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April 9, 2019

Bestselling novelist Devin Murphy to visit SVSU

Saginaw Valley State University will present a reading by bestselling novelist Devin Murphy on Monday, April 15, at 7 p.m. in Founders Hall at SVSU.

Murphy is the author of fiction novels such as “The Boat Runner,” published by HarperCollins in 2017. His writing has appeared in more than 60 literary journals and anthologies, including “The Missouri Review,” “Glimmer Train” and “Confrontation.”

His most recent novel, “Tiny Americans” — released in March — follows a family over the decades and across the world as they struggle to grapple with issues such as alcoholism, abandonment and loneliness. "Tiny Americans" is available for sale at various online outlets including the website for publishing company HarperCollins.

Outside of his writing, Murphy has worked various jobs in national parks around the country and once had a three-year stint at sea that led him to over 50 countries on all seven continents. He now works as an associate professor of creative writing at Bradley University and lives in Chicago with his wife and children.

For more information about Murphy, visit his website at

His appearance at SVSU is sponsored by the university's Department of English as part of the campus' Voices in the Valley Reading Series. Admission is free and open to the public.

For more information about the event, contact Arra Ross, SVSU associate professor of English, at or (989) 964-4032.

April 8, 2019

SVSU students workin’ ‘9 to 5: The Musical’

Saginaw Valley State University student-actors plan to put a modern — and musical — spin on a beloved 1980 film following three working-class women getting even with their boss.

The curtains open for "9 to 5: The Musical" from Wednesday to Sunday, April 10-14, at SVSU's Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts.

Based in part on the movie featuring Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, "9 to 5: The Musical" features music written by Parton, who also sang the catchy 1980 radio hit of the same name.

The three female leads for SVSU's production are Abby Burgess, a Commerce Township theatre major cast in the role originally played by Parton; Brianne Dolney, a Bay City resident portraying Fonda's old character; and Jessica Hurley, an Essexville native in the part once occupied by Tomlin.

Dolney, a theatre and political science major, said the musical offers hearty roles for the three leads. The plot places the co-workers in a challenging office environment in 1970s New York City.

“Each is facing her own unique struggles in her own way, but they all come together to overcome them," Dolney said. "It’s about friendship, sisterhood, and women fighting back against hypocritical bigots."

Ric Roberts, the play's director and an SVSU professor of theatre, said the timing was right for the university to produce a story about female empowerment.

“SVSU has the luxury of looking at the school’s acting pool and deciding our next production based on the talent," he said. "This year, we are very female-heavy in talent."

Roberts said, even though the script is from 1979, the topic is relevant to today's social struggles reflected in the #MeToo movement and the fight for equal pay.

“Women have put up with so much for so long," Dolney said. "This story is about a group of women who decided enough was enough."

Hurley, a theatre major, said she can relate to her character of Violet Newstead.

"I also share my character's dream of wanting to become a female CEO in a business world that is mainly dominated by men,” she said. “The message of this story is that you can do anything if you set your mind to it, regardless of your gender or any other external factor.”

Hurley anticipated audience members of all ages will enjoy the musical, first performed on Broadway and Los Angeles stages more than a decade ago.

“This story is one that you will find yourself laughing, crying and everything in between,” said the theatre major.

“9 to 5: The Musical” is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. performances Wednesday through Saturday, April 10-13, and a 3 p.m. performance Sunday, April 14.

Tickets are $16 for general admission, $14 for senior citizens aged 60 and older, and $12 for students. Tickets can be purchased online now.

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

April 5, 2019

SVSU student supports Kingston high school FIRST robotics team

As Saginaw Valley State University prepares to host the FIRST in Michigan state championship April 10-13, one SVSU student is doing all he can to help his former high school team qualify to visit his current campus.


Daniel Schwarck isn't quite ready to give up his time with the FIRST Robotics competition, where high school teams assemble and pilot robots in competition spaces that change yearly.


After competing four years with the robotics team at Kingston High School in Michigan’s Thumb, the Robo-Cards, he now helps mentor the team as a first-year electrical engineering major at SVSU.


Schwarck's interest in robotics comes out of a lifelong interest in science fiction, where robots are everywhere. Kingston High School educators set up a robotics team the year before he started attending, and participating was a no-brainer for him.


“I checked it out the first year and kind of did odd jobs with it to see if I wanted to do the mechanical side, the electrical or coding,” Schwarck said. “I started out trying to figure out the coding, and decided it was not for me, so I switched to electrical and enjoyed that.”


Schwarck worked on the electrical side of the team for the next few years, until the team expanded and needed participants to cover compressed air systems.


The Robo-Cards made it to the state competitions twice while Schwarck was on the team, most recently during FIRST Robotics' second appearance at SVSU in 2018, during his senior year.


Schwarck noted that the academic and practical benefits of participating in FIRST Robotics should not be understated.


“You have to keep up good grades,” Schwarck said. “You use your knowledge to compete. You're using math while you're building your robot. You're really thinking about it and planning it out. It helped boost my math ability because I got used to it in a situation where I had to apply it. It wasn't just theory.”


That practical application of engineering knowledge is important to Schwarck, who now sees a path at SVSU toward a career he's passionate about.


“I figured, I already have an idea of this electrical stuff – I enjoy it – so if I can get a job where I can basically do the same thing I was doing as a hobby, my life is going to be great,” Schwarck said.


Scholarships and networking opportunities are some additional benefits of Schwarck's time competing in FIRST Robotics. He has seen opportunities in mechanical and electrical engineering open up as a result.


For Schwarck, competing in FIRST Robotics isn't so much about beating the other teams as it is about showcasing excellence in robotics.


“When you go to the competitions, it's so different from any other sport,” Schwarck said. “People are singing and dancing. People are a lot closer. It's competitive, but it's not like you're trying to beat other teams. You're trying to be the top team.”


When asked whether the Kingston Robo-Cards will place at FIRST Robotics' state championship at SVSU this year, Schwarck is optimistic.


“I think we have a solid shot,” Schwarck said. “We have a pretty solid team.”

April 4, 2019

SVSU student-organized bowling fundraiser at Stardust Lanes to support assisted living facility

When Lindsey Mead in high school began volunteering at Community Village, an assisted living facility for senior citizens in Saginaw Township, she became fast friends with its residents. 

“I’ve kind of adopted them,” said Mead, a student at Saginaw Valley State University these days. “They’re near and dear to my heart."

Those relationships endured through the years and recently extended to a group of her SVSU classmates now hoping to better the lives of those residents. The students' goal: help pay for renovations at the assisted living facility by inviting people to participate in a bowling tournament organized to raise funds for the cause.

The bowling competition is scheduled Saturday, April 13, from noon to 3 p.m. at Stardust Lanes, 3750 Bay in Saginaw Township. Participation involves signing up teams of four people for $100 total to bowl in a three-round competition. The winning team will earn $200 while all other proceeds will help pay for renovations to Community Village bathrooms and showers as well as upgrades to its air conditioning system. Organizers also will host a silent auction at the fundraiser.

To sign up for the fundraising tournament, contact Taylor Stockton at or (810) 701-0405.

Community Village, operated by Rescue Ministries of Mid-Michigan, houses about 60 people who are ages 60 and older. Dan Streeter, chief executive officer of Rescue Ministries of Mid-Michigan, was impressed with the spirit of generosity driving Mead and her SVSU classmates to support the residents of Community Village.

"It's really amazing to see young adults — who care about our community — take the time out of their busy school schedules to invest in our neighbors in need," Streeter said. "This is a great example for how we should all care for each other."

Streeter said a fundraising bowling tournament was a smart way to generate interest from community members while also offering an entertaining afternoon.

"People can have some fun, and at the same time, know that their fun is helping people," he said.

Mead, an English literature major from Saginaw, began helping the people of Community Village — and having fun with them — while volunteering there as a student at Swan Valley High School. Since then, she maintained strong friendships with residents there, visiting them at least once monthly and often taking them on trips across the region. She and some of her friends at the facility are regular moviegoers at local theaters, for instance.

Mead in 2018 was selected as one of 10 students to participate in SVSU’s Roberts Fellowship Program, a year-long leadership development initiative that features students with a strong interest in community engagement. Knowing Mead’s affinity for Community Village, Mead and four of her Roberts Fellowship classmates searched for ways to support Community Village.

“I was just looking for any way to help,” Mead said. “My Roberts Fellows group members searched the Community Village website and discovered they were in need of help with renovations. Roberts Fellows is all about teamwork. My group members really are working so hard on this event.”

That group includes Mead and Stockton, a management major from Hale; as well as Kellie Rankey, a creative writing major from Saginaw; Miles Shane, a health science major from Southgate; and Andrew Vivian, an electrical engineering major from Richmond Township.

April 2, 2019

SVSU adviser receives top honor for work with future health professionals

Heidi Lang has spent two decades empowering college students seeking careers as medical professionals. Now members of that industry are shining a spotlight on her career guiding prospects at Saginaw Valley State University.


Lang, the pre-health professions adviser at SVSU, received the Father Joseph L. Walter Award for Outstanding Health Professions Advising. The honor was presented by the Central Association of Advisors for the Health Professions, which features members from 12 states.


“I know nearly all of the former recipients, and I am humbled that my colleagues put me in the same caliber as some incredible professionals,” said Lang, who served as president of the association from 2013-15.


She also knew the namesake of the award, giving the honor even more significance to her personally, Lang said. Walter, who died in 2012, was a leader in the pre-health professional industry for decades.


“Father Joe Walter was a trusted colleague and mentor,” Lang said.


Each year, SVSU students are accepted into medical schools, dental schools, pharmacy schools and the like at rates well above national averages. Students and alumni treasure the guidance and support Lang has provided them.


Derek Williams met Lang when he was a biology major at SVSU. Now an optometrist at Great Lakes Bay Health Center in Saginaw, Williams said Lang's guidance as his adviser empowered him in more ways than one.


“Heidi's advising helped me reach my main goal of being accepted into optometry school,” said Williams, who attended the Michigan College of Optometry at Ferris State University after graduating from SVSU in 2014.


“However, what she taught me in the process will impact me the rest of my life. She constantly encouraged me and other students to become involved in the community through volunteering and taking on leadership roles, facilitated me learning how to communicate with other health care providers during the panel discussions she hosted, and helped me develop many professional skills during resume and interview workshops.”


Tyler Sadilek, a biology major now in her third year at SVSU, said she has more easily faced the challenges of preparing for medical school because of Lang's advising.


“Heidi is a shoulder to lean on throughout the rigorous process of applying to graduate school and a smiling face that makes it less overwhelming,” said Sadilek, a Chesaning native.


“Heidi's advising has given me the resources necessary to be a competitive applicant, and I feel as if she goes above and beyond any other adviser to make sure that her students are well prepared for their future careers. She knows what it takes for students to successfully be admitted to post-graduate professional schools, and will stop at nothing to ensure that we get there.”


Lang was announced as the award recipient during a Central Association of Advisors for the Health Professions regional meeting March 21 in Chicago. During the gathering, anonymous remarks were shared from the letters submitted by colleagues who nominated her. Those comments echoed many of the sentiments expressed by her students.


“When you talk to Heidi, you feel as if you have her undivided attention,” read a passage from one letter. “She is able to gain consensus in challenging situations and bring people together. She genuinely cares about the community of students and advisors that make up her world and always goes the extra mile.”


Prior to arriving at SVSU in 2012 as a pre-health professions adviser, Lang served in similar roles at Ferris State University, Loyola University Chicago and Michigan State University. She also earned leadership roles both with the Central Association of Advisors for the Health Professions as well as its national component.

April 2, 2019

SVSU student to compete among nation's top college actors, follows in brother’s footsteps

Jared Kaufman is no stranger to the limelight, but landing the leading role in a Saginaw Valley State University production during his freshman year still managed to rattle his nerves leading up to opening night.           

“It was a bit terrifying for a while there,” the Bay City native said of the Wednesday, Feb. 20 showing of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” “I just wanted to get it right.”

It appears he did, at least by the high standards of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival representative in the audience that evening. Based on that first performance, Kaufman was invited to the festival's Region III conference January 2020 in Madison, Wisconsin. There, he will compete against the top college actors in the Midwest for the prestigious Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship.

He will be among familiar faces. One of his co-stars, Megan Mitchell, an art major from Saginaw, also will compete for the scholarship. And four crew members working the technical aspects of “Curious Incident” received individual certificates of merit from the festival representative. The honor means the students will be invited to participate in competitions and workshops at the conference along with the entire cast, which received a group certificate of merit.

“I'm so proud of the work and artistry of our students,” said Tommy Wedge, the SVSU assistant professor of theatre who directed” "Curious Incident.” “It's thrilling that we are being recognized by this national organization.”

Kaufman and Mitchell, who played multiple roles, initially will compete for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship's regional award, worth up to $500. If one of them earns that distinction, the recipient will be invited to the festival's April 2020 national conference in Washington, D.C. to compete for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship's top $5,000 scholarship.

Kaufman is familiar with the national conference. His brother, Jacob Kaufman, an SVSU alumnus who was a member of the technical crews in campus productions, earned a trip there in April 2017 after receiving the festival's first-ever Region III Arts Management Fellowship.

“Neither of us are in this for the awards - we love what we do - but he was proud of me,” Jared Kaufman said of his older brother, who received a bachelor's degree in theatre from SVSU last May.

The younger Kaufman's love for the stage began when he was a sixth grader at Handy Middle School in Bay City and blossomed during his time at Bay City Central High School. During those formative years, he participated both in technical aspects of stage production as well as acting.

During his first semester as a communication and theatre education major at SVSU, Kaufman saw the casting call for the February production of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time." He gravitated toward the lead character, Christopher, a 15-year-old boy who is accused of killing a neighborhood dog and quickly goes on a quest to find the true culprit.

Kaufman, 19, was attracted to the challenge of the role. While it is never stated in the dialogue, the play's narrative suggests Christopher falls within the spectrum of autism. The obscurity of the character's disorder meant Kaufman would need to perform with a measure of subtlety when portraying the autistic behaviors. In other words, Kaufman would need to walk a thin line to make sure he did not over-act the part.

“I wanted to give an honest performance for the audience, to give them an idea of what it is like to see someone within the spectrum,” he said.

Kaufman said he felt his nerves heightening as opening night approached, but the support of his fellow cast and crew members helped him perform with grace. When the curtains closed and the cast curtsied, the audience applauded.

“I was really pleased to see how they appreciated my performance,” he said. “And we received a lot of kind reviews from critics. I've never been in a show where I had a review written about me before this. That was very nice.”

Learning later that a Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival representative praised his performance was the cherry on top, he said. Kaufman said he understands recognition from such an organization can be an indicator of promising days ahead in the performing arts industry. He has witnessed that effect, as he recently helped his Kennedy Center-honored brother move to Connecticut to begin work as production manager for The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center.

Jared Kaufman, meanwhile, already is preparing for his next role as the son of one of the main characters in SVSU's April musical about female empowerment, “9 to 5.” So far, he feels more confident his nerves won't affect him as much during this production.

“It's not as big of a role as Christopher, which is OK,” he said. “I'm more than happy to take it more easy this time.”

March 29, 2019

Local guitarist, professor to perform recital at SVSU

Brad DeRoche, an active concert guitarist, will perform in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall at Saginaw Valley State University Thursday, April 4 at 7:30 p.m. 

DeRoche has mastered a wide variety of musical styles ranging from classical pieces to art from current composers. For Thursday's performance, DeRoche will showcase classical and modern works, ranging from the 17th century to the late 20th century from musicians such as Francisco Tárrega and Matthias Dammann.

DeRoche became a music educator after receiving his Doctor of Musical Arts degree focusing on classical guitar performance from the Eastman School of Music. He also completed degrees at Central Michigan University and Eastern Michigan University. DeRoche currently serves as an associate professor of music at Delta College, and teaches music courses at SVSU and CMU. 

Outside of academia, DeRoche started a successful online retail business, Strings By Mail, that specializes in selling guitar strings. In 2015, he wrote a music appreciation textbook, "An Introduction to Art Music."

The recital is open to the public and is free of charge. For more information and a detailed list of music department events and performances, please visit

March 29, 2019

FIRST Robotics state championship expected to bring 8,000 people

For the third consecutive year, Saginaw Valley State University will host one of the state’s largest competitions featuring future generations of STEM professionals.


About 5,500 high school students are expected to participate in the FIRST Robotics state championship Wednesday through Saturday, April 10-13, at SVSU’s Ryder Center. The competition is expected to attract more than 8,000 visitors to the Great Lakes Bay Region, including parents, professional mentors and spectators.


Adrianne Cole, director of STEM at SVSU and one of the competition’s coordinators, said FIRST Robotics fits well with the university’s mission to stimulate interest in the sciences among the young.


"Through STEM at SVSU programs, students explore real-world problems through project-based learning and interact with STEM professionals," she said.


FIRST Robotics competitions follow that educational model, she said.


"STEM education fosters tenacity in students so that they can successfully face adversity in the future," Cole said.


The FIRST Robotics event at SVSU will feature 160 teams from high schools across Michigan that qualified for the state championship after performing exceptionally during earlier regional competitions. On average, 40 students participate on each team. Along with handling the robotics-related work, students throughout each season of FIRST Robotics competition are involved in several activities relating to strengthening their respective teams including fundraising and marketing.


Teams that qualified for the state championship will arrive April 10 for inspections. The qualifying rounds of competition are scheduled April 11-12. The playoff rounds are scheduled April 13. The champions will be crowned that afternoon.


Practice sessions and robot repairs will take place in SVSU’s Fieldhouse while the competition will be held in O’Neill Arena of the Ryder Center.


In each round of competition, three teams compete, using autonomous and remote-controlled robots piloted by students, battling to earn points during a two-minute round. The type of game played changes during each FIRST Robotics competitive season, which largely spans the length of the high school academic calendar.


Each year, an overarching theme — often relating to a STEM industry — is reflected in the rules and mechanics of the games played at the competition. The theme for the 2019 FIRST Robotics competition is “Destination: Deep Space," presented by The Boeing Company. "Destination: Deep Space" features two alliances of “deep space travelers” competing to place polycarbonate hatch covers and cargo on “rockets and cargo ships” before returning to “a safe habitat.”


Major sponsors for the state championships include DTE Energy, Consumers Energy, The Dow Chemical Company and Ford Motor Company.


For more information on FIRST Robotics, visit


The following is a video demonstration of the 2019 FIRST Robotics game, "Destination: Deep Space."

March 28, 2019

SVSU exhibition organizers seek to shift blame away from sexual assault survivors

There are few crimes, Shawn Schutt points out, where the victim bears some burden of blame from the public. Survivors of sexual assault too often are blamed for the crime committed against them, he says.

“They will sometimes be asked, ‘How much did you have to drink,’ or, ‘What were you wearing when it happened,’” says Schutt, a prevention education coordinator at Underground Railroad Inc.

“But it isn’t the victim’s fault.”

Raising awareness and shifting that burden of blame away from sexual assault survivors is the objective behind a Saginaw Valley State University-hosted exhibition next week, titled “What Were You Wearing?”

The exhibition, which will display clothing worn by survivors of sexual assault when those crimes happened, will open with an event featuring Schutt as a guest speaker Monday, April 1, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in SVSU’s Alumni Lounge in Curtiss Hall. Later, the exhibition will be moved to the hallway outside SVSU’s Student Counseling Center in Curtiss Hall, room C112, from Tuesday to Friday, April 2-5, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day.

Staff and student interns in the Student Counseling Center are collaborating on the project with Underground Railroad Inc., a Saginaw-based nonprofit that services victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking and human slavery. Underground Railroad Inc. donated the clothing that will appear in the exhibition.

Among the items that will be displayed are children’s pajamas, casual attire and swimwear.

The idea was inspired by a similar exhibition at University of Arkansas.

“We really want to debunk the myth that what they were wearing is the reason a survivor was sexually assaulted,” says Ashley Corwin, a student intern at SVSU’s Student Counseling Center.

Corwin hopes attendees will better empathize with survivors when seeing the variety and common types of clothing worn during those crimes.

“The installation, we hope, will allow the viewers to see themselves reflected in the outfits,” says Corwin, who received a bachelor’s degree in social work from SVSU in 2018 and is pursuing a master’s degree in social work there now.

Schutt, who earned a bachelor’s degree in health science from SVSU in 2016, said he hopes “What Were You Wearing?” connects with attendees.

“By asking victims those types of questions — like ‘What were you wearing?’ or ‘How much did you have to drink?’ — we’re making it easier for perpetrators to get away with these crimes,” he says. “It’s important to raise awareness about this.”

The initiative also will serve as an educational tool for student interns in the SVSU Student Counseling Center, says Dana Carley Kaczynski, an assistant director with the office helping to supervise the effort.

“The exhibit gives the interns an opportunity to participate in an outreach project that involves collaborating with a community agency, and see it from beginning to end,” she says.

“Ultimately, the message of this particular project is something that hits home for us as counselors as we work with survivors of sexual assault here at our Student Counseling Center every day. It is very important to each of us to share this message with the campus community.”

The opening event and week-long exhibition are free and open to the public.

March 26, 2019

SVSU program empowers math teachers in region's middle schools

Education advocates say a Saginaw Valley State University-based leadership education initiative for teachers will bolster math studies and achievement in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Based at SVSU's Regional Mathematics and Science Center, the Great Lakes Bay Region Mathematics Specialist program provides leadership training to local middle school teachers — grades 5 to 8 — specializing in math. The initiative graduated its first class of 13 teachers in August 2018. The second class has already met and organizers are still accepting applicants.

The initiative is vital for bolstering student achievement in math across the region, advocates say. The goal is to prepare the program's trainees to return to their schools to support colleagues and administrators in math-related assessment, curriculum and instruction strategies.

The program works, said Amy Kolb, a member of the math specialist program group that graduated in August.

“In my 20 years of teaching, the math specialist program at SVSU is the most valuable professional development tool that I have ever participated in,” said Kolb, who teaches math at E.F. Rittmueller Middle School in Frankenmuth.

“I have developed a deeper understanding of mathematics, and I am better prepared to support my students - especially students who struggle with math. My experiences in the program have also taught me how to develop and lead professional development for other math teachers.”

A $65,637 grant from the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance is funding the training for the second group of participants. The cohort earlier this month met for the first of nine training sessions scheduled throughout the winter, spring and summer seasons.

Teachers interested in applying for the remaining eight sessions of the program can contact Tamara Barrientos, director of the SVSU Regional Mathematics and Science Center, at or (989) 964-4636. There is no cost to participate.

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