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April 21, 2017

Brother's disease led to SVSU student's research project set for display during Friday showcase

Saginaw Valley State University exercise science major Geena Militello gained a unique perspective on life by growing up with a brother living with muscular dystrophy, a group of diseases that cause progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass. 

The Essexville native's experience with the sibling inspired her academic passion: researching health and the human body

Using a $5,000 grant awarded to her from SVSU’s Undergraduate Research Program (UGRP), Militello purchased 10 Hexoskins, which are shirts able to record the wearer’s physiological data such as heart rate, lung expansion and G-force exerted on the body. Now she plans to use the technology to measure the physiological responses of student-athletes on the SVSU women's volleyball team during off-season workouts.

Militello is one of more than 100 students whose UGRP-supported research 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. 

The students are advised in their research by faculty mentors. Working alongside Adam Coughlin, associate professor of kinesiology at SVSU, Militello's goal involves recording trends showing the different physiological responses experienced by the volleyball players during practices. She plans to compare and contrast the data from each athlete at different points in time. 
SVSU's men's basketball team already sports Hexoskins to measure their physiological responses as a way to measure athletic performance. Militello said she wanted to use the technology to perform academic research featuring one of the women's athletics teams.
“I started helping with the men’s basketball team, doing tests in the lab in the SVSU Health & Human Services building,” she said. Adam knew I was interested, so he suggested this project. We thought since the volleyball season was coming up, that would be a good sport to work with."

She plans to present some of her findings at an American College of Sports Medicine conference in the fall. 
With hopes of one day working in a hospital alongside patients with skeletal-muscular disease, Militello hopes to gain insight into the health field through this hands-on research opportunity. 

Militello, who plans to attend graduate school, said participating in the UGRP-funded research project offers valuable experiential learning and an impressive résumé item. 

"I think it’s important to realize that employers really do recognize these projects," Militello said.
For more information regarding the UGRP projects, please visit

April 21, 2017

Forty projects featured in SVSU Science and Engineering Symposium

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.

April 19, 2017

SVSU club dance team inspires to finish fifth in national competition

The Saginaw Valley State University club dance team traveled to Florida earlier this month for its first-ever national competition – 22 years after the team’s inception.

An inspired team performed with precision and passion, resulting in two fifth-place finishes at the National Dance Alliance's Collegiate Dance Championship in Daytona Beach, laying a strong foundation on which to build toward future success.

As a club, the team does not receive financial support from the university's Athletic Department and instead relies on sponsorships and fundraisers. Without a paid coach, the team, which was founded in 1995, can experience inconsistency from year to year.

Davison native Kirsten Moore joined the team as a freshman in 2013; it had 10 members, and that number fluctuated as team presidents quit and the team had no plans to participate in national camps or in the national competition, she said. But when Moore joined the team's executive board during her junior year, she and her fellow team members began planning their route to nationals.

"We pretty much made it happen," said Moore, a health science major who now is the team president.

The process began with participating in a camp in August at Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois. The team won first place in both the "game day" and team routines, qualifying for the national competition in the process. The team also won the "Silver Bid," which helped offset some of the costs of traveling to nationals, and the "Spirit Stick" for showing school spirit and displaying a positive attitude.

The team paid a choreographer to create the jazz routine that it performed in August and would perform again at nationals and a hip-hop routine for nationals that team members learned in November.

"It was pretty much all up to us to clean them and prepare them for nationals," Moore said of the routines.

In the months leading up to nationals, the team performed routines during home football and basketball games, as it does each year, while also practicing the routines it would perform at nationals.

"Keeping (the game routines) separate was a big transition," Moore said. "The end of basketball season is when we really flipped the switch into nationals mode. We practiced four times a week in March."

The team drove down to Daytona Beach on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 4 and 5, and the competition began the next day. The women knew who they would be competing against, including SVSU rival Grand Valley State University.

"You have to be positive and make the routines compatible with your team and see what happens from there," Moore said.

The team was among 13 that competed in the jazz routine and five that competed in the hip-hop routine. The women knew their jazz performance was stronger, and the judges agreed, sending SVSU and six other teams to the jazz finals.

"Being able to make it to finals, we didn't really care what we placed," Moore said. "We were happy to make it to finals and perform again."

The team now has 18 members, and though Moore and a couple other seniors are leaving the team, it is in a much better place now than it was four years ago, Moore said. That includes having the financial stability to pay for a coach next year.

"We feel like we're leaving the team on a good note," she said. "With me, I currently have three jobs and am going to school full time, with 17 credits. Being able to just juggle it all and be successful with it was very rewarding."

The team has its spring tryouts scheduled for noon Sunday, April 23, in Dance Studio 249 inside the Ryder Center. There is a $15 audition fee.

April 19, 2017

Tickets remain for Grammy-winning jazz artist Bob James concert at SVSU

Saginaw Valley State University will welcome multiple Grammy Award-winning musician Bob James for a concert performance  Friday, April 28 in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. Doors will open at 7 p.m. and the jazz pianist will take the state at 8 p.m. Tickets remain on sale at $40 per person.

“One on One,” James’ first collaboration with Earl Klugh – who performed at SVSU in 2014 –  was awarded a Grammy in 1980 for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and has sold over a million copies. James’s 1986 collaboration with David Sanborn, “Double Vision,” won a Grammy for Best Jazz Fusion Performance.

James has been in the music industry for more than 50 years in the role of pianist, composer, arranger and producer, continually captivating audiences around the world. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree in music from the University of Michigan. James was also the winner of the competition at Notre Dame Collegiate Jazz Festival in 1962.

James also produced all the music for the popular television show “Taxi,” including the theme song for the show, which aired in the 1970s and 1980s; it is among his most recognized works. His music continues to have contemporary appeal, as well. Recognized as a progenitor of smooth jazz, James appeals to fans of R&B, funk, and even hip-hop. In fact, three of his recordings are among the five most-sampled tracks in hip-hop.

In his career, James has recorded 58 albums while working as a solo artist; he also was a founding member of the band Fourplay and collaborates with other musicians.

In 2014, James was inducted into the University of Michigan School of Music Hall of Fame. His other honors include receiving a first-ever Traverse City Opera House Ambassador for the Arts Award in 2017, and a State of Michigan Guvvy Award for International Achievement in 2008.

James’ visit to SVSU is supported through the Dow Visiting Scholars and Artists series, a program at SVSU established through an endowment from The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation to enrich our region’s cultural and intellectual opportunities.

For more information, please visit or call (989) 964-4052.

April 18, 2017

SVSU hosting 10th annual ‘Pros vs. Joes’ charity basketball game in honor of fallen student

Faculty and staff from Saginaw Valley State University will hit the hardwood Tuesday, April 18, to help raise money in the name of a student who died tragically 10 years ago.

The 10th annual “Pros vs. Joes” charity basketball game is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Hamilton Gymnasium inside SVSU’s Ryder Center. The game pits SVSU faculty and staff, or the “Joes,” against members of SVSU’s men’s and women’s basketball teams, or the “Pros.”

Money raised for the event supports the Abou Traore (ah-BOO tray-OHR-ay) Memorial Scholarships. Traore was a pre-med student at SVSU who died in a drowning accident in 2007. He had aspirations of returning to his home country of Senegal as a doctor.

The scholarship was endowed at $10,000 after five “Pros vs. Joes” events, and the game has raised another $5,000 since. The event is still going strong, even though some of those in attendance did not get the chance to meet Traore.

“Now we’re at a point where students weren’t impacted by him directly,” said Michele Gunkelman, the director of SVSU’s Residential Life office. “Most of the ‘Joes’ team is just participating because of the cause and to help out because they’re such giving people.”

This year’s “Joes” team might be the biggest yet, as 27 people have signed up for the game.

“Students are like, ‘Oh, my professor is playing in that? So they’re going to stop out to see that,” Gunkelman said.

Money is raised through donations but also from those in attendance paying money to free a player from the “penalty couch.” Players must wait there after committing a foul while cheerleaders raise money from the crowd to get them back in the game.

Two students receive $1,450 scholarships each year. This year, Nana Kofi Yevoah, a business administration and accounting major from Ghana, and Pratima Gurung, a nursing student from Nepal, were chosen from 175 applicants to receive the scholarships.

April 17, 2017

SVSU moot court students' strong performance in national tourney wraps up best year yet

Four Saginaw Valley State University students capped off a year of determined study and preparation with a strong showing at a national moot court tournament at the University of Chicago.

Two SVSU teams of two students each competed in the National Invitational Tournament on April 7 and 8. The tournament, which consisted of 18 teams, is designed for teams that did not qualify for the American Moot Court Association's national tournament, which was held in January.

The team of Danielle Musselman, a communications major from Mancelona, and Jacquob Littlejohn, a political science major from Auburn, delivered effective oral arguments and finished third overall, falling to a team from the host school.

Musselman also received a sixth place orator's award, making her the first student from SVSU's moot court program to win the award at the National Invitational Tournament. The honor marks the first time SVSU won an orator’s award at both the national and national invitational tournaments.

Meanwhile, the team of Alex Partridge, a history major from Vassar, and Hayley Tomich, a pre-law major from Chesterfield Township, advanced to finish in the top eight.

The four students' performances in the tournament were the culmination of the best year of competition that the SVSU moot court program has had. In addition to the orator award success, the program had six of its eight teams compete in the national tournament or national invitational tournament.

“That was by far the best finish we’ve had,” said Julie Keil, an assistant professor of political science and the advisor to SVSU's moot court program.

Each year, the American Moot Court Association organizers create a single fictional U.S. Supreme Court case - often based on actual cases heard in lower courts - that competitors must address when participating in the regional and national tournaments. The students make arguments to a panel of judges by drawing from constitutional law and Supreme Court cases. Judges then decide winners based on public speaking ability, knowledge of cases and of law, and the ability to answer questions.

This year's case study concerned voter rights. The AMCA will announce a new case study on May 1.

Keil said SVSU's moot court program, now in its sixth year of existence, continues to grow. There are now three assistant coaches who work with the students, whereas the program started with just Keil helping the students.

"Having a lot of one-on-one attention really helps," Keil said. "And we're getting some really good students."

April 17, 2017

SVSU alumni & FIRST Robotics mentors pleased to return to alma mater to compete

Thousands of students descended on Saginaw Valley State University April 12-15 to demonstrate determination during the FIRST Robotics state championships. It was the first time SVSU has hosted the event, which drew two alumni back to campus as coaches.

“I’m so impressed,” said Ben Younkin, a Midland High School math teacher who coaches his school’s “Like A Boss” robotics team.

“SVSU has been a great venue for this event,” he  said. “This makes me proud.”

His sentiment was shared by Bob LaRocque, a teacher at Bay City John Glenn High School who was impressed by the high-energy, fast-paced event.

“It’s been a fantastic experience,” he said. “It was a great idea to bring FIRST Robotics here.”

In hosting the statewide event, SVSU welcomed some 7,500 visitors to campus, resulting in an estimated an economic impact of $1.2 million for the Great Lakes Bay Region.

The teachers say the educational benefit of FIRST Robotics is worth its weight in gold.

LaRocque helped establish John Glenn’s FIRST Robotics group — named “JGHS” — two years ago as a way to develop the plethora of academic interests involved in managing such a team. Teammates engineer robots to compete against opposing groups using autonomous and remote-controlled robots piloted by the students. They also are charged with raising funds to purchase technology, which is a task that often involves marketing and business savvy.

Embarking on such a multidimensional effort amounts to an educational experience that comes at a time when many of the participants are nearing the end of their high school lives, so organizing the tournament in a postsecondary setting was wise, LaRocque said.

“FIRST Robotics in some ways gives them a college experience, so it makes sense to bring this competition to a place like SVSU,” said LaRocque, who received a bachelor’s degree in French and a teaching certificate from SVSU in 2007 and 2009, respectively.

A proud member of the SVSU marching band while a student, Younkin graduated a few years ago, but never left the Cardinal family. He enjoyed using the occasion as a reunion with his alma mater and an opportunity to show off his old haunts to his students. Younkin, who earned a bachelor’s degree in math education and a master’s degree in instrumental teaching in 2010 and 2013, respectively, hopes FIRST Robotics returns to SVSU in 2018.

“Getting these FIRST Robotics students to a university like this is powerful,” he said. “It exposes them to a setting they might not otherwise see at a crucial time in their lives.”

April 14, 2017

FIRST Robotics student enjoys competition at SVSU, her future college home

More than two hours away from her house, Alina DeVoogd feels completely at “home.”

The Algonac High School senior is among the nearly 5,000 high school students attending the statewide FIRST Robotics competition hosted by Saginaw Valley State University this week. From Thursday to Saturday, April 13-15, 160 teams from Michigan — from Adrian to Zeeland — are competing against each other using autonomous and remote-controlled robots piloted by students.

The occasion converged two of the things DeVoogd has “fallen in love with”: the high school robotics competition that has captured her imagination and attention for two years, and the university she plans to attend in the fall.

“I was so excited when I heard SVSU would be hosting FIRST for the first time this year,” she said. 

“I thought that was the perfect combination. The environments for both have a lot in common: There’s real energy and both have such caring people. They both make you feel like you’re at home.”

DeVoogd’s excitement for the team-up was strong enough that she attended the Thursday-through-Sunday competition despite the fact her team, Algonac High School’s Full Metal Muskrats, did not advance beyond the regional tournaments that preceded the SVSU-hosted contest.

“I couldn’t miss this,” she said.

DeVoogd first fell for FIRST Robotics when her high school created the Muskrats team two years ago. She signed up as part of the group’s marketing team, charged with promoting the team and seeking funds. The fit was perfect for the future marketing major at SVSU.

“It was a great opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” she said.

This year, DeVoogd helped the Muskrats secure sponsorships from NASA, Ford Motor Co., Lowe’s Home Improvement, and a few local businesses from her hometown, she said.

“Building the robots is very expensive, so every bit helps,” she said.

One sponsor donated a 3-D printer for the team’s purposes.

“I fell in love with the FIRST Robotics community and environment,” she said. “The constant kindness you find on these FIRST teams is incredible.”

DeVoogd said she expects to remain involved in FIRST Robotics as a mentor after she graduates from high school.

“It makes me happy to help others,” she said.

That same characteristic was partly what attracted her to SVSU. She was familiar with the university because of a friend who attended the institution. After participating in a campus tour, DeVoogd was sold that SVSU was a perfect fit for her.

“I really loved the feel of the environment,” said DeVoogd, who earned the university’s President’s Scholarship and plans to live on campus. “It was a place where I could tell the faculty really cared about the students. It felt comfortable.”

DeVoogd said she hopes the high school students attending this week’s competition are inspired by the shared values of FIRST Robotics and SVSU.

“I hope they fall in love with both too,” she said. “I hope they feel like this isn’t someplace that you go to just walk through: It’s like home.”

April 12, 2017

FIRST Robotics state championships at SVSU

Saginaw Valley State University will host the FIRST in Michigan statewide high school robotics competition Thursday, April 13 through Saturday, April 15. Some teams will be arriving and unloading their equipment Wednesday, April 12.

This is an action-packed, highly visual event. In each round, three teams compete using autonomous and remote-controlled robots piloted by students, battling to earn points during a two-minute round.

A total of 160 Michigan high school teams from St. Joseph to Houghton have qualified for the contest. This will bring nearly 5,000 students and more than 7,500 total visitors to the Great Lakes Bay Region for an estimated economic impact of $1.2 million. (A full list of teams can be found here:

FIRST calls its robotics program "a varsity sport for the mind" that allows students to learn from professional engineers and qualify for college scholarships (nearly $25 million nationwide). It is designed to inspire students to pursue careers in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math.

This year's theme is STEAMworks. Check out the link below for a short explanation of the challenge. (Keep in mind, these are high school students building and programming the robots to do all this!

The positive impact on FIRST Robotics participants is well documented. Over 88 percent have more interest in school, 97 percent have an increased desire to learn more about STEM and 92 percent are more interested in attending college.

One example is Nevin Steinbrink, who competed in FIRST during high school; he has since graduated from SVSU with a mechanical engineering degree and has launched his own engineering firm in Old Town Saginaw. (

Michigan had the largest increase in teams in 2016 with nearly 60 new teams signing up this year for a total of 450 teams competing throughout the state. (By comparison, California has fewer than 300 teams.)

Opening ceremonies are scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday, April 13. Matches are scheduled in the Ryder Center from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. On Friday, matches are scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 6 p.m.

A total of 32 teams will advance to the playoff rounds Saturday, April 15. Opening ceremonies are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Playoff matches will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The championship matches will take place from 2:30 to 4 p.m.

Throughout Thursday and Friday, teams will be assembled in the “pits” (SVSU field house), making final adjustments to their robots.

Free shuttle service between Fashion Square Mall and SVSU is available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday. SVSU dining facilities, the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum, and other campus venues will have extended hours during the competition. For details on these services and more information, visit

April 12, 2017

SVSU students present research on writing strategies

Ten Saginaw Valley State University Writing Center tutors were among a group of undergraduates selected to present their research at the East Central Writing Center Association 2017 Conference held at Southwestern Michigan College on the weekend of March 24-25.

The presentations focused on best practices mentoring new tutors, conducting online sessions, creating a writing center strategic plan, and tutoring in the community writing center.

Bailey Brown, a criminal justice major from Fowlerville; Samantha Geffert, a secondary English education major from Farmington Hills; and Renee Okenka, a secondary English education major from Lennon, presented on ways to peer mentor new tutors in the Writing Center. The three students worked with Helen Raica-Klotz, SVSU’s Writing Center director.

KayLee Davis, a creative writing major from Charlevoix; and Madison Martin, an English major from Bay City presented on negotiating Writing Center identity through the students’ eyes.

Sara Houser, an elementary education major from Saginaw, presented on strategies to develop more efficient online tutoring sessions.

Riley Millard, a public administration major from Tawas City; and Joshua Atkins, an English major from Reese, worked with Writing Center assistant director Chris Giroux to present their ideas on community involvement.

Kylie Wojciechowski, a technical writing major from Bay City, wrote about a new developing online writing center tutoring platform called WCOnline.

For more information contact Helen Raica-Klotz, Writing Center Director, at or via phone, (989) 964-6062.

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