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November 21, 2016

SVSU selects K-12 educators for Gerstacker leadership program

A new group of K-12 education leaders committed to professional growth will join the Saginaw Valley State University Gerstacker Fellowship program in 2017.

As part of the initiative, 11 teachers, principals, superintendents and program administrators from across Michigan will receive concentrated leadership training over a 1-year period. The experience concludes with a capstone international trip to Japan in April.

Previous overseas trips have included Finland, China, South Korea and Taiwan. Last year's group also traveled to Japan.

These trips send participants to educational institutions, where participants learn about international educational systems and corporate settings, where they discover how leadership plays out in different cultural and economic settings.

Kimberli McMahan, an elementary Spanish teacher in Midland Public Schools, was one of the 11 educators chosen for the opportunity.

“This is, without question, the most treasured and important opportunity of my professional career,” she said.

“I look forward to studying, in depth, what it means to be a good leader and a good educator in this global world with the other members of the cohort. The Gerstacker family is so generous to provide such a rich fellowship program, and I know the students of Michigan will benefit as we take action with the things we learn over the next year.”

The program was established in 2005 with a $1.5 million endowment from the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation of Midland. Participants are known as Gerstacker Fellows. They meet monthly on weekends.

SVSU faculty from various disciplines instruct the group on subjects such as organizational leadership, ethics, finances, communication, human resources, entrepreneurship and education with a global perspective.

In addition to McMahan, those selected to participate in the program in 2017 are as follows:

•    Gordon Culver, a science teacher at Frankenmuth High School
•    David Farley, principal and the K-8 curriculum director at Richfield Early Learning Center at Richfield Public School Academy in Flint
•    Renae Galsterer, assistant superintendent of the Mt. Morris Consolidated Schools District
•    John-Matthew LaGalo, principal of Bridgeport High School
•    Patrick Malley, principal of Meridian Early College High School in Meridian Public Schools
•    Vicki Mikusko, an elementary school principal and director of special education in the Bullock Creek School District
•    Carla Postell, the director of curriculum integration and instruction at Hazel Park Schools in southeast Michigan
•    Noreen Saylor, a high school English language arts teacher at Carrollton Public Schools
•    Brigette Uhrich, an assistant principal at the Saginaw Intermediate School District Transitions Center
•    Lisa Williams, principal at Lincoln Middle School in the Van Dyke Public School District in Warren

The Fellows were nominated by their schools and selected on the basis of their past academic and service accomplishments, and the recommendations of others as to their potential for true excellence in leadership.

November 21, 2016

SVSU student continues winning ways in public speaking contest

A Saginaw Valley State University student with a passion for public speaking recently continued an impressive streak in earning honors for his ability.

Erik Breidinger was named winner of SVSU’s 27th Annual Sims Public Speaking Competition in November. The victory earned him $400. The title of his presentation was “Feeling Lucky? The Descent into Google-ocracy.”

The communication and geography double major also won the contest in 2015. In the competition’s history, the Auburn native is the sixth student to win twice and the third person to do so in consecutive years.

Breidinger has exceled in competitions outside of campus too.

In October 2016, he earned top honors for presenting his community-minded research on the Kawkawlin River. The first-place win came in the undergraduate paper presentation category at the American Association of Geographers East Lakes/West Lakes conference hosted by Northern Michigan University.

In February 2016, he won first place in the informative category of the Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League Novice States Tournament at Hillsdale College.

In total, six students earned prizes during the 2016 Sims Public Speaking Competition:

•    Melinda Dinninger, a communication major from Saginaw, who earned $250 for a second-place finish
•    Shafayat Alam, a management major from Bangladesh, who earned $150 for a third-place finish
•    Cody Bromberg, a communication major from Essexville, who earned $100 for a fourth-place finish
•    Melanie Frasca, a communication/theatre education major from Waterford, who earned $75 as a finalist
•    Cheyena Pettaway, a communication major from Saginaw, who earned $75 as a finalist

The competition is endowed by Larry and Linda Sims, long-time supporters of SVSU. Linda currently serves as senior executive assistant to the president/executive director for communications and external affairs at SVSU.

November 18, 2016

Prince, Bowie, Hendrix music planned for SVSU marching band concert

Saginaw Valley State University's Cardinal marching band will perform in its 41st annual indoor concert this month.

Norman Wika, SVSU associate professor of music, will direct an ensemble of 91 student musicians Monday, Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall. Encompassing students of various academic backgrounds, the marching band performs at all home football games and other fall events on campus.

The program lineup will consist of renditions of popular songs such as Prince's "Purple Rain," David Bowie's "Let's Dance," and Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean," "Smooth Criminal," and "Don't Stop til You Get Enough."

Fall Out Boy's "Centuries," Meghan Trainor's "Lips Are Movin," Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off," Mark Ronson's "Uptown Funk," Jimi Hendrix's "Crosstown Traffic," Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours," and Styx's "The Best Of Times" also will be featured.

The concert is free and open to the public. For more information, visit SVSU's Department of Music online at www.svsu.edu/music.

November 16, 2016

SVSU Student Association creates student empowerment scholarship

The Saginaw Valley State University Student Association has created a new scholarship aimed at improving the educational experience of students. The Student Association Student Empowerment Endowed Scholarship will award scholarships to students based on both academic and extracurricular achievements, beginning in the 2017 winter semester.

The academic scholarship will be awarded to one residential student and one commuter student per year. This will be given based on a student's academic excellence in the classroom and in research endeavors.

The extracurricular scholarship will also be awarded to both one commuter and one residential student based on a student's achievements outside the classroom. This may involve a student's engagement with the Saginaw Valley community, registered student organizations and volunteer work.

Each recipient will receive a $500 scholarship.  

The scholarships are made possible through a $52,000 contribution from Student Association to the SVSU Foundation to establish an endowment that will allow the scholarships to be awarded annually on a permanent basis. The 2016-2017 Student Association hopes that the future Associations will continue to award funds to this scholarship so that it will remain available to current and future students.

For more information on how to apply for this scholarship, please contact the SVSU Student Association at (989) 964-4232.

November 16, 2016

SVSU students building “Cardboard City” to raise awareness of homelessness

A group of Saginaw Valley State University students will show their genuine concern for people who are homeless and support a community cause during a “Cardboard City” event Thursday, Nov. 17, starting at 8 p.m. in the Student Center rotunda. Students will spend 12 hours living in a cardboard-built home to simulate the experience of the difficult reality facing many people in communities today.

Instead of cozying up in their dorm rooms, SVSU students will camp in their do-it-yourself renditions of cardboard houses. While most students spend the night indoors, those seeking an even deeper appreciation for homelessness go outdoors for an enhanced learning opportunity.

The annual event is hosted by the SVSU campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity, and coincides with National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week.

In addition to gaining a better appreciation for a significant community concern, “Cardboard City” provides educational opportunities and raises funds for the Saginaw-Shiawassee Habitat for Humanity.

November 15, 2016

SVSU team makes the case, wins moot court competition, and headed to nationals

Seven months of determined preparation for a team of two Saginaw Valley State University students resulted in winning a regional moot court competition in Chicago. The win earned teammates Connor Hughes and Madison Laskowski an invitation to the national tournament in Gulfport, Florida in January 2017.

In a moot court competition, students act as attorneys in teams of two. They make arguments to a panel of judges by drawing from constitutional law and Supreme Court cases. Judges then decide winners based on public speaking ability, knowledge of cases and of law, and the ability to answer questions.

In May, competitors received an informational packet containing court documents and rulings related to the case. Hughes and Laskowski immediately began readying for the November tournament when the packet arrived seven months earlier. Julie Keil, assistant professor of political science and advisor to SVSU’s moot court program, said the pair devoted five to 10 hours each week studying and preparing.

“It’s been a huge time commitment for them,” she said. “They know the case; they are hard to shake on the facts, and that really showed.”

Despite several impressive showings over the years and a national top 20 ranking, SVSU’s victory marked the first time a team from the university won an American Moot Court Association regional tournament. Hughes, a political science major from Howell, and Laskowski, a political science major from Bay City, will extend SVSU’s impressive streak of earning berths to the national contest, where they will be among 80 teams competing.

The current uninterrupted run spans the entirety of the 6-year-old SVSU moot court program’s existence.

“That’s not common,” Keil said. “There are a number of teams that are always very competitive, but they aren’t in the nationals every year like this. This says a lot about our students.”

More than 350 colleges and universities field American Moot Court Association teams. During the regional tournament, Hughes and Laskowski outperformed accomplished programs from institutions such as California State University-Long Beach, the College of Wooster, George Washington University, the University of Chicago, the University of Texas-Dallas, and Loyola University Chicago, which hosted the competition Nov. 11-12.

Another SVSU team of Alexander Partridge, a history major from Vassar, and Jaclyn Zembrodt, a political science major from Walton, Kentucky; placed 13th in the 19-team contest.

“They were all so impressive,” Keil said of her two teams. “They worked very hard on this, together, for months.”

Each year, American Moot Court Association organizers create a single fictional U.S. Supreme Court case — often based on actual cases heard in lower courts — that competitors must address when participating in the regional and national tournaments.

This year’s case study concerns voter rights. The case specifically deals with a citizen who divorced her husband, changed her name but did not update her ID documents in time for the election. As a result, clerk employees did not allow the citizen to vote because her ID did not match the voting registry.

“The timing on that was funny,” Keil said, noting that the national presidential election and subsequent voter rights concerns made headlines during the same week as the Chicago tournament.

Keil said SVSU’s success — and the moot court program’s culture of excellence — is fueled by a proud network of supportive faculty and alumni. Among Keil’s assistant advisors this year are former SVSU President Eric Gilbertson, a constitutional scholar who now serves as the university’s executive in residence; Amy Hendrickson, SVSU assistant professor of law; as well as SVSU graduates and former moot court members Mark Babcock and Jacob Mojica.

“None of these people get paid to help our students,” Keil said. “They’re doing it because they care. It’s a network, and it’s a culture of belief that we are capable of succeeding at any level.”

Keil said additional SVSU students may earn invitations to the national tournament. Six more teams from the university will compete in a American Moot Court Association regional tournament hosted by SVSU Dec. 2-3.

November 14, 2016

SVSU Concert Choir set for November 17 performance

Saginaw Valley State University's Concert Choir will perform in concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17 in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall.  The event is free and open to the public.

Kevin Simons, assistant professor of music, will direct the choir, which includes 39 SVSU students.

Amanda Stamper, who graduated from SVSU as a music major in 2013, will serve as the pianist and organist alongside the vocalists.

The concert will feature classic selections from composers Giachino Rossini and Josquin des Prez, as well as more contemporary selections from David Dickau and Paul Halley.

For more information on this concert or the many other events hosted by SVSU's music department, visit svsu.edu/music.

November 11, 2016

SVSU earns Best for Vets recognition for best military services among 4-year universities

Military Times has recognized Saginaw Valley State University as part of its Best for Vets: Colleges 2017 rankings.

SVSU was ranked No. 34 among 130 four-year institutions ranked nationally by the independent media organization dedicated to news and information about the military. No other Michigan institution cracked the top 75.

SVSU ranked No. 38 last year and No. 60 the year before that.

The Best for Vets: Colleges 2017 rankings evaluate many factors that make an organization a good fit for service members, military veterans and their families.

To be considered, colleges filled out a detailed, 150-question survey. Military Times evaluated institutions based on survey responses as well as on data collected by three different federal agencies.

Those decisive factors included university culture, academic outcomes, student support, academic policies, and cost and financial aid. The factors of university culture and academic outcomes were worth the most in the survey, and cost and financial aid was worth the least.

For more information on the rankings, go to http://www.militarytimes.com/bestforvets-colleges2017.

November 11, 2016

Breaking Winds Bassoon Quartet to perform at SVSU

Saginaw Valley State University will showcase The Breaking Winds Bassoon Quartet during the next Rhea Miller Concert Series installment Saturday, Nov. 12. The performance, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall, is free and open to the public.

The concert, called “A Broken Anthology of Western Music,” will feature selections from the 14th to the 20th century including “Rondo Alla Bassoona” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and “Claire De Lune” by Claude Debussy.

By performing a uniquely twisted theatrical blend of classical and popular music on their unlikely instruments, the Breaking Winds Bassoon Quartet members Brittany Harrington-Smith, Yuki Katayma, Kara LaMoure, and Marissa Olegario aim to demonstrate that music is a universal language.

In 2013, the Breaking Winds premiered their commissioned concerto, Scott A. Switzer’s Breaking Out for quartet and wind ensemble, with the Yale Concert Band. The Breaking Winds’ quirky affability lends them a global following on social media. To date, their YouTube channel has garnered over 1 million views and has received coverage from NPR and MTV.

The Rhea Miller Concert Series is made possible by a generous gift from Rhea E. Miller, a longtime friend of SVSU. Her gift, administered by the Miller Trust for Music Education, has provided the university with the opportunity to offer outstanding performances by nationally and internationally acclaimed musical artists at no cost to the audience since 1993.

For more information, call (989) 964-4159 or email music@svsu.edu.

November 10, 2016

‘A Raisin in the Sun’ to rise at SVSU

You could say Tommy Wedge has been preparing for this moment since the day he first opened the pages of “A Raisin in the Sun” while in high school. The Lorraine Hansberry classic has informed every play written in the last six decades, said Wedge, now an experienced theatre professional.

Still, the celebrated story of a struggling black family in 1950s Chicago continues to surprise Wedge even today as he prepares to direct an adaptation for the stage at Saginaw Valley State University.

“This is a play that touches on race, and here I am, a white man from South Dakota, directing this pillar of black literature,” Wedge said. “It’s been a wonderful learning experience for me, trying to honor that.”

The adjunct instructor of theatre said the time was right for SVSU to host “one of the best plays of the last 60 years.”

“We have such a talented pool of actors of color,” Wedge said of the production's largely black cast. “We have some fun things in mind for lighting and the setting, but a lot of this production is going to showcase the very realistic and naturalistic elements of the play. This is a daunting play to produce because it’s so richly-written, but the cast members are really showing their acting gifts.”

Donté Green, a theatre major from Detroit, will play the lead, Walter Lee Younger, the patriarch of the black family featured in “A Raisin in the Sun.”

“He brings a lot of gravitas and confidence to the role,” Wedge said of Green, whose previous SVSU roles include Cassio in “Othello” and Brom Bones in “Sleepy Hollow.”

Walter Lee Younger was perhaps most famously portrayed by Sidney Poitier, who was cast both in the Broadway production from 1959 to 1960 as well as the 1961 Hollywood film.

“It was an extremely popular play, and the first black play that really punctured the American experience,” Wedge said of Hansberry's tale. “It was universally popular for all audiences.”

The plot follows members of the Younger family as they clash with racial politics — and each other — after being offered a substantial sum of money to sell their home in an effort to ease the anxieties of white neighbors.

“It’s a serious play but it has some very lighthearted moments too,” Wedge said. “It’s about the journey of a family. No matter what your experience, you’ll be able to identify with the story and enjoy it.”

While Wedge has never been involved in a production of “A Raisin in the Sun” before, he is familiar with the play’s world. In spring 2015 at Saginaw-based Pit & Balcony Theatre, he directed an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Clybourne Park,” which takes place in the formerly all-white neighborhood where the Younger family lived 50 years earlier.

Both plays are challenging, sometimes uncomfortable character studies that allow Wedge and his cast to explore — and learn — more about the human experience, he said.

“During rehearsals, there have been a lot of moments where I’m helping the cast try to find these truthful moments they can capture,” Wedge said. “They’re learning a lot about themselves and I’m learning a lot about myself as a director. It’s been a pleasure being part of that.”

Wedge hopes audiences are similarly pleased after the curtains open for “A Raisin in the Sun” during showings at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, Nov. 16-19, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20, in SVSU’s Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. Tickets are $13 for the general public and $10 for students or attendees 60 or older.

For more information or to order tickets, contact the SVSU box office at (989) 964-4261. Click here to purchase tickets online.