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May 6, 2021

SVSU Department of Nursing recognizes excellence in nursing

The SVSU Department of Nursing has recognized several area registered nurses and three nursing units for their contributions to the regional community and extraordinary dedication to public health over the past year. Recipients of the 2021 Carleen K. Moore Nursing Excellence Award are: 

Acute Care Nursing 

  • Amber Alaniz, oncology unit, MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland 
  • Heather Kinney, operating room/post-anesthesia care unit, Ascension St. Mary's Hospital at Towne Center 
  • Jessica Kleinfeld, Great Lakes Bay Health Centers 
  • Sue Lennon, employee health and wellness, MidMichigan Health 
  • Jaime Makela, medical intensive care unit, MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland 
  • Jennifer Sajdak, COVID unit at McLaren Bay Region 
  • Three Covenant HealthCare nursing units: Surgical Intensive Care, 6 North and 5 East 

Nursing in the Community 

  • Joyce Hardy, Helen Nickless Volunteer Clinic of McLaren Bay Region 
  • Public Health Nurses at Bay County Health Department 
  • Tawnya Simon, Saginaw County Health Department 

Nursing Education 

  • Robin Begick, Covenant HealthCare  

Each winner received a crystal bowl, one dozen roses and a check for $800. 

“This award meant a lot to the nurses, their organizations and their work units,” said Andrea Frederick, associate professor of nursing at SVSU, who presented the awards with Judy Ruland, dean of the Crystal M. Lange College of Health & Human Services. “2020-2021 was a hard year for nurses working on the COVID units. This was a nice slice of good news and an affirmation of the value of their loving work and dedication to the community.” 

Multiple recipients are SVSU graduates. Begick earned her Master of Science in Nursing from SVSU in 1999. Kleinfeld is a 2011 graduate of SVSU, with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Simon graduated from SVSU in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.    

Through the Carleen K. Moore Nursing Excellence Awards, SVSU’s Department of Nursing acknowledges and honors the valuable contributions registered nurses make in the Great Lakes Bay Region. Recognized nurses work in four service areas: acute care, community/public health, long-term care/rehabilitation, and education.  

This award is possible due to the generous support of Terry Moore and his wife Carleen K. Moore, RN. The Moores believe in the importance of recognizing and encouraging nurses who demonstrate excellence in their field and in promoting the reputation of Saginaw Valley State University and its nursing program. The awards have been presented since 2011. 

May 3, 2021

SVSU graduating seniors: Kathy Perez


social work major

Detroit native


Kathy’s story

As a student, Kathy Perez challenged herself to help people see beyond negative stereotypes too often associated with too many populations in the United States.

As a student program coordinator in SVSU’s Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, Kathy took on this challenge when she organized a Lowrider Display event as part of SVSU’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations in 2019.

Committed both to honoring Hispanic heritage and fighting negative stereotypes often tied to the lowrider community, Kathy arranged for vehicles to be displayed at SVSU in a setting that allowed attendees to learn about the culture surrounding the lowrider communities.

The event invited guest speakers including a state representative and a lowriding icon, all while attendees enjoyed food and music that were provided. The event was free and open to the public.

Kathy remains proud of the awareness she helped raise at an event that celebrated the lowrider culture that was part of her upbringing.

We asked Kathy a series of questions about her overall experience at SVSU. Here are her responses:


What was your favorite memory at SVSU?

“My favorite memory at SVSU was moving into the dorms my freshman year. It was such a bittersweet moment for me that I will always remember. It was the day I started a new chapter of my life and the day I got to leave my parent’s ‘nest.’ I was part of the Public School Academy Scholar Program so I was able to move in a week before everyone else, meaning I had extra time to explore campus before everyone else started to move in.”


What was your proudest accomplishment at SVSU?

“My proudest accomplishment at SVSU was being able to plan and host the Lowrider Display for Hispanic Heritage Month in 2019. Being a student program coordinator in the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, I was able to make this event happen after wanting to do it for so long. I grew up in the lowrider community and it was a part of who I am that I wanted to bring to SVSU. There are many negative stereotypes tied to the lowrider community and I wanted to show that there is more to it than just the negative stereotypes you hear.”


What advice would you give an incoming freshman at SVSU?

“Advice I would give incoming freshman at SVSU is to organize and manage your time and do not be afraid to ask for help! The first year in college takes some adjusting, managing your time and having a to-do list really helps. Another thing is to ask for help when you need it; professors and tutors are there to help you. Lastly, have fun and enjoy your college experience. Time flies by!”


What are your plans after graduation?

“After graduation, I will be attending Wayne State University to pursue a Master’s in Social Work (MSW). I was accepted into the Advanced Standing Program, meaning I will be graduating in May 2022, if all goes as planned. There is so much that can change from now until then. However, it is in my life plan to move out of state after receiving my MSW.”


The following are clubs, organizations and accomplishments that highlight Kathy’s SVSU experience:

  • Latino Awareness Association, including a 2-year term as president
  • E.M.E., where she was a founding member, vice president, and cultural awareness chairperson

May 3, 2021

SVSU graduating seniors: Kyndall LoVette


management major

Holt native


Kyndall’s story

With a passion and penchant for engaging with people, Kyndall LoVette will be ready to launch soon from her status as a graduating senior at Saginaw Valley State University to the professional career that will soon follow.

The management major said she has benefited from her classroom studies as well as extracurricular opportunities at the university. All of these experiences have allowed her to build her skillset as an engaged citizen.

Among the SVSU opportunities Kyndall said served her best: her selection to the Vitito Global Leadership Institute. The SVSU program of distinction annually provides leadership development to a select group of students enrolled in the SVSU Scott L. Carmona College of Business. LoVette called the opportunity a “rewarding experience” that allowed her to collaborate with fellow Cardinals across the academic disciplines as well as student ambassadors from Ghana.

One of her academic courses — a family business class — also sharpened her community engagement skills. As part of the class, she volunteered at a fundraising event for The Mustard Seed Shelter, a Saginaw-based nonprofit which moves women and children from homelessness to self-sufficiency.

We asked Kyndall a series of questions about her experience at SVSU. Here are her responses:


What was your favorite memory at SVSU?

“My favorite memory, while attending SVSU is the community service opportunities I’ve had, once I joined Delta Sigma Pi, and the Organization of Black Unity.”


What was your proudest accomplishment at SVSU?

“My proudest accomplishment overall would be graduating college cum laude, and also being able to join RSOs on campus.”


What advice would you give an incoming freshman at SVSU?

“The most important advice I would give incoming freshmen would be to engage with their professors and get to know them, as well as getting involved with the student organizations. Your college experience goes by faster than you think — you get what you put in.”


What are your plans after graduation?

“My plans after graduation are to find a job I enjoy, and hopefully relocate to a warmer state.”


The following are clubs, organizations and accomplishments that highlight Morgan’s SVSU experience:

  • Vitito Global Leadership Institute, 2020 cohort
  • Delta Sigma Pi-Mu Phi Chapter
  • Organization of Black Unity

May 3, 2021

SVSU graduating seniors 2021: Sabrina Coffman


mechanical engineering

Toledo native


Sabrina’s story

Mechanical engineering fields remain primarily dominated by men, but Sabrina Coffman is breaking the stigma as a woman who excels in the program at Saginaw Valley State University.

Sabrina decided to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering because of her hands-on work ethic and her competitive drive.

Her love for STEM started off in high school, where she was a member of a STEM club that worked on technological projects focused on helping people perform daily tasks. One of the projects she participated in involved developing a typing tool for a person with cerebral palsy to help him with his job.

The rewarding factor of impacting individuals’ lives has inspired Sabrina to purse her master’s degree in biomedical engineering at Cleveland State University, where she plans to enroll after her May graduation from SVSU. She hopes to focus her studies on prosthetic limbs or research involving regenerative tissue and organs.

Sabrina hopes to leave a positive impact on peoples’ lives — especially young girls — who may want to pursue a career in the STEM field or excel at any career they set their mind to.

We asked Sabrina a series of questions about her experience at SVSU. Here are her responses:


What was your favorite memory at SVSU?

“One of my favorite memories at SVSU is being able to travel to the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) National Conference. Being a part of SWE has been an incredible experience that has included rewarding volunteer work, professional developing and networking, and creating amazing new friendships. I was able to attend the SWE National Conference twice, once in Minneapolis, Minnesota and once in Anaheim, California. The national conference is an amazing experience where thousands of STEM women come together for professional and personal workshops, a huge career fair, and tons of learning and networking opportunities.”


What was your proudest accomplishment at SVSU?

“One of my proudest accomplishments at SVSU has been my success on the SVSU golf team. I have worked on my golf game really hard over the past five years while also maintaining my rigorous engineering studies, and there have been a lot of up and downs, but now I hold several records for SVSU, have been named to the All-Conference Team twice, have qualified for post-season play as an individual, and have won two tournaments. I have also been named an Academic All-American three times. And my last season is not even over yet!”


What advice would you give an incoming freshman at SVSU?

“I would tell an incoming freshman to take advantage of every opportunity that SVSU has to offer. Do not be afraid to go explore any interest you have or branch out and join different organizations. There are so many awesome people at SVSU between the students, faculty, administration, athletics, and RSOs. Try new things and go to any events that sound cool to you. The only regrets you will have are the experiences you don’t try!”


What are your plans after graduation?

“I will be attending Cleveland State University in the fall to pursue a Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering. Also beginning in the fall, I will be playing Division I golf for CSU. I am pursuing Biomedical Engineering because I want to work with either prosthetic limbs, artificial organs, or tissue regeneration. My goal is to be able to help people in my career and make a meaningful impact in peoples’ lives. Also, if I am competitive enough by the end of my collegiate golf career, I would like to try to play professional golf.”


The following are clubs, organizations, and accomplishments that highlight Sabrina’s SVSU experience:

President, Society of Women Engineers, SVSU 2016-present

  • Served as a member 2016-17 and 2018-19, served as secretary during 2017-18 academic year
  • Elected president by a vote of organizational peers from fall 2019 to May 2021
  • Planned and facilitated the organization’s trip to the 2019 SWE Conference in Anaheim, California

Vice President, SVSU Student Athlete Advisory Committee, SVSU 2016-present

  • Served as a member from 2016-17, served as head of Student-Athlete Relations subcommittee, overseeing eight members, from 2017-19
  • Organized a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation that raised over $300 in a three-hour period

SVSU Women’s Golf Team                                                                            2016-present

  • Selected by head coach during second semester of freshman season to serve as captain of team; maintained captain status throughout playing career
  • Named to the Women’s Golf Coaches Association Academic All-American Team in 2017, 2018 and 2020
  • Elected to 2nd All-Conference Team 2018 and 2020
  • Competed in the NCAA Division II Super Regionals as an individual athlete
  • Set several records for SVSU women’s golf

Member, Cardinal Formula Racing Team 2016-17

  • Utilized SolidWorks to draft a design sketch for a push bar used on a formula race car that competes in national competitions with other universities


May 3, 2021

SVSU graduating seniors 2021: Saadman Bin Abdullah


mechanical engineering

Bangladesh native


Saadman’s story

Saadman Bin Abdullah, an international student from Bangladesh, has gained incredible knowledge from being a mechanical engineering student at SVSU. As a result, he wants to return home to help people gain access to clean energy and water.

A large amount of Bangladesh’s population lives in poverty, and there is a crucial need to generate and supply daily power to those underprivileged communities, he said.

Saadman’s main goal is to build a service start-up using artificial intelligence, which he said will help to locate, analyze and improve the power grid while also streamlining an efficient thermal management system across the nation.

With a desire to build his own organization, Saadman plans to utilize the power directly from photovoltaic, hydropower and recycled sources to make a huge impact on clean energy generation in one of the most polluted countries in the world.

In turn, Saadman hopes to create employment for thousands of people — of all education levels — and have a significant impact on reducing the poverty level in his beloved home nation.

We asked Saadman a series of questions. Here are his responses:


What was your favorite memory at SVSU?

“My favorite memory at SVSU has to be my involvement in the Career Services office. I got hired when I was just a freshman in my first semester. I have been there all these years, and still now, I am proud to be a part of it as the Senior Peer Career Adviser. It was the unparalleled guidance, support and training from my supervisors — especially (former assistant director) Tom Barnikow — which led me to be where I am today. I was able to help more than 4,000 people with their resumes, cover letters, interview skills and professional development. Meeting a diverse range of people, talking them about life decisions, and helping them achieve their professional goals is something that I will always keep close to my heart. Their joy and sense of accomplishment is what I will always hold dear, knowing that I had a small role to play in their extraordinary lives! I will always cherish that.”


What was your proudest accomplishment at SVSU?

“My proudest accomplishment at SVSU has to be co-authoring two published journal papers in thermal engineering. I owe it all to Dr. (Aneesha) Gogineni, (SVSU assistant professor of mechanical engineering), for believing in me and giving me the opportunities. It was because of my involvement in three of her fully-funded research grants, which gave me a strong foundation for my job applications. Now, I am currently working as a Project Engineer at Cech Corporation. It would never have been possible without the mechanical engineering department’s support and blessings.”


What advice would you give an incoming freshman at SVSU?

“My advice to freshman would be:

  •  Get involved with SVSU Career Services right from the start, as they will give wise guidance on how to improve your professional abilities and lead you to your desired career field.
  •  Never take opportunities for granted! One opportunity can open a realm of a hundred more opportunities.
  •  Always take advantage of the generous and vast number of resources at SVSU. Quite frankly, the amazing people who work here are here for you! They will do their best to get you where you want to go. Make sure you do your part!
  •  Last advice is for my international student fellows: At times, I know things may seem difficult; time may seem short, but remember, with the right mindset and being around the right people will take you to places beyond your imagination. Always choose wisely; decisions are key.”


What are your plans after graduation?

“My plan right after graduation is to remain at my current workplace. As there is potential for huge growth, and I am already directly managing a whole line of engineering products, I plan to put more work into my company and take it to new heights! In a couple years, I plan to enroll in a direct-PhD program, preferably in the Midwest region. With my education and the work I am doing, I hope to give back to the people who have given me so much! My ultimate goal is to head my own startup in the energy field, which would aim to help the millions of people in the underprivileged communities of my country, Bangladesh.”


The following are clubs, organizations, and accomplishments that highlight Saadman’s SVSU experience:

  • Member, International Student Club
  • Senior member, South Asian Student Association
  • Former president, Bangladeshi Student Association
  • Student member, American Society of Mechanical Engineers
  • Student member, National Society of Professional Engineers
  • President of PACE (Planning to Achieve Collegiate Excellence), National Society of Collegiate


  • 2-time recipient of an SVSU Undergraduate Research Program Scholarship
  • Recipient of Dow Professor Award Grant
  • Recipient of YES Alumni Scholarship
  • Recipient of President’s International Scholarship
  • Recipient of SVSU-Ming Chuan International Student Endowed Scholarship


May 3, 2021

SVSU graduating seniors 2021: Morgan Esch


elementary/special education major

Alpena native


Morgan’s story

Morgan Esch was certain that she wanted her future career to involve children and assisting others. Her determination to combine the two passions has landed her tremendous success — already, in advance of her graduating from SVSU — working her dream job as an educator in her hometown.

Morgan earned a position as a special education teacher in the same school district that educated her in K-12: Alpena Public Schools.

Her success was achieved through many experiences and lessons. Her work ethic has flourished with developing lesson plans for her students and her knowledge of philosophy education.

Her educational aspirations don’t stop at earning a bachelor’s degree. She already has enrolled in SVSU’s Master of Arts in Teaching program specializing in special education. She hopes eventually to earn Doctorate of Education degree, with plans to potentially work in administration for a school district someday.

Her love for children’s educational growth has also inspired Morgan to want to write a series of informational books that focus on the English language.

We asked Morgan a series of questions. Here are her responses:


What was your favorite memory at SVSU?

“My favorite memory at SVSU was being on the Homecoming Court for 2019. I ran through Orientation Programs, and it was such a blast! Before I started college, I never imagined having enough confidence to run for Homecoming Queen, but SVSU allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and try new things. One part of the experience that was very special to me was my family and friends came to the game to support me, and it was so much fun to take them on a tour of campus and introduce them to everything I love about SVSU.”


What was your proudest accomplishment at SVSU?

“My proudest accomplishment at SVSU was being selected as an Orientation Leader, and then being promoted to a Senior Orientation Leader. This was one of my favorite roles on campus, and I loved every moment of it. It was an honor to have the role on campus, because I was one of the first people incoming freshmen and their families met who represented SVSU. I took a lot of pride in being an Orientation Leader, and was blessed with the best supervisor and co-leaders. I loved leading groups of freshmen, answering families’ questions, and meeting life-long friends.”


What advice would you give an incoming freshman at SVSU?

“There are some pieces of advice I would offer any incoming freshman at SVSU, and these are some of the things I always would tell my freshmen groups at Orientation. One would be to push yourself out of your comfort zone. It will bring plenty of opportunities that would not happen if you don’t try new things. This would include trying as many things as you can, because it will bring the most memorable experiences of college with the best of friends. I would also advise incoming freshmen to expect the best of things to happen at SVSU.”


What are your plans after graduation?

“I have a lot of plans for after graduation, and will not stop until I meet all of my dreams. I was recently hired by Alpena Public Schools as a special education teacher, and have been accepted into the Master of Arts of Teaching: Special Education program at SVSU. After completing my master’s degree, I have plans on getting my Doctorate of Education degree as I have plans on working in administration or higher education. Another goal I have planned to accomplish is to write a series of children books.”


The following are clubs, organizations and accomplishments that highlight Morgan’s SVSU experience:

  • Orientation Programs: Senior Orientation Leader
  • Center for Academic Achievements: tutor and front desk worker
  • Alternative Breaks
  • Member, Homecoming Court 2019
  • National Society of Leadership and Success
  • Forever Red
  • Cake Club

May 3, 2021

SVSU graduating seniors 2021: Justin Weller


political science

Bay City native


Justin’s story

Justin Weller started off as a shy student who never read a Supreme Court case … to being only the second student in Saginaw Valley State University history to qualify for three consecutive Moot Court National Championships.

Moot court is an undergraduate pre-law competition where students are given a hypothetical case and are tasked with making constitutional arguments.

Justin, a political science major set to graduate in May, has participated in many programs on campus. His historic run on SVSU’s top-ranked moot court team both earned him national accolades and taught him valuable lessons.

He developed as a moot court competitor by practicing his public speaking skills and receiving valuable support from advisers and peers. His moot court experience helped develop his ability to think creatively as well as speak effectively and persuasively in a public setting.

We asked the Bay City native to reflect on his experience at SVSU. Here is what he had to say:


What was your favorite memory at SVSU?

“One of my favorite memories at SVSU was studying abroad in Italy. I was fortunate enough to be selected on a study abroad opportunity to study food insecurity. I got to perform my own research about the accessibility and availability of organic foods in Italy and compare my research to the United States. I also met some of my best friends during this experience and got to visit two countries and 13 cities while I was there.”


What was your proudest accomplishment at SVSU?

My proudest accomplishment at SVSU was winning two national awards at the National Moot Court Competition. I was fortunate enough to qualify three years in a row for the national competition. At the national competition, I won a Top 32 Oral Advocacy Award my first year and a Top 5 Appellate Brief Writing Award my second year, both with my former partner, Lindsey Mead.”


What advice would you give an incoming freshman at SVSU?

“My advice for an incoming freshman is to get involved. College is a scary transition period, especially during a global pandemic, and finding your niche can be difficult. Trust me, I was in the same boat. I didn’t make many friends my first semester and was miserable. Eventually, I made some of my best friends through studying abroad and joining different organizations on campus. College is the four best years of your life, some say, and I can say confidently that your experience in college will be the best once you get involved in communities that center around your passions.”


What are your plans after graduation?

My plans after graduation include taking a gap year, gaining professional experience in the field of higher education/student affairs before heading to graduate school in the future. I want to eventually work in a field that supports social justice and marginalized communities, and I want to play a hands-on role in helping shape people's lives for the better. “


The following clubs, organizations, and accomplishments that highlight Justin’s SVSU experience:

  • Resident assistant
  • Orientation leader
  • Member of 2019 Homecoming Court
  • Former president of Law Club,
  • Member of Roberts Fellowship Program, 2019-20 cohort
  • Site leader for Alternative Breaks
  • Member of SVSU Moot Court program
  • Former parliamentarian of College Democrats
  • Member of Optimistic Club
  • Member of National Society of Collegiate Scholars
  • Member of Student Association

April 28, 2021

SVSU Student Presents at International Competition, Wins Peer Competition

SVSU student Joanna Cooley knows what it is like to go to bed hungry. And she knows the lasting toll childhood hunger can take. Her research into childhood food insecurity — and her plan to combat hunger in her community — took Cooley, virtually, to the Global Student Leadership Conference in London and earned her the top prize in the “BIG IDEAS” pitch competition at the conference. The conference, presented by FIE, the Foundation for International Education, was held in London April 10 and 11.  

More than 550 students, university staff, faculty and professionals registered for the conference. Cooley was one of six individuals to present at the conference and one of three students in the final IDEAS competition. 

Rene Hernandez, SVSU associate professor of health sciences and Cooley’s mentor for the research project and presentation, explained that Joanna was invited to present at the conference based on a proposal she had submitted in 2019 with Hernandez and a former SVSU student. The 2019 conference was canceled due to COVID-19. 

“Joanna realized in the fall [2020] that she would have to present alone at SGLC,” Hernandez said. “I helped her record her presentation, but it was all Joanna. She was phenomenal — competent, clear and concise.” 

In her presentation, titled “Child Food Insecurities in Developed Countries,” Cooley discussed connections to food insecurity, including obesity and chronic disease, as well as the prevalence of food insecurity among college students. She also addressed the actions taken at SVSU to bridge the gap of food insecurity for all students.  

Cooley’s BIG IDEA concept, which she presented via livestream to other conference delegates, was “Tiny free community pantries.” The pantries Cooley proposed are modeled on the Little Free Library program. Cooley’s idea will soon be put into practice in her hometown of Perrinton, Mich., about 15 miles south of Alma, with a food pantry installation scheduled for early May, followed by installations of a pet supply pantry and diaper pantry.  

Cooley is a nontraditional student who is majoring in neuroscience. She expects to graduate in 2023 and plans to go to medical school.  

“My plan is to become a neurologist working with veterans who have experienced traumatic brain injury,” Cooley said.  

As a member of the Cardinal Food Pantry at SVSU, Cooley was instrumental in obtaining additional refrigeration equipment for the pantry, expanding the food storage capabilities and the availability of nutritionally sound ready-to-heat meals.  

Prior to attending SVSU, Cooley worked as a clinical medical assistant in a neurologist’s office.  

For more information about the Student Global Leadership Conference, visit  

April 26, 2021

SVSU receives largest single gift – $6 million – to support Thompson Working Families scholarships

Thompsons meeting with a Thompson Scholar

A Michigan couple is contributing millions to support their commitment of changing lives through education. Bob and Ellen Thompson believe that education can make a significant difference in everyone’s life. Their latest gift of $52 million is to support Thompson Working Families Scholarships. The Thompsons already have contributed $33 million to Thompson Working Families Scholarships and with this additional $52 million over 5,200 students will receive support at partnering institutions.

Their latest gift to SVSU of $6 million to support the Thompson Working Families Scholarship is the largest single gift in university history.

“We deeply appreciate the Thompsons’ profound generosity and their show of faith in students from working families,” said Donald Bachand, SVSU president. “They have provided hope and opportunity to many capable students who thought a college degree might be out of reach financially. By supporting scholarships for four years, they provide motivation and support for those students to complete degrees and pursue meaningful careers.”

The Robert and Ellen Thompson Scholarship for Working Families was introduced at SVSU in 2016 and has since helped hundreds of students achieve their academic and career goals. The latest contribution will help even more students realize their desire to complete a college degree.

“The Working Families Scholarship was designed to help offset the funding gap that exists for many families. With the limits of federal and state support and the increase in costs, the gap has widened, especially for middle income families,” said Andy Bethune, executive director of the SVSU Foundation.

“We currently have 297 students who are receiving the Thompson Scholarship. That number will grow to a cohort of more than 450 students over the next few years.”

The funds will be put to use immediately, rather than placed into an endowment.

“The philanthropy of Mr. and Mrs. Thompson is a great example to others. It demonstrates their belief in our mission and will likely raise awareness of SVSU,” said Bethune. “The impact is significant as 100% of the funds go directly to student scholarships. This is especially important as we navigate these uncertain times.”

The Thompsons developed this scholarship because they understand the grit and determination of working-class families. In 1959, they entered the asphalt paving business with the $3,500 they had in savings and lived solely off Ellen’s teaching salary for a few years while they got their business off the ground. Their hard work flourished into two successful, multimillion-dollar businesses and countless accolades for their achievements. As their success grew, so did their philanthropy— both to their employees and promising students.

Ellen Thompson has said it was the couple's relationship with employees at their asphalt company that spurred them into creating scholarship programs. “I see how long and hard some people work, and the dreams they have for their children,” said Ellen Thompson. “We’ve been fortunate and want to help students realize those dreams.”

Emily Wahl, a Thompson Scholar who graduated from SVSU in December 2020, experienced the profound impact of this generosity firsthand.

“I was excited because in high school all the other scholarships I looked at were $500 or $1,000, but this scholarship was up to $5,000 per year. When I heard that, I was speechless,” said Wahl.

SVSU matches dollar for dollar the amount that is awarded to a Thompson scholar; the typical four-year award total for a scholar is $40,000.

The Thompson Working Families Scholarship made it possible for Wahl to attend SVSU and pursue her dream career in accounting. She worked multiple jobs while enrolled and earned a bachelor’s degree in professional accountancy in just three and a half years. She was offered a full-time position before she had even graduated.

Wahl is grateful for her success and knows it was made possible because of the financial support of the Thompson family.

“Usually when you get these larger scholarships, it’s from a big corporation, but the Thompson Scholarship is a private scholarship that is donated by a family,” Wahl said. “If I could say anything to the Thompson family, it would be, ‘Thank you so much! You don’t know how much this has impacted me with my education and career.’”

A native of Bad Axe, Michigan, Wahl worked as the business manager of The Valley Vanguard, SVSU’s student newspaper, and as a student ambassador in the SVSU Admissions office. She is currently employed with the accounting firm Nietzke & Faupel, P.C. “This scholarship helped me immensely,” she said. “By working during my college years and thanks to the scholarships I received, I haven’t had to take out a loan at all, and I’m really thankful for that opportunity.”

The generosity and giving spirit of the Thompson family also changed the life of current SVSU student CarLee Stimpfel. In high school, the Cass City native considered several other universities, but they were far too expensive for his family to afford. When he found out about the Thompson Scholarship at SVSU, he referred to this as the “game changer” that made his dreams a reality.

“Being able to have that opportunity drastically changed college for me and many others, and the decision to go to college,” said Stimpfel. “When I got that phone call, my mom was right there with me and we were both pretty emotional about it. It was a big moment and definitely life-changing.”

Receiving this scholarship allowed him to focus on his education and career goals, igniting his passion and enthusiasm for his career path in geography. This generous gift has instilled a sense of gratitude in Stimpfel and many other SVSU Thompson Scholars, because these students understand the impact of the financial support they receive.

“This has been one of the biggest blessings I could ever have,” Stimpfel said.

The Thompson family’s dedication to helping working families already has changed the lives of hundreds of SVSU students and alumni, and this additional gift will make college a possibility for many more students who often feel that their education is out of reach financially.

Bob Thompson has a message for students: "You can do things to help others, one-on-one, and make it happen. You're almost obligated by me to do that. Do what you can and someday I hope you'll look back and say, 'This changed my life.'"

The Thompsons’ generosity has changed the lives of hundreds of SVSU students to date, and their latest gift will change the lives of many more.

To learn more about the Thompson scholarships available at SVSU, please visit

April 16, 2021

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Townhall set for April 23

A virtual townhall featuring the “Diversity, Inclusion & Equity at SVSU Annual Report and Celebration” will take place Friday, April 23 from 9 to 11 a.m. The purpose of the meeting is to showcase each DE&I committee and the work that has been accomplished since September. 

Pre-register today for the town hall

The Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council was created in summer 2020 to address concerns raised by students, faculty and staff in relation to the national discussions of racial justice. Seven committees made up of 60 individuals are working on DE&I goals. A few of the initiatives include development of:  

  • A Leadership Institute for underrepresented groups on campus  
  • A Black Studies major  
  • The Global Diversity Initiative Award  
  • Implicit Bias Training Sessions for the campus community  
  • The Cardinal Commitment Scholarship  
  • The Campus Multicultural Center  
  • An application for Health Professions HEED Award
  • Expansion of the Inclusion Advocates Program 

If you have questions, please contact the Office of Diversity Programs at 989-964-4068. 

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