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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.

October 17, 2019

SVSU panel to spotlight impact of female entrepreneurs in Great Lakes Bay Region, beyond

With women-led businesses on the rise, the need for role models, mentors and real-world training for female entrepreneurs is a demand that Rebecca Cox recognized clearly.


“Women interested in becoming an entrepreneur are five times more likely to start a business when they have a mentor,” said Cox, president and owner of the Midland-based Savant Group.


The need for more more female role models in business is a demand Cox plans to meet — along with three of her peers from the Great Lakes Bay Region — when they serve as panelists at Saginaw Valley State University's upcoming Women Entrepreneurship Week event.


“Life Lessons from Successful Women Entrepreneurs” is a panel discussion scheduled Monday, Oct. 21, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in SVSU's Curtiss Hall Banquet Room A. Hosted by the Dow Entrepreneurship Institute at SVSU, the event is free and open to the public.


Along with Cox, panelists include Mary Draves, chief sustainability officer and vice president of environment, health and safety for Dow; Kathie Fuce-Hobohm, founder and president of Midland-based SPACE, Inc.; and Wendy Traschen, owner of Bolger and Battle Marketing Communications as well as Whine, a Midland restaurant.


Cox said Monday's event will reinforce the importance of female-led businesses in advancing the region's economy.


“Continuing to highlight women business owners will break down gender stereotypes and biases, grow a greater support network and positively impact on our economy,” she said. “It’s not just good for women — it’s good for everyone.”


Draves, an SVSU alumna, said mid-Michigan remains a ripe environment for women ambitious to serve as leaders in business.


“The Great Lakes Bay Region is home to many examples of female entrepreneurs who are doing stellar work,” Draves said. “Their businesses are strong contributors to our region’s economic engine.”


Cox has participated as a board member for the Midland Chamber of Commerce, Midland Tomorrow, Midland Business Alliance, the Local Development Finance Authority Board of Midland, and the Small Business Association of Michigan. She is a Leadership Midland 2006 Class graduate, a member of the Midland 100 Club, and a founding member of the Women's Executive Round Table. Her business, The Savant Group, tests oils and lubrications for various industries. Cox received a bachelor's degree in business from Western Michigan University and a master's degree in business from Indiana University.


In her role at Dow, Draves leads corporate environment, health, and safety-related governance as well as the organization's 2025 Sustainability Goals. She joined Dow in 1989 and has served in several leadership roles since then. Draves has built a reputation for being an effective and collaborative leader who inspires commitment in her teams while also attaining results. She received a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in technological processes from SVSU.


Fuce-Hobohm started SPACE, Inc. in 1995 and has over 30 years of experience in the office interior industry. As president, she oversees the sales and financial strategies along with the overall operations for the company. Fuce-Hobohm has received honors for her work including the Midland Area Chamber of Commerce's ATHENA award, Girl Scouts Women of Distinction recognition, the MidMichigan Innovation Center Innovation Award, Corp! Magazine’s Entrepreneur of Distinction recognition, and Leadership Midland’s Leader of the Year. She also was named a Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame Laureate.


For more than 20 years, Traschen has served as a fierce advocate for the power of strong branding and integrated marketing communications to move organizations to the next level of their industries. In addition to her well-earned agency credentials — including leading a diverse team of writers, designers and account executives in support of about 150 clients — she brings a strong business background in retail, hospitality, nonprofits and education.


For more information or to register to attend this event, visit

October 14, 2019

At SVSU event, former MIT president to discuss ‘living machines,’ technology of the future

‘Living machines’ and their role in the future of humanity will be the focus of a guest speaker’s talk this week at Saginaw Valley State University.


Susan Hockfield, a neuroscientist and former Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) president, will discuss “convergence” — a term referring to the merging of technologies — during her SVSU visit Thursday, Oct. 17, at 7 p.m. in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. The event is free and open to the public.


Her presentation will examine how convergence and “living machines” can combine technology and biology to solve problems plaguing the 21st century. Hockfield’s address, titled “Welcome to the Age of Living Machines," will feature material covered in her latest book, "The Age of Living Machines: How Biology Will Build the Next Technology Revolution." Published in May, the book is available on Amazon and other online bookstores.


A “living machine” is biological matter — such as a cell — that scientists can repurpose to solve human problems. In the book, Hockfield wrote that “living machines” could shape the future of humanity in the same way inventions such as computers and nuclear power defined modern society.


Among the examples of potential "living machine"-related technological breakthroughs she discussed in the book: scientists using viruses to build batteries without toxic waste. Hockfield wrote that, as the world population increases, scientists will seek sustainable solutions to rising temperatures, rising sea levels, drought, famine and drug-resistant diseases.


Hockfield served as MIT’s first female president from 2004-12. She also served on the faculty at both Yale and Harvard universities.


Her appearance at SVSU is part of its annual Visiting Scholars and Artists speakers series and is the university’s 2019 James E. O’Neill Jr. Memorial Lecture.

October 14, 2019

More than 130 businesses, organizations to seek prospective employees at SVSU fair

Saginaw Valley State University will host its annual Fall University-wide Employment & Networking Fair later this week.

More than 130 employers are registered to attend the event Friday, Oct. 18, from noon to 3 p.m. on the second floor of SVSU's Curtiss Hall.

This employment fair — along with the other seven employment fairs hosted annually by SVSU's Career Services office — is free and open to the public.

Businesses and organizations such as Chemical Bank, Dow, MidMichigan Health, Nexteer Automotive, and the U.S. Army will be in attendance to offer co-ops, internships, seasonal, part-time and full-time employment opportunities.

Tom Barnikow, interim associate director of SVSU Career Services, said attendees hoping to make an impression on employers there should memorize a 30-second pitch tailored for specific organizations.

“Describe yourself in terms of your experiences, your stories, the anecdotes that you’ve been able to build on over the course of your time in the professional field,” Barnikow said. “Specifically, looking at experience that’s directly related to the company that you’re talking with.”

Dynamic Focus Photography will be at the fair, offering free services for photography that attendees can use for their LinkedIn social media profiles. The free service will be available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information about the event, visit

October 11, 2019

For empowering peers, SVSU student named statewide ‘Tutor of the Year’

Dedicated tutors enhance a student’s experience in the classroom, and Aranya “Ron” Biswas is making sure Saginaw Valley State University students are given every chance to succeed, say professionals in the tutoring industry.

Biswas, an SVSU economics major from Dhaka, Bangladesh, recently was selected as the recipient of the Michigan Tutorial Association "Tutor of the Year" award.

Biswas has served as a tutor at SVSU's Center for Academic Achievement for three years. There, he helps students enrolled in accounting, economics and statistics courses.

“I wanted to be a tutor to improve my skill as an effective communicator as well as to build my interpersonal skills,” Biswas said.

Elaine Hunyadi, director of Social Sciences & Business Tutoring Services in SVSU’s Center for Academic Achievement, nominated Biswas in part because of his leadership during tutor training meetings, she said. With the help of faculty and fellow student-tutors specializing in economics, Biswas devised and shared specific strategies for tutoring an especially-challenging economics course.

“His outreach to faculty in the economics department helped us to create an online learning space for all of our tutors who tutor this course, which we have now been using successfully for over two years,” Hunyadi said.

Biswas also takes the time to connect and mentor less-experienced tutors at the Center for Academic Achievement, Hunyadi said.

“His calm and patient persona draws people to him,” she said. “They openly seek his advice and expertise.”

With plans to attend graduate school to obtain a Ph.D. in either economics or data sciences, Biswas said serving as a tutor helped him gain skills that are useful when pursuing such academic degrees.

“Tutoring is a great résumé builder for someone who wants to go to grad school and potentially would search for teaching assistantships,” he said.

Biswas will be recognized Friday, Nov. 1 at Michigan State University during the annual Michigan Tutorial Association conference. He will receive $500 and a plaque.

Along with his work in the Center for Academic Achievement, Biswas serves as treasurer for the SVSU Economics Club. He also has been involved in SVSU’s student government, cricket club, Bangladeshi Student Association, International Student Club, and the university's chapter of the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity. He was selected for two of SVSU's most prestigious student leadership development initiatives: The Vitito Global Leadership Institute in 2017 and the Roberts Fellowship Program in 2018.

October 11, 2019

SVSU student's leadership earns her state Hispanic Latino Commission scholarship

With the support of her family — and now a statewide organization that recognizes her strong leadership qualities — a Saginaw Valley State University senior soon will follow in her older sister’s footsteps as a first-generation college graduate.

Paloma Barba, a business management major from Detroit, recently earned the Hispanic Latino Commission of Michigan's Future Leaders Scholarship. She was one of nine Michigan college students to earn the $1,000 scholarship.

"I was surprised because I honestly did not expect to receive the scholarship since it was very competitive," she said.

To apply for the scholarship, Barba wrote an essay explaining why she believed she deserved the scholarship as well as why it was important for Hispanic students to earn higher education degrees. Barba said she wanted to apply so she could help finance her education.

"I come from a large family, and therefore my parents cannot support me financially," she said. "I saw an opportunity, and I seized it."

The scholarship will help her pursue an ambition her family supports.

"My parents have always encouraged my siblings and I to go to college and learn because knowledge is power,” Barba said.

She said her older sister, Berenice Barba, inspired her to attend college. Berenice is a graduate student at SVSU and works as a graduate assistant in SVSU’s President's Office. She received her bachelor's degree in business administration earlier this year.

"My older sister was the first one in the family to graduate with a bachelor's," Paloma Barba said. "I feel like she deserves most of the credit for my success because she basically paved the way for everyone in our family and, most importantly, for my siblings and me. I just hope that, after I graduate, I can offer the same support that has been offered to me."

The younger Barba graduates in May 2020. She said next she may pursue a master's degree or a career in sports management.

"I would like to go back to my hometown — Detroit — and hopefully work for the Pistons basketball team," she said of the NBA franchise.

The Future Leaders Scholarship awards will be presented to the recipients during a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration organized by the Hispanic Latino Commission in Grand Rapids on Thursday, Oct 10.

October 9, 2019

Ford Motor Company selects SVSU alumna for prestigious philanthropic leadership program

A Saginaw Valley State University alumna’s community-minded values helped her become selected for an innovative corporate leadership course associated with one of the world’s largest automotive companies.

Claire Gembrowski, who works in purchasing at Ford Motor Company’s Dearborn campus, was named to the latest Ford Thirty Under 30 Fellowship class. She was one of 30 people selected from a national pool of 300 applicants.

The honor means Gembrowski, who received a bachelor’s degree in management from SVSU in 2011 and later an M.B.A. from University of Michigan-Flint, will participate in a year-long philanthropic-driven leadership development initiative. The fellowship pairs the company's employees with nonprofits from their local communities.

The Freeland native said the opportunity fits with the values she learned growing up.

“I was raised Catholic and was taught that volunteering is something you should do,” she said. “If you have the means to volunteer your time, money or talent, you should.”

Rene Palileo, manager of employee engagement for The Ford Fund, said employees turn in a written application for the fellowship. If their application is chosen to continue in the process, a committee consisting of Ford and Ford Fund executives as well as former Thirty Under 30 fellows rate the applicants. The committee rates them based off how strongly each applicant represents Ford's seven cultural “truths:” "putting people first, doing the right thing, being curious, creating tomorrow, building Ford tough, playing to win and exemplifying the 'one Ford' philosophy."

Palileo said Gembrowski represented each of these “truths,” and helped bring them out in her fellow employees.

"Claire’s volunteer experience and genuine interest in helping the community was a strong point," Palileo said. "Being an SVSU Cardinal, Claire embraces the innovation and transformational work Ford Motor Company Fund provides and, as a Thirty Under 30 fellow, will help broaden our reach in the future."

Gembrowski and her Thirty Under 30 team will work with The Grandmont-Rosedale Development Corporation (GRDC). The organization focuses on preserving and enriching Grandmont-Rosedale — a Detroit neighborhood — and its economy.

"A problem GRDC continues to come back to is millennial engagement in their group,” Gembrowski said. “They have a senior citizen group that is extremely passionate, but the population in that area is very diverse. There are young families, new residents, renters and the like.”

Gembrowski said her team hopes to solve this problem by creating a junior society that supports the larger organization.

"I think, generally, millennials want to give,” she said. “I would say they are even a bit more passionate than other generations about helping and leaving some kind of impact. The tricky part is that millennials have the desire for something immediate and for instant gratification. The long game is not part of the vocabulary.”

Millennial lifestyles are a problem for more established organizations, Gembrowski said. These organizations want long weekly meetings and volunteers who are coming in for longer periods of time. She said this structure does not appeal to younger generations.

“You need to find ways that fit into the over-committed lifestyles of many millennials that still make an impact,” she said.

Gembrowski’s team will canvass for like-minded individuals within and near the neighborhood. She said some younger people have already expressed interest in volunteering for the Grandmont-Rosedale neighborhood group.

She hopes her team can find enough junior society participants for it to continue on its own after the Ford Thirty Under 30 Fellowship cohort leaves.

“The fear I have is that there are certain people who are the doers and people who are not,” she said. “So, we need to find the passionate people and give them some sort of power and freedom to help.”

Gembrowski’s work at Ford has exposed her to communities from across the world. She said she has worked with several departments within Ford and had the opportunity to spend last year in Valencia, Spain working with Ford suppliers in lean manufacturing.

“Ford has something called an ADP, an accelerated development program,” she said. “You do a job swap, so I was able to work in the same job function, which was a supplier coaching of lean, but I got to do it from another region.”

Gembrowski enjoyed the experience and Spain’s culture.

“It was difficult coming back from Spain because you get used to a certain lifestyle,” she said.  “I loved the culture. I feel like I fit right in. I come from a big family, and our culture is quite close. We really value doing things together, and that is what is valued in the Mediterranean culture.”

After returning from Spain, Gembrowski worked to bring some of the Spanish culture back to her American co-workers, such as meeting up for coffee outside of work.

She has also continued her local volunteer work since returning. She said she felt the need to help children who were not fortunate enough to have the warm childhood she experienced. She volunteers as an English tutor regularly with Mercy Education Project, a Detroit-based nonprofit that helps girls and women receive an education.

Gembrowski’s motivation to volunteer was a major reason she applied for Thirty Under 30.

“Having that giving sort of mindset, I was excited about this project,” she said. “It combines business and philanthropic endeavors, which is a perfect fit for me.”

While she hopes to learn more about business from the fellowship, Gembrowski said she does not have definitive career goals. Rather, she simply wants to avoid being stagnate.

“I haven’t loved every assignment I have had, but I have tried to be self-aware so that, whenever I get to a point where I think I have learned all I can from a job, I say, ‘Give me more or give me something different,’” she said. “I am lucky to have worked at two different companies — Nexteer and Ford — that have allowed me to do that.”

Gembrowski said current SVSU Scott L. Carmona College of Business students can set themselves up for success now by taking advantage of their coursework in real-world settings, such as co-ops or work experiences.

“What served me well was the co-op opportunity,” she said. “While everyone has a different capacity, I would say try to work while you’re in school. It doesn’t matter if it’s at a restaurant or the bookstore on campus — try to get some work experience to connect to your schooling.”

She also said students should take the time to build up their soft skills before graduating.

“It’s the soft skills — like time management, organization, having high expectations for people, expecting people to do their part and keeping people motivated — that lead to success,” she said. “As easy as that is to say, when you’re working in a corporate environment or a non-profit, when people get stressed, that can be hard to actually do.”

Gembrowski said she is thankful for the groundwork for success SVSU provided her.

“SVSU has played a big role in my life,” she said. “I am very thankful financially, and I went to a great university. I walked away with no debt, I received a great education, made great friends and had work experience through my co-op. It was a great foundation for me.”

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