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September 21, 2020

SVSU to host virtual panel featuring women entrepreneurs

The Saginaw Valley State University-based Dow Entrepreneurship Institute will host an empowering virtual panel discussion featuring successful women entrepreneurs. 
 
“Life Lessons from Successful Women Entrepreneurs” – scheduled Wednesday, Sept. 23, at 5:30 p.m. – is the institution’s third annual panel discussion featuring women entrepreneurs. The public is invited to attend the virtual session.
 
“The speakers are from a variety of different backgrounds and fields, and show that people from any field can be successful in starting their own business,” said Izabela Szymanska, interim director of the SVSU Dow Entrepreneurship Institute and an SVSU associate professor of management. 
 
The panel will include the following guests: 
 
Gina Adams is the founder and CEO of Wareologie, a clothing innovation company. A social entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in the apparel industry and social sector, Adams creates adaptive clothing for people with dexterity issues. 
 
Wendy Bloembergen is vice president of clinical affairs at GreenMark Biomedical Inc. Through its regenerative treatment technology, GreenMark is developing treatment products for the diagnosis and treatment of tooth decay. 
 
Stacey Feeley is the founder of GoSili Inc., a silicone tableware company that provides an alternative to single-use plastics in the kitchen. She regularly serves as a guest speaker for Marshall School of Business at University of Southern California in Los Angeles and Northern Michigan College in Traverse City. 
 
Julia Winter is the founder and CEO of Alchemie, Inc., a company creating digital learning tools that provide an intuitive learning experience that encourages students to explore and experiment with concepts in chemistry. Winter taught college-level chemistry courses for over 20 years at Detroit Country Day School. 
 
Interested participants can join the meeting on Lifesize, a video- and audio-conferencing program, using one of two methods: 
  • In Google Chrome, enter the URL address https://call.lifesizecloud.com/5345023
  • Or call in to the meeting via telephone (audio available only) at 1-(312) 584-2401, then use meeting extension 5345023# 
For more information or to register to attend this event, visit www.svsu.edu/entrepreneurshipinstitute

September 21, 2020

SVSU Writing Center project allows community members to address future president

Saginaw Valley State University’s Writing Center will host its third postcard writing campaign allowing community members to address their future elected leaders in 200 words or less. This time, participants can write the leader elected president of the United States in November.

The nonpartisan project — also sponsored by the YWCA Great Lakes Bay Region and the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture Saginaw Outpost — collects the postcards prior to the election, with the promise of mailing the messages to the winning candidate in January. The approach allows community members to focus on issues that are important to them when writing the postcard messages, organizers say.

“We believe people’s individual voices matter,” said Helen Raica-Klotz, director of SVSU’s Writing Center. “We’re pleased to support this project, which allows people to share their hope, concerns, and goals for our country with our future leader.”

The SVSU Writing Center previously coordinated similar postcard-writing campaigns prior to the 2016 election of the U.S. president and the 2018 election of Michigan’s governor. Over 200 postcards were collected in 2016 and more than 1,500 postcards were collected in 2018.

Community members can participate in the “Dear Future President” postcard project in several ways. Postcards will be available throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region at Midland, Saginaw, and Bay county public libraries, including multiple coffee shops throughout the area. Residents can also fill out an electronic postcard online at www.svsu.edu/ccw/outreachprojects.

Teachers can request postcards for their students by emailing writingcenter@svsu.edu.

All postcards must be received no later than Sunday, Nov. 1.

“We’re excited to be a part of the postcard campaign,” said Moira Branigan, executive director of the YWCA Great Lakes Bay Region. “Our hope is everyone who participates is motivated to vote in November. For students – our future voters – it’s an introduction to civic engagement.”

For more information, please contact the SVSU Writing Center at (989) 964-6062.

September 17, 2020

$300K grant boosts SVSU researchers studying wastewater for traces of COVID-19

A research team at Saginaw Valley State University secured an approximately $300,000 grant to continue its work searching for traces of the COVID-19 virus in wastewater samples collected from sites in Arenac, Bay, Huron, Iosco, Gladwin, Tawas and Saginaw counties. That testing – which includes sampling on the SVSU campus – could help alert health officials about potential outbreaks days before individuals display symptoms. The research also detects the virus in waste of people without symptoms. 
 
Since April, Tami Sivy, SVSU professor of chemistry, and two of her students have been developing methods for tracking existing and potential COVID-19 outbreaks by examining wastewater samples from across the region. With the support of a $300,000 grant from the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), the research team’s work will continue. 
 
EGLE and the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services today announced the grant as part of a larger $10 million project that funds SVSU and other research teams monitoring wastewater for traces of COVID-19. 
 
“There are a lot of universities scrambling to figure out how to do this research right now, and we are fortunate that we have been doing this for months,” Sivy said. “We’ve been ready.” 
 
Among the communities benefiting from the SVSU research team’s work: Au Gres, Bad Axe, Bay City, Beaverton, Billings Township, Frankenmuth, Gladwin, Kochville Township, Midland, Saginaw Township, Standish, Sugar Springs and Tawas. The group also collects samples from wastewater at the Saginaw Correctional Facility in Freeland and Saganing Eagles Landing Casino in Standish. 
 
Measuring communities’ COVID-19 levels via wastewater sampling is a method gaining demand nationally. SVSU is one of two universities in Michigan offering the cutting-edge research to communities, although other institutions are pursuing similar research offerings. 
 
“This is a complimentary testing method,” Sivy said. “It isn’t meant to replace other methods like nasal swab testing, but when integrated into a community’s plan for monitoring the virus, it can perhaps help identify a potential outbreak before it spreads.” 
 
Now that early detection could benefit the campus where she and her team perform their cutting-edge research. They began collecting samples on SVSU’s campus one week before students began moving into the university’s residential facilities in late August. The early sample allowed them to establish a baseline level that will help them better understand if more virus becomes present. The group is collecting new samples about three times per week. 
 
Sivy said studies show tracing the COVID-19 virus through wastewater could reveal positive cases days before a person displays symptoms. That early detection in some scenarios could provide critical information earlier than other testing methods available to the general public. For instance, many individuals who experience COVID-19 symptoms seek nasal swab tests provided by health care professionals. SVSU usually receives nasal swab test results in 24 to 48 hours, but in other settings, the waiting period for nasal swab test results can be several days. 
 
There already are examples where scientists credit wastewater research for preventing the spread of the virus, including at college campuses. After a wastewater sample at the University of Arizona indicated the presence of the virus, officials there individually tested 311 people living in a dorm suspected as the source, later identifying two asymptomatic students. Researchers at The University of Colorado Boulder also detected the virus early in wastewater samples. 
 
The detective work is fascinating but not for weak stomachs, she said. Sivy’s team analyzes about 100 milliliters of wastewater – roughly one-third of a can of pop – collected from raw sewage outputs. Those small samples could contain traces of SARS-CoV-2 RNA –  a result of the novel coronavirus – that may be present in the wastewater of the campus community. 
 
If Sivy and her team discover an increase in traces of the virus, they could take measures to track the source to a more specific site. In the case of their research on campus, a rise in SARS-CoV-2 RNA levels could lead them to take samples from wastewater sites originating from specific buildings housing residential students, allowing them to narrow the potential source from thousands of students down to the hundreds or less. 
 
“We can open a manhole from near the source and take a sample to see where it’s coming from,” Sivy said. 
 
Information from the findings will be shared with local health departments including the Saginaw County Health Department, she said. 
 
In performing the research, Sivy is supported by biochemistry majors Marc Dean of Port Huron; and Caleb Whittaker of Bay City. Since mid-April, the trio have worked in a Biosafety Level 2-certified, state-of-the art laboratory in the east wing of SVSU’s Herbert Dow Doan Science Building. Some of the grittier elements of the research process involve collecting wastewater samples. Bruce Hart, a lab technician at the university, performs that duty. 
 
“He deserves recognition for this, too,” Sivy said. 
 
She said SVSU’s status as one of the few institutions in the U.S. to perform the cutting-edge research – research that involves students in the process – shows the university’s commitment and value to the surrounding region. 
 
“Through our work testing water quality at public beaches and other initiatives, we have been applying our expertise to protect public health for several years,” Sivy said. 
 
“This is a natural extension of what we’ve been doing, and it’s something we at SVSU should be proud of.”

September 15, 2020

SVSU partners with OpenStax to develop affordable college textbook program

Dedicated to providing an affordable education and accessible resources, Saginaw Valley State University recently joined the OpenStax Institutional Partner Network, a group of more than 60 U.S. colleges and universities dedicated to expanding the use of open educational resources (OER) on campuses.
 
“Access to affordable textbooks is a major obstacle to academic success for many SVSU students and we are committed to decreasing barriers to student success,” said Deborah Huntley, SVSU provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.
 
“We are excited about partnership with OpenStax, which will help us expand OER usage through increased awareness and support for faculty adoption. The partnership’s goals address the issues of cost and equity by shifting to course materials that are free and accessible.”
 
Twelve colleges from across the country in the first-year program – including SVSU – will develop and execute high-impact OER advocacy and adoption programs on their campuses. Dedicated to expanding access to free and flexible materials for students and instructors, these schools were selected from a competitive group of applicants, say OpenStax organizers. In selecting new partner schools for the 2020-21 academic year, OpenStax gave special consideration to those institutions with high numbers of Pell grant-eligible students as well as minority-serving institutions.
 
“By reconsidering not only who gets admitted but also how to maintain program efficacy while increasing flexibility, we hope to ensure that the OpenStax Institutional Partner Network accelerates more paths to truly equitable educational materials,” said Daniel Williamson, managing director of OpenStax.
 
“Our goal is to put these resources in the hands of more people, not to narrow the scope of who gets access and exposure to them.”
 
OpenStax is part of Rice University and supported by philanthropic foundations, provides free college and Advanced Placement textbooks that are developed and peer-reviewed by educators. The initiative also provides low-cost, personalized courseware that helps students learn.
 
For more information regarding SVSU's partnership with OpenStax, please contact Tina Mullins, the university's research and open education resources librarian, at cemullin@svsu.edu. Those interested may also visit http://OpenStax.org.
 

September 11, 2020

Community invited to attend SVSU virtual session addressing 2020 election voting processes

Building on the success of various voting initiatives, Saginaw Valley State University leaders will continue to empower the Great Lakes Bay Region community and SVSU students to vote. SVSU's political science department will host a Zoom-based virtual presentation detailing the voting process in the 2020 presidential election Monday, Sept. 14, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
 
Jesse Donahue, a professor of political science at SVSU, will be joined by representatives from the Saginaw County Clerk's Office, the Bay City Clerk's Office and the Midland County Clerk's Office to discuss the voting process in the upcoming election. The panel will be covering information about voting in the Great Lakes Bay Region, focusing on topics such as mail-in ballots, polling places, ballot drop boxes and important election dates.
 
Donahue was inspired to create the presentation after helping friends understand the voting process.
 
“There is a lot of misinformation among the voting public about elections right now,” she said. “Some people don't completely understand how mail-in voting will work, the differences between an application and actual ballot, fears about their ballots being destroyed or thrown out, and deadlines. I want to host a factual presentation about all of this.”
 
Riley Hupfer, director of SVSU’s Center for Community Engagement, is helping publicize the event.
 
“With changes to the laws in recent years and voting already being a complex process, it's always helpful to hear from the experts and ask specific questions,” he said.
 
The public is invited to attend the virtual session Monday. Interested participants can join the meeting on Zoom using three different methods:
SVSU's Center for Community Engagement has helped spread voting information to the campus community in recent years, earning national recognition as a “Voter Friendly Campus.” The Cardinals Vote initiative, based in the Center for Community Engagement, helped double SVSU student election participation from 2014 to 2018.
 
Hupfer said the center hopes to offer table sits and transportation on election day this year if it is safe to do so.
 
“In the meantime, we're working to develop short videos that will be specific to SVSU students and can help walk them through the processes of voter registration, absentee voting/vote by mail and voting on election day,” he said.

September 4, 2020

SVSU faculty trains Midland educators on use of online teaching tool

A connection between personal friends kick-started a professional network between Saginaw Valley State University and Midland Public Schools that organizers say will benefit education at all levels in the region.
 
SVSU faculty in early August began training Midland educators on how to use Canvas, a learning management software program. Utilized by SVSU for years, 14 members of the university faculty hosted group training sessions for nearly 80 middle school and high school educators.
 
“Our teachers were able to ask professionals who use it in their teaching daily what the best practical uses of Canvas would be to them,” said Steven Poole, curriculum specialist for auxiliary education at Midland Public Schools.
 
“The value to Midland Public Schools teachers is their knowledge growth in Canvas and gaining a network for future questions that they could ask the professors. Our teachers will be using this knowledge with their Canvas development this school year.”
 
Both Midland Public Schools and SVSU returned to in-classroom teaching this week for the first time since March, when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Michigan. The experience in the months since then underlined a need to strengthen educators’ knowledge of online teaching tools such as Canvas, say organizers of the collaboration.
 
The origins of that collaboration began with a friendship between Matthew Vannette, an SVSU professor of physics, and Ana Geib, a Spanish teacher at Midland High School. Geib asked Vannette to help her better understand Canvas. The request began a series of events that led to a collaborative learning experience involving nearly 100 educators from both institutions.
 
“That is how society functions, or at least it is how I would like society to function: do what you can, when you can,” Vannette said. “Education across all levels is a social good, and it only works if we support it.”
 
The participating faculty from SVSU hosted a series of seven training sessions for Midland educators teaching in subjects related to business, engineering, English, kinesiology, math and science, music, and social studies. Up to 24 Midland teachers attended each session.
 
While those sessions took place in early August, organizers say educators formed a network they will maintain moving forward, including when questions arise throughout the school year.
 
Participating SVSU faculty members enjoyed empowering fellow educators in navigating a new learning system, which strengthened their own curriculum-building skills.
 
“Throughout the pandemic, scholars and musicians have come together like never before, sharing ideas and trying to solve problems so that we could all move forward in our teaching and music making,” said Norman Wika, an SVSU associate professor of music who provided Canvas training.
 
“I personally benefited from knowledge and ideas that I collected throughout the summer. Without that open interaction, I'm not sure I would have as good a plan as I do for this fall.”

September 3, 2020

SVSU, STARS collaboration inspires bus mural featuring Saginaw poet Theodore Roethke

A mural celebrating Saginaw and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Theodore Roethke will be painted on a local bus, thanks to a partnership with Saginaw Valley State University’s Community Writing Center and the Saginaw Transit Authority Regional Services (STARS). 
 
Pauly Everett, a professional muralist and Flint native, plans to paint a mural which covers an entire STARS bus on Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 2-3. Everett expects the painting session to extend from about 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. both days in the parking lot of the Saginaw Art Museum, 1126 N. Michigan. There, community members can watch the creation of the mural from start to finish, he said.
 
This mural – funded by STARS, the Michigan Humanities Council and Eastern Michigan Council of Governments – is part of the Theodore Roethke Poetry and Arts Festival, tentatively scheduled for March 19-22, 2021. 
 
“STARS Executive Director Glenn Steffens had the idea to bring art to our riders through a bus mural a year or two ago, and we are thrilled to see this project take shape,” said Jamie Forbes, STARS director of external affairs. 
 
“This week also marks the return of bus routes since closing due to COVID concerns in March, so this is an exciting week for us.” 
 
The mural will feature a quote from one of Roethke’s poems along with an image of the Saginaw-born poet, who lived from 1908 to 1963. Other images will include wildlife and iconic locations of the city of Saginaw. 
 
“Theodore Roethke was a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who grew up in Saginaw, right on Gratiot Avenue,” said Helen Raica-Klotz, SVSU Community Writing Center co-director and chair of the Theodore Roethke Poetry and Arts Festival. “Much of his early work centers on this city and his life here.” 
 
Everett said he was fascinated by the concept of creating a mobile mural. 
 
“I’m excited to bring the Roethke lines to visual fruition here in the City of Saginaw,” Everett said. “I’m beyond thrilled to bring my talents to create something in memory of the great American poet for the people of Saginaw to experience on a daily basis.” 
 
When completed, the bus will be put back on its regular route and can be viewed driving throughout the city. 
 
In addition, the bus will be on display at the “Poetry in the Garden” event taking place Thursday, Sept. 17 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Saginaw Art Museum. 
 
For more information about this mural project or the Theodore Roethke Poetry and Arts Festival, please contact Helen Raica-Klotz at klotz@svsu.edu or (989) 964-6062. 

August 18, 2020

SVSU launches contact tracer program on eve of fall semester; local health care agencies provide support

When Moregan LaMarr recently began her role as a contact tracer searching for potential cases of COVID-19 at Saginaw Valley State University, she was motivated by her determination to provide a strong support system and sympathetic ear to a community she knows well. LaMarr, after all, is a two-time SVSU graduate, having earned her master’s degree in social work only last year.
 
“I know how they must feel,” LaMarr said. “These are students who are trying to have a normal college experience and yet still figure out how to be safe and take care of their mental health as well. We are going to help them with that.”
 
“We” refers to the freshly-established SVSU contact tracing team. It’s a group tasked in part with identifying and supporting confirmed or probable positive COVID-19 cases among the students, faculty and staff that will return for in-classroom instruction Aug. 31 at SVSU. Their work also involves contacting and supporting others on campus who may have been exposed to those individuals.
 
LaMarr serves as one of the group’s leaders who was hired through a partnership with regional health care organizations. She works as a case manager and social worker with Saginaw Community Mental Health, although much of her work supporting ailing individuals happens at the Covenant HealthCare Emergency Care Center. In addition to earning her master’s degree at SVSU in 2019, she received her bachelor’s degree in social work from the university two years earlier.
 
She leads the group alongside Julie Newton, an infection control practitioner with MidMichigan Health and a member of the Michigan Society of Infected Prevention and Control. The two are supported by SVSU staff and faculty as well as a team of 36 students chosen to serve as NEST ambassadors for the university’s comprehensive program (known as the Cardinal NEST Plan, an acronym for "New Expectations for a Safer Tomorrow") aimed at promoting a safe return to college for the SVSU campus community. SVSU secured private donations from alumni, local foundations, and others to support the student positions.
 
Students largely begin moving into residential halls Monday, Aug. 24. Seven days later, in-classroom instruction resumes on campus for the first time since SVSU transitioned to online and remote learning in March.
 
Although her experience at SVSU marks the first time LaMarr has served as a contact tracer, she is utilizing years of experience in crisis management while working as a case manager and social worker.
 
Newton has worked as a contact tracer for MidMichigan Health since before COVID-19 arrived in America. Over the course of a decade, her job in part involved tracing the spread of illnesses such as influenza and Hepatitis A among patients as well as health care staff exposed to those patients in the region.
 
“SVSU is a community in itself, and that community impacts the surrounding area,” Newton said. “By keeping the campus safe, it’s helping the whole community stay safe. Also, you want students to have the experience of being on a college campus, and keeping them healthy is very important.”
 
The students working with LaMarr and Newton eventually will serve as contact tracers. A number of those students recently received training in the work through the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; the rest of the group will complete the training, as well.
 
During the first weeks of the upcoming fall semester, those students will be tasked with engaging with their peers on campus in an effort to “change the culture” of how individuals view dealing with illness. Andrea Frederick, SVSU associate professor of nursing and one of the faculty members assisting the newly-established group, said changing that culture will be key to the contact tracing program’s success.
 
“The American ethic is that, ‘If I’m sick, I’m strong enough and can push through it to go to school,’ but we need to change that when it comes to this virus,” Frederick said. “It has to be OK to stay home if you are sick and it has to be OK to admit if you made a mistake and may have exposed others. We have to be OK with being honest about that.”
 
Also key to the contact tracing is the technological infrastructure built to support it.
 
The contact tracing process begins with an app, CampusClear; SVSU students, staff and faculty must self-report their health status prior to entering campus, using the app. When the report indicates an individual experienced an unexplained symptom associated with COVID-19 or experienced close contact with a confirmed or probable case, that individual will be prompted to call a Covenant HealthCare-operated hotline. Based on an assessment made during that phone call, suspected cases would be forwarded to SVSU’s contact tracing team.
 
The campus community member then would be contacted by a member of the contact tracing group for support and direction. If the individual tested positive for COVID-19, contact tracers would initiate the identification of others who were potentially exposed to the virus.
 
“There’s a nuance to contact tracing,” Frederick said. “If you discover that you have the virus and you went to your history class yesterday, the contact tracer would want to determine if everyone was wearing a mask and maintaining 6 feet of social distance. When people are following the proper safety protocols, the risk of transmission is quite low.”
 
Contact tracers also will be empowered to provide their contacts with resources, ranging from health care-related phone numbers to much-needed supplies.
 
“For instance, we want to make sure that someone in quarantine or isolation has enough food in the refrigerator,” Frederick said.
 
LaMarr said she and her team will also provide emotional support for those in need.
 
“We understand how scary those situations can be, and we want to let every student know we’re in this together,” she said. “I will want them to know they’re not alone. I know I would want that.”
 

August 17, 2020

Thrust into the fire: Fresh from graduation, SVSU alumna felt prepared for nursing career that began in pandemic ‘hot zone’

Haley Ludviksen was unsure about her professional aspirations after high school, but she was certain that continuing her education without pause was necessary to discover her calling and achieve her goals. She found her passion at Saginaw Valley State University, which led her to saving lives on the frontline of a global pandemic immediately after graduation.

“It was important for me to go to college because I knew getting a higher education would allow me to reach the professional goals I’d like to,” said the Cadillac native. “When I first started, I didn’t know what I wanted to go into and spent a lot of time developing my interests and myself as a whole through extracurricular involvements SVSU had to offer.”

Ludviksen recognized that SVSU was the university where opportunity met affordability. She joined the ranks of the 90% of students at SVSU who receive a scholarship or financial assistance other than loans.

Her drive earned her SVSU’s most prestigious scholarship. She quickly learned that her education was a worthwhile investment in her overall growth.

“I chose SVSU initially because I got the President’s Scholarship,” Ludviksen said. “However, the small class sizes and feeling like a name – not a number – made me fall in love with the place that helped me become the person I am today.”

Ludviksen immersed herself in all the opportunities that college had to offer, engaging in many registered student organizations. Her involvement in these programs unleashed her potential both professionally and personally, as well as helped her discover her passion for nursing.

“Once I joined more clubs and groups and started working on campus, I was able to start figuring out what I really wanted, which led me to nursing,” the 2019 SVSU alumna said.

“I will always credit the ability for me to get involved with special interest recreational and academic groups at SVSU— because of campus recreation and student life— as the biggest impact on me developing into the person I am today. It took me awhile to find my passion, but being able to become a leader and critical thinker outside of the classroom made it so much easier to do so in my profession.”

Ludviksen graduated from SVSU in December 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and shortly after, began her career as a registered nurse on a medical progressive care unit at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak in southeast Michigan. Some of her first experiences there came when that region was considered a “hot zone” during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan. 

She was immediately faced with the immense challenge of combating a worldwide health crisis, but Ludviksen felt prepared to overcome obstacles because of the skills she learned both in and out of the classroom.

“I started my career in April, right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, so I was truly just thrust into the fire of frontline healthcare work,” she said. “However, I have learned so very much and have been very grateful for the experiences and patients I have had so far.” 

Ludviksen’s college journey was not always easy, but it placed her on the path to success and empowered her to continue her education even further. She is dedicated to helping and inspiring others, and she plans to one day become either a holistic nurse practitioner or a professor.

The support she received at SVSU pushed her to pursue her goals and overcome obstacles, as well as advance to the next level of her life and career.

“If something is standing in the way of you attending college, my advice is to talk to someone who went. See what their struggles and obstacles were, because we all had them in our own shape or form,” she said.

“There are so many people I know who paid for college on their own with grants and scholarships, had children in college and still finished, worked full-time in college and still finished. The support you get at the university level is truly unmatched, and everyone — professors, faculty, and even fellow students — do whatever it takes to help you succeed. It’s such a community.”

As Ludviksen looks forward to her future, she also takes a moment to reflect on the experiences that brought her to where she is today and the university opportunities that made her success possible.

“College was the most impactful and life-changing experience of my life, and I think most of that is attributed to SVSU,” she said.

“It’s a special place, and a sacred place in my heart; a place I want everyone to be able to experience.

August 12, 2020

Partnership expands Covenant HealthCare’s support for SVSU as fall semester nears

Saginaw Valley State University’s commitment to providing students a safe return to campus next month is bolstered by the institution’s strengthened partnership with Covenant HealthCare.
 
The partnership predates the pandemic that led the university — and others across the nation — to suspend in-classroom learning in March, but the emergence of COVID-19 provided impetus for SVSU to seek additional services and consultation from the Saginaw-based health care provider. As SVSU prepares to return students to in-classroom learning for the fall semester, university leaders credit Covenant HealthCare for providing support that will allow the campus to safely reopen, including the guidance of health experts and a health-related telephone hotline for students.
 
“We were looking for direction from a medical perspective that would help us navigate through these challenging circumstances,” said Sue Brasseur, one of the SVSU leaders critical to establishing the renewed partnership. “Really, our underlying concern is the safety and well-being of every member of the SVSU community, and with this partnership, I’m confident we will do the best we can. Covenant has really been here for us.”
 
Before the pandemic, the SVSU and Covenant HealthCare partnership included the establishment of a Covenant MedExpress site located on the university’s campus. The stand-alone medical facility resides on the west corner of SVSU’s property, near the intersection of Bay and Pierce roads. It remains open for both members of the campus community as well as the general public.
 
This new addition to the partnership brings consultation from Covenant HealthCare staff, including an SVSU alumnus. Dr. Matthew Deibel, medical director of the Covenant HealthCare Regional Emergency Care Center, received a master’s degree in health administration and leadership from SVSU in 2018.
 
“He’s been really valuable whenever we have a health-related question,” Brasseur said.
 
Consultation from Deibel and colleagues at Covenant HealthCare helped SVSU leaders determine specific policy decisions for the fall, including advice on university decisions relating to re-organizing furniture in campus spaces to create more room to practice social distancing. The consultation helped SVSU interpret regulations from state and federal government health agencies.
 
The SVSU and Covenant HealthCare partnership also has provided campus leaders with access to other health care-savvy personnel. Officials from both organizations talk regularly about ways in which the university can further strengthen campus safety.
 
Such discussions led to SVSU providing its staff and faculty with access to Covenant HealthCare services focusing specifically on health-related workplace issues. Covenant HealthCare helped SVSU as the university developed a self-screening process for faculty and staff. Soon, SVSU will finalize a self-screening process for students as well.
 
While faculty, staff and students will have access to an SVSU-based information phone line tasked with answering questions about the fall semester plans, any health-related questions will be forwarded to a Covenant HealthCare-based hotline staffed by medical experts.
 
An SVSU task force dedicated to health and safety issues for the fall semester also benefited from access to Covenant HealthCare experts.
 
Brasseur said SVSU leaders have relied heavily on Covenant HealthCare and general guidance provided by other agencies, both local and national. University officials regularly consult with staff at the Saginaw County Health Department on COVID-19-related matters in the region. And SVSU planners have utilized guidelines from both the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when applying modifications to campus policies.
 
“The bottom line is, we’re prepared for the fall semester,” Brasseur said, “and we owe a lot to Covenant HealthCare and other organizations for helping us prepare for it.”

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