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March 26, 2019

SVSU program empowers math teachers in region's middle schools

Education advocates say a Saginaw Valley State University-based leadership education initiative for teachers will bolster math studies and achievement in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Based at SVSU's Regional Mathematics and Science Center, the Great Lakes Bay Region Mathematics Specialist program provides leadership training to local middle school teachers — grades 5 to 8 — specializing in math. The initiative graduated its first class of 13 teachers in August 2018. The second class has already met and organizers are still accepting applicants.

The initiative is vital for bolstering student achievement in math across the region, advocates say. The goal is to prepare the program's trainees to return to their schools to support colleagues and administrators in math-related assessment, curriculum and instruction strategies.

The program works, said Amy Kolb, a member of the math specialist program group that graduated in August.

“In my 20 years of teaching, the math specialist program at SVSU is the most valuable professional development tool that I have ever participated in,” said Kolb, who teaches math at E.F. Rittmueller Middle School in Frankenmuth.

“I have developed a deeper understanding of mathematics, and I am better prepared to support my students - especially students who struggle with math. My experiences in the program have also taught me how to develop and lead professional development for other math teachers.”

A $65,637 grant from the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance is funding the training for the second group of participants. The cohort earlier this month met for the first of nine training sessions scheduled throughout the winter, spring and summer seasons.

Teachers interested in applying for the remaining eight sessions of the program can contact Tamara Barrientos, director of the SVSU Regional Mathematics and Science Center, at or (989) 964-4636. There is no cost to participate.

March 26, 2019

SVSU Concert Choir joins Saginaw symphony, choral society for 'massive' concert

With a strong communal spirit, Saginaw Valley State University's Concert Choir will join forces this week with The Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra and Saginaw Choral Society for a concert event presented at a grand scale.

“It's pretty massive,” said Kevin Simons, director of the SVSU Concert Choir and an SVSU associate professor of music. “This is probably the biggest choir I've ever worked with.”

The concert, titled “Music & Voices: Saginaw Rising,” is scheduled Saturday, March 30, at 8 p.m. in the Temple Theatre in downtown Saginaw. 

Fouad Fakhouri, the music director for The Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra, said he's never worked with so many musicians during a single concert.

“These types of performances don't happen often,” he said. “I'm tremendously excited for this collaboration.”

There are 50 students involved in SVSU's choir and about the same number of Saginaw Choral Society musicians, Simons said. He also will perform as one of seven soloists.

Their vocals will join forces with the 70-piece Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra for an evening featuring classical pieces created by historically-celebrated musicians such as 18th century German composer Beethoven, 19th century Austrian composer Anton Bruckner and 20th century English composer Vaughan Williams.

Simons said his choir and its community companions recently began rehearsals, and the early chemistry between the groups has him excited for Saturday's event.

“The music was thrilling,” said Simons.

Organizers of the event say they have hoped for such a collaboration for years.

“I've always wanted to do this,” said Fakhouri, who joined The Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra in 2016. “I know Kevin quite well, and I know the choirs will be ready for this level of performance.”

The concert will be an experiential thrill for students with the SVSU Concert Choir, Simons said. While the group has worked with the Saginaw Choral Society before, this will mark their first teaming with a symphony.

“I remember the first time I sang with an orchestra like that,” Simons said. “It was memorable. You never forget it.”

What will add to the experience is the prestige of the venue, he said. The Temple Theatre represents one of the region's most historic performing arts centers. The 1,750-seat theatre — which first opened in 1927 — features an intricate, neo-classic design reinforced by large-scale restoration work over the years.

“This is going to be a great opportunity for our students to play in the Temple and perform with people in the community,” Simons said. “It will be a great day for SVSU singing, and it shows what a leader we are in the culture of this region.”

March 26, 2019

SVSU student to direct campus production of Tony Award-winning play


A Saginaw Valley State University initiative designed to give students more experience producing plays soon will place one theatre major in the director's chair for a production of a Tony Award-winning and Pulitzer Prize finalist black comedy.


Joseph Green, a theatre major from Shelby Township, will direct "The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?" from celebrated American playwright Edward Albee. The play will be a 2-night affair — Friday and Saturday, March 29-30, at 7:30 p.m. — in SVSU's Black Box Studio, located in Curtiss 180 in Curtiss Hall.


Tickets are $13 for the public and $10 for students or seniors 60 and older. Because of strong language and adult situations, it is recommended only for audiences 17 or older.


The production is part of the SVSU theatre department's Studio X.P. Program, in which students propose a production of their choice, then cast and direct the play. Green both suggested the play and will direct it under the supervision of Tommy Wedge, assistant professor of theatre.


“SVSU theatre puts their name on the play, but essentially, the department doesn't really touch the show,” Green said of his opportunity. “They are trusting the students to put on a quality production. Having full agency over your own show as a student is very rare, especially for a university of our size.”


Wedge said Green's vision for “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?” is a strong interpretation of its source material written by the playwright known for modern theatrical classics such as “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”


“It's about society's shifting views on love and sex, and how those ideas mix with what is acceptable within culture and society,” Wedge said.


The black comedy follows a white-picket family with a marriage that falls apart when a man in that family falls in love with a goat.


“There's quite a bit of profanity in the show,” Wedge warned, “but there's quite a bit of profanity in life too. It's a really well-written play.”


Aubree Harrell, a communication and theatre major from Essexville who plays the wife of the man who falls in love with the goat, said the bizarre situations that unfold in the play hold a deeper meaning.


“We all can relate to this story in some way,” she said. “It may seem like an outrageous scenario, but if we take out maybe one element, we can see ourselves in this play.”


Tickets can be purchased online or at the SVSU Box Office.

March 21, 2019

YWCA Women of Achievement Awards to honor SVSU staff, students, alumni

Seven members of the Saginaw Valley State University community are among 17 women the YWCA Great Lakes Bay Region will honor today for their leadership and contributions to social causes across the area.

The 2019 YWCA Women of Achievement Awards ceremony is scheduled Wednesday, March 20, at 5 p.m. at Horizons Conference Center in Saginaw Township.

Three members of SVSU’s staff and one student are among those who will be honored. They include the following:

  • Linda Sims, executive director of communications and external affairs, will also be recognized as a 2019 Women of Achievement Award recipient for her contributions as a community leader. Prior to beginning in her current position at SVSU in 2015, Sims worked in a variety of public relations roles at Consumers Energy for 30 years. Her history with SVSU goes back just as far. She served on the SVSU Board of Control from 1998-2005, including a term as chairperson. She received the SVSU Distinguished Service Award in 2006. She and her husband, Larry Sims, in 1989 established the SVSU Sims Public Speaking Contest.
  • Helen Raica-Klotz, director of the SVSU Writing Center, will be recognized as one of 10 recipients of the 2019 Women of Achievement Award for her contributions to education. Along her work with the Writing Center on campus, Raica-Klotz helped establish community writing centers in both Bay and Saginaw counties in recent years to help residents there seeking writing-based support. Raica-Klotz joined SVSU as a lecturer of English in 1998 and became Writing Center director in 2013.
  • Joni Boye-Beaman, special assistant to the provost, will be one of the three recipients of the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award. Boye-Beaman — who arrived at SVSU in 2000 as a member of its sociology faculty — possesses over 25 years of experience collaborating with colleagues, students and community partners on a wide variety of research and service learning projects. She was the recipient of a 2018 Community Relations Citation from the Saginaw Police Department for her work with students focused on developing policies to better respond to victims of violent crimes.
  • Emma Kirsch, a student at SVSU, will be recognized as one of four recipients of the 2019 Emerging Leader Award. Kirsch is an early childhood and elementary education double major from Saginaw. At SVSU in 2018, she was selected as one of 10 participants in the highly-competitive Roberts Fellowship Program, a year-long leadership development initiative. Kirsch this year was named a recipient of the East Central Writing Association annual tutor award for her work as a tutor with SVSU’s Writing Center. 

Three other 2019 YWCA Women of Achievement Awards recipients are part of SVSU’s community, including one former Board of Control member and two alumna. They include the following:

  • Leola Wilson, a member of SVSU’s Board of Control from 2005-13, will receive a 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award. Along with her service to the university, Wilson’s involvement in the community includes her work as president of Saginaw’s chapter of the NAACP from 1998 until her retirement this year.
  • Lisa Coney, a social worker with the Saginaw Intermediate School District, will receive a 2019 Women of Achievement Award for her efforts in social justice. Coney earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from SVSU in 1992 and serves on the university’s Alumni Association Board of Directors.
  • Alice Stricker, who retired in 2012 as a Spanish instructor with the Frankenmuth School District after more than 20 years in K-12, will receive a 2019 Women of Achievement Award for her work in education. Stricker earned a master’s degree in teaching from SVSU in 1997 and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the university in 1988.

For more information on the YWCA Great Lakes Bay Region and its Women of Achievement Awards, please visit

March 20, 2019

SVSU to honor Great Lakes Bay Region business leaders, faculty members during awards ceremony

During its sixth annual Best In Business awards ceremony Friday, March 22, Saginaw Valley State University will recognize businesses and entrepreneurs as well as SVSU faculty, students and alumni dedicated to supporting the Great Lakes Bay Region business community.

Business and alumni awards were chosen by an advisory board featuring leaders from SVSU’s Scott L. Carmona College of Business & Management. Faculty honorees were selected by SVSU students.

Regional businesses honored will include the following:

  • Spence Brothers will receive the Outstanding Family Business Award, given to a family-owned company that demonstrates a commitment to community-minded business practices. Spence Brothers — based in the Great Lakes Bay Region since 1893 — was chosen for its support of important regional development projects in recent years.
  • Tri-Star Trust Bank will receive the Outstanding Business Award, presented to a company with a record of steady employment and strong corporate citizenship. Tri-Star Trust Bank — with offices in East Lansing, Frankenmuth, Midland and Saginaw — is a wealth management institution that handles over $1.3 billion in assets for its clients.

Business leaders honored will be as follows:

  • JoAnn Crary, a member of SVSU’s Board of Control and president of Saginaw Future Inc., a non-profit economic development organization, will receive the Outstanding Business Leader award. Among her recent accomplishments, Crary served as the 2015 board chair of the International Economic Development Council, where she focused on inclusive economic development. She was appointed in 2016 by Gov. Rick Snyder to serve on the 21st Century Economic Commission.
  • Daniel Kehres, owner of Kehres Health & Chiropractic, will receive the Outstanding Entrepreneur Award. Kehres opened his first chiropractic practice in Saginaw in 2010, and later expanded to five offices in the region. Kehres also volunteered hundreds of hours teaching free health classes and attended community health-focused events.

SVSU faculty members honored at the ceremony will include the following:

  • Lawrence Kickham, professor of accounting, will receive the Excellence in Service Award. Kickham has chaired the accounting department at SVSU for over 20 years. Kickham served as treasurer and board member for the Saginaw Choral Society for 14 years and on the Audit Committee for St. Mary’s Medical Center for over 16 years.
  • Kellie Konsor, assistant professor of economics, will receive the Excellence in Research Award. Konsor joined SVSU in 2016 and completed her Ph.D. in economics from Purdue University in 2017. Her research interests involve industrial organization and media economics.
  • Kevin Meyer, assistant professor of economics, will receive the Excellence in Teaching: Full-time Faculty Award. Originally from California, Meyer began teaching at SVSU after receiving his Ph.D. from Iowa State University.
  • Gerald Nelson will receive the Excellence in Teaching: Adjunct Faculty Award. Nelson began as an adjunct faculty member in SVSU’s Department of Accounting in 2015. He also is a three-time SVSU alumnus, receiving a master's degree in business administration in 2015, a bachelor's degree in professional accountancy in 2013, and a bachelor's degree in business administration in 1998.

SVSU’s Best In Business awards ceremony will recognize graduate students, undergraduate students and alumni at the ceremony.

SVSU's Scott L. Carmona College of Business & Management is among the 5 percent of business schools worldwide accredited by AACSB International, widely considered a gold standard for business school accreditation.

For more information, visit

March 19, 2019

SVSU to host employment fair this month

More than 125 employers and agencies next week plan to participate in Saginaw Valley State University’s annual Spring University-wide Employment and Networking Fair.


Free and open to the public, the event is scheduled Friday, March 29, from noon to 3 p.m. in the banquet and seminar rooms at SVSU’s Curtiss Hall.


The employment fair will provide attendees with the opportunity to meet and network with representatives from regional, national and global organizations.


Among the employers and agencies signed up to attend are Aflac, Bankers Life, Chemical Bank, Consumers Energy, Dow Chemical Company, Hemlock Semiconductor, Independence Bank, MidMichigan Health, and Morley Companies as well as the U.S. Army and Navy.


Auburn-based Dynamic Focus Photography will be available at the event to provide free professional photography portraits for attendees.


For more information about the SVSU Spring University-wide Employment and Networking Fair — including an updated list of employers and agencies planning to attend — click here. More representatives are expected to sign up to attend as the event date approaches.


The Spring University-wide Employment and Networking Fair is among eight employment fairs organized annually by SVSU's Career Services office.

March 18, 2019

Theatre director from SVSU brings collaborative spirit to 'Mamma Mia!' regional production

A play with a plot about uniting friends and family despite distances that once separated them. A theatrical production aimed at bringing together the region's diverse performing arts talents. A director hailing from a university that serves as a community-engaged bridge for that region.

There's a lot going on with the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance's unprecedented multi-theatre production of "Mamma Mia!" planned for fall. But one common theme — the desire to unify communities — seems to neatly tie together the ambitious effort for director Tommy Wedge, an assistant professor of theatre at Saginaw Valley State University.

"'Mamma Mia!' is about a character trying to get her three dads to join her family, and this production is about three different theaters joining together as a family, so it seems an apt framing device for what we're trying to do," Wedge said.

"It's about bringing people together."

The Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance recently announced it would present "Mamma Mia!" and elements of the production in September and October at three venues: Bay City Players, Midland Center for the Performing Arts, and Pit and Balcony Theatre in Saginaw. The schedule will include performances — both open to the public and exclusive for high school student audiences — as well as community workshops and other performances relating to the musical.

"I've never been part of a process like this before," said Wedge, who has worked for productions at all three theaters. "There are a lot of moving pieces, but all of them are achievable."

For the South Dakota native, confidence comes in part because he knows the barriers separating the performers, producers and audiences for the three theaters are largely arbitrary. Wedge said collaboration between the trio of venues has increased in recent years. Managers communicate to ensure they don't produce the same plays during the same seasons, and props and equipment often are shared between the different crews.

"And, especially for the younger performers and staff, the barriers are nonexistent," said Wedge, pointing out that several SVSU students and alumni have résumés highlighting work at all three locations.

"We have been on this path of opening doors between the three theatres for a while, and that led us to where we are today."

Wedge said embracing the spirit of collaboration driving the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance's production came natural to him. After all, he adopted an enthusiasm for community engagement from SVSU when he first joined the university in 2011.

"SVSU is one of the most supportive universities when it comes to using our shared strengths to improve the communities around us," he said. "Showcasing the absolute best this region has to offer is something I know how to do."

His work at SVSU already is carrying over to his latest production. Melanie Frasca, an SVSU theatre and English double major from Waterford, was involved in several Wedge-directed plays at the university. She will serve as his stage manager for "Mamma Mia!"

He said other members of the SVSU community likely will be involved in "Mamma Mia!" Openings remain for the production crew staff. Cast auditions begin in July.

Wedge most recently directed the February 2019 SVSU production of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time." He directed two plays at Midland Center for the Arts including "Beauty and the Beast" in April 2017, and four shows at Pit and Balcony including "Spring Awakening" in May 2014. He served as a directing consultant at Bay City Players.

The fall lineup of "Mamma Mia!" performances will mark his first experience working with the beloved Broadway-born musical about a young woman's effort to unify her family on the eve of her wedding.

"I'm a huge fan of the movie," he said of the 2008 film starring Meryl Streep. "For my money, it's the most successful jukebox musical there is. I'm looking forward to bringing a fresh perspective to it."

Tickets for "Mamma Mia!" will go on sale to the general public on June 27 and will be available from the box offices and websites of all three theatres (,, and

For more information about the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance's production of "Mamma Mia!,'" visit the organization's website at

March 14, 2019

SVSU welcomes Yale professor for talk on American Muslim communities

Zareena A. Grewal, associate professor of American studies, religious studies and anthropology at Yale University, will give a public lecture at Saginaw Valley State University Thursday, March 21, at 6:30 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall.

Grewal is an author and documentary filmmaker whose research focuses on race, gender, religion, nationalism and transnationalism across a wide spectrum of American Muslim communities. She has received awards for her writing and research grants from the Fulbright, Wenner-Gren and Luce Foundations.

Her first book, “Islam is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority,” is an ethnography of transnational Muslim networks that link U.S. mosques to Islamic movements in the Middle East through debates about the reform of Islam.

Grewal’s first film, “By the Dawn's Early Light: Chris Jackson's Journey to Islam,” examines the racialization of Islam and the scrutiny of American Muslims' patriotism.

At SVSU, Grewal’s lecture will cover the subject of her forthcoming book, titled “Is the Quran a Good Book?” which combines ethnographic and cultural studies analyses with historical research to trace the place of Islamic scripture in American imagination, especially in relation to national debates about intolerance.

Grewal's visit to SVSU is supported through the Dr. Raana Akbar Memorial Lecture Series in partnership with SVSU's Edwards Lecture Series and Dow Visiting Scholars Lecture Series.

The Raana Akbar Memorial Lecture on Islam and Culture was established in 2011 by Dr. Waheed Akbar in memory of his late wife Raana, a former member of the SVSU Board of Control, physician and community leader.

The William and Julia Edwards Lecture in Philosophy and Religion is a forum where recognized scholars in religion and philosophy are invited to share their work with the campus community.

The Dow Visiting Scholars and Artists program was established through an endowment from The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation to enrich our regional cultural and intellectual opportunities.

For more information, visit

March 14, 2019

SVSU 'Human Library' event challenges prejudice through dialogue

Saginaw Valley State University will host its third annual "Human Library" event Tuesday, March 19, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the first floor of Melvin J. Zahnow Library.


The event is free and open to the public.


Human Library events are designed to build a positive framework for conversations aimed at challenging stereotypes and prejudices. At these Human Library events, people are asked to serve as "books," telling their life stories to guests in attendance.


Organizers say this year's "books" will tell a variety of stories including the experience of living with a mental illness, the struggles of being a teenage mother, and the experience of being part of an interracial marriage. Other "book" topics will include living with narcolepsy, being an international student at a university, public misconceptions of Puerto Ricans, the challenge of raising an autistic son as a single mother, and the trials and tribulations of being a woman in the professional world.


Angelica Johnson, an SVSU engineering technology management major from Saginaw, served on the Human Library Planning Committee. Johnson said she expects both the event's participants and its attendees will gain wisdom from the experience.


"I believe the Human Library event gets at an understanding of a special individual who has a unique story in their life," she said. "This event goes above and beyond contributing the hard work of others and establishing new connections to human 'books.'"


For more information on Human Library events, visit

March 14, 2019

SVSU earns Voter-Friendly Campus designation

Saginaw Valley State University's commitment to civic engagement has been recognized with the  institution being selected as a “Voter Friendly Campus.”

The Voter Friendly Campus Initiative is led by the national nonpartisan organizations Campus Vote Project and NASPA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, which hold participating institutions accountable for planning and implementing practices that encourage their students to vote.

In total, 123 institutions in 31 states earned the designation for 2019-20.

To participate in the Voter Friendly Campus designation program, SVSU worked with the organization to craft a statement of interest, draft and execute an action plan for democratic and civic engagement initiatives and events happening on campus and evaluate their efforts to set new goals for the future.

The staff of the SVSU's Center for Civic Engagement also created a coalition of community members, on-campus partners and student groups who helped draft and submit SVSU's application.

“Your institution's efforts to break down barriers and empower students with the information and tools they need to participate in the political process puts the civic mission of higher education into action,” read a statement by organizers of the initiative when SVSU's designation was announced.

As part of their action plan, the Center for Civic Engagement included its plans for the 2018 Cardinals Vote campus initiative, which saw hundreds of SVSU students registered to vote, educated about their choices and transported to the polls.

Riley Hupfer, assistant director of the Center for Community Engagement, credits SVSU's success on a campus community full of engaged citizens.

“I think it's a combination of things. Students across campus are interested in this and putting time into it, and there is kind of a wave of youth voter engagement improving,” Hupfer said. “SVSU students as a whole were engaged in this. They were interested, and when the resources were there, they engaged with them. I think people were just excited to get involved.”

The Voter Friendly Campus designation program was started in 2016 with the goal of helping institutions develop plans to coordinate administrators, faculty and student organizations in civic and electoral engagement. It focuses primarily on voter registration, voter education, voter turnout and treating students as voter advocates.

“It reinforces the commitment across the country and the recognition that when students vote and get involved, great things happened,” Hupfer said. “This is just a large support network for that, and that's pretty promising.”

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