A self-proclaimed family man with a baby on the way – and who worked his way through college – Sean Suitor is no stranger to hard work and responsibility.
Suitor completed his bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory science at Saginaw Valley State University in May and began a new job with Covenant HealthCare in Saginaw as a microbiologist in June.
“I'm excited that I get to continue to be a part of the Covenant team after three years working there as a lab assistant,” Suitor said. “It's really just an exciting time in my life and I'm happy to be adding this career to my list of accomplishments.”
Getting there wasn't always an easy road. On top of his studies and family commitments, Suitor worked the night shift at Covenant, attending classes in the mornings and afternoons, often on little sleep.
“It was a lot to handle sometimes,” Suitor said. “I have ADHD [Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder]. That was one of the biggest things I struggled with throughout both high school and college. It made focusing difficult, and some days, it was a real challenge.”
Suitor said that his experience with ADHD is best explained by using the visual of a train track.
“For someone without ADHD, their track – or their thought process – is usually pretty straight. There may be a few curves thrown in here or there but they usually get to the point in a timely manner. My train track encounters a few more intersections, some sharp turns, and a few kinks and I never really get that straight narrative that someone else might have. It's not that I never get to the point, it just takes me a little longer to get there sometimes.”
Suitor used his personal struggle to help those he meets on campus and in the community. While a student at SVSU, he served as the president of Ability First, a registered student organization geared towards helping students with disabilities become more acclimated to college life through campus engagement. The group aims to be a welcoming environment to all students, those with and without disabilities.
SVSU’s medical laboratory science program prepares students to work in a clinical laboratory setting. It has a 98 percent job placement rate; graduates of the program often find employment in clinical pathology laboratories in hospitals across the nation.
“It's a competitive process,” said Kay Castillo, SVSU associate professor of medical laboratory science. “Sean was just one of those students that stood out from the start because he knew what he wanted to do and he was determined to get there. That's just who Sean is.”
A Saginaw native, Suitor married his high school sweetheart, Robyn; both participated in Commencement exercises in May. Robyn is finishing her coursework this summer to complete a degree in exercise science.
“It really means a lot to me that she and I have been able to do all this together,” Sean Suitor said.
The couple coaches cross country at Swan Valley Middle School in their spare time.
Sean was an orientation leader at SVSU for three years. He credits that experience for helping him to break out of his shell and become more confident in his own abilities as a student leader.
“I don't think there will ever be a way for me to fully express how grateful I am for the opportunities SVSU has given me,” Suitor said. “I'm so thankful for this school, the professors who helped guide me along the way, and for Covenant for making me a part of their team. I couldn't be happier with where I am right now and I'm excited to see where this journey will take me.”
Saginaw Valley State University will host a camp created to enhance literacy skills in students from kindergarten to adulthood.
The three-week program will run Tuesday through Friday, July 17-20, and then Monday through Thursday, July 23-26, and July 30-Aug. 2.
Prior to attending the clinic, participants must take an assessment, available on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 26-27, at 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. The assessment requires a $50 non-refundable deposit that will go towards the $270 tuition fee for the literacy camp.
The program consists of 50-minute sessions featuring small group or 1-on-1 instruction; classes meet four times per week for the duration of the clinic. To track each student's progress throughout the camp, they will be given an assessment before and after completion of the program.
Utilizing the latest technology, certified teachers will conduct the tutoring sessions that are designed to foster motivation for reading. Each tutor has specialized training in reading that will allow them to create individualized lesson plans for participants.
To enroll, please contact Laurie Ann Haney, assistant director of the Literacy Center, at 989-964-4982 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit svsu.edu/literacycenter.
Jessica Schafer-Thomas started tossing T-shirts. That action sparked an interest in sports marketing that has landed the recent Saginaw Valley State University graduate one of the most coveted internships in the industry.
A Clio native who earned a bachelor's degree in marketing, Schafer-Thomas is headed to New York City to participate in a coveted internship with the Manhattan Sports Business Academy, starting June 10. With only 25 spots available for the summer, Schafer-Thomas is among the select few to earn the highly competitive opportunity.
“I've never been to New York City so it's going to be a big change of pace for me, but I'm absolutely ecstatic,” Schafer-Thomas said. “I feel like this is what I'm supposed to be doing and SVSU definitely helped to set me on that path.”
The program runs eight weeks and requires participants to work full-time at their internship placement while also attending a weekly speaker series, receiving one-on-one mentorship with established sports industry professionals, and participating in weekend outings. Past internship providers include Madison Square Garden, the NFL, Red Bull, and the New York Mets among other prominent names in sports.
As the first SVSU student ever to be admitted to the prestigious program, Schafer-Thomas is grateful for the three years she spent as a sports marketing and promotions intern for SVSU Athletics. Responsible for all in-game promotions at football, basketball, soccer, and volleyball events, Schafer-Thomas earned herself a reputation around campus.
“I'm kind of known as the t-shirt girl,” Schafer-Thomas said with a laugh. “If you went to a basketball game over the past few years, chances are you saw me shooting T-shirts into the crowd. After my first year working with the athletic department, people started to recognize me around campus. It always made me smile.”
Jim Dwyer, SVSU executive director of alumni relations and a former SVSU men’s basketball player, served as a mentor to Schafer-Thomas.
“It was clear to me that Jessica was very driven to make her way in the sports marketing field,” Dwyer said. “She knew the value of experience outside of the classroom and that positioned her to get this opportunity. She took her weaknesses and parlayed those into strengths and then was relentless in making it happen.”
Beyond her internship, Schafer-Thomas was a member of the coed business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi. She also dedicated a great deal of her time to IMPACT, a Christian-based student organization. Schafer-Thomas volunteered for SVSU Athletics, as well, working at events such as SVSU's Community Youth Days clinics for grade school children.
Each year, SVSU students compete in a charitable fundraising competition against their counterparts from Grand Valley State University, known as Battle of the Valleys. A chance encounter helped lead Schafer-Thomas down her current path.
“I remember attending my first Battle of the Valleys event,” she said. “One of the students working the event asked me to participate in one of the promotions and I was on cloud nine. That was a surreal moment for me. It made me feel like I belonged and it helped to point me in the direction of what I really wanted to do.”
Schafer-Thomas feels prepared for her move to New York.
“SVSU has taught me to stay true to myself and trust my own abilities,” Schafer-Thomas said. “I love what I'm doing and, although getting here wasn't easy, I'm really proud of the fact that I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try.”
For more information on the Manhattan Sports Business Academy, visit https://gomsba.com/.
Saginaw Valley State University is stepping up its efforts in sexual assault prevention with help from a $25,044 grant from the State of Michigan.
The funds will support SVSU's Bringing in the Bystander program, which is based on an initiative created by the University of New Hampshire. SVSU has participated in the program since 2015. The recently-awarded $25,044 grant from the State of Michigan Campus Sexual Assault Grant Program funded training for more students through the Bringing in the Bystander initiative.
The program's impact will reach beyond SVSU's campus, said Michele Gunkelman, SVSU's director of Residential Life and one of the program's campus coordinators.
“It's not just here at SVSU where we have an impact,” she said. “Our campus is the main focus, but we also have a responsibility to our students to give them skills to take into the workforce and the community.”
Using the funds, 30 students and staff were trained during an 8-hour workshop. These trained facilitators in return plan to train other program participants. Campus leaders say at least 1,000 students will receive the training by December 2018.
The grant also will be used to launch a "Know Your Power" poster campaign - also designed by the University of New Hampshire - and a video contest for SVSU students. Videos submitted will demonstrate good pro-social bystander behavior to reduce sexual assault and stalking.
The project at SVSU is led by Gunkelman and Cortney Heileman, SVSU's assistant director of Student Wellness Programs.
For more information on the Bringing in the Bystander campaign at SVSU, visit www.svsu.edu/titleix/trainingeducation.
A Saginaw Valley State University student recognized for his leadership and passion for bettering SVSU students’ life on campus has added another national award to his résumé.
Pedro Marin, a marketing major from Grand Blanc, earned the Student of the Year award from the National Association of College and University Residence Halls (NACURH) during its annual conference May 25-28 at Arizona State University in Tempe. NACURH is an organization for student leaders in college campus housing operations.
“This was completely unexpected, because there were so many great people who are doing great things for their campuses across the country,” he said. “I thought my chances were pretty up in the air. It's just me doing the things I love to do.”
He qualified for the national award after receiving recognition from one of the organization's regional affiliates in November 2017. Because of another commitment, he was not in attendance last week when his name was announced as the recipient.
Marin, named National First Year Student of the Month in August 2014 by NACURH following his freshman year, plans to pursue a professional career in student affairs at the higher education level. It's a passion he picked up early on at SVSU.
“When I was a freshman, I knew I wanted to work with people to spread positivity and inspire movement and education for others, but I didn't know how I wanted to do that,” he said.
He discovered the “how” after taking on leadership roles in SVSU's Residential Life community and receiving inspiration from his first campus mentor, Merry Jo Brandimore, a longtime SVSU student affairs administrator who retired in 2016.
“She really introduced me to this profession as a possibility, and I fell in love with it,” Marin said.
Brandimore's successor, Sidney Childs, is now serving as Marin's mentor in an official capacity that landed Marin a paid summer internship across the country.
Childs, SVSU associate provost for Student Affairs and dean of students, became Marin's adviser in October 2017 as part of Marin's acceptance into the NASPA Undergraduate Fellowship Program for the Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education. Marin joined about 200 individuals in the national program offering opportunities for scholarships, on-campus mentorship and professional development events to students from underrepresented and historically disenfranchised populations.
Through that opportunity, Marin accepted a paid internship at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He will work with the campus' student affairs services including its career services and diversity programs. Marin departed for the job Wednesday, May 30, and returns in mid-July.
“I'm so appreciative of all the ways SVSU, NACURH and NASPA has allowed me to grow,” he said. “I've had so many great opportunities.”
Marin has received several SVSU awards recognizing him for his work as a resident assistant. Outside of campus, he is a regular participant in the SVSU Alternative Breaks programs that send students to help nonprofit organizations and charities across the nation during the holiday and spring break periods.
Marin plans to graduate from SVSU in May 2019, then pursue a postgraduate degree in student affairs leadership.
The Saginaw Valley State University community will compete in the 16th annual Battle of the Valleys competition to support a non-profit that focuses on prevention, education and support for people who have been affected by suicide in the Great Lakes Bay Region.
The Barb Smith Suicide Resource and Response Center, formerly known as Survivors of Suicide, was founded by Barb Smith almost 30 years ago after her brother lost his life to suicide.
Cheyenne Wilton, a creative writing major from Ortonville and the 2018-19 philanthropy chair for SVSU's Student Association, said they chose to partner with the non-profit because of the dedication and passion Smith and the organization show.
“They truly care so much about what they're doing, and with suicide being a leading cause of death for college students, we felt it was extremely important to support a cause so dedicated to preventing suicide and helping people with these thoughts, as well as their families,” Wilton said.
“Barb Smith has dedicated her entire adult life to this cause and has built an amazing team and foundation with the ultimate goal of saving lives.”
Smith educates both students and adults on how to prevent suicide for oneself and for others, and has worked with SVSU’s Department of Nursing to integrate health and behavioral health. She also provides support to people who have been suicidal or have lost a loved one from suicide through both group and individual sessions.
The Saginaw-based organization received a Hero Award for America & Me in 2013, based upon an essay written by an 8th grade student at Pinconning Middle School whose family had received support from Smith.
The student wrote: “I have noticed a big change in my family. They were beginning to do more, and getting out of the house. Suicide is heart-breaking, but with the help of Barb, we healed, and we hoped to spread awareness, because it’s okay to ask for help.”
SVSU and Grand Valley State University have engaged in an annual charitable fundraising competition since 2003. SVSU has currently won the last 10 years in a row and has won 12 of the 15 years overall.
Between SVSU and GVSU, the universities have raised a combined total of $601,282 since the competition started in 2003, SVSU has contributed $389,444 of that total, including last year's amount raised of $32,115 for the Mustard Seed Shelter in Saginaw.
This year's Battle of the Valleys competition will begin on Sunday, October 21 with fundraising events held all week until the final results are announced during the football game on Saturday, October 27 at SVSU's Harvey Randall Wickes Memorial Stadium.
For more information on Battle of the Valleys, please visit www.svsu.edu/battleofthevalleys/.
For more information on the Barb Smith Suicide Resource and Response Network, please visit www.suicideresourceandresponse.net.
Some students arrive at college unsure of their course of study; others change majors along the way. Not Hayley Tomich. She knew what she wanted to do before she ever stepped foot on campus at Saginaw Valley State University.
“I knew how important it was to have a well-rounded academic background before applying for law school so a Spanish minor and a political science major just made the most sense to me,” Tomich said. “This will give me the opportunity to do what I've always wanted to do, which is helping people who have been marginalized or discriminated against.”
A native of Chesterfield Township in Macomb County, Tomich completed her bachelor’s degree at SVSU in May 2018. She will attend Wayne State University Law School this fall and plans to specialize in human rights and immigration law.
Tomich quickly felt a connection to the place and the people that led her to pursue a law degree. She became involved with SVSU's moot court team, which is currently ranked No. 24 in the nation. More than 425 colleges and universities field undergraduate moot court teams.
The program offers students the opportunity to compete at American Moot Court Association tournaments where teams of two are tasked with arguing a hypothetical case. They are judged based on the clarity of their argument, their public speaking skills, their ability to answer questions, and how well they know the law and the case.
Tomich and her partner successfully made it to the National Invitational at the University of Chicago in 2017, where they placed in the top eight in a competition with 18 teams.
“It's always been a really exciting experience for me,” Tomich said. “It's prepared me for law school because, in moot court, we're reading constitutional law and actually creating arguments to present before an audience. It's probably one of the best experiences I've had at SVSU.”
A student in the SVSU Honors Program, Tomich also completed an honors thesis. Alongside Julie Keil, an associate professor of political science and moot court adviser at SVSU, she decided to investigate gender bias in moot court.
Keil – a former attorney – said she's always been impressed by Tomich's dedication to the program and her resulting research.
“Hayley expressed an interest in helping with my research regarding moot court and gender bias,” Keil said. “I really enjoyed seeing some of the insight that she had. She really demonstrated her analytical thinking skills and creativity.”
Tomich also sat on the executive board for the Honors Program during her sophomore year. Through that opportunity, she helped to organize events for freshmen coming into the program.
“Hayley is one of those people who is always willing to help those around her,” Keil said.
“I think that is a trait that will be hugely beneficial to her as an attorney. People need to be able to trust an attorney with their problems and the attorney needs to be able to help them without making them feel badly for having problems. You can't teach that – either you have it or you don't, and Hayley has it.”
Saginaw Valley State University has affirmed its longstanding partnership with Jinan University, SVSU's sister school from Guangzhou, China.
The partnership is designed to facilitate the exchange of information regarding health care and education in the United States and China. For the past 30 years, students and faculty from SVSU travel to Guangzhou and nurses from Jinan University visit SVSU on an annual basis.
SVSU President Donald Bachand and Chen Weiju, dean of nursing at Jinan University, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on May 15, formally committing both schools to the ongoing relationship. Weiju first came to SVSU as a guest scholar in the 1990s.
At SVSU, the relationship is primarily maintained by the College of Health and Human Services. A delegation of SVSU students and faculty will travel to Jinan University this July as part of the exchange program.
Norma Gonzalez has always possessed a strong desire to teach. Those who have seen her in action are convinced she has made the right career choice.
A math education major, Gonzalez graduated from Saginaw Valley State University May 12. She has accepted a teaching position at Cesar Chavez Academy in Detroit, where she has been working as a long-term substitute teacher.
“Teaching in any capacity is always something I knew I would do,” Gonzalez said. “By the time I was in third grade, that was always my answer when people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up.”
Roberto Garcia, director of the SVSU Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, worked closely with Gonzalez during her time at the university. After getting to know her in his English composition class, Garcia became a mentor to Gonzalez and sees a rare quality in her.
“When Norma came here, she knew what she wanted,” Garcia said. “Teaching is her passion and, on top of that, she's a natural leader. She has influence and she doesn't shy away from the responsibility of leadership. She embraces it.”
Raised in a bilingual household, Gonzalez is fluent in Spanish and hopes to continue to work in an environment where she can employ her Spanish education minor in the classroom.
“Being bilingual is a huge benefit to Norma in her current career track,” Garcia said. “She's excited about the opportunity to go into areas where she can use her ability to speak Spanish in order to teach and educate.”
As someone who has made it her mission to help others, Gonzalez was always heavily involved in tutoring programs throughout her high school years at Pontiac Academy for Excellence, a charter school authorized by SVSU. (Cesar Chavez is also an SVSU-authorized charter school.)
In college, she was immediately drawn to the SVSU tutoring center where she felt her particular skill set would be utilized.
Active on campus, Gonzalez was involved with the Latino Awareness Association, which aims to promote unity and celebrate diversity while spreading awareness of the many different Latino cultures. She was also a member of Gamma Sigma Sigma, a service sorority on campus. The organization completed monthly service work, which included volunteering in animal shelters and local soup kitchens.
Gonzalez also worked as a mentor through the SVSU Public School Academy program in which she would lend her time to incoming freshmen as they attempted to settle into campus life.
“Norma always volunteered to work that program,” Garcia said. “She spoke so highly about how the program helped her get situated into college life and I really think she enjoyed reaching back and mentoring some of the young people coming in after her.”
Gonzalez also worked in the dean's office for the SVSU College of Education, where her passion and leadership qualities quickly became evident. She helped to create an SVSU event – Heroes in Education – in which influential educators are honored for their dedication to student growth.
As part of the College of Education leadership team, Gonzalez was part of the panel that reviewed nominations for teachers deserving of the award.
“Reading their stories was so inspiring to me,” Gonzalez said. “It makes me grateful for the position SVSU has put me in with my student teaching and field work opportunities.”
Currently teaching math in a 7th grade classroom, Gonzalez said she felt at home and supported in her student teaching placement.
“I'm happy to be in Detroit,” she said. “Teaching these students has been a real learning experience. Predictably, the most difficult part is finding my footing with classroom management, but I always have people that I can go to at any time. I'm doing it and I'm loving it more every day.”
Saginaw Valley State University celebrated the excellence, dedicated care and leadership delivered by six registered nurses in the Great Lakes Bay Region during the eighth annual Carleen K. Moore R.N. Nursing Excellence awards ceremony Wednesday, May 16.
Established by SVSU's Department of Nursing through generous support provided by Terry Moore and his wife Carleen K. Moore, the awards recognize outstanding nurses in multiple career paths, including clinical bedside nurses, nurse educators, nurses in the community and nurses in long-term care and rehabilitation facilities.
The 2018 recipients include:
Edwin Vazquez, who works in the mental health unit at MidMichigan Medical Center-Gratiot. He is one of the three recipients of the Nursing in the Acute Care Environment award. His nomination letter read, “Edwin has stepped up as a leader. He motivates others by appealing to higher ideals and moral values. Every nurse on the unit shares that they love working with him and appreciate his integrity and learning orientation. Edwin Vazquez is an excellent role model to nurses at all experience levels.”
Brenda Harris, who works in the McLaren-Bay Region electrophysiology lab. She is one of the three recipients of the Nursing in the Acute Care Environment award. Her nomination letter read, “Brenda always has her patients' safety, concerns and fears in mind as she provides care. Often seen holding a patient's hand, using touch to reassure and speaking in a quiet soothing voice, she sets an example for how all nurses should care for patients.
Jessica Fodrocy, who works as a breast cancer nurse navigator at MidMichigan Health. She is the recipient of the Nursing in the Community award. Her nomination letter read, “Jessica easily connects with patients and quickly builds trust and respect that is critical to guide them through their desired cancer treatment. Jessica educates women on how to prevent breast cancer, promote early detection, and she guides them through to survivorship.”
Jennifer Whyte, who works as a behavioral health program manager at McLaren-Bay Region. She is the recipient of the Nursing Education award. Her nomination letter read, “For those who have the privilege to work closely with Jennifer, they have had the opportunity to see a nursing professional who is dedicated to nursing excellence, passionate about preventing illness in the community and compassionate about the daily struggles that patients and families endure as they navigate the health care system.”
Jill Hegenauer, who works for Covenant HealthCare. She is the recipient of the Long-Term Care/Rehabilitation award. Her nomination letter read, “Jill demonstrates the 'We Care' values of Covenant with every shift that she works, from start to finish. She exhibits a caring attitude and always treats residents with dignity and as unique individuals.”
Carleen K. Moore worked as a licensed practical nurse for almost 15 years before returning to nursing school to become a registered nurse. She then worked in the critical care units at MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland for the next 11 years before retiring from full time nursing in 2001. Moore and her husband, Terry, believe in the importance of recognizing and encouraging nurses who demonstrate excellence in their field.
For more information on SVSU's nursing program, please visit www.svsu.edu/nursing/.