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March 13, 2019

SVSU international students plan evening of dance, music, celebration of cultures

Audiences can expect to behold a colorful lineup of songs, dancing, fashion and theatrical performances — representing more than a dozen cultures — during Saginaw Valley State University’s 18th annual Intercultural Night.


Members of SVSU’s International Student Club will host the event — free and open to the public — Friday, March 15, at 7 p.m. in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. 


About 50 international students plan to participate on stage that evening. They will represent cultures and nations such as Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, China, El Salvador, India, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Palestine, Poland, South Korea and Saudi Arabia. Members of SVSU’s African Student Union also will perform.


Each group will present entertainment and clothing native to their culture through traditional song and dance, instrumental performances, skits and a fashion show. 


"We consider learning about other cultures as an important part of a college education,” said Pat Shelley, an international student advisor at SVSU who advises the International Student Club. “Even if students don’t get a chance to study abroad, they still get an opportunity to interact with different cultures here on campus.”

March 13, 2019

SVSU event to connect teens with STEM professionals

An inspired idea by local teenagers to encourage their peers to pursue science careers will take shape at Saginaw Valley State University later this week.

SVSU will host a Teen Science Café on Thursday, March 14, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., in rooms GS 115 and GS 117 of Gilbertson Hall. The event is free and open to all middle and high school students.

Teen Science Café events aim to empower students by connecting them with STEM professionals eager to discuss their respective industries. The professionals planning to appear at SVSU's event will represent careers such as nursing, mechanical engineering, cybersecurity and agriculture, organizers say.

The SVSU-hosted Teen Science Café in part was the creation of local high schools students involved in the university's Chief Science Officers program, which is a branch of a national initiative designed to encourage middle and high school students to serve as advocates for science education among their peers.

Mackenzie Jean-Marcoux, a senior at John Glenn High School in Bay City and a member of the group that organized the Teen Science Café, said she was inspired to widen her influence as a science education advocate during her second year with the Chief Science Officers program.

"This year, I wanted to focus on STEM career exploration in more than just my high school," she said. "I thought the Teen Science Café would be a great idea that would accomplish my goals."

Jean-Marcoux said she is eager to survey those in attendance to measure the event's impact.

"I am most excited for when we'll be able to ask the students what they've learned and, hopefully, to see that some of them now have new ideas for possible careers," she said.

Adrianne Cole, the director of STEM@SVSU, said Teen Science Café events help attendees better relate to people in science-related careers.

"Teens gain a more realistic and positive perception of STEM professionals, get a glimpse of the interesting lives they lead, and learn that they are real, complex, multi-dimensional humans — just like them," Cole said.

For more information on the Chief Science Officers program as well as other STEM-based initiatives at SVSU, visit

March 12, 2019

SVSU to host nationally renowned author and commentator Michael Eric Dyson

Outspoken New York Times columnist, political TV pundit and Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson will visit Saginaw Valley State University this month.

The Detroit native will serve as the keynote speaker at the SVSU-hosted Equity in the Classroom conference Sunday, March 17, at 6 p.m. in SVSU’s Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. The event featuring Dyson is free and open to the public.

An outspoken voice on a range of social issues - including race, politics, religion and culture - Dyson is recognized nationally both for his television appearances on top-rated political talk shows as well as his best-selling books and newspaper columns.

“Michael Eric Dyson is one of our nation's preeminent thought leaders,” said Mamie T. Thorns, the SVSU special assistant to the president for Diversity Programs who helped organize Dyson's visit.

“His talents as an orator and his deep, scholarly understanding of our culture gives him a commanding presence as a speaker. Whether you agree or disagree with what he is saying, he has a true talent to engage audiences and encourage meaningful discourse.”

Dyson - the recipient of an American Book Award and two NAACP Image Awards - has appeared on TV programs such as Meet The Press, Face The Nation, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Real Time with Bill Maher, Good Morning America, and the Today Show.

Along with working as a New York Times op-ed writer, Dyson serves as a contributing editor for both The New Republic magazine as well as ESPN's The Undefeated website.

His 19 books include New York Times bestsellers such as “Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has The Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?” His 1994 book, “Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X,” was considered one of the most important African-American books of the 20th century and was also named a “Notable Book of the Year” by The New York Times. His book, “The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America,” was a finalist for the prestigious Kirkus Prize in 2016.

His latest New York Times Bestseller, “What Truth Sounds Like: RFK, James Baldwin, And Our Unfinished Conversation About Race In America,” was a recipient of The 2018 Southern Book Prize.

Dyson also serves as a sociology professor at Georgetown and as an ordained minister.

Karen S. Carter, the chief inclusion officer for The Dow Chemical Company, will serve as moderator for Dyson's discussion during his visit to SVSU. In January 2018, Carter was the keynote speaker at the Great Lakes Bay Regional Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at SVSU.

For more information about Dyson, visit his website at

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

March 11, 2019

Trailblazing retired Navy captain to speak at SVSU

A military veteran who retired as the highest-ranking African-American woman in U.S. Navy history will talk about her career as a trailblazer during a visit to Saginaw Valley State University.

Gail Harris, a retired U.S. Navy captain, will deliver her address, titled “Take Command and Win,” Thursday, March 14, at 5 p.m. in Curtiss Hall Banquet Room A at SVSU. The event is free and open to the public.

Harris was the first woman in U.S. Navy history to serve as an intelligence officer in a Navy aviation squadron. Harris, who served from 1973-2001, made groundbreaking strides for women and persons of color in the Navy, often serving as the “first” of every post she accepted in the military.

“We are extremely honored to welcome the highly-decorated Capt. Harris to SVSU,” said Bethany Alford, director of the university's Military Student Affairs office. “She is a true pioneer in the Naval community. We are very fortunate to hear about her experiences firsthand.”

Harris earned honors of distinction during her career in the military. She received the Meritorious Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, as well as the Navy Commendation Medal three times. Harris' story has been profiled by international TV networks including BBC and Fox News.

During Harris' visit to SVSU, she also will meet with student groups including individuals affiliated with the military.

Her visit to SVSU is sponsored by SVSU's offices of Multicultural Student Affairs, Military Student Affairs, Residential Life, and Student Life.

For more information on the event, please contact SVSU's Multicultural Student Affairs office at (989) 964-7090.

March 7, 2019

SVSU student qualifies for second event at forensic national championship

After another strong performance in a statewide contest, a Saginaw Valley State University student qualified to compete in a second event at the National Forensics Association Championship Tournament.


Dan Visnovsky was among three SVSU students — as part of the SVSU Forensics Team that competes against college peers in public speaking-based contests — to earn accolades at the Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League State Championship hosted Saturday, March 2 at Eastern Michigan University.


The political science major from Sparta won one Top Novice award in the competition's Informative Speaking category and a second Top Novice honor — as well as fifth place overall — in the Extemporaneous Speaking category.


Top Novice honors are given to students who have both competed in fewer than six tournaments in the forensics league and placed highest in a particular category.


In February, Visnovsky placed second in the Informative Speaking category at the Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League Novice State Championship, qualifying him to compete in that same category at the 2019 National Forensic Association National Championship Tournament scheduled April 18-22 in Santa Ana, California.


His performance Saturday will allow him to compete in a second category — Extemporaneous Speaking — at the national championship.


Jessica Carpenter, an English major from Saginaw, also will represent SVSU in Santa Ana after placing sixth in Poetry during the March 2 state championship.


Karlie Sherwood, an English major from Royal Oak, earned Top Novice honors in the After Dinner Speaking category during Saturday’s competition.


The SVSU Forensics Team next will compete in the National Speech Championship scheduled March 23-24 at Oakland University.


The group is advised by Amy Pierce, SVSU associate professor of communication, and Ryan Rigda, SVSU lecturer of communication.

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.

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