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August 23, 2017

Another freshman class moves in to SVSU top-ranked residence halls

Saginaw Valley State University will welcome another freshman class Wednesday, Aug. 23 when students move into the “best dorms” in Michigan for the 2017-18 academic year. More than 70 percent of incoming freshmen again have chosen to reside on campus.

SVSU’s housing facilities were ranked No. 1 in Michigan and No. 19 nationally in 2017 by a website grading “Best Dorms” in the United States. The website, Niche, calculated the rankings using a weighted formula where 70 percent of a school's score came from students' satisfaction with their housing. The website surveyed 60,000 students from 903 colleges and universities. The rest of the formula was based upon housing costs, capacity and crime rates; each counted for 10 percent of the total score.

SVSU President Don Bachand (Buh-SHAHND) is expected to assist students moving in Wednesday morning, continuing a tradition of presidents making a friendly first impression with new students.

For the upcoming academic year, more than 2,300 students are expected to reside on campus. Students who will reside in M.J. Brandimore House and Living Center South will move into their residence halls Thursday, Aug. 24.


August 23, 2017

SVSU Board Approves New 3-Year Faculty Contract

The Saginaw Valley State University Board of Control approved a new three-year contract with the SVSU Faculty Association (MEA/NEA) during a special meeting of the Board Tuesday, Aug. 22.

Faculty members who are part of the bargaining unit will receive salary increases of 2 percent in 2017-18 and 1.9 percent in each of the two following years. The agreement also includes increases in the university’s contribution toward health care premiums. 

The association represents nearly 300 faculty. Its members ratified the contract Monday, July 31. 

The Board also approved a bonding resolution that will allow SVSU to realize interest savings and to prepare for construction of a building addition to become home to the College of Business and Management.

The Board authorized SVSU to refinance existing debt at lower interest rates. SVSU expects to realize more than $1.4 million in savings over the remaining life of the bonds, which were originally issued in 2010.

The Board also approved seeking up to $12 million in short-term interim financing to support construction of a 40,000 square foot facility connected to the existing Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts that will host the College of Business and Management.

SVSU’s capital outlay request for $9.8 million in state funding received planning authorization approval in the 2018 fiscal year budget for the State of Michigan signed by Governor Snyder Friday, July 14. The SVSU Foundation hopes to generate up to $15 million in private donor support for the project. The interim financing will allow SVSU to begin work on the building as soon as the state grants construction authorization.

August 21, 2017

SVSU to prepare ‘chief science officers’ to boost STEM learning in K-12 schools. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 22 and Wednesday, Aug. 23Gilbertson Hall, 2nd floor, SVSU campus

Saginaw Valley State University will host two days of workshops and fun learning activities for more than 50 middle school and high school students from the Great Lakes Bay Region who will serve as “chief science officers” in their schools during the upcoming academic year.

The students will be on SVSU’s campus Tuesday, Aug. 22 and Wednesday, Aug. 23 to receive instruction on how to encourage their classmates to take a greater interest in learning the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines. Tuesday’s activities include a “STEMazing Race” around campus from 10:40 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Wednesday will conclude with a STEMonstration Showcase from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Modeled after a similar program that has proven successful in Arizona, middle and high school students are elected by their peers to be a “chief science officer” and then are empowered to influence a wide range of STEM opportunities in their schools and communities. The goal is to have students take an active role in increasing student interest in the STEM fields and ultimately create a diverse pipeline of STEM leaders.

SVSU received a $40,000 grant from The Dow Chemical Company Foundation to run the community-minded pilot program at middle schools and high schools in Bay, Midland and Saginaw counties for the 2017-18 school year.

August 3, 2017

SVSU students to help homeless women and children through 2017 Battle of the Valleys

Saginaw Valley State University students will direct their passion for supporting the community by raising funds for an organization that helps homeless women with children during the 15th annual “Battle of the Valleys” fundraising competition. SVSU students will raise funds for The Mustard Seed when they compete against their rivals from Grand Valley State University during the week-long challenge this coming fall.

The SVSU Student Association received more than 50 applications from various charitable organizations, which is believed to be a record number.

The Mustard Seed shelter is located on Saginaw’s east side; it provides the basics such as shelter, food and a caring home environment as it helps homeless women with children move from homelessness to self-sufficiency.

The shelter enjoys a strong relationship with SVSU’s social work department, including hosting students for field placements. Caitlin Coulter, a pre-medicine major from Clio and 2017 Battle of the Valleys chair, said that was “a very important factor” in the decision-making process, as was their desire to be an active charity partner.

“We chose Mustard Seed due to their passion of helping those in need, and their excitement for working with Student Association and SVSU in the entire sequence of events for ‘Battle of the Valleys,’” she said. “We love to see organizations that have a connection to the surrounding region, and that want to benefit more than monetarily from this university-wide initiative.”

In 2016, SVSU students raised $26,000 for Hidden Harvest, an organization that works to alleviate hunger and end food waste in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

“Battle of the Valleys” began in 2003 to capitalize upon the schools' football rivalry by raising funds for deserving non-profits. Over the past 14 years, the competition has generated $552,150 in charitable donations between the two schools. SVSU students have raised a total of $357,329 during that time, winning 11 of the 14 annual competitions.

The 2017 “Battle of the Valleys” fundraising campaign will be held September 24-29, and the winner will be announced at the football game between SVSU and GVSU Saturday, Sept. 30.

July 26, 2017

New facility for SVSU business programs in store, following state budget approval

‌Saginaw Valley State University’s College of Business and Management will soon have a new home for students, faculty, staff and business organizations in the Great Lakes Bay Region and beyond, as SVSU moves forward with plans for a 40,000 square foot building addition.

SVSU’s capital outlay request for $9.8 million in state funding received planning authorization approval in the 2018 fiscal year budget for the State of Michigan signed by Governor Snyder Friday, July 14.

SVSU plans to construct an addition connected to the existing Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts, near Curtiss Hall, where faculty offices for the College of Business of Management are currently located.

The SVSU Foundation has initiated a fundraising campaign, and those efforts will now accelerate. SVSU hopes to generate up to $15 million in private donor support for the project.

“The business world is changing rapidly, and we must change with it,” said Donald Bachand, SVSU president. “We have updated our curriculum; we have added a major in supply chain management and we are starting an online M.B.A. this fall, all to ensure our hard-working students receive the best possible academic preparation. This new facility will allow us to modernize classrooms and learning spaces to match 21st century business realities.

“We would like to thank the many state legislators who supported our proposal, especially State Senator Ken Horn and State Representative Tim Kelly, whose leadership in their respective chambers was greatly appreciated.”

SVSU’s College of Business and Management is accredited by AACSB International, placing SVSU in the top 5 percent of business schools worldwide. Included among the 28 academic programs are specialized opportunities that draw upon the unique business resources of the Great Lakes Bay Region, such as academic minors in entrepreneurship and family business management. SVSU hosts the Dow Entrepreneurship Institute and the Stevens Center for Family Business.

Planned improvements for the new facility include:
•    a Bloomberg Trading Room, that allows students to learn using financial technology
•    an innovation lab, a cross-disciplinary space where students can develop products and market solutions
•    a communications, big data and cloud computer lab to allow for the management of diverse sources of unstructured data and cloud computing
•    a consumer behavior lab and observation room to study what influences consumers’ decisions
•    a focus group lab to allow students to conduct qualitative research

In addition to academic upgrades, the new facility also will feature space for increased collaboration with regional businesses, providing them with access to SVSU faculty and student expertise.

The project still requires construction authorization by the State of Michigan; SVSU hopes to receive that approval later this year with a goal of opening the building during the 2019-20 academic year.

July 26, 2017

Julie Keil, January 2017 - Faculty profile

Julie Keil spent 30 years as an attorney. It’s a career she has no desire to resuscitate.

“I don’t miss it,” said the assistant professor of political science.

Now that she’s exited the profession, her passion involves helping students interested in entering it.

In 2010, Keil and a group of students founded SVSU’s moot court program, where students act as attorneys in teams of two. They make arguments to a panel of judges by drawing from constitutional law and Supreme Court cases. Judges then decide winners based on public speaking ability, knowledge of cases and of law, and the ability to answer questions.

SVSU joined other universities with similar programs that competed within the American Moot Court Association. The organization hosts a series of tournaments across the nation that culminate in a national contest in January, when the top performing teams of students from each region gather.

The national tournament features elite students from prestigious universities across the nation. Keil said seeing one of her teams advance to the competition during the program’s history would have been considered a success.

An SVSU moot court team has advanced to the national tournament every single year of its existence. Sometimes more than one SVSU team has achieved that goal in a given year. For instance, four SVSU student tandems traveled to Gulfport this month to compete in the contest.

“It’s a huge source of pride,” Keil said of the program’s success. “These students are remarkably talented. And moot court was just a beginning for them.”

Members of moot court’s alumni are attending law school in six different states. Other former team members already are practicing law in Michigan.

“Moot court has been a huge benefit for these students,” Keil said. “It doesn’t get them into law school, but it helps them when they get there.”

She is quick to give credit for the program’s success to hardworking students as well as faculty and staff who volunteer to help the moot court teams prepare for competitions.

Recently, Keil also began asking high school students who are prospective SVSU moot court members to help the program with various tasks. She hopes to develop the initiative into a full-fledged recruitment program for moot court.

When she’s not teaching in classrooms or working with moot court students, Keil enjoys traveling. She plans to combine her love for travel and research in May, when she visits Rome. Her research involves exploring the rights of financiers over the monuments they fund.

Eventually, Keil hopes, she will extend the moot court competitions to include international contests.

“We are ambitious,” she said.

July 26, 2017

Khandaker Abir Rahman, November 2016 - Faculty Profile

Khandaker Abir Rahman is on the move. In more ways than one.

The SVSU assistant professor of computer science & information systems has an academic specialty in cyber behavioral biometrics, or the study of how people move — and behave — when surfing cyberspace.

It’s a subject that has, in a way, fascinated him since he began pursuing a profession in computer science while still a high school student in Dhaka, the capital and largest city in Bangladesh.

“My plan at first wasn’t to become an academic professor, but when I started my master’s degree, I fell in love with computer science research,” he said.

Now, more than a decade later on the campus of SVSU, Rahman’s work involves both inspiring students interested in the computer science fields while also attempting to make his mark felt in the engineering side of the industry.

Rahman and undergraduate student research assistants earlier this year filed a request with the U.S. Patent Office for technology that would allow consumers to unlock their smartphones using a series of physical movements.

To some, the concept may seem like a less secure alternative to the traditional method of typing a password on a keyboard. However, cyber behavioral biometrics-based studies, Rahman argues, shows a movement-based password system can offer a kind of security difficult to replicate by people other than the device’s owner.

Rahman also stays busy as advisor of the SVSU club that competes in the International Collegiate Programming Contest, a computer programming competition involving the top students in the world. Rahman’s group recently placed 51st out of 129 teams in the regional division that includes Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Eastern Ontario and Western Pennsylvania. Competition includes students from institutions with solid reputations in computer sciences such as University of Michigan, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Waterloo and University of Toronto.

“They will give you a number of computer programming problems to solve, and a lot of teams can’t solve any of them,” Rahman said. “When we did well and placed 51st, the competition was surprised. They hadn’t heard of SVSU, but we did quite good.”

Rahman’s interests also led him to another responsibility that keeps him on the move. He serves as advisor to the SVSU Cricket Club that formed in recent months after the university supported a cricket field on campus.

“Cricket is my first hobby,” he said.

The club fell short during its first tournament competition against Wayne State University in September. During the game, though, Rahman wasn’t simply watching his team play. He became a player. The tournament organizers allowed him to move from the sidelines, onto one of the many fields he loves.

July 26, 2017

Phillip Hanson - Faculty Profile

Phillip Hanson finds comfort in the fuzzy edges where the old norms meet the new. The lecturer of art finds such solace in both his artwork and his students.

When it comes to students, Hanson is the faculty advisor of a newly registered student organization he hopes will help provide a greater sense of community for the university’s art and design students inside and outside of the classroom. The Art and Creative Design League, formed this semester with Hanson as faculty advisor, will encourage student artists to network both with their SVSU peers and professional artists.

 “A big factor in retention is social interaction, and I hope this helps with that,” Hanson said. “I want our students to feel a sense of community and a sense of belonging.”

The Holland, Michigan native has a number of activities lined up for the organization’s agenda. Later this semester, the group will participate in a Skype conference call with Hanson’s friend, Ian Butterfield, who works as an artist for the movie studio DreamWorks’ animated films division. Hanson also plans to utilize the university’s new social media tool, SVSU Connect, to create relationships between students and alumni artists.

“I had an advanced student say to me after our first meeting, ‘I feel like this is the beginning of an institution,’” Hanson said. “I’m hoping, with a few dynamic leaders, this will really take off and be the start of something new.”

Hanson is accustomed to transitions; they are reflected in his art too.

There is no simple way to explain his work. They fluctuate between digital art and the variety not produced on a computer screen. Sometimes he enjoys mixing the genres, then re-mixing them.

“A lot of them are created through the manipulation of physical matter and digital imagery,” Hanson said. “Sometimes one piece will go from physical to digital, back to physical again.”

His work will be on display at Mott Community College Fine Arts Gallery from Sept. 26 to Oct. 11. He will discuss the series during a presentation at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, at the college’s Visual Arts and Design Center, Room 103.

Images of his work also is available at

He hopes the exposure at Mott will entice community college students to consider pursuing a bachelor’s degree at SVSU, where Hanson believes strongly in the university’s ability to inspire students from all backgrounds to find comfort in the fuzzy edges where the old norms meet the new. 

July 26, 2017

Karen Erwin, May 2017-Staff Member of the month

Karen Erwin, SVSU administrative assistant to the dean of students, has an office located in the Student Affairs suite. The team in this suite — Erwin included — carry many responsibilities, largely involving helping the many students who find their way to the office.

Erwin, though, is quite modest when talking about herself, and often directs the attention on others. But the Saginaw native is more outspoken when the conversation turns toward her job, her workplace environment, and the points of pride that lead her to love both.

“We’re here to help students succeed,” she said. “That’s why we’re here. That’s why I’m here.”

Erwin’s road “here” began as a member of SVSU’s clerical pool in 2000. Eventually, she was hired part-time to help manage the budgets of Student Affairs, Residential Life and two registered student organizations. By 2008, she became a full-time staff member, inhabiting the role she maintains to this day.

With Erwin’s desk located at the center of the Student Affairs office, she interacts with a lot of students. She greets everyone who enters the office with a friendly smile and asks how she can help. Frequently, she guides students and visitors to classrooms or offices around campus.

Among her favorite days are those in which the Cardinal food pantry lifts the spirits of students in need. Erwin is a member of the committee that created the program, which collects and distributes non-perishable food for SVSU students in need of sustenance.

“We have to do our little part to help students who need help in that way,” she said. “When students are content physically, they’re able to succeed academically. That’s important.”

“Karen is the best-est,” Michele Gunkelman said, peaking her head into the office where the interview for this profile was underway. “You can quote me, and maybe correct my grammar.”

When Gunkelman learned her colleague was earning attention as the recipient of Staff Member of the Month, Gunkelman decided some playfully-interjectory praise was in order.

She wasn’t alone in making sure the office’s inhabitants’ high praise for Erwin was known. Erwin’s care for students was reciprocated too.

“You’re going to be famous,” one of the office’s student-workers said — in an excited tone — to Erwin as the author of this profile exited the suite. “Yes!,” another student exclaimed in response to the suggestion.  

Erwin smiled at the students’ giddiness on her behalf.

 “It’s a great day to be a Cardinal” is emblazoned on a sign above the suite’s front door, and it’s a mantra beloved by Erwin.

July 26, 2017

Norm Wika - May 2017 Faculty Profile

When it comes to multi-tasking between interests, Norm Wika has a hard time pairing any task with music. Even listening to a music station during drives to work can be a challenge for the SVSU assistant professor of music. Instead, he opts for talk radio.

“If I’m listening to music, I want to be fully engaged in it,” he said. “I enjoy the music more when I can be fully committed to it.”

Wika has not been a stranger to commitment lately. In the fall, he committed to working at SVSU, where he also began leading the university’s bands … and creating one that didn’t exist previously.

After working at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma for nine years, Wika said he and his wife wanted a change of scenery. An opening at SVSU provided more than that.

“The thing that really attracted me here was that the faculty all seemed to be on the same page in terms of the direction of the department, and those goals align with my career goals and personal goals in terms of music and music education,” Wika said.

“I felt I had the experience and knowledge that could contribute to the department goals.”

Along with serving as the band director, Wika also created a wind ensemble for student musicians. His expectations: to host one wind ensemble performance per semester.

“I selected a program of music that was fairly standard,” he said. “By the time we got three rehearsals into it, I could see the students were performing at a very high level, so we added a second program for that first semester. That was fun; to be part of the inaugural wind ensemble.”

Wika doesn’t consider leading musical programs or teaching the subject part of his “job,” though.

“I don’t know that music is so much a career as it is a lifestyle for me,” he said. “I do music all day.”

When he isn’t teaching or directing SVSU student musicians, he is fine-tuning his own musical chops. Since moving to the Great Lakes Bay Region, he has performed with the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra as a trombonist. He has played the instrument since he first dove into the lifestyle by joining the school band as a fourth grader in Kansas City.

There were a few moments in those early years where Wika contemplated quitting. But by high school, he was rarely distracted by other interests during a musical journey that led him to SVSU. 

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