Saginaw Valley State University honored one of Saginaw's most active community leaders, as well as faculty and staff who display extraordinary enthusiasm and dedication, during SVSU's All -University Awards Banquet Friday, April 27.
The Distinguished Service Award, SVSU's most prestigious award for a community member, was given to Dave Abbs.
Abbs served on the SVSU Board of Control from 2005 to 2013, including two years as chair.
After completing his term on the board, he accepted perhaps his most significant SVSU assignment: serving as chair of the presidential search advisory committee during 2013 and 2014. Abbs continues to support SVSU through his volunteer service on the board of directors for the SVSU Foundation, where he currently serves as secretary. He also has served on SVSU's Board of Fellows and the Alumni Association board.
In the community, Abbs has supported numerous philanthropic causes and organizations. He is a past board chair of the Saginaw Community Foundation, and he has served as board president for the Bay City Noon Optimists, the Saginaw Valley Rotary club, the Saginaw Art Museum, and the One Hundred Club of Saginaw County, which provides financial support to the families of first responders killed in the line of duty. In business circles, Abbs has served on the boards of the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce and the Kochville Township Business Association.
Abbs graduated from SVSU in 1983 with a bachelor's degree in marketing and management. He is the owner of Abbs Retirement Planning Advisors in Saginaw; he is also a certified financial planner.
Several SVSU faculty and staff members also received recognition for outstanding achievement and dedicated service during the 29th annual ceremony.
Andrea Frederick, associate professor of nursing, received the prestigious Franc A. Landee Teaching Excellence Award. She has spent years cultivating a career in nursing, nursing management, health care administration and nursing education. After retiring from MidMichigan Medical Center, Frederick joined the SVSU nursing faculty in 2010. As an instructor, she strives to enhance curiosity, tenacity, compassion and accomplishments that inform lifelong learning. Frederick enjoys the energizing atmosphere of an academic setting because it links experienced professionals with passionate novices that are eager to make an impact.
Kaustav Misra, associate professor of economics, received the Earl Warrick Award for Excellence in Research. His research interests are in the fields of public economics, international economics and family business. Misra has authored more than 20 scholarly articles appearing in peer-reviewed journals such as "Economics of Educational Review," "Journal of Socio-Economics" and "Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice." He also has presented at more than 70 national and international conferences. Among his honors, he received the Best Doctoral Paper in the Entrepreneurship/Information Technology/Innovation track for 2011 for the Southern Management Association.
The House Family Award for Teacher Impact was presented to Warren Fincher, associate professor of sociology. Since joining the faculty in 2012, he has served as the faculty adviser for the Sociology Club; he has organized three student trips to the annual Michigan Sociological Association meeting and he led a month-long study abroad trip to India. A recent alumna headed to graduate school nominated Fincher. She wrote: “Dr. Fincher saw my potential as an excellent student and scholar way before I began to believe in myself. He has supported my insight as well as challenging certain ideals. He was one of the reasons I was excited to continue at SVSU in the sociology program.”
Roberto Garcia received the Mary H. Anderson Adjunct Faculty Award for his part-time teaching role in the English department. He aims to inspire his students to think differently about modern culture. To do that, Garcia’s course, titled "Rethinking the Dominant Culture: Jay-Z and Modern America," teaches students about the history of hip-hop and rap in order to examine the genre's impact on modern society and culture. His nominator wrote: “Roberto is an outstanding adjunct faculty member. He has taken a step to create a general education course that is relevant to urban culture and society that students have really enjoyed.”
The Thomson Award for Empowering Learning in Community Engagement was presented to J. Blake Johnson, professor of art. He dedicates a great deal of his time to SVSU and the surrounding community through Cardinal Solutions, which was started by Johnson and others to support community businesses and organizations while offering students the opportunity to build their résumés and portfolios by completing real projects for clients. A student nominator wrote: “Since arriving at SVSU, Blake has been a mentor to me and has pushed me to produce my best work. By working with local businesses and organizations in a real-world studio environment, I have seen my design, communication and project management skills grow by leaps and bounds.”
Jennifer Bridges, professor of kinesiology, received the Excellence in Online Teaching award. In the field of kinesiology, there is an expectation that each course will offer a high level of interactivity and hands-on learning. To accomplish that through her online courses, Bridges developed Motor Development Day in Kinesiology 372, a hybrid course in which students are presented with the primary theories of motor learning and motor development throughout the lifespan. In the course, infants, children and older adults volunteer to work with the students to assess various aspects of their motor milestones.
The Ruben Daniels Community Service Award was presented to Kevin Schultz, director of alumni relations, who is active on the SVSU campus and in the community. He lends his time to the Saginaw Children's Zoo where he serves on the board of directors; he is a past president of both the Fordney Club of Saginaw County and the Saginaw Sunrise Rotary Club. His community involvement also has included volunteer service for the American Legion, the Knights of Columbus, Leadership Saginaw County and the Saginaw County Republicans, among others.
Two recipients were given the Terry Ishihara Award for Outstanding Co-Curricular Involvement: Ava Lewis, professor of nursing, and Sharmee Gloss, public school academy transitions coordinator.
Lewis aims to serve both students and the larger community. She is a nurse practitioner at the Bay Community Health Clinic in Bay City and at the Saginaw Health Clinic. Lewis shares these experiences with her students through course lectures and student volunteer opportunities. Her care for others extends beyond the region, as Lewis has led study abroad trips to Zambia in 2010, 2013 and 2016 where students worked to provide nursing care and HIV education in schools, villages, clinics and through home health visits.
Gloss dedicates a great deal of her time to the success of students of SVSU; she advises 87 undergraduate students and cultivates their confidence, independence, curiosity and passion through support and engagement. To give students the opportunity to learn about the history of surrounding communities, Gloss organized a two-day program for students in 2017 in which they viewed the film "Detroit," participated in a discussion on the impact of the movie, traveled to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and spent an afternoon in downtown Detroit.
Monica Reyes received the Roosevelt Ruffin Diversity Award. She dedicates a great deal of time to community causes, developing organizations such as the Great Lakes Bay Hispanic Leadership Institute, for which she currently serves as director. The program, designed to address a lack of Hispanic representation on community boards within the region, aims to identify potential leaders who may not normally be recognized through traditional channels. Reyes also was appointed to the Governor's Hispanic Latino Commission of Michigan in 2016. The commission recently selected Saginaw for the state's annual Hispanic Heritage Celebration.
The Outstanding Performance Award for Administrative Professional staff was given to Cara Shaw, accounting supervisor. She contributes a great deal to the Controller's office through her technical, organizational and communication skills. Shaw's responsibilities encompass a range of tasks, including accumulating and providing the annual grant reporting for the university, a task she completes flawlessly, according to her colleagues. In addition to her many other duties, she devoted countless hours with SVSU's Information Technology Services department during the initial setup of the university's new financial reporting software and installation phase, making her the resident expert for her colleagues.
Donna Helmreich-Lopez, faculty secretary and office coordinator, received the Outstanding Performance Award for Support Staff. She is highly-respected for her dependability, attention to detail and positive attitude in all the roles she fills. Though her duties are time consuming, colleagues note that Helmreich-Lopez consistently offers her assistance to those who need it, completing tasks efficiently and accurately. One nominator wrote: “We are continually amazed at both the quantity and quality of the work she accomplishes. She is a dynamo of energy and gets things done very quickly.”
Providing a friendly, welcoming and confidence-building experience for incoming freshmen is the goal of Rachel Florence-Spaetzel, director of Orientation Programs at Saginaw Valley State University.
Her peers in the profession believe she achieves that goal, selecting her to receive the Outstanding Orientation, Transition and Retention Professional Award for Region VII of NODA, the association for orientation, transition and retention in higher education. Professionals from Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Ontario were considered for the award.
“To be recognized by these peers – who I so greatly admire – was such an honor, and I am still so moved by their choice to present me with this award,” Florence-Spaetzel said.
Florence-Spaetzel was nominated by two colleagues: Dan Strasz, director of the Academic Advisement Center, and Janna Kern, assistant director of the Academic Advisement Center.
“Rachel has done an excellent job with our orientations programs, which require coordination across multiple divisions and staff and faculty from numerous departments,” Strasz wrote. “Her creativity and innovations have led to a better experience for our new students when they start at Saginaw Valley. Multi-term registration, the implementation of Schedule Planner, and the new degree-mapping software were all piloted at orientation programs. These innovations have had a positive impact on our overall student population.”
Florence-Spaetzel trains and oversees a team of about 40 student employees who serve as orientation leaders during the summer months when new students are introduced to SVSU, register for classes and prepare to begin college in the fall. The orientation leaders work with small groups of students to help them bond and become more familiar with campus and each other.
Florence-Spaetzel received the award at the NODA Region VII Conference at McMaster University in Ontario.
For more information on the Orientation Program at SVSU, please visit www.svsu.edu/orientation/.
Two Carrollton High School students traveled to Washington, D.C. to present on the work they have been doing to increase interest in math and science among their peers. During the academic year, Hudson Holm and Emily Jaremba have been participating in the Chief Science Officers program organized by Saginaw Valley State University.
Earlier this month, they shared lessons they have learned through the program at the STEM Ecosystems 2018 Spring National Community of Practice Convention – in conjunction with the U.S. News & World Report STEM Solutions Conference – in Washington, D.C.
The Carrollton students were joined by Adrianne Cole, SVSU director of STEM, and Craig Coopersmith, a Carrollton high school science teacher and SVSU alumnus. They presented on two topics: “Growing Significant Business-to-Student Partnerships” and “Fostering Cross-Sector Collaborations.”
The Chief Science Officers program is a student-led initiative to increase interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Middle school and high school students are selected for the program and are then empowered to influence a wide range of STEM opportunities in their schools and communities.
SVSU received a $40,000 grant from The Dow Chemical Company Foundation to run the community-minded pilot program at middle schools and high schools in Bay, Midland and Saginaw counties for the 2017-18 school year. It is modeled after a similar program that has proven successful in Arizona.
While they were in Washington, D.C, Holm and Jaremba visited the NASA Headquarters met with Sandra Cauffman, deputy director of the Earth Sciences Division. They also had a chance to collaborate with students participating in chief science officer programs in Arizona and Oregon.
The May 2018 graduating class at Saginaw Valley State University will hear from an alumna who enjoyed a distinguished career as a judge and whose captivating personal story is the subject of a recently published memoir. Marilyn E. Atkins will deliver the Commencement address during ceremonies Friday, May 11 and Saturday, May 12.
The graduating class consists of 999 individuals expected to complete degree requirements who have indicated that they intend to don regalia and march in their respective ceremonies. In all, SVSU will welcome 1,083 people to its alumni rolls.
Commencement exercises for graduates in the colleges of Business & Management and Health & Human Services will be held Friday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m.. Students completing degrees in the colleges of Arts & Behavioral Sciences, Education, and Science, Engineering & Technology will take part in the ceremony scheduled for Saturday, May 12 at 11 a.m. Each ceremony will be held in O’Neill Arena of the Ryder Center.
As is tradition, SVSU President Donald Bachand will congratulate each graduate in both ceremonies as he or she crosses the stage.
Atkins is the longest-serving chief judge in the history of Michigan’s 36th District Court in Detroit, having served in that position for nearly 13 years when she retired in 2012. She holds the distinction of having been appointed by Governor James Blanchard, a Democrat, as a magistrate for the 36th District Court in 1991, and later as a judge in that court by Governor John Engler, a Republican, in 1994.
Prior to her judicial career, Atkins worked as an assistant attorney general for the State of Michigan in the Workers’ Compensation Division. She was appointed to the Worker’s Compensation Appeal Board in 1983. Two years later Atkins became chair of the board, marking the first time a woman or an African-American had ascended to that role. She continued in that position for six years.
After retiring from the bench, Atkins wrote her autobiography “The Triumph of Rosemary: A Memoir,” which was published in 2017. The memoir addresses important topics of diversity and social change. Born to an Italian teen and a married black man in Detroit in 1946, Atkins was adopted by a black couple in Saginaw. At age 19, she sparked a racial and religious scandal by marrying former Roman Catholic priest Thomas Lee Atkins, who was white and 25 years older than she.
Active in her community, Atkins has worked extensively with Detroit youth in schools and churches. She is frequently a guest speaker at youth rallies. Atkins is committed to helping young people avoid crime and she encourages them to fulfill their potential. In addition, Atkins has served on advisory boards for Benjamin E. Mays Male Academy, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency of Greater Detroit Area, and the Detroit Urban League.
Atkins completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Saginaw Valley State University and a law degree at the University of Detroit Mercy. She has two adult daughters.
For more information on Commencement exercises at SVSU, visit www.svsu.edu/commencement/.
The South Asian Student Association at Saginaw Valley State University will celebrate spring with the traditional Holi Festival of Colors — an annual Hindu holiday celebrating the beginning of spring and the “victory of good over evil.” The tradition involves encouraging participants to throw colorful powder at each other.
Food, music, a dance competition and many other activities also will be included in the celebration.
Holi Festival of Colors at SVSU is set for Saturday, April 21, from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Hamilton Gymnasium.
Based on advance ticket sales, organizers expect around 800 people to attend.
Saginaw Valley State University's Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) fraternity is hosting a unique fundraiser to benefit St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.
For every dollar donated, the men of TKE will teeter-totter on large see-saws throughout the night and day in the SVSU Courtyard beginning Thursday, April 19 at noon.
Kyle Baxter, a nursing major from Mayville, is a philanthropy chair for the SVSU chapter of TKE. He knows that this fundraiser has a fun name, but the "Teker-Totters" represents a serious cause.
“Not only are we able to make a pun out of the name of the event, but totters are something that healthy children play on. The goal is to end childhood cancer and allow all kids to be able to play on teeter-totters or any of the other activities that healthy kids are able to do,” he said.
St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital is an important charity to the students. A former member of the national chapter of TKE, Danny Thomas, founded the organization. He created the children's hospital under the mantra that, "no child should die in the dawns of their life."
This is the third annual "Teker-Totter" fundraiser at SVSU. Last year the group raised $3,500; they have set this year’s goal at $5,500.
The fundraiser corresponds with all TKE chapters across the nation, with a total goal of raising $7 million.
Along with the teeter-totter activities, there will also be music playing, yard games, "bubble soccer" and movie showings at night.
For more information and to donate to St. Jude's Children's Hospital through SVSU TKE, visit http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/TKE/TKE?pg=entry&fr_id=77558.
For high school students from outside the Great Lakes Bay Region, the recent FIRST Robotics state championships at Saginaw Valley State University provided a taste of undergraduate life on campus and a greater appreciation for what the region has to offer.
Megan Clapsaddle first SVSU experience came in April 2017, when she was a junior with the Oxford High School Robotics team that qualified for the first state competition hosted by the university. Impressed with what she saw, her college search was all but complete. She committed to enroll at SVSU, where she will begin her freshman year this August.
“I knew about SVSU, but I had never visited here before FIRST Robotics,” Clapsaddle said. “When I came here, I saw how nice the campus was, how friendly the people were, and how there seemed to be so much open space to enjoy. There was so much energy. I knew this was where I wanted to go.”
Clapsaddle and her FIRST Robotics team T.O.R.C. (team 2137) qualified for the 2018 FIRST Robotics state competition and returned to SVSU last week. In all, about 5,000 high school students - along with an additional 3,000 parents, volunteers and fans - attended the 3-day competition that injects at least an estimated $1 million into the region's economy, according to The Great Lakes Bay Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau. The contests concluded Saturday to capacity crowds despite icy weather conditions outside.
Based on the enthusiasm on display, Clapsaddle said she expects the competition will lead other first-time campus visitors to strongly consider SVSU as a college destination. For those FIRST Robotics visitors who already planned to attend SVSU - like her - the state championships likely reinforced their decision, she said.
Angelica Tibbits falls into that category. The senior from the Pontiac Academy for Excellence was among the contest's 5,000 participants, competing for Wingspan (team 6117). A resident of Pontiac, Tibbits planned to enroll at SVSU based on earlier visits to the university, but the FIRST Robotics event bolstered her eagerness to move to the campus this fall.
“It's been an awesome experience to have Robotics at SVSU,” Tibbits said. “It's such an open, cool campus. The buildings seem so new and everyone is so helpful. It really makes me look forward to coming here.”
Both Tibbits and Clapsaddle are uncertain which academic program they will pursue as undergraduates. But their experience with FIRST Robotics - and their preview of SVSU as an institution - has opened them up to many possibilities.
“FIRST Robotics showed me I can do a lot more than I thought I could,” said Tibbits, who will be the first member of her family to attend college.
Many FIRST Robotics students – but not all – pursue degrees in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math), and Tibbits said SVSU's mechanical engineering program appeals to her.
“That's what I'm leaning toward,” she said, “but I'm learning there are so many possibilities here.”
Saginaw Valley State University will welcome a leading expert on ocean conditions and coral reefs for a public talk on the ecosystems. Joanie Kleypas, a research scientist for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, will give a lecture titled “Coral Reefs and Climate Change: An Ecosystem Meets its Match,” Thursday April 26 at 7 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall.
In her talk, Kleypas will discuss the importance of coral reefs as regions of biodiversity and the increasing threat they now face from atmospheric carbon dioxide.
(Explained briefly in this video from National Geographic: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/video/shorts/140623-oceans-warming-evt/)
Kleypas completed a Ph.D. in tropical marine studies from James Cook University in Australia. As a marine ecologist, she has studied coral reef communities around the world and is a leader and pioneer in research on ocean acidification. Kleypas is a recipient of the American Geophysical Union's Rachel Carson Award, a Heinz Award for the Environment, and was featured in the Netflix documentary “Chasing Coral.”
In her work as a research scientist, Kleypas applies high resolution modeling to identify those regions where coral ecosystems can persist into the future, and recently founded a reef restoration project in Costa Rica, to develop ways to propagate corals resilient to climate change, and outplant them back onto damaged reefs.
The talk is free and open to the public. Kleypas comes to SVSU as a Dow Visiting Scholar, supported through an endowment established by The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation to enrich our region’s cultural and intellectual opportunities by featuring the insights and perspectives of highly distinguished guest presenters.
On the outside, Vicki Stoddard this week is clad in pink clothing. As she contemplates her surroundings, though, she can’t help but feel a familiar swell of “red pride” in her heart.
The Bay City Western High School teacher is the founding coach for her institution’s FIRST Robotics team — a pink-themed group known as “Rise of the Warrior Bots” — as it competes in the state championships. The three-day contest featuring 160 high school teams is hosted by Saginaw Valley State University, where the mascot is a cardinal and students often boast about their “red pride” when declaring their school spirit.
Stoddard knows all about that. She is a two-time graduate of SVSU, proudly returning to her alma mater for this week’s occasion.
“It makes me so happy that our team has made it this far, and that I get to come back to SVSU to be part of it with them,” she said. “It’s an amazing experience.”
Stoddard’s group kicked off competition Thursday, and before the closing ceremonies scheduled Saturday, she hopes her team performs well enough to qualify for the world championships hosted later this month in Detroit. If so, it would be the second time in her team’s four-year history it qualified for the final competition.
Each FIRST Robotics season kicks off in January, when teams worldwide are presented with a multi-faceted game challenge that will be used in face-off matches against competing teams. Students square off at regional events, then advance to district championships like the one hosted at SVSU.
The theme for the 2018 FIRST Robotics competition is “Power Up.” It features two alliances of video game characters and their human operators who are trapped in a 1980s-style arcade game. Both alliances are working to defeat the boss in order to escape. In each round, three teams compete using autonomous and remote-controlled robots piloted by students, battling to earn points during a two-minute round.
Stoddard’s awareness of FIRST Robotics was nonexistent before her first year of teaching at Bay City Western in 2014, when a freshman student approached her about assembling a team.
“Bullock Creek High School brought their FIRST Robotics robot to our school one day, and I was really impressed by what I saw,” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘This is manufacturing, this is industry-standard, this is where our future lies.’ I wanted to be part of that. I saw it as a challenge.”
Katelyn Doud, the freshman who introduced Stoddard to FIRST Robotics, recalled how her teacher’s determined spirit rallied the rookie team for a winning streak that landed it in the world championships in St. Louis, Missouri in April 2015.
“And we definitely would not have had as much fun that first year if it weren’t for her,” said Doud, now a senior that serves as team captain. “She really kept us together, especially that first year.”
The Rise of the Warrior Bots has grown in the years since. Stoddard and her students have recruited professional volunteers for help, from organizations such as Nexteer Automotive and Consumers Energy.
After a disappointing second season, the team advanced to the state championship last year, when SVSU hosted the event for the first time. It was a homecoming of sorts for Stoddard, a Reese native who earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education in 2004 — back when she was known as Vicki DuRussell — and a master’s degree in special education in 2016 at the institution.
Stoddard said the new venue in SVSU’s Ryder Center offered an exciting environment for FIRST Robotics. Teams there gather in the Ryder Center-based Fieldhouse, where students fine-tune machines in make-shift pit-stop stations before moving to the competitions next door in O’Neill Arena. The stadium-like setting is comparable to a sold-out college basketball game, with bleachers brimming with FIRST Robotics participants, parents and fans cheering on the competition underway where a hardwood court typically rests.
“It’s a great place to have this event,” Stoddard said. “I recognize so many professors and staff members who are here, volunteering to help out with things that our team typically has to do on our own at other places. As a person that’s trying to keep her team together, it makes my heart soar to see that.”
The support allows the teams to focus on the competition and the education it offers, she said.
“They need this experience for their future,” Stoddard said, referring to all students involved in FIRST Robotics.
“They need the team building, the personal interaction and the responsibility. It’s a sport for your mind.”
And your spirit, she added. Beyond the mechanical elements, Rise of the Warrior Bots’ 24 students handle fundraising, marketing and “team spirit” duties throughout the FIRST Robotics season.
In the stands at SVSU’s O’Neill Arena Thursday, the “team spirit” work was easy to spot. A sea of pink-shirted spectators cheered on the action. Stoddard was among them, in a familiar setting where her “red pride” had yet to fade.
The Alden and Vada Dow Creativity Foundation is once again providing generous funding to allow Saginaw Valley State University and other partners to support K-12 teachers in their quest to become writing instructors and inspire a love of writing in their students.
The SVSU-based Saginaw Bay Writing Project will run a week-long writing workshop July 23-27, featuring a variety of learning opportunities and resources for up to 30 Michigan teachers.
“By going through the process of drafting, sharing, and revising their own writing, teachers will learn more about the challenges - and the joys - their students experience as writers,” said Helen Raica-Klotz, director of SVSU's Writing Center and the Saginaw Bay Writing Project. “We hosted a similar workshop in 2016 that was very well received, and we are grateful to the Alden and Vada Dow Creativity Foundation for again supporting this important community need.”
The writing workshops will be led by John Mauk, who will focus on fiction writing, and Ann-Marie Oomen, who will teach on memoir writing. It will also feature guest speaker Colleen Cruz.
Mauk writes both college textbooks and fictional pieces. He graduated with a doctorate in English from Bowling Green State University and currently teaches at Miami University of Ohio.
Oomen writes plays, poetry, and memoirs. She currently teaches at Pine Manor College and the Interlochen College of Creative Arts Writers Retreat.
Cruz is the author of “The Unstoppable Writing Teacher.” She previously was a classroom teacher before joining the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project where she currently serves as the director of innovation.
All workshop sessions will be held in Midland. Morning sessions will be held at the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio. Afternoon sessions will be held at Grace A. Dow Memorial Library.
Applications are available online to any teacher in the Great Lakes Bay Region and will be accepted until April 30.
The cost is $150 per person. Participants also can take advantage of an opportunity to obtain 25 free State Continuing Education Clock Hours (SCECH) credits or two SVSU credits, paid for by participants.
For more information and to apply, please visit svsu.edu/sbwp/vadabdowworkshop.