May 31, 2017
Alberta Lee has an image in her mind. An early memory from childhood, circa 1970something.
She’s sitting with her siblings in the bleachers of a basketball game at Saginaw Valley College, her father working security nearby. Napoleon Lewis Sr. — “dad” to her — stands out in the crowd. But not because he’s an intimidating authority figure keeping order. On the contrary, those surrounding the Shreveport, Louisiana, native are drawn to him. He smiles, they smile; followed often by laughter, like they had known each other for years.
Maybe some of them are familiar with her father, his daughter wonders, but it’s just as likely they’re relative strangers. Lewis made friends with haste, after all ... and in abundance.
“He connected with people like that,” Lee, 56, says now. “People talked to him so easily, and he was full of advice that you could trust. He loved engaging with them.”
And they loved him back. Still do.
Twenty-one years after Lewis died at age 71 of bone cancer, SVSU reaffirmed its affection for one of its earliest and most beloved members by granting him emeritus status in October 2016.
It’s an honor bestowed upon 81 people in the school’s history. A portrait of Lewis now is on display alongside framed photos of the others in the university’s Emeriti Room. It’s a physical link to his legacy at the campus.
Spiritually, his children carry that torch.
Lee, a 1982 graduate and SVSU’s Alumni Relations coordinator from 1986-89, and three of her seven siblings are linked to the school — even without their father’s history there — as students and workers. Ava Lewis, 60, earned the first of four degrees in 1979 and has worked as a professor of nursing since 1994. David Lewis, 53, earned the first of three degrees in 1987 and serves as director of School and University Partnerships. Napoleon Lewis Jr., who attended classes briefly on campus, worked in the Graphics Center for 17 years before his death in 1994.
“Dad would be grinning from ear-to-ear that we’re working here,” Ava Lewis says of her and David. “He thought of Saginaw Valley as the end-all, be-all. He really was a champion of this place.”
Napoleon Lewis Sr., who served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific during World War II, arrived in Saginaw from Texas in the 1950s. He moved there to join the automotive industry workforce, and eventually opened a business — South End Barbershop — in 1962.
His children remember how Lewis’ affable nature attracted whole neighborhoods to the shop. Customers considered him family. The depth of his hospitality seemed unending. There were occasions he loaned his vehicle to fellow Southern natives who needed to return to their hometowns for funerals.
“You can talk to people to this day about him, and a smile will come to their face,” David Lewis says. “Dad had that embracing style, and the greatest compliment is when someone would compare us to him. We’re working with the social capital that our father began.”
Napoleon Lewis extended that capital to SVSU beginning in 1971. His duties involved patrolling the campus hallways, dormitories and athletics events, sometimes with his children in tow. Few people during those early years on campus failed to recognize him. Many were charmed by him. Some became lifelong friends.
Soon after Lewis was hired, former head coach Muddy Waters brought Lewis aboard as the football team’s first equipment manager. Lewis formed bonds with members of the men’s basketball team, too. Not long before Lewis died in 1995, one of those basketball players from the 1970s learned of his friend’s illness and returned to Michigan from Europe to visit.
“A lot of those players embraced him as a father,” David Lewis says. “He was that close to them.”
When Napoleon Lewis’ biological children began attending classes at SVSU and moving into its dorms, he often stopped by their rooms during evening shifts to visit with them. And with others.
“There were times when I was talking to him when my roommates would get into the conversation and start talking to him like he was their dad,” Lee says.
“I remember thinking, ‘Wait, do you mind if I have a moment with my dad?’ We all enjoyed it when he came around.”
Lewis stepped down from his duties at SVSU in 1986, but returned on a part-time basis in 1991, largely working from a parking booth at the entrance of a now-defunct lot on campus. Even with a more limited exposure to the campus population, Lewis managed to charm a new generation of SVSU people during those final years.
“It was an awesome feeling to see everyone react that way toward him because we, as his children, felt that way about him all the time,” Ava Lewis says. “He touched so many lives here.”
His five living children and wife, 90-year-old Nelia, attended the October Board of Control meeting where the family’s former patriarch received emeritus status. Afterward, they posed for a photograph together, holding the piece of paper that formally established the onetime security guard’s status among SVSU’s most revered figures.
The significance of that paper wasn’t lost to members of the family who saw firsthand how their father once inspired so many smiles on campus.
“Now he’ll be here forever,” Ava Lewis says. “He belongs here.”
May 30, 2017
When dogs undergo surgery, veterinarians often must suture a nasal oxygen catheter to the animal, making for an uncomfortable recovery. Four Saginaw Valley State University electrical engineering students are working to ensure that is no longer necessary for a Saginaw County pet emergency hospital.
Students Amen Al Abbas of Saudi Arabia; Jonathan Claus of Hawks, Michigan; Michael Papesh of Saginaw, Michigan; and Zwe Thiha of Myanmar are in the development phase of creating an automated intensive care unit for Great Lakes Pet Emergencies in Carrollton Township. The unit is a three-pet sealed cage with oxygen sensors and temperature and air filtering controls.
“There is an issue where if we program something wrong, we do something wrong, the pet’s health could possibly be at risk,” Claus said. “So there’s definitely a strain to ourselves of making sure that we do everything with the utmost care and reliability.”
The seniors are halfway through their capstone project. In the first semester, the students plan their project, conduct a feasibility student and, in some cases, begin programming. The students spend much of their second semester working on and testing their prototype.
Some projects are completely student-driven, while others feature student groups collaborating with an external client such as Great Lakes Pet Emergencies. The pet ICU is the latter; Ryan Dowling, the operations manager at the hospital, proposed the project.
“The best solution in the industry is the ICU cage,” Dowling said. “We needed some expertise on how to create an electronic control system, and the best way to do is to reach out to people in that field. We thought it’d be a good opportunity for students to get a hands-on project.”
Dowling, who meets with the students regularly, said his experience working with SVSU students on four separate projects has been “nothing short of fantastic.”
“Even if they come up with a challenge on how to fix something, they don’t hesitate to ask the right people and get the right answers,” Dowling said. “And they do it rather quickly. As an outside company, it’s been phenomenal. There is an incredibly bright group of students in the engineering department.”
Along the way in their first semester working on the project, the students determined they needed a new, more expensive oxygen sensor. Dowling agreed to make the purchase.
“Clients have to make a tradeoff where either the cost is important or the reliability is important,” said Rajani Muraleedharan, SVSU assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and the faculty adviser for the ICU project. “So for their project, it is life. It is not human, but it’s still a pet. So they have to make sure they make the right call.”
The fact that pets will rely on the ICU for their recovery, as well as the real-world functionality of the project, was appealing to Claus.
“Everyone goes into senior design knowing that this is our last real chance for discovering what we don’t know and for getting that experience that’s really going to translate into our lives as engineers,” he said. “Whereas some projects might get built, they’re on display, they get shoved into a cabinet somewhere, they gather dust, we’re doing an actual job that someone would contract engineers to do. … This is going to be used, this is something that should last and that we are responsible for.”
Usability, then, will be a primary goal, as those working in the pet hospital do not share the same engineering background as the students.
“It has to be very easy to use,” Muraleedharan said. “They’re not going to know anything about programming. All they’re going to see is a good graphical interface, and that’s all they’re going to have to work with. So it has to be simple, it has to be very clear, and it has to do its job the right way.”
Testing also will prove key. Dowling will handle testing with live animals, but the students must ensure the network they build, with different professional programming languages, communicates correctly. Each partition of the cage will have its own unit.
“Getting all that to mesh is tricky,” Claus said. “This is something normally done by somebody with years of experience. This is something we have touched on in school, but never to this level.”
Thiha, who is from the Asian country of Myanmar, likens using programming to make technology function to “real world magic.”
“That’s how I see it, it’s like casting a spell,” he said. “It’s just working.”
Capstone projects are important opportunities for international students such as Thiha and Al Abbas, who is from Saudi Arabia, to learn real-world skills and complete a project that they can feature on a resume.
“They both get to work with American kids and get to know the work ethic,” Muraleedharan said. “Sometimes, international students don’t get to be an intern anywhere. So this is their best choice to make.”
Another aspect of the students’ work in their first semester was considering whether their methodology for the project should share any similarities to existing similar systems, which cost a minimum of about $9,000. Not factoring in the cost of the cage, Dowling has poured in more than $2,000 into the project, but this one is different than those on the market because it is tailor-made to what Great Lakes Pet Emergencies needs.
“I’d like to believe that when it’s done, it’ll be at least comparable to anyone on the market and as reliable,” Claus said.
“I think they will be successful,” Muraleedharan said. “But they will be facing a few road blocks getting there.”
May 30, 2017
Manvel Trice III doesn’t reside in Room 306 of the Saginaw County District Court. He presides there.
Still, the courthouse’s newest judge speaks about his position as if the role was more comparable to that of a household’s authority figure as opposed to a law enforcement official appointed by the state of Michigan. And he speaks about the work he performs in his courtroom — Room 306 — as if he was providing parental-like guidance to those living beneath his roof.
To Trice, that makes his responsibilities more than simply a job. He is on a mission to work as a steward for the place he calls “home” and serve as a role model to the residents he considers extended family.
“I want to help the Saginaw community continue to be a successful, thriving community once again,” he said. “This is my community. Our community.”
Born in the city of Saginaw and raised in Saginaw County’s Bridgeport Township, Trice’s sense of civic responsibility was initially shaped by the blue-collar upbringing his mother and father provided during his formative years.
Later in life, he was empowered and encouraged to pursue a career in law by two mentors he met while enrolled as an undergraduate student at SVSU in Saginaw County’s Kochville Township.
“I wanted to be someone who could become part of the solution rather than someone on the sidelines, talking about solutions,” he said. “Now I have a broader platform to help people.”
That platform extends beyond the courthouse in Saginaw’s Old Town district and involves tools other than his judge’s gavel. Trice, an ordained minister, also strives to make a difference in people’s lives on a metaphysical level.
“There is a spiritual component to the revitalization of Saginaw,” he said.
“I try to use my position as a minister to help people with issues of the heart. I prefer to address the whole person; body, soul and spirit.”
Trice and his at-home family — his wife, Caressa, and their 3-year-old daughter, Maya — are active with nonprofit organizations and charities involved in addressing Saginaw’s social challenges.
His day job, though, keeps him plenty busy tackling one of the community’s largest challenges: crime. It’s a responsibility he approaches with a passion he learned early in life.
“When I was young, I didn’t know I was going to become a judge,” Trice said. “But the lessons my mom and dad taught me molded me, so in large part, they are responsible for who I am. The things I was taught as a child — patience, love for community, and family values — all are important qualities for any judge to have.”
His parents’ influence also provided another important lesson he applies to different aspects of his life.
“With anything in life, if you’re going to take on a project, you need to do it with passion and commitment,” he said.
Trice credits the beginnings of his devotion to law to two men he met while attending SVSU in the late 1990s: then-President Eric Gilbertson and current President Don Bachand.
At the time, Bachand was Trice’s criminal justice professor.
“There were things he taught me that were critical to my success today professionally,” Trice said of Bachand. “He also taught me things about being a man; things that supplemented what my dad and other men taught me.”
Bachand, a former Detroit policeman, was instrumental in Trice landing his first jobs relating to law enforcement. Trice served as a youth care specialist at the Saginaw County Juvenile Detention Center and later as a data collection specialist for the Saginaw Gang Task Force.
While at SVSU, Trice also enrolled in a Constitutional law course taught by Gilbertson, a former attorney.
“It was an eye-opening experience,” Trice said of the class.
What may have been an even more important experience was a meeting Gilbertson once requested with Trice.
“He invited me into his office and really opened the door to the law,” Trice said. “He encouraged me to attend law school and told me what I needed to do to become eligible. No one had ever before encouraged me to pursue the law. He saw something in me that I didn’t necessarily see in myself.”
Soon after, Trice began taking law school admissions tests and speaking with admissions representatives from institutions across the country. After earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from SVSU in 1998, he attended the Michigan State University College of Law, where he graduated in 2001.
“I would not have chosen that path if not for the sage wisdom of Drs. Bachand and Gilbertson,” he said.
Trice became a defense attorney at Braun Kendrick PLC in Saginaw from 2001 to 2011. Then he was hired as an assistant prosecutor for Saginaw County until 2015, when he spent 11 months as an assistant U.S. attorney. Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Trice as a Saginaw County District Court judge in 2016, when he replaced the retired M.T. Thompson.
At Trice’s swearing-in ceremony in August, Gilbertson was in attendance. Bachand was chosen by Trice to ceremoniously present him with his judge’s robe at the event.
Bachand addressed those in attendance, praising his former student.
“SVSU is honored to have graduated Manvel Trice,” said Bachand, who discussed Trice’s work with SVSU’s Alumni Relations board and willingness to mentor students.
“He’s also really good at talking to young people about life and decency, honesty and fairness,” the president said.
The comments were the ultimate compliment for Trice, who prides himself on providing a positive influence on others, both inside and outside of Room 306.
“It behooves us as professionals to try and bring out the best in people,” Trice said.
“Now that I’m in a position to do so, I feel an obligation to help others realize their full potential. For those of us who want to see Saginaw thrive, we all have to do our part. This is my part.”
May 26, 2017
Data analyzed by a Saginaw Valley State University professor shows that the average time it takes police to respond to serious crimes in the Saginaw region is significantly less than the national average.
During the three-year interval of 2013 through 2015, the average time it took police to respond to a call of a “part one crime” in the city of Saginaw and immediate surrounding areas was just more than 7 minutes. That is about 36 percent quicker than the national average of 11 minutes, which was reported in 2013.
Andrew Miller, SVSU associate professor of geography, analyzed some 45,000 calls that Saginaw County 911 received in that time period regarding crimes such as assaults, burglaries and robberies.
“We’re getting really good response time over almost the entirety of the region,” Miller said.
Saginaw County 911 provided the data to Miller as part of an ongoing partnership between SVSU and local law enforcement agencies through the Saginaw County Crime Prevention Council.
“It’s fantastic to see we’re below the average,” said Randy Pfau, the director of Saginaw County 911. “It tells us that we’re doing our job efficiently here on our end. There’s always room for improvement, but it’s great to hear that we’re where we need to be.”
Pfau and his staff chalk up the success to Saginaw County agencies having the mindset that they are all in the public safety battle together.
“It has everything to do with collaboration,” Pfau said. “Everyone at every level working together.”
Miller did not just determine an average response time. Working with Ashlee Oaks, an international studies major from Trenton who graduated SVSU in May; and Dan Johnson, a 2015 SVSU alumnus, he also examined how much quicker or slower an average time was in a specific location.
“Call response times are great, but if the police are repeatedly being called to one location over another, the response time should be faster to areas in need,” Miller explained.
To create such a tool, Miller incorporated both call response times and density of 911 calls for service to produce a map that showed which areas “needed improvement” or had times that were “acceptable” or “good.” Miller presented his findings to the Saginaw County Crime Prevention Council earlier this month.
“We want to give police agencies something that they can see and say, ‘OK, we now know these are the areas where we have to get better response times,’” Miller said.
“We live in a visual world,” Pfau noted. “We know what the numbers are, but to see them in this aspect is great to give you that perspective that all that time and effort and hard work is fruitful and very positive for our community.”
Miller's findings were the latest in a series of presentations he has delivered related to public safety. He and numerous SVSU students first mapped out crime “hot spots” in the Saginaw region and recently analyzed the impact that blight reduction had on crime in the area.
“It’s absolutely great to have that level of professionalism right here in our backyard,” Pfau said of Miller and SVSU. “We work closely with them all the time. Depending on what the concern or situation is, I know we can always call them and they’re a fantastic resource for us.”
Saginaw Township Police Chief Don Pussehl, who leads the Saginaw County Police Chiefs Association, added the relationship between SVSU and local law enforcement is “fantastic.” He credited SVSU for a sustained commitment to the community.
“I've seen over the last five to six years an increased input from faculty members from SVSU,” Pussehl said. “Their willingness to engage in the research and give students an opportunity to have real life experience is a benefit to the community. It sheds a very positive light on SVSU and what their students are doing.”
Pussehl added that former President Eric Gilbertson was a founding member of the Saginaw County Crime Prevention Council, and current SVSU President Don Bachand has maintained the relationship. A former Detroit police officer and SVSU criminal justice professor, Bachand also has a particular interest in research aimed at reducing crime.
May 26, 2017
“Robots shall inherit the classroom” reads the tagline on Matt Ferguson’s Kingston High School-based webpage featuring his Robotics course’s trials and tribulations.
It’s a maxim that may sound hyperbolic to some, but to Ferguson and his students, it’s a work in progress. In Room 39 of the high school — surrounded by the rural landscapes of Michigan’s Thumb region — a high-tech endeavor is underway that one day (soon) could result in a robot inheriting some of Ferguson’s classroom responsibilities.
“Maybe by this time next year,” Ferguson said of his timeline to finish building InMoov, a life-sized 3D-printed robot whose blueprints are available as an open source project for educators and hobbyists alike.
That time line reached much deeper into the future before Ferguson became involved in the Dow Corning Foundation/Saginaw Valley State University Community STEM Partnership. That initiative has provided resources and training since 2014 for K-12 teachers interested in ramping up student interest in the sciences. In 2016, Ferguson was selected to participate in the program along with 27 other educators from 14 schools in 12 districts spanning Bay, Midland, Saginaw and Tuscola counties.
That same cohort of K-12 teachers will provide presentations on their resulting projects during a symposium Tuesday, May 30, from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in SVSU’s Curtiss Hall. The event is free and open to the public. Ferguson will be among the presenters. He plans to bring InMoov to the occasion.
“We wouldn’t be working on the InMoov project right now if it weren’t for the fellowship,” said Ferguson, who received a bachelor’s degree in art education from SVSU in 2005.
The Peck native began eyeing InMoov years ago, but lacked the resources. Through the Dow Corning Foundation/SVSU Community STEM Partnership, he received $2,000 in funds along with grant-writing skills — offered as part of the program’s professional development courses — that helped him successfully lobby for additional support from other sources. He used the financial support to buy the materials that make up InMoov as well as the 3D printers that shaped those materials into the life-sized figure.
Stephanie Brouet, an SVSU associate professor of chemistry and one of the STEM partnership’s coordinators, remembered speaking for the first time last year with Ferguson about his ambitions to build an InMoov model.
“It’s astonishing what he and his students have been able to do since then,” she said. “I was thinking, by this point, he might have the 3D printers. They’re much farther along than I thought they would be.”
Ferguson and his Robotics class first began printing parts for InMoov in November 2016. The venture began with construction of a faceplate. Since then, the group has built nearly 100 items on a 400-item checklist of InMoov parts.
Students involved in the project say they are inspired by it.
“This has definitely increased my interest in the sciences,” said Nathan Scott, a Kingston High School senior who helped design the website showcasing the project at http://inmoovkhs.weebly.com/.
The Dow Corning Foundation/SVSU Community STEM Partnership is aimed at influencing 4,000 K-12 students — such as Scott — within the region. Funded by a Dow Corning Foundation grant, the project connects teachers with SVSU faculty as they work on ideas for stimulating student interest in STEM.
Finished InMoov models do not feature legs. Their life-like anatomy begins above the waist, which is fastened to a platform with wheels. Already, Ferguson’s robot is mounted on such a platform. Batteries, circuit boards, gears and sprockets also are attached. While the InMoov head isn’t finished, its face features enough parts necessary to move its neck, mouth, and eyelids, all controlled by humans through a computer program.
The torso and arms remain on the to-do list. Once the body is fully constructed and operational — a task that Ferguson estimates could take another year — he hopes to shift his focus to installing InMoov with artificial intelligence capabilities.
Such an upgrade would allow the robot to perform more commands without human control. Some of the tasks Ferguson envisions for InMoov include the robot taking classroom attendance using facial recognition software and running errands to the school’s main office using navigational technology. Ferguson is considering installing a camera system that would allow students to “see through the robots eyes” using a virtual reality headset.
The applications for InMoov are virtually limitless, and Ferguson said he anticipates new generations of students will inspire the pursuit of new functions for InMoov.
May 23, 2017
Saginaw Valley State University celebrated the dedicated care and leadership delivered by seven registered nurses in the Great Lakes Bay Region during the seventh annual Carleen K. Moore R.N. Nursing Excellence awards ceremony Monday, May 22.
Established by SVSU’s Department of Nursing through generous support provided by Terry Moore and his wife Carleen K. Moore, the awards recognize outstanding nurses in multiple career paths, including clinical bedside nurses, nurse educators, nurses in the community, and nurses in long-term care and rehabilitation facilities.
The 2017 recipients include:
• Cathy Campbell, who works for Covenant HealthCare in physical medicine and rehabilitation; she received the Long Term Care/Rehabilitation award. Her nominators wrote, “Cathy is the clinical nurse specialist for (the transitional care and rehabilitation) departments and coordinates and supports the care for the most complex of those patients. She challenges, mentors, and coaches the team. She collaborates and coordinates with the medical staff. She is the ‘go to’ person on both units. Cathy will do the necessary research to guarantee that the best evidence-based practice is implemented. Her focus is on providing the best patient care possible to provide quality outcomes.”
• Jackie Dost, who works in the emergency department of Saint Mary’s of Michigan; she is one of four recipients of the Acute Care Nursing award. Her director wrote, “She has enjoyed a long career in the Saint Mary’s emergency department. Jackie impacts the lives of all she encounters, both patients and peers with her wit, laughs and never-ending attempts to make situations fun.” Her nominator added: “Jackie is a member of the Saint Mary’s human trafficking task force. The goal of the task force is to raise awareness of the signs of human trafficking and to provide victims access to necessary community resources.”
• Rebecca Morgan, who works in McLaren Bay Region’s OB/Family Birthplace; she is one of four recipients of the Acute Care Nursing award. Her manager wrote, “Becky does all of the childbirth education and breastfeeding classes, as well as coordinating the Daddy Boot Camp classes that are completely conducted by fathers for new fathers. She frequently adjusts her schedule to meet the needs of new parents. Recently she supported an expectant teenage mother, 14. This young lady and her mother were too uncomfortable to attend the regular childbirth classes due to her age. Becky arranged a separate one-on-one session that would fit with the young patient’s school schedule.”
• Gordon Siu, who works in the neuro-trauma ICU at MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland; he is one of four recipients of the Acute Care Nursing award. His supervisor wrote, “Gordon cares for many different types of patients. He is well known for his trauma expertise. He will be the first to jump in and help when and where it is needed.” His nominator added: “He is a patient advocate and continuously strives to exceed patient expectations. He has been a clinician to sit with patients and families to educate and support their need to understand.”
• Trisha Slough, who works in the surgical services department at Saint Mary’s of Michigan Towne Centre; she is one of four recipients of the Acute Care Nursing award. Her director wrote, “Trisha is always very eager to learn. She runs the day-to-day patient scheduling. She works with physicians and facilitates the daily assignments for a staff of more than 20. She is an RN that is able to provide patient care in pre-op, recovery and in the operating room as a circulator. Recently, we needed someone to temporarily take on the role of Material’s Surgical Supervisor. She took on the role, quickly learning the requisition process, computer system, and how to interface with our vendors.”
• Jennifer Swartz, who works as a workforce development specialist at MidMichigan Health; she received the Nurse Educator award. Her manager wrote, “Jen was instrumental for single-handedly securing availability of computer access for students during the transition from Cerner to EPIC. Jen has made it a priority to secure access for all of the students that come to MidMichigan Health for a clinical experience. She has effectively communicated the need for over 300 students coming to MidMichigan each year to practice accessing the medical record and documenting in the medical record.” Swartz also teaches for multiple nursing programs in the region. Swartz completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees at SVSU, and is currently enrolled in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program.
• Julie Wright, who works as a community nurse educator for MidMichigan Health in Clare and Gladwin counties; she received the Nursing in the Community award. Her nominator wrote, “Julie has been a key driver in reaching our at-risk populations by providing various educational opportunities in both Clare and Gladwin counties. She specifically has been an integral piece of our implementation and expansion of childbirth prep classes in order to improve infant and maternal health. Julie will leave a legacy for ‘good’ for many years by creating vision, inspiring others, and using her power and influence to effectively guide ordinary people to produce extraordinary results.”
The awards were presented during a ceremony at SVSU Monday, May 22.
Carleen K. Moore worked as a licensed practical nurse for almost 15 years before returning to nursing school to become an registered nurse. She then worked in the critical care units at MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland for the next eleven years before retiring from full time nursing in 2001. Carleen and her husband, Terry, believe in the importance of recognizing and encouraging nurses who demonstrate excellence in their field.
May 22, 2017
High school: Hartland High School
Major: Social Work
Future: Graduate school at the University of Michigan
Isabelle Pacitto came to SVSU with a passion for helping others and leaves inspired to make it her life's work, thanks to engaging with a campus community filled with servant leaders.
A social work major from Hartland, Pacitto expected the usual stress and long hours of being a college student, but she was surprised at how "right" SVSU felt for her, and how it not only fueled her passion but also paired it with professional purpose.
"The best thing SVSU could have done for me was linking me with the hands-on opportunities in the community and outside of the classroom," she said. "Being a victim advocate for the Sexual Assault Center, a branch of Child and Family Services of Saginaw, was a requirement for class my very first semester here and I'm still engaged with that."
Pacitto's time at SVSU helped her find the program that was right for her.
"I think I've always wanted to do the work that social workers do, even before I knew what the social work profession really was," she said. "To me, social work is the most practical, hands-on way I could think of to just work with people – whether that be an individual or a family or a community – to help affect positive change."
On top of schoolwork and the required hours of volunteer work within her field, Pacitto worked as a tour guide on campus and as a resident assistant in MJ Brandimore House, a campus residence hall – and she still graduated in just three years.
Jamie Franklin, SVSU resident director, worked closely with Pacitto during her time as a resident assistant.
"The impact she has had on the SVSU community will be felt for years after her graduation as she has recruited and mentored many young students," Franklin said. "Graduating in three years often does not leave a lot of time to leave a lasting legacy; however, her attitude and love for people will continue to show in the people she had an impact on."
In connection with her program, Pacitto's field placement connected her with Innerlink, a runaway and homeless shelter and a division of the Saginaw County Youth Protection Council, where she worked as a social work intern.
Pacitto worked with those individuals ages 17 to 20 who find themselves with nowhere to go.
"I think, with any of the populations I've worked with, it's just a real privilege to be able to walk alongside someone when they're most vulnerable," she said.
Pacitto also participated in a study abroad opportunity through SVSU that took her to India in the summer of 2016.
"It was 10 weeks – basically all of this past summer. I think it really connected well with my passion for women's issues," she said.
"I'd eventually like to go back and do some sort of research in that area in India because there's not a lot of available research on it. I'd love to do international social work of any sort but I have a particular interest and connection with that country."
Pacitto stated that she would recommend studying abroad to anyone. Not only did it benefit her in her career path, but it also increased her confidence in her own abilities.
After three years at SVSU, Pacitto is proud of her accomplishments within the university and in the community. She has made lasting relationships with peers, mentors and professionals within her field.
"It's really the little things that make a college experience special," she said. "I'm just thankful and appreciative of the people who have taken the time to help me grow – whether that be my professors, residence directors, my friends, roommates or my staff. The people here are different than anywhere else."
Pacitto now heads to graduate school at the University of Michigan to pursue a master's degree in clinical social work.
"Because of what I've learned at SVSU, I feel better going into grad school," she said. "I'm confident in my skills as a bachelor's-level social worker at this point. I'm just grateful for the opportunity to be an engaged member of a school and of a community."
May 22, 2017
From: Saginaw Township
High school: Baptist Christian High School
Future: Helping Disadvantaged individuals
“I like to stay positive and keep a positive outlook on life.”
Sarah Tennyson's optimism at first might seem odd coming from someone once kept alive by a feeding tube, she admitted.
In her world, though, there is plenty to celebrate, and her celebration grew more jubilant recently when the Saginaw Township native joined more than 1,000 of her Saginaw Valley State University student peers who participated in the May 2017 commencement ceremonies.?
Tennyson, 30, has two classes still to complete, but participated in the May ceremony, which she found 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.”
May 22, 2017
High school: Flint Southwestern Academy
Future: The Dow Chemical Company, accounting department
As a future accounting asset to The Dow Chemical Company, Kevin Finley crossed the graduation stage in May 2017 with excitement and a firm sense of purpose after five years at Saginaw Valley State University. The Flint native has replaced childhood scars with an ever-present smile, having learned many valuable lessons inside and outside the classroom.
"In leadership and in life, it's not just about the grades," Finley said.
Finely has the grades – he made the Deans' list all 10 semesters, studying professional accountancy – but it was getting in touch with his values and those of his university, and putting those values into action that taught him as much or more.
"SVSU has taught me that there's more to life than just being smart. Do you care about the community? Are you humble? Do you want to see others around you succeed with you? In life, you can't do anything by yourself and SVSU has that community focus that I really appreciate."
With aspirations to start his own mentorship program one day, Finley started planning out his future while in high school at Flint Southwestern Academy where he took his first accounting class. There, he discovered not only his proficiency in the field, but his love for it as well.
"It just made sense to me," he said.
After discovering this passion, Finley took a tour of SVSU during his senior year of high school. Though he had been considering some other universities at the time, the welcoming campus of SVSU and the friendly people who inhabited it convinced him to enroll.
"I felt like I could really make an impact at SVSU and it was big enough to meet a lot of people but it was small enough to still make an impact," he said.
Finley certainly stood out. As a member of the Roberts Fellowship Program – a student leadership development initiative at SVSU – he built upon his leadership and academic achievement through service projects and study. Finley and nine of his classmates traveled to Asia in May as the culmination of the program.
"One of the goals of the program is to become well-rounded in global citizenship while making us aware of different social issues in different areas of the world," he said.
Recognized by his fellow students, Finley beamed with pride after being elected to Homecoming Court in the fall of 2015.
"It was just an honor to make court – just to have that experience was kind of cool," he said. "I thought, 'Wow. I affected people enough on this campus to even make court.'"
Students knew Finley because he signed up for nearly every high-profile position a student can have. He worked as a resident assistant, a campus tour guide, and an orientation leader, helping new students acclimate to SVSU.
Through his involvement with Delta Sigma Pi, a business fraternity, Finley built his résumé further. He worked his way up, eventually serving as the vice president of finance for a year and a half before serving as the fraternity's president for a year. Finley was awarded the Huron Regional Collegian of the Year in 2016 for Delta Sigma Pi; the award is presented to a member of the fraternity who represents the distinguished values and ideals of the organization through achievement, participation and character.
Finley's drive and determination saw him serve as an accounting tutor in SVSU's tutoring center as well as a research assistant in the Office of Institutional Research. He also worked as an intern with The Dow Chemical Company, where he made connections and secured a full-time job after graduation.
A first-generation college student, Finley remembers a time when the future didn't always look so bright.
"Where I came from, no one really expected me to be a leader," he said. "No one expected me to make Homecoming Court. No one expected me to do all the stuff I'm doing. SVSU allows you to grow your confidence here."
Personal perseverance shaped Finley's confidence.
"I was beaten up really badly in high school," he said. "I was really, really frustrated but then I realized, it's not about who does what to you. It's about your response. I can say, 'I don't want to see that happen to someone else so let me show people that there's more to life than negativity.' I don't want to let stuff like that hinder me. I just want to stay positive."
Finley spreads that positivity through his connections at SVSU, in the community and in his hometown.
"My ultimate goal is to become a CFO – a chief financial officer – of a company, and, although I have a passion for accounting, I also have a passion for mentorship," he said. "Coming from Flint, Michigan, I've always told myself that I wanted to give back by starting a mentorship program or possibly doing a scholarship for people growing up in the Flint area."
Finley learned from multiple mentors to him during his time at SVSU.
"I was really lucky to have great mentors in my life," he said. Among those mentors were Ian Philbrick, a former resident director with SVSU Residential Life.
"He taught me about leadership and he held me accountable. Stuff like that is intangible. You can't put a value on it," Finley said.
Another mentor was Nick Wagner, SVSU's director of institutional research. "He wants to see you succeed. He gives his all to the community and he would always make time for students," Finley said.
Wagner has worked closely with Finley over the course of his time at SVSU and spoke highly of him as both a student and a young professional.
"Kevin has been one of the most unique and profound students I have ever had the chance to interact with at SVSU," Wagner said. "He displays a constant desire to learn and become better all while being selfless and humble. He is a student the university should be extremely proud of and has set the standard for what it means to be a student leader."
With his post-graduation plans locked down, Finley is excited to see where his future will lead. Hard work and dedication certainly play a large role in Finley's story but he also finds motivation in an optimistic attitude and these words of wisdom:
"Be honest with who you are as a student leader," Finley said. "The biggest thing I could recommend to anyone would be to pursue your passion. Even if it takes a little longer, do what makes you happy."
May 19, 2017
Saginaw Valley State University is hosting an open house for students interested in learning more about the new master’s degree program in computer science and information systems approved by the Board of Control earlier this month. SVSU professors will be on hand from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 23 in Pioneer Hall room 238 to answer questions and provide information about the program.
The SVSU curriculum is designed to prepare graduates to work as software developers, system analysts, programmers, system engineers, and in other information technology positions.
In developing the program, SVSU faculty solicited feedback from auto companies such as Ford and Nexteer, as well a number of other firms from Auto-Owners Insurance to Yeo and Yeo. Government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Defense, also evaluated the proposal. All of the reviewers indicated a growing demand for informational technology professionals with advanced degrees and supported SVSU’s proposed program.
SVSU will begin offering classes this fall toward the master’s degree program in computer science and information systems. Courses will be offered in three formats to serve working professionals: fully face-to-face instruction with evening classes; fully online classes; and hybrid courses that include both face-to-face and online learning.
The new graduate program expands upon successful bachelor’s degree programs at in computer science and information systems. SVSU students have fared well in online programming competitions; SVSU currently ranks No. 74 in the world at on such competition site (https://open.kattis.com/ranklist/universities).
For more information about SVSU’s master’s degree program in computer science and information systems, visit www.svsu.edu/mscsis.