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February 6, 2017

SVSU student invited to present at World Congress on Public Health and Nutrition in Italy

Saginaw Valley State University student Jarrod Eaton, a health science major from St. Johns, has a genuine interest in the health of college students, and has pursued research in this regard. He has been invited to present his research at the 2nd World Congress on Public Health and Nutrition in Rome, Italy March 22-24.

Eaton will present his study on the contributing factors surrounding influenza vaccination rate disparities among college-aged populations. His project is titled “Vaccination of Influenza on College Campuses: A study to identify the correlation of determinants on influenza vaccination rate disparities.”

While his research is still in progress, Eaton has drawn preliminary findings from his study to date.

“I have concluded that there are an increasing number of factors that are leading to college students receiving the influenza vaccination at significantly lower rates than other populations of society which, ultimately, can lead to greater risk of exposure and an increased likelihood of the spread of disease,” he said.

James Collins, Ph.D., SVSU executive-in-residence for health sciences, has served as the faculty mentor and advisor for Eaton’s study. Collins said it is unusual for an undergraduate to be invited to present at such an international conference.

“Jarrod had to compete with people in the public health field with professional and advanced degrees,” Collins explained. “He wrote a fine summary of his proposed research.

“While about a third of persons receive flu vaccines in the United States every year, only about 10 percent of college-age people do. Jarrod’s research will provide insights and much-needed information on why students may or may not decide to obtain a flu vaccination.”

Eaton expressed gratitude for the empowering opportunities and close relationships with faculty he has enjoyed.

“During my time at SVSU, I have been given an immense number of opportunities that have shaped both my professional and academic career,” Eaton said. “It has instilled in me a duty to, one day, have the same degree of impact on the global community as well.”

Eaton will graduate from SVSU in May and plans to pursue a career in public health. He intends to pursue a Master of Public Health degree with a specialization in epidemiology, and ultimately complete a Ph.D. in epidemiology. Eaton hopes to one day work for the World Health Organization or the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition to his academic scholarship, Eaton served as president of Student Association, SVSU’s student government, for the 2015-16 academic year.

February 6, 2017

SVSU music department earns national reaccreditation

The Saginaw Valley State University Department of Music hit a high note with accreditors, and has earned accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Music for the second time, this time for a 10-year period.

The distinction demonstrates the department’s determined efforts to meet the highest standards of higher education music and music education programs across the nation, said Jane Girdham, SVSU professor of music and department chair.

“This is a badge of quality,” Girdham said. “It shows we are doing good things.”

The 10-year reaccreditation is the maximum extension available from the association. The department received the boost after first earning a 5-year accreditation status from the organization.

Girdham said the accreditation process provides both input on the department’s quality programs as well as suggestions for improvements. In the five years since the previous site visit, she and her colleagues focused on following some of the suggestions included in the previous accreditation report. For instance, that critique recommended improvements to SVSU’s band room.

“We now have a beautiful band room,” Girdham said. “They keep us on our toes. We are aware we have to meet those standards.”

SVSU music students perform multiple public concerts each year, and they are provided opportunities to attend specialty workshops and work with visiting musicians in a variety of genres, such as jazz, opera and contemporary music. For more information, visit

February 3, 2017

SVSU business students selected for global business leadership

Eleven Saginaw Valley State University students passionate about global business will receive leadership development and travel abroad after being selected for the 5th class of SVSU’s Vitito Global Leadership Institute.

Vitito Fellows are selected on the basis of academic ability, character, leadership experience or potential for leadership, and a community-minded commitment to learning and service.

During the 18-month program, SVSU business students learn the importance of leadership to organizational success in a global context, and develop the knowledge, skills, and perspectives that distinguish great leaders. The class also travels internationally during the final semester of the program; past destinations have included the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Portugal.

Nine students from Michigan and two from abroad have been selected to begin their Vitito Fellowship during 2017 winter semester. They are:
•    Aranya Biswas, an economics major from the nation of Bangladesh
•    Anthony Bodeis, an accounting major from Mayville
•    Kara Brunk, an accounting major from Southfield
•    Bradford Duke, a management major from Coldwater
•    Bijesh Gyawali, a finance major from the nation of  Nepal
•    Mitchell Kennedy, an accounting major from Bad Axe
•    Chase Martin, a finance major from Applegate
•    Carter Mazur, a management major from Saginaw
•    Lauren Miller, a marketing and management dual major from Byron
•    Tyler Newell, an international business and supply chain management double major from Kingsley
•    Charity Warren, a management major from Pinconning

The 11 selected students each wrote an essay explaining their personal and professional goals, as well as their performance and potential as a leader. To be eligible, students in SVSU’s College of Business and Management must have completed at least 45 credits to apply the program. The candidates must commit to three consecutive semesters of course work, co-curricular activities, and global travel experience in order to be admitted.

The program is named in honor of Bob and Bobbi Vitito, who have donated generously to support and empower SVSU students through leadership and service opportunities, and study abroad experiences. Bob served as chair of SVSU’s Board of Control and Foundation Board of Directors; professionally he served as president and CEO of Citizens Banking Corporation (now part of Huntington Bank). Bobbi enjoyed a distinguished teaching career in Saginaw schools. Their exceptional dedication to developing the next generation of leaders culminated in the establishment of the Vitito Global Leadership Institute in 2013; it is supported through a $2 million endowment.

February 3, 2017

SVSU Rhea Miller Concert series to feature acclaimed musicians

Saginaw Valley State University will showcase internationally-acclaimed baritone John Muriello, who will be joined by renowned composer and pianist Richard Pearson Thomas during the next Rhea Miller Concert Series installment Saturday, Feb. 4. 

The performance, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in SVSU's Rhea Miller Recital Hall, is free and open to the public.

Muriello's career includes performances in opera, musical theatre and concert. He has performed at contemporary music festivals globally including the Union of Composers Autumn Festival in Moscow and has appeared at venues such as the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada.

The baritone has worked with the Skylight Opera Theatre, Opera Carolina, Lyric Opera Cleveland, L’Opera Français de New York, Ohio Light Opera, Seaside Music Theatre, Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre, and La Gran Scena Opera di New York.

Thomas is a recipient of an American Composers’ Forum Continental Harmony commission for the Alabama Tri-State Orchestra as well as commissions from the Great Falls Symphony Orchestra, the Empire State Youth Orchestra, and the Riverside Philharmonic Orchestra.

Thomas' compositions have been performed by the Boston Pops, Covent Garden Festival, Houston Grand Opera, Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, Chautauqua Opera, and the Riverside Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir. 

Saturday's program will include selections from composers such as Friedrich Hollaender and Ralph Benatzky, as well as Thomas' original compositions.

The Rhea Miller Concert Series is made possible by a generous gift from Rhea E. Miller, a longtime friend of SVSU. Her gift, administered by the Miller Trust for Music Education, has provided the university with the opportunity to offer outstanding performances by nationally and internationally acclaimed musical artists at no cost to the audience since 1993.

For more information, call (989) 964-4159 or email

January 31, 2017

Film scholar to speak on Navajo weavers during SVSU talk

Saginaw Valley State University will welcome Janna Jones to campus for a public lecture Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. in SVSU's Alan Ott Auditorium.

Jones’ talk is titled “Recovering History through Film Preservation: Researching the Subjects of a Film on Navajo Rug Weaving.” She will focus on her discovery of a 1939 amateur film documenting the making of a Navajo rug.  Because of the time period, the Navajos in the film go unnamed and their location is never mentioned. Jones obtained funding to preserve the film and research the biographies of its subjects.

In her lecture, Jones will recount the stories of one of the Navajo weavers that she identified through her research: Sally Peshlakai and her family. While giving the family the attribution they deserve, Jones will relate this case study to issues of representation and cultural memory in film preservation.

A professor of communication at Northern Arizona University, Jones teaches courses on media history, film production, and screenwriting. A prolific scholar, she has authored two books and numerous articles on the social history of film. Jones also has produced a number of award-winning student films, and written four feature screenplays.

Jones’ lecture is free and open to the public. Her visit to SVSU is supported through the Dow Visiting Scholar program, which brings visiting scholars to campus to expand and enrich SVSU’s curricular offerings for students, and its cultural offerings for people of the surrounding community. The program is sustained through an endowment from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation.

For more information, please call SVSU's College of Arts & Behavioral Science at 989-964-4062.

January 25, 2017

SVSU international students celebrate art during annual Intercultural Night

Saginaw Valley State University’s international students will share their culture —through song, dance, fashion and theatre performances — with the community during the 16th annual Intercultural Night.

The theme for this year’s show is “Citizens of Art.” It will be held Friday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts; it is free and open to the public.

Some 40 students representing 15 nations will participate in the event. Many of the students will be dressed according to customs of their homeland.

The nations represented are Algeria, Azerbaijan, Burma, Cameroon, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Spain.

Members of SVSU’s gospel choir, Valley Voices, will represent the United States.

“Intercultural night is an opportunity for our international students to share their culture with the campus and community,” said Pat Shelley, an SVSU international student advisor and one of the event’s coordinators.

“It’s an opportunity for the audience to experience cultures from around the world without the cost of travel to go there.”

With limited seating, attendees must pick up the free tickets at SVSU’s Office of International and Advanced Studies, which is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through Friday in SVSU’s Wickes Hall, Room 230. Those interested also can call the office at (989) 964-4473 for information on ticket availability.

Previously, there was a charge for tickets to attend Intercultural Night event. Campus and community organizations showed support for SVSU’s international students, allowing organizers to offer the show free of charge this year. The sponsors include Independent Bank, as well as SVSU organizations such as Student Association, Program Board, and Residence Housing Association.

January 20, 2017

SVSU residential student honored with national award for promoting health

‌A Saginaw Valley State University student's passion for promoting a safe environment for her peers has earned her national recognition. Megan Christoson, a health science major from Fowlerville, recently received the National Association of College and University Residence Halls Student of the Month award for November.

Christoson has taken an active role in educating and encouraging students to make healthy decisions through SVSU’s Peer Health Education program where she is currently the alcohol education intern. She was invited to present at the national Boosting Alcohol Consciousness Concerning the Health of University Students (BACCHUS) conference where she presented on the topic of the SVSU CHEERS program, which she helped create. The CHEERS program encourages students to arrange for a designated driver after consuming alcohol away from home.

Taking advantage of other empowering opportunities, Christoson also is a member of SVSU's chapter of Phi Delta Epsilon, a medical fraternity. She assisted in hosting a benefit dinner where the group raised over $11,000 in support of the Children's Miracle Network at Flint's Hurley Medical Center.

In order to receive the national honor, Christoson received the Student of the Month award for the Great Lakes Association of College and University Residence Halls. From there, regional Student of the Month award recipients were evaluated by a national selection committee. More than 400 colleges and universities are members of the national association, including 57 in the Great Lakes region.

For more information on the National Association of College and University Residence Halls, visit

January 19, 2017

SVSU students shine on Midwest theatre stage; Bay City native headed to nationals

Saginaw Valley State University students turned their passion for theatre and strong work ethic into performances that earned praise and top honors — including an invitation to a national competition — during a festival featuring students from across the Midwest.

SVSU theatre students competed during the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for Region III Jan. 10-14 in Indianapolis. The event includes colleges and universities from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Jacob Kaufman (pictured), a theatre major from Bay City, won the first-ever Region III Arts Management Fellowship at the festival, which earned him an invitation to travel to the national Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Washington D.C. April 16-22.

Ric Roberts, SVSU professor of theatre, served as chairman of the organization’s Region III festival. He called Kaufman “one of the hardest working students I have ever encountered.”

“I am not surprised that Jacob was nominated by a professor from Indiana University,” Roberts said. “His work at the festival was at the same level he has shown at SVSU: exemplary.”

Two of Kaufman’s fellow SVSU theatre students also advanced deep into their competitions.

Donté Green, a Detroit native, was named a finalist for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship at the festival, placing him among the top 16 actors in a field that began with 250 students.

“I couldn’t be more excited about where I ended up,” Green said. “I used to think only people from New York or Los Angeles could succeed at this. This is something I can do — and be good at.”

Jonah Conner, a Warren native, advanced to the semifinal round of the same competition.

Conner also won the Region III 10-Minute Play Directing Award at the festival, giving SVSU two top honors.

Zach Wood and Cassie Graham, meanwhile, auditioned and were cast in a 10-minute play performed at the festival. Wood is a Flushing native and Graham is from Warren.

Roberts said SVSU students spent about one month rehearsing the material they performed at the festival.
“The level of dedication and determination is high,” Roberts said. “This, of course, is all happening while they are working on SVSU productions, too.”

He said the festival exposed his theatre students to talented peers from across the Midwest.

“Going to the regional festival, they get a chance to see not only where the stack up against their peers, but also how SVSU can compete with the best of them,” Roberts said.

January 13, 2017

SVSU student wins top honor in national collegiate courtroom competition

A Saginaw Valley State University student’s passionate approach to arguing courtroom cases in a competitive collegiate setting earned him the highest national honor from the American Moot Court Association.

Gabe Klotz, a political science major from Midland, delivered an inspired performance and received the national title in oration at the association’s national championship competition at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Florida Jan. 6-7. He bested 159 competitors from top universities across the United States who had qualified for the competition.
Klotz earned an invitation to the tournament after performing well with SVSU’s moot court program during a regional competition at SVSU in December. This was Klotz’s first academic year competing in moot court, where students act as attorneys in teams of two. They make arguments to a panel of judges by drawing from constitutional law and Supreme Court cases. Judges then decide winners based on public speaking ability, knowledge of cases and of law, and the ability to answer questions.
“This is a significant accomplishment,” said Julie Keil, an SVSU assistant professor of political science and Klotz’s moot court program advisor. “That’s a huge thing. One year, we had a student who placed No. 14 in that category, but that’s as high as we reached previously.”
Keil said Klotz received notice he should attend the tournament’s closing banquet, where the American Moot Court Association announces the top winner for the contest’s three categories: the overall team competition award as well as individual awards for oration and brief writing.
“When he was invited to the banquet, he thought he might have placed No. 19 or 20, so earning No. 1 was a surprise to him,” Keil said. “As they were announcing the top three, he assumed someone made a mistake when they told him he placed high. Then they announced his name. That was exciting.”
Klotz earned the ranking — and a trophy — based on a composite score determined by judges observing Klotz’s presentation. The score was based on speaking ability, demeanor and knowledge of the courtroom case being discussed. Klotz won by the narrowest of margins; he earned a 382.5 score, edging the next-closest competitor’s 382.3 score.
Klotz’s moot court teammate was Jrew Brickel, a criminal justice major from Midland.

SVSU’s moot court program, founded seven years ago by Keil, is ranked No. 20 in the nation. That ranking does not reflect this month’s competition. Keil expects the new rankings will be revealed in July.

Keil said the competition was stiff for the eight SVSU students who earned invitations to the tournament.
Of SVSU’s four tandems, the duo with the highest team competition score placed No. 49 out of the 80 teams. That distinction belonged to teammates Connor Hughes, a political science major from Howell, and Madison Laskowski, a political science major from Bay City. Both earned invitations to the national tournament by placing No. 1 during a regional competition in Chicago last year.
Teams from Patrick Henry College in Virginia and the United States Air Force Academy earned the national competition’s No. 1 and No. 2 team awards, respectively.
“There were some very prestigious universities there,” Keil said. “The competition gets harder every year, as moot court becomes more popular.”
SVSU’s other representatives at the tournament included the teams of Allison Fuller, a political science major from Davison, and Nancy Haddad, a communication major from Saginaw; and political science majors Eric Maul of Lupton, and Joshua Hoebeke of West Branch.

More than 350 colleges and universities field American Moot Court Association teams. Each year, 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.

This year’s case study concerned voter rights. The case specifically dealt with a citizen who divorced her husband, changed her name but did not update her ID documents in time for the election. As a result, clerk employees did not allow the citizen to vote because her ID did not match the voting registry.

For more information on the American Moot Court Association, visit

January 12, 2017

As her own retirement approaches, founding director reflects on SVSU program dedicated to engaging retirees

Jo Brownlie is in the business of helping others cross items off their bucket lists. It is a source of pride for the founding director of Saginaw Valley State University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, or OLLI.

Brownlie will retire from SVSU in February after 31 years at the university and 16 years overseeing OLLI, a program that offers enlightening educational opportunities and engaging trips for its 50-years-and-older members.

“It has been a pleasure to see so many members cross things off their bucket lists on our trips,” Brownlie said.

“This has included zip-lining and white water rafting in Costa Rica, enjoying the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, marveling over the Colosseum in Rome, touring the Acropolis in Athens, traveling on the Napa Valley wine train and gazing down on the Grand Canyon from the North Rim.”

The travel adventures are a small component of the larger OLLI experience, which Brownlie helped found in 2001 when the university recognized and answered a community call for enrichment opportunities that include those approaching retirement or already retired. Prior to receiving an endowment from the Bernard Osher Foundation in 2005, SVSU’s program originally was known as the Institute for Learning and Retirement.

“Education for that age group was an unmet need at that time,” Brownlie said. “That population really does enjoy learning new things, and no one in our region was filling the need at that time despite the fact the number of retirees was really starting to grow. So we helped fill the gap.”

About 250 people signed up during the inaugural year. Membership has grown to nearly 2,000 currently.

At first, the institute offered courses on a variety of topics that appealed to the demographic. As membership grew, the institute also offered educational trips both in the United States and abroad. The first trip in 2005 sent members to Spain. In the years since, Costa Rica and Ireland have proven to be popular destinations, as have domestic cities such as New Orleans and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“OLLI has had such a positive impact on many of our members’ lives,” Brownlie said.  “We have actually been told that our program has saved lives. After leaving a full-time job, or after the death of a spouse, OLLI classes and trips can add structure to a member’s day. They also have the opportunity to meet new friends who share their love of learning, fitness, a hobby or travel.”

The experience has proven inspiring for the program’s instructors too.

Katherine Ellison, Ph.D., an adjunct instructor of history at SVSU, began teaching history-based classes for OLLI two years ago.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” said Ellison, who also serves as school board president for the Hemlock Public School District in Saginaw County.

“A lot of our members have lived through some of the history I’m teaching. They’ve taught me things — things I never would have known from just reading books.”

When teaching a class on former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, for example, one of the OLLI members presented Ellison a photograph.

“It was a picture of him, shaking hands with Richard Nixon (former president as well as vice president to Eisenhower) when Nixon came to Saginaw to campaign for Eisenhower,” Ellison said.

Her experience with OLLI was so inspirational that Ellison applied for the job as Brownlie’s successor. Ellison has begun her work in January, providing some time for a smooth transition.

“I gave my students in my most recent OLLI course a brief survey and asked them what comes to mind when they first think of OLLI,” Ellison said. “Many of them commented ‘friends.’ Not only does OLLI allow seniors to be lifelong learners, but it also allows me an opportunity to be a lifelong learner as well by being a part of the organization.”

While Brownlie soon will step down as director February 1, she won’t be leaving OLLI. She signed up for three classes in 2017, when she hopes to check off a few more items on her personal bucket list.

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