Saginaw Valley State University honored one of Saginaw’s leading community servants, as well as faculty and staff who display extraordinary enthusiasm and dedication, during SVSU's All -University Awards Banquet Friday, April 8.
The Distinguished Service Award, SVSU's most prestigious award for a community member, was given to Leola Wilson. Counted among Saginaw’s most committed public servants, she is perhaps most recognized for serving as president of Saginaw’s chapter of the NAACP since 1998, where she represents nearly 1,500 members.
Wilson also has served continuously on the board of the Saginaw Intermediate School District since 1975 and is believed to be the longest-serving member in its history. She also provided dedicated service to SVSU as a member of the Board of Control from 2005 to 2013, including a term as secretary. After completing her term on the Board, Wilson served as a member of the presidential search advisory committee during 2013 and 2014.
Several SVSU faculty and staff members also received recognition for outstanding achievement and dedicated service during the 27th annual ceremony.
Erik Trump, professor of political science, received the prestigious Franc A. Landee Teaching Excellence Award. He draws praise from students for his approachable demeanor and a teaching style that inspires students to perform. A student wrote: (Trump) “takes great pride and joy in teaching... we are rigorously challenged to find real world connections between the class material and what is happening in the world.”
Scott Youngstedt, professor of sociology, received the Earl Warrick Award for Excellence in Research. He has demonstrated remarkable persistence to support his research agenda and the people of West Africa, conducting on-the-ground research, primarily in the nation of Niger, one of the hottest and poorest countries in the world. Youngstedt has authored 22 peer-reviewed publications since joining the SVSU faculty in 1996, including the book “Surviving With Dignity: Hausa Communities of Niamey, Niger.”
The House Family Award for Teacher Impact was presented to Dave Rzeszutek, associate professor of theatre; he is widely regarded to be passionate about the art of theatre and the growth opportunities it provides students. A student nominator – a computer information systems major – wrote: “Of all the professors who have pushed me, none had a greater impact than Professor Rzeszutek. His belief in me was a driving force in my accomplishments at SVSU.”
Walt Reynolds received the Mary H. Anderson Adjunct Faculty Award for his part-time teaching role in the criminal justice department. A retired FBI agent, he is praised by students for sharing his practical experience and knowledge regarding careers in law enforcement and using his professional network to bring guest experts to speak in his classes.
New in 2016, SVSU introduced the Thomson Award for Empowering Learning in Community Engagement, which recognizes innovation and leadership in advancing student learning through community engagement that fosters reciprocal community partnerships and enhances SVSU's contributions to the local, regional, state, national, or global community. The inaugural recipient was Jason Schoenmeyer, associate director of Student Life. Through his leadership of Cardinal Volunteers, he has connected students at 72 non-profit agencies in the Great Lakes Bay Region, and partnered with 29 agencies to offer volunteer opportunities that have resulted in more than 1,600 hours of community service completed thus far in 2015-16.
The Bank of America Ruben Daniels Community Service Award was presented to Joseph Ofori-Dankwa, the Harvey Randall Wickes Chair in International Studies. He has collaborated on interdisciplinary projects and service activities, encouraging students and colleagues to do the same; he also plays an important role in the development of international programs at SVSU and in the community.
Two recipients were given the Terry Ishihara Award for Outstanding Co-Curricular Involvement: Adam Coughlin, associate professor of kinesiology, and Jaime Leyrer, special assistant to the dean for the College of Business and Management.
Coughlin currently serves as the faculty adviser for four student organizations: the Student Exercise Science Association; Phi Kappa Tau fraternity; Music ‘n Motion, a west coast swing dancing group; and the Adventure Club, which seeks to expose students to outdoor recreation.
Leyrer advises more than 1,000 business students on curriculum, appropriate class sequencing, and other academic issues, while empowering students and student organizations and forging effective community-minded relationships in the Great Lakes Bay Region.
Vanessa Brooks Herd, dedicates considerable time and resources to expose her students to diversity in all its forms. She is on sabbatical this semester, conducting field research on the study of inter-generational parenting in the African nation of Uganda. Brooks Herd also is passionate about providing support for young people who leave the foster care system at age 18, and received a $310,000 grant from the State of Michigan to establish the Youth in Transition program at SVSU.
The Outstanding Performance Award was shared by Denise Berry, director of military student affairs, and Debbie Fegan, senior programmer/analyst.
Berry played a leading role in creating and establishing SVSU’s award-winning programs and services for military-affiliated students. “Military Times” named SVSU as the No. 1 university in Michigan and No. 38 in the nation in its “Best for Vets: Colleges 2016.”
Fegan is recognized within SVSU and within higher education circles for exceptional work preparing computer systems for changes resulting from the Affordable Care Act. She also works to develop and implement project plans for new technology.