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September 26, 2019

SVSU pushes students to get involved, election participation doubled in 2018, report shows

Saginaw Valley State University leaders determined to engage more students in casting their votes during the 2018 election helped those students find their voice, a new study shows.


A September report by The Institute for Democracy & Higher Education — housed at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life — shows the percentage of SVSU students voting doubled during the 2018 election compared to the 2014 election, from 18.4% to 36.8% last year. An upward trend in election participation was experienced at higher education institutions across the nation, the report showed.


“I was really excited to see a spike at the university level and nationwide,” said Riley Hupfer, director of SVSU’s Center for Community Engagement. “It represents a strong commitment by our university and youth in our country to be part of the voting process.”


SVSU’s Center for Community Engagement — supported by student Democracy Fellows with the university’s Cardinals Vote initiative, a nonpartisan effort dedicated to connecting SVSU students with opportunities to engage in the democratic system — organized a number of voter registration drives leading up to November 2018, Hupfer said.


Cardinals Vote involved co-sponsoring Secretary of State mobile unit appearances on campus, advocating for registration at campus events, and recruiting other student groups and community members to advocate for voter registration.


Hupfer said more than 500 students registered to vote as a direct result of Cardinals Vote, but it’s likely the number was higher.


The Institute for Democracy & Higher Education reported other positive trends at SVSU. The study indicated the voter registration rate for SVSU students increased from 60% in 2014 to 67.1% in 2018; and the voting rate of registered students climbed from 30.6% to 54.8% during the same span.


“We’re not done,” Hupfer said of the program’s plans for the 2020 election. “We want to exceed what we did in 2018.”


SVSU was one of more than 1,000 higher education institutions to participate in The Institute for Democracy & Higher Education’s report, titled the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE).


The national NSLVE report can be read online at

September 26, 2019

Former New York Mets manager to visit SVSU in October

A retired Major League Baseball manager and Midland native will return to the region next month to talk about his passion for leadership during a presentation at Saginaw Valley State University.


Audiences can meet Terry Collins — who led the New York Mets to the World Series in 2015 — during his presentation Monday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m. in SVSU’s Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. The event will be moderated by Paul Barbeau, former president and general manager of the Great Lakes Loons. Admission is free and open to the public.


Collins will be looking back at his lengthy baseball career while discussing the leadership skills and determination that helped him perform at the highest levels of athletics.


After growing up in Midland, where he attended Midland High School before graduating in 1967, Collins spent his collegiate playing days at Eastern Michigan University. There, he was a star on the school’s baseball team, playing shortstop and second baseman. He later was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates and spent 10 years in the Minor Leagues with the Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers.


After his professional playing career was finished, he transitioned to coaching teams. His first manager job in Major League Baseball came in 1993 when he was hired by the Houston Astros. He also was manager of the Anaheim Angels from 1997-99 before spending times overseas, leading teams in Japan and China.


He returned to the MLB in 2010, and was hired as the New York Mets manager that November. In 2015, during a 90-win season, he led the team to the World Series before falling to the Kansas City Royals. Two years later, he retired from the position, leaving as the longest-tenured manager in Mets history. He remains with the franchise today as a senior advisor for player personnel.


Collins’ appearance at SVSU is sponsored by SVSU's Foundation office.

September 20, 2019

SVSU enrollment down, but freshman class up nearly 20 percent over 2017

Saginaw Valley State University saw an overall enrollment decline for the 2019 fall semester, but it enrolled a much larger freshman class than 2016 or 2017, after increasing the number of first-time students by 28% last year.

SVSU welcomed 1,470 incoming freshmen this fall, a 19.5% increase over the 1,230 new students in fall 2017, though down from last year’s freshman class of 1,576.

“Last year’s freshman class far exceeded our most optimistic projections, and we knew it would be difficult to match that total, particularly as the number of high school graduates in Michigan continues to decline,” said Deborah Huntley, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “Our Admissions staff, along with faculty and staff across the university, worked hard to make connections with students and show them the value of an SVSU degree, so we are pleased with our student recruitment efforts for the incoming class.”

Overall, SVSU has 8,265 students taking classes for the 2019 fall semester, down from 8,535 last year.

Institutional efforts to diversify the international student population paid dividends, as SVSU welcomed new students from 32 separate countries this fall.  In all, 427 international students are taking classes, representing 43 countries overall.

“A few years ago, the lion’s share of our international students came from just two countries, China and Saudi Arabia,” Huntley said. “We have expanded outreach in Africa and in parts of Asia, and we’re seeing more students from those areas, as a result.”

SVSU’s housing, ranked No. 4 overall and No. 1 in the nation among public universities, continues to attract students, as 71% of the freshman class is living on campus.

The academic preparedness of the 2018 freshman class mirrors recent years with an average high school GPA of 3.4.

Fall classes at SVSU began Monday, Aug. 26.

September 20, 2019

SVSU is 4 for 4 in being selected as Great College to Work For

Saginaw Valley State University’s welcoming campus atmosphere and empowering environment has resulted in the institution's designation as a "Great College to Work For" for the fourth consecutive year.


SVSU was one of 84 higher education institutions named to the list released online and to appear in a special insert in The Chronicle for Higher Education Friday, Sept. 20. The Great Colleges to Work For program was co-founded in 2008 as a partnership between The Chronicle of Higher Education and ModernThink, a strategic human capital consulting firm. The program was funded this year by ModernThink, which shared the results in The Chronicle of Higher Education.


“Here at SVSU, we are dedicated to providing first-rate resources to our dedicated faculty and staff,” said SVSU President Donald J. Bachand. “This results in a culture of professional growth and personal satisfaction that strengthens the opportunities we provide our students and community partners. I am proud of this campus-wide commitment to excellence and pleased to see our university continues its reputation as a ‘Great College to Work For.’”


SVSU was the only public university in Michigan recognized as a "Great College to Work For" in 2019. The university – which employs about 750 people full time – has made the list each of the four years it applied.


Each institution on the list is recognized in specific categories. SVSU was honored in the same four categories for the third consecutive year: compensation and benefits; facilities, workspace and security; teaching environment; and tenure clarity and process. The university was also recognized for the first time in a new category: collaborative governance. 


The list was determined based on a survey of 236 higher education institutions as well as analysis of demographic data and workplace policy. The survey – distributed earlier this year to staff and faculty members online – examines individuals’ evaluations of their respective institution.


“The institutions recognized in this year's Great Colleges to Work For program don't wait for problems to occur to pay attention to their people,” said Richard K. Boyer, managing partner at ModernThink. “Conversely, they're intentional in being good stewards of their institutions’ cultures and shaping the day-to-day experience of their faculty and staff to the ultimate benefit of their students.”


For more information about “Great Colleges to Work For,” visit

September 20, 2019

Determination, innovative spirit earn SVSU alumnus role re-imagining agricultural technology in New Zealand

James Harder knows the benefits of hard work and perseverance. The 2019 Saginaw Valley State University mechanical engineering alumnus started college when he was just 14 years old. While being homeschooled, the Saginaw native took college classes for two years through the Great Lakes Bay Early College program at SVSU to get ahead and discover what he wanted to study.


After taking a third year to explore his options, Harder found his passion for engineering and decided to return to college full-time. However, since he was homeschooled, several universities denied him admission and scholarship opportunities.


SVSU welcomed him. The university recognized his value and sought him out to return as a student, even offering him the President’s Scholarship. The way that SVSU supported and empowered Harder made his decision simple, he said.


“I really appreciated the way they treated me as an individual person and not a number,” Harder said. “I came here with no reservations.”


When Harder returned to SVSU, he was initially overwhelmed with the transition he faced. His parents had moved out of the country for work, and he didn’t have much of a support system close by. SVSU staff and faculty soon stepped in to provide him with mentorship and guidance, and to ensure that he knew he wasn’t alone. Whenever he had questions or concerns, staff and faculty went out of their way to help him succeed, he said.


“I really valued that the engineering faculty were inviting students to come ask questions. They had open doors and were always inviting. When you went and asked them questions, they were glad you did,” Harder said.


Harder was determined to challenge himself and make the most of every opportunity he had to excel. When he decided he wanted to complete his degree in two and a half years, his supporters at SVSU rallied around him to help him achieve this difficult objective.


In addition to his accelerated course load, Harder also pushed himself to advance his hands-on experience with a multi-year co-op at Nexteer Automotive in nearby Buena Vista Township. In order to fit all his ambitions into his already full schedule, Harder would work from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Nexteer before coming back to SVSU to take his classes. The support he received from SVSU while managing this heavy workload was invaluable, he said.


“SVSU was there if I wanted to take opportunities like co-ops, taking extra classes, and finishing my degree quickly,” Harder said. “They were there to back me up when I wanted to challenge myself.”


Harder continued to push himself to defy limits and discovered his passion for startups while completing his senior design project. He collaborated with Nexteer to develop an electric power steering motor frame for a home gym. The opportunity to apply this innovative mentality and build something new led him to his next ambitious endeavor.


Harder decided to push himself further and study abroad for his final year. The staff at SVSU were dedicated to making this dream a reality, helping Harder earn a scholarship to study industrial design at the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand.


His drive to study internationally and to apply himself to innovative initiatives earned him his current position— working at the cutting-edge start-up, Halter, in New Zealand.


Harder has worked at the company for three months, utilizing his mechanical and electrical engineering expertise to design innovative technology that aims to transform the farming industry. He is currently working with his team to develop a solar powered collar for cows that allows farmers to track and monitor their herd remotely.


Harder’s drive to overcome challenges and his determination to follow his passions led him to start his career in a part of the world he had always dreamed of visiting. Even half a world away, Harder still remains in contact with SVSU and the people that helped him along the way, and he is grateful for all of the unique opportunities he had at SVSU that helped get him to where he is.


“Any opportunity that you get to do something extra, no matter how difficult it seems, take those difficult opportunities,” Harder said. “Work hard and when you find what you love, put in everything you have and you will be rewarded.”

September 20, 2019

First Hispanic female Air Force pilot to discuss trailblazing career at SVSU talk

A Latina aviator whose career broke sound and gender barriers will visit Saginaw Valley State University next month.

As part of the university's celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Lt. Col. Olga Custodio will discuss her journey as the first female Hispanic United States Air Force pilot during a public presentation Wednesday, Oct. 9, at 6 p.m., in SVSU's Founders Hall. Admission is free and open to the public.

Her talk, “A Night with Olga Custodio,” also will detail her experience as the first Hispanic female commercial airline captain and examine the challenges she faced rising in ranks of a male-dominated profession.

Custodio‘s father served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army. Custodio's family traveled with him to different military camps around the world including Taiwan, Iran, Paraguay, and the U.S. They settled in Puerto Rico when Custodio was 15 years old. After graduating high school, she applied to the University of Puerto Rico's ROTC program but was denied because only men were admitted to the program.

In 1980, Custodio entered the Flight Screening Pilot Officer Training School and went on to graduate from the Undergraduate Pilot Training at Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas. She was the first Hispanic female to complete Air Force military pilot training in the U.S.

In 1988, American Airlines hired her as a commercial pilot, making her the first Latina to become a captain.

Custodio retired in 2003 to San Antonio. She now is an active charter member of the Women Military Aviators Association, the Women in Aviation International, as well as The Order of Daedalians. These organizations encourage youth from the San Antonio area to seek civilian and military aviation careers.

Her appearance at SVSU is sponsored by the university's Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, and Military Student Affairs, as well as the student organizations, Latino Awareness Association, and Female Empowerment and Multicultural Education.

Custodio's appearance is part of SVSU's annual Visiting Scholars and Artists speaker series. She will serve as a Dow Visiting Scholar during her visit.


For more information about the Visiting Scholars and Artists program, visit

September 20, 2019

SVSU presentation to examine opioid epidemic’s reach in rural Michigan

A Saginaw Valley State University educator’s determination to fight the opioid epidemic in rural Michigan will be the focus of a public presentation at the campus next month.

Kathleen Schachman’s talk, titled “High-Tech, High-Touch Solutions to the Opioid Crisis in Rural Michigan,” is scheduled Thursday, Oct. 3, at 4 p.m., in SVSU’s Founders Hall. Admission is free and open to the public. 

Schachman, SVSU's Harvey Randall Wickes Endowed Chair of Nursing, will discuss how her work at the university — where she has helped merge health care delivery with educational opportunities for students and practicing nurses alike — has brought her face-to-face with one of the region’s deadliest health crises.

After a career spent as a primary care nurse practitioner across the U.S. and overseas, Schachman joined SVSU in 2014. The following year, she helped oversee SVSU’s partnership with the Bay County Health Department as the two organizations opened a nurse practitioner-led primary care health clinic in downtown Bay City now known as Bay Community Health Clinic. Staffing the site are university faculty as well as students from SVSU and other higher education institutions, from the disciplines of nursing, social work, occupational therapy, and pharmacy.

Almost immediately upon opening, the health clinic began tending to patients reporting dangerous addictions to opioids such as heroin, fentanyl and other powerful pain-killing drugs. Staff members have expanded their services after implementing telehealth components to the office, allowing them to treat and interact regularly with rural community residents sometimes deterred from seeking health care because of their distance from far-off treatment facilities. What the staff and Schachman discovered upon utilizing the telehealth approach was a largely untreated population also suffering from opioid use.

Schachman continues to add reinforcements to the struggle against the epidemic. Earlier this year, she helped SVSU secure a $2.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health's Health Resources and Services Administration. Over the course of four years, the funds will allow 100 nurse practitioners to enroll in SVSU’s psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner post-graduate certificate program. Once certified, those nurses will be trained to combat the opioid epidemic — and other mental health care conditions — in those rural communities.


Schachman’s presentation is part of SVSU's annual Visiting Scholars and Artists programs. Her appearance will serve as SVSU’s annual Thomas and Hilda Rush Distinguished Lecture.


For more information about the Visiting Scholars and Artists speaker series, visit

September 17, 2019

Oh, 'Mamma Mia!' Ambitious regional production features tons of talent with SVSU ties

“Unprecedented” because of the scale of collaboration, a multi-community theatre production of the hit musical comedy “Mamma Mia!” debuting Friday will feature a cast and crew heavy with Saginaw Valley State University connections.

The director (a faculty member), lead actor (an alumna) and stage manager (a current student) are among 17 people with SVSU ties participating in the weeks-long run of the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance-produced show.

Combining talent and resources from three regional theatres including Bay City Players, public performances are scheduled at The Midland Center for the Arts on Fridays through Sundays, Sept. 20-22 and Sept. 27-29. Free shows exclusively for area school students are planned at Pit & Balcony Theatre in Saginaw during the first week of October.

“It’s an ambitious project — a unique project — and one that this region is uniquely equipped to take on,” said "Mamma Mia!" director Tommy Wedge, an assistant professor of theatre at the university. “It really shows how SVSU is part of that theatre community too. I don’t think it’s overstating it that this is unprecedented.”

Nine alumni, five students and three educators from SVSU are involved as cast or crew members. Nine will act on stage while eight will perform behind-the-scenes work including directing, stage management as well as lighting design and engineering.

Among the participating alumni is Holly Booth, who portrays Donna, the lead role made popular by Meryl Streep in the 2008 film adaptation and its 2018 sequel. Off stage, Booth is a Midland County Educational Service Agency teacher who received a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education at SVSU in 1997 as well as learning disabilities and emotional impairment education endorsements from the university.

SVSU students also are critical to the success of “Mamma Mia!” For instance, Melanie Frasca, a theatre major from Waterford, will serve as stage manager. That’s no small task for a dynamic, fast-moving musical that features 38 actors as well as two different stages with two different stage designs for its Midland and Saginaw settings, Wedge said.

“In classes, we talk about how the university is part of the community,” he said. “It’s thrilling to see students experience that in real time. They see the class work we do on campus and then can turn around and be that stage manager in our show while working with alumni who graduated from our program.”

Seating remains available for the public performances at The Midland Center for the Arts. Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees begin at 3 p.m.

Tickets — which start at $25 — can be purchased at either of the three participating theatres’ box offices, or by calling (989) 631-5930.

"Mamma Mia!" debuted on a London stage in 1999 and moved to Broadway for a 14-year run beginning in 2001. The story starts on the eve of a young woman's wedding. Her desire to find her biological father leads to events that reunite her mother (Donna, played by Booth) with three ex-lovers from decades earlier. The plot unfolds to the upbeat sounds of ABBA music.

Watch Wedge discuss "Mamma Mia!" and its elaborate production in the following promotional video:

September 17, 2019

Art, history, technology among topics planned for SVSU’s fall speaker series

Saginaw Valley State University will host seven guest speakers as part of its annual fall Visiting Scholars and Artists series. The series will bring to campus a renowned Bollywood actress, the daughter of two prominent American literary figures, a CEO and a former president of MIT.


Speakers will discuss the transcendent nature of art, the breaking of historical barriers, the revolution of technological-biological science and new concepts in the learning process.


All events are free of charge and open to the public.


The following includes the complete lineup of fall Visiting Scholars and Artists speakers:





“The Beat Generation On and Off the Road”

Cathy Cassady Sylvia

Dow Visiting Scholar

Monday, Sept. 23, 4 p.m., in Founders Hall

Cathy Cassady Sylvia is a guest lecturer in California focusing on Beat literature and the former editor for the Stanford Medical School Cardiology Division newsletter. The daughter of famous Beat writers Carolyn and Neal Cassady, her lecture will focus on how female voices — including her mother's — shaped Beat Generation literature while also being silenced by it.


“From SVSU to Bollywood: A Personal Journey”

Meera Chopra

Dow Visiting Artist

Thursday, Sept. 26, 7 p.m., in Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts

SVSU alumna Meera Chopra, an Indian actress and model, has appeared in more than 20 films in various languages produced in her home country. Her most recent role was in "Section 375," a courtroom drama about India's anti-rape laws. Chopra's lecture will tackle the importance of addressing difficult topics through art.


“High-Tech, High-Touch Solutions to the Opioid Crisis in Rural Michigan”

Kathleen Schachman

Thomas and Hilda Rush Distinguished Lecture

Thursday, Oct. 3, 4 p.m., in Founders Hall

Kathleen Schachman is the H.R. Wickes Endowed Chair of Nursing at SVSU, serving in this role since 2014. She helped implement the university's psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program, which is serving its first cohort of 16 nurse practitioners. Her practice focuses on addictions and recovery support services. She will discuss how her work has intersected with the nation's opioid crisis.


“A Night with Olga Custodio”

Lieutenant Colonel Olga Custodio

Dow Visiting Scholar

Wednesday, Oct. 9, 6 p.m., in Founders Hall

Lieutenant Colonel Olga Custodio broke social and sound barriers as the first Latina to become a United States Air Force (USAF) military pilot and a commercial pilot for American Airlines. Now retired from both American Airlines and the USAF Reserves, Custodio is an active member of the Women Military Aviators Association, the Women in Aviation International and the Order of Daedalians.


"Welcome to the Age of Living Machines”

Susan Hockfield

James E. O’Neill Memorial Lecture

Thursday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m., in Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts

Susan Hockfield is a professor of neuroscience and served as the first female president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 2004-12. Her book, “The Age of Living Machines,” examines the technological-biological revolution known as “convergence.” In her presentation, Hockfield will provide a glimpse of the world to come.


"Engaging Learners in Liminal Spaces”

Elizabeth Wardle

Dow Visiting Scholar

Thursday, Oct. 24, 7 p.m., in Gilbertson Hall's room GS 202

Elizabeth Wardle is a distinguished professor of written communication and director of the Howe Center for Writing Excellence at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She has published an award-winning collection of insights, “Naming What We Know,” and four editions of the co-authored textbook, “Writing about Writing.” In her talk, Wardle will discuss threshold concepts, student learning blocks and liminality in the learning process.


“The Perfect Storm”

Horacio Sanchez

Foundation Visiting Scholar

Monday, Nov. 4, 7 p.m., in Gilbertson Hall's Ott Auditorium

Horacio Sanchez is the president and CEO of Resiliency Inc., an agency leader in helping schools improve school climate, instruction and discipline. He addresses these topics in his book, "The Education Revolution." His research focuses on promoting student resiliency and applying brain science to improve school outcomes.


For more information about the Visiting Scholars and Artists speaker series, visit

September 12, 2019

SVSU fall speaker series kicks off with examination of Beat Generation and its female influences

At Saginaw Valley State University later this month, the daughter of a famous writer will engage audiences in a presentation exploring the influence of female writers on the Beat Generation of the mid-20th century.

Cathy Cassady Sylvia, daughter of the late Beat writers Carolyn and Neal Cassady, will serve as the academic year’s first Dow Visiting Scholar appearance Monday, Sept. 23, at 4 p.m., in SVSU's Founders Hall.

The event is free and open to the public.

During her lecture, “The Beat Generation On and Off the Road,” Sylvia will share a collection of her mother’s unpublished stories, poems and paintings. She also will examine how female voices — including her mother’s — shaped Beat generation literature while simultaneously being silenced by it.

Sylvia’s mother was a confidant to beat writers Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, who explored the effects of war on American culture. Kerouac referenced Sylvia’s birth in a 1951 draft of “On the Road,” a famous Beat novel considered by many as an American literary masterpiece.

Her parents were friends and sources of inspiration for Kerouac. Sylvia grew up immersed in the Beat literature tradition Kerouac and her parents helped shape. She will discuss these experiences in her lecture.

Sylvia previously served as Stanford Medical School Cardiology Division’s publications coordinator and as editor-in-chief of “The Cardiogram,” the school’s newsletter. Currently, she resides in California and provides local lectures at the San Fransisco Beat Museum and other locations.

Her appearance at SVSU is part of the university's annual Visiting Scholars and Artists speakers series program, which was established in part through an endowment from The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation to enrich our regional cultural and intellectual opportunities. Admission is free and open to the public for all events.

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