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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.

April 10, 2017

Ecology scholar and international biodiversity expert to speak at SVSU

Saginaw Valley State University will host renowned scholar and preservationist Giselle Tamayo-Castillo for a public lecture Thursday, April 20 at 7 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall.

A professor of chemistry at the University of Costa Rica, Tamayo-Castillo will discuss the creation of the National Institute of Biodiversity, its successes and failures, and her personal involvement with this private, not-for-profit organization.  

Also the president of the National Council for Science and Technology, Tamayo-Castillo has published more than 50 articles on biodiversity and, as a scholar, is particularly interested in the ecology of the Central American rainforests. Her research has focused on both natural products that may have therapeutic value as well as complex microbial ecosystems.  

Costa Rica possesses only 4 percent of the world's biodiversity, yet by square mile, is one of the most diverse countries on the planet. Efforts to preserve this biodiversity date back to Costa Rica's earliest days as an independent nation and were strengthened under various administrations in the late twentieth century.  Despite these efforts, by the 1980s, industrial and agricultural expansion had begun to threaten pristine areas.

Tamayo-Castillo received her doctorate in natural sciences from the Technical University of Berlin in Germany and has held numerous leadership positions in national and international academies of science.

The SVSU event is open to the public and free of charge. Tamayo-Castillo is visiting through the Dow Visiting Scholars & Artists program at SVSU, which was 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 on Giselle Tamayo-Castillo and her work in academia, please visit 

April 10, 2017

SVSU Concert Band to perform

The Saginaw Valley State University Concert Band will perform in concert Wednesday, April 12 at 7:30 p.m. in SVSU's Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. This event is free and open to the public.
The SVSU Concert Band is an ensemble consisting of 44 students under the direction of Norman Wika, SVSU assistant professor of music. Featured instruments include the clarinet, trumpet, euphonium and trombone, among others.
The band will perform various musical pieces including "Symphony no. 1, Lord of the Rings - Hobbits" by composer Johan De Meij, "Halo Theme" by Marty O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori, and "English Folk Song Suite" by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Wika directs the Cardinal Marching Band and conducts the Wind Ensemble and Concert Bands along with teaching courses within the music department. He is also an active trombone player, giving recitals and appearing with ensembles such as the Tulsa Symphony and the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra.

For more information on this concert or the many other events hosted by SVSU's music department, visit

April 7, 2017

Visitor information now available for FIRST in Michigan robotics state finals guests

2017 FIRST Robotics State Championship at SVSU

We at Saginaw Valley State University congratulate all the FIRST Robotics programs throughout Michigan who have qualified for the state championships. We look forward to hosting you on our welcoming, suburban campus in Michigan's Great Lakes Bay Region. Please visit our event website for the most current information pertaining to the FIRST in Michigan state finals events Wednesday, April 12 through Saturday, April 15. [ more...

April 6, 2017

SVSU business students organize anniversary dinner for Vietnam Vets

Four Saginaw Valley State University students are hosting  a dinner to recognize local Vietnam veterans for their military service. The event will take place Friday, April 7 at the Kochville Township Veterans Hall from 5-7 p.m.

The event will see SVSU students serving meals to 50 Vietnam veterans in order to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. The dinner is free of charge for all veterans in attendance.

In order to recognize and honor all of the military branches, representatives from the SVSU marching band will present a medley of the military branch songs following dinner.

The Veterans Affairs Medical Center will be presenting a signed proclamation commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War as well as pins for all the veterans in attendance.

The students are part of SVSU's Vitito Fellowship, a program for students who are driven to pursue leadership roles in business organizations that operate in an increasingly global setting.

Vitito Fellows Lauren Miller, a marketing major from Byron; Anthony Bodeis, an accounting major from Mayville; Tyler Newell, an international business major from Saginaw; and Bijesh Gyawali, a finance major from Nepal are raising funds for the event.

Sponsors for the dinner include Farm Bureau Insurance - John Aird Agency, Greenstone FCS,
Hammer Restoration, Independent Bank, Team One Credit Union and the Wirt Rivette Group.

April 5, 2017

SVSU, Saginaw libraries offer family history-writing workshop

A collaboration between Saginaw Valley State University and the Public Libraries of Saginaw will help individuals better understand and preserve their family histories through writing.


Genealogy researchers and writing experts will lead a workshop from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 11, at Butman-Fish Branch Library, 1716 Hancock in Saginaw.


The idea in part was the brainchild of Brad Jarvis, SVSU associate professor of history, and one of his students, Riley Millard, a public administration major from Tawas City who also serves as coordinator of the SVSU-led Saginaw Community Writing Center. The writing center over the years has partnered with the Public Libraries of Saginaw to provide various types of writing workshops.


Millard, a public history minor, hopes the latest collaboration will inspire families to better understand their origins by recording it in a “family book,” which can be passed down to future generations by the authors.


“This is something people think about doing but don’t do too often,” he said. “This workshop will provide people with an opportunity to take agency over their family history.”


Staff in the Public Libraries of Saginaw history and genealogy departments will offer participants resources and tips on how to research their family histories. Millard and members of the Saginaw Community Writing Center then will tutor attendees on various techniques and approaches used to document that history in written form.


“You don’t have to know anything about your family history going into this,” Millard said.


The workshop is free and open to the public.

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