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April 19, 2018

SVSU hosts Holi Festival of Colors to celebrate spring

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.

April 19, 2018

SVSU fraternity to raise money for St. Jude's Children's Hospital

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

April 18, 2018

Future SVSU students enjoy preview of campus life during FIRST Robotics competition

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.”

April 18, 2018

Research scientist to visit SVSU to discuss the importance of Coral Reef

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:

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.

April 13, 2018

Nostalgia, school spirit defines Bay City Western teacher’s return to SVSU during FIRST Robotics event

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.

April 10, 2018

Teachers invited to apply for summer writing workshop

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


April 10, 2018

SVSU hosts FIRST Robotics state championships

Saginaw Valley State University will welcome 160 high school robotics teams from across the state for the FIRST in Michigan state championships this week. The event is expected to draw about 5,000 high school students and 8,000 total visitors to campus each day of the competition.

This marks the second year SVSU has hosted the competition. The Great Lakes Bay Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates last year’s event resulted in an economic impact of at least $1 million. 

As an organization, FIRST in Michigan seeks to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators. Many SVSU faculty and staff volunteer their time to support local schools and education programs, and more than 300 individuals - faculty, staff, students and alumni - volunteered during the 2017 state championships.

During competition, three teams compete using autonomous and remote-controlled robots piloted by students, battling to earn points during a two-minute round.

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.

The anticipated daily schedule is as follows:

Wednesday, April 11: Teams will begin arriving to unload their robots and set up their pits (work spaces for making adjustments to the robots) around 2 p.m. and may work on their robots in the field house until 9 p.m.

Thursday, April 12: Practice matches will be held in the O’Neill Arena of SVSU’s Ryder Center from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Opening ceremonies, including remarks from SVSU President Don Bachand, will begin at 3 p.m., and competition matches will run from 3:30 to 7 p.m.

Friday, April 13: Matches are scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Teams that qualified for the playoffs will form alliances that evening to prepare to compete on Saturday.

Saturday, April 14: Opening ceremonies will be held at 9 a.m. Playoff matches are scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The teams that qualify for the finals will calibrate their robots at 2 p.m., and the final playoff rounds will begin at 2:30 p.m. The awards presentations will follow, staring some time after 4 p.m. An SVSU staff member, John Leonard, is a finalist for the Woodie Flowers Award given annually to one outstanding mentor advising a team involved in the worldwide competition. He is a mentor to the Bullock Creek High School FIRST Robotics team known as BlitzCreek Robotics.


For up-to-date information, visit

April 9, 2018

SVSU to host reading by award-winning poet

Saginaw Valley State University will host a poetry reading by author Jane Mead Tuesday, April 17 at 5 p.m. in Founders Hall as part of the Voices in the Valley Reading Series.

Mead is the author of five collections of poetry. Her newest collection, “World of Made and Unmade,” was published in 2016 and became a finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize and The Los Angeles Times Book Award. Mead has received multiple honors for her work, including a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, and Lannan Foundation Completion Grant.

Mead completed a bachelor's degree in economics at Vassar College, a Master of Arts at Syracuse University, and a Master of Fine Arts from The University of Iowa. She was a poet-in-residence at Wake Forest University for several years, and most recently taught as a visiting teacher at The University of Iowa. Today, Mead manages her family’s ranch in northern California

The reading is free and open to the public. For more information on the performance and the Voices in the Valley Reading Series, please call Arra Ross, SVSU associate professor of English, at (989) 964-4032.

April 6, 2018

SVSU Percussion Ensemble, Valley Steel to perform concert Monday

Saginaw Valley State University's Valley Steel and SVSU Percussion Ensemble musicians will collaborate for a concert Monday, April 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall. The performance is free and open to the public.

Among the planned performances include music from award-winning composer Lennox "Boogsie" Sharpe, a Trinidad-born musician popular for his work as an arranger of steelpan music. The program will feature a number of other composers such as David Maslanka, an author of music in the genres of choir, wind ensemble, chamber and symphony orchestra.

Valley Steel — directed by Katie Jessop, who received a bachelor’s degree in music education from SVSU in 2016 — features the talents of 10 SVSU musicians. Patrick Fitzgibbon, SVSU drumline coach, directs the SVSU Percussion Ensemble and its 10 student musicians.

For more information about the concert, please visit or call the SVSU Department of Music at (989) 964-4159.

April 5, 2018

SVSU’s Leonard a finalist for top adviser award in FIRST Robotics worldwide competition

There is life in the machinery for John Leonard.

The Saginaw Valley State University laboratory support coordinator has enjoyed working with electronics in machine shop environments for as long as he can remember. What really brings him joy, though, is working alongside – and teaching – others who share the sentiment.

Now the Midland resident is being recognized for his work leading a group of high school students set to compete as one of 160 teams that qualified for the FIRST Robotics state championships hosted by SVSU Thursday to Saturday, April 12-14. Leonard is a finalist for the Woodie Flowers Award dedicated annually to one outstanding mentor advising a team involved in the worldwide competition.

“I was surprised but honored when I heard about that,” said Leonard, an adviser to the Bullock Creek High School FIRST Robotics team known as BlitzCreek Robotics.

“It's a nomination completely submitted by students, which makes it even more of an honor.”

Eden Hackett, a Bullock Creek High School student and member of BlitzCreek Robotics, wrote a letter to nominate Leonard on behalf of the team.

“If there is one thing for sure, Mr. Leonard has a burning passion for BlitzCreek Robotics,” she wrote.

“He brings smiles, laughs, and innovation to our team. Being without Mr. Leonard would be like having a heart without arteries. He is an inspiration, a teacher, a friend, but most importantly, a mentor that keeps our team strong and on their toes.”

Leonard first became involved with the team when his daughter, Alex, was a senior at the high school. That was seven years ago. Since then, she graduated – and is now a history major at SVSU – but he decided to stay with BitzCreek Robotics after discovering his affection for empowering others passionate about working with technology.

“These are all students who want to be there,” Leonard said. “They're willing to spend as much time as is necessary because they're having fun doing it. They come in on Saturdays and Sundays, and near the end of the Robotics season, sometimes we have to kick them out of the building because the rules stipulate you can only work on the project for so many hours ahead of each competition.”

Leonard can relate to that fondness for working with gadgetry.

“I enjoy doing all of that: electronics, design work, machine shop work, restoring cars, building musical instruments,” he said. “I've always been involved in that kind of work. I love tinkering with technology.”

And while his role with BlitzCreek Robotics involves teaching others, the nature of the work sometimes results in a role reversal.

“These students bring things to the table that I don't know about,” he said. “I'm always learning things from them too.”

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.

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 later this month. Top-ranking teams from each district then match up in the world championships at the end of April, hosted this year both in Detroit and Houston.

Likewise, the pool of finalists for the Woodie Flowers Award will shrink after each round of competition. Leonard will learn if his nomination advances to the international level during the competition at SVSU.

About 5,000 high school students from 160 teams will be involved in the state championships at SVSU. In total, more than 8,000 people will visit the Great Lakes Bay Region for the competition, including mentors, family members and FIRST volunteers.

For more information about FIRST Robotics, visit

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