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October 11, 2018

SVSU engineering and robotics students bring mobility and joy to children with disabilities

After two brain surgeries and one spinal surgery, 20-month-old Joey Stagray has yet to take his first steps. Diagnosed with spinal bifida, he often watches while his 4-year-old sister runs, jumps and plays across their Sterling farm.

But family members say Joey soon could keep pace with his active sibling thanks to the support of Saginaw Valley State University students determined to help him move despite his physical limitations.

Joey and another child with physical disabilities – 4-year-old Finn Edmonds, of Bay City – will take home ride-on toy vehicles modified for their specific physical needs by SVSU computer science, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering students. The mini-vehicles will be given to the families during a gathering Friday, Oct. 12, at 5 p.m. on the first-floor lobby of SVSU's Pioneer Hall.

The occasion will cap off a nearly year-long effort by two groups of SVSU students and one professor determined to help Finn and Joey achieve a form of locomotion using toys built to also bring them joy.

“I sobbed like a baby when I first saw what the students were building,” said Sarah Stagray, Joey's mother. “SVSU has been so kind to us, and we appreciate it greatly.”

The project began with SVSU's Robotics Club, which participated in the annual NASA Robotics Mining Competition at the Kennedy Space Center during the 2017-18 academic year. The contest tasks attendees with participating in projects that involve bettering their communities.

Janel Cavelry, a technology teacher at Bangor Central Elementary with connections to staff and faculty at SVSU, played an important role in helping the club find its community-minded project. She recommended the group adopt an Oregon State University-created program, titled “GoBabyGo,” that involved college students designing modified ride-on toy cars for children with disabilities.

Waliul Matin, an electrical engineering major from Bangladesh who studied at Royal Oak High School and is an SVSU Robotics Club member, was enticed by the “GoBabyGo” concept.

“This is one of the joys of engineering: seeing other people benefit from your work,” Matin said. “And it's been a huge learning experience for everyone involved.”

Cavelry also connected the Robotics Club with a child to support: Finn. The 4-year-old was diagnosed with hydrocephalus – a buildup of fluids in the brain – which led to him developing other disabilities such as aqueduct stenosis and spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy that affect his ability to move.

Under the guidance of Rajani Muraleedharan, the Robotics Club adviser and an SVSU associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, students began a nearly year-long effort to build a ride-on toy car Finn could operate despite his physical limitations.

First, they met with Finn and his parents, Kelley and Brent Edmonds, to shop for the vehicle from Toys 'R Us in December 2017. They selected a police-themed ride-on toy car since both of Finn's grandfathers were retired law enforcement officers.

The project expanded beyond Finn when a group of SVSU electrical engineering students not associated with the Robotics Club decided to adopt the initiative as part of their capstone senior project. Muraleedharan served as their adviser. Cavelry suggested another child – Joey – who would benefit from the students' help.

“If we are successful with this and begin to build more vehicles for more children, we are thinking we might be able to bring the children together for play dates,” Muraleedharan said. “We are trying to build a community where children with special needs explore independence and broaden inclusion for all the children in the society. SVSU's 'GoBabyGo' project impacts not only the field of engineering, but it's about the community too.”

Don Horner, an electrical engineering major working on Joey's vehicle, said the project's importance extended beyond the academic merits for him.

“I was interested in this project because I have three kids of my own, so I could relate to that,” the Bay City resident said. “I wanted to help Joey and his family. This is a great program that really gives back to the community.”

Victoria Anglin, a mechanical engineering major from Millersburg, near Rogers City, has been working on Finn's vehicle. She met Finn and his family several times to consult on the modifications being built.

“I loved seeing the look on his face when he first was able to see it,” Anglin said. “He was super excited. That made it worth the work.”

Kevin Horn, an electrical engineering major from Frankenmuth, said he has worked an average of 20 hours per week modifying Joey's vehicle since the semester began, including spending Saturdays and Sundays in SVSU’s engineering labs.

“I worked last week trying to find a solution to a problem that I ended up solving using one pin,” he said. “This is going to provide sustained enjoyment for the kids that should last them five years, so we want to get it right.”

Joey and his family visited SVSU earlier this month so students could make final modifications based on his growing physical frame. While he isn't old enough to navigate the vehicle on his own, students included a remote-operated component, which allowed his parents to drive it using a remote control.

During their recent visit, Joey's 4-year-old sister, Gabby, took the wheel and drove a few feet as her brother watched with delight from his mother's arms. When Gabby brought the toy car to a stop nearby, he stretched out his arms in her direction.

“I think he wants to get in,” Joey's mother said. “This is so cool.”

October 11, 2018

More than 130 companies, agencies expected at Friday SVSU employment fair

Saginaw Valley State University will host its Fall University-wide Employment & Networking Fair this week.


More than 130 employers are expected to attend the event Friday, Oct. 12, from noon to 3 p.m. in SVSU’s Curtiss Hall second-floor banquet halls and seminar rooms. 


The Fall University-wide Employment & Networking Fair — along with the other seven employment fairs hosted annually on campus — are open to the public.


This week’s employment fair will offer opportunities to visit with representatives from companies and agencies based locally and across the nation. Bay City Public Schools, Chemical Bank, Consumers Energy, Covenant HealthCare, Dow Chemical Co., the FBI, Hemlock Semiconductor, Nexteer Automotive, Michigan State Police, and Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans are among the employers expected to attend Friday.


“I would recommend anyone attending bring about 15 to 20 copies of your résumé,” said Bill Stec, interim director of the SVSU Career Services office that coordinates the employment fairs. “And dress professionally.”


As part of the employment fair activities, Dynamic Focus Photography from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. will provide free professional photos that attendees can use for their LinkedIn social media profiles, Stec said.


For more information about the Fall University-wide Employment & Networking Fair, visit

October 11, 2018

Chief Science Officers program at SVSU takes Carrollton, John Glenn students to D.C.

Four local high school students, two from Carrollton High School and two from John Glenn High School in Bay City, have been recognized as national leaders in empowering their peers to learn math and science.

Through their involvement with the Chief Science Officers program sponsored by Saginaw Valley State University, the students and their teachers are spending the week in Washington, D.C. with some of the nation’s leading minds in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) at the Chief Science Officers International Summit.

The four teens from the Great Lakes Bay Region are among only a few dozen from across the world – and the only students from Michigan – selected for the opportunity to share best practices and advocate for STEM and innovation in their schools and communities. The students are learning how to work together with influential leaders to effect real change in areas of great impact for the world today and in the future.

“This summit is an invaluable experience for the students who are chief science officers in our region,” said Adrianne Cole, director of STEM at Saginaw Valley State University. “They are meeting with national STEM leaders and lending their voices to STEM policy conversations. They will be able to bring their newfound knowledge back to our region to share it with other chief science officers and with other students at their schools.”

Saginaw Valley State University is in its second year sponsoring the Chief Science Officers program for Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region through a grant from The Dow Chemical Company Foundation. There are 64 students from 23 separate middle schools and high schools participating for the 2018-19 academic year.

The Dow Chemical Company Foundation and Nexteer Automotive provided funding to sponsor the trip for the Carrollton and John Glenn students and teachers.

The teens will convene to collaborate on expanding STEM access among their peers and communicate the importance of STEM education and careers with members of Congress, the Defense Intelligence Agency, NASA, the FBI, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. They will meet with House Science Committee staff, as well as national STEM leaders such as Dr. France Cordova, Director of the National Science Foundation; Dr. Sandra Cauffman, Earth Science Division Deputy Director at NASA; and Megan Smith, shift7 CEO who served as 3rd U.S. Chief Technology Officer.

Students will seek to share their own experiences and better understand the state of STEM education and its application to careers from these leaders, and they will offer their expertise on how to implement local programs to better prepare themselves and their classmates for today's world, where STEM skills are integral to many pursuits.

The Carrollton and John Glenn students are joined at the CSO International Summit by delegations from Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, Oregon, Texas, Colombia, Mexico, and Kuwait. The event is a unique opportunity to empower youth CSOs to work with and impact national leadership, and for the first time, work as an international cabinet.

Jeremy Babendure, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of the Arizona Technology Council Foundation and an Assistant Research Professor at the ASU School of Molecular Sciences. He founded the CSO program in 2015.

“In an environment where adults normally dictate the decisions, CSOs elevate the student voice,” Babendure said. “Incredible progress and change will come from these teens who are learning from national leaders and working with likeminded students across the world to raise and address important challenges.”

“The Chief Science Officers program is helping kids develop a strong voice about their future and empowering them to catalyze change before they're even out of high school,” said Megan Smith, former Chief Technology Officer of the United States and CEO of shift7. “Adults accidentally bring stereotypes about who fits in a STEM career, how hard it is, what it takes. These young people have figured out that everyone can do it and everyone can be welcomed! Youth CSOs area big part of changing perceptions and programs among the adults and their own peers in their schools.”

The Summit will follow the format of "feel, imagine, do, and share." CSOs will identify topics of importance they "feel" strongly about; work as a team to "imagine" innovative solutions; use their leadership and networking skills as they "do" meetings with national figures; and "share" their plans and progress via on national stage and through their regional networks.

October 9, 2018

SVSU Writing Center launching ‘Write Your Future Michigan Governor’ campaign

Valley State University's Writing Center is hosting a postcard writing campaign to encourage people in the Great Lakes Bay Region to write to their future governor.

Helen Raica-Klotz, director of SVSU's Writing Center, said that the project provides community members the opportunity to address issues that are important to them.

“These postcards are a way for all of us to ensure our voices are heard by the future governor of our state,” she said.

To participate in the “Write Your Future Michigan Governor” program, community members can receive a postcard in the month of October. All postcards must be completed by November 1, and will be sent in the mail from the SVSU Writing Center in January 2019.

A number of local schools are planning to participate in the program, including Merrill High School and Handy Middle School in Bay City.

Postcards are available at SVSU's Writing Center in the Melvin J. Zahnow Library, room 250 and SVSU's Center for Community Engagement in the Melvin J. Zahnow Library, room 202A.

Interested participants can also pick up postcards at the Bay Community Writing Center at the Alice and Jack Wirt Public Library, 500 Center Ave. in Bay City or the Saginaw Community Writing Center at the Butnam-Fish Branch Library at 1716 Hancock St. in Saginaw.

Area teachers and administrators who register online before Saturday, Oct. 20 can have postcards sent to their students; the form is available at

The project is co-sponsored by the Bay and Saginaw Community Writing Centers, SVSU's Center for Community Engagement, the YWCA Great Lakes Bay Region and the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture Community Arts Outpost.

For more information on SVSU's Writing Center, visit

October 9, 2018

SVSU-operated health clinic at Bay County Health Department wins statewide award for public health

A primary care health clinic operated jointly by Saginaw Valley State University and the Bay County Health Department has earned a prestigious award from the State of Michigan for its supportive regional services.

The Bay Community Health Clinic received the 2018 Michigan Department of Health & Human Services Director's Award to Local Public Health. Leaders with the health clinic will be publicly recognized Wednesday, Oct. 10, at 12:45 p.m. during the Michigan Premier Public Health Conference at the DoubleTree Hilton Hotel in Bay City.

“This recognition is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the inter-professional team at Bay Community Health Clinic in delivering quality health care to an underserved population,” said Kathleen Schachman, SVSU's Harvey Randall Wickes Endowed Chair in Nursing and a nurse practitioner at the clinic.

“The partnership between SVSU and Bay County Health Department has created this unique clinical training environment that enriches the educational experience of health professions students and benefits the community.”

The award annually recognizes local health departments that adopt strategies to combat leading causes of illness, injury and premature death; promote health and well-being within the community; analyze and distribute data; and build community partnerships with agencies and individuals, both inside and outside of the health care sector.

As this year's recipient of the award, the health clinic will receive $1,000 in funds that will be used for operational expenses, a plaque, and a trophy that will be showcased over the next year at three locations, including SVSU. The trophy also will spend time at the downtown Bay City offices of the Bay County municipal building as well as the Bay County Health Department facility where the health clinic operates.

Joel Strasz, the Bay County Health Department health officer, called receiving the award a big accomplishment for all the agencies that contribute to the health clinic.

“The MDHHS Director's Award is a great honor and reflects the hard work and dedication of the staff at the Bay County Health Department, the SVSU College of Health & Human Services, the Bay Arenac Behavioral Health Authority and the community organizations that we work with to make the clinic a success,” Strasz said.

“I cannot stress enough how much hard work and dedication has gone into the clinic as it serves a very important purpose in Bay County, bringing essential and complex services to those in need. This is truly an innovative and groundbreaking initiative and I am grateful to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for the recognition.”

The health clinic was established in January 2015 through a partnership between the Bay County Health Department and SVSU, which provides much of the staff and resources for the clinic. The facility largely caters to clients less likely to seek treatment at more traditional medical facilities.

Since its founding, the clinic has been staffed by faculty members with experience as medical professionals. The clinic utilizes an integrated approach - teaming professionals in nursing, occupational therapy, pharmacy and social work - to address physical and mental health issues on multiple fronts. Those professionals are supported by students who provide help while receiving hands-on training.

Along with SVSU, students from Ferris State University, Michigan State University and Wayne State University also have worked at the health clinic.

The clinic provides primary care medical services for patients of all ages. Those in need of such services can contact the facility at 989-895-2035.

October 5, 2018

SVSU-based youth leadership program welcomes next class of high school participants

A year-long leadership development program for local high school students will kick off its 14th year at Saginaw Valley State University with front-row seats to a theatrical performance by one of Detroit’s most highly-regarded cultural treasures.


The SVSU-based Great Lakes Bay Regional Youth Leadership Institute will welcome its new class of participants — 90 students from 32 high schools across mid-Michigan are signed up this year — during a day of fun and informative events scheduled at SVSU Friday, Oct. 5.


One of the event's highlights includes a performance by members of Mosaic Youth Theatre, an internationally-touring troupe of actors and singers from Detroit. The group will perform the play, “Speak Up For Yourself,” which addresses stereotypes and biases while promoting diversity.


The Great Lakes Bay Regional Youth Leadership Institute ceremony kicks off at 8:15 a.m.  and closes at 1:15 p.m. in SVSU’s Curtiss Hall banquet rooms. A lineup of SVSU students, faculty, staff and administrators will address the high school participants throughout the day. The Mosaic Youth Theatre performance is planned from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. in SVSU’s Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts.


Mamie T. Thorns, SVSU’s special assistant to the president for Diversity Programs, has served as the institute’s coordinator since its founding. The new class of participants will carry on the tradition of leadership and excellence demonstrated by the program's 935 graduates, she said.


“Our mission is to provide an opportunity for high school student leaders — from diverse racial, cultural and socioeconomically diverse communities — to gain valuable leadership training and acquire new skills that will help them lead in any community improvement projects,” she said.


Begun in 2005 as the Saginaw County Youth Leadership Institute, the initiative expanded in 2011 to include Bay and Midland counties.


The Great Lakes Bay Regional Youth Leadership Institute, overseen by SVSU’s Office of Diversity Programs, provides leadership development experience for youths focused on issues relating to diversity and leadership. Participants are paired with 12 SVSU student mentors as well as 16 corporate and community volunteers to participate in training sessions led by professional facilitators and presenters.


Each year, the institute identifies a community partner or cause to support. In past years, participants have provided relief for residents affected by the Flint water crisis, and worked with nonprofits such as United Way, Girl Scouts of the USA, First Ward Community Center in Saginaw, Hope House Maternity Shelter in Midland, and Mid-Michigan Children's Museum in Saginaw. At times, participants reached far outside the region to help individuals in need. In 2011, program participants supported the Ghana-based Royal Seed Orphanage.


For more information about The Great Lakes Bay Regional Youth Leadership Institute, call SVSU's Office of Diversity Programs at (989) 964-4068.

October 3, 2018

SVSU's Wind Ensemble to host first concert of season

Saginaw Valley State University's Wind Ensemble will be performing its first concert of the 2018-19 season Thursday, Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall.


The performance is free and open to the public.


The ensemble is directed by Norman Wika, SVSU assistant professor of music. Wika also directs SVSU's Cardinal Marching Band. He performs with the Tulsa Symphony and the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra.


Thursday's concert features clarinetist Gary June, an adjunct faculty member at SVSU.


The program will feature music with a Halloween theme from contemporary composers Scott McAllister and Thomas Miller. Musical pieces include "Off to Transylvania," "Dawn and the Vampire" and "The Death March and the Book."


For more information on SVSU's music program, call (989) 964-4159 or visit

October 3, 2018

Passion for public speaking leads to victory for SVSU forensics team


Students on the Saginaw Valley State University forensics team have extraordinary enthusiasm for public speaking, and it showed during the latest Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League tournament, where SVSU claimed a first place finish.
Despite fielding five students in their first collegiate competition – out of seven overall – SVSU saw six students place in their respective categories and qualify for the National Forensics Association Championship Tournament to be held in Santa Ana, California next April.
In individual competition, Darious Henry, a communication major from Chesterfield, led the way for SVSU, winning the dramatic interpretation category.
The other SVSU students to place were:
                     Courtney Perrou, a communication major from Pinconning, who earned a second place finish in the prose category.
                     Kennedy Bachman, a communication major from Grand Blanc, who received a third place finish in the dramatic interpretation category.
                     Gina Kearly, a communication major from Midland, who placed third in the prose category.
                     Monae Hawthorne, a criminal justice major from Detroit, who earned a third place finish in the informative speaking category.
                     Ashley Murdock, a communication major from Oxford, who received a fourth place finish in the impromptu speaking category.
SVSU hosted eight other Michigan colleges and universities for the MISL Mini Forensics Tournament and Workshop Saturday, Sept. 29. 
The SVSU forensics team is next scheduled to compete at Oakland University Saturday, Dec. 8. The team is advised by Amy Pierce, SVSU associate professor of communication and Ryan Rigda, SVSU lecturer of communication.


October 2, 2018

SVSU to host mental health expert for annual O'Neill Lecture

Saginaw Valley State University is hosting a lecture by a renowned psychiatrist and researcher who specializes in depression and bipolar illness. Nassir Ghaemi will present “Psychiatric Profiles in Leadership” for SVSU’s annual James E. O'Neill Memorial Lecture Thursday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. in the Curtiss Hall Banquet Rooms.

Originally born in Tehran, Iran, Dr. Ghaemi immigrated to the U.S. when he was five. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in history from George Mason University, a master's degree in philosophy from Tufts University, a master's degree in public health from the Harvard School of Public Health and a medical degree from the Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University.

Ghaemi is the author of “A First-Rate Madness,” among other books, and he is the editor of the monthly newsletter “The Psychiatry Letter.” His research on depression and manic-depressive illness has been published in  200 scientific articles and over 50 scientific book chapters.

Ghaemi currently serves as a professor of psychiatry at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, a clinical lecturer at Harvard Medical School and he teaches at the Cambridge Health Alliance. He also works for the Novartis Institutes of Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he leads clinical psychiatry research on discovery and early development of new drugs.

The James E. O’Neill Jr. Memorial Lecture Series was established in 2003 to honor the late Saginaw educator, legislator and community servant. Co-sponsored by SVSU and the Field Neurosciences Institute of Saginaw, the series is intended to dynamically reflect O’Neill’s passion for excellence in government, education and the neurosciences, and to provide opportunities for people to learn about public service from individuals who have unselfishly contributed to the betterment of the human condition.

Ghaemi’s visit to SVSU is part of the 2018-19 Dow Visiting Scholars and Artists Series, a program at SVSU established through an endowment from The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation to enrich our region’s cultural and intellectual opportunities.

September 25, 2018

SVSU hosting event to prevent traumatic injuries, plus blood drive and flu vaccinations

Saginaw Valley State University is hosting several events to educate individuals on how to respond in emergency situations by heightening awareness on how to respond when someone is in life-threatening danger.

Sessions are planned Wednesday, Sept. 26 from noon to 6 p.m. at SVSU's Health and Human Services building and the Thompson Student Activities Room in the Student Center.

Life Net and Covenant Healthcare representatives will be present to present “Stop the Bleed,” a national initiative to help save lives when a person has experienced a traumatic injury. Mobile Medical Response and Kochville Township Fire Department representatives will also be at the event to discuss their role in disaster management and triage.

Along with the learning activities, Michigan Blood representatives will be on campus hosting a blood drive and Covenant Healthcare and SVSU Nursing will be offering flu vaccinations from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. For the vaccinations, it is recommended to pay in advance at the Campus Financial Services Center, but participants can pay in cash the day of the event.

Attendees who donate blood and attend the "Stop the Bleed" one-hour certification session can enter to win a $25 gift card to Chili's or Panera Bread.

There will be SVSU nursing student volunteers to direct participants to particular events or to provide information on where an event is being held.

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