In Sarah Tennyson’s bedroom, the dozens of cards featuring inspirational quotes only seem to outnumber the smiley-faced stickers by a few.
“I like to stay positive and keep a positive outlook on life,” the 30-year-old said.
It's an optimism, she admitted, that at first might seem odd coming from someone once kept alive by a feeding tube; from someone who, long before and well after the feeding tube, has moved through the world largely via wheelchair.
In Sarah Tennyson's world, though, there's plenty to celebrate. And that celebration is sure to grow more jubilant later this week when the Saginaw Township native joins more than 1,000 of her Saginaw Valley State University student peers on stage during commencement ceremonies.
Tennyson, a communications major, will participate in the festivities Saturday at 11 a.m. in O'Neill Arena, when students from the colleges of Arts & Behavioral Sciences; Education; and Science, Engineering & Technology are honored. A 7:30 p.m. Friday ceremony will feature students in the colleges of Business & Management and Health & Human Services.
Tennyson has two classes still to complete, but will be participating in the May Commencement ceremony, which she finds fitting. She always imagined celebrating her accomplishment in the mellow comforts of springtime. It was a fantasy that pre-dated her brush with a disease that nearly prevented her from living to see such a day at all.
Tennyson was no stranger to overcoming obstacles when that dangerous medical condition upended her world during her late 20s. Her first medical obstacle arrived on the day of her birth. Born three months earlier than expected, Tennyson as a baby was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that impairs motor functions. As a result, she has spent her life in a wheelchair.
More medical hardships followed, but Tennyson continued to pursue college education, and she has made quite an impression on Dick Thompson, SVSU ombudsman, whose tenure at SVSU began in 1970. He called Tennyson “one of the most positive and caring students I have ever had the pleasure to work with.”
Thompson helped Tennyson navigate some of the logistical challenges that emerged when her medical condition threatened to derail her studies.
“I admire her for her courage and determination,” he said. “She is the best of the best.”
During her K-12 years, Tennyson attended a school for individuals with disabilities before eventually graduating from Community Baptist Christian High School in Saginaw. She still lives in the home where she was raised, and said her parents and older sister — along with a deep faith in her Christian beliefs — provided a support system that allowed her eventually to pursue a postsecondary education. She earned an associate’s degree from Delta College in 2009, and then enrolled at SVSU.
Tennyson’s tenure at the university, though, was derailed five years ago when she suffered what she initially believed was a “stomach bug.” The problem persisted for about a week by the time Tennyson was scheduled to participate in SVSU’s Sims Public Speaking Competition in November 2012.
“I told myself, ‘I’m not going to miss this speech competition,” she said, “but by the end of the day, I was in the ER, vomiting.”
The situation grew serious enough that medics — fearing for her life — removed her gall bladder and inserted a feeding tube into her body.
“They didn’t know what was going on at first,” she said.
Eventually, doctors diagnosed her with gastroparesis, which is a disorder that stops or slows the movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine.
For a time, her weight dropped from 100 lbs. to 75 lbs. Problems persisted until she switched to a new doctor, whose prescriptions helped her recover some of her physical strength in the ensuing years.
“I’m not where I want to be quite yet,” she said. “I’m getting there.”
The medical challenges slowed — but didn’t stop — the pursuit of her bachelor’s degree. She returned to SVSU in fall 2013 but dropped out before the end of the semester.
“Trying to get myself back to school was a roller coaster ride,” she said. “I would take two steps forward, then one step back. There were times when I didn’t think I was going to be able to finish.”
She returned to SVSU again in August 2016, when she signed up for a single kinesiology course.
“I was in physical therapy at the time and I wanted to know how my body worked,” she said.
Despite falling seriously ill again in November 2016, she has remained enrolled at the university, with expectations that she will earn her degree this year. Along with her family, friends, faith and her medical support team, Tennyson credited SVSU staff and faculty with aiding her in those academic pursuits.
“I’ve had a huge support system,” she said.
While she is quick to give others credit, Thompson said Tennyson’s sense of determination and persevering spirit were the most important factors in her accomplishments.
“Despite all her challenges, Sarah never gave up on her dreams,” he said.
After earning her bachelor’s degree, she hopes to pursue a career helping others with disabilities and social challenges as they strive to reach their potential. That sort of ambition is familiar to Tennyson.
“Everyone has their difficulties,” she said. “Some are just more visible than others, like mine. I had a lot of support to get to where I am, and now I want to give back to others.”
The College of Business and Management at Saginaw Valley State University honored and inducted 14 students to Beta Gamma Sigma, the honor society serving business programs accredited by AACSB International.
Membership in Beta Gamma Sigma is the highest recognition a business student anywhere in the world can receive in a business program accredited by AACSB International. Less than 5 percent of the 13,000 collegiate business programs worldwide are so accredited.
The SVSU students inducted are:
• Alyssa Ableiding, an accounting major from Hillman;
• Shafayatul Alam, a management major from Bangladesh;
• Ray Altoft, an accounting major from Lake Odessa;
• Mikayla Ballor, a management major from Freeland;
• Jenna Brown, a management major from Saginaw;
• Sara Cramer, an accounting major from Munger;
• Ingrid Hannevig, an international business major from Norway;
• Spencer Leach, a finance major from Bay City;
• Megan McGarry, an accounting major from Eaton Rapids;
• Michael Miller, an accounting major from Dewitt;
• Yiliang Quian, a master of business administration student from China;
• Trevor Thomson, a finance major from Essexville;
• Gan Xie, a master of business administration student from China;
• Xuefei Xu, a master of business administration student from China.
The top 10 percent of junior and senior students as well as the top 20 percent of master's students are eligible for membership to the organization. Since 2003, 238 SVSU students and 23 SVSU faculty and staff have been inducted. This year’s ceremony was held Friday, April 7.
For a list of students inducted in 2016 and in previous years visit: http://www.svsu.edu/collegeofbusinessmanagement/studentopportunities/betagammasigma/.
The Saginaw Valley State University College of Education will recognize six individuals from the Michigan educational community for their outstanding and heroic contributions to positively impact the lives of students.
The winners – selected by SVSU students – were chosen from a field of 38 nominees. Judging criteria include how well the person has:
• advocated for students and community;
• demonstrated excellence, sincerity, and enthusiasm for teaching;
• shown innovation in a class or program;
• gone the extra mile;
• been a great role model.
“Our students take the selection process very seriously,” said Craig Douglas, dean of SVSU’s College of Education. “Many hours are spent making sure the awards go to what we call 'unsung heroes,' those educators who get up each day eager to make a difference in the lives of the youngsters they serve. I am thrilled with the work SVSU students have done to make a difference in their own ways through the second annual Heroes in Education event.”
This year's recipients are:
• Jerry Carmien, service worker for Kolb Elementary School in Bay City. A nominator wrote: “Mr. Carmien sees kids for who they really are and has no bias. He brings out the best in them all.”
• Kelly Frank, teacher at Tawas Middle School. A nominator wrote: “Mrs. Frank does everything she possibly can to make learning fun and exciting not only for her students, but also all of the students in the middle school.”
• Joseph Peet, teacher at Kingston Elementary School. A nominator wrote: “As a third grader in Mr. Peet's class, you can look forward to VIP Day, which is a day that celebrates the student.”
• Lawanda Purches-Waller, a parent liaison for Genesee STEM Academy in Flint. A nominator wrote: “Mrs. Purches-Waller has worked diligently to increase our Parent Ambassador program, which engages parents in our school improvement process.”
• Todd Switala, coach and volunteer for Sterling Elementary School in the Standish-Sterling school district. A nominator wrote, “As president of the Sterling Sportsman Association he coordinates many youth activities including an annual kids sucker fishing tournament, family and youth archery leagues and shoots, family-oriented squirrel and rabbit hunt (he requires each team to have one youth on their team), and he is a hunter safety instructor.”
• Everton Williams, director of operations for Pontiac Academy for Excellence. A nominator wrote, “Mr. Williams has literally 'gone the extra mile' by riding every single bus route routinely and making adjustments in order to accommodate the most students with safe, free and timely transportation as efficiently as possible.”
Each recipient will be formally recognized at a celebration event Wednesday, April 26 at 7 p.m.in the Ott Auditorium, located in Gilbertson Hall at SVSU. It is free and open to the public. Charles Schwedler, former superintendent for Bullock Creek Schools, will offer comments to highlight the evening.
By by Kayla Eisenlord
Stressful exams. Fast-approaching term paper deadlines. Exhausting classroom debates.
Along with the anxieties of the world outside of campus, stress can lead some college students to see the glass as half-empty. Members of SVSU’s Optimistic Club, however, hope to fill those metaphorical glasses to the top.
"Too often we see people walking around, looking like they are having a bad day,” said Paige Teregan, a special education major from Lake Orion who leads the student organization. "Our main goal is to make them smile."
Established in 2012, the registered student organization promotes happiness and positivity through little acts of kindness.
One of the programs includes members’ sticky notes campaigns, when they place Post-its on walls and windows across campus. Each note features encouraging messages meant to inspire. "Confidence is the first step to success," one note read. Another: "Keep going. You're almost there."
As project manager of the club, Jacob Jacopec, a business major from Holly, said the group tries to cheer up their peers especially near finals week, when stress levels are highest for many students.
Each month, the club focuses their attention on a different program. There was the time members super-sized the Post-it note initiative by writing cheerful messages on large billboards while standing in high-traffic hallways.
“I'd take your place in The Hunger Games,” one sign read. “Act like a proton and think positive,” “Always look on the bright side," and “beYOUtiful” were some of the other messages.
“I’d say it's a job well done when people are frowning as they walk past but look up to see the boards and end up laughing or saying, ‘aww,’” Jacopec said.
One of Teregan’s favorite initiatives is the “free hugs” program, which involves members offering hugs to students willing to accept the offer.
“It may be a little strange to some people, but others absolutely love it,” Teregan said. “Our hugs will make their day, and receiving so many hugs in one day makes me feel better, too.”
Such good will works for students such as Emma Eldred, a nursing major from Lake Isabella and the SVSU Student Association’s philanthropy chair.
“Throughout my years at SVSU, I have seen how the smallest acts of kindness can make an impact,” Eldred said.
“From the sticky notes at finals that encourage you, to getting a hug from a stranger, Optimistic Club has taken steps to change this campus for the better. They’ve definitely changed my experience for the better, too.”
This story appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of Reflections, SVSU's magazine, available to view online here: www.svsu.edu/reflections
Eric Garnder, professor of English at Saginaw Valley State University, has won his second Book Prize from the Research Society of American Periodicals. The prize awards the best scholarly book on American periodicals published in 2015 and 2016.
Gardner received the honor for his community-minded scholarly work “Black Print Unbound: The Christian Recorder, African American Literature, and Periodical Culture.”
“Black Print Unbound” chronicles the development of the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s newspaper, “The Christian Recorder,” during and just after the Civil War. The book was one of the first full-length studies of an early black newspaper.
As an exploration of a periodical created by African Americans for African Americans, Gardner’s book details the newspaper’s history, composition, publication, distribution, reception and place in American literary history. Gardner drafted the book with the support of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship.
A panel of three scholars chosen by the Research Society judged the books eligible for the prize. The prize committee said “Black Print Unbound” offers “magisterial vision and imaginative force that will set new standards for periodical scholarship.”
Gardner received the same award in 2010 for “Unexpected Places: Relocating Nineteenth Century African American Literature.” He will formally receive this year’s award at a ceremony at the American Literature Association’s annual conference in May in Boston.
The vice president of a Michigan energy company will deliver the keynote address to graduates during Commencement exercises next month at Saginaw Valley State University.
Shaun M. Johnson, an SVSU alumnus who is the deputy general counsel for CMS Energy and its principal subsidiary Consumers Energy, will speak at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 5, and again at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 6, in O’Neill Arena.
Commencement exercises for graduates in the colleges of Business & Management and Health & Human Services will be held Friday evening. Students completing degrees in the colleges of Arts & Behavioral Sciences; Education; and Science, Engineering & Technology will take part in the ceremony scheduled for Saturday morning.
The graduating class consists of 1,146 students who are expected to complete degrees, including 1,022 individuals who have indicated they intend to don regalia and march in the ceremonies. The class includes 987 who will receive bachelor’s degrees and 159 who will receive master’s or education specialist degrees.
As is tradition, SVSU President Don Bachand will congratulate each graduate as he or she crosses the stage.
Johnson’s path to his position with CMS Energy began at SVSU, where he served as president of SVSU’s student government and was a member of Sigma Pi fraternity. Representing and advocating for his fellow students was an interest of Johnson’s since his teenage years, when he was the president of the student government at Sanford-Meridian High School for three years. With a goal of getting students more involved on SVSU’s campus, Johnson was the Campus Events chair for Student Association, the student government, before ascending to president.
An Edenville native, Johnson graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from SVSU in 2002 and then completed a law degree at Michigan State University, graduating with Summa Cum Laude honors. Johnson served on the SVSU Alumni Association Board of Directors from 2005 to 2008.
Johnson formerly was a partner for the law firm Dykema Gossett PLLC, serving as the director of the firm’s energy industry group and specializing in public utilities, energy, and taxation. In his director position, he served as an attorney and lobbyist for several public utility and energy clients throughout the United States, helping develop cost-effective business strategies and goals. Johnson also represented elected public officials, political action committees, and constitutional ballot question committees.
In his position with CMS Energy, Johnson oversees all litigation, general practice, and federal energy regulatory issues. He also provides legal oversight for business development activities, including mergers and acquisitions. A Dewitt resident, Johnson also serves as the chair of the Michigan Bar Association’s Administrative Law Section.
For information about Commencement exercises at SVSU, visit www.svsu.edu/commencement/.
Comic books have long been popular in the entertainment industry and are firmly entrenched in modern pop culture with on-screen adaptations of bookstore titles such as The Avengers, Batman, and The Walking Dead.
Saginaw Valley State University student Emely Williamson is working on a comic series of her own, starring her campus' art department. An art major and Burton native, Williamson's work is empowered by SVSU’s Undergraduate Research Program (UGRP). Through the initiative, she plans to publish a comic book revolving around life as a student in SVSU’s art programs.
Williamson is one of more than 100 students whose UGRP-supported projects will be featured during the University-Wide SVSU Student Showcase Friday, April 21, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ott Auditorium inside SVSU's Gilbertson Hall. The event — free and open to the public — will spotlight projects from all five SVSU academic colleges.
“When I first started looking at the UGRP application, I thought there would be no way the committee would see a molecular bonding project ... and then give money to a girl who wants to write a comic book,” Williamson said. "I’m very appreciative of the attention they gave my project and the opportunity they gave to me."
Her project is focused on examining the use of comics to convey information. Her comic illustrates how students should navigate their way through art classes and program requirements.
In order to better summarize the inner-workings of the art department, Williamson reached out to faculty to gather more everyday language to use in her work.
“We’re trying to make it more enjoyable to learn more about this department,” she said. "We want to answer questions like, ‘What do you need to do to get through this program successfully,’ or, 'Which classes should you take first?'"
In need of a high-powered light box for tracing, ink pens and a digital drawing tablet, Williamson applied for and received a $1,200 grant through UGRP to cover her project expenses.
“When I graduate, I really want to do illustrations for children’s books, so this sort of visual narrative is going to be a great portfolio piece and experience piece that I can apply to my field,” Williamson said.
Williamson also hopes one day to pursue work as a freelance illustrator professionally.
For more information regarding Williamson's project, visit www.facebook.com/wecreateSVSU/.
For more information on SVSU's UGRP projects, visit svsu.edu/ugrp.
Saginaw Valley State University on Friday, April 21, will host its winter 2017 Science and Engineering Symposium, where the public can view the work students performed on 40 projects.
The projects include work from biology and chemistry students as well as those majoring in electrical and mechanical engineering.
Some of the science projects include making water-soluble plastic from Gulf shrimp shells and analysis on lemongrass and lavender essential oils. The engineering projects include developing a “smart kennel” that aims to decrease the number of relinquished pets and determining the feasibility of an in-car ambulance detection system.
Some of the projects also collaborated with regional organizations such as Dow Corning, Great Lakes Pet Emergencies, Nexteer Automotive and Duro-Last.
On Friday morning beginning at 10 a.m., students will be discussing and displaying their posters for their projects on the first floor of Pioneer Hall. There will be posters for 14 chemistry projects, nine mechanical engineer projects, seven biology projects, and seven electrical engineering projects. There also is one poster each for a computer information systems project, a physics project, and a Saginaw Bay Environmental Science Institute project.
Following lunch, oral presentations on some of those projects begin at 1 p.m. on the second floor of Pioneer Hall. There will be five mechanical engineering presentations in Pioneer 245, four mechanical engineering senior design presentations in Pioneer 247, four electrical engineering presentations in Pioneer 240 and two biology presentations in Pioneer 242.
The keynote speaker for the symposium is Giselle Tamayo-Castillo, the president of the Costa Rica National Council for Science and Technology and a chemistry professor at the University of Costa Rica. Tamayo-Castillo is a globally recognized expert in rainforest ecosystem with research expertise in genotyping of rainforest organisms and discovering new pharmaceuticals using those plants.
Tamayo-Castillo will speak at 9 a.m. in Science East 204 following opening remarks from Frank Hall, the dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology.