Saginaw Valley State University has hired Cliff Block to serve as the school’s next police chief, bringing aboard a highly-respected law enforcement leader to help maintain the campus’ secure and friendly atmosphere. With more than a quarter-century of law enforcement experience — ranging from neighborhood patrol duties to statewide leadership positions — Block plans to strengthen the university’s status as a safe campus with a close-knit community feel.
“It will be an honor to serve the students, administration, faculty, staff and officers as we work to provide a safe, secure and friendly environment, where the focus can be on higher learning,” said Block, an SVSU alumnus.
Block since 2012 served as police chief in Midland, where he first joined the force as a patrol officer in 1993. As the city’s police chief, he oversaw a $9 million-per-year, 52-member law enforcement agency tasked with keeping Midland a safe community.
There, he worked to create a culture of professionalism and customer service excellence in policing through training, education and partnerships. Block implemented specialized groups within the police department including K-9, Honor Guard, Traffic Team as well as Sex Offender units. Block encouraged the implementation of community engagement and assistance programs including Hope Not Handcuffs, Handle with Care, Coffee with a Cop, and Cone with a Cop, among others.
He also oversaw the creation and development of programs focused on supporting victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. While developing these initiatives, he remained an active member of the Midland community, engaging with various associations, committees and events.
Block plans to bring a similar approach to SVSU, where he wants to work closely with the university’s small-community environment to continue fortifying the campus’ safe atmosphere.
“I am looking forward to working in a campus policing environment and bringing with me a highly interactive community policing and outreach philosophy,” he said. “I look forward to working with the SVSU community, stakeholders and partners as we solve the future challenges and celebrate the future successes in store for us at SVSU.”
He also served in leadership positions for law enforcement organizations dedicated to safety across the state. Police chiefs from across the state 2017-18 selected Block as president of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police. Earlier, he served as president of the Central Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police from 2013-16.
Law enforcement is in Block’s DNA. His father served as a police officer and then dispatcher for the Fenton Police Department for more than 30 years.
Block earned a master’s degree in leadership in public administration from SVSU in 2003. The Lake Fenton High School graduate received a bachelor’s degree in computer science from University of Michigan-Flint in 1991.
His education as a law enforcement leader is extensive and full of merit. Block earned his Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards certification in 1992 from Oakland Police Academy, where he was elected president of his class. In 1995, he received an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Delta College, where he was the recipient of the Midland Bar Association Law Enforcement Outstanding Graduate Award. He was ranked No. 1 academically in his class while participating in the Eastern Michigan School of Police Staff and Command from 2000-01.
Block succeeds Leo Mioduszewski, who retired in July. He served as SVSU’s police chief since 2016.
A warm and welcoming environment — along with first-rate residential facilities — helped Saginaw Valley State University continue to climb the rankings for a website grading the nation’s “best dorms” and campuses.
SVSU placed No. 4 overall in the nation and No. 1 among all U.S. public universities in the website Niche’s “2020 Best College Dorms” ranking, which uses a weighted formula where 70 percent of a school’s score comes from student satisfaction surveys.
This marks the second consecutive year SVSU’s score bested all other public universities. Its No. 4 overall ranking — which includes private institutions — represents a jump from No. 8 last year, SVSU’s previous best showing in the category. The university is the only higher education institution in the state to appear in the ranking’s top 60 this year. In total, 1,384 colleges and universities were included on the list.
Renee McKinnie, a rehabilitation medicine major at SVSU, said her tour of the campus’ housing facilities three years ago played a role in helping her decide to choose the university and move there from her hometown of Detroit.
“It felt like you were at home,” she said of that first impression. “Looking back, coming here was the best decision because I’ve had the best experience living on campus.”
McKinnie now works as a student resident assistant, putting her in a leadership role with her peers and neighbors living with her on campus. She said residing on SVSU’s campus provides an education outside of the classroom.
“We’re a small community but there’s so much diversity,” McKinnie said. “When you live here, you get to know people from different backgrounds and cultures. It’s a blessing to be around so many different types of people.”
The on-campus activities — including movie screenings, game nights, icebreaker events, and concerts, among other types of gatherings — provide opportunities for residents from different corners of the university’s housing complexes to gather for fun, she said.
“You become close to people in your building, but there are so many ways to bridge out and meet other people living here,” she said.
Michele Gunkelman, SVSU’s director of residential life and an alumna who once lived on campus, said both SVSU’s beautiful housing structures and its welcoming, tight-knit community atmosphere help the university’s residential life stand out at a national level.
“Living on campus is more than a place to hang your hat; it's a place to connect, be successful, make an impact, and develop your passion,” Gunkelman said. “We pride ourselves on creating a safe and secure living and learning environment for our students.”
Credit for that environment goes beyond the staff members who supervise the housing facilities and provide leadership, she said. Students also play a large role in creating a campus environment where they can thrive academically and socially.
“Students make SVSU a great place to live, especially the student leaders,” Gunkelman said. “From the desk staff who welcome residents, to the councils that plan events, to the student residential assistants who aid in students finding their place at SVSU: everyone is working together to create this community.”
That community will begin to gather and build for the next academic year this week. While some students already have moved into the residential housing for the 2019-20 academic year, the bulk of the on-campus population — freshmen — begin moving into their new homes Wednesday at 10 a.m. SVSU is expected to reach its housing capacity at 2,435 total students; of those, 1,050 will be freshmen.
To access the Niche “2020 Best College Dorms” rankings, go to www.niche.com/colleges/search/best-college-dorms/.
A Saginaw Valley State University educator’s historical examination of polygraph tests recently was published on the online magazine for the Smithsonian Institution.
John Baesler, SVSU professor of history, wrote the paper entitled “Why Lie Detector Tests Can’t Be Trusted,” which explores how federal agencies since the 1950s have utilized the technology to reassure the public it could unmask spies.
The article was not Baesler’s first deep dive into the topic. He authored the book, “Clearer Than Truth: The Polygraph and the American Cold War,” released in 2018 by University of Massachusetts Press.
His recently-published essay — which he wrote originally for the website Zocalo Public Square before it was picked up by the Washington, D.C.-based Smithsonian Institution’s online magazine — examines the history of polygraphs primarily through the lens of Francis Gary Powers. The American U-2 spy plane pilot was shot down over the USSR and captured by Soviet forces in May 1960. This story was dramatized in the 2015 film, "Bridge of Spies," directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks.
After being exchanged for an imprisoned Soviet KGB colonel and returned to the U.S., Powers faced criticism and suspicion for his role in the plane crash, Baesler wrote. Powers was compelled to take a polygraph test as part of his Congressional testimony on the matter, as the tests were considered an important investigative tool at the time.
Polygraph tests work by measuring changes in blood pressure, breathing depth and how well the skin conducts electricity. Baesler writes that the method has been controversial since it was developed by psychologists in the early 1900s, as it is possible to be trained to beat the test and false positives are common.
“Bureaucratic usefulness, rather than any scientific validity, goes a long way toward explaining why the polygraph became a standard instrument of the American national security state,” Baesler wrote.
Baesler concludes his essay by writing about the dubious nature of using polygraph results in court, the coercive ways it was used and by noting that no major communist spy was ever caught by polygraph during the Cold War.
To read the article in full, go to www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/why-lie-detector-tests-cant-be-trusted-180972724/
A native of Germany, Baesler earned his undergraduate degree in history and philosophy from Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg in 2001 and earned his Ph.D. in U.S. history and cultural history at Indiana University-Bloomington in 2009.
A strong community partnership and a passion for creation soon could send a Saginaw Valley State University student-engineered creation where no SVSU student-engineered creation has gone before.
In collaboration with Saginaw-based Teamtech Motorsports, a group of mechanical engineering majors built a release buckle that one day could be utilized by NASA astronauts. The device would allow astronauts to unhook from the technology strapped to their inside-the-spacecraft suits — including various monitors and communications equipment — by rotating a single lever. Today, astronauts must unfasten from most devices on a piece-by-piece basis.
“This is another project that shows all the great opportunities SVSU offers students pursuing dream jobs,” said Brooks Byam, an SVSU professor of mechanical engineering and the students’ adviser.
The group’s project will be one of eight on display during the university’s Summer Engineering Symposium Friday, Aug. 9. The public is invited to meet the students and discuss those projects from 10 a.m. to noon in the first-floor hallways of SVSU’s Pioneer Hall. The students will present their projects in a classroom setting from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in rooms P245 and P247 in Pioneer Hall.
Byam said Curt Tucker, founder and president of Teamtech Motorsports, for years has utilized SVSU mechanical engineering students in building equipment. Teamtech Motorsports specializes in providing safety equipment for motorsports.
When NASA approached Tucker about creating a device that would release spacesuit-based equipment more simplistically, Tucker created a design concept and asked SVSU students to take his idea to the next step, Byam said.
“He wanted us to help him refine his concept,” Byam said.
He said Tucker next plans to present the equipment to NASA for consideration.
Four students were involved in the project: Jacob Avery, of Brighton; Braeden Perzanowski, of Gagetown; Jeremy Porzondek, of Ubly; Chase Walther, of West Chicago, Illinois; and John Wojewoda, of Saginaw. In total, 38 students are presenting during Friday’s symposium.
All SVSU mechanical engineering majors are required to collaborate with outside clients or university organizations as part of their senior projects.
Governor Whitmer announced the appointment of two new members to the SVSU Board of Control today. Former Lieutenant Governor John Cherry and SVSU alumna Raj Wiener begin their service today.
“We would like to thank Governor Whitmer for her thoughtful appointments of these two fine individuals who have strong ties to SVSU and histories of public service,” said Donald Bachand, SVSU president. “We welcome them as they serve SVSU and the State of Michigan in this vital volunteer capacity.”
“As lieutenant governor, John Cherry chaired the Michigan Commission on Higher Education that provided a road map for improving our state's future by increasing educational attainment,” Bachand said. “He served as our Commencement speaker in May 2004 and received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree. We welcome his advocacy for public higher education and his career of public service to our Board.”
“Raj Wiener is a shining example of the career success and community service SVSU alumni achieve,” Bachand said. “She is a past recipient of our Distinguished Alumni award, and her career includes service to our state as director of the Michigan Department of Public Health. She has remained active with SVSU through her service on the board of the SVSU Foundation.”
Cherry and Weiner replace Scott Carmona and Jenee Velasquez, who completed their eight-year terms on the SVSU Board of Control.
The news release from the governor’s office can be found here:
Saginaw Valley State University will host a national expert on how to create a safe and respectful workplace environment.
Fran Sepler, president of Sepler & Associates, will serve as keynote speaker during two 90-minute sessions Thursday, Aug. 1, at Alan Ott Auditorium in SVSU’s Gilbertson Hall. A 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. meeting are free and open to the public.
Sepler & Associates is a Minneapolis-based organization that provides services and consultation aimed at solving workplace challenges relating to personnel conflicts. Known for her work in harassment prevention and workplace investigations, Sepler has developed strategies used by employers nationwide to investigate misconduct. She authored the 2008 book on the subject, “Finding the Facts: What Every Workplace Investigator Needs to Know.”
Her planned presentation at SVSU is titled, “Features or Bugs: A Loving, Critical and Irreverent Look at Organizational Approaches to Workplace Harassment and Sex Discrimination.” Sepler plans to offer analysis and challenge generations-old approaches to workplace responses to harassment and discrimination.
Sepler’s appearance is part of SVSU’s Cultural Competency Dialogues series, organized by the university’ Office of Diversity Programs to create a more inclusive workplace.
SVSU’s supportive environment for faculty and staff has resulted in the school being selected as a "Great College to Work For" for three consecutive years — 2016-18 — by The Chronicle of Higher Education, a trade publication for colleges and universities.
For over 20 years, dozens of youths from across the Great Lakes Bay Region have flocked to Saginaw Valley State University every summer to take part in the university’s Science and Mathematics Extravaganza for Kids (SMEK) summer camps. There, children from grades 2 to 8 take part in fun and educational activities that engage their interests in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
This year, 113 campers took part in two different 3-day camps. Sixty-seven campers going into grades 2 to 4 attended the first SMEK camp from July 9-11, and 46 campers going into grades 5 to 8 attended a second camp from July 16-18.
Participants took part in hands-on, project-based lessons taught by area educators assisted by SVSU undergraduates aspiring to become teachers themselves. SVSU College of Education undergraduates earned a chance to practice their classroom management skills during the SMEK camps by serving as mentors who helped take groups of campers from one activity to another while assisting teachers during activities.
Tamara Barrientos, director of SVSU’s Regional Mathematics and Science Center, started at the university as a student employee in the 1990s and has remained involved in the SMEK camps since the start.
“We were doing all that stuff even before the ‘STEM’ buzzword came along,” Barrientos said. “We just wanted (student participants) to see that these activities could be engaging and fun.”
In previous years, activities included building a trebuchet, designing cardboard boats that raced across the pool in SVSU’s Ryder Center, engineering bubble wands, studying organisms from the region's wetlands, working with LEGO robotics and constructing a mini golf course.
This year’s theme was “The Sky Is The Limit.” One of the activities involved campers creating "drop packages." The goal of this activity was to have a weighted package fall from a set height as slowly as possible. This type of activity was an ideal way to present young people with a problem that featured multiple solutions and opportunities for creative thinking, Barrientos said.
“Whether they are coming into fifth grade or coming into eighth grade, they are bringing an idea and working in groups.” Barrientos said. “They’re asked to do some brainstorming as a group, and every student gets to bring their ideas to the table.”
Other activities this year included designing airplanes, learning about lightning and launching water pressure-powered rockets made from plastic bottles into the sky.
“I hope they come away understanding that math and science aren't things that just have one answer to them,” Barrientos said.
“There is a process, it’s fun, and there is room for failure. We actually want them to learn from what doesn’t work and explore how we can change it and make it better. This whole idea of math and science is creating something, planning it, revising it and making it better.”
For more information about SMEK camps, visit www.svsu.edu/mathsci-center/smekcamps.
Determined to be part of the solution for Michigan's opioid epidemic and other health problems plaguing rural Michigan, Saginaw Valley State University sought and secured a $2.8 million federal grant to combat the most pressing health crises in some of the state's most under-served communities.
SVSU will empower a new generation of psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners to serve on the front lines of patient care. It's an initiative that could prove transformative to rural communities in Michigan where thousands suffer from the opioid epidemic, SVSU leaders say.
"People are dying," said Kathleen Schachman, SVSU's Harvey Randall Wickes Endowed Chair in Nursing and one of the initiative's key leaders.
"Families and communities are being destroyed. Those in rural areas who are seeking care often have to travel up to 100 miles and wait two or three months to receive addictions treatment. Sadly, many die while they wait. This educational grant will target this significant treatment gap."
The four-year grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration - an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - will result in SVSU enrolling 25 nurse practitioners each year as students in the university's psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner post-graduate certificate program. Eventually, SVSU expects 100 students to complete the program as a result of the grant.
Those who earn the certification will serve as the front-line health care responders to patients suffering from drug abuse. Considered one of the nation's hardest-hit states by the opioid epidemic, Michigan also happens to employ a dangerously-low number of psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners trained to treat substance use disorders.
The $2.8 million initiative at SVSU will aim to heal people in those ailing communities by raising the number of professionals trained to treat individuals suffering from addiction. In Michigan's rural regions, both stigma and lack of access to treatment are significant barriers to care for those struggling with substance use disorders.
"Rural populations are disproportionately impacted by mental health conditions and substance use disorders," Schachman said. "Rates of drug overdose deaths are rising in rural areas, surpassing rates in urban areas. In particular, the opioid epidemic has had a compounding ripple effect throughout rural communities, affecting quality of life, economic opportunity, and rural prosperity."
Of the 4,391 nurse practitioners in Michigan, fewer than 3% are psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners. Schachman said increasing that percentage is especially important in Michigan, a state which ranks second in the nation in drug use, according to a 2019 study by the website Wallethub. The study was based on data analyzing metrics such as opioid prescriptions, arrest and overdose rates and meth-lab incidents per capita. Only Washington D.C. ranked higher than Michigan in the study.
"A quarter of the counties in Michigan don't even have a health care provider who can prescribe buprenorphine, a potentially life-saving medication for those with opioid addiction," Schachman said. "Every one of those counties are designated as rural, which illustrates the disparities in addictions care experienced by rural residents."
Schachman and her SVSU colleagues are familiar with how the problem has impacted Michigan and the Great Lakes Bay Region. She helps oversee the Bay Community Health Clinic, a Bay City-based medical facility operated jointly by SVSU, the Bay County Department of Health, and Bay-Arenac Behavioral Health. There, staff and student interns respond to local residents, including a growing number of individuals dealing with opioid addictions.
"Particularly in rural areas, nurse practitioners are on the front lines in battling the opioid epidemic," Schachman said. "The educational and clinical training activities provided in the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program will better equip them to effectively treat patients with substance use disorders, and will bring needed resources to rural communities."
The $2.8 million grant will afford SVSU funds necessary for a number of the program's goals.
In part, it will support stipends for the certification program's students, who typically are working as primary care nurse practitioners in some of the state's most under-served areas. The stipend will encourage people who might otherwise be unable to sacrifice work hours while pursuing such training, Schachman said.
"Traditionally, students work full-time while pursuing advanced nursing education," Schachman said. "This grant offers a significant stipend that offsets a substantial portion of their educational expenses. With this financial support, students may be able to reduce their work obligations to better balance their work, family and school roles."
The federal grant also will support a new clinical-academic partnership with Recovery Pathways, an interdisciplinary substance use and mental health disorder treatment center with clinics serving nine Michigan counties. Seven of those counties are considered rural. Students in SVSU's program will receive training and help treat patients served by Recovery Pathways. There, students will also learn about telehealth, a form of medical practice that in part utilizes telecommunication technology modified for health care-related response to patients in distant communities.
SVSU graduates – though nationally certified – have shown a commitment to remain in Michigan. Of the 171 SVSU family nurse practitioner graduates since 2010, 89% remain employed in the state, and of those, 62% practice in rural or under-served communities.
A Saginaw Valley State University professor's commitment to helping college students follow through on earning their academic degrees in turn earned him national recognition from his peers.
David Schneider, SVSU professor of communication, was recognized as the 2019 Higher Educator of the Year recipient by The National Education Association and the National Council of Higher Education earlier this month.
Outside of his work teaching in SVSU classrooms for the past 34 years, Schneider also serves as an educator for educators while hosting workshops across the nation for college faculty. The subject of those teachings: How to improve college retention rates, which measure the number of students who follow through on graduating after enrolling as freshmen.
“Many people view student failure in college as something due to lack of academic ability, but the research shows that's a big misconception,” Schneider said. “Most of our students are academically prepared but are struggling because of the way they're adjusting to the challenges of college.”
There are several solutions to helping those wayward students find footing, he said. One of the most effective ways involves encouraging faculty members to connect their pupils with the outside-the-classroom support centers – such as tutoring services – available at many higher education institutions.
Often, when struggling students are introduced to such services, they discover their high-achieving peers already utilizing the resources to boost academic performance. This has the effect of eliminating the stigmas that sometimes repel people from seeking support, Schneider said.
It also connects students with their peers working in those centers, creating a connection that may help a struggling student find the sort of social support – whether it means making new friends or joining a student organization – that sometimes provides a sense of direction in college for students seeking a social compass.
“Faculty have to make the students feel more connected,” Schneider said.
SVSU's academic support services are well-equipped to make those connections for students, and the university's faculty are successful in directing students to those resources, he said. Schneider hopes to spread those conditions favorable to retention rates to higher education institutions across the U.S. by hosting his workshops.
In receiving the 2019 Higher Educator of the Year award, Schneider also was credited for his support of his industry's labor unions. He has served as president of SVSU's faculty union as well as president and board member of the Michigan Association of Higher Education.
“It's very moving, having been recognized in this manner by my peers,” he said. “It's awe-striking.”
Schneider credited his success in part to the support he receives from his colleagues in education across the nation.
“I'm a product of a larger team,” he said.
Schneider was nominated for the award by one of those peers: Colleen Pilgrim, an associate professor of psychology at Schoolcraft College in Livonia.
Dynamic workshops, engaging speakers, and powerful learning experiences are what audiences can expect at the 2nd Annual Educator Leadership Institute at Saginaw Valley State University Aug. 7-9.
The three-day conference will consist of a wide range of workshops and speakers focusing on the K-12 education system. Guest speakers will discuss topics that impact education including strategies for engaging students, challenging young minds, and tackling discrimination.
The conference also will include activities such as group discussions and a “Human Library,” where volunteers will share their stories relating to the education system.
Lighter fare — such as concerts and karaoke — are on the schedule too. K’Jon, an R&B artist whose 2009 single “On the Ocean” reached the top of the Billboard Adult R&B chart, will be among the performers.
A variety of registration packages are available, ranging from $300 to $600 per person. Some of those packages include lodging at SVSU's housing facilities, which recently were ranked No. 1 among all public universities in the U.S. by the website Niche. Other lodging options in the area are available as well.
The final registration deadline is Tuesday, July 30. Early bird registration discount prices are available until Monday, July 15. To register for this event, visit svsu.edu/eli. For further information, contact SVSU’s College of Education at (989) 964-7107.
Among the scheduled speakers is Roy Burton, founder of the Michigan Institute for Restorative Practices Trainers and Consultants. Burton, an expert in training school staff to deal with student discipline issues, will discuss his advocacy for schools to favor restorative justice policies rather than low-tolerance policies that can lead to suspensions or expulsions. Burton calls for an approach that brings together the student being disciplined with the individuals affected by that student’s offense in an effort to resolve disputes without disrupting the student’s education.
Along with Burton, the lineup of guest speakers and their topics of discussion are as follows:
This conference is made possible through SVSU’s College of Education in partnership with the School/ University Partnership Office, the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, and the Michigan Institute for Restorative Practices Trainers and Consultants.