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May 13, 2019

SVSU Board grants degrees for more than 1,000 graduates

The Saginaw Valley State University Board of Control approved granting degrees for nearly 1,100 graduates during the Board’s regular meeting Friday, May 10. SVSU will host Commencement exercises at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday, May 11 in O’Neill Arena.

The May 2019 graduating class includes 921 students expected to complete bachelor’s degrees and 177 who will receive master’s or other advanced degrees. Consumers Energy president and CEO Patti Poppe will deliver the Commencement address at both ceremonies. Nearly 1,000 graduates are expected to don regalia and participate in their respective ceremony.

The Board also approved granting a posthumous degree to the late Joseph DuCharme. When he passed away in October 2018, he had nearly completed requirements for a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering; his family will accept the posthumous honorary degree.

In other action, the Board:

  • Passed a resolution to honor Chuan Lee, president of Ming Chuan University in Taiwan. Ming Chuan is a sister university to SVSU and has operated a Michigan campus at SVSU since 2012. Ming Chuan also became the first Asian university to be fully accredited in the United States in 2010.
  • Passed a resolution thanking President Caitlin Coulter and elected representatives of the SVSU Student Association for their service during the 2018-19 academic year.
  • Elected officers for the SVSU Board of Control to serve during the 2019-20 fiscal year. John Kunitzer will serve as chair, and Vicki Rupp will serve as vice chair. Bhushan Kulkarni was elected secretary, Dennis Durco was elected treasurer.
  • Granted emeritus status to Tom Kullgren, who retired in December 2018. Kullgren served as dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology for 19 years and then served 15 years as a professor of mechanical engineering.
  • Approved the appointment of Eric Punnett to the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum Board of Directors.
  • Reappointed the accounting firm Andrews Hooper Pavlik PLC to perform the university’s financial audit for 2018-19.

May 10, 2019

SVSU to host summer literacy camp

Saginaw Valley State University will continue its commitment to community-minded educational opportunities by hosting a literacy clinic to improve students' reading skills for three weeks this summer.

The clinics will be held Monday through Friday, June 24-28; Monday through Wednesday, July 1-3; and Monday through Thursday, July 8-11, with sessions occurring each of those days at 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.

These lessons will be held in The Literacy Center in SVSU's Gilbertson Hall, Room GN 117.

The entire tuition for the program is $300, including a $50 non-refundable deposit. Participants must complete a reading assessment before the clinic begins; sessions are available Monday, June 17 and Tuesday, June 18 at 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m. or 6 p.m.

To track their progress, all participants will also have a final observation provided by a tutor to measure progress.

Every tutor is a certified teacher with extensive classroom experience. They will be utilizing a research-based tutoring system to design individualized lessons for each student.

To enroll in the clinic, contact Laurie Ann Haney, assistant director of SVSU’s Literacy Center, at 989-964-4982 or

May 8, 2019

SVSU students selected for leadership development program

Organizers of a Saginaw Valley State University program aimed at inspiring the next generation of leaders recently selected 10 students eager to develop their leadership skills.


The Roberts Fellowship Program, established in 1999, inducted its 21st class of participants during a May 5 ceremony at SVSU. The ceremony marked the beginning of a year-long journey for the newest members that will involve learning from leaders of communities and industries from across the world while also engaging in service projects regionally. The program culminates in an overseas trip to Asia in May 2020.


A new group of students is selected each spring for the program. The latest members hail from communities across the state and study in a variety of academic programs offered at the university.


Members of the 21st class of Roberts Fellows include Mia Berlanga, a biology major from Midland; Tyler Boylen, a supply chain management major from Gladwin; Joshua Cianek, a political science major from Auburn; Imani Clark, a communication major from Saginaw; and Alina DeVoogd, a Spanish major from Algonac.


Other members are Vincent Frank, a music major from Greenville; Joseph Harvey, an accounting major from Sault Ste. Marie; Arianna Jones, a professional technical writing major from Kentwood; Tyler Sadilek, a biology major from Chesaning; and Justin Weller, a political science major from Bay City.


The program’s advisers are Julie Foss, SVSU associate professor of modern foreign languages, and Brian Thomas, SVSU director of global engagement and presidential liaison to Ming Chuan University.


The Roberts Fellowship Program is named in honor of Donna Roberts, a Midland resident who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to SVSU through her personal generosity and prior service on the Board of Control and the Board of Fellows. A respected attorney, business leader and philanthropist, Roberts retired from The Dow Chemical Company, where she was secretary and assistant general counsel. She is an honorary director of the SVSU Foundation Board.


For more information about the Roberts Fellowship Program, please visit

May 6, 2019

Strong work ethic drives SVSU Indy-style race team on eve of international competition

A year’s worth of hard work, dedication, late nights and early mornings will culminate with the literal and metaphoric rubber meeting the road this week for Saginaw Valley State University’s Cardinal Formula Racing team as it faces the world’s top collegiate talent in Indy-style racing.

And team members have high expectations when competition gets underway at the annual Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) Collegiate Design Series May 8-11 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan.

“We’re expecting a top-10 finish,” said Jared Greshow, a mechanical engineering major from Bay City who serves as Cardinal Formula Racing’s team captain this year. “That’s been the goal since we started this last year, and I’m feeling good about this car now that we’re ready to compete. It looks good and it feels good.”

A top-10 finish would be the program's third in its history. The 2002 team placed sixth and the 2005 crew finished fifth. Each year, a multidisciplinary team of SVSU students design and build an Indy-style race care to compete against colleges and universities from around the world.

For four consecutive years, SVSU’s team has recorded the highest finish of any exclusively undergraduate program. Brooks Byam, an SVSU professor of mechanical engineering and the team’s adviser since 1998, said this year’s team has possessed an advantage in its preparation.

“We had an inexperienced team last year, which led to an experienced team this year,” Byam said. “They know when to be an engineering team, and then when to be a race team.”

Among those experienced students was Greshow, who was involved in the 2017 and ’18 teams. The 2019 model will benefit from at least one important lesson learned from earlier builds, he said.

“We wanted to spend less time in the theoretical design phase and more quickly move to building the car,” Greshow said. “We wanted to be able to test it earlier. In this contest, being able to test your work can really help.”

Last year’s team scrambled in the week leading up to the FSAE competition after an engine failed. Greshow said a similar complication challenged this year's team, but because the vehicle was built sooner, the problem was resolved well before the event.

The team applied the first component to the car's frame in early July 2018 and began test-driving the vehicle in January. Both milestones arrived relatively early compared to previous years, he said.

“We’ve pulled a couple of all-nighters in the past few months to get to this point,” he said. “All the hard work is worth it.”

This year's FSAE field features 119 teams from countries across the world including Austria, Brazil, Germany, Poland and Venezuela. The level of participation from outside the U.S. has increased the level of the competition's talent immensely in recent years, Byam said.

Still, Cardinal Formula Racing consistently performs well. Twice SVSU has built the fastest college race car in the world, winning the event’s acceleration category in 2008 and 2014. The team placed No. 24 overall out of 120 competitors last year.

For more information on SVSU's Cardinal Formula Racing program, visit

For more information about the FSAE Collegiate Design Series competition, visit

May 2, 2019

Consumers Energy CEO to deliver SVSU Commencement address

Saginaw Valley State University graduates will hear from Patti Poppe, president and CEO of Consumers Energy, during Commencement exercises Friday, May 10 and Saturday, May 11.

Through their hard work and commitment, nearly 1,100 students are expected to complete degree requirements, and 992 individuals have indicated they plan to don regalia and participate in their respective ceremony. SVSU has 921 students expected to complete bachelor’s degrees and 177 who will receive master’s or other advanced degrees.

Students graduating in the colleges of Business & Management and Health and Human Services will participate in the Friday ceremony at 7:30 p.m. Students graduating in the colleges of Arts & Behavioral Sciences, Education, and Science, Engineering and Technology will take part in the Saturday ceremony at 11 a.m. Both ceremonies are held in O’Neill Arena of the Ryder Center.

As is tradition, SVSU President Don Bachand will congratulate each graduate as they cross the stage.

Poppe is president and chief executive officer of Jackson, Michigan-based CMS Energy and its principal subsidiary, Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest utility and the nation’s fourth largest combination utility. Consumers Energy provides electricity and natural gas to 6.7 million of Michigan’s 10 million lower peninsula residents. She was named to this position in July 2016.

Poppe held a variety of automotive management positions and served as power plant director at Detroit, Michigan-based DTE Energy before returning to her hometown of Jackson to join Consumers Energy in 2011.

Poppe earned a master’s degree in management from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. She also completed a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in industrial engineering from Purdue University.

As president and chief executive officer, Poppe has focused on the company's triple bottom line commitment to people, the planet and Michigan's prosperity.

The Consumers Energy Foundation supported the Consumers Energy Talent Program for SVSU engineering students, as well as high school students who enrolled in SVSU’s Engineering Careers and Concepts course. Senior electrical or mechanical engineering students at SVSU applied for funding from Consumers Energy for senior design capstone projects focused on alternative energy. To qualify, students were required to propose a novel idea, plan the time line, budget for supplies and conduct research and development activities accordingly for a two-semester project.

For those unable to attend Commencement exercises, SVSU will provide a live video stream of each ceremony. The link and additional information can be found online at

May 2, 2019

Calendar established for SVSU's 'Battle' fundraiser; nonprofits encouraged to apply now

Saginaw Valley State University students are determined to continue to support charitable causes in Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region. They invite nonprofit leaders in the community to submit applications by May 24 to become the beneficiary of SVSU's new-look Battle of the Valley campaign, which has raised more than a half-million dollars for organizations since 2003.

The deadline was established by SVSU's student government — known as Student Association — along with other important dates for the week-long fundraiser now scheduled to take place this fall from Oct. 6-11.

The calendar was established in the wake of a makeover for the yearly tradition that previously involved a fundraising competition between the students of SVSU and Grand Valley State University. GVSU students withdrew from their role in March.

SVSU students' passion for philanthropy inspired Student Association leaders to quickly move to continue the fundraiser, now organized exclusively by SVSU and re-branded as Battle of the Valley. Student Association recently appointed Madeline Lowry, a rehabilitation medicine major pursuing studies in occupational therapy at SVSU, to serve as the chairperson for Battle of the Valley.

The Lake Orion native said she treasures the annual fundraiser for the way in which it unifies students, faculty, staff and friends of SVSU who enthusiastically support local causes.

“This year, we have the potential to reinvent ‘The Battle’ and make it whatever we want it to be,” Lowry said. “My vision for 2019 is to not only continue to fundraise money like we have in the past, but to also help our community understand why we ‘battle’ and learn about the benefactor that is chosen.”

Student Association will reveal this year’s charity partner in early June.

SVSU students raised $36,210 or the Barb Smith Suicide Resource and Response Network during the Battle of the Valleys fundraising competition in October 2018. Between SVSU and GVSU, the universities raised a combined total of $652,385 since Battle of the Valleys started in 16 years ago. SVSU contributed $425,657 — or 65 percent — of that total.

SVSU Student Association student leaders anticipate the efficient reorganization of the annual tradition means the fundraising will not skip a beat in terms of amount collected this year. In fact, the 2019 fundraiser will take place during its traditional timeframe: the week leading up to the football game between SVSU and GVSU.

Without GVSU's participation, though, SVSU will change one element of the fundraiser's traditional calendar of events. Rather than revealing the total funds collected during halftime of the GVSU game played in Allendale this year, SVSU students instead will shift that ceremony to halftime of the first home football contest after the fundraising week. The ceremonial check will be presented during halftime of the SVSU game vs. Ashland University Saturday, Nov. 2 at Wickes Memorial Stadium.

Nonprofits interested in submitting applications to become the 2019 charity partner should go online to A link to the online application is available near the bottom of the webpage.

April 30, 2019

SVSU students honored for outstanding tutoring of peers

Four Saginaw Valley State University students who support their classmates have received the annual Mayme Hamilton Award in Excellence in Tutoring by Students.

The award was established by the family of the late Mayme Hamilton to recognize the efforts of outstanding SVSU student tutors, who are selected by judges from the three on-campus tutoring centers. The applicants submitted an essay that explains the characteristics of a good undergraduate tutor, and how they personally demonstrate those attributes.

The four students who received the award are:

  • Brendon Cousino, a mechanical engineer major from Ottawa Lake, tutors at SVSU's Math and Physics Resource Center
  • Carlee Giordano, a social work major from Alpena, tutors at SVSU's Center for Academic Achievement
  • Katelyn Hejza, a marketing major from Fraser, tutors for the accounting and economics departments
  • Emma Kirsch, an elementary education major from Clinton Township, is a tutor at SVSU's Writing Center

Helen Raica-Klotz, director of SVSU's Writing Center, said she is thankful for these awards, because they support the tutors who do so much for students across campus.

“We are grateful to the family of Mayme Hamilton for honoring these student tutors, who work to support other students' abilities to succeed at our university,” Raica-Klotz said.

Hamilton became a teacher in Canada when she was 18 years old. After moving Michigan in 1929, she put her career on hold to raise her 10 children. Still wanting to educate others, she used her teaching education to begin tutoring her children, neighbors, nieces and nephews. Soon after, she began to voluntarily tutor at SVSU as well.

The students were presented with their awards during a luncheon on Friday, April 19 in SVSU's Emeriti Room.

April 25, 2019

SVSU alumna, Dow chief sustainability officer to address students

Saginaw Valley State University students will have an opportunity to hear from a graduate who has risen to a leadership position for one of the nation’s leading companies. Mary Draves, vice president and chief sustainability officer for Dow, will serve as a guest speaker during SVSU’s Science and Engineering Symposium.

The symposium will take place Friday, April 26, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in SVSU's Pioneer Hall. Draves will speak from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Draves was named a 2018 distinguished alumna at SVSU. She completed a bachelor's degree in biology in 1994, and a master's in technological processes in 2001, both from SVSU. She has worked at Dow for 25 years, most of that time spent in the Midland site in a variety of leadership roles.

Draves began her time at Dow in the Toxicology and Environmental Health Research Lab, and she also spent some time in the Environmental, Health and Safety group.

The SVSU Science and Engineering Symposium is aimed at recognizing student achievement, inspiring innovation and promoting collaboration between SVSU students and faculty. Both student and faculty research will be presented.

The student work can be of several types, including student research and design projects, special course work projects, or other original work.

Examples of student research and design projects include independent study research projects, engineering senior design projects and extracurricular projects. Special course work projects can include laboratory independent projects, extensive research reports and literature reviews assigned to an entire class.

April 25, 2019

SVSU student earns national title in collegiate forensics competition

Participating in only his third competition ever on the college forensics circuit, a Saginaw Valley State University senior this week became a national champion.


Dan Visnovsky, a political science major from Sparta and a member of SVSU's forensics team, qualified to compete against the best U.S. college talent at the National Forensic Association Tournament April 18-22 in Santa Ana, California. A panel of judges at the public speaking-based competition crowned him the first-place award recipient in the novice category of extemporaneous speaking, which featured students who had participated in fewer than six college forensics competitions.


In total, 180 college students competed in the extemporaneous speaking category, where the finalists participated in four rounds of play.


Success requires intense study and preparation. In each round, participants are asked to respond to a question related to world politics, allowed 30 minutes to research and develop an answer, and then must deliver their statement in seven minutes to a panel of three judges – all in front of a crowd of their peers.


Visnovsky had competed in only two forensics tournaments before winning the national title in his third appearance.


“I was a little nervous,” he said. “I had very little concept of how well I would do. They were challenging questions.”


Visnovsky said his interest in reading about world politics aided in his performance.


“Although at this tournament, the questions were more focused on international economics, and I'm more familiar with foreign policy,” he said.


For the fourth and final round, Visnovsky was asked to present a strategy for defeating a political party in Finland. Ryan Rigda, an SVSU lecturer of communications and an assistant director for the university's forensics team, was in the audience when Visnovsky delivered the winning speech.


“It just amazed me how he was able to speak about the subject so logically and coherently,” Rigda said. “It was like he was from Finland.”


Visnovsky and Jessica Carpenter, a communication major from Saginaw, were the first students ever to represent SVSU at the national tournament level.


“It was a blast,” Visnovsky said of the experience at the five-day tourney. “I was not expecting that I would win.”


As a senior about to graduate from SVSU next month, it marked Visnovsky’s final tournament, but SVSU’s forensics program is building for the future. It was founded in 2000 by Amy Pierce, an SVSU associate professor of communication who remains the team's coach.


Rigda said he hopes the team's appearance in the nationals inspires more student participation for next academic year. Rigda's sister, Mikayla Rigda – who competed at the nationals this week as a Delta College student – plans to enroll at SVSU in the fall and join her brother's team. And five members from this year's team are expected to return.


After Visnovsky graduates in May graduation, he said he will participate in a fellowship program at a state policy organization in Austin, Texas. He hopes one day to attend graduate school in pursuit of a career working for political nonprofit organizations.

April 25, 2019

Sociological study of Flint water crisis fallout part of SVSU student research symposium

A Saginaw Valley State University student turned her passion for understanding the human effects of the Flint water crisis into a nationally-presented research project that will be among about 80 research initiatives presented at SVSU this week.

The annual Undergraduate Research Project Student Symposium is scheduled Friday, April 26, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in SVSU’s Gilbertson Hall. The public is invited to attend the event, which will feature students explaining research performed in a variety of academic fields.

Among those presenters will be Alexandria Miller, a sociology major from Saginaw, whose Flint water crisis-related research began as part of a pilot study in an independent studies course at SVSU. Since then, her work has developed into part of a course curriculum and was featured at a national conference.

“It's probably one of the most important things I've done in my undergraduate career,” Miller said of the research opportunity. “There's the things you hear about that are going to make you successful after graduation – like participating in an internship or co-op – and I think service learning is right up there, as well.”

To start the research, Miller surveyed 30 Flint residents in 20-minute, face-to-face interviews. She sought to better understand how the water crisis impacted the community sociologically.

“We're looking at how they have developed methods of resilience in the wake of the Flint water crisis, and how their relationship to water itself has changed,” Miller said.

Her results attracted the interest of individuals beyond Michigan. She was invited to present her early findings as part of a poster presentation at the Society for Applied Anthropology in Portland, Oregon on March 22.

Now other SVSU students are benefiting from the research project.

Miller's faculty adviser, Rosina Hassoun, SVSU associate professor of sociology, incorporated the research project into her Sociology of Medicine course at SVSU. After receiving a grant from the SVSU Foundation to expand the number of people surveyed in Flint, students in the class are adding to the data Miller began collecting.

With the help of community partners in Flint, Hassoun's students recently conducted 38 new face-to-face interviews with Flint residents to expand the survey findings. Hassoun said Miller plans to conduct another 30 surveys on her own while her classmates will conduct another 32 surveys over the course of the spring.

Hassoun said the data will paint a portrait – using both quantitative and qualitative data – showing how Flint residents are coping in the aftermath of the water crisis. Hassoun said she plans to publish the findings from the research in academic journals.

At the Undergraduate Research Project Student Symposium, Miller plans to describe the research's methodology and findings. Her classmates will present a panel presentation on their experience with the study and with service learning in the classroom.

Other research projects scheduled to be presented at the symposium include studies on topics including the public's perception of genetic testing, the effect of teacher salary on student outcomes, mental health issues in Japan, and the demographics of opioid use in Saginaw County, among others.

For more information about SVSU's Undergraduate Research Program, go to

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