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October 30, 2019

Leading role in 'Proof' showcases SVSU student's acting

Audiences familiar with Abigail Burgess' on-stage performance earlier this year as a Dolly Parton-inspired spitfire may have a hard time recognizing her as she takes center stage again — this time playing the troubled young woman leading Saginaw Valley State University's production of "Proof," a Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about a mourning family in crisis.

Performances for "Proof" are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, Oct. 30-Nov. 2; and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3, in SVSU’s Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased online at

Burgess, a theatre major, will play the drama's lead, Catherine. The role is the follow-up to her performance in SVSU's production of the musical version of "9 to 5" in April, when the Commerce Township native played a gregarious role made famous in film by Parton.

The shift from playing a larger-than-life character in a musical to a character grounded in a harsh reality was a challenge Burgess was excited to accept.

"The role of Catherine is very different from other roles I’ve played, purely because this show is so set in reality, and every detail must be incredibly specific," she said.

“Proof” follows the story of Catherine as she struggles with her late father’s legacy as a brilliant mathematician. Following his death, Catherine must deal with her volatile emotions; the arrival of her estranged sister, Claire; and the attentions of Hal, a former student of her father's who hopes to find valuable work in the 103 notebooks that her father left behind. Over the course of one weekend, a burgeoning romance and the discovery of a mysterious notebook draw Catherine into the most difficult problem of all: How much of her father's madness — or genius — will she inherit?

Burgess said the play’s family dynamic — and how it explores issues such as grief and mental health — will make a memorable experience for audiences.

“The play is set in 1999; During this time, mental health carried even more of a stigma than it does today,” she said. “However, I think that the journey of these characters shows that struggles with mental health are still prominent here and now.”

Burgess’ favorite part of acting — especially in “Proof” — involves the relationships formed with cast and crew members, she said.

“It takes so many working pieces to make theatre happen,” Burgess said. “As both an actor and the costume designer for the production, I am so grateful for such an amazing and hardworking cast and crew.”

David Rzeszutek, SVSU associate professor of theatre, will serve as director of "Proof."

Like "9 to 5," the story of "Proof" also was featured on the big screen. A 2005 film starred Gwyneth Paltrow in the role of Catherine.

For more information about the SVSU production of "Proof," please contact the SVSU Box Office at (989) 964-4261.

October 30, 2019

Trombone performance to put SVSU band director in musical spotlight

A Saginaw Valley State University educator perhaps most publicly known for directing SVSU’s marching band will share one of his other musical talents in an upcoming concert on campus.

The trombone skills of Norman Wika, SVSU associate professor of music, will be on display Tuesday, Nov. 5, at 7:30 pm in SVSU’s Rhea Miller Recital Hall. The performance is free and open to the public. 

In addition to teaching classes in the music department, Wika serves as director or bands. He leads the university’s wind ensemble, concert band and Cardinal Marching Band groups.

Wika began playing the trombone in the fourth grade after joining his school band in Kansas City. He continues to play today, holding recitals and participating in ensembles such as the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra. 

Amanda Stamper will accompany Wika on the piano during the Tuesday concert. Musical pieces for the performance include "Cortège” by Pierre Max Dubois, "Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen" by Gustav Mahler, and "Mystic with a Credit Card” by Michael Colgrass. 

Wika earned a doctorate degree in musical arts and a master's degree in music education, both at the University of Connecticut.  

For more information about the performance, call the SVSU Department of Music at (989) 964-4159 or visit

October 30, 2019

Kochville Township's Cardinal Square street signage to feature SVSU branding

After decades spent as neighborly partners, Saginaw Valley State University and Kochville Township will continue to empower each other this week when crews install street signage — featuring the logo of SVSU’s cardinal mascot — in a developing commercial district known as Cardinal Square.

The new signage will be installed beginning Thursday, Oct. 31, on the mast arms of 10-foot street signs at three intersections: Towne Center and Tittabawassee; Cardinal Square and Tittabawassee; and Cardinal Square and Trautner. The installation effort could span several days, potentially extending into the following week. 

Crews plan to begin installing the SVSU cardinal logo-branded signage between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday. Poor weather conditions could delay the effort.

The signage was arranged thanks to a collaboration between SVSU leaders and officials with the Kochville Township Downtown Development Authority (DDA).

“SVSU appreciates Kochville DDA’s leadership in strengthening our university community partnership,” said Donald J. Bachand, SVSU president.

Lyle Davis, chairman of Kochville’s DDA, said university and township officials plan to pursue other opportunities to add SVSU branding within Cardinal Square.

“The Cardinal Square district is a unique partnership that we are happy to be enhancing with the new signs and years of future plans,” Davis said. “I would like to extend a special thanks to SVSU and Saginaw County Road Commission for bringing this project to fruition.”

The signage installation marks the latest symbol of unity between SVSU and Kochville Township. That union was first formed when SVSU’s first leaders chose Kochville Township as the campus home of the institution founded in 1963. SVSU hosted its first classes in the community in 1967. Largely an agricultural community at the time, Kochville Township in the decades since developed a neighboring commercial district.

A portion of that district in 2006 was labeled Cardinal Square, in honor of SVSU. It’s a district that spans both Kochville and Saginaw townships. It features parks, walking paths and 500 retailers housed where the townships border near Bay and Tittabawassee, one of the busiest traffic intersections in the region. Cardinal Square is situated north of McCarty, west of Mackinaw, south of Freeland, and east of Davis.

October 29, 2019

SVSU Board approves renovations to student housing, lease for downtown Saginaw location

The Saginaw Valley State University Board of Control approved spending up to $4.6 million to renovate a residence hall and some on-campus apartments during the Board’s regular meeting Monday, Oct. 28.

SVSU plans to renovate Living Center South and a portion of Pine Grove Apartments next summer, in advance of the 2020-21 academic year. For two consecutive years, SVSU has placed No. 1 in the nation among all U.S. public universities in the website Niche’s “Best College Dorms” ranking, which uses a weighted formula where 70 percent of a school’s score comes from student satisfaction surveys.

The university has sufficient funds in existing reserves for capital projects and the auxiliary system to finance the renovations.

The Board also agreed to proceed with leasing a building in downtown Saginaw to offer academic programs and community outreach. The Board approved spending up to $275,000 to renovate the building at 208 S. Washington for university use.

The Board also authorized the sale of SVSU’s Regional Education Center - Macomb, located in Macomb County’s Chesterfield Township. SVSU has offered distance education and graduate courses for the College of Education at the facility, but the emergence of online classes allows for more modern methods to deliver course content. Classes taught at the center this fall will not be affected, as the sale of the property is not expected to be finalized until January.

In other action, the Board:

  • Approved changes to the Student Association charter, as requested by Student Association.
  • Recommended a liquor license for the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum.
  • Received and accepted the annual financial audit and federal awards audit for fiscal year 2018-19, as prepared by Andrews Hooper Pavlik PLC.
  • Approved SVSU’s capital outlay request plan for the 2021 fiscal year.

October 24, 2019

SVSU students victorious in 'Battle,' raising $20K for Midland nonprofit

The persevering spirit of Saginaw Valley State University students will improve the lives of young people in the Great Lakes Bay Region, as SVSU students insisted on continuing a fundraising tradition, resulting in a donation of at least $20,302 for a Midland-based nonprofit.

The total was raised during SVSU’s “Battle of the Valley” week-long fundraiser from Oct. 6-11, benefiting The ROCK Center for Youth Development, an organization that provides after-school programs and development initiatives for teenagers across the region.

The fundraiser nearly didn’t happen. Formerly known as “Battle of the Valleys,” the tradition from 2003 to 2018 involved students from SVSU and Grand Valley State University competing to raise the most amount of money for their respective nonprofit beneficiaries. GVSU students backed out of the event this year. But SVSU student leaders rallied to save the tradition, re-imagining it as a fundraising campaign organized exclusively at SVSU.

Nora Lipetzky, one of the student leaders involved in creating “Battle of the Valley” this year, said the $20,302 raised was a success — especially considering there were some who were skeptical the fundraiser would find much success without the added motivation of a competing university.

“We’re ecstatic and elated that we raised so much for such a deserving nonprofit,” said Lipetzky, a native of Palos Heights, Illinois who earned a bachelor's degree in political science in May and is pursuing a master's degree in public administration.

“There were some naysayers who didn’t think we would raise $10,000.”

Kylie Anderson, The ROCK Center for Youth Development’s director of development, said she was “thrilled” when she learned about the total funds raised.

“We know it was a new venture — with the solo ‘Battle of the Valley’ — and it was great to see the students and the SVSU community do such an amazing job, rallying together like that. We are very grateful.”

Anderson was able to attend some of the activities organized as part of the week-long fundraiser. Those events included sponsored gatherings at nearby businesses — including Buffalo Wild Wings and Stardust Lanes — as well as on-campus events that allowed participants to contribute funds in exchange for petting puppies, throwing pies at professors and smashing a car with a bat.

“It was awesome to see all of that going on,” she said. “I loved the creativity.”

Representatives from The ROCK Center for Youth Development plan to accept a ceremonial check during SVSU’s next home football game scheduled Saturday, Nov. 2 at 1 p.m. SVSU students continue to sell the remaining inventory of T-shirts and sweatshirts, so the final fundraising total is likely to increase.

Meanwhile, SVSU student leaders already are planning next year’s “Battle.” Lipetzky said they hope to recruit another university — replacing GVSU — to insert a competitive element back into the tradition for 2020.

Lipetzky said SVSU’s student government, known as Student Association, already has begun reaching out to gauge the interest of some peer institutions. A decision could be announced by the end of the year, she said.

“We want ‘Battle of the Valley’ to remain a quality philanthropic event,” Lipetzky said, “so we hope to find a compatible match that will ensure that.”

October 24, 2019

Sound 'Proof': Student's talent adds depth to SVSU production of Pulitzer Prize-winning play

A sophomore’s passion for theatre sound and lighting design — along with his quickly-growing résumé of experience and training in the field — will be on display during a Saginaw Valley State University production of “Proof” later this month.

Hot off both summer courses taught at a Las Vegas institute and a key behind-the-scenes role for a hit musical produced across the Great Lakes Bay Region, Lucas Inman next will design an “ultra-real” soundscape aimed at transporting audiences deep into the world of the David Auburn-penned Pulitzer Prize-winning drama.

Performances of "Proof" are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, Oct. 30-Nov. 2; and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3, in SVSU’s Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. Tickets cost $15.

The story of “Proof” — about a troubled woman struggling with her late father’s legacy as a brilliant mathematician — takes place in a single setting: the backyard of a house. In his role as sound designer, Inman will record and edit audio from real outdoor environments that later will be used to simulate the setting of the play on SVSU's stage via speakers.

David Rzeszutek, the associate professor of theatre serving as the play's director, said Inman’s work will create a rich and immersive environment that will better connect audiences with the characters of "Proof."

"This whole show has a sound design underlying throughout the whole thing, almost like you might hear in a movie,” Rzeszutek said.

“From the moment the audience walks in, they're going to be in the neighborhood. Certain areas will have a dog barking; music playing from a neighboring house. The audience is always going to feel like they're sitting in the neighborhood, being surrounded by the neighborhood itself."

Creating an engaging theatrical experience requires a skill Inman has been fine-tuning since childhood, when he discovered a passion for behind-the-scenes work managing sound design for events at his church and vacation Bible school. Later, as a student at Heritage High School, he was involved in theatre productions there as an audio engineer.

The Saginaw native enrolled at SVSU last year, providing sound and lighting design as a freshman for the university’s theatre productions. The theatre major's talent and enthusiasm for the work at the collegiate level earned him invitations to national conferences offering training as well as opportunities to learn from some of the top professionals working in the entertainment industry today.

While attending the annual Kennedy Center American College Theatre Region III Festival in Madison, Wisconsin in January 2019, Inman met Jane Childs, director of the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas. He accepted her invitation to attend the organization’s summer courses. There, Inman trained with professionals to learn more about digital drafting, rigging, audio, and lighting technology. He also witnessed and studied behind-the-scenes work of beloved Las Vegas productions such as Cirque du Soleil’s “The Beatles LOVE.”

“Every single second we were there, we were learning something, even if it wasn't a skill for technical theater — like how to keep yourself motivated, how to keep your confidence, and how to keep your integrity,” Inman said.

For his next role back in Michigan, he applied many of the lessons learned in Las Vegas.

Inman worked as an LED (light-emitting diode) tape electrician during the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance’s fall production of “Mamma Mia!” The experience involved complex planning for the play's two stages set at the Midland Center for the Arts as well as Pit and Balcony Theatre in Saginaw. The student soldered over 75 pieces of LED tape to various set pieces. Each light was individually added to a circuit that was remotely controlled and programmed by the production's crew to coordinate with — and compliment — the performances of the musical's massive cast of 38 actors.

Rzeszutek said it's impressive for a second-year student to possess as much skill as Inman wields in sound and lighting design. The director said he was excited to see those talents at work for "Proof."

“Usually, at this point, a sophomore is under someone’s wing or working as an assistant on a production,” Rzeszutek said. “As a sophomore, this is an extremely nice opportunity for Lucas.”

Tickets for “Proof” can be purchased online at

For more information, please contact the SVSU Box Office at (989) 964-4261.

October 23, 2019

Judge, U.S. Army veteran among panelists for SVSU Alumni Authors Showcase

Saginaw Valley State University has inspired writers for decades. The institution again will host some of that talent during its annual Alumni Authors Showcase scheduled Wednesday, Oct. 23, at 5 p.m.
Scheduled in Curtiss Hall’s seminar rooms D and E at SVSU, the event will feature a panel of five alumni authors followed by a reception with refreshments. A book signing is scheduled at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
The panelists include Judge Marylin E. Atkins, R.S. Deeren, Adela Crandell Durkee, Bethany (Phipps) Goforth and Walter E. Kitter.
The authors have written on a range of topics and genres including memoirs, poetry and historical fiction. Their books will be available for purchase at the event.
  • Deeren is a writer from Caro, where he has worked as a line cook, a lumberjack, a landscaper and a bank teller. His fiction has appeared in Rosebud Magazine, Joyland Fiction, Midwestern Gothic, Great Lakes Review and in the anthology, “Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation.” Deeren received a bachelor’s degree in creative writing in 2012.
  • Durkee grew up on a small mid-Michigan farm. Her first novel, “A Ship of Pearl,” is a coming-of-age historical fiction set in the 1930s. Durkee earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1982.
  • Goforth is a professional graphic designer and award-winning illustrator. The illustrations for her book, “Coco and Kitty,” were created using a variety of graphite pencils. Her work has been featured on the covers of the Michigan Horse Council’s newsletter and the Michigan Quarter Horse Association Magazine. Goforth earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design in 2014.
  • Kitter is a U.S. Army veteran who served in West Germany during the 1980s. His book, “A Place That I Love: A Tour Driver’s Perspective of Mackinac Island,” is an exploration of the island’s history and tourist spots, as well as some lesser-known attractions and hidden gems. He earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 2004.
The Alumni Author Showcase is part of SVSU's celebration of the National Day of Writing. The event is sponsored by SVSU's Forever Red, SVSU Alumni Relations and the SVSU Writing Center.
For more information about the event, contact Jim Dwyer, executive director of Alumni Relations, at 989-964-4209.

October 23, 2019

SVSU alumna joins NBA as sixth female referee in league history

A Saginaw Valley State University alumna's passion for basketball helped her land a role as the sixth female referee hired in NBA history.

Jenna Schroeder, a Clio native who received a bachelor’s degree in communications from SVSU in 2009, was hired by the NBA after years spent refereeing college, the WNBA and the NBA developmental league known as the G League.

“I was shocked by the timing of it,” Schroeder told the Associated Press. “But I was obviously hoping this was my year. Nobody’s ever truly ready, but I’m as ready as I can be.”

She is scheduled to referee her first regular season NBA game tonight — Wednesday, Oct. 23 — when the New York Knicks travel to play the San Antonio Spurs in Texas. The game tips off at 8:30 p.m. EST. Viewers can watch it via NBA League Pass, a subscription service that is offering a free preview of the start of the season through Oct. 29. Click here to access the San Antonio game after it begins.

She will serve as one of four female referees this season.

Schroeder was a player herself. As a guard for SVSU’s women’s basketball team from 2006-07, she averaged 14.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2 steals over the course of 25 games played as a Cardinal.

She recalled her own experiences with referees when she was a player. Schroeder told the AP she fouled out of her first three games at SVSU, also picking up a technical foul “for a colorful comment.”

Before enrolling at SVSU, she played for the women’s basketball team at Oakland University.

Schroeder told the AP she began refereeing while in high school, and later, after she graduated from SVSU: “Someone looked at me one day and asked why I didn’t just do it as a profession, and I said, ‘You can do that?’”

Schroeder joins the relatively small class of female NBA referees that formed when Violet Palmer and Dee Kantner officiated their first league games during the 1997 season.

Fans can learn which games Schroeder officiates by accessing the NBA’s referee assignment webpage. Assignments are announced at 9 a.m. on the day of each game at

October 18, 2019

'Mad Feast' author to offer taste of his writing at SVSU reading

A critically-acclaimed author will read from his work in nonfiction and poetry during a visit next week to Saginaw Valley State University.

Matthew Gavin Frank will visit campus Tuesday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m. in the Emeriti Room — located in SVSU’s Curtiss Hall — to share selections of his work. Admission is free and open to the public.

The Chicago-born author's nonfiction books include “The Mad Feast: An Ecstatic Tour Through America’s Food," an illustrated writing that offers insight on popular food items in each of the nation's 50 states.

Christopher Kimball of The Wall Street Journal reviewed "The Mad Feast" in November 2015: "Mr. Frank is not ‘mad’ as the title might imply, nor is he perversely calculating," Kimball wrote. "He feels his way along his travels and connects one notion to another until he develops a literary skein that vibrates with passion. That, I suppose, is a pretty good definition of writing, the good kind."

Frank's other work includes “Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and its First Photographer,” “Pot Farm,” and “Barolo." His work has been showcased by media outlets and magazines including The Chicago Tribune, HuffPost, The Poetry Foundation, North American Review, and Creative Nonfiction.

Frank teaches creative writing in the Master of Fine Arts program at Northern Michigan University, after spending 17 years working in the restaurant industry across the U.S. and internationally. He received his master’s degree in poetry and creative nonfiction from Arizona State University.

For more information about the author, visit his website at

Frank's appearance is the latest in the Voices in the Valley Reading Series presented by SVSU’s Department of English. The program invites award-winning writers to SVSU, where they provide public readings as well as visit English and creative writing classrooms at the campus.


October 18, 2019

Education expert to discuss student engagement methods during SVSU talk

An expert in education will discuss concepts aimed at engaging learners in new ways during her visit to Saginaw Valley State University later this month.

Elizabeth Wardle — director of the Howe Center for Writing Excellence at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio — will explain the roles of liminal spaces and threshold concepts in education during her SVSU presentation Thursday, Oct. 24, at 6:30 p.m., in Gilbertson Hall, room GS 202. The event is free and open to the public.

Threshold concepts are critical topics to master in order for continued learning and participation to occur within a classroom. Wardle's presentation, titled "Engaging Learners in Liminal Spaces," will examine how these concepts work in liminal spaces, which are educational settings — including classrooms — designed to help students learn through collaborating with peers and teachers.

She will explain threshold concepts, discuss the nature of student learning blocks — as described through the threshold concepts framework — as well as explore the role of liminality in the learning process. She also will explain how to use these concepts to better engage students.

Wardle will focus on topics from her award-winning collection of insights, a book titled "Naming What We Know." Part of the book defines 37 threshold concepts, each of which are written by researchers and teachers who participated in a collaborative online discussion led by the book’s editors, including Wardle.

Wardle is a distinguished professor of written communication at Miami University. Her research focuses on first-year composition, knowledge transfer, threshold concepts and writing in the disciplines. She has also co-authored four editions of the textbook "Writing about Writing" with Doug Downs, a Montana State University educator.

Wardle's appearance is part of SVSU's annual Visiting Scholars and Artists speaker series. She will serve as an SVSU Dow Visiting Scholar.

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