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November 29, 2017

SVSU’s Heileman receives national award for empowering student health educators

A national organization dedicated to promoting healthy and safe college campuses has honored Cortney Heileman of Saginaw Valley State University for her commitment to empower SVSU students to help their peers make healthy decisions.

Heileman, program coordinator and assistant director of Student Wellness Programs, received the 2017 Outstanding Advisor Award from the BACCHUS Initiatives of NASPA at the organization’s national assembly in Denver Nov. 18. She leads a team of 27 peer health educators at SVSU, students who are trained to educate their peers on a variety of topics including alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; sexual responsibility; environmental sustainability; and sexual assault prevention.

SVSU student Jenna Smith, a nursing major from Mayville and a current peer health educator, nominated Heileman for the honor.

“Cortney does a lot to empower all of us,” Smith said. “She leaves notes of encouragement and praise around our office for all of us. She is always willing to help when we need it whether it be in our personal or academic worlds, or with an event we're doing on campus for our students. Every day any of us are around Cortney is a day she makes all of us want to be the best versions of ourselves.”

Another SVSU student, Charles Ferens, a psychology major from Saginaw and a peer health educator, was invited to present a program at the national assembly.  His presentation, “My [Green] Campus,” highlighted a multitude of ways that peer health educators from around the nation can take steps to create environmentally-friendly initiatives on their respective campuses. Ferens focused on the implementation and impact of employing recycling bins in classrooms within academic halls.

Smith said her experience working with Heileman will benefit her in her career.

“She has challenged me because she knew I was capable, even though at the time I was worried I would end up letting her down. Cortney is always there to provide different possibilities and approaches for how to go about things whether it be conflict resolution, improvising, or problem solving. She has inspired me to make a difference on SVSU's campus and in the world each and every day whether it be big or small.” 

A 2011 graduate of SVSU, Heileman has overseen the Peer Health Education program since her return to campus in 2015.

NASPA is the leading association for the advancement, health, and sustainability of the student affairs profession. It serves a full range of professionals who provide programs, experiences, and services that cultivate student learning and success in concert with the mission of our colleges and universities. Established in 1918 and founded in 1919, NASPA is comprised of over 15,000 members in all 50 states, 25 countries, and eight U.S. Territories.

November 22, 2017

SVSU holiday play to evoke variety show spirit of Christmas past

Saginaw Valley State University student actors and vocalists will summon the spirit of the season — along with the comedy and comforts of 1960s- and ‘70s-era Christmas TV specials — during the Department of Theatre's 9th annual holiday-themed production.


Audiences can enjoy “’Tis The Season: A Christmas Variety Show” at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 29-30, in SVSU’s Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. Tickets are $13 for the public, and $10 for attendees 60 and older.


The university’s Department of Theatre will showcase both theatrical and musical performances — all set on a stage decorated with brilliant colors, twinkling lights and all the sights and sounds associated with the holiday season. The production is aimed at evoking classic Christmastime TV specials such as “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and “Frosty the Snowman.”


The show is also reminiscent of the Andy Williams Christmas shows and a variety show such as The Osmonds,” said David Rzeszutek, SVSU associate professor of theatre and co-director of the production.“This family-friendly event is a great way to gather the family and help kick start the holiday season.”


Ric Roberts, professor of theatre, will direct along with Rzeszutek.


For more information or to order tickets, contact the Box Office at (989) 964-4261 or purchase tickets online at

November 22, 2017

SVSU welcomes internationally published poet for reading

UPDATE: Due to illness, the poetry reading featuring Tarfia Faizullah has been canceled. Organizers hope to reschedule her appearance at a later date.


Saginaw Valley State University will welcome award-winning poet Tarfia Faizullah to campus for its Voices in the Valley series. She is scheduled to read selections of her work Thursday, Nov. 30 at 5 p.m. in Founders Hall.

Published throughout the United States and abroad, Faizullah's work has been translated in five different languages, included Chinese, Bengali, and Spanish. Author of "Registers of Illuminated Villages" and "Seam," her work has been featured in the Smithsonian and The Rubin Museum of Art.

Faziullah’s first book, “Seam” (2014), won the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. Her honors and awards also include an Associated Writers Program Intro Journals Award, a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize, a Copper Nickel Poetry Prize, a Ploughshares’Cohen Award, and a Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Margaret Bridgman Scholarship in Poetry. Faziullah also has served as the editor of seven different literary magazines and journals.

Faizullah currently serves as the Nicholas Delbanco Visiting Professor in Poetry at the University of Michigan. She completed a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Sponsored by the Department of English, the “Voices in the Valley” series brings creative writers and other speakers to SVSU to share their artistic voices with students, faculty and the community. Admission is free of charge.

For more information on this event, contact Arra Ross, SVSU assistant professor of English, at or 964-4032.

November 21, 2017

SVSU recognized nationally for outstanding support for military-affiliated students

Saginaw Valley State University has been recognized for creating a supportive environment for students affiliated with the military.

SVSU received the Military Times Best: Colleges 2018 distinction, formerly known as the Best for Vets: Colleges rankings.

"Of the hundreds of schools that applied, fewer than half received the Military Times Best: Colleges designation this year," said George Altman, the Military Times editor in charge of the rankings. "Only the best made the cut."

Military Times bases its rankings on a survey of each institution's services along with data from the U.S. departments of Defense, Education, and Veterans Affairs. Decisive factors include university culture, academic outcomes, student support, academic policies, and cost and financial aid.

SVSU was ranked No. 108 among 4-year institutions that earned the designation. More than 600 higher education institutions participated in this year's survey.

Bethany Alford, director of SVSU's Military Student Affairs office, said the recognition reflects the quality attention SVSU devotes to students who are active service members, veterans or family members of military-affiliated individuals.

"As veterans ourselves, we know what the transition is like from the military to higher education and we want to help," said Alford, a former member of the U.S. Navy who now serves in the U.S. Navy Reserves.

"These designations are recognizing SVSU's unwavering commitment to our military students. It is not just a label. It is seeing the value in the experiences and leadership they bring to campus. It is providing them resources. It is a commitment to ensuring student success. It is offering them ways to engage on campus and in the community."

The rankings are published in the Military Times magazine and available online here:

November 21, 2017

SVSU students shine at moot court competition, qualify for national tournament

Saginaw Valley State University's nationally-ranked undergraduate moot court program continued its success at the American Moot Court Association regional tournament in Ohio at the University of Akron College of Law November 17-18.

Jrew Brickel, a criminal justice major from Midland, and Lindsey Mead, an English literature major from Saginaw, competed as a team following months of determined study and preparation. They bested tandems from the University of Maryland, the University of Wooster and others, to finish third at the regional and qualify for the national tournament in Dallas January 19-20.

In addition, Mead and Brickel each received awards for their oratory skills. Mead was awarded third place and Brickel finished tenth among the 40 students competing in the oratory contest.

Acting as teams of two attorneys, students in a moot court competition 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.

Since being formed in 2009, SVSU's moot court program has seen at least one team of students advance to the national tournament each year. SVSU’s team is currently ranked No. 24 in the nation. ( More than 350 colleges and universities currently field undergraduate moot court teams. Julie Keil, assistant professor of political science and a former attorney, serves as SVSU’s moot court advisor.

SVSU also had teams compete the preceding weekend in Chicago, and all SVSU teams advanced to the second day of the competition. The first-year team of McKenzie Stone, a business management major from Prescott and Sara Bedrosian, a criminal justice major from Corunna, advanced to the quarterfinals. The team of Jacquob Littlejohn, a political science major from Auburn, and Nora Lipetzky, a political science major from Palos Heights, Illinois, made it to the top 16. 

For more information about the American Moot Court Association, please visit

November 16, 2017

SVSU student earns best presentation honor at Midwest sports medicine conference

Saginaw Valley State University student Taylor Taraski's study on the mobility of Division II football players won high praise at a recent regional sports medicine conference. 

An exercise science major from Oxford, Michigan, Taraski won the award for Outstanding Undergraduate Poster Presentation for her presentation, "Movement Deficiencies in Division II Male Football Athletes as it Relates to Class and Position." She presented Saturday, Nov. 11 at the Midwest chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine conference in Grand Rapids.

Taraski’s study involved examining 43 student-athletes by measuring their physical performance during a number of exercises. The project concluded that identifying deficiencies in physical performances would allow for the utilization of training protocol aimed at enhancing performance.

Jeremy Knous, SVSU associate professor of kinesiology at SVSU, served as Taraski’s faculty adviser. 

Three other SVSU exercise science students also presented their research projects at the conference.

Kiersten Mead of Saginaw discussed her work, "Care Provider Physical Activity and Nutrition Discussions According To BMI." Anya Odabasic of Midland outlined her research on the "Patterns of Sedentary Behavior in Pregnant Women." Ashlyn Swafford of Tekonsha presented her work, "Examining Relationships Between Pregnancy Symptoms and Gestational Weight Gain."

Faculty mentors for these students were Meghan Baruth, assistant professor of health sciences; Samantha Deere, assistant professor of kinesiology; and Becca Schlaff, associate professor of kinesiology.

November 16, 2017

Cardboard City at SVSU to address homelessness awareness, raise funds for Habitat for Humanity

Saginaw Valley State University students will gather in the SVSU Student Center Thursday, Nov. 16, and build makeshift homes out of cardboard boxes, where they will spend the night during the annual Cardboard City event.

Coinciding with the National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, this simulated experience aims to raise SVSU student awareness about the homeless population. Students involved in the event will pay participation fees - including purchasing cardboard - and all proceeds will benefit Saginaw-Shiawassee Habitat for Humanity.

"A world where everyone has a decent place to live" is the vision for the Saginaw-Shiawassee Habitat for Humanity. The SVSU campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity wants to help that vision become a reality.

Registration begins at 4 p.m Thursday, Nov. 16, but continues throughout the night, so students are welcome to sign-up whenever they are available. The night will also include games, a movie, and service-based education. The program concludes at 7 a.m. the next morning, Friday, Nov. 17.

November 15, 2017

National physics group honors SVSU’s Reed

The American Association of Physics Teachers has recognized Laurie Reed, lecturer of physics at Saginaw Valley State University, for her exceptional commitment to undergraduate teaching.

A long-time member of the association, Reed has been named an AAPT Fellow for 2018. Criteria for selection includes "exceptional contribution to AAPT's mission, to enhance the understanding and appreciation of physics through teaching." She will formally accept the fellowship at the group's 2018 winter meeting in San Diego in January.

Reed takes pride in being honored for teaching a discipline that did not always come easily for her.

"For me in my quest to become an astronomer, physics was a very difficult subject," she said. "During my undergraduate years I had qualified faculty, but they did not always explain the material in ways I could best understand. It was when I was in graduate school for astronomy and I began teaching physics for myself that many of the concepts truly became clearer to me and I realized that I really enjoyed the process of teaching physics to others."

"You can help a student learn a tough concept and to then have that person say, 'I understand that,' is very satisfying to me."

Rarely does Reed have a physics major in her classes. Most of her students are pursuing careers in the health professions and over the years, many have thanked Reed for helping to prepare them to tackle the physics portions of the entrance exams for medical and veterinary schools.

"In my teaching, I try to do a lot of examples and demonstrations that have direct application to everyday life and to the human body," Reed explained. "In class recently I described how the elbow joint rotates and how the bones and muscles respond. I want students to understand that physics affects their lives."

"That's why I'm in this business," Reed said. "I love to teach and my simple goal is to help the students learn physics."

Reed started teaching at SVSU in 1992 and has been a full-time lecturer since 1996. She said SVSU has consistently provided resources and many types of support to help her grow professionally.

The American Association of Physics Teachers has around 8,000 members including university and college faculty and high school teachers, and typically chooses about ten Fellows per year.

"To be named a Fellow of the AAPT is a rare distinction,” Reed said.  “I am immensely grateful to my SVSU physics colleagues for nominating me. It's a feather in my cap and a feather in the cap of the university, too. My award is national-level acknowledgement that SVSU has good, dedicated faculty who teach with the best interests of students as the top priority.

November 13, 2017

SVSU selects K-12 educators for Gerstacker leadership program

A new group of K-12 education leaders committed to professional growth will join the Saginaw Valley State University Gerstacker Fellowship program in 2018.

As part of the initiative, 12 teachers, principals, and program administrators from across Michigan will receive concentrated leadership training over a 1-year period. The experience concludes with a capstone international trip to China in June.

Previous overseas trips have included Finland, China, South Korea and Taiwan. Last year's group traveled to Japan.

These trips send participants to educational institutions, where they learn about international educational systems and corporate settings, and they discover how leadership plays out in different cultural and economic settings. Last year's group visited Tokushima, Nara, Kyoto, and Dow Japan & Korea Headquarters in Tokyo.

The program was established in 2005 with a $1.5 million endowment from the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation of Midland as part of SVSU’s community-minded commitment to support K-12 educators. Participants are known as Gerstacker Fellows. They meet monthly on weekends.

SVSU faculty from various disciplines instruct the group on subjects such as organizational leadership, ethics, finances, communication, human resources, entrepreneurship and education with a global perspective.

The Michigan educators selected to participate in the program in 2018 are:

  • Lisa M. Butts, career and technical education administrator and work-based learning coordinator for Oxford Community Schools
  • Kimberly Cairy, a visual arts and design educator in Saginaw Township Community Schools
  • Christopher Collins, an elementary school principal for Port Huron Schools
  • Nancy Mahoney, an administrator of curriculum instruction and professional learning for  Clarkston Community Schools
  • Scott Sawyer, director of human resources for the Saginaw Intermediate School District
  • Kurtis Pake, an elementary school principal for Bangor Township Schools
  • Jennifer Servoss, the IB Primary Years Programme and STEM Coordinator for Midland Public Schools
  • Jennifer Todd, an elementary teacher in the Swan Valley School District
  • Jill Verburg, a middle school mathematics teacher in the North Branch School District
  • Laura Walsh, assistant director of special education for Rochester Community Schools
  • Jill Wrzesinski, an assistant high school principal and director of college prep for Bay City Public Schools
  • Zak Zuzula, a middle school teacher for Carrollton Public Schools

The Fellows were nominated by their schools and selected on the basis of their past academic and service accomplishments, and the recommendations of others as to their potential for true excellence in leadership.

November 10, 2017

Pop culture, Dungeons & Dragons serve as backdrop to SVSU play exploring sisterly bond

A play deeply rooted in fantasy, 1990s pop culture references, and sarcasm will test the acting talents of Saginaw Valley State University students Nov. 15-19 in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts.

"She Kills Monsters" follows the life of Agnes Evans, a young teacher whose parents and sister, Tilly, die tragically in a car accident. While packing up Tilly's belongings, Agnes, played by Amber Hadley, an SVSU communication and theatre major from Marine City, stumbles across a notebook filled with the late teen's Dungeons & Dragons homemade quest. Knowing nothing about this fantasy role-playing game, Agnes reaches out to a local comic book store owner for help in completing her sister's quest. Little does Agnes know that she will be thrust into a world full of goblins, ogres, and evil elves.

The production constantly jumps back and forth between Agnes's real life in 1995 and the fantasy D&D world where Tilly is "reincarnated" through the words in her journal. However, Dave Rzeszutek, SVSU associate professor of theatre and director of the show, promises that audience members do not need to be familiar with role-playing games to follow the story line.

"Even if someone is not familiar with, or has never heard of Dungeons & Dragons before, they will understand the show. The D&D game is a backdrop for the main character to learn about her estranged sister," he said.

The set is designed to reflect when Agnes is experiencing her real life and when she is in the game to help the audience better understand the more unfamiliar aspects of the show.

The show involves many combat scenes between Agnes and the other characters in the game.

Hadley explained that learning stage combat has been the hardest but most rewarding part of preparing for the show.

"It's like really, really intense choreography, and when you get it right, it all just flows so perfectly," she said.

Because these violent scenes are coupled with mature language and adult themes, the show is recommended for patrons age 16 and older.

Watch Hadley and the rest of the cast bring this imaginary world to life Wednesday to Saturday, Nov. 15-18 at 7:30 p.m., and on Sunday, Nov. 19 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $13 for the general public and $10 for students or attendees 60 and older

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