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June 1, 2018

SVSU extends bystander training with help from $25K state grant

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

May 31, 2018

SVSU student’s passion for positivity earns him national Student of the Year award

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.

May 29, 2018

SVSU students to support suicide prevention in 2018 ‘Battle of the Valleys’

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

For more information on the Barb Smith Suicide Resource and Response Network, please visit

May 25, 2018

SVSU grad headed to law school to advocate for the less fortunate

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.”

May 22, 2018

SVSU extends partnership with Jinan University in China

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.

May 21, 2018

SVSU grad inspired to teach in Detroit

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.”

May 21, 2018

SVSU honors outstanding patient care at Nursing Excellence awards ceremony

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.

  • Amy Slough who works in the Towne Center Surgery Center at Saint Mary's of Michigan. She is one of three recipients of the Nursing in the Acute Care Environment award. Her nomination letter read, “Amy is a quick learner who leads by example. She is not afraid to speak up when she has a concern or an idea of how to do something better. She will come in early and stay late. She has a strong work ethic and friendly personality.”
  • 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

May 17, 2018

SVSU team shows off engineering ability, races to impressive showing at demanding international contest

Powering through adversity, Saginaw Valley State University's Cardinal Formula Racing Team again secured its place among the world’s elite, earning one of its best finishes ever in an annual competition against many of the top engineering students from across the globe.

For the fourth consecutive year, SVSU scored the highest finish among exclusively undergraduate programs at the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers Collegiate Design Series May 9-12 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan.

Overall, SVSU's team finished No. 24 out of 120 competitors. It marked the fifth-best finish in the program's 20-year existence.

“I'm really blown away by the students on this team,” said Brooks Byam, SVSU professor of mechanical engineering and the team's adviser since 1998. “They are just phenomenal.”

Byam said the team displayed gritty determination during the competition, and especially in the days before. After the team's Indy-style race car's primary engine failed less than one week before they departed for the speedway, the students worked around the clock to prepare the backup engine for use in the vehicle while simultaneously building a new backup engine.

That work was ongoing during the competition, Byam said. During the first day of racing, one of the students drove to Kalamazoo to pick up engine parts. When he returned, the team continued to engineer the vehicle's backup-to-the-backup engine.

Byam attributed their strong work ethic to good leadership, including co-captain Kameron Carey, a mechanical engineering major from Saginaw.

“The team picked up a lot of his traits, which is the sign of a good leader,” Byam said. “His attention to detail is what really helped us get the finish we got.”

That finish placed SVSU second among the 13 Michigan schools that competed, ahead of Michigan Tech, Michigan State, Kettering and others. The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor finished 17th overall.

The teams that placed in the top 5 overall hailed from outside of the United States. University of Stuttgart, from Germany, finished No. 1. Of the United States-based teams, SVSU placed No. 11 overall, besting national programs such as Duke, Georgia Tech, Ohio State and Penn State.

Byam said the level of competition has increased substantially over the years as more international teams enter the fray. The Collegiate Design Series remains an exceptional educational experience for participants, he said.

“There's no other competition like this that better prepares our engineering students” he said. “It helps you, even years after you graduate. The camaraderie, the learning, the adversity – the experience just keeps paying you back.”

The Collegiate Design Series' final standings are determined after combining scores from a series of competitions in categories such as design, cost, endurance and acceleration. The SVSU team's highest placement in an individual category was No. 7 in fuel efficiency.

“I was thrilled with that,” Byam said.

Byam has advised the team for 20 years. He was the 2013 recipient of the Carroll Smith Mentor's Cup from the Society of Automotive Engineers, the top honor given to faculty who advise college formula racing programs.

The four times the program finished better than in 2018 happened in 2002 with a 6th-place finish, 2005 with an 8th-place finish, 2008 with a 14th-place finish, and 2010 with an 18th-place finish. Twice, in 2008 and 2014, SVSU built the fastest college race car in the world, winning the acceleration category.

May 14, 2018

Seats aboard 2019 Eastern European-bound guided tour, cruise offered by SVSU organization

Individuals aged 50 and over are invited aboard a Saginaw Valley State University organization-sponsored 15-day guided cruise and tour across the Adriatic Sea and Eastern Europe next winter.

SVSU’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), which offers educational programs and trips to its membership of individuals aged 50 and over, will sponsor the overseas trek from Feb. 26 to March 12, 2019. Individuals who are not members of OLLI are invited on the trip, which includes a boat cruise and land-bound tours to historic and scenic sites across Bosnia, Croatia, Herzegovina and Montenegro.

“This is a very unique opportunity that not everyone is going to have on their bucket list — but they should,” said Shelley Wegner, associate director of OLLI. “There is so much to see. So much natural beauty and history.”

To prime those individuals unfamiliar with the region and its history, OLLI this week will invite an expert to speak on the topic at SVSU. Mindy Morgan, an associate professor of anthropology at Michigan State University, will visit SVSU Wednesday, May 16, at 5 p.m. in Curtiss Hall, room 129. She will discuss the language, culture, cuisine and geography of Croatia and the Dalmatian Coast region. Wegner encouraged individuals considering the trip to attend Morgan’s talk, which is free and open to the public.

While typically only members are able to attend OLLI-sponsored trips, the unique destination of Eastern Europe led OLLI leaders to offer the opportunity to anyone over 50.

Tickets range from $4,585 to $4,885, which includes costs relating to travel, lodging, and most meals. Cancellation insurance is available.

The trip plan includes spots for 50 people. Once overseas, the travelers will split into two guided tour groups of 25 people.

“Even though it is a group tour, we want to keep it small enough that it will be an intimate experience for all involved,” Wegner said.

The trip will begin when the group departs from SVSU to Detroit Metropolitan Airport for an overnight flight to Zagreb, Croatia. Upon arrival, the group will meet with the guided tour director and stay one night in a hotel before boarding the cruise ship on the Adriatic Sea the following morning.

Once the cruise sets sail, the vessel will dock at various spots along the western coasts of Montenegro and Croatia, where members will view sites such as the waterfalls and canyons of the Krka National Park as well as the historical monument of the Imperial Palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

After spending 11 nights aboard the ship and exploring several countries, the last two nights of the vacation will be spent in a hotel in Istria, Croatia.

“There is plenty of time built into the schedule for people to explore on their own,” said Wegner. “Whether it’s shopping or taking in the local sites, there is free time and you don’t always have to do what’s on the itinerary.”

OLLI leaders said the trip will involve walking up to three miles and include between six to eight hours of activity daily.

OLLI organized the trip through Grand Circle Travel, a Boston-based travel agency.

Those interested in learning more can visit the OLLI office at SVSU in Curtiss Hall, room 111, or contact the office at (989) 964-4475 or Detailed print brochures for the trip are available.

May 14, 2018

SVSU engineering students take on new challenge, design Mars robot for NASA competition

A team of 12 senior engineering and computer science students at Saginaw Valley State University have designed a robot prototype that would be capable of mining a simulated surface of the planet Mars. Next week, they will see how their design stacks up against the nation’s best.

NASA will host its ninth annual Robotics Mining Competition at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida May 14-18. This is the first year SVSU students will be among the 55 U.S. colleges and universities to compete.

The SVSU Robotics Club tested their creative and problem-solving abilities over the past year. Electrical engineering students took the reins on building the mechanical and electrical system for the robot while computer science students involved worked on the navigation system for the robot.

“We wanted the project to challenge us,” said Connor Peil, an electrical engineering major from Bay City. “The ability to mine on Mars is a useful resource to help in understanding that terrain. That's the first step to any sort of future colonization - making sure you're even adaptable. That's mainly what our project overviews.”

A year in the making, the robot employs the belt-mining method in which buckets attached to the belt are rotated in order to continuously dig up material. Equipped with situational-awareness sensors, the robot is capable of navigating a simulated Mars-like surface.

The students worked closely with Rajani Muraleedharan, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and advisor to the SVSU Robotics Club. She empowered students across majors to participate in the design and construction of the robot.                                           

To qualify for the contest, Muraleedharan and the team put together a technical paper detailing their ideas for the project and how those ideas would be executed. A video demonstration of the prototype was also submitted.

“The purpose of the competition is to try to utilize universities and student minds to come up with new technology ideas,”  said Eric King, an electrical engineering major from Woodhaven. “In a way, NASA is outsourcing the ideas in order to find what works best.”

The competition will ask teams to mine gravel which simulates the icy rocky material found on the surface of Mars. A $5,000 scholarship will be offered as the grand prize during the competition with several other prizes available.

“Ultimately, what they're looking for is design ideas,” King said. “There can be a winner but they might not necessarily have the technology that transfers to what NASA would use so it's really about innovation - you're trying to get NASA to consider a design that you came up with.”

The team was assisted by several donors including StoneQuest; Joel Kiss, SVSU assistant director of campus facilities; the SVSU Foundation; the SVSU Electrical and Computer Engineer Department; Frank Hall, dean of the College of Science Engineering & Technology; Darlene Seegert, administrative secretary; as well as a number of other supporters. 

For more information about the NASA Robotics Mining Competition, visit

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