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August 15, 2018

SVSU to host debate focused on environmental issues facing Saginaw

Students involved in a six-week-long summer program that involved cleaning up local parks will culminate their experience in a debate competition at Saginaw Valley State University that will focus on environmental issues affecting Saginaw.

A mix of high school and SVSU students will debate each other on topics including air pollution, water quality and climate change. The event - free and open to the public - is scheduled Wednesday, Aug. 15 at 6 p.m. in the Thompson Student Activities Room in SVSU's Doan Center building. Community leaders will judge the competition.

Professors from SVSU's sociology department mentored and guided students involved in this summer's park clean-up program, which was funded by a grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

“It's a part of our department's mission to engage with the community to create positive change,” said Rosina Hassoun, an SVSU associate professor of sociology who served as one of the program's mentors. “Through this program and these debates, we want to change lives and educate the community.”

Dawn Hinton, professor of sociology, also served as a mentor to the 25 students involved in the clean-up program.

While not all of the participants will engage in Wednesday's debate competition, all individuals involved in the clean-up effort will be honored for their work.

August 14, 2018

SVSU hosts program empowering middle and high school students as leaders in STEM studies


With demand expected to rise in STEM-related jobs across Michigan, Saginaw Valley State University and regional partners are continuing a collaboration aimed at developing and growing the next generation of leaders in the sciences.


This week, SVSU is hosting a program — now in its second year — that will train 66 Bay, Midland and Saginaw county middle and high school students as “chief science officers.”


Modeled after a similar program that has proven successful in Arizona, middle and high school students are elected by their peers to be a “chief science officer” and then are empowered at the workshops to influence a wide range of STEM opportunities in their schools and communities. The goal is to have students take an active role in increasing student interest in the STEM fields, ultimately creating a diverse pipeline of STEM leaders.


“It’s so impactful to have students become a voice for STEM in our region,” said Adrianne Cole, director of STEM at SVSU.


“When we gather people around the table to talk about how we are engaging students in STEM, too often there aren’t students at that table. We want to put them at that table.”


The two-day session — planned for Tuesday and Wednesday, Aug. 14-15 — will include workshops, team-building exercises and fun activities led by STEM industry professionals from SVSU, The Dow Chemical Company, Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance, Hemlock Semiconductor and MidMichigan Health.


The students will lead individual presentations based on their experience at the program from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15, in SVSU’s Gilbertson Hall, rooms GS 221 and GS 222. The public is invited to the free and open session. The presentations will include demonstrations showcasing how the students plan to engage their peers in STEM-related activities.


Last year, 50 students participated in the program. Of the 66 involved in this year's initiative, 22 are returnees from that inaugural class.


SVSU received a $40,000 grant from The Dow Chemical Company Foundation to start the community-minded pilot program last year. The foundation donated another $40,000 to fund this year’s initiative.


August 9, 2018

SVSU welcomes business delegation from Ghana

A leader and educational expert from Ghana will grace the Great Lakes Bay Region, offering ambassadorial greetings focused on culture and economic partnership potential.

Nana Osim Kwatia II, a leader from Ghana, will attend a number of festivals and events while touring Michigan attractions next week. At SVSU, he will participate in a session aimed at identifying opportunities for Michigan businesses to invest in Ghana during a gathering with the region's economic leaders Friday, Aug. 10.

He will be accompanied by his economic adviser, Oheneba Mercy Akosua Yeboah.

"This is an important visit for a lot of reasons," said Amy Hendrickson, an SVSU associate professor of law and one of the officials coordinating the visit. "These guests have a lot to offer culturally and, given the fundamentals of their market, they have a lot to offer us as economic partners too."

Hendrickson said she expects both guests from Ghana will surprise local entrepreneurs with the business opportunities available in his region.

"If you look to see where a lot of the smart money is at globally – in terms of where the next opportunities will be – Ghana is in the middle of that," she said.

"They have so many things going for them: A young population, emerging middle class and an economy predicted to grow at a rate that rivals China. This visit represents a fantastic opportunity for businesses to think about what their next step will be."

The group from Ghana also hopes to learn from their trip, Hendrickson said. They are interested in developing Ghana's appeal as a tourist destination, and plan to discuss ways to create such an environment with community leaders here.

SVSU's Scott L. Carmona College of Business & Management is organizing part of the delegation's visit to the region. The guests' appearance is due in part to their familiarity with Joseph Ofori-Dankwa, SVSU's Harvey Randall Wickes Chair in International Studies and a native of Ghana.

Other community and business leaders plan to address Friday's meeting at SVSU. Friday's speakers include:

                     Victor Atiemo-Obeng, a retired Dow Fellow with Dow Chemical Co.

                     Ric Olson, co-founder and president of Gantec Inc., and Joseph Affholter, co-founder and chief innovation officer of Gantec Inc.

                     Jacob Schroeder, an international trade manager with Michigan Economic Development Corp.

                     John A. Tsaras, value delivery leader for Diamond Systems Analytics

The public also can meet the group from Ghana when they serve as guests of honor at the 50th annual Saginaw African Cultural Festival at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11, at the site of the former Morley Elementary School, 2533 Lapeer Ave. in Saginaw. They plan to discuss the importance of a community's elders.

The cultural festival also features an SVSU connection. Dawn Hinton, professor of sociology, serves as the event's chairperson.

During their week-long stay, the group from Ghana will receive a ceremonious key to the City of Saginaw and meet 1-on-1 with business leaders from across the state.

Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, the king of Akyem Abuakwa in Ghana, was scheduled to join the delegation but he canceled his plans to travel to the United States due to health issues.

August 6, 2018

SVSU history professor authors book on Cold War-era polygraph use

John Baesler, associate professor of history at Saginaw Valley State University, has written his first book, examining the topic of polygraph use during and after the Cold War.

The book, “Clearer Than Truth: The Polygraph and the American Cold War (Culture, Politics, and the Cold War),” is based on how the use of polygraph technology – often referred to as the lie detector – greatly increased after World War II and the ramifications of the increase in usage by the U.S. government.

“The book is a history of the polygraph and particularly the role that the polygraph has played in U.S. national security policies since the second World War,” Baesler said. “Polygraph technology had been around since the early 20th century, but it was really only after World War II that American government agencies began using it on a large scale to test the loyalty of applicants for federal jobs and employees in the federal government, as well as to establish the bona fides of sources working for U.S. intelligence services.”

The book is for sale at vendors including It tracks the history of polygraph use, justifications for using it, as well as protests against it by citizens and civil liberties groups, from the Cold War to the present.

He said he wrote the book due to his interest in how the U.S. used the polygraph technology compared to other government systems.

“To me, the history of the polygraph exam was presented by its defenders as a scientific, objective and therefore fair procedure, while at the same time it was seen as hard-nosed – almost like torture – and therefore suitable to smoke out communist spies and so forth,” he said.

“In short, I chose to write about this topic because there is a fascinating, complicated history there that has a larger significance.”

A native of Germany, Baesler earned his undergraduate degree in history and philosophy from Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg in 2001 and earned his Ph.D. in U.S. history and cultural history at Indiana University-Bloomington in 2009.

He joined SVSU's history faculty in 2009, and was promoted to associate professor in 2014.

The process to write this book began as his dissertation project at Indiana University, but he continued to work and expanded the research to make the nonfiction book that is on sale today.

“It took me almost 14 years to research and write this book,” he said. “It's been a long journey, but I am very proud of the result.”

August 6, 2018

SVSU student with Down Syndrome to receive surprise visit, scholarship news

Jessica Day with her parents and Ruby, Tim, and Liz Platcha Jessica Day, a Saginaw Valley State University student, will receive a surprise visit - and scholarship news - Friday, Aug. 3 from the namesake of Ruby's Rainbow, an Austin, Texas-based nonprofit that supports adults with Down syndrome.

Day, a Midland native with Down syndrome, applied for a Ruby's Rainbow scholarship last spring. Her mother learned in July that Day earned the scholarship, and in coordination with Ruby's Rainbow and SVSU officials, they organized an event on campus where the 25-year-old will learn about the scholarship in a surprise setting.

The news will be delivered personally by Ruby Plachta, a 7-year-old girl with Down syndrome and the inspiration behind her mother's creation of Ruby's Rainbow. The Austin, Texas-based nonprofit presented $213,000 in scholarship funds to college-bound individuals with Down syndrome last year and $643,000 total since the organization's founding in 2010.

Day and her family – which pays completely out-of-pocket for Day's tuition and fees – will not know the amount of the scholarship until Friday's reveal.

“I don't know how she will react when she finds out, but this will be a big deal to her,” said her mother, Julie Day. “She submitted the scholarship application herself, so she really owns this accomplishment.”

The reveal will coincide with SVSU's Cardinal College Day event introducing high school students and transfers to SVSU. Jessica Day is a student worker in the university's Admissions office, where she is scheduled to work Friday. The Ruby's Rainbow scholarship reveal is scheduled to take place within the first 10 minutes of a Cardinal College Day program at 10 a.m. in SVSU's Curtiss Hall seminar room. Day will be present, at first under the impression she will be working.

Day is a third-year student expected to complete a certificate of attendance from SVSU in May 2019, thanks in part to her involvement in the university's ThinkCardinal program. The SVSU initiative – an offshoot of the national organization, Think College! – provides opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities to attend classes there as non-degree seeking students. Day is one of six students attending SVSU as part of ThinkCardinal.

Ted Lind, associate director of SVSU's Admissions, oversees ThinkCardinal and helped coordinate Friday's reveal event.

“I'm excited for Jessica,” Lind said. “She and a couple other students really helped us pioneer this effort to create a more inclusive environment through ThinkCardinal.”

Day's mother was grateful for the hard work put forth by officials such as Lind in helping her daughter pursue one of her life goals of attending college.

“Whenever we would drive by campus, for years Jessica would tell me, ‘I will go there one day and you will cry when you have to drop me off,’” her mother said.

“SVSU and Ted have been great in helping her succeed. Ted really has a compassion for her and worked hard to get her involved on campus.”

Day became involved in the cheer team in November 2016. During the 2018 winter semester, she lived on campus, marking her first time not living at home with her family.

“She loves life, people and school,” Day's mother said. “This has been a great experience for her.”

August 6, 2018

Craig Douglas retires as dean of SVSU College of Education; David Callejo Pérez named as interim dean

After more than four decades dedicated to education, Craig Douglas is retiring from work — but he has no plans to step away from his community.

Douglas retired this month as dean of Saginaw Valley State University’s College of Education, where he served since 2015. He joined SVSU in 2014 as director of the School and University Partnership office after spending the previous 38 years largely in K-12 education, including 18 years as superintendent of Carrollton Public Schools.

Associate Provost David Callejo Pérez, who joined SVSU in 2009, will serve as interim dean as the university searches for Douglas’ permanent replacement.

Deborah Huntley, SVSU provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, said Douglas’ leadership was critical to keeping the College of Education responsive to the changing demands of the state’s K-12 education industry. She was equally confident in his successor.

“Craig has been instrumental in recognizing challenges and answering with strategies that have strengthened our academic programs and community partnerships in the education field,” Huntley said.

“His work here will positively impact educators and students long after his retirement. David understands that legacy and possesses the energy, knowledge and work ethic to keep the College of Education moving forward.”

Douglas expressed gratitude to Huntley and SVSU President Don Bachand for supporting his work at the university. Douglas said he was proud of many accomplishments earned during his tenure as dean, attributing those victories to a team effort.

“I didn’t do any of it alone,” he said. “I’m most proud of the way so many people came together — staff, faculty, students, other deans, the region’s school leaders — to step up and help us exceed expectations. There was a lot of synergy there.”

Douglas said he will remain engaged in the community.

He plans to continue serving as a trustee on Carrollton’s Board of Trustees, and as a member of both the Saginaw Valley Rotary Club and Carrollton Lions Club. He also hopes to become involved in assisting Emmaus House of Saginaw, an organization that aids in the transition period for women returning to their communities after spending time in jail, prison or rehabilitation centers. His wife, Joan Douglas, is an active volunteer with the organization.

“I look forward to continuing to devote time and energy to the Great Lakes Bay Region,” he said. 

Douglas said he plans to stay in touch with his SVSU family and attend events there. He was quick to complement his interim successor.

“David is going to do a terrific job in transition,” Douglas said. “He has great ideas for ways to improve efficiencies, utilize technologies and continue to develop our accelerated degree program.”

Callejo Pérez joined SVSU in 2009 as the Carl A. Gerstacker Endowed Chair for the College of Education. In 2014, he was named associate provost at the university.

He received his Ed.D. from Florida International University in 2000, a master’s degree in history from the University of Mississippi in 1995, and a bachelor’s degree in history from Florida International University in 1993.

Previously, he served as an educator at West Virginia University, Barry University, and University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Callejo Pérez said he was looking forward to continuing to build SVSU’s reputation as a provider of talent for the education market.

“The challenges ahead involve shifting from a job market that was very tight to one that has a lot of demand for teachers,” he said.

“The College of Education will continue to help fill that void. Our impact can be beyond measure if we work together and commit our talents to be stewards of education in the region.”

July 31, 2018

Marilyn Wheaton, director of Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum at SVSU, set to step down after 12 years

For 12 years, Marilyn Wheaton has contributed to the growing legacy of Marshall M. Fredericks, the late sculptor (1908-1998) whose iconic works include The Spirit of Detroit as well as the Cleveland War Memorial Fountain of Eternal Life.

Now Wheaton is preparing to transfer that responsibility to the hands of her successor. In December, she will retire as director of the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum housed on Saginaw Valley State University’s campus. A national search for a new director will soon be underway.

“I have accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish here, and more,” Wheaton said. “There’s a big, wonderful world of art that I still want to be part of in some way, but I feel like I have done everything I can do here. It’s time for someone new to step in.”

Since her hiring as director in 2006, Wheaton has overseen a considerable expansion of the museum’s offerings, a substantial growth in attendance and a strategic outreach aimed at increasing community engagement with the facility. Her advocacy of Fredericks’s legacy has reached far beyond the walls of the museum bearing his name.

“Marilyn has worked tirelessly to promote both Marshall Fredericks’s museum and his life’s work,” said Don Bachand, SVSU’s president. “The museum is a cultural gem in our community and a wonder of art in the eyes of the visitors who travel here from all across the world to see it. Without Marilyn, Fredericks' work may not have the audience it deserves.”

Bachand was one of the officials who recruited and hired Wheaton a dozen years ago to lead the Marshall M. Frederick Sculpture Museum, which first opened on SVSU’s campus in May 1988. Wheaton was charged with developing the relatively-young gallery into a mature institution with a firm footing in the community arts scene. If attendance numbers are any indication, she succeeded in that goal. Before Wheaton was named director, about 10,000 people visited annually. Within a decade, the museum counted a record 18,000 visitors in a single year.

A number of factors contributed to the growth, Wheaton said, including the following:

  • Assembled a professional staff of experts in the visual arts, which enables the museum to provide a high level of service and education to their visitors. The museum archivist oversees the Marshall M. Fredericks Archive that is housed at the Museum, and the collections manager is tasked with data entering the more than 2,000 objects in the collection and ensuring that the sculptures in the Museum and sculpture garden are maintained.
  • Accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums in 2013. The stamp of approval lent a legitimacy to the Museum that allowed its operations to thrive among a supportive arts community, Wheaton said.
  • The opening in 2013 of the Jo Anne and Donald Petersen Sculpture Garden, which was the culmination of a 5-year, $800,000 fundraiser that included a $500,000 donation from the garden’s namesake. The garden — featuring some of Fredericks largest sculptures cast in bronze — acts as a majestic entrance to the museum and provides context to what the visitor will see once they enter the Museum, Wheaton said. Previously, the main entrance was within SVSU’s Arbury Hall, tucked among classrooms and the bustle of college life.

One of Wheaton’s proudest accomplishments at the museum now stands 12 feet tall in that garden, a symbolic representation of her dedication to preserving Fredericks’ legacy. Black Elk: Homage to the Great Spirit was the artist’s last sculpture, commissioned for installation at a bank in Southfield.  Fredericks died in 1998 before the sculpture came back to Michigan from the East Coast foundry and the owner had moved to California. Instead of being displayed publicly, Black Elk was mothballed in a warehouse.

Fifteen years later, though, Wheaton brought Fredericks’s last commissioned piece to life. She tracked down the owner and secured a loan agreement with him so that Black Elk could be installed as the crown jewel of the new Jo Anne and Donald Petersen Sculpture Garden.

Konnie Gill, chairperson for the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum Board of Advisors, said Wheaton’s dedication to the late sculptor’s works is unmatched.

“I’ve been a member of many boards over the years, and I’ve never met a director — of any type of nonprofit — who has given their life to their job in the way Marilyn has,” said Gill, the former director of McLaren Bay Medical Foundation who now owns a physician recruitment business.

“Marilyn is the most devoted person I have ever met. Her love for the Fredericks family, for Marshall’s work, for SVSU — she is the epitome of who anyone would want as a director … or an employee, for that matter.

Wheaton’s relationship with Fredericks extends beyond her familiarity with his sculptures. She knew the man. Before her arrival at SVSU, Wheaton was immersed in the Detroit arts scene where she met Fredericks in his Royal Oak studio.

A native of small-town Silex, Missouri, Wheaton first arrived in Michigan in the late 1960s in part because her devout Roman-Catholic parents urged her to attend a Catholic institution for college. She chose Madonna University in Livonia. Not long after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history, she landed a job as a research assistant at the Detroit Institute of Arts in the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art.

Her exposure to the arts during her 11 years there inspired her to remain in the industry. Later, she spent eight years as director of the City of Detroit’s Cultural Affairs Department and 11 years leading Michigan’s first statewide arts advocacy organization, Concerned Citizens for the Arts in Michigan.

Her 12 years spent as director of the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum represents her longest tenure in any one role. Despite her work over that time, there is plenty of room for growth and development at the museum, she said, so long as her successor possesses both an artistic vision and a strong sense of community.

“You must be a people person who understands the importance of making connections with the people you serve and the people who can help you,” she said. “And you cannot successfully run a museum if you can’t see two years down the road. You can’t exist here without a strategic plan that provides that sort of long-term direction.”

Wheaton’s long-term plans reside outside of the Great Lakes Bay Region. She and her husband never sold their home in Detroit, where she plans to return full-time when she steps down as museum director at the end of December.

“I’m not leaving here to go to another job, but I’m confident there will be other opportunities that present themselves to me there,” she said. “I will be part of the Detroit arts community in some way. But I will miss my staff and all of the friends I’ve met here.”

July 27, 2018

SVSU's National Society of Collegiate Scholars chapter members find joy in serving community

For Dan Kennihan, membership to Saginaw Valley State University's National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS) chapter means an experience sure to expand the mind and enrich the community.

Kennihan is the latest president of the SVSU student organization with a membership that prides itself on participating in community-minded service projects. The biology major from Mason said the experience is humbling.

"You hand out food to people in need on a Saturday, but then you get to go home to your house, with your warmth or your air conditioning," he said. "For me, it puts it in perspective how easy it is to make a difference."

Kennihan and his fellow members recently were recognized for the difference they members make in the the lives of others across the Great Lakes Bay Region.

The SVSU group received the Gold Star Chapter award from the NCSC’s national office. The status is a distinction earned by some of the 320 chapters nationwide that best demonstrate excellence in engaging, student-centered community service projects.

SVSU’s chapter in recent months participated in initiatives benefiting organizations such as Relay for Life, the Saginaw Children's Zoo, and The Jared Box Project.

Hali Motley, the previous chapter president for SVSU’s group, said the community engagement provides an enriching experience. She was particularly moved by her work with The Jared Box Project, a nonprofit that provides boxes of toys to children admitted to hospitals.

“Jared Box Project is important to us as a chapter because we — as college students — know how important it is to work hard and play even harder,” said Motley, a Birch Run native who received a bachelor's degree in international business in May.

“We wanted a chance to give back to the kids in our community — who are stuck in the hospital during the holiday season — to give them more chances to play while they were working hard on getting better.”

Kennihan said his involvement in the SVSU chapter’s work continues to provide him with a sense of community with his fellow members.

“We are all working toward the same goal of giving back to the community,” Kennihan said.

July 26, 2018

SVSU's community writing centers to host family history research workshops in Bay City, Saginaw

Community members eager to dive deep into records revealing their family history — and anxious to record those findings for future generations — are in luck.

Saginaw Valley State University's community writing centers in Bay City and Saginaw next month will host free workshops to guide participants through extensive genealogical research of their family lineages. The sessions also will involve advising attendees on how best to document those discoveries.

The Bay Community Writing Center will kick off the "Writing Your Family History" workshop series Tuesday, Aug. 7, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at the Alice and Jack Wirt Public Library, 500 Center Ave. in Bay City.

The Saginaw Community Writing Center will host the second workshop the following week. That session is scheduled Tuesday, Aug. 14, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Butman-Fish Branch Library, 1716 Hancock in Saginaw.

Both sessions are open to the public.

The workshops will be led by tutors from SVSU’s Writing Center — a writing assistance service housed at the university — as well as staff from the participating libraries.

The Bay and Saginaw community writing centers are operated in part by SVSU's Writing Center staff members, who help residents during scheduled sessions at local libraries. The community writing centers were established through partnerships with the Bay Area Community Foundation as well as the Saginaw Community Foundation. 

For more information about the "Writing Your Family History" workshops or the community writing centers' regularly scheduled sessions, visit

July 19, 2018

SVSU summer camp empowers girls interested in computer, Internet technology

Madison Crawford can see seventh grade approaching quickly, but thanks to a science-based camp for girls at Saginaw Valley State University, the Bullock Creek youth may have glimpsed even further into her future this summer.

In June, Crawford was one of 25 middle school-aged girls who participated in SVSU's Camp Infinity, a week-long outing featuring hands-on activities and college professors teaching and mentoring female youths interested in careers relating to computer and Internet technology.

The second-year camp represents a collaboration between The Dow Chemical Company, the Michigan Council of Women in Technology Foundation, IBM, Microsoft and SVSU, the camp's host. The first two gatherings proved enough of a hit with participants that organizers decided to offer an additional camp for high school-aged girls, scheduled from Monday to Friday, July 23-27.

Crawford, a self-proclaimed prospective computer science student despite only recently completing the sixth grade at Bullock Creek Middle School, said June's camp was an empowering experience that was punctuated by the participation of female professors and scientists who serve as role models.

“On the first day of camp, the teachers told us why they were interested in science, and it made me feel close to them,” she said.

“It's also easier to express yourself at Camp Infinity, because you are with other girls with some of the same interests as you. They're pursuing things I want to pursue.”

Those involved in June's camp developed smartphone apps in SVSU's computer labs; and built and programmed robots capable of responding to voice commands. The week culminated in a “dance party” with the student-built robots.

Betsy Diegel, SVSU's STEM mobile lab support specialist and Camp Infinity's director, said she was not surprised by the positive response from participants.

“I wish I would have had a program like this when I was a girl,” Diegel said. “I would have loved this.”

While Diegel went on to pursue a career in the sciences, she said programs such as Camp Infinity increase the likelihood other young girls will pursue their passion for STEM.

“We see females are so underrepresented in our region's STEM workforce,” she said. “Getting girls excited and exposed to this kind of education early on is crucial to changing that underrepresentation.”

A video showcasing Camp Infinity - and Crawford - is available at the following link: 

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