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November 20, 2018

SVSU professor receives grant for book on intersection of science and religion

Jeffrey Koperski, professor of philosophy at Saginaw Valley State University, has received nearly $90,000 from the John Templeton Foundation to fund his book project focused on science and religion.

Koperski describes the forthcoming book, “Laws, Determinism, and Divine Action,” as a way to discuss issues from both science and religion.

“A lot of what I do is at the intersection of science and religion,” he said. “Theologians and philosophers of religion sometimes appeal to science, especially physics, but that is not their training.”

Other times, there are scientists interested in matters of religion, but they don't have training in religion or theology, Koperski explained.

“A lot of the fights that you see in the context of science and religion are actually matters of philosophy and the philosophy of science, which neither scientists nor theologians have expertise in,” he said.

“I am trying to straighten out what I think are misperceptions and misapplications of matters of science and physics as they apply to certain matters of religion.”

His expertise in two very different disciplines aided his interest in the research. Koperski has a Ph.D. in philosophy from Ohio State University, as well as a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Dayton.

“Philosophy is a big field. My area of specialization is a philosophy of science, so I've been able to use my engineering degree to understand issues in science that some philosophers might be intimidated by,” Koperski said.

“I would not be able to do philosophy of science as well, especially philosophy of physics, if I didn't know about differential equations that I learned as an engineer.”

The John Templeton Foundation typically funds projects on matters of science and religion. They awarded Koperski a $89,787 grant.

“They're not dictating any particular conclusion. They will support grants that don't necessarily agree with what their board thinks, and they do support a lot of proposals, but usually not books. Mine is kind of unusual in that they would give a grant to one person and the main project is a book,” Koperski said.

“I feel very fortunate that they chose this one.”

Koperski joined the SVSU philosophy faculty in 1997. He has previously authored or co-authored at least 15 scholarly articles that have appeared in academic journals or books.

November 20, 2018

Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation executive director Velasquez to deliver SVSU commencement address

The executive director of the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation will deliver the keynote address to graduates during commencement exercises at Saginaw Valley State University.

Jenée Velasquez, who also serves as chair of SVSU's Board of Control, will speak at both ceremonies: Friday, Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 15 at 11 a.m. in O'Neill Arena of the Ryder Center.

The graduating class totals 623 individuals expected to complete degree requirements, including 553 graduating students who plan to don regalia and march in their respective ceremonies.

Commencement exercises for graduates in the colleges of Business & Management, and Health & Human Services will be held Friday evening. Students completing degrees in the colleges of Arts & Behavioral Sciences; Education; and Science, Engineering & Technology will take part in the ceremony scheduled for Saturday morning.

As is tradition, SVSU President Don Bachand will congratulate each graduate as he or she crosses the stage.

Velasquez has served as executive director for the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation since 2005. Prior that appointment, she served Midland County's economic development corporation in two capacities: first as manager of economic development services and then as its chief executive officer.

Velasquez has maintained strong ties to the community. Beyond her board service at SVSU, she served as campaign co-chair for SVSU’s Talent. Opportunity. Promise. private fundraising campaign, which raised $28 million, including a $5 million gift from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation to create the STEM Scholars Network, which provides funding to support SVSU student and faculty research, as well as outreach efforts.

In addition, Velasquez serves as a board member of Michigan Non-Profit Association, MidMichigan Health, Michigan Municipal League Foundation, Chemical Bank Advisory, and many others.

Numerous organizations have recognized Velasquez for her service to the community. In 2018, she was inducted into Junior Achievement of North Central Michigan's Hall of Fame. In 2016, she was named by Crain's Business Detroit to its 100 Most Influential Women in Michigan. In 2013, she received the YWCA Women of Achievement Award for Community Leadership, and in 2012, she received the Great Women of the Great Lakes Bay Region Award and Margaret Ann “Ranny” Riecker Meritorious Service Award.

Velasquez completed a bachelor's degree in business administration from Kansas State University and a master's degree in business administration from Michigan State University. She also completed an executive education course at Harvard University's John. F. Kennedy School of Government.

November 19, 2018

SVSU hosts networking event to connect Great Lakes Bay graduates and alumni with top employers


Discover Great Lakes Bay is hosting a business-casual networking experience that will offer an opportunity for talented professionals to connect with world-class employers from across the Great Lakes Bay Region. The “Coming Home” event will take place Wednesday, Nov. 21 from 3-5 p.m. in the Curtiss Hall banquet rooms at Saginaw Valley State University.


The event was scheduled for the day prior to Thanksgiving when many college students and young professionals will be returning to the region for the holiday.


“We wanted to provide a casual environment for future college graduates and alumni from the region who are interested in potentially moving home, so that they can network with employers to learn about career opportunities,” said Riley Hupfer, program coordinator for Discover Great Lakes Bay and one of the organizers of the event.


More than 20 leading employers will be in attendance, including Covenant Healthcare, The Dow Chemical Company, Frankenmuth Insurance, Garber Automotive Group, Nexteer Automotive, and Rehmann.


Retaining and attracting talent is the number one issue for both existing companies and those considering a location in the Great Lakes Bay Region, prompting Saginaw Future Inc. to spearhead the talent attraction and retention initiative.


The project is supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Regional Prosperity Initiative 2018 Mini-Grant Program, administered by East Michigan Council of Governments, a federally designated development district for the 14 counties of East Central Michigan.


Alumni of Alma College, Central Michigan University, Davenport University, Delta College, Mid Michigan College, Northwood University, and Saginaw Valley State University have all been invited to attend the Coming Home event.


Attendees will receive complimentary appetizers and drink tickets for craft beers from Mountain Town Brewing Co. in Mt. Pleasant, as well as other beer and wine options.  


“Ultimately this a celebration of the Great Lakes Bay Region being a wonderful place to live, work and play,” Hupfer said. “We hope that those coming home to the region will make it a stop as a part of their Wednesday evening.”


More than 130 individuals already have registered to attend, and more are welcome to join.


For a detailed list of featured employers and available positions, to RSVP, or to join the event as a hiring company,  please visit or call Hupfer at (989)-964-4231.


November 16, 2018

SVSU selects K-12 educators for Gerstacker leadership program

A new group of K-12 education leaders committed to professional growth will join the Saginaw Valley State University Gerstacker Fellowship program for 2018-19.

As part of the initiative, 11 teachers, principals, and program administrators from across Michigan will receive concentrated leadership training over a 1-year period. The experience will include an international trip to Finland and Germany in March.

Previous overseas trips have included Japan, South Korea, Poland and Taiwan. Last year's group traveled to China.

These trips send participants to educational institutions, where participants learn about international educational systems and corporate settings. There, they discover how leadership plays out in different cultural and economic settings.  Last year's group visited Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong.  The group visited Tsnjhua High School International, in Beijing, China where TImothy Wedge - a member of the first cohort of the Gerstacker Fellowship program - serves as the principal of the school.

The program was established in 2005 with a $1.5 million endowment from the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation of Midland. Participants are known as Gerstacker Fellows. They meet monthly on weekends.

SVSU faculty from various disciplines and experts in the field instruct the group on subjects such as organizational leadership, ethics, finances, communication, human resources, entrepreneurship and education with a global perspective. 

The Michigan educators selected to participate in the program in 2019 are:

  • Marilyn Benn, a Spanish teacher in the Mt. Morris Consolidated School District
  • Kevin Champagne, an instructional coach with the Institute for Excellence in Education located in Mt. Pleasant
  • Kathy Dardas, an assistant principal in curriculum and instruction for the Bay-Arenac ISD Career Center
  • Neil DeLuca, a high school principal for Rochester Community Schools
  • Lori Lee, an English learner district coordinator for Saginaw Township Schools
  • Nicole Rethman, a special education supervisor in the Swan Valley School District
  • Tielannette Schurman, an assistant middle school principal for Midland Public Schools
  • Ann Sheffer, a multi-tiered system of supports coach and student support principal for Freeland Community Schools
  • Jacob Voisine, a high school dean of students for Bay City Public Schools
  • Jill Waliczek, an elementary principal in the Frankenmuth School District
  • Kymberli Wregglesworth, a high school social studies teacher for Onaway Area Community Schools

For more information on the Gerstacker Fellowship at SVSU, visit

November 16, 2018

SVSU social work profs take leadership posts to improve the Saginaw community

Two Saginaw Valley State University social work professors will serve in leadership roles at a newly-created community enrichment organization centered in downtown Saginaw.

Vanessa Brooks Herd and Catherine Macomber were voted in as vice chair and secretary, respectively, by the board of the non-profit Saginaw Collaborative Inc.

Saginaw Collaborative Inc. was established by Rev. Jim Williams and other community leaders to turn the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church building in downtown Saginaw into a space for various community organizations and other non-profits. 

“This project represents a coming together of people who have a commitment to the sense of community in Saginaw,” Brooks Herd said. “This is a combination of business people, professional people, grassroots people, small businesses and non-profits who want to infuse the downtown area with maintaining some of the community.”

The church is owned by the Presbytery of Lake Huron, but its congregation can no longer support the upkeep costs of the building and will discontinue its worship services on November 25. The building is over 20,000 square feet and houses classrooms, offices, kitchens, a gymnasium and performance spaces that can accommodate a diverse array of programs. 

The collaborative board seeks to analyze community needs and invite community organizations into the building that meet those needs while complimenting each other.

“We want to bring those people together and say, ‘you're all doing this wonderful work, let's figure out how we can do it together and be supportive of your mission,’” Macomber said.

The professors say they're planning to take an integrative approach to their work with the non-profit and plan to provide SVSU social work students and interns with the opportunity to gain work experience there while creating real change in the community.

“We want to use that center as a base for community involvement,” Brooks Herd said. “What better way to teach community organizing and building communities than being in a place where communities are coming together?”

SVSU has hundreds of social work undergraduate and graduate students who must each put in 450 hours a year of field experience as part of their studies.

“We're talking about thousands of hours of student engagement in the community in downtown Saginaw, working with residents and vulnerable populations there,” Macomber said.

Both professors said they hope that once the space is refurbished and filled with community organizations, it will complement downtown Saginaw's economic renewal with its focus on community enrichment and service. 

“What's exciting for me is to see all of these community organizations that provide services directly to Saginaw residents, their children and their families talking about how they can coordinate more and use Warren Avenue as sort of a community center for that area,” Macomber said.

November 15, 2018

SVSU serves those who served, again earns ‘Best for Vets’ ranking


Saginaw Valley State University has again been recognized for its support of military-affiliated students, earning a place in the Best for Vets: Colleges 2019 rankings by Military Times.


Chaz Fowler, a political science major from Bay City and a Marine Corps veteran, currently serves as a student liaison at SVSU’s Military Student Affairs office. He said the transition from working in the military to returning to civilian life can be hard to navigate, but SVSU’s resources can make it easier,


“Many veterans are commuter students,” said Fowler. “This department gives them a place to be involved and included in university life. It provides a great environment for veterans to be around like-minded individuals and experiences. It really bridges the gap between vets to their academics as well as their community.”


For a school to be placed on the "Best for Vets" list, colleges and universities must be considered a good fit for service members, military veterans and their families.


SVSU is rated No. 101 among all four-year institutions nationwide in the 2019 rankings by the independent media organization dedicated to news and information about the military. This is the fifth consecutive year SVSU has earned the designation.


To be considered, colleges and universities complete a comprehensive survey which is evaluated by Military Times. Institutions were then ranked based on survey responses as well as on data collected by three different federal agencies.


Bethany Alford, SVSU’s director of Military Student Affairs, said SVSU’s assists students and family members with paperwork, accessing their federal benefits, academic advising, and generally serving as a “one-stop shop” for military-affiliated students. They also take pride in creating a friendly and welcoming place on campus.


“Our office creates an environment that is not just for information, but also a great place for conversations with other student veterans,” she said. “They come in and can hear about what's happening on campus, but also can feel the comradery they've missed since leaving the service.”


SVSU will acknowledge receiving the “Best for Vets” honor during a Veteran’s Day event Thursday, Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. in the Curtiss Hall banquet rooms. Colonel Timothy Houchlei, state family programs director for the Michigan Army National Guard, will serve as the featured speaker.


November 14, 2018

SVSU student-produced videos to educate peers on sexual assault prevention

Saginaw Valley State University leaders say a series of student-produced public service announcement videos are aimed at strengthening the campus’ sexual assault prevention education efforts.


Those six videos will be screened publicly for the first time during a short presentation Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 3 p.m. in SVSU’s Groening Commons.


The videos were created as part of a contest related to SVSU’s sexual assault prevention education program known as Bringing in the Bystander. Each video features dramatized situations demonstrating students avoiding sexual assault or helping peers avoid sexual assault.


The videos eventually will be played during on-campus student events including SVSU’s movie-screening series known as Valley Nights, organizers say.


Michele Gunkelman, SVSU’s director of residential life and one of the Bringing in the Bystander program trainers on campus, said the lessons provided in the videos will be powerful for students in part because they are watching their peers advocate for better judgement in critical moments that can lead to sexual assault.


“These videos show their peers experiencing situations that, unfortunately, are too common for college students,” Gunkelman said. “We want our students to be able to intervene in those situations. With these videos, our students are learning these lessons from people they can relate to.”


SVSU’s Bringing in the Bystander sexual assault prevention program began in 2016. Since then, more than 400 people — including students, staff and faculty — have been involved in the initiative’s training workshops on campus. The program advocates for participants to pass along those lessons to peers who have not attended the training sessions. The goal, Gunkelman said, is to impact every student on campus in a positive way.


The video contest was the latest initiative of SVSU’s Bringing in the Bystander, which in March received a $25,044 grant from the state of Michigan to continue the program. SVSU staff and students formed a panel of judges to determine the video contest's award recipients.


In total, 17 students in six groups produced the winning videos. Each group received awards ranging from $500 to $100.

November 14, 2018

SVSU Flute Choir to perform Thursday

Saginaw Valley State University students and faculty members – along with musicians from across the community — will perform a flute concert this week at the campus.


The SVSU Flute Choir will take the stage Thursday, Nov 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the university’s Founders Hall. The event is free and open to the public.


Musical selections for the concert include work composed both by contemporary and classical musicians. The work of 18th century Austrian composer C.W. von Gluck as well as modern-day American composer Daniel Dorff are among the musical selections planned for Thursday’s performance.


The SVSU Flute Choir is open to membership from participants outside of the SVSU community. The ensemble is directed by Townes Osborn Miller, an instructor of music at SVSU.


For more information about Friday’s concert, please visit or call the SVSU Department of Music at (989) 964-4159.

November 13, 2018

SVSU hosting lecture by scholar on North Korea's Nuclear Crisis

An expert in one of the world's most dangerous foreign policy challenges – North Korea's nuclear weapons program – will speak on the topic at Saginaw Valley State University.

Hyun-Wook Kim will visit Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. in SVSU's Founders Hall. His presentation will address how North Korea's nuclear program changed the balance of power in Northeast Asia, and what that political environment means for the rest of the world.

The event is free and open to the public.

Kim has played a key role in shaping South Korea's policies towards China and the U.S. on the issue of North Korea's nuclear program.

He is a professor at the Seoul-based Korea National Diplomatic Academy, which is affiliated with South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Kim also served as an advisory member for the National Security Council and today remains a standing member of the National Unification Advisory Council, an agency formed to advise the president of South Korea on peaceful unification policies between North and South Korea.

Kim received his bachelor's degree in political science from Yonsei University in Seoul. He received his master's degree and Ph.D. in political science from Brown University, and he worked at the University of Southern California as a postdoctoral fellow.

The lecture is part of SVSU's Barstow Excellence in Teaching Humanities Seminar, which was created to promote excellence in teaching and recognize scholarship in the humanities.  The seminar was established through a gift from The Barstow Foundation, which supports education, health and human services agencies and humanitarian causes with emphasis on the greater Midland area.

The lecture also is part of the SVSU 2018-19 Dow Visiting Scholars and Artists Series. For more information about Wednesday's presentation and the speaker series, visit

November 12, 2018

SVSU visiting artist Kevin Cole teams with 2-time Grammy winner Sylvia McNair for concert

Saginaw Valley State University will host a concert featuring a Grammy winner and a musician lauded by the Chicago Tribune as “the best Gershwin pianist in the country.” Kevin Cole and Sylvia McNair will perform together Friday, Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall.

Listen to a radio interview with Kevin Simons, SVSU associate professor of music.

Cole, SVSU’s visiting artist in musical theatre, is internationally recognized for being the leading expert in the music of the late pianist and composer George Gershwin. Cole has played with symphonies all over the world, earning himself the title of "America's pianist."

A Bay City native, Cole is a veteran of SVSU's stage, having performed numerous times for the SVSU community, as well as in venues throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region. This will be Cole's comeback performance at SVSU after surviving major brain surgery last March.

McNair, an American opera singer and two-time Grammy award winner, will be performing alongside Cole. During her three-decade career, she has been featured on the cover of Opera News Magazine countless times and has performed as a soloist multiple times with nearly every major opera company and symphony orchestra in the world. McNair spans the musical realms of opera, oratorio, cabaret, and musical theater, and she has performed with many well-known musicians, including the late Aretha Franklin.

The concert – part of SVSU’s Rhea Miller Concert Series – is free of charge, which is rather extraordinary, said Kevin Simons, SVSU associate professor of music.

“We don't get to hear from artists such as Sylvia McNair every day,” he said. “Then to have it for free and in our own fantastic recital hall is a great opportunity,” Simons said.

In addition to her concert Friday night, McNair will spend the week working with SVSU music students; four students will join her for a master class performance Wednesday evening.

“She and Kevin are friends. When we brought Kevin on staff as our guest artist, he said, ‘What if I brought Sylvia in?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I think we could do that. That would be great.’”

Cole and McNair have performed together numerous times, including in October for concerts in Thousand Oaks and Oxnard, California. Tickets for those shows ranged from $34 to $124 per person.

The Rhea Miller Concert Series is made possible by a generous gift from Rhea E. Miller, a longtime friend of SVSU. Her gift, administered by the Miller Trust for Music Education, has provided the university with the opportunity to offer outstanding performances by nationally and internationally acclaimed musical artists at no cost to the audience since 1993.

For more information, please contact SVSU's Department of Music at (989) 964-4159 or

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