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December 18, 2018

SVSU students to spend winter break learning through service

Saginaw Valley State University students often defy stereotypes. At the end of the fall semester, may college students return home to sleep in, binge watch Netflix and generally unwind. But for Alina Devoogd, Chantel Poquette and nearly 100 SVSU students, they are dedicating their winter break from school to volunteer at locations across the country, helping a number of organizations in need.

Alternative Breaks is a student-led program organized through SVSU's Student Life Center. The program offers college students an "alternative" to the traditional university break to learn about different social issues across the U.S.

Poquette departed for Lexington, Kentucky on Sunday, Dec. 16 to a crisis center called The Nest. The Nest offers a safe place for education, healing, counseling, and support to women, children and families in crisis. The social work major from Holly says she is passionate about her topic because it relates to her personal life.

“I want to be able to give back to people,” she said. “I am going into a career that focuses on serving others and this trip not only helps me achieve my own goals but to help others.”

Devoogd, a political science and Spanish double major from Algonac, and her Alternative Breaks team are focused on the topic of incarcerated youth. The SVSU students traveled to Colombia, South Carolina to work with youth in the juvenile justice system. There, they are engaging with the youth in positive ways, as well as celebrate the holidays.

“I chose to do an alternative break trip because my life calling is to use my privileges to help someone who needs a hand,” she said. “Sometimes we all need someone to believe in us and help us.”

Alternative Break destinations and topics for SVSU students this December include:

  • Twelve students are volunteering at The Nest Center for Women, Children and Families in Lexington, Kentucky.
  • Twelve students traveled to Memphis to work alongside Serve 901 to focus on community development.
  • Eleven students headed to Asheville, North Carolina to work with Habitat for Humanity.
  • Three students are dedicating their time to health and wellness of the LGBTQ+ community at the Lifelong in Seattle.
  • Rural cultural sensitivity and animal rescue is the main focus for 12 students working at Visit Appalachia LLC in Harlan, Kentucky.
  • In Atlanta, 12 students will aid in resettling refugees into their communities with the International Rescue Committee.
  • Poverty and structural racism is what 12 students will focus on while in Washington, D.C. working at the Steinbruck Center.
  • Champion Athletes of the Ozarks is the organization 12 students are working with to help Individuals with special needs and disabilities in Springfield, Missouri.
  • Twelve students traveled to the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice in Columbia, South Carolina to work with the incarcerated youth.

After returning from their trips, many of the SVSU students engage in volunteer service for a nonprofit organization in the Great Lakes Bay Region or their home communities devoted to a cause similar to what they experienced on their Alternative Break.

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

December 17, 2018

SVSU Board approves faculty sabbaticals, congratulates Student Association

The Saginaw Valley State University Board of Control approved 11 faculty sabbaticals during the Board’s regular meeting Friday, Dec. 14.

Those 11 faculty members will pursue a variety of research projects in their respective disciplines during the 2019-20 academic year. Those who were approved for sabbaticals were:

  • Elson Boles, sociology
  • Veronika Drake, English
  • Mark Giesler, social work
  • Susan Hillman, teacher education
  • Garry Johns, mathematical sciences
  • Gail Kantak, biology
  • Julie Keil, political science
  • Kim Lacey, English
  • Andrew Miller, geography
  • Conor Shaw Draves, English
  • Marilyn Skrocki, health sciences

The Board also congratulated the SVSU Student Association for raising more than $36,000 for the Barb Smith Suicide Resource and Response Network during the 2018 Battle of Valleys fundraising competition. SVSU students have raised more than $425,000 over the past 15 years to support a variety of community causes.

In other action, the Board:

  • Passed a resolution congratulating the men’s soccer team, which qualified for the NCAA Division II national tournament.
  • Passed a resolution congratulating the women’s soccer team, which qualified for the NCAA Division II national tournament.
  • Passed a resolution congratulating the men’s cross country team, which qualified for the NCAA Division II national championships, where they placed 6th overall, and head coach Rod Cowan, who was named the Midwest Region Coach of the Year.
  • Passed a resolution to grant undergraduate and graduate degrees.
  • Approved confirmation of board members for previously authorized public school academies.
  • Approved 2.5 percent raises for the 2019 calendar year for executive staff. President Bachand’s salary was set at 293,400; Deb Huntley, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, will receive a salary of $234,600; and James G. Muladore, Executive Vice President for Administration and Business Affairs, will be paid $224,000.

December 13, 2018

SVSU forensics students impress judges; 9 have qualified for national tournament

The Saginaw Valley State University forensic team continued to collect the rewards of its determined preparation, winning several honors at the Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League State Tournament at Eastern Michigan University Saturday, Dec. 8.

SVSU students claimed six of the 11 top novice awards, given to the student who places highest in an event and who has participated in fewer than six competitions. The SVSU team is largely comprised of novice competitors.

Three students qualified for the National Forensics Association competition in April 2019 by virtue of their impressive public speaking at the tournament:

  • Aubree Harrell of Essexville and Josh Lloyd of Bay City, both communication and theatre majors, earned top novice as well as second place for their duo interpretation performance.
  • Tiler Jewell, a communication and creative writing major from Midland, earned third place in persuasion.

Students on the SVSU forensics team say they have grown through the many hours of study and rehearsing, and from the team camaraderie.

“Coming from a theatrical background, I assumed I knew all that I needed to know about public speaking, and boy was I wrong!” Lloyd said. “Forensics has helped to broaden my horizons in public speaking, as well as creative thinking.”

Jewell said her involvement has helped her academically and socially.

“Forensics has given me a place to belong at SVSU when I was unsure of myself,” she said. “I'm proud of how far I’ve come and I'm even prouder of our amazing team.”

Six SVSU students qualified for nationals at previous tournaments. They are:

  • Kennedy Bachman, a communication major from Grand Blanc
  • Monae Hawthorne, a criminal justice major from Detroit
  • Darious Henry, a communication major from Chesterfield Township
  • Gina Kearly,  a communication major from Midland
  • Ashley Murdock, a communication major from Oxford
  • Courtney Perrou, a communication major from Pinconning 

Other SVSU students to place at the Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League State Tournament include:

  • Samantha White, a communication major from North Branch, who earned second place in rhetorical criticism, along with earning top novice award in that event.
  • Henry, who earned third place in dramatic interpretation and fourth place in persuasion. He also earned top novice awards in both events.
  • Kearly, who earned third place in the POI event.
  • Hawthorne, who earned fourth place in poetry and top novice award in that category.
  • Perrou, who earned fourth place in prose as well as top novice award in that category.

SVSU finished third overall among the seven Michigan colleges and universities who competed at the event.  

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

“Seeing students apply what they have learned in a competitive, academic environment is rewarding to me as a professor of communication,” Pierce said. “These tournaments provide an opportunity for academic debate and foster an environment of inclusivity. SVSU students contribute to this dialogue and serve as ambassadors for our university.”

The next forensics tournament for SVSU is MISL Novice States, held for students competing in their first six tournaments. That will be hosted by Northwood University Saturday, Feb. 16.

December 12, 2018

SVSU students’ preparation pays off, team qualifies for moot court national tournament

Since Saginaw Valley State University's moot court program was established in 2010, SVSU never has failed to qualify competitors for the nation's most elite tournament.

Thanks to countless hours of preparation preparing for and rehearsing oral arguments, SVSU students have earned another impressive showing, and that streak will continue for a ninth consecutive year in 2019.

SVSU students Lindsey Mead and Justin Weller will advance as a team to the American Moot Court Association national tournament Jan. 12-13 at Florida A&M College of Law in Orlando. Mead will make her second consecutive appearance in the annual contest, which features 120 of the nation's best undergraduate moot court competitors.

Acting as teams of two attorneys, students competing in moot court tournament are tasked with arguing two hypothetical legal cases based on real-life courtroom battles. The competition is judged based on the clarity of the students' argument, their public speaking skills, their ability to answer questions, and how well they know the law and the case.

The SVSU moot court program has excelled in those categories since their inception. Julie Keil, SVSU associate professor of political science, has served as the team’s adviser for all nine years; today she is joined by Amy Hendrickson, SVSU associate professor of law

SVSU students have competed well over the years, and SVSU consistently has been ranked among the nation’s elite programs. Its current ranking by the American Moot Court Association at No. 19 is its highest yet, ahead of larger institutions such as Texas A&M University (ranked no. 21) and University of Louisville (No. 23). Last year, SVSU ranked No. 24 out of the more than 425 higher education institutions that fielded teams for the American Moot Court Association.

Mead, an English major from Saginaw, and Weller, a political science major from Bay City, earned their invitation to the 2019 national tournament based on the strength of their performance at a regional American Moot Court Association tournament hosted by SVSU in November. The pair advanced to the semifinal round, finishing third in a competition featuring 46 teams from 11 colleges and universities.

Three other SVSU teams finished among the top 16 teams at the SVSU-hosted tournament. Those teams featured the duos of Justine Brabaw, a political science major from Breckenridge, and Erik Byron, a political science major from Birch Run; Joshua Cianek, a political science major from Auburn, and Lauren Legner, a psychology major from Bay City; and Ted Meckley, a political science major from Saginaw, and Porche Spiller, a sociology major from Saginaw.

December 11, 2018

SVSU-sponsored letter-writing campaign to Gov.-elect Whitmer on display through Dec. 19

A Saginaw Valley State University-based program that prompted K-12 students to write postcards to the future governor of Michigan – before the election – resulted in a response that far exceeded organizers’ expectations. The messages received revealed the civic-minded hopes of today's youth, as well as their deep anxieties.

The SVSU Writing Center's “Write Your Future Michigan Governor” postcard campaign –  performed in collaboration with the Great Lakes Bay Region YWCA – resulted in more than 1,500 postcard messages.

“We had anticipated receiving a few hundred postcards at the end of this campaign, said Helen Raica-Klotz, director of the SVSU Writing Center. “We were surprised – and very happy – with the number of postcards we did receive.”

The idea behind the civic engagement initiative was simple. The campus Writing Center, and its affiliated Bay Community Writing Center and Saginaw Community Writing Center, distributed blank postcards across the state. Michigan residents were invited to write a message on the postcards for the future governor in October, before voters elected Gretchen Whitmer. Participants then returned the postcards to the SVSU Writing Center. The correspondence will be mailed to Whitmer after she is sworn into office in January.

While the opportunity was open to all Michigan residents, the overwhelming bulk of messages were authored by K-12 students, Raica-Klotz said. Fifty-one teachers from 18 school districts in the Great Lakes Bay Region requested postcards for their pupils.

Those students responded with messages revealing their hopes, dreams and concerns. Regardless of the author's age, the subject matter ranged from humorous to deadly serious. Bullying, the Flint water crisis, gender equality, protecting the environment, homelessness, and school shootings were among the most common topics addressed.

“Every classroom should have all bulletproof windows,” read one message in the scribbled penmanship of a student likely in elementary school. “They should have a little room in the classroom the (sic) way all of the kids can go into if you need to and the little room must have no windows.”

Other messages likely from students early in the K-12 system struck more lighthearted tones. One student complimented the governor on the mitten-like shape of Michigan. Another requested legalizing owls as pets.

Hundreds of the postcards were written by teenagers. Kelli Fitzpatrick, a teacher at Beaverton Junior/Senior High School, said 17 students in her 12th grade English class participated.

“When I pitched the idea to them, I assumed they would pick topics that directly impacted them, but most of them picked other people's hardships or issues affecting the state,” Fitzpatrick said. “I was inspired by it and not quite prepared for it. They have a lot of energy they want to direct at society.”

While waiting until it's time to send the correspondence to Lansing, Raica-Klotz has lined the entire length of several walls within SVSU's Writing Center, located in Zahnow Library, with the 1,500-plus postcards. The sight provides a sense of scale for the impressive size of the response, she said.

“This campaign was important because it gave voice to many of our Michigan residents who are still elementary, middle, or high school students and are not able to vote – but they will one day soon,” Raica-Klotz said.

“I hope, by writing this postcard, each student understood that they can participate in the government by communicating their ideas through writing.”

December 11, 2018

SVSU students gain valuable corporate experience through Botz Liberal Arts Fellowship

Four Saginaw Valley State University students have been selected for a fellowship that will provide them with opportunities to apply their liberal arts education in a business setting.


SVSU annually selects several students in the College of Arts & Behavioral Sciences for the Botz Liberal Arts Fellowship, which provides support for the participants to gain a challenging internship in a business setting. The program connects regional employers with selected junior and senior liberal arts students for a semester-long, fellowship-funded internship. Through events, workshops and scholarship support, the initiative introduces liberal arts students to opportunities in business.


This year's class was selected due to their academic success, along with their current interest and potential for success and leadership in a business environment. The students will interview with employers during the 2019 winter semester to find an appropriate internship experience.


The students selected as Botz Fellows for the 2018-19 academic year are:


                     Vincent Frank, a music major from Greenville

                     Melanie Frasca, a theatre and English double major from Waterford

                     Shelby Hagle, a psychology major from Port Austin

                     Shelby Townsend, a graphic design major from Davison



To qualify, students must have completed at least 45 credit hours with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 and pass a rigorous selection process. The students are mentored by Joni Boye-Beaman, professor of sociology; Ranjana Dutta, professor of psychology; and Bill Stec, interim director of Career Services.


The fellowship was established in 2013 by SVSU alumna Janet Botz. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in both sociology and English in 1974. While a student at SVSU, she was a reporter and later editor of The Valley Vanguard, the university's student-run newspaper. Botz enjoyed a 30-year career with the Dow Corning Corporation, retiring as  chief communications officer. She then served as vice president of Public Affairs and Communications at the University of Notre Dame.


Currently, Botz serves on the university's Foundation Board of Directors and is a past member of the Alumni Board and the Board of Fellows. For her accomplishments, she received the university's Distinguished Alumni Award in 1998.

December 6, 2018

At SVSU, high school students to wrap gifts collected for Bay City, Midland, Saginaw shelters

Local high school students involved in Saginaw Valley State University’s Great Lakes Bay Regional Youth Leadership Institute are showing their support for the community by collecting gifts for three regional nonprofits that provide shelter for those in need of help.

The project will conclude Friday, Dec. 7, when representatives from the nonprofits pick up the gifts from SVSU.

For several weeks, students have been collecting gifts from their local high schools and communities. They plan to donate those gifts to Bay Area Women’s Shelter in Bay City, Shelterhouse in Midland, and Underground Railroad in Saginaw.

“One of the pillars of the Great Lakes Bay Regional Youth Leadership Institute is teaching the students to be leaders in the community and giving back to families that are less fortunate,” said Mamie T. Thorns, SVSU’s special assistant to the president for Diversity Programs and the leadership institute’s longtime coordinator.

The Great Lakes Bay Regional Youth Leadership Institute welcomed its new class of participants — featuring more than 80 students from 32 high schools across the region — earlier this year. The institute is a year-long program involving several activities promoting team and leadership-building skills.

The Great Lakes Bay Regional Youth Leadership Institute is overseen by SVSU’s Office of Diversity Programs.

For more information about this year’s gift collection drive, call SVSU's Office of Diversity Programs at (989) 964-4068.

December 6, 2018

Valerie Jarrett, former senior adviser to President Obama, to keynote regional MLK event at SVSU

Saginaw Valley State University will welcome Valerie Jarrett, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, to deliver the keynote address during the 10th annual Great Lakes Bay Regional Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at SVSU.

Jarrett will deliver her address Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 7 p.m. in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. The event is free and open to the public.

Jarrett served as Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement from 2009-2017. She first entered the White House with a diverse and unique background, having served in the private and public sector. Jarrett received her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in 1978 and her law degree from the University of Michigan in 1981. She then went on to serve as the chief executive officer of The Habitat Company in Chicago, chairman of the Chicago Transit Board, commissioner of Planning and Development, and deputy chief of staff for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Throughout her time at the White House, Jarrett worked tirelessly to assemble elected officials, business and community leaders, and diverse groups of advocates behind efforts to strengthen and improve the lives of the American people.

Jarrett helped President Obama develop a broad coalition of partners to execute a vigorous agenda that campaigned to end sexual assault and to empower working families and promote early childhood education. She currently serves as a distinguished senior fellow at the University of Chicago Law School.

Jarrett joins a prestigious list of keynote speakers featured during the Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Celebration at SVSU. Most recently, Karen Carter, the chief inclusion officer for The Dow Chemical Company, spoke in 2018. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was the 2017 keynote speaker.

In addition to Jarrett's keynote address, the program will include the presentation of regional scholarship awards by the Bay Area, Midland Area and Saginaw community foundations to high school seniors who have embodied Martin Luther King's ideals.

Officials also will announce the winners of the Drum Major Award at the event, which recognizes people whose community involvement in the Great Lakes Bay Region serves to advance King's vision.

The event is sponsored in part by the Bay Area, Midland Area and Saginaw community foundations; Dow; Garber Automotive; Nexteer Automotive; UAW Region 1-D; local chapters of the NAACP; Delta College; SVSU and many others. A full list of sponsors is available online at

Admission to the event is free of charge, but tickets are required. Tickets are available online at

For more information about the event, please contact SVSU's Office of Diversity Programs at (989) 964-4068.

November 29, 2018

Braun Fellowship to boost SVSU faculty research into economics, environment

Two Saginaw Valley State University professors will expand their research through support received from SVSU’s Braun Fellowship. One research project will examine the efficiency of free market societies, while another will map invasive species at a national wildlife refuge.

Kaustav Misra, associate professor of economics, and Rhett Mohler, associate professor of geography, each will receive research support grants totaling up to $37,500 over the next three years to further their scholarly and professional activities. Funds may be used for research expenses, equipment, travel and/or other related support.

SVSU empowers students through research opportunities, and both projects will involve SVSU students serving as research assistants.

Misra's research will test existing studies and theories concluding that free market societies are more efficient than their non-free market counterparts. His project will involve researching the markets in India and Vietnam.

“The results will help institutional theorists and policy makers who are associated with policy designs, and increase the knowledge base of the field,” Misra said.                                                                             

Misra received his Ph.D. in applied economics from Mississippi State University in 2010. He joined the SVSU faculty in 2011 and now serves as the chair of both SVSU's Department of Economics; the Research and Publications Committee; and the Vitito Global Leadership Institute, a student leadership development program for students in SVSU's Scott L. Carmona College of Business & Management. His previous economics-based research has appeared in over 20 peer-reviewed journals.

Mohler's research will involve mapping two invasive plants – buckthorn and common reed – in the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, south of Saginaw. Using drone technology, he plans to continue monitoring the plants' presence as treatment is applied in the coming years. The results, he said, will inform wildlife management communities about the treatment's effectiveness.

“Research like this helps me to teach informed classes by being on the leading edge of what is being done in my research field,” Mohler said.

Mohler earned his Ph.D. in geography from Kansas State University in 2011 and joined the SVSU faculty the following year. His earlier research – dealing in part with remote sensing and geospatial analysis – has been published in peer-reviewed journals 12 times over the years.

Mohler's studies have connected him with a number of environmental groups in the region. He is a member of both the Friends of the Bay City State Recreation Area as well as the Saginaw Bay Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area.

Both Misra and Mohler plan to present their findings through articles submitted in peer-reviewed academic journals as well as presentations at conferences across the globe.

Both projects will benefit communities - both local and global - all while providing hands-on experience for the student research assistants helping the educators analyze data and manage drone technology.

Established in 2005, the Braun Fellowship program was created through a $1.5 million endowment from the Saginaw-based Harvey Randall Wickes Foundation. Administered by the Saginaw Community Foundation, the program's purpose is to recognize the exceptional accomplishments and potential of select SVSU faculty and staff. It is named in honor of Ruth and Ted Braun of Saginaw.

November 29, 2018

SVSU students shine at Model United Nations Conference

Saginaw Valley State University students’ enthusiasm for international understanding helped them stand out from their collegiate peers during the eleventh American Model United Nations Conference in Chicago November 17-20.

The Saginaw Valley Model United Nations club captured two team honors and one individual award.

Model United Nations is an organization for students with an active interest in international affairs, policy and diplomacy. Through participation in simulations and regional/national conferences members gain valuable skills in research, communication, and conflict resolution.

The SVSU club won as a group for the quality of writing on its pre-conference papers relating to the nations of Ghana and Kazakhstan.

As an individual, Josh Cianek, a political science major from Auburn, won an award for exceptional justice for his role on the International Court of Justice. He also was elected by his peers to act as the president of the International Court of Justice.

In Model United Nations, justices are responsible for reading the briefs and hearing arguments on each of the three assigned cases. Justices will then deliberate to analyze and discuss the cases and arguments in order to determine the appropriate applications of international law in each case. Justices are also responsible for writing opinions for each case.

Stewart French, SVSU associate professor of political science and team adviser, said the Saginaw Valley U.N. club has cumulatively won over 40 awards in 11 years at national and international conferences.

At the most recent conference, SVSU students competed against their peers from schools including the University of Chicago, University of Minnesota, University of Notre Dame and University of Wisconsin, among others.

The SVSU team will travel to Toronto in February to compete at the North American Model United Nations Conference.

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