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March 6, 2019

SVSU students spend spring break volunteering at nonprofits

Saginaw Valley State University students are spending their spring break vacations this week supporting communities across the Midwest and East Coast states.

Through Alternative Breaks, a student-run organization that sends SVSU volunteers to help nonprofit agencies during the university's winter holiday and spring break sessions, 70 students are participating in six projects spanning four states this week before classes resume March 11.

Hospital-bound children and elderly in need of support are among the people benefiting from the students' work. Volunteer efforts also are focusing on improving the environment, raising awareness about HIV and AIDS, and improving housing conditions for families in need.

The six SVSU Alternative Breaks projects include the following:

  • Volunteers are assisting Asheville Greenworks, an environmental advocacy organization, as it works to enhance the Asheville, North Carolina community through educational and volunteer-based environmental programs. During their stay, SVSU students also will learn about human contribution to environmental degradation, urban forestry and invasive plant removal.
  • Another team of SVSU students are working with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Nashville. Volunteers there are spending the week interacting with child patients by playing games with them, reading books, as well as supervising arts and crafts and other activities. The students also are assisting with short-term relief services for families and caregivers there.
  • Volunteers are supporting Citymeals on Wheels, an elderly hunger advocacy group in New York City. Participants are spending the week ensuring that home-bound elderly New Yorkers receive a continuous lifeline of nourishment and companionship.
  • A second group of students volunteering in New York City are teaming with Gay Men’s Health Crisis, a provider of HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy. Participants are helping to organize educational workshops, meal services and an AIDS Walk project.
  • Volunteers are aiding a Habitat for Humanity spring service trip in Elk Park, North Carolina. Students there also will learn about substandard learning conditions as well as how affordable housing builds strength, stability and self-reliance.
  • A group of SVSU students are assisting La Casa de Amistad, a youth and community center in South Bend, Indiana. Alternative Breaks participants there are helping teach English as a second language, hosting mock interviews, providing digital assistance and preparing the center’s youths for citizenship exams.

For more information about the Alternative Breaks program at SVSU, visit

March 5, 2019

SVSU student-vocalist bests Midwest's top college talent at singing competition

After years spent working tirelessly to reach her potential as a vocalist, Alivia Combs is rising to the top of the singing competition among her peers.

The Saginaw Valley State University student’s singing prowess earned her a first-place award from a panel of judges at a National Association of Teachers of Singing regional contest for competitors from Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Ontario. She bested her peers in the category for female junior and senior college students.

“I never try to think of these competitions in a way of winning or losing, but just to gain new experiences,” Combs said. “When they called my name, I was shocked."

The music major is no stranger to delighting audiences. It’s a scenario that dates back further than her memory can recall. The Warren native said her mother often recounts tales of Combs as a toddler, belting out tunes during the family’s grocery store visits, then earning praise from strangers in the shopping aisles.

She carried that love of singing with her at first to the Detroit Institute of Music Education, where one of the educators there — Elizabeth Belluni — recognized a talent in need of fine-tuning.

“When I first started at the institute, I was singing with a lot of tension and pressure, which is unhealthy and doesn’t sound the best.” Combs said.

Belluni helped Combs improve her vocal techniques, recommended exercises aimed at strengthening her ability to sing, and prepared her for life as a performer after college, she said.

That student/mentor relationship continues today at SVSU. Combs said she enrolled at the university in fall 2018 after Belluni joined SVSU's Department of Music as an adjunct faculty member.

“Without her, I wouldn’t be able to do any of this,” Combs said.

A recipient of the university’s Rhea Miller Scholarship in Music, Combs said her hard work at SVSU is focused on a single goal: To become a musical theatre performer. She dreams of landing roles such as the lead in the Tony Award-winning musical, “Waitress."

After graduating next year, Combs plans to pursue a musical theatre career in Chicago. She already has traveled to the Windy City multiple times to audition for roles.

“The end goal would be to move to New York City, for Broadway,” she said. “I’m taking the stepping stones to get there.”


A video here features Alivia Combs performing in the SVSU holiday video produced in December 2018.

February 27, 2019

SVSU alumna's book aims to inspire interest in science among children

When her daughter was two, Jennifer Douglas read an article that encouraged parents to "make up science stories for your children" in order to inspire their interest in the subject.

"So, at bedtime, I would refer to one of her favorite books and add a science spin on it," Douglas said. "She grasped the concepts quite quickly, but when I tried to buy books to aid me in my quest, I found they didn't readily exist."

So the Saginaw Valley State University alumna took matters into her own hands. She authored the recently-published "Itsy-Bitsy's Science Adventure," a 28-page children's book aimed at encouraging interest in science, technology, engineering and math — known as STEM, for short — among children.

"I wanted to be an inspiration to my children and show them you can do anything you put your mind to, while addressing — what I saw as — a need," Douglas said. "Understanding the world around you from a child's perspective can help foster not only a scientific foundation in young minds, but will also encourage environmental responsibility."

"Itsy-Bitsy's Science Adventure" — published by FriesenPress in late 2018 — explores the day in a life of a spider who meets various creatures along his journey while learning about their biology, such as the differences between an arachnid, an amphibian and an insect. The book is available at outlets including online stores such as iTunes and Amazon.

The story isn't finished, Douglas said. The book is labeled as the first of the "Itsy-Bitsy Science Series," and Douglas already has plans for follow-up titles that continue to explore the spider's adventures in learning about science.

Douglas knows a thing or two about science. She works as an environmental health and safety project manager for Ontario-based Golder Associates, a global company that provides consulting, design and construction services.

Douglas said her interest in a STEM-based career began when she was an undergraduate at SVSU more than a decade ago.

"I have always been interested in science, though I was not planning to study science or pursue science as a career," said the Lexington, Michigan native whose maiden name is Jennifer Watson.

In 2003, she enrolled in a course taught by Richard Trdan, a longtime SVSU biology professor who retired a year before his death in 2018.

"He got me excited about science, and we — with our colleagues and classmates — ended up working together on various research projects for five years," Douglas said. "That eventually led me to a career in science."

Among her undergraduate projects at SVSU was research examining potential genetic weaknesses in zebra mussels that could aid in bioremediation efforts.

One year after graduating with a bachelor's degree in biology in 2007, she began her job at Golder Associates.

In 2010, she married SVSU alumnus Matt Douglas, who earned a bachelor's degree in marketing in 2007. They now reside in Ontario, where they are raising two children.

Jennifer Douglas, meanwhile, hopes her writing helps other parents raise their children to love science. Less than three months after its publication, "Itsy-Bitsy's Science Adventure" has sold about 400 copies, she said.

"My children — ages six and three — have heard the stories for years, so to have the book in hand has been very exciting for them," Douglas said. "They know the book was inspired by them, which they love."

February 26, 2019

Pianist MiJung Trepanier returns for SVSU recital March 15

Pianist MiJung Trepanier will perform a solo recital Friday, March 15 at 7:30 p.m. in Saginaw Valley State University's Rhea Miller Recital Hall.

The performance — titled "A Conversation with God: Series 1, Franz Schubert (1797-1828)" — is free and open to the public.

Franz Schubert was a 19th century Austrian composer whose body of work included symphonies, operas and vocal works. During his relatively short career — he died at the age of 31 — his work was admired by a small circle of followers in Vienna. His music was rediscovered years after his death, and its popularity reached across the globe.

Trepanier is familiar with musical tastes from across the globe. She has performed at venues in Bolivia, Puerto Rico and South Korea. She also is familiar with local tastes in music. The Midland resident has performed with the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra. Trepanier, an adjunct faculty member at SVSU, also has headlined piano recitals at the university for more than a decade. Most recently, she performed at SVSU in September 2018.

She received a Doctor of Musical Arts in Performance degree from Michigan State University. She also graduated as valedictorian from Kyungwon University in Seongnam, South Korea, where she completed her bachelor's degree in music.

For more information about Trepanier, visit her website at

For more information on SVSU's music department and upcoming musical performances, visit

February 25, 2019

SVSU hires Chubb as dean of College of Science, Engineering & Technology

Saginaw Valley State University has hired Andrew Chubb to serve as dean of the College of Science, Engineering & Technology.


Chubb, who joined SVSU’s faculty in 2002 and twice served as interim dean of the academic college, will help lead the university’s efforts to advance STEM studies on campus as well as in the Great Lakes Bay Region.


“I am honored to serve the College of Science, Engineering & Technology as its dean,” he said. “We have top-notch faculty and staff, outstanding programs, and excellent students who are the STEM workforce of the future. I look forward to building upon this foundation as the College of Science, Engineering & Technology continues to establish its role as a leader for STEM education in the Great Lakes Bay Region and beyond.”


Chubb served as a faculty member with SVSU’s Department of Chemistry from 2002-12. Along with his classroom duties, he designed and implemented a new organic chemistry lab curriculum, managed an undergraduate research laboratory, and served as the university’s Pre-Health Professions adviser. He was the 2011 recipient of the Franc A. Landee Award for Teaching Excellence, the most prestigious honor given to members of SVSU’s faculty.


He first served as interim dean in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology from 2014-15 and then again beginning in 2018 until the interim status was removed with his current hiring. He fills the role occupied by Frank Hall before his retirement last year. Chubb served as associate dean during Hall’s time with the university.


While serving in the dean’s office since 2012, Chubb's responsibilities have included managing expanding resources dedicated to STEM education. With a growing market for STEM industry jobs in the region, SVSU in recent years has received major gifts from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, The Dow Chemical Company Foundation, and the Dow Corning Foundation — among other organizations — to improve students’ performance in STEM disciplines at the middle school, high school and university levels.


Deborah Huntley, SVSU’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, said Chubb’s success in his many roles at the institution demonstrated his “outstanding commitment to the mission and vision of our university.”


“His focus on students and their success has been apparent from the start, as evidenced in his outstanding teaching, advising and administrative work,” Huntley said. “He is actively engaged with external constituencies including our industry partners, community organizations and STEM educators. I believe that, under his leadership, our STEM programs will flourish and expand their impact on the Great Lakes Bay Region and the state of Michigan.”


In addition to his work at SVSU, Chubb is an active member of the Great Lakes Bay Region community. He was selected as a member of the 2011 class of RUBY Award recipients, an honor given annually to top professionals in the Great Lakes Bay Region under the age of 40. That same year, Chubb became a graduate of Leadership Midland, a community leadership development initiative. He remains active with the program today.


Chubb was born in Great Falls, Montana. He received a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Iowa State University in 2003 after earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Washington University in 1995. Before joining SVSU, he served as a chemistry instructor at Iowa State University beginning in 1998.


He is married to Jennifer Chubb, a math lecturer at SVSU. They live in Midland with their children, Ajay, 7; and Alison, 3.

February 25, 2019

SVSU-produced literary-arts journal spotlights creative spirits of Bay, Saginaw county residents

The creative spirits behind a Saginaw Valley State University-produced magazine featuring poetry and art from Saginaw and Bay county residents will host a publication party for the public this week.

Still Life, produced by the SVSU’s Writing Center and the SVSU Center for Community Writing, will unveil the second issue during an event scheduled Thursday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. at Counter Culture Arts Collective, 620 Gratiot in Saginaw.

The literary-arts journal features submissions from residents across Bay and Saginaw counties. The publication was created by SVSU’s Writing Center in part to celebrate the writing-focused office’s outreach efforts extended to the neighboring communities in recent years. SVSU’s Writing Center opened the Saginaw Community Writing Center in 2015 and the Bay Community Writing Center in 2017.

“I think there are so many people who have stories to tell, whether they're real or fictionalized,” said Christopher Giroux, an SVSU associate professor of English and the publication's faculty editor. “They are things that are important to them, and Still Life provides that venue for them to share that in a very public setting that they may not have otherwise.”

Along with community submissions, Still Life includes photography selected from submissions by SVSU art students.

The latest issue contains 35 pieces of poetry and prose, two of which were the winning submissions at community-wide contests organized by the SVSU Center for Community Writing. The issue contained the winners of the March 2018 “Write Like Roethke” poetry contest and the summer 2018 “Get to Work” flash fiction contest. Still Life editors also provided cash prizes for the best submissions in several categories.

The release party at Counter Culture will include an open mic poetry jam — open to all — with cash prizes for the winners. The event is free and open to the public.

Copies of Still Life will be available at the publication party as well as the community writing center locations at Butman-Fish Branch Library, 1716 Hancock in Saginaw, as well as Alice and Jack Wirt Public Library, 500 Center in Bay City.

The inaugural issue of Still Life was released in January 2018 and grant-funded by SVSU’s Center for Academic Innovation. Still Life is now funded by Saginaw neurologist and author Debasish Mridha.

The editors of Still Life accept submissions year-round. Information can be found at

February 22, 2019

Pianist Wendy Chu to perform at SVSU

Musician Wendy Chu will perform a piano recital Thursday, Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m. in Saginaw Valley State University's Rhea Miller Recital Hall.


The performance is free and open to the public.


The recital, titled "Debussy and Ravel," will feature pieces composed by Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, two of the most influential French composers of the 20th century. They have been considered "impressionist" composers due to the use of harmony and texture throughout their music.


Chu has performed across the world in nations such as her native Taiwan, Austria and Canada. She now teaches piano lessons and serves as a piano accompanist at SVSU.


Chu earned her Master of Music in Piano Performance and Music Education degree from Central Michigan University. She then received a Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano Performance degree from Michigan State University.


Please contact SVSU at (989) 964-4159 or for more information.

February 21, 2019

SVSU forensics team places second in state contest

The Saginaw Valley State University forensics team continued its record of success during a strong showing at the Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League (MISL) Novice State Championship hosted by Northwood University on Saturday, Feb. 16.

With six other universities in attendance, SVSU's team earned second place in the Team Sweeps category, where the competition is ranked by adding the total combined points earned by each team in the contest's individual categories.

Because of their outstanding performances in those individual categories, four SVSU students qualified for the league's national tournament later this year. Those qualifying students include the following:

  • The team of Amber Hadley, a communication major from Marine City; and her partner, Ari Whisman, a special education major from Bay City, placed first in the Duo category.
  • Dan Visnovsky, a political science major from Sparta, placed second in the Informative category.
  • Jessica Carpenter, an English major, placed fifth in the Poetry category.

The four qualified to compete in the 2019 National Forensics Association National Championships Tournament, scheduled April 18-22, in Santa Ana, California.

The group isn't the first from SVSU to qualify for this year's national tournament. During an October 2018 contest hosted at SVSU, six students qualified. Then, in December 2018, nine more SVSU students earned the same distinction during a competition at Eastern Michigan University.

The next forensics tournament for SVSU is the MISL State Tournament, scheduled Saturday, March 2, at Eastern Michigan University.

The SVSU forensics team is coached by Amy Pierce, associate professor of communication, and Ryan Rigda, lecturer of communication.

February 20, 2019

SVSU receives $99K grant to train elementary school teachers in engaging STEM education strategies

The Regional Mathematics and Science Center at Saginaw Valley State University has been awarded a grant from the Michigan Department of Education’s MiSTEM Advisory Council to help elementary teachers foster a love of science and math in students, starting at an early age.

The $99,672 grant will enable SVSU to provide professional development training to teachers in grades 1 to 5 throughout the East Central MiSTEM region, which includes Bay, Clare, Gladwin, Gratiot, Isabella, Midland and Saginaw counties. The program is called “Engineering is Elementary.”

Tamara Barrientos — director of the SVSU Regional Mathematics and Science Center — said the professional development program is valuable because it gives elementary school teachers an integrated approach to implementing science and math standards.

“And it gives students an engaging, team-based approach to learning by solving real-world problems,” Barrientos said. “This professional development has the potential to positively impact thousands of students throughout our region.”

MiSTEM is an effort by the state of Michigan to create a system that will produce more science, technology, engineering and math-equipped students and educators by empowering them through professional training and development. In pursuing those goals, MiSTEM also integrates businesses and educational institutions.

The MiSTEM advisory council earlier this month awarded over $3 million to 21 STEM-related projects at both higher education institutions as well as K-12 schools.

“Engineering is Elementary” is an award-winning program created by the Museum of Science, Boston, designed to inspire problem solving and critical thinking for all students.

The first phase of the training is scheduled Friday to Sunday, March 5-7, at SVSU. The workshop will be facilitated by professional development trainers from the Museum of Science, Boston.

Attendees will be certified to conduct “Engineering is Elementary” professional development training during the second phase of the project.

Educators interested in applying for the workshops can contact Barrientos at (989) 964-4115 or The deadline to apply for the training is Friday, Feb. 22.

February 19, 2019

SVSU student’s entrepreneurial spirit shines in statewide competition

The childhood lemonade stands were just a warmup for Maggie Walker, a Saginaw Valley State University student whose entrepreneurial ambitions led her to start a retailing business as a college junior and win a first-place statewide award for it recently.

The SVSU accounting major from Laingsburg received the first-place nod in the entrepreneurship category of the Michigan Collegiate DECA competition hosted in Dearborn Feb. 1-3. She and five of her SVSU classmates at the contest qualified for Collegiate DECA’s national competition scheduled for April in Orlando.

“It was pretty surprising to win,” Walker said. “It was great hearing someone tell you that your idea could be successful.”

Collegiate DECA is an international association of high school and college students interested in marketing, management and entrepreneurship in business, finance, hospitality, and marketing sales and service. The organization hosts competitions judged by panelists, including mock investors.

The business plan Walker pitched to a mock investor in the entrepreneurship category, though, was no mock setup. She presented her own real-life start-up, Everyday Adult, which she founded in August 2018 to help young business professionals purchase professional clothing at affordable prices. Already, she has sold clothing to 60 customers and built an online following of 10,000 people.

Walker said Everyday Adult sprouted from her own shopping habits.

“I buy a lot of clothing for myself, and some of the prices are so high for a college student like me, so I like to find the best prices,” she said.

She decided to apply those bargain-hunting skills to a business plan by finding new or barely-used clothing and offering those items to customers largely through Poshmark, a retailing website. Her customers are primarily 25 or younger. Her Poshmark account can be found at

While the business transactions occur online, Walker said she hopes to expand Everyday Adult’s presence.

“My end goal is to purchase a trailer and sell at pop-up boutiques,” she said.

Walker said she applied many of the business practices learned while studying at SVSU. The result is a company with a promising start, she said.

“This is pretty much my first real business if you don’t count the lemonade stands I had when I was a kid,” she said. “It’s been great.”

Along with Walker, the following SVSU students competed at the Michigan Collegiate DECA contest earlier this month:

  • Keegan Booms, an international business major from Almont, finished in third place in the business ethics category with his partner, Jacob Saint Amour, a supply chain management major from Laingsburg. Amour also was a finalist in the retail management category.
  • Carly D'Alessandro, a management and marketing double major from Midland, finished in second place in the event planning category with partner Brady Wieland, a mechanical engineering major from Essexville. D'Alessandro also was a finalist in the professional sales category.
  • Madisyn Nicol, a management and marketing double major from Chesaning, was a finalist in both the advertising campaign and sales management meeting categories

There are about 15,000 Collegiate DECA members representing about 250 colleges and universities nationwide. SVSU's DECA chapter is led by Amy Hendrickson, associate professor of law, and Betsy Pierce, associate professor of accounting.

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