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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.

January 11, 2017

SVSU Foundation board elects officers, adds members

The Saginaw Valley State University Foundation board of directors elected officers for 2017 at its regular December meeting.

Andrew D. Richards of Saginaw will serve as chair; he is an attorney with the law firm Smith Bovill. Donald Bachand, SVSU president, will serve as first vice chair.  Kim Norris of Saginaw will serve as second vice chair; she is vice president of administration for Glastender and an SVSU alumna.

The secretary will be Dave Abbs of Saginaw, an SVSU alumnus; he is a certified financial planner and owner of Abbs Retirement Planning Advisors. Jim Muladore, SVSU executive vice president for administration and business affairs, will serve as treasurer; he also is an SVSU graduate.

Vicki Rupp of Saginaw, a member of SVSU’s Board of Control, will serve on the executive committee; she is an SVSU alumna and recently retired from Dow. Attorney John D.L. Humphreys of Saginaw also remains on the executive committee as immediate past chair.

The SVSU Foundation also welcomed two new members to the board: Sean Hammond of Lansing, deputy policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council; and Michael Tribble of Saginaw, a CPA with the accounting firm Yeo & Yeo. Both are SVSU alumni.

“We are fortunate to have so many individuals from our community, and more recently from throughout Michigan, who are deeply committed to advancing SVSU and our goals for the progress of our students, our region and our state,” said Andy Bethune, executive director of the SVSU Foundation. “Their volunteer efforts are vital as we work with donors to increase scholarship opportunities for students, and move forward with strategic priorities, such as raising private funds to support construction of a new facility for the College of Business and Management.”

Humphreys and Norris were re-elected to four-year terms on the board, as were Rick Goedert of Saginaw, president and CEO of 1st State Bank; John E. Kessler of Midland, senior trust officer and executive vice president of Chemical Bank Wealth Management.

Departing the board are Terry Moore of Midland and Dr. Debasish Mridha of Saginaw, who each completed eight years of service on the board and were each named honorary directors of the SVSU Foundation.

“I would like to thank John Humphreys for his leadership over the past two years and I welcome the opportunity to work with Andrew Richards as our new chair,” Bethune said. “On behalf of the board, I also express appreciation to Terry Moore and Dr. Mridha for their dedicated support of SVSU students, particularly those planning careers in health care.”

In September 2015, the SVSU Foundation announced the completion of the “Talent. Opportunity. Promise” campaign, which raised more than $28 million, the largest fundraising effort in university history. SVSU benefactors created more than 200 new scholarships for SVSU students to help defray the cost of their education; the campaign also resulted more than $8 million for STEM-related initiatives to enhance opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

January 4, 2017

SVSU home to ‘best dorms’ in Michigan and among top 20 in the nation

Saginaw Valley State University is ringing in the new year having secured — and improved — its reputation as a neighborly and friendly institution for students to live, according to a website grading “Best Dorms” in the nation.

The website, Niche, ranked SVSU’s residential facilities No. 1 in the state and No. 19 nationally. Niche first ranked SVSU No. 1 statewide in 2015. The university was ranked No. 26 nationally at the time.

Niche calculates their rankings using a weighted formula where 70 percent of a school’s score came from students’ satisfaction with their housing, as well as data from the U.S. Department of Education. The ranking assesses 1,398 four-year colleges and universities.

News of SVSU’s stellar review was no surprise to Sean Gilmore. The junior accounting major from Oxford, Michigan has lived in SVSU housing since he was a shy freshman.

“The dorms here really helped me break out of my shell that first year,” he said. “It’s a very safe-feeling environment where you feel comfortable walking around and meeting new people. That helped me become the person I am today.”

Gilmore said students are attracted to the on-campus activities and camaraderie felt between neighbors.

“The staff and students are very friendly,” Gilmore said. “It feels like home.”

One of those staff members — Michele Gunkelman, SVSU director of Residential Life — said the university wants residents to feel as if they are part of a community.

“We work with students to create an environment where they are part of the experience, where they are engaged in their community, and where they are empowered to make the most of their experience,” she said.

During the 2015-16 academic year, Gunkelman’s office offered 349 residential life-related programs for the SVSU community. She said about 80 percent of on-campus students participated.

“The Residential Life staff takes great pride in the work they do to make living on campus an enriching experience for students,” she said.

More than 2,400 students currently live on SVSU’s campus. Four the past eight years, at least 70 percent of the freshman class has chosen to live in SVSU’s residence halls.

To view the “Best Dorms” list, go to

To view 360° videos of Freshman Housing go to: First Year Suites. To view 360° videos of Upperclass Housing go to: University Village.

December 22, 2016

SVSU Holiday Video - 2016

Coop the Cardinal spreads holiday joy throughout campus.

Celebrate the tradition of giving, experience the beauty of the season, cherish the joy of family and value the gift of friends. Your SVSU family wishes to extend our warmest thoughts and best wishes for a wonderful Holiday Season and a very Happy New Year.

#MerryChristmas #HappyHanukkah #HappyKwanzaa #WeBelieve #WeCelebrate #WeValue #WeCardinal

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