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February 2, 2018

Statistics, political science expert to examine '19 things' learned during 2016 U.S. election

One of the most talked about elections in modern American politics will be the subject of the next installment of Saginaw Valley State University's Visiting Scholars and Artists Series.

Andrew Gelman, director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University, will present “19 Things We Learned About the 2016 Election” Thursday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. in Curtiss Hall's Seminar Room D. The event is free and open to the public.

Gelman, also a professor of statistics and political science at Columbia, will assess many of the standard assumptions about the 2016 while applying math and statistics to better understand the politics of that particular moment in history.

Gelman has extensive credentials in his fields of study. He received the Outstanding Statistical Application award from the American Statistical Association, an award for best article published in the American Political Science Review, and the Council of Presidents of Statistical Societies award for outstanding contributions by a person under the age of 40.

Reseach specialties for Gelman include exploring topics such as why it is rational to vote, why campaign polls are so variable when elections are so predictable, and why redistricting is good for democracy. He also has examined the probability that each citizen's vote will be decisive.

Gelman will visit SVSU as a Dow Visiting Scholar. An endowment established by The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation to enrich the region's cultural and intellectual opportunities supports the Dow Visiting Scholars program.

February 1, 2018

SVSU housing ranked No. 2 in the nation among public universities

Saginaw Valley State University has been nationally recognized for its welcoming, friendly and fun residential community. 

The website Niche has ranked SVSU’s residential facilities No. 2 in the U.S. among the 512 public universities included in their annual “Best Dorms” rankings.

“For me, SVSU's different housing options give students more independence on campus that make you feel at home,” said Lindsey Briolat, a health science major from Ubly.

SVSU rose one spot in the overall rankings to No. 18 nationally, out of the 1,411 four-year colleges and universities that were evaluated. Niche calculates their rankings using a weighted formula where 70 percent of a school's score comes from students' satisfaction with their housing, as well as data from the U.S. Department of Education.

Now a senior, Briolat has lived on campus since her freshman year. She said she has stayed on campus because of the inclusive atmosphere.  

“SVSU creates a family,” she said. “The way our university connects with its students just makes us feel at home."

For Hannah Waslusky, an accounting major from Breckenridge, living on SVSU's campus has brought her more than just friends; it gave her a community.

Waslusky said that the close-knit living quarters during her freshman year gave her ample opportunities to make friends. She knew that all it took to find someone to hang out with was a shout across the courtyard.   

“Some of the best friends I ever made started that way,” Waslusky said. 

Waslusky has lived on campus for the three years that she has attended SVSU. She came for the convenience of living on campus, but stayed for the quiet and personal environment SVSU's housing offers.

“My apartment is set right in the middle of nature,” she said. “I get to see deer and bunny rabbits hop by my apartment every day. I couldn't imagine a better place to live.”

More than 2,400 students currently live on SVSU’s campus. Four the past nine years, at least 70 percent of the freshman class has chosen to live in SVSU’s residence halls.

To view the “Best Dorms” list, go to

January 31, 2018

SVSU welcomes national diversity expert for Black History Month

‌Saginaw Valley State University is commemorating Black History Month by hosting a number of events throughout the month of February. All events are free of charge and open to the public, unless otherwise noted.

The public is invited to join SVSU for the following Black History Month events:

  • The Multicultural Alumni Speakers Series will feature Vance Fulton on Thursday, Feb. 1 at 6 p.m. in the Alumni Lounge of Curtiss Hall. Fulton graduated from SVSU with a bachelor's degree in accounting in 2012. He currently works as an internal auditor at Adient, the world's largest automotive seat manufacturer. As a student, Fulton was involved in two fraternities, served as a residence hall adviser, participated in the Great Lakes Bay Region Youth Leadership program, and was a member of the Roberts Fellowship Program.
  • Dawn Hinton, SVSU professor of sociology, will lead a discussion on "Why We Celebrate Black History Month" Thursday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. in the Alumni Lounge of Curtiss Hall. Her lecture will explore the motivation behind the creation of Black History Month.
  • The annual “Taste of Soul” lunch event offers traditional soul food and features recipes from African-American faculty and staff at SVSU. This year’s event can be enjoyed Wednesday, Feb. 21 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Marketplace at Doan. Admission cost $9.25. 
  • SVSU alumna and retired judge Marilyn E. Atkins will speak about "Life After SVSU" Monday, Feb 26 at 7 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall. The Detroit resident will speak about her book, “The Triumph of Rosemary, A Memoir.”

For additional information, please contact SVSU’s Office of Multicultural Services at (989) 964-7090.

January 25, 2018

SVSU moot court program reinforces ranking among national elite

Saginaw Valley State University's nationally-ranked moot court team achieved new milestones for the program at the American Moot Court Association national tournament at UNT Dallas-College of Law in Dallas, Texas Jan. 19-20.

Gabe Klotz, a political science major from Midland, won the third place orator award for his performance at the competition. Klotz won the first place orator award in 2017 and is now the first student to win an orator award twice for SVSU.

Lindsey Mead, an English literature major from Saginaw, placed No. 17 in the orator awards. This marks the first time SVSU has won two orator awards in the same year.

Julie Keil, SVSU assistant professor of political science and moot court adviser, said winning two orator awards is testament to the students’ preparation and determination.

“To put this in context,” Keil said, “over 850 students competed in regional tournaments this year, 160 made it to the national tournament and our students were in the top 20 out of that very elite group. This is a very real credit to the quality of our students, their strong work ethic and the support from the university and local bar associations for this program.”

Acting as teams of two attorneys, students competing in the tournament are tasked with arguing two 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.

Joshua Atkins, an English literature major from Reese, teamed with Klotz; they advanced to the second day of the tournament, bowing out in the round of 32.

Jrew Brickel, a criminal justice major from Midland, paired with Mead; they narrowly missed advancing to the second day. Their team won one round, and received a tied ballot in the second round; they needed to win that round to advance.

SVSU is currently ranked No. 24 in the country out of the more than 425 colleges and universities who field undergraduate moot teams. Keil said SVSU should remain in the top 25 after this year’s strong showing.

A key reason for the program’s sustained success is the support the students receive from SVSU alumni and faculty, and local attorneys.

“We had tremendous support for the program this year,” Keil said. “Amy Hendrickson, assistant professor of law; Robert Dunn, a local attorney and adjunct instructor of criminal justice, and SVSU alumni Mark Babcock and Jacob Mojica deserve a lot of credit for making this work. We have done more work with the students this year than in any other year and it has clearly paid off.”

The SVSU team traveled to Texas for five days of scrimmages and preparation - and away from the everyday distractions back home - ahead of the national tournament. The Ludington Family Foundation, a Sanford-based nonprofit, provided funding to cover the group’s travel expenses.


January 23, 2018

Saginaw Valley State University will host the Great Lakes Bay Regional Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Wednesday, Jan 24. At 7 p.m. in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts.

Saginaw Valley State University will host the Great Lakes Bay Regional Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Wednesday, Jan 24. At 7 p.m. in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts.

Karen S. Carter, the chief inclusion officer for The Dow Chemical Company, will be the featured speaker. As Dow's first chief inclusion officer, Karen is tasked with driving Dow into the forefront of global industries that integrate diversity and inclusion as a key element of the company's growth strategy.

Joining in a “fireside chat”-style discussion will be Matt Davis, president of Dow North America and senior vice president of The Dow Chemical Company's Global Public Affairs & Government Affairs, and Cynthia Marshall, the retired chief diversity officer for AT&T and current president and CEO of Marshalling Resources.

In addition, the Bay Area, Midland Area and Saginaw community foundations will present 15 local high school students with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Scholarships.

Three individuals – one each from Bay, Midland and Saginaw counties – will receive Drum Major awards for their inspiring examples of advancing the ideals of Dr. King.

January 23, 2018

SVSU literary arts journal receives highest national honor – again

The student staff of Cardinal Sins, a student-run literary arts journal at Saginaw Valley State University, have seen their hard work rewarded with a top national award. The American Scholastic Press Association honored the publication with its Most Outstanding University Literary-Art Magazine for 2017. Only two college journals nationwide are selected for the award.

The judges wrote: “Cardinal Sins is an amazing publication! Not only have you mastered the basic elements of a good magazine (staff box, table of contents, etc.) but you have also published excellent works from your school population. Cardinal Sins is a model for those up-and-coming magazines and an inspiration for those that haven't quite aced the necessary skills.”

Victoria Phelps, editor-in chief of Cardinal Sins, said she and her editorial staff devoted countless hours to solicit and judge the exceptional poetry, fiction, and art submissions that appeared in the journal. On average, the staff receives 300 poems, 80 fiction pieces, and 120 art and photography submissions per issue.

“It was really exciting for me,” said Phelps, an English literature major from Rochester Hills. “I don't know how much credit I can take for myself. So much of it is the wonderful quality of our submissions. The other editors do a lot of the grunt work. We've been blessed to have an amazing core staff, many of them involved for years before I was involved." 

Cardinal Sins received the same award for 2016. Peter Brian Rose-Barry, the Finkbeiner Endowed Professor of Ethics at SVSU who served as adviser to Cardinal Sins for several years, including the previous two award-winning years, said Phelps has shown exceptional dedication to ensure the publication is of the highest quality.

“It's no surprise that Cardinal Sins has won this prestigious award the last two years under Tori's leadership,” Rose-Barry said. “She has been a remarkably effective at every level of production from content to organization to design and presentation. She has done as much to make herself indispensable to Cardinal Sins as anyone could.”

Now in her third and final year as editor-in-chief, Phelps and her team are hard at work preparing for 2018 winter edition.

Recently, the print publication and its corresponding website have been redesigned to help establish a brand, Phelps said.

"We wanted Cardinal Sins to look more modern," said Phelps. "We lean toward surrealist, sometimes absurdist content. You can see that in our art and in our writing. It's been enjoyable to see the changes over the years."

Phelps arrived at SVSU with previous award-winning experience. She served as co-editor of her high school newspaper at Stoney Creek High School in Rochester Hills, which won the National Pacemaker Award in 2014, given by the National Scholastic Press Association. This is considered the top award for high school journalism.  

"To have a similar experience now with Cardinal Sins, that has been reaffirming for me,” Phelps said. “That was judged very similarly to this,"

Cardinal Sins has received several accolades from American Scholastic Press Association over the years. The magazine placed first with special merit in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2016, and received first place awards in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2015.

More information about the journal can be found at

January 23, 2018

SVSU Voices In The Valley event features pair of emerging writers

Two up-and-coming writers will share their stories during a reading at Saginaw Valley State University.

Su Hwang and Asiya Wadud will read from their respective works as part of SVSU's Voices In The Valley series Monday, Feb. 12, at 5 p.m. in Founders Hall. Admission is free and open to the public.

Wadud writes about borders, limits, and the variegated nature of truth. A member of the Belladonna Collaborative - a group of avant-garde writers first formed in New York City in 1999 - Wadud also teaches third grade in the daytime and English to both immigrants and refugees in the evening.

The Brooklyn resident's work has been supported by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Dickinson House, and the New York Public Library, among others. In 2017, Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs published her chapbook, "we, too, are but the fold." Her first book, "crosslight for youngbird," is expected from Nightboat Books in 2018.

Hwang received the 2018 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant, the 2017 Minnesota Emerging Writers Grant from the Loft Literary Center, and the 2017 Coffee House Press In The Stacks Fellowship. She also was a recipient of the Michael Dennis Browne Fellowship in Poetry and the Academy of American Poets James Wright Prize. 

An alumni of the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation, Hwang teaches creative writing for the Minnesota Prison Writers Workshop and serves as a contributing writer with Twin Cities Daily Planet, a news website focusing on the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area. Born in Seoul, Hwang now resides in Minneapolis. 

January 19, 2018

SVSU students earn history-making honors at theatre festival

Saginaw Valley State University students performed their way to achieve a number of "firsts" for the university at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for Region III Jan. 9-14 in Indianapolis.

“This was one of our strongest showings we have ever had,” said Ric Roberts, SVSU professor of theatre. “We hope to have continued success with the Kennedy Center moving forward.”

The event includes colleges and universities from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin; 20 SVSU students were among the 1,400 who attended the festival.

For the first time, three SVSU students advanced to the semi-finals for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Auditions, a feat which has not been achieved in the 19 consecutive years that SVSU has participated in this festival.  Abigail Burgess, a theatre major from Commerce Township; Brianne Dolney, a political science major from Bay City; and Donte Green, a Detroit native who graduated from SVSU with a bachelor's degree in theatre in December; each were judged among the top 45 actors at the festival.

Madalyn McHugh, a Caro native who graduated from SVSU in December with a bachelor's degree in music, followed suit, as she made it to finals for the Musical Theatre Intensive portion of the festival. This marked the first time SVSU was represented in that category.

Jessica Hurley, a theatre major from Essexville, impressed the judges, as well. Out of the 125 actresses that auditioned for a part in a two-woman show, she was chosen to play one of the two characters during the 10-minute performance at the festival.

Hurley said the event is about much more than recognition.

"The festival is a fantastic opportunity to gain new knowledge, experience and contacts in the theatrical field," she said.

Three other SVSU students captured honors, as well. Amber Tanner, a business major from Hemlock, advanced to the finals of the sound design competition. Zachery Wood, a theatre major from Flushing, was awarded honorable mention in the dramaturgy category, which involves the theory and practice of dramatic composition.  Jennifer Lothian, a communication and theater education major from Linwood, was selected to present her costume designs at the costume parade event.

A previous SVSU award-winner was invited to return. Last year, Bay City native Jacob Kaufman won the first-ever Region III Arts Management Fellowship and earned an invitation to the national Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Because of this achievement, Kaufman was asked to return to run the registration desk for the 2018 festival.

January 17, 2018

SVSU students more prepared than ever for moot court national tourney

Saginaw Valley State University moot court program expects to face its toughest challenge yet during its ninth year competing in the national tournament.

Julie Keil, SVSU’s moot court adviser, said the team will be more ready than ever.

“The preparation is the best we've ever had,” said Keil, SVSU assistant professor of political science. “I have high hopes we will do well this year.”

Three SVSU students qualified for this year's tournament scheduled Friday and Saturday, Jan. 19-20, on the campus of University of North Texas at Dallas College of Law in Dallas. The students and Keil are completing months of intense preparation having arrived in Texas one week early – something they haven’t done before – to begin scrimmaging for the American Moot Court Association nationals.  

Acting as teams of two attorneys, students competing in the tournament are tasked with arguing two 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.

SVSU has built a nationally recognized program, and is currently ranked No. 24 in the country out of the more than 425 colleges and universities who field teams.

This year, SVSU students Jrew Brickel, a criminal justice major from Midland, and Lindsey Mead, an English literature major from Saginaw, represent one of the 80 teams set to face off at the tournament. Joshua Atkins, an SVSU English literature major from Reese, will team with Gabe Klotz, a Bay City native and Kalamazoo College student.

The entire contingent plans to gather in Texas beginning Sunday, Jan. 14, when Keil will begin organizing scrimmages simulating the two courtroom cases planned for the tournament: one involving Fifth Amendment Constitutional rights and a second concerning the legality of prisoners being exposed to "extreme sensory deprivation" solitary confinement.

The five days of preparation in Texas - away from the everyday distractions back home - is intended to focus the group and elevate the students' performances come tournament time. Any advantage could provide the difference versus a field of competition that's never been stronger, Keil said.

"It was much harder getting to the national this year than any other year."

Since a group of highly motivated students founded SVSU's moot court program with Keil in 2009, at least one team from the university has qualified for the nationals each year because of strong performances in regional competitions. During the 2017-18 season, more teams than ever - over 425 - participated in the American Moot Court Association regional contests, up from about 350 two years ago.

"You're getting some really top-notch schools competing, and only the top 19 percent of the competition qualified this year - but we got in," Keil said. "Fortunately, we have two good teams with some of the best students I've ever had. It shows the academic quality of our students."

It also helped that those students - and the program itself - received support from the community and SVSU alumni, she said.

The Ludington Family Foundation, a Sanford-based nonprofit, provided funding to cover the group’s travel expenses. Students involved in this year's program also received support from 16 alumni of earlier SVSU moot court teams who volunteered to help throughout the year - including when they were asked to serve as judges in the regional tournament hosted by SVSU in December.

“They were there for us at the drop of the hat," Keil said. "All of this shows the value of our program.”

January 15, 2018

SVSU staff member relives Winter Olympics glory in Switzerland, selects U.S. bobsled Olympian

Michelle Knous has never forgotten the excitement in her father's voice when she called to tell him she qualified for the 2010 U.S. Winter Olympics women's bobsled team. She was in a hotel in St. Moritz, Switzerland that January, hours after her determined performance during an international bobsled competition helped a selection committee decide she should represent her nation one month later during the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

"I ended up losing my dad in 2011, so I was happy I was able to share that excitement with him," Knous said.

That shared elation was one of the memories that came flooding back to Knous this month when she returned for the first time to that same St. Moritz hotel, this time as a member of the selection committee charged with choosing the men's and women's bobsled teams that will compete at the Winter Olympics games in PyeongChang, South Korea in February.

"It's been kind of eerie, how I'm back here like this," said Knous, a clinical coordinator for exercise science students at Saginaw Valley State University.

"Really, it's like nothing's changed. So much of it feels the same, even at the hotel. The same guy who served me pizza eight years ago is still here, telling the same jokes."

Knous and the selection committee spent the weekend watching Americans compete in the international bobsled circuit where she once excelled. The athletes who will represent the U.S. this year were announced Monday, Jan. 15. (Selections posted at

While this time she won't face the pressures of competition, she said there is a different sense of urgency  and a consequential duty  involved in picking the best representatives of her country in her sport.

"The truth is, there are some athletes whose Olympic journey will end here," Knous said. "It's a lot of responsibility, but I am honored to be a part of the Olympic team selections. It feels great to give back to the sport that gave me so many memories of a lifetime."

For Knous, those memories included earning a spot as a pusher for the top U.S. women's bobsled team in the 2010 games, where she and her teammate, Shauna Rohbock, finished sixth in the world.

Her story as one of the world's best bobsledders began on a pole vault track. As a member of Michigan State University's track and field team in the mid-2000s, Knous — then Michelle Rzepka — impressed bobsled team recruiters with her athleticism as a pole vaulter. And she welcomed the new challenge.

For two years, Knous, a Novi native, trained at the Olympic Village camp in Lake Placid, New York while competing on the international bobsled circuit. By January 2010 in St. Moritz, where the U.S. selection committee was set to finalize the Winter Olympics bobsled team, Knous already was considered a frontrunner.

"When the team was announced officially, I still had tears in my eyes," she said. "Just hearing my name and knowing it was final — that it was real — was a powerful moment."

Immediately, she called her parents, David and Holly Rzepka, to share the news. They already were planning their trip to watch their daughter in Vancouver.

Having finished her duties, Knous is set to return to the U.S. on Tuesday. Next month, she will watch the teams she selected compete on a TV set in the comfort of her Freeland home beside the family she built after her bobsled career: her husband, Jeremy Knous, an associate professor of kinesiology at SVSU; and their two sons, Barrett and Drake. 

"I have a joke I like to tell people," she said, "that I never won in the Olympics, but that's OK, because they are my three gold medals."

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