Saginaw Valley State University’s Tami Sivy, professor of chemistry, has received the Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year award from the Michigan Association of State Universities. The award recognizes the outstanding contributions and dedication exhibited by the faculty from Michigan’s 15 public universities to the education of undergraduate students. She is one of three professors in the state to receive the honor.
Sivy joined the SVSU faculty in 2008 and has served as department chair since 2015. In her tenure at the university, Sivy has promoted outstanding student experiences for undergraduate students, creating opportunities for research and community partnerships. She emphasizes developing students’ critical thinking skills and helps them discover joy in learning.
“Dr. Tami Sivy represents the best of teaching, research and dedication to student success,” said Dr. Daniel J. Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities. “She mentors and empowers her students, symbolizing the excellence in higher education for which Michigan’s public universities are globally renowned.”
Sivy not only teaches classes at every level, she is responsible for the entire upper-level biochemistry curriculum and has mentored more than 50 SVSU students in laboratory research. Sivy sits on the steering committee of the Saginaw Bay Environmental Science Institute at SVSU. She also was involved in the development of the SVSU /STEM/Dow Science and Sustainability Center’s mobile laboratory and the curriculum that is used in outreach activities to area students. She has mentored many regional high school teachers and students in environmental research projects.
In 2012, Sivy and her undergraduate students began using rapid DNA testing to detect fecal contamination and its sources at freshwater sites in the Saginaw Bay Watershed. After many years of collaboration and validation, the method has now been used to determine beach closings in Bay County since 2019. This pioneering work led the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy to request her assistance in adapting testing for the COVID-19 virus in wastewater. Sivy was the first in Michigan to engage undergraduate students in this testing, which spans the SVSU campus and seven surrounding counties. In support of freshwater and wastewater testing, she has received nearly $4 million in external funding.
“As a faculty member at SVSU, Dr. Sivy positively impacts the classroom and surrounding community through her research on water quality,” said Deborah R. Huntley, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at SVSU. “She is a teacher who mentors and understands the needs of students. Her dedication to the success of students and her commitment to her community, colleagues and SVSU are well evident.”
Sivy has won several awards at SVSU, including the Franc A. Landee Award for Teaching Excellence, the most prestigious teaching award conferred by the university. She also was an exchange professor at Shikoku University in Tokushima, Japan, where she served as an ambassador of SVSU to the community and taught undergraduate courses.
Sivy earned her B.S. in biochemistry from Calvin College and her Ph.D. in chemistry and biochemistry from the University of Colorado, Boulder.
The two other 2021 recipients include Thomas Werner of Michigan Technological University and Yunus Zeytuncu of University of Michigan-Dearborn.