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October 13, 2016

SVSU faculty and students recognized for empowering research

Saginaw Valley State University students and faculty showcased community-based health-related research projects to representatives from private foundations at the University of Michigan’s “Big House.”

The Council of Michigan Foundations held their 44th annual conference in Ypsilanti for approximately 450 trustees and staff of Michigan foundations September 18-20.

SVSU was among eight universities across Michigan invited to present. The group from SVSU presented information regarding four projects: community needs assessments given to the Midland and Saginaw communities, an intervention focusing on physical activity and dietary behaviors among older adults, a physical activity and dietary intervention focusing on healthy weight gain in pregnant women, as well as an Exercise is Medicine on Campus project at SVSU.

SVSU faculty members provided support and guidance, and students gained valuable experience with key components to the studies.

“The students play a critical role in all of the projects,” said Meghan Baruth, SVSU assistant professor of health science. “They recruit participants, conduct measurements, help run the interventions. They are very involved in all aspects.”

The group from SVSU attended one of the breakout sessions from the conference, a showcase on the evening of Monday, Sept. 19. The event was located in the Roth Clubhouse of the University of Michigan football stadium.

Along with Baruth, four undergraduate students and two faculty members involved with the research presentations:

•    Ashley Boggs, an exercise science major from Linden
•    Brenna Dressler, a health sciences major from Saginaw
•    Holly Simon, an exercise science major from Lyons
•    Jessica Walker, a biology major from Freeland
•    Samantha Deere, assistant professor of kinesiology
•    Becca Schlaff, assistant professor of kinesiology

Not only does the practical research provide students with invaluable experience that will help prepare them for graduate school and their careers, but they help induce real-life change in the communities where the research is conducted, Baruth said.

“The projects are allowing the students to apply what they’re learning in the classroom to a real-life setting, and also teaching them how to work with communities and people,” she said. “It’s allowing them to learn many new skills that will benefit them not only in their graduate studies and careers, but as a person as well.”

The Council of Michigan Foundations is an organization comprised of dedicated philanthropists that advocate for the communities they serve, provide learning opportunities for members, and connect local, global and governmental leaders for the collection of resources to support the region.

“SVSU looks forward to opportunities like this to present our student and faculty research to the public,” said Andy Bethune, executive director of the SVSU Foundation. “We were honored to participate and it was even more rewarding to see our students and faculty interact with representatives of private foundations from throughout the state of Michigan.”

The conference is the largest statewide philanthropic conference in the nation and features over 35 breakout sessions focusing on pressing philanthropic issues such as Michigan’s public school system and the Flint water crisis. The theme for the conference, “Think Boldly, Act Urgently,” aligned with SVSU’s health-based projects as students and faculty engaged in critical thinking and then took action in their communities.

For more information regarding the council and its conference, please visit