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March 13, 2021

SVSU Recognizes Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month, a time designated to celebrate women’s contributions to history, culture and society. It has been observed annually in the United States since 1987.

At Saginaw Valley State University, we value the contributions of women, not only on our campus but throughout the broader community and around the world. In observance of Women’s History Month, several SVSU faculty and staff members have shared their experiences as women, what Women’s History Month means to them, and what advice they would share with young women. See their Profiles in Leadership.

March 12, 2021

SVSU Designated a “Voter Friendly Campus”

Saginaw Valley State University has been designated a “Voter Friendly Campus” in a program led by national nonpartisan organizations Fair Elections Center’s Campus Voter Project and NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. SVSU is one of more than 200 campuses in 37 states and the District of Columbia to be granted this designation, which is valid through December 2022. 

To earn the designation, SVSU planned and implemented practices that encouraged their students to register and vote in 2020 elections and will continue to encourage participation in future elections. 

“At SVSU, we understand the importance of participating in the democratic process,” said Riley Hupfer, director of SVSU’s Center for Community Engagement. “We feel it is incumbent on us to offer nonpartisan programming that supports our students’ deep interest in exercising their democratic rights and being a part of the voting process. They represent the civic leaders of tomorrow, and we are proud of their commitment to our communities.” 

SVSU’s voter-friendly activities include:

  • The Cardinals Vote program, established in 2018, a nonpartisan program centered around connecting SVSU students with opportunities to engage in the democratic system through voter registration, candidate and ballot information, and ultimately turning out to the polls to ensure student voices are heard in the electoral process.
  • Programming to support SVSU students who are interested in civic and democratic engagement, including mock polling, voter registration efforts and election day programs.
  • Participation in the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, which provides key data and insight into our student voting numbers. 
  • “Voting Processes in the 2020 Election” program created in partnership with SVSU’s Political Science Department.

The mission of the Voter Friendly Campus designation is to bolster nonpartisan efforts that help students overcome barriers to participating in the political process. SVSU was evaluated based on a campus plan designed to register, educate and turn out student voters in 2020; how SVSU facilitated voter engagement efforts on campus; and a final analysis of all related efforts.

For more information on SVSU’s Cardinals Vote program, visit

March 9, 2021

SVSU to Offer Free Tuition to Qualifying Students in Michigan

Saginaw Valley State University is expanding its longstanding dedication to making a first-class college education accessible to Michigan families by offering free tuition to qualified students throughout Michigan. A new initiative known as the SVSU Cardinal Commitment will remove barriers to higher education for many students, starting with the fall 2021 semester.

“We are proud of our role in welcoming students from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and providing them with a high-quality education that prepares them for meaningful careers,” said Donald Bachand, SVSU President. “We have maintained the lowest tuition in the state for many years, but the sticker price still causes many families to think an SVSU degree is out of reach.

“We want those hard-working students to fully understand they can complete an SVSU degree and that we are putting resources into this program to support them every step of the way. I hear from employers every day who are counting on us to grow the talent pipeline, and we are committed to doing our part by breaking down barriers.” 

The SVSU Cardinal Commitment financial aid package provides free eligible tuition and mandatory fees to qualifying first-time undergraduate students with student and family adjusted gross income of $50,000 or less. Full criteria are available at

SVSU has partnered with community organizations for many years to improve college access. The leaders of three regional community foundations applauded this latest initiative.

Diane Fong, president and CEO of the Bay Area Community Foundation:

  • “The Bay Area Community Foundation applauds SVSU's efforts to make college accessible to all. Only 11% of young adults from low-income families earn a degree by age 24 compared to 58% from high-income families. One's ability to achieve an education should not be dependent on their family's income. The SVSU Cardinal Commitment is an important step to removing that barrier.”
  • “Midland Area Community Foundation is excited to learn of the Cardinal Commitment. We recognize the critical importance of post-secondary education to help build a community and region where all can thrive.  With Michigan's goal of 60% of residents with a post-secondary degree or credential by 2030, we appreciate Saginaw Valley State University's commitment to assist students with the cost of higher education.”

Renee Johnston, president and CEO of the Saginaw Area Community Foundation:

  • “The Saginaw Community Foundation is extremely proud of Saginaw Valley State University for their ongoing ‘Commitment’ to equity and access to higher education for all. And, with the recent announcement of the ‘Cardinal Commitment,’ they have recognized the need for long-term support for many students in need of assistance to complete college degrees.  The Saginaw Community Foundation is also excited to have the opportunity to leverage our scholarships with the Cardinal Commitment to further assist these students with other academic needs. Thank you SVSU for being an amazing community partner!”

Sharon Mortensen, president and CEO of the Midland Area Community Foundation:

Questions regarding the SVSU Commitment can be made by calling the SVSU Information Line at 989-964-2110 or e-mailing the SVSU Campus Financial Services Center at

February 23, 2021

SVSU Honored with Military Friendly Designation for Commitment to Student Veteran Support

Saginaw Valley State University was honored as a 2020-2021 Military Friendly School for its dedication to military student support services. SVSU was awarded with a Military Friendly Silver Designation by the company VIQTORY, which only a select group of institutions earn this prestigious honor.  

Military Friendly Schools is the longest-running, most comprehensive review of college and university investments in serving military and veteran students. It is one of the most stringent surveys on the market, and its 2020-2021 Military Friendly Schools list is more exclusive than ever.  

This is SVSU’s 10th year receiving this designation for providing excellent service to military-connected students. The university has received numerous recognitions at both the state and national level for being a military and veteran friendly institution for its procedures and policies that benefit military-connected students. One of SVSU’s greatest resources to its military-affiliated students is the Military Student Affairs Office.  

The Military Student Affairs Office at SVSU is dedicated to the needs and concerns of all military-affiliated students and is staffed by a full-time director, the school certifying official, and Veterans Affairs student liaisons, who have all served in the military. 

One student veteran in particular, Jake Kokowicz, has particularly benefited from the Military Student Affairs Office. Kokowicz served in the United States Marine Corps for over five years until he medically retired into 2018 and enrolled at SVSU, where he is pursuing a social work major and a minor in psychology. He expects to complete his bachelor's degree in May 2022. 

The atmosphere from the Military Student Affairs Office was one of the main reasons why he chose SVSU. 

“Everyone there was friendly and just wanted to help me be successful,” said the Vassar native. 

The supportive atmosphere he experienced within the Military Students Affairs Office continued into every aspect of his campus experience.   

“The students around me are extremely grateful for my service and are not afraid to tell me that.  I get thank-you’s all the time for my service, which is nice, but they do not need to thank me,” said the social work major. 

“I have a prosthetic left arm and the other students do not stare at me or make me feel uncomfortable.  Instead, they ask me what happened and if there is anything they can do to help.” 

His greatest on-campus support has been from Bethany Alford, the director of Military Student Affairs. Her dedication to his success empowered him to attend college. 

“If it wasn't for Bethany Alford and the Military Student Affairs Office, I wouldn't be in school,” Kokowicz said. “The thought of going to school, registering for classes, paying for books, learning where everything is and how to do everything seemed extremely overwhelming. 

“The military office had students in there who helped me with all those issues and helped ease the load on my shoulders. That office is an amazing resource for military-connected students attending SVSU.” 

Kokowicz was so inspired by the support he received that he has become a student liaison to help other students like him.  

“I now work in the Military Student Affairs Office so I can be there for other military-connected students — just like they were there for me. We never leave a service member behind. Semper Fi!”  

February 23, 2021

The SVSU Theatre department presents Joan: The Girl of Arc.

SVSU Theatre Play - Joan the Girl of ArcIt has been nearly a year since the COVID-19 pandemic caused the closure of theaters throughout the country; yet, for SVSU students, the show goes on.

Students will showcase their talents during a five-performance run of “Joan: The Girl of Arc” by Darrah Cloud. The play is directed by Peggy Mead-Finizio, assistant professor of theatre, in her SVSU directing debut.

With a cast of 14, supported by 14 crew members, the play tells the story of Joan D’Arc, a shepherd in Domrémy, France, in the late 1420s. While tending sheep one day, Joan hears voices, claiming to be saints, who ask her to go to war for France. Ultimately, the prince of France turns over leadership of his army to Joan, who leads the soldiers to victory over the British in the Hundred Years’ War. Despite her victory, Joan is sentenced to death when she refuses to deny the voices she heard.

The play will be delivered virtually at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24 through Saturday, Feb. 27, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28. Tickets are $10 and must be purchased online. One hour before the performance, ticketholders will be emailed a link where they can watch the performance.

Each show is performed and live streamed using NewTek TriCaster® 860 video equipment. “Joan” is the first SVSU Theatre performance being live streamed to audiences. The department’s most recent performance, “No. 6,” was pre-recorded.

“Directing this show for live streaming has been a little different,” said Mead-Finizio, who recently was recognized nationally for innovation in teaching by the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. “So has design. Everyone is working from what people see on a monitor versus on the stage. I’ve had to adjust blocking [positioning of actors on the stage] to accommodate camera angles; shifting an actor even two inches can make a huge difference on camera.

“Our students are really happy to be performing and trying new things,” said Mead-Finizio. “Not all schools are doing productions.”

Teaching and rehearsing during the pandemic have required some adaptation in observance of health and safety protocols. Mead-Finizio said the capacity inside the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts has been reduced to 50, with no more than 20 people allowed on stage at one time, and physical distancing of 6 feet is being enforced. Further, moveable props and set pieces have dedicated handlers, and the sets are wiped down following each scene.

To deliver the most expressive performance possible, cast members wear masks made of clear plastic with a soft foam frame that can be tinted to match the actors’ skin tones. Mead-Finizio said the PPE (personal protective equipment) presented a challenge for the student sound designer, Lucas Inman, a junior theatre major from Saginaw, who solved the issue by taping microphones to the actors’ foreheads.

Students and faculty alike have risen to the challenges during the pandemic to maintain a regular schedule of classes and performances.

“Last spring, when we transitioned on online instruction, I felt like I was swimming upstream,” Mead-Finizio said. “SVSU’s Center for Academic Innovation gave us so many tools to help us that we were able to continue instruction pretty seamlessly.”

The department was even able to deliver a performance of “Macbeth” last spring via Zoom, with all of the actors joining the performance from their homes.

Even though in-person instruction resumed in the fall, some of Mead-Finizio’s classes are large enough to require a flex classroom, with half the class in person and half the class virtual.

“That has made our classroom engagement dynamics a little different,” she said. “We’ve had to try different things to get people engaged. One thing I really appreciate about SVSU’s Theatre Department is that everyone has a slightly different skill set, and we’re sharing what we know and learn with one another.”

For more information on SVSU’s theatre presentation, visit


February 17, 2021

SVSU establishes, hires director for new on-campus mental health & wellness center

Saginaw Valley State University is responding to the growing demand for mental health services by building a new model to serve its campus community.

The incidence and prevalence of mental illness, substance use and emotional distress on college campuses have been trending up for years, and COVID-19 — with its health and economic consequences — is compounding the problem. The American Council on Education reported 68% of higher education presidents listed student mental health as among the most pressing issues in academia.

SVSU students, faculty and staff who need professional support on mental health matters will soon have a new on-campus resource to turn to.

SVSU is establishing a new Campus Mental Health & Wellness Center, and have hired the center’s first director, Margaret (Margie) Bach.

James G. Muladore, SVSU executive vice president for Administration & Business Affairs, noted caring employers need to give more attention to the mental health and well-being of students, faculty and staff.

“Our first steps were to establish a mental health and wellness strategy and define the role it will play in developing relevant outreach activities and programs, building relationships with internal and external stakeholders, and ensuring compliance with all appropriate counseling protocols,” Muladore said.

A survey by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine reported 40% of students experienced a significant mental health challenge. In 2018-19, their survey found:

  • major depression affected 18% of students compared to 8% in 2007;
  • severe anxiety affected 14%, compared to 6%;
  • 2% made a suicide attempt compared to 0.6% in 2007.

The new model is expected to strategically respond to a wide range of mental health concerns for students, faculty and staff to provide a range of short-term solutions and/or referral, as appropriate. Education and training will be made available for faculty, staff and students on topics such as alcohol and other drugs, substance abuse and suicide prevention.

Staff in the center will develop and maintain relationships with local and regional mental health and medical professionals. SVSU staff also will identify and establish a network of services accessible to students who have no insurance or limited resources.

In hiring Bach, Muladore added “she will play an instrumental role in the development of our Campus Mental Health and Wellness Center.

“Margie Bach is a proven and experienced professional in the mental health field who is well positioned to lead our new model,” he said. “Margie's career experiences provide her the ability to communicate with and seek input from multiple university constituencies necessary for this initiative to be successful.”

Prior to accepting her new assignment at SVSU, Bach had served since 2007 as president and chief executive officer for Child & Family Services in Saginaw. She was responsible for all program activities for the organization’s counseling center, employee wellness center and sexual assault center. Before advancing to her senior administrative position, Bach was the director of program and operations from 2002-2007, and the sexual assault center director from 1999-2002.

Bach earned a Master of Social Work degree from Western Michigan University. She is a licensed clinical social worker through the State of Michigan Board of Social Work.

“I am eager to bring my experience in program development, relationship building, strategic planning and building counseling programs to Saginaw Valley State University,” Bach said. “I believe mental health plays a central role in everyone’s health, including students, faculty and staff. 

“As the CEO of an organization that offers counseling, employee wellness and sexual assault crisis services to the region, I believe I can bring my experience to the campus and in turn learn from the campus community,” she said. “I look forward to developing new initiatives that will support the entire culture of Saginaw Valley State University.”

Bach will assume her new SVSU duties on Monday, April 5.

January 29, 2021

Passionate SVSU Professor Receives National Board Appointment

Dedicated professor of teacher education at Saginaw Valley State University, Anne Tapp, was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE).

The AACTE is a national organization that serves as one of the leading voices on educator preparation. It represents over 800 postsecondary institutions with educator programs dedicated to high-quality, evidence-based preparation that ensures educators are empowered to effectively teach all learners.  

Tapp earns this honor for her commitment to teacher education and passion for advancement in the field of education.  

“Dr. Tapp’s election to the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education Board of Directors is a testament to her vast expertise and impressive record in teacher education,” said James Tarr, dean of SVSU’s College of Education.  

Tapp will also serve as chair of the Advisory Council of State Representatives (ACSR) Executive Committee. She will oversee the four United States regional representatives who represent the presidents of chapters from 48 states. For the past year she has served as the Midwest Region Representative, the designated liaison for the presidents of 12 states in the region.   

Her leadership will have the power to influence and improve the future of education at a national level.  

“As a member of the Board, Dr. Tapp will have her finger on the pulse of education policy and leverage changes to improve the preparation of future classroom teachers, at SVSU and beyond,” said Tarr.  

Tapp receives these appointments after previously serving as the president of the Michigan Association of Colleges and Teacher Education (MACTE).   

Her extensive experience in the classroom and distinguished engagement with education policy reflect the positive impact that SVSU educators have on a local and national stage.      

“She is an award-winning teacher educator with almost 20 years of service to SVSU’s College of Education,” said Tarr.  

“Her election to the Board enhances SVSU’s storied tradition of excellence in teacher education and brings visibility to SVSU’s programs at the national level.”  

January 21, 2021

SVSU sponsors 2021 First Ward Leadership Fellowship Program

Eleven Saginaw County residents between the ages of 18 and 30 have been selected as 2021 First Ward Leadership Fellows and will participate in a 14-week leadership training program hosted by Saginaw Valley State University. 

First Ward Leadership Fellows will join SVSU students who are in the 2020-2021 Vitito Global Leadership Institute in the Scott L. Carmona College of Business. The focus of the training is to highlight opportunities to become community leaders through board memberships. Workshops led by local civic and community leaders will emphasize the importance of service on boards. 

“We welcome the opportunity to further the partnership between SVSU and First Ward Community Center with the creation of this fellowship program,” said Dawn Hinton, director of SVSU’s Center for Academic Innovation & Online Learning. “This program is designed to assist young community members in developing the leadership skills that will allow them to make significant contributions to their community.” 

Hinton said students in SVSU’s Vitito Global Leadership Program each year are required to select a community engagement project; this year, the choice is a peer-to-peer leadership mentoring program with First Ward Community Center. The weekly training sessions will be held online from January through March, 2021. 

The following individuals, all from Saginaw, have been selected to participate in the First Ward Leadership Fellowship Program: 

  • Amaya Bradley, an SVSU marketing major 
  • Daeveon Clemons, an SVSU biology major 
  • Indigo Dudley, an SVSU general studies major 
  • Bria Gregory, a self-employed financial professional 
  • Airiana Hamilton, an SVSU health science major 
  • Jalen Latimore, a staff member at Francis Reh Academy 
  • Tess Martin, an SVSU social work major 
  • Jesse Sanchez, a mechanic serving in the military 
  • Alissiana Scott, a Kroger employee 
  • Demetria Simmons, a Federal Express employee 
  • Simone Vaughn, an SVSU communication major 

The goal of the program is to fill a gap that exists within the Saginaw County community and address the large number of vacancies on boards and commissions. Those who are selected to participate must submit to an application process that outlines their previous participation in First Ward programming. The SVSU Foundation is providing funding support for the fellowship. 

“This project will culminate in a ‘Signing Day’ event, where the First Ward Leadership Fellows will publicly announce the board on which they want to serve and sign their completed application for board consideration,” Hinton said. 

Hinton will provide guidance for First Ward Leadership Fellows and Joseph Ofori-Dankwa, SVSU’s Harvey Randall Wickes Endowed Professor, and Dominic Monastiere, Boutell Executive-In-Residence, are responsible for developing the leadership skills training. Michael Mosher, SVSU professor of art, will introduce the First Ward Leadership Fellows to students enrolled in his Art 390 course to develop an illustrated comic book that will creatively tell the stories of each of the fellows. 

For more information on the First Ward Leadership Fellowship Program, contact Hinton at (989) 906-1400, or For more information on the Vitito Global Leadership Program, contact Ofori-Dankwa at (989) 284-0684, or

January 15, 2021

Regional leaders to be honored as Drum Major Award recipients at MLK Celebration

A former mayor/state legislator, a public servant and an educator will be honored by Saginaw Valley State University this month for community work that exemplifies the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision.

Charles Brunner (Bay County), Diane Brown Wilhelm (Midland County) and Frances Elnora Carter (Saginaw County) have been named recipients of the 2021 Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major Awards, given annually to leaders in the Great Lakes Bay Region. These honorees will receive recognition during the Great Lakes Bay Regional Martin Luther King Jr. Virtual Celebration at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 18. CNN political contributor Van Jones is the event’s keynote speaker.  

The three recipients are receiving a $1,000 award for a charitable organization of their choice. 

The honoree from Bay County is Charles M. Brunner, who served from 2011 through 2016 in the Michigan House of Representatives from the 96th District. He is a former mayor of Bay City (2007-2010) and was a member of the Bay City Commission from 2001-2007. Prior to his time in elected office, Brunner was a teacher for 30 years. As mayor, he was a founding member of what was once known as the Mayors’ Automotive Coalition, now the Manufacturing Alliance of Communities, and started several other city initiatives including a community clean-up and an adopt-a-park program. For years, Brunner has been active in his community, including in initiatives such as the Annual Bay City 4th of July Fireworks festival, Annual Bay City Festival of Lights (co-chair), Annual Kawkawlin River Clean-up, Annual clean-up of both veteran’s memorials (Project Freedom Walk and Viet Nam Memorial), and clean-up/dedication of the Michael Cathcart Park. Formerly a musician, Brunner played with the rock group Question Mark and the Mysterians. 

The Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major Award honoree from Midland County is Diane Brown Wilhelm, who has been a tireless public servant, sitting on the Midland City Council and the Planning Commission for more than 10 combined years. She currently serves as the Midland City Council’s Legislative Director, representing the city on the Michigan Municipal League. In addition, she holds leadership roles in several community service organizations, including Midland’s Shelterhouse. Whether serving in city government or volunteer capacities, or while mentoring younger employees as a part of her employment with Accenture, Brown Wilhelm recognizes the importance of listening to people. She thinks strategically, enjoys tackling new challenges and values hard work. A hallmark of personal success is her ability to connect with people, coupled with her passion to be an advocate for people in need. 

Frances Elnora Carter is a posthumous honoree of the Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major Award from Saginaw County. A Saginaw native, Carter earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Education Administration degrees from the University of Michigan. She returned to her hometown in 1951 to become a teacher for the Saginaw Public Schools System, where in 1973, Carter was named the first Black principal in the district’s history (Potter Elementary School). After nearly 40 years as an educator, she retired in 1991. She also is a recipient of the NAACP Pioneer Plaque and received a longevity plaque for 50-plus years as a member of Bethel A.M.E. Church in Saginaw. Carter was one of 12 women who chartered a Saginaw chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; she held various offices in the chapter, which earned her a Senior Pearl Award. In addition, she was one of the founders and served as acting treasurer of the Ruben Daniels Education Foundation. Carter was an NAACP life member, Friend of Claytor Public Library and member of the Castle Museum. She was one of the charter members of Top Ladies of Distinction in Saginaw and served as its president, historian and chair of the senior citizen committee. 

For more information about the Great Lakes Bay Regional Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration hosted at SVSU, click, or contact the SVSU Office of Diversity Programs at (989) 964-4068. 

January 11, 2021

Dedicated SVSU Theatre Professor Earns Prestigious National Honor for Teaching

Peggy Mead-Finizio, assistant professor of theatre at Saginaw Valley State University, is this year's recipient of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) Innovative Teacher award.

Mead-Finizio is one of only eight recipients in the nation to receive this remarkable honor for the 2020-21 academic year.

Each KCACTF region recognizes an individual or organization with this award to celebrate extraordinary contributions to the teaching and producing of theatre. The recipient must demonstrate excellence in educational theatre and a significant dedication of their time, artistry and enthusiasm to the values and goals of the KCACTF.

Mead-Finizio has exemplified these qualities through her inspiring passion and dedication to her students. David Rzeszutek, department chair and professor of theatre at SVSU, noted Mead-Finizio serves as an integral part of the growth and success of SVSU's theatre program.

“Since Peggy started at SVSU, she has created an upward trajectory for our program. Each year, our technical program grows stronger and our student's successes are a credit to her guidance,” Rzeszutek said. "She has been an invaluable professor within the theatre department, always going above and beyond to support and empower her students.

“Peggy wears many hats: Teacher, Mentor, Technical Coordinator, Lighting Designer, Master Electrician, Choreographer, Sound Designer and more,” Rzeszutek said.

“Peggy is an invaluable colleague to the faculty and an outstanding teacher and mentor to her students. She is a voracious researcher and designer, adaptable to change, positive and honest.”

Her devotion to her students and enthusiasm for theatre education were amplified as she navigated teaching during a pandemic. Mead-Finizio's determination and ability to adapt meant that her students were still able to successfully present fall theatre productions.

“As we transitioned into our theatrical season in a pandemic, Peggy led our department and students by learning and implementing a three-camera set up on a soundstage built in our scene shop while creating and powering a lighting rig from scratch,” said Rzeszutek.

“At the same time, in our proscenium theatre, she led the technology of a single-camera green screen studio that was built on the other side of the scene shop wall for our other fall production.”

Her leadership and perseverance allowed her students to have a positive learning experience, despite tremendous obstacles.

“Even more remarkably, both shows rehearsed and filmed simultaneously to beat the holiday break when students would not be able to return to campus,” said Rzeszutek.

“She guided both productions through the editing process and coordinated the students in group efforts to also learn how to edit; a herculean feat indeed.”

Not only is Mead-Finizio being awarded for her outstanding achievements, but several of her students are being recognized by the KCACTF for their accomplishments as well. Two of her students recently reached the Region III final round for design at the KCACTF for their prowess in lighting and sound design, in part due to Mead-Finizio's mentorship.

Mead-Finizio will receive her award Saturday, Jan. 9 via a virtual ceremony during the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Region III conference. 

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