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November 8, 2021

SVSU selects K-12 educators for Gerstacker leadership program

With a keen awareness of the academic challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, a new group of K-12 education leaders will focus on professional growth as part of Saginaw Valley State University’s Gerstacker Fellowship Program. 
 
As part of the initiative, 14 teachers, principals and program administrators from across Michigan will receive concentrated leadership training over a 1-year period. The experience will include an international trip to the Netherlands and Germany in June. 

“This work has become even more critical following the loss of classroom time during the pandemic. A focus on creating principles and tools for developing and facilitating collaborative groups is a priority as leaders are asked to create plans to respond to learning loss,” said Mary Anne Ackerman, executive in residence at SVSU and co-director of the Gerstacker program. 

The Gerstacker Fellowship Program was established in 2005 with a $1.5 million endowment from the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation of Midland. Participants, known as Gerstacker Fellows, meet monthly. Experts instruct the group on subjects such as leadership practices, organizational leadership, communication, cognitive coaching, finance and education with a global perspective. This year’s group is the 15th cohort.

“The Gerstacker Fellowship now includes over 160 people who have participated in the training,” said Ackerman. “Together they support each other in the work of providing top-notch academic opportunities for our children.” 

The international trips are a vital component of the program. Gerstacker Fellows visit educational institutions to learn about international educational systems and corporate settings. There, they discover how leadership plays out in different cultural and economic settings. Previous overseas trips have included China, South Korea, Poland, Japan, Taiwan, Finland and Germany. The 14th Gerstacker Fellows cohort traveled to Finland and Germany, where they visited K-12 schools, Helsinki University, Hochshule Ansbach, secondary German vocational schools and numerous cultural sites. 

This year’s Gerstacker Fellowship cohort includes: 

  • Julie Alley, an elementary principal in Port Huron Area Schools 
  • Sarah Cooper, an elementary teacher in Midland Public Schools 
  • Rebekah D’Haene, an elementary principal in Saginaw Township Schools 
  • John Folsom, assistant high school principal in Bay City Public Schools 
  • Kelly Frank, an instructor at the Teacher Prep Academy at Iosco Regional Education Service Agency’s Career and Tech Center 
  • Stephanie Hayward, an elementary principal in Reese Public Schools 
  • Sean Kelly, high school teacher, Oak Park Schools 
  • Stacey Luberda-Criner, superintendent of Alma Public Schools 
  • Nancy Mahoney, assistant superintendent of Instructional Services, Clarkston Community Schools 
  • Lisa Morford, a literacy coach in the Saginaw Intermediate School District 
  • Amanda Murray, secondary interventionist at Michigan International Prep School 
  • Tiffany Peterson, high school principal with Carrollton Public Schools 
  • Rachel Reid, principal of Saginaw Arts and Science Academy in Saginaw Public Schools
  • Joshua Wrinkle, principal of Rochester High School

For more information about the Gerstacker Fellowship at SVSU, visit https://www.svsu.edu/collegeofeducation/gerstackerfellowshipprogram/

November 5, 2021

SVSU faculty presented with Distinguished Professor of the Year Awards

The Michigan Association of State Universities (MASU) honored two Saginaw Valley State University faculty members with the Distinguished Professor of the Year Award during the Oct. 25 meeting of the SVSU Board of Control. The award recognizes the dedication and outstanding efforts of faculty from Michigan’s 15 public universities to the education of undergraduate students. 

Professor Joseph Ofori-Dankwa, Harvey Randall Wickes Professor of International Business and a professor of management at SVSU, was recognized as one of the state’s three recipients of the 2020 Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year Award. Tami Sivy, a professor of chemistry at SVSU, was recognized with the honor in 2021. 

“Dr. Ofori-Dankwa’s commitment to bringing his students outside of the classroom and into the world shows how higher education in Michigan continues to evolve to meet the needs of its students and Michigan’s people,” said Dr. Daniel J. Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities. “These professors give their all when it comes to dedication to student success, helping them achieve their ambitions, all the while strengthening Michigan’s prosperity.” 

Since joining SVSU in 1987, he has earned several university awards including the House Family Award for Teacher Impact, the Rush Distinguished Lectureship, the Braun Fellowship, and the Thomson Award for Community Engagement. He has helped develop and teach courses for SVSU’s Vitito Fellows Global Leadership Institute, including experiential leadership projects for SVSU business students. He has also helped coordinate the B.A.T.S. (Business, Art, Theatre and Sociology) program as well as other inter-disciplinary teaching initiatives.  

A native of Ghana, Ofori-Dankwa is a leader in expanding programs to Africa. He has led and facilitated 10 trips with students, faculty, and Saginaw community leaders to Ghana since 2000. In addition, he served as a faculty advisor for SVSU electrical and computer engineering students planning to design and install solar panels at a health clinic for the Royal Seed Home Orphanage in Ghana.  

He has founded or coordinated additional programs including the Makola Institute, which is a training and advocacy center for market women and small-scale business operators in markets in Ghana, and the Makola Foundation which provides funding for entrepreneurs and students. He has also provided a curriculum on leadership and ethics for the U.S. State Department’s Young African Leadership Institute, initiated by former President Obama and located at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration.  

Ofori-Dankwa received his Bachelor of Law from the University of Ghana, his M.S. in management and technology from the University of Wales, and his Master of Labor & Industrial Relations and Ph.D. in organizational behavior from Michigan State University. 

Sivy joined the SVSU faculty in 2008 and has served as department chair since 2015. In her tenure at the university, Sivy has promoted outstanding student experiences for undergraduate students, creating opportunities for research and community partnerships. She emphasizes developing students’ critical thinking skills and helps them discover joy in learning.   

“Dr. Tami Sivy represents the best of teaching, research and dedication to student success,” said Dr. Daniel J. Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities. “She mentors and empowers her students, symbolizing the excellence in higher education for which Michigan’s public universities are globally renowned.”  

Sivy not only teaches classes at every level, she is responsible for the entire upper-level biochemistry curriculum and has mentored more than 50 SVSU students in laboratory research. Sivy sits on the steering committee of the Saginaw Bay Environmental Science Institute at SVSU. She also was involved in the development of the SVSU /STEM/Dow Science and Sustainability Center’s mobile laboratory and the curriculum that is used in outreach activities to area students. She has mentored many regional high school teachers and students in environmental research projects.    

In 2012, Sivy and her undergraduate students began using rapid DNA testing to detect fecal contamination and its sources at freshwater sites in the Saginaw Bay Watershed. After many years of collaboration and validation, the method has now been used to determine beach closings in Bay County since 2019. This pioneering work led the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy to request her assistance in adapting testing for the COVID-19 virus in wastewater. Sivy was the first in Michigan to engage undergraduate students in this testing, which spans the SVSU campus and seven surrounding counties. In support of freshwater and wastewater testing, she has received nearly $4 million in external funding. 

“As a faculty member at SVSU, Dr. Sivy positively impacts the classroom and surrounding community through her research on water quality,” said Deborah R. Huntley, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at SVSU. “She is a teacher who mentors and understands the needs of students. Her dedication to the success of students and her commitment to her community, colleagues and SVSU are well evident.”   

Sivy has won several awards at SVSU, including the Franc A. Landee Award for Teaching Excellence, the most prestigious teaching award conferred by the university. She also was an exchange professor at Shikoku University in Tokushima, Japan, where she served as an ambassador of SVSU to the community and taught undergraduate courses.   

Sivy earned her B.S. in biochemistry from Calvin College and her Ph.D. in chemistry and biochemistry from the University of Colorado, Boulder. 

The other two recipients of the 2020 award were Grand Valley State University Professor Stephen Mattox and University of Michigan Professor H. Scott Fogler. Thomas Werner of Michigan Technological University and Yunus Zeytuncu of the University of Michigan-Dearborn also received the 2021 award.   

October 29, 2021

Michigan Author wins SVSU literature award

Saginaw Valley State University has awarded the 2021-2022 Stuart D. and Vernice M. Gross Award for Literature to author T. Marie Bertineau for her debut memoir, “The Mason House.” The award is part of SVSU’s community-minded commitment to recognize exceptional writing within Michigan.

Described as “an elegy for lost loved ones and a tale of growing up amid hardship and hope,” “The Mason House” has been praised by reviewer M. Bartley Seigel as “a graceful and moving memoir . . . [that] paints an intimate and complicated portrait of life in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.”

Bertineau will visit SVSU in spring 2022, when she will accept the award as well as visit classes and student groups on campus. She will also receive a $1,000 prize.

Born amidst the copper mining ruins of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula of Ojibwe-Anishinaabe and French Canadian/Cornish descent, Bertineau is a member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of the L’Anse Reservation, migizi odoodeman. She has published her work in the annual journal “U.P. Reader” and “Mino Miikana,” a publication of the Native Justice Coalition. Bertineau’s quarterly column, “Hankies in My Pocket: Tender Thoughts from the Keweenaw,” can be found on carrotranch.com, home of Carrot Ranch Literary Community. She also has contributed work to Minnesota’s Carver County Arts Consortium.

Established by the late Stuart D. Gross and his wife, Vernice, the Gross Award for Literature is administered by SVSU. It is granted to published works in regional history or historical fiction/drama. Preference is given to Michigan subject matter or strong Michigan connections on the part of the author.

Winners are selected by a panel of judges from SVSU’s faculty and staff. Judges this year were Matthew Buckley, research and collection development librarian; M. Patricia Cavanaugh, professor of English; Jules Gehrke, associate professor of history; Carlos Ramet, associate dean of the College of Arts and Behavioral Sciences; and Michelle Strasz, research and online course support librarian.

Employed for many years as a journalist with the Saginaw News, Gross was an early member of SVSU’s staff and served in a variety of public affairs roles. He was recognized as a regional historian and published several books. Among his writings are “Saginaw: A History of the Land and the City,” “When Timber was King” and “Where There is a Will.” Following his retirement from SVSU, Gross wrote and produced a play, “Let’s Have Lunch Sometime.” He died in 1996; Mrs. Gross in 2001.

October 25, 2021

Saginaw Valley State University Professor Receives Distinguished Professor of the Year Award

Saginaw Valley State University Professor Joseph Ofori-Dankwa was recognized as one of the state’s three recipients of the 2020 Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year Award by the Michigan Association of State Universities. The award recognizes the dedication and outstanding efforts of faculty from Michigan’s 15 public universities to the education of undergraduate students.

“Dr. Ofori-Dankwa’s commitment to bringing his students outside of the classroom and into the world shows how higher education in Michigan continues to evolve to meet the needs of its students and Michigan’s people,” said Dr. Daniel J. Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities. “These professors give their all when it comes to dedication to student success, helping them achieve their ambitions, all the while strengthening Michigan’s prosperity.”

Ofori-Dankwa is the Harvey Randall Wickes Professor of International Business and a professor of management at Saginaw Valley State University. Since joining SVSU in 1987, he has earned several university awards including the House Family Award for Teacher Impact, the Rush Distinguished Lectureship, the Braun Fellowship, and the Thomson Award for Community Engagement. He has helped develop and teach courses for SVSU’s Vitito Fellows Global Leadership Institute, including experiential leadership projects for SVSU business students. Among the inter-disciplinary teaching initiatives he has helped to co-coordinate is the B.A.T.S. (Business, Art, Theatre and Sociology) program. 

A native of Ghana, Ofori-Dankwa is a leader in expanding programs to Africa. He has led and facilitated 10 trips with students, faculty, and Saginaw community leaders to Ghana since 2000. In addition, he served as a faculty advisor for SVSU electrical and computer engineering students planning to design and install solar panels at a health clinic for the Royal Seed Home Orphanage in Ghana.

He has founded or coordinated additional programs including the Makola Institute, which is a training and advocacy center for market women and small-scale business operators in markets in Ghana, and the Makola Foundation which provides funding for entrepreneurs and students. He has also provided a curriculum on leadership and ethics for the U.S. State Department’s Young African Leadership Institute, initiated by former President Obama and located at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration.

Ofori-Dankwa received his Bachelor of Law from the University of Ghana, his M.S. in management and technology from the University of Wales, and his Master of Labor & Industrial Relations and Ph.D. in organizational behavior from Michigan State University.

The other two recipients of the 2020 award were Grand Valley State University Professor Stephen Mattox and University of Michigan Professor H. Scott Fogler. 

The Michigan Association of State Universities will recognize Ofori-Dankwa and Tami Sivy, SVSU professor of chemistry and a 2021 recipient of the award, during the SVSU Board of Control meeting Monday, Oct. 25.  

October 22, 2021

JuJuan Cook: SVSU Nursing Student Determined to Make a Difference

Nursing Student with Patient

With health care careers receiving more attention than ever, society sees the critical role of nurses, especially hardworking and compassionate nurses like JaJuan Cook.  

Currently in his senior year of the nursing program at Saginaw Valley State University, Cook was drawn to health care after seeing how influential nurses are during some of the hardest parts of people’s lives. Cook was inspired by their ability to comfort people who are in pain and make a positive impact during difficult moments.  

“As a nurse you get those personal connections and can help people at their lowest when they are in times of need,” said Cook. “I know how difficult it is and you’re not yourself. The people who help you get better are inspirational. It’s life-changing.” 

A Detroit native, Cook’s first experience with SVSU was far before he was looking at college choices as a high school senior.  

“In fifth grade I attended a music camp here and stayed in the dorms. I was able to walk the campus and experience everything,” he said. 

This experience stayed with him and when he was reintroduced to SVSU by a high school recruiter, he was reassured that it was the perfect fit for him.  

Just as he loves the personal connections he is able to make as a nurse, he also loves the personal connections he has built at SVSU.  

“In nursing we have cohorts — it’s more personable,” said Cook. “I made great friends. I get to really connect with my professors. They get to know their students and help them. They give you all the tools you need.” 

Cook credited Jaime Huffman, SVSU assistant professor of nursing, for laying the groundwork for the nurse he would become. She taught one of his first nursing classes.

“She really helped prepare us. I don’t think I would be where I am now without that foundation,” he said. 

Cook gained hands-on skills through the simulation labs at SVSU and his clinical rotations, which have been especially instrumental in preparing him for his career. He is currently completing a clinical rotation in a pediatric unit, and he will be in the ICU next semester.  

“I’ve gained so much experience. You are able to apply what you learn in the classroom and experience it firsthand. It makes everything click,” he said. 

He is especially appreciative of his internship experience and the impact this has had on his future nursing career. 

At SVSU, student nurses are paired with a current nurse at their hospital of choice for 14 shifts. This gave him one-on-one attention and practical experience that propelled his confidence and abilities. 

 “It allows me to get comfortable and prepare for my next steps. I know a lot of schools don’t do that, and I really enjoy this experience,” said Cook. 

He has become connected to his patients, as well as the community he has become part of in the Great Lakes Bay Region.  

He has volunteered at many community events, including administering shots at flu and COVID-19 vaccine clinics held at SVSU. He also has written cards for the elderly and helped at Underground Railroad, a nonprofit that serves victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.  

Many of Cook’s volunteer opportunities came through his involvement as a Thompson Scholar. Bob and Ellen Thompson created the Thompson Working Families Scholarship to provide scholarship support for students from hardworking families. The Thompson family recently donated an additional $6 million gift to SVSU for this scholarship program.  

Part of the renewal requirements for this scholarship include community involvement and volunteering, which made Cook appreciate this scholarship even more. 

 “It’s been a big help. I don’t have to focus as much on student loans,” said Cook. “I was able to learn more about this area and outreach programs. It’s more than just monetary — I got a lot out of it.” 

As Cook looks to the future, he will take this spirit of giving back and all the skills he has gained through SVSU’s nursing program.  

“After I get a few years of experience I want to go into travel nursing so I can go to new states and new areas while still practicing,” said Cook. “You have the autonomy to choose where you want to go. You get to see different areas, meet different types of people and gain valuable experience.” 

Ultimately, he plans to specialize in the nursing field.   

“I also want to get my certification as a CRNA — certified registered nurse anesthetist — to help people with pain management through surgery. I want to be able to help in such a painful process,” he said. 

As Cook looks to the future and prepares for his graduation in May, he is looking forward to things to come and using all the skills he gained at SVSU. 

“In areas that I used to struggle, I am now flourishing on my own. With all the practicing, clinicals, skills labs, internships and working with our own patients, I definitely feel prepared,” said Cook. 

“I’m most excited about being able to use the experience that I’ve gained and use it wherever I go.”   

October 21, 2021

SVSU to host central figure in Flint water crisis

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha helped uncover dire situation

Saginaw Valley State University will host Mona Hanna-Attisha, M.D., the Flint pediatrician whose research proved that children were exposed to lead from the Flint water supply, on Monday, Oct. 25 at 6:30 p.m. Guests can attend this free community event in person or watch the lecture virtually.

Hanna-Attisha ― or Dr. Mona, as she is affectionately called ― will recount her role in uncovering the Flint water crisis, discuss the city’s current challenges and emphasize the importance of advocacy in health and medicine.

Hanna-Attisha is the author of “What the Eyes Don’t See: A story of crisis, resistance, and hope in an American City.” She is founder and director of the Michigan State University and Hurley children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative and an assistant professor in the MSU College of Human Medicine.

This lecture is made possible through Saginaw Valley State University’s Early Assurance Program partnership with MSU of Human Medicine and is sponsored, in part, by an SVSU Foundation Resource Grant. The lecture is part of the annual Your Health Lecture Series initiative between SVSU, MSU College of Human Medicine and Mid-Michigan Health.

Register for the event here. Registrants will be able to select their viewing preference. A livestream link or lecture location information will be sent following registration.

October 8, 2021

SVSU graduates earn competitive scholarship while attending PA, dentistry school

Two recent Saginaw Valley State University graduates have been rewarded for their commitment to caring for underserved populations in healthcare. 

used for story bodyKaitlyn Bailey, a 2018 health sciences graduate, and Lauren Richardson, a 2021 biochemistry graduate, each received the HRSA (Health Resources & Services Administration) National Health Service Corps Scholarship, which provides full tuition and fees, plus a monthly stipend for living expenses, to students pursuing eligible primary care health professions training. In return, scholars provide primary care health services in areas that have a shortage of primary, dental or mental health care providers for a number of years after graduation. 

Bailey is pursuing a Master of Physician Assistant Studies at MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston. The Grand Rapids native said she always had a soft spot for underserved communities, but a study abroad trip to the African nation of Zambia with Rene Hernandez, her mentor and SVSU associate professor of health sciences, cemented that interest into a passion. 

“Kaitlyn was really adamant to not just limit her understanding to textbook knowledge, so she sought lots of experience to help her grow and just explore more about the needs of such communities,” said Heidi Lang, SVSU pre-health professions advisor. 

Richardson is in dental school at Midwestern University in Chicago. The Grand Ledge native’s undergraduate experience was enriched by partnerships with local organizations. 

“Lauren’s most notable experience with was with Great Lakes Bay Health centers, specifically volunteering with and shadowing Dr. Joseph Vanfleteren as they provided dental care to the underserved,” said Lang. 

The HRSA NHSC Scholarship Program is highly competitive. Only 11% of those who applied in 2020 earned awards (251 recipients out of 2,250 eligible applicants). 

“Opportunities like this are few and far between,” Lang said. 

Other SVSU alumni have also received the scholarship. Caitlin Durkee, a 2020 graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, received the scholarship for dental school at the University of Michigan. Logan Schuiteman, a 2014 graduate (B.S., biology), received the scholarship while pursuing her degree at the University of Louisville and is a practicing dentist in Appleton, Wis. 

 

October 7, 2021

SVSU students score decisive victory in fundraising competition 

Battle of the Valleys culminates with more than $41,000 donated to the Children’s Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region 

While Saginaw Valley State University came out on top of Battle of the Valleys, nonprofit organizations in Midland and Grand Rapids were the big winners of the yearly fundraising competition.  

At the end of the intense weeklong fundraising competition with Grand Valley State University, SVSU held on to the trophy and presented the Children’s Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region a check for $41,765.58. The Children’s Grief Center provides a healing environment for children, teens and their families grieving a death. The Center provides peer support at group gatherings for children and families in Midland, Bay City and Saginaw. 

SVSU Student Association presented the check to the Children’s Grief Center during the SVSU-GVSU football game Saturday. Oct. 2. The home game’s final score was 49-17 in Grand Valley’s favor. 

“It was really rewarding to spearhead Battle this year,” said Josie Koenigsknecht, a communication major from Fowler who co-chaired the initiative with Madeline Lowry, a rehabilitative medicine major from Lake Orion. “Seeing the passion from the community – both on campus and in the surrounding communities – was amazing!” 

Camille Nitschky, executive director of the Children’s Grief Center, was appreciative of the work the SVSU Student Association did to make Battle of the Valleys a success. 

“We have been honored to be the beneficiary this year,” Nitschky said. “Being part of this incredible team ― the Student Association, planning, being on campus to do outreach and create awareness about who we are ― has been an experience we will cherish. Most importantly someone may have learned about our mission and that we are here to support them in their grief and that they are not alone. That’s really the most important thing of all.   

“Thank you to all the students, student organizations, the Greek communities, our amazing SVSU interns, and all the businesses who supported this wonderful event with their time, talents and treasure. We’re here to stay and Battle of the Valleys was just the beginning of the great things we can do together.”  

Koenigsknecht also praised the Children’s Grief Center for its involvement. 

“The Children’s Grief Center was at every event, which was great to see. They really engaged with our students and invited them to volunteer at the Children’s Grief Center meetings, and they now have a long list of potential volunteers.” 

Nitschky and her team valued the opportunity to participate. “We loved being part of the everyday outreach on campus. Being able to share our mission with students, pass out our little heart pins and witness the engagement of the entire student body in raising awareness and funds for our grief center was amazing.” 

She said the Center will use the funds to directly support the groups in Bay City, Midland and Saginaw, and also to purchase supplies and to provide onsite peer support school grief groups, including a group at SVSU, for students who have experienced a death. Further, the funds will help the Center meet a matching grant of $100,000 from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation. 

Battle of the Valleys harnesses the friendly rivalry between SVSU and GVSU to raise funds for charitable organizations in each university’s respective community. After GVSU stepped down from the competition in 2019, SVSU continued the fundraising initiative as “Battle of the Valley.” In 2021, GVSU re-joined the competition, and the friendly rivalry was back in action. 

This year, SVSU’s fundraising total eclipsed the total of the last two years combined. This was the 14th year that SVSU won the competition, which began in 2003. In 2019 and 2020, SVSU held its own fundraising effort because GVSU had withdrawn from the competition.  

Koenigsknecht suspects Grand Valley’s re-entry into the competition may be part of the reason for this year’s outstanding success. 

"We had a huge jump from last year,” she said, “which may be because Grand Valley is back in the competition and more students are back on campus.” 

 

 

October 5, 2021

SVSU student-led production opens theatre season

An SVSU student’s passion project will mark the first in-person theatre production of the 2021-22 academic year. 

Jaden O’Berry, a theatre major from Flint, will direct “Lonely Planet” by American playwright and theatre director Steven Dietz.  

Dietz won the PEN USA Award in Drama for “Lonely Planet,” which explores friendship and fear between Jody (played by Ethan Bach) and Carl (played by Jared Kaufman) at the height of the AIDS epidemic. The play is suited for audiences 13+ and will run from Wednesday-Saturday, Oct. 6-9 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 10 at 3:00 p.m. in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. 

The production is part of the SVSU theatre department’s Studio X.P. (experience) Program, in which students propose a production of their choice, then cast and direct the play. Peggy Mead-Finizio and Tommy Wedge, both SVSU assistant professors of theatre, have served as advisors for Studio X.P. productions since the beginning of the program in fall 2018.  

“Most university theatre programs have limited options for undergrad students to direct productions,” said Mead-Finizio. “Having those resume credits as an undergrad stands out when students are seeking internships and jobs.” 

Wedge and Mead-Finizio advise the student director and student technical liaison, respectively.  

“I try to be Jaden’s ‘gut-check guru,’ a voice of experience where she can check in on how to move forward when presented with the seemingly never-ending obstacles that come a director’s way,” said Wedge. 

O’Berry, who will graduate in May 2022, won a lighting design competition at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Region III Festival in 2020, and her lighting design was used in an SVSU production of “Roustabout” in February of 2020. O’Berry was selected for the Roberts Fellowship, an SVSU Program of Distinction, for the 2021-22 academic year.  

While O’Berry is the director, she sees the production as a collaborative process with the entire crew. 

“I provided the structure of what I wanted and the designers have been able to follow it through and add their own flair,” she said. 

In her vision for the play, O’Berry wants to create “mic-drop moments” ― specific vignettes in important scenes that help carry the play’s message. 

“We know what the end goal is for the show, but we don’t want the audience to know that we know what the end goal is,” O’Berry said. “It has to be a surprise for us every night. That’s the joy of live theater; it’s never the same way twice. We want to make sure that we’re getting everything across that we should and paying respect to the story.” 

O’Berry chose the play because of the present-day parallels of the COVID-19 pandemic and for LGBTQ+ representation. 

“The HIV and AIDS epidemic was big in the 1980s, and the reason I chose this piece is because as a queer person, I’m always looking for representation on larger scales and larger stages,” she said. 

“I think the play didn’t resonate until COVID hit as hard as it did. I think that’s the best part about this play and what makes Steven Dietz such an amazing playwright. He truly encapsulated what it means to be human and to have those fears and those doubts about going out and facing the world.” 

Bach, a communication and theatre education major from Essexville, has appeared on the SVSU stage as Robert in “Proof” and in other Studio X.P. productions. He feels that having a peer as a director makes the experience more real and in the moment.  

“We know each other as classmates and friends, so it’s a different experience in regard to how we communicate with one another,” he said. 

“We have a lot of the same ideas and feelings towards theater,” 

Kaufman, a communication and theatre education major from Bay City, has competed for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship's regional award through the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. 

Tickets for “Lonely Planet” are $15 each and can be purchased either online or at the box office (two hours prior to an event).  When tickets are purchased online, a link will be sent to your email to print or present as a mobile ticket. 

September 24, 2021

SVSU annual student-run fundraiser begins

Battle of the Valleys regains competitor

Saginaw Valley State University students are back on campus in full force, and one of the student body’s most meaningful traditions is gearing up to be stronger than ever, with Grand Valley State University back in the competition.

Battle of the Valleys harnesses the friendly rivalry between SVSU and GVSU to raise funds for charitable organizations in each university’s respective community. After GVSU stepped down from the competition in 2019, SVSU continued the fundraising initiative as “Battle of the Valley.” GVSU has re-joined the competition, and the friendly rivalry is back in action for 2021.

“Going forward, both schools are only counting the profit after fundraising costs toward the final total,” said SVSU Student Association Battle Co-Chair Madeline Lowry, a rehabilitative medicine major from Lake Orion. “This was done to create a level playing field for both schools.”

Battle of the Valleys, a fundraiser organized by SVSU’s student government, has remained a proud tradition at SVSU since 2003. Each year, a student-selected nonprofit benefits from funds collected during a series of fun activities often hosted on campus.

This year, proceeds from Battle will benefit the Children's Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region, whose mission is to provide a healing environment through peer support for children, teens and their families grieving a death. Money raised in this year’s competition will go toward expanding their services.

“It's fun to compete, but we're here for the fundraiser and to help our beneficiary, ultimately,” said Josie Koenigsknecht, SVSU Student Association Battle Co-Chair. Koenigsknecht, a communication major from Fowler, has been a student representative for Student Association since fall 2020.

During last year’s “Battle,” SVSU raised over $18K for Bay Area Women's Center.

“We have a small campus and we bring together so many students, faculty and alumni to raise money for this one cause every single year,” said Lowry. “In the 19 years we’ve been doing this, we’ve raised over half a million dollars for local charities, which is incredible. I just love that our community did that.”

The 2021 BOV – the 19th – kicks off on Sunday, Sept. 26 with a 5K color run/walk and will culminate with the presentation of a check to the Children’s Grief Center during the SVSU-GVSU football game on Saturday. Oct. 2. This year’s game will be held at SVSU.

The public is invited to participate in the 5K color run/walk, which will be held at the SVSU College of Health and Human Services building starting in parking lot G. Check-in begins at 12 p.m., and the race will start at 1:00 p.m. Runners must be checked in by 12:45 and at the start line by 12:50 p.m.

Participants can preregister or sign up on Sunday. The cost is $30 for a standard package, consisting of the registration fee, Battle of the Valleys t-shirt and snacks. The $50 Battle Bundle includes registration, BOV t-shirt, crewneck, sticker and snacks. Payment can be made by cash, Venmo or credit card.

The lineup for campus events this year features old favorites, such as the date auction and pie-a-professor, and new events like inflatable sports and a pageant/talent show.

“I served as Battle chair two years ago, so it’s really exciting to see people getting excited about events again,” said Lowry.

Battle of the Valleys receives sponsorship support from SVSU Support Staff Association, Jolt Credit Union, Maier & Associates and SVSU Student Life.

The public can purchase BOV apparel at on-campus table sits throughout the week and online at https://www.svsubattle.com/shop starting Sunday, Sept. 26 at 12 p.m. Participants can donate to the fundraiser and view the lineup of events online at svsubattle.com.

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