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January 9, 2021

Dedicated SVSU Theatre Professor Earns Prestigious National Honor for Teaching

Peggy Mead-Finizio, assistant professor of theatre at Saginaw Valley State University, is this year's recipient of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) Innovative Teacher award. Mead-Finizio is one of only eight recipients in the nation to receive this remarkable honor for the 2020-21 academic year.

Each KCACTF region recognizes an individual or organization with this award to celebrate extraordinary contributions to the teaching and producing of theatre. The recipient must demonstrate excellence in educational theatre and a significant dedication of their time, artistry and enthusiasm to the values and goals of the KCACTF.

Mead-Finizio has exemplified these qualities through her inspiring passion and dedication to her students. David Rzeszutek, department chair and professor of theatre at SVSU, noted Mead-Finizio serves as an integral part of the growth and success of SVSU's theatre program.

“Since Peggy started at SVSU, she has created an upward trajectory for our program. Each year, our technical program grows stronger and our student's successes are a credit to her guidance,” Rzeszutek said. "She has been an invaluable professor within the theatre department, always going above and beyond to support and empower her students.

“Peggy wears many hats: Teacher, Mentor, Technical Coordinator, Lighting Designer, Master Electrician, Choreographer, Sound Designer and more,” Rzeszutek said.

“Peggy is an invaluable colleague to the faculty and an outstanding teacher and mentor to her students. She is a voracious researcher and designer, adaptable to change, positive and honest.”

Her devotion to her students and enthusiasm for theatre education were amplified as she navigated teaching during a pandemic. Mead-Finizio's determination and ability to adapt meant that her students were still able to successfully present fall theatre productions.

“As we transitioned into our theatrical season in a pandemic, Peggy led our department and students by learning and implementing a three-camera set up on a soundstage built in our scene shop while creating and powering a lighting rig from scratch,” said Rzeszutek.

“At the same time, in our proscenium theatre, she led the technology of a single-camera green screen studio that was built on the other side of the scene shop wall for our other fall production.”

Her leadership and perseverance allowed her students to have a positive learning experience, despite tremendous obstacles.

“Even more remarkably, both shows rehearsed and filmed simultaneously to beat the holiday break when students would not be able to return to campus,” said Rzeszutek.

“She guided both productions through the editing process and coordinated the students in group efforts to also learn how to edit; a herculean feat indeed.”

Not only is Mead-Finizio being awarded for her outstanding achievements, but several of her students are being recognized by the KCACTF for their accomplishments as well. Two of her students recently reached the Region III final round for design at the KCACTF for their prowess in lighting and sound design, in part due to Mead-Finizio's mentorship.

Mead-Finizio will receive her award Saturday, Jan. 9 via a virtual ceremony during the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Region III conference. 


January 4, 2021

SVSU Board grants degrees to 550 students who persevered to complete their studies

The Saginaw Valley State University Board of Control granted graduate and undergraduate degrees during the Board’s regular meeting Friday, Dec. 18. Around 550 students have completed degree requirements despite disruptions arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

 

SVSU is holding a series of virtual Commencement ceremonies Friday, Dec. 18.

 

“We are immensely proud of these graduates,” said Donald Bachand, SVSU president. “They have shown remarkable determination to complete degree requirements, which are demanding even under normal circumstances.”

 

In other action, the Board:

•                     Confirmed board members for previously authorized public school academies

•                     Approved faculty sabbaticals for four faculty members: Sara Keough, geography; Natalia Knoblock, English; Erik Trump, political science; and Matthew Vannette, physics.

•                     Granted emeritus status to George Eastland, who retired after 51 years teaching chemistry.

•                     Granted emeritus status to Jane Girdham, who retired after 25 years teaching music.

•                     Granted emeritus status to Wayne Mackie, who retired after 42 years teaching finance.

•                     Granted emeritus status to James Sullivan, who retired after 33 years teaching English.

•                     Granted emeritus status to Laurie Reed, who retired after 26 years teaching physics.

•                     Granted emeritus status to Joe Vogl, who retired after 42 years of service to SVSU, including 35 years as head golf coach.

•                     Reappointed Andrews Hooper Pavlik PLC as SVSU auditors for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

•                     Passed a resolution to restore President Bachand’s salary for 2021; he had taken a 10% salary reduction in 2020 in response to the pandemic.

December 18, 2020

SVSU Board grants degrees to 550 students who persevered to complete their studies

The Saginaw Valley State University Board of Control granted graduate and undergraduate degrees during the Board’s regular meeting Friday, Dec. 18. Around 550 students have completed degree requirements despite disruptions arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

SVSU is holding a series of virtual Commencement ceremonies Friday, Dec. 18.

“We are immensely proud of these graduates,” said Donald Bachand, SVSU president. “They have shown remarkable determination to complete degree requirements, which are demanding even under normal circumstances.”

In other action, the Board:

• Confirmed board members for previously authorized public school academies

• Approved faculty sabbaticals for four faculty members: Sara Keough, geography; Natalia Knoblock, English; Erik Trump, political science; and Matthew Vannette, physics.

• Granted emeritus status to George Eastland, who retired after 51 years teaching chemistry.

• Granted emeritus status to Jane Girdham, who retired after 25 years teaching music.

• Granted emeritus status to Wayne Mackie, who retired after 42 years teaching finance.

• Granted emeritus status to James Sullivan, who retired after 33 years teaching English.

• Granted emeritus status to Laurie Reed, who retired after 26 years teaching physics.

• Granted emeritus status to Joe Vogl, who retired after 42 years of service to SVSU, including 35 years as head golf coach.

• Reappointed Andrews Hooper Pavlik PLC as SVSU auditors for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

• Passed a resolution to restore President Bachand’s salary for 2021; he had taken a 10% salary reduction in 2020 in response to the pandemic.

December 18, 2020

Four SVSU students qualify for moot court nationals in January

Members of Saginaw Valley State University’s nationally-ranked moot court program continued to demonstrate their commitment to hard work as four students recently qualified to advance to a national tournament in January. 
 
Two SVSU teams featuring two students each – Erik Byron and Collin Willette as well as Justin Weller (pictured) and Caroline Sawatzki – will compete in the American Moot Court Association national tournament, which will be hosted virtually from Jan. 22-24. 
 
The students earned their place in the 200-student competition based on their performance this year in virtual regional tournaments. They faced some of the top moot court programs in the U.S., including Duke University, Cornell University, University of Chicago, Patrick Henry College, as well as William & Mary university. 
 
SVSU’s moot court team is ranked No. 16 in the nation. Julie Keil, the SVSU associate professor of political science who serves as the team’s co-adviser, said this year’s competition was especially challenging considering the pandemic-related obstacles. 
 
“This has been the most difficult year, with the pandemic, a virtual class and tournaments, and the various stresses on the students and (team co-adviser) Amy Hendrickson and myself,” Keil said. 
 
“The fact we were able to qualify two teams during this year is a testament to the strength of the program and the hard work and dedication of the students.” 
 
Two of the qualifying students are familiar with the national tournament. Weller, a political science major from Bay City, qualified twice before. He won a fourth-place brief writing award during the 2020 nationals. He submitted another brief with Byron this year; the results of that competition will be revealed during the January nationals. 
 
Byron, a political science major from Birch Run, qualified once before for the national tournament. 
 
Sawatzki is an electrical engineering major from Saginaw. Willette is a political science major from Bay City. 
 
Acting as teams of two attorneys, students competing in moot court tournaments are tasked with arguing both sides of hypothetical legal cases based on real-life courtroom battles. The competition is judged based on the clarity of the students' argument, their public speaking skills, their ability to answer questions, and how well they know the law and the case. 
 
For more information about the American Moot Court Association, go to amcamootcourt.org

December 18, 2020

SVSU forensics team performance in state tourney sends students to nationals in April

The Saginaw Valley State University forensics team won third place in the Team Sweepstakes category at the fall Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League Tournament on Saturday, Dec. 5. 
 
Six students earned individual awards in various categories at the tournament, which was hosted in an online setting. 
 
The students and their awards are as follows:
  • Jessica Carpenter, a communication major from Saginaw, won third place in the Rhetorical Criticism category 
  • Evangeline Cruz, a communication major from Detroit, won second place in the Persuasion category 
  • Jessica Davis, an elementary education major from Saginaw, won third place in the Persuasion category 
  • Claire Harris, a communication major from Delton, won second place in the Informative category 
  • Isaiah Powell, a theatre major from Freeland, won fifth place in the Impromptu category 
  • Austin Teeple, a communication major from Bay Mills, won fourth place in the Impromptu category 
Based on their performances in the competition, Cruz, Davis, Harris and Teeple qualified for the speech league’s national tournament in April. They will join Powell, who qualified for the nationals based on his performance in an earlier competition. 
 
Other SVSU students who qualified for the nationals based on competition earlier in the year are Mikayla Rigda, a communication major from Birch Run; Adam Stepanski, a graphic design major from West Bloomfield; and Brandon Stockwell, a biology major from Marine City. 
 
The National Forensic Association national tournament will be hosted virtually from April 16-20.

December 18, 2020

With Broadway training, SVSU alumna performs in holiday production while pursuing pop music success

From small town Michigan to the Big Apple, Saginaw Valley State University alumna Madalyn McHugh's determination and hard work helped her pursue her dreams of becoming a Broadway-trained performer. After fine-tuning her talents in New York City, that dream has since grown even larger.

“It’s about the people I meet along the way, while constantly growing to become the best performer and human along the way,” she said of her journey as a stage talent lately.

That personal and performative growth included her selection to a prestigious New York City-based development program for aspiring Broadway performers, her participation in a virtual holiday musical event captivating audiences in the region this month, and the development of a pop music album.

Before graduating from SVSU in December 2017 with a bachelor's degree in music, McHugh was highly engaged as a performer during her undergraduate years. She participated in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. And she was a member of two SVSU vocal ensembles, the Cardinal Singers as well as the Concert Choir, where she was a section leader. 

“SVSU was the first gamechanger for me,” the Caro native said.  

Her professors were extremely helpful and receptive to new ideas, she said. McHugh said she was always asked, “What are your dreams and goals?,” and she felt supported when they offered guidance toward those goals. 

“You can try things, you can fail, and you have people here at SVSU to help you and pick you up again,” she said. 

After graduation, McHugh in 2018 was selected to participate in the Open Jar Institute residency. The two-month-long training process provides learning opportunities for aspiring actors from Broadway directors, actors, singers, dancers, and choreographers. At the institute, she participated in workshops and auditioned for Broadway productions, national tours, regional theatres and more. 

“Open Jar was a big gamechanger, where I went from not understanding the theatre realm in New York very well to knowing all about the ins and outs of Broadway ... and living in New York,” McHugh said. 

Perseverance and determination helped keep McHugh’s hopes high as she attended audition after audition. After audition No. 80, she felt a new wave of determination as she dedicated herself to her craft despite not yet being cast in a production. As she hit her lucky number – audition No. 81 – she decided to take a chance and approach the director.  

“I decided to do something different,” she said, even though she typically defines herself as a “rule follower.”   

While approaching the director did not lead to her being cast in that production, the experience and strengthened network of professional peers led to her next audition. And she received that next role, for “Outlaws and Angels,” produced by Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota, Florida.  

She temporarily moved to Florida for six months beginning in October 2019, performing in 150 shows before the COVID-19 pandemic suspended the production earlier this year.  

Since then, McHugh has traveled back and forth between New York City and Michigan, working to develop a pop music duo. The group, McHugh Girl, features McHugh and her songwriting sister, Mackenzie. The siblings are recording a debut album. The first released single, titled “Ex Boyfriend,” is available to stream on most music platforms.  

Residents in the Great Lakes Bay Region also may recognize McHugh’s voice from her performance this month in “NOEL: Experience Christmas,” a holiday-themed virtual musical production organized by a nonprofit organization by the same name. The organization – which features a leadership team with many SVSU ties, including two alumni – pre-recorded performances at the Temple Theatre in downtown Saginaw. The group began posting the production as a series of performances on social media earlier this month. The installments will continue until Christmas Day, when the work will be consolidated into one video.

McHugh’s contribution to “NOEL: Experience Christmas” included a performance of “O’ Holy Night.”  

To follow McHugh on Instagram, search for @maddie_mcq. For more updates on “McHugh Girl,” follow the Instagram account @mchughgirlmusic.  

December 16, 2020

Political commentator Van Jones set as virtual MLK event speaker for SVSU

Saginaw Valley State University in January will welcome Van Jones, a political commentator who regularly appears on nationally-televised TV programs, to deliver the keynote address for the 12th annual Great Lakes Bay Regional Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. This year's event will be presented virtually. 
 
Jones will appear Monday, Jan. 18, at 7 p.m. in an SVSU-hosted live event, streamed free online. To view the event, participants must register at svsu.edu/mlk. 
 
The Yale-educated attorney serves as president and founder of Dream Corps, a nonprofit focusing on social justice. He appears regularly on TV as a correspondent on CNN and a commentator on political talk shows such as NBC’s “Meet The Press.” 
 
Previously, he worked as the green jobs advisor for President Barack Obama in 2009. In that role, Jones helped coordinate $80 billion in green energy recovery spending. 
 
 
Jones led several social and environmental justice enterprises over the years, including The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Color of Change. 
 
He received recognition over the years from several organizations. Jones was the recipient of the World Economic Forum’s "Young Global Leader" designation, Rolling Stone’s “12 Leaders Who Get Things Done,” Fast Company's “12 Most Creative Minds On Earth,” a Webby Special Achievement Award, and Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.” 
 
The 2021 MLK Jr. Celebration theme is “Working Together.” 
 
Mamie T. Thorns, the event organizer, said a theme promoting unity is especially relevant considering the virtual event will happen two days prior to the scheduled U.S. presidential inauguration ceremony. 
 
“We’re hoping the speaker will energize and motivate us, as well as give us all points on how we can bridge the divides that separate us,” said Thorns, SVSU’s chief diversity officer. 
 
In addition to Jones’ keynote address, the Jan. 18 program will include the presentation of regional scholarship awards by the Bay Area, Midland Area and Saginaw community foundations to high school seniors who have embodied Martin Luther King Jr.'s ideals. 
 
Officials also will announce the winners of the Drum Major Awards, which recognizes people whose community involvement in the Great Lakes Bay Region serves to advance King's vision. 
 
Jones joins a prestigious list of keynote speakers featured during the Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Celebration at SVSU. In January 2020, Ruth D. Jones, a trailblazer at NASA, served as the guest. Previous speakers include Valerie Jarrett, former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, in 2019; Karen Carter, the chief inclusion officer for The Dow Chemical Company, in 2018; and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in 2017. 

December 16, 2020

SVSU Braun Fellowship powers research projects for faculty

Empowered by grant funding, two Saginaw Valley State University educators will pursue research projects aimed at advancing technology that impacts both the teaching and transportation industries. 
 
Each year, two Saginaw Valley State University faculty members receive the SVSU Braun Fellowship to develop their research and support scholarly pursuits that benefit communities across the globe. This year, Aneesha Gogineni, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; and Sandun Kuruppu, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, received these grants to help further their respective research projects. 
 
Gogineni plans to explore using virtual reality (VR) to teach engineering while Kuruppu expects to develop a system that performs efficient diagnosis of electric machine-based energy conversion in machines such as electric vehicle engines and steering systems. 
 
The Braun Fellowship program awards $37,500 over three years in funding for a research project for each recipient; support that includes funding for research tools, expenses, equipment, and travel. 
 
Gogineni’s research will involve comparing the effectiveness of VR in the classroom to teach engineering with face-to-face instruction and online lectures. Using VR will allow students to feel like they are able to participate more hands-on while still learning online during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said. 
 
"My few years of online teaching experience, pedagogical research, and with the pandemic, I felt it is very important to take the online teaching in engineering to the next level,” Gogineni said. 
 
Educators will be able to utilize another resource to teach their students actively and keep them engaged online with new materials, a different perspective of experiments, and interactive animations. 
 
“I would like to use the Braun Fellowship fund to prepare lessons in virtual reality, implement these lessons in thermodynamics and heat transfer courses, assess student performance and compare them with traditional face-to-face lecture and online lectures,” Gogineni said. 
 
She received her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Wichita State University in 2015. 
 
She joined the SVSU faculty the following year in 2016, and since, has mentored seven students in engineering. Gogineni’s research has been accepted into several conferences and was published in the Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Medical Devices. 
 
Kuruppu’s research will be focused on creating a system that diagnoses energy conversion in electric machines, allowing users to identify inefficiencies and faults in the systems that power electric cars, electric airplanes and robots in a comprehensive manner. Kuruppu’s work will essentially result in a comprehensive fault monitoring system for electric motor drives, he said. 
 
“Based on my industry experience in the field, many aspects of our lives are becoming electric and autonomous,” he said. “But reliability of these systems needs to be improved through a more holistic means.” 
 
This will develop new knowledge in the field as well as help Kuruppu share it with students, local industry and global industry to make autonomous systems safe and reliable, he said. 
 
“Research in the field of motor drive fault diagnosis has been conducted for some time now. But the methods are quite disconnected and not robust because there are many different types of motors. Through the support of the Braun Fellowship, I plan to develop a unified fault detection strategy that can be adopted towards any motor drive system.” 
 
Kuruppu received his Ph.D. in electrical computer engineering and technology at Purdue University in 2013. 

December 11, 2020

SVSU's Battle of the Valleys rivalry back on as GVSU returns to fundraising competition

A longstanding Saginaw Valley State University fundraising tradition – which has raised $691,260 to support community-minded causes – will return to its competitive roots in 2021. 
 
The student governments of SVSU and Grand Valley State University recently voted to reinstate GVSU as a partner in the student-run Battle of the Valleys fundraising competition beginning next year. SVSU students continued the week-long event without the competitive element after GVSU withdrew two years ago. 
 
Student leaders say the renewed rivalry will energize the fundraiser, which typically is scheduled each fall during the week leading up to the universities’ football matchup. Olivia Nelson, the SVSU student who served as the Battle of the Valleys chairperson this year, said GVSU’s return will re-insert a critical ingredient to the event. 
 
“The dynamic of Battle of the Valleys with and without a competitor is an entirely different ballgame,” said Nelson, a psychology major from Highland. “While it is still so fun to give charitably without the presence of a competitor, the addition of some friendly competition is definitely an incentive to go the extra mile.” 
 
SVSU and GVSU founded the competition in 2003. Until GVSU exited the event, the two universities raised $652,385, with SVSU students responsible for $425,657 of that total. 
 
SVSU students collected $38,875 without the competitive element during the last two years, including $18,573 last month for Bay Area Women’s Shelter. 
 
When GVSU last participated in the competition in 2018, SVSU raised $36,210 for the Barb Smith Suicide Resource and Response Network while GVSU collected $14,915 for the university’s Replenish Student Food Pantry fund. 
 
“The reinstatement of Battle of the Valleys is overwhelmingly exciting because it will promote an enriched philanthropic spirit throughout both the Cardinal and Laker families,” said Nelson, referring to the SVSU and GVSU communities, respectively. 
 
“The re-introduction of the competitive component is a strong catalyst for more funds to be raised to benefit each of our communities.” 
 
For Battle of the Valleys, students at both universities select nonprofits from their respective regions to receive the collected funds. The money raised benefits both nonprofits regardless of which university raises the most money, although the top-earning campus community receives at least a year-long possession of a trophy affectionately named Victoria. Victoria has remained at SVSU since 2008. 

December 2, 2020

SVSU student actors, vocalists to perform in virtual holiday show

Saginaw Valley State University’s theatre department will adopt a fitting theme (“Stay At Home”) as part of a virtual performance of SVSU’s annual holiday variety show. 
 
The “Home For The Holidays: A Holiday Variety Show!” production can be viewed exclusively online at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, Dec. 2-5, and on Sunday, Dec. 6, at 3 p.m. 
 
The $10 tickets must be purchased online. A URL webpage link will be sent to the emails of ticket purchasers one hour prior to the showtimes. Audiences can listen to the audio play virtually using the URL link. 
 
With the theme of "Stay At Home," the production will feature a variety of scenes featuring students working together in a virtual group project as they discover the meaning of the holidays through Zoom calls and Internet searches. 
 
David Rzeszutek, an SVSU professor of theatre, will serve as the production’s director. 
 
All scenes were pre-recorded. Student-vocalists with the SVSU Concert Choir will contribute to the performance. 
 
The performers and crew followed SVSU’s COVID-19 health and safety guidelines during the filming of the production. 
 
For more information about the holiday performance as well as upcoming theatre productions at SVSU, visit www.svsu.edu/theatre/showschedule

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