetry writing workshops with professional facilitators 
  • Creation of a chapbook featuring poetry written by workshop participants 
  • A bookmaking workshop by the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center on the SVSU campus 

In addition to the bookmaking workshop at SVSU, participants will have the opportunity to visit the center in Kalamazoo to help make handmade paper and run the letterpress printer for pages that will be included in the final product. 

The chapbook project will culminate in mid-May with a celebration and book launch for participants, friends and family.   

All events are free and open to the public. 

Anyone who participates in the poetry writing workshops is invited to submit their poetry to the chapbook. For more information, visit


March 29, 2022

SVSU’s chief diversity officer receives national award

Mamie T. Thorns, associate vice president and chief diversity officer for diversity, equity and inclusion at Saginaw Valley State University has been honored with the 2022 Dr. Frank Hale, Jr. Award from the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.  

Thorns received the award for her contributions to advancing the understanding of diversity, equity and inclusive excellence in higher education. 

“Under Dr. Thorns’ persistent watch at our institution, we work to achieve institutional inclusive excellence and this mantra has become part of the SVSU culture,” said SVSU President Donald J. Bachand. 

Thorns joined SVSU in 2002 and has over 30 years of administrative experience in higher education. In her current role, she leads SVSU’s programs related to diversity, equal opportunity and Title IX. She serves as a primary advisor to SVSU’s president and leads a community-based advisory council that focuses on matters related to maintaining and enhancing a diverse and dynamic campus environment. Thorns chairs SVSU’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council, which advises and implements innovative programs for the campus and the Great Lakes Bay Region. 

In nominating her for the award, Bachand highlighted Thorns’ leadership in several areas. SVSU has:  

  • Established measurable goals for the recruitment of Black, Hispanic and other students of color. 
  • Secured funding for and completed an Inclusive Excellence study for SVSU. Study results will be used for university strategic planning in 2022. 
  • Opened the SVSU Multicultural Student Center in fall of 2021. 
  • Developed an academic major in Black studies. 
  • Updated the university’s Inclusion Advocate program and hiring practices. 

Thorns accepted the award at the association’s annual conference in San Diego on March 18. 

Named in memory of a former vice provost for minority affairs and professor at The Ohio State University, the Dr. Frank Hale Jr. Award is presented to an individual who has made substantial contributions to diversity and inclusive excellence in higher education, exercised innovative and courageous leadership, demonstrated a robust record of consistent service for inclusive excellence. 

March 4, 2022

SVSU professors to use Braun Fellowship to study public literacy, modern political discourse

By Ann Branch

Sherrin Frances and Natalie Knoblock portraits

Saginaw Valley State University has awarded the annual Braun Fellowship to Sherrin Frances, professor of English, and Natalia Knoblock, associate professor of English, to support their research.

Frances will better understand the preservation and use of literature by building upon her prior study of outsider libraries with a particular emphasis on “trash libraries,” collections of books literally pulled from the trash.

Knoblock will expand her research on the linguistics and language used in current American politics to examine political discourse among conservatives.

Each will receive research support grants totaling up to $37,500 over the next three years to further their scholarly and professional activities. Funds may be used for research expenses, equipment, travel and/or other related support.

Frances intends to ultimately author a book that explores how "trash libraries" can impact a community's perception of libraries and how they might impact literacy rates within certain demographics. She will take a deep look at when and how books or book collections are regarded as objects, as opposed to being regarded for the content inside.

As a scholar, Frances previously authored the book “Libraries amid Protest: Books, Organizing, and Global Activism,” which was published in 2020. It examines how Occupy Wall Street activists took over Zuccotti Park in New York City and within weeks, the encampment included a library of several thousand physical books, among other things. She also received an SVSU Faculty Research Grant in 2020 for her project, “Trash Libraries and Public Literacy.”

Frances joined the SVSU English faculty in 2011. She completed a master’s degree and Ph.D. at the European Graduate School in Switzerland after earning a bachelor’s degree from Southwestern University in Texas. During her time at SVSU, Frances has an impressive research record, having written several scholarly publications and given more than 15 academic conference presentations or invited talks.

Knoblock has examined public and political discourse in multiple cultures and contexts. She served as the editor of the anthology, “Language of Conflict: Discourses of the Ukrainian Crisis,” which was published in 2020. Her study of Russian news coverage of Great Britain’s departure from the European Union, commonly known as “Brexit,” was published in the academic journal “Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis across Disciplines.”

In her upcoming research, Knoblock will explore if the language used by modern American conservatives matches the preference of a public that has abandoned the expectation of accuracy and eloquence and instead desires simplicity and entertainment. Her analysis will examine the claim that the speech of former President Trump – characterized by limited vocabulary, fragmented syntax, and other features – is representative of the preferences of the population in the conservative part of the political spectrum.

Knoblock joined the SVSU English faculty in 2012. She completed her Ph.D. at Tambov State University in Russia. Her extensive scholarly record includes more than 12 published articles or books and at least 10 scholarly presentations since 2016.

Established in 2005, the Braun Fellowship program was created through a $1.5 million endowment from the Saginaw-based Harvey Randall Wickes Foundation. Administered by the Saginaw Community Foundation, the program's purpose is to recognize the exceptional accomplishments and potential of select SVSU faculty and staff. It is named in honor of Ruth Braun and her late husband, Ted.

February 24, 2022

SVSU, MiSTEM Recognize, Reward ‘STEM Stars’

Twenty K-12 teachers in six Michigan counties will see a boost to their STEM education budgets thanks to the STEM Center at Saginaw Valley State University and the MiSTEM Network – East Central Michigan Region.

The educators have been named “STEM Stars” in honor of their hard work, dedication and contributions to education in science, technology, engineering and math. They will be recognized at a STEM Educator Dinner on Tuesday, Feb. 22 at SVSU. Melanie Kalmar, corporate vice president, chief information officer and chief digital officer at Dow will be the keynote speaker.

“These teachers have made incredible contributions to STEM education in their classrooms, schools and communities,” said Adrianne Cole, director of STEM@SVSU. “They deserve to be recognized not only for their innovative STEM programs, but also for their ability to meaningfully connect with their students in and outside of the classroom.”

Each recipient received a $250 award to benefit STEM education in his or her classroom or program, as well as a 3D-printed keepsake designed by Cardinal Solutions at SVSU and produced by the SVSU Independent Testing Laboratory. Award winners were selected from a pool more than 40 nominees. 

The 2022 STEM Stars represent schools in Arenac, Bay, Clare, Isabella, Midland and Saginaw counties. This is the third year SVSU and MiSTEM have recognized educators for their efforts. Nominations were reviewed by a selection committee. 

This year’s award recipients represented schools from six of the eight counties within the MiSTEM Network – East Central Michigan Region. The award recipients are:


  • Stephanie Baarck, teacher, St. Lorenz Lutheran School, Frankenmuth
  • Christine Brillhart, science teacher, Jefferson Middle School, Midland
  • Jennifer Courtright, 4th grade teacher and coach, Beal City Public Schools, Mt. Pleasant
  • Jodi Decuf, STEAM teacher, MacGregor Elementary, Bay City
  • Andy Frisch, science teacher, Farwell High School, Farwell
  • April Frost, science teacher, Farwell Middle School, Farwell
  • Jessica Good, STEM teacher, Christa McAuliffe Middle School, Bangor Township
  • Melissa Grunder, teacher/FIRST coordinator, Siebert Elementary School, Midland
  • Tim Hall, science and electronics teacher, Robotics Coach, Handy Middle School, Bay City
  • Deb Kanine, tech lab/computer teacher, Shepherd Public School
  • Jessi Koehler, STEM teacher, Freeland Learning Center and Freeland Elementary, Freeland
  • Dana Lockwood, business teacher, Hemlock High School, Hemlock
  • Ashley Morgan, chemistry teacher, Frankenmuth High School, Frankenmuth
  • Charlie Lalonde, math teacher, robotics coach, Western Middle School, Bay City
  • Daniel Seefeld, STEM and PE teacher, Larson Elementary, Harrison
  • Tracy Stoldt, math and science teacher, Au Gres-Sims Middle and High School, Au Gres
  • Lori Vacik, reading and science teacher, Robert B. Havens Elementary, Thomas Township
  • Randi Watchorn, science teacher, Marshall Greene Middle School, Birch Run
  • Kristi Weber, STEM teacher, Jessie Rouse Elementary and Arthur Eddy Academy, Saginaw
  • Gwen Windiate, science teacher, Christa McAuliffe Middle School, Bangor Township


The MiSTEM Network is funded through a statewide grant and promotes the impact of STEM on economic development and education in the state. The purpose of STEM@SVSU is to develop a STEM talent pipeline to meet the current and future needs of the Great Lakes Bay Region by providing professional development for STEM teachers, engaging STEM professionals to enhance STEM learning and increasing experiential learning for students at all grade levels. For more information about SVSU’s STEM program, visit or follow the program on Facebook and Instagram.

February 7, 2022

SVSU day of giving generates over $102,000 for scholarships and more

Thanks to an outpouring of support from alumni and friends of Saginaw Valley State University, the university will be able to offer scholarships to students who face financial hurdles to completing their degrees. 

On Wednesday, Feb. 2, the SVSU Foundation held its 7th annual “2/2 for SVSU” giving day campaign, raising over $102,000 and exceeding its goal of $100,000. The focus of this year’s effort was a new Student Success Fund to support transfer, retention and degree completion scholarships. 

“Every year, our alumni and friends demonstrate their confidence in SVSU and our mission by supporting ‘2/2 for SVSU,’” said SVSU President Donald Bachand. “This private support enables our students to earn their degrees and begin rewarding careers with employers throughout the region and beyond.” 

Encouraged by “seed” funds of $40,000 from the Wickson-Link Memorial Foundation and the Allen E. and Marie A. Nickless Memorial Foundation, donors stepped up to grow the fund to $100,000. Challenge gifts from the Alice E. Turner Memorial Trust and SVSU Foundation staff also helped spur contributions throughout the day.  

“We are very grateful for the support of the SVSU alumni and friends who supported the university through our ‘2/2 for SVSU’ campaign,” said Andrew Bethune, executive director of the SVSU Foundation. “The generous support of the Wickson-Link and Allen E. and Marie A. Nickless Foundations was instrumental in the success of the campaign, and the matching gift challenges helped us maintain our momentum throughout the day.” 

Many students have faced hardships over the past two years, making the new scholarships particularly timely.

“There are very few scholarships designated specifically for upperclassmen or for students who transfer to SVSU, and none at the moment devoted to helping students return to SVSU to finish degrees following an interruption,” said Ann Schumann-Ousley, manager of annual giving and data management for the SVSU Foundation. “These new scholarship funds will meaningfully impact these students’ lives and allow them to stay in college or to get back on the path to an SVSU degree.”   

Held every year on Feb. 2, the “2/2 for SVSU” campaign was modeled on the Giving Tuesday fundraising initiative. Since the first giving day in 2016, donors have contributed over $525,000 through the annual event.  

February 1, 2022

SVSU celebrates Black History Month with art exhibit, mobile museum

Saginaw Valley State University will celebrate Black History Month with events throughout the month of February. While many of the events are limited to the campus community because of COVID-19 precautions, the public will be able to enjoy a few.

SVSU’s Black History Month celebration kicks off with an art exhibit and a mobile museum.  

The Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum at SVSU presents “Harold Neal and Detroit African American Artists: 1945 through the Black Arts Movement.” This exhibit celebrates the lasting legacy of the Civil Rights Movement and will be on view at the museum through Wednesday, April 16. Programming during this exhibition includes “Create & Take” drop-in art activities on Feb. 12 and March 12, as well as an artist panel with exhibiting artists Shirley Woodson and Allie McGhee on March 26.

On Thursday, Feb. 3 SVSU’s Multicultural Student Center will host the Black History 101 Mobile Museum, a traveling exhibit with more than 10,000 original artifacts of Black memorabilia representing the whole of Black history in the United States. The exhibit will be on display in Curtiss Hall/Groening Commons from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dr. Khalid el-Hakim, founder of the Black History 101 Mobile Museum, will present a lecture to the SVSU community at noon.

On Wednesday, Feb. 16, SVSU’s Office of Diversity Programs presents “The New Jim Crow: A Courageous Conversation” with guest Michelle Alexander. Alexander is the best-selling author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” The fully online presentation will be held at 7 p.m. Registration information will be available on the office’s website:

Throughout Black History Month, SVSU is also hosting many events for the campus community such as a Black faculty and staff meet-and-greet, a Black alumni meet and greet, a Black@SVSU fashion show and an intersectional women’s panel. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, these events are not open to the public.


Black History 101 Mobile Museum:

The Black History 101 Mobile Museum is a traveling exhibit that has visited 40 states and has been shared at over 500 institutions. Founded by Dr. Khalid el-Hakim, it is an award-winning collection of over 10,000 original artifacts of Black memorabilia dating from the trans-Atlantic slave trade era to hip-hop culture. The artifacts represent categories such as: Jim Crow, science, religion, education, music, sports and civil rights. The collection includes documents signed by Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Mary Mcleod Bethune, W.E.B. Dubois, Paul Robeson, Rosa Parks, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington Carver, Lena Horne, Carter G. Woodson, Angela Davis and other historical icons.

Previous traveling art exhibits hosted by SVSU during Black History Month have focused on Jim Crow era racist memorabilia, but the mobile museum celebrates the whole of Black history.

The mobile museum event is presented in partnership with the SVSU Multicultural Student Center, School University Partnership Office, and registered student organizations Valley Nights and Program Board.

For more information about the mobile museum, visit


“Harold Neal and Detroit African American Artists: 1945 through the Black Arts Movement” at the Marshall Fredericks Sculpture Museum:

This exhibit explores the growth and development of African American art in Detroit from the 1950s through the 1970s. The exhibit will be on view at the MFSM from Tuesday, Feb. 1 through Wednesday, April 16. While focusing on Neal, the exhibit also features some of his predecessors, contemporaries and successors.  

“While this exhibition reflects the sentiments of the Black Arts Movement in Detroit, the content and powerful imagery of the artworks in the exhibition are still very much relevant today,” said Megan McAdow, director of the museum.

An online version of the exhibition is also available through the “Museum Musings” portal on the museum’s website, This exhibit is made possible with grant support from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.

The Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum is located on the campus of Saginaw Valley State University.

February 1, 2022

SVSU and Lake Huron Region office of SBDC awarded ARPA funds to support small businesses in Bay County

Award is part of $2 million being managed through Bay Future, Inc.

The Lake Huron Region Michigan Small Business Development Center, housed at Saginaw Valley State University, has partnered with local organizations to provide much-needed financial support for small businesses in Bay County that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The $368,500 award is part of the $2 million in ARPA funds allocated to Bay Future, Inc. by the Bay County Board of Commissioners.  

The SBDC will work with Bay Future to help new businesses get off the ground and grow existing businesses.  

“The SBDC offers critical tools and resources to guide entrepreneurs in launching their new business, early-stage startups, as well as providing consulting services to help business owners put a growth plan into action, and expert consulting to help mobilize technology to commercialization. After the once-in-a-century pandemic, with this funding, our local economy will now be poised for a once-in-a-generation comeback,” said Beth L. Roszatycki, Regional Director, Lake Huron Region Michigan SBDC. 

Roszatycki said the SBDC has been a go-to resource for small businesses striving to weather the pandemic. That support will continue with SBDC consultants providing a variety of services and resources to Bay County businesses, including one-on-one consulting support, small business training and a “comeback toolkit.” The SBDC also will offer a “90-day refinement program” that includes weekly discussion and instruction to prepare owners to expand their business activity. 

The Lake Huron Region SBDC is part of the Scott L. Carmona College of Business at Saginaw Valley State University. It is one of the Business Excellence Centers at SVSU, which provide training, consulting and research services to Michigan’s business community.

For more information, contact the Lake Huron Region SBDC at  

January 25, 2022

SVSU students distinguish themselves at Model United Nations conference

SVSU students distinguish themselves at Model United Nations conference

Two Saginaw Valley State University students distinguished themselves during the American Model United Nations (AMUN) conference. Political science majors Trenton Basner of Otisville and Ethan Rose of Ypsilanti earned the Outstanding Delegation Award for the contemporary Security Council. 

For Basner, who serves as president of SVSU’s Model UN Club, this was the second consecutive conference where he captured honors; in 2020, he won as a distinguished delegate, representing France on the Human Rights Council. This was Rose’s first AMUN award.  

This year, SVSU’s Model UN team sent 16 students to AMUN, which returned to an in-person conference following last year’s virtual event. The students were assigned to represent the United Kingdom.  

“Our Model UN team was one of the best-trained schools in attendance,” said Stewart French, associate professor of political science and Model UN Club advisor. “Many of the conference’s simulation staff congratulated and praised our students. SVSU has a reputation at the conference of having well-prepared, professional students.” 

In addition to Basner and Rose, the students representing SVSU at the American Model UN conference were:  

  • Austin Ball, a social studies major from Hemlock 
  • B Browne, a political science major from Midland 
  • Kevin Conley, of Port Huron, a marketing major 
  • Nicholas Dubois, a political science major from Midland 
  • William Graczyk, of Midland, a political science major 
  • James Kilts, of Saginaw, a chemistry major 
  • Madison Klimowicz, a political science major from East Pointe 
  • Jefferson Kusterer, a political science major from Rochester Hills 
  • Vitor Zanon, an international studies major from Brazil 
  • Abigail Sefcik, of Bellevue, a political science major 
  • Alaina Short, an international studies major from Flushing 
  • Kolton Snider, of Mt. Pleasant, a political science  major 
  • Gabriel Villarreal, a political science major from Freeland 
  • Elijah Wojtowicz, a social studies major from Birch Run 

The Model United Nations program is designed to educate students about current events, topics in international relations, diplomacy and the United Nations’ agenda. At the AMUN and other annual conferences, students role play as diplomats representing a country or non-governmental organization (NGO).

French reported that 68 schools, representing 133 countries, attended the conference in Chicago Nov. 20-23, 2021. They competed over four days, for roughly 24 hours of simulation time, including an early-morning emergency session of the Security Council. 

“I had a strong team of students engaged in their committees for the full simulation,” French said.  

January 21, 2022

SVSU’s chief diversity officer recognized for exemplary service to the Great Lakes Bay Region

Mamie T. Thorns, associate vice president and chief diversity officer for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Saginaw Valley State University has been honored with the MLK Jr. Unity Award by the Iota Chi Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, a fraternity that has long been committed to the African-American community’s fight for civil rights. The MLK Jr. Unity Award is one of the highest community awards that the Iota Chi Lambda chapter confers on citizens in the Great Lakes Bay Region. 

“It’s an honor to be the recipient of the MLK Jr. Unity Award. I would like to thank the Iota Chi Lambda chapter for this distinguished recognition,” said Thorns. “To be honored in this way on this day allows me to reflect on the years that I have attempted to keep the dream of MLK alive in my own heart and how I’ve unabashedly strived to encourage others to remember and be inspired by his legacy. In my spirit I can hear ringing loudly the resolute words of Dr. King: ‘We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.’”  

Smallwood Holoman, a member of the Iota Chi Lambda chapter, said, “We scoured the community to try to identify people who indeed bring service to our community. Dr. Thorns personifies Dr. King’s philosophy.” 

Holoman cited Thorns’s involvement with the Bridge Center for Racial Harmony, the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Celebration and the Great Lakes Bay Regional Youth Leadership Initiative as a few outstanding examples of her service.  

Thorns joined SVSU in 2002 and has over 30 years of administrative experience in higher education. In her current role, she leads SVSU’s programs related to diversity, equal opportunity and Title IX. She serves as the primary advisor to SVSU’s president and leads a community-based advisory council that focuses on matters related to maintaining and enhancing a diverse and dynamic campus environment. Thorns chairs SVSU’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council, which advises and implements innovative programs for the campus and the Great Lakes Bay Region. 

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