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February 16, 2017

SVSU to host FIRST in Michigan statewide high school robotics competition

Saginaw Valley State University will welcome nearly 5,000 high school students from across Michigan for the statewide FIRST Robotics competition Wednesday, April 12 through Saturday, April 15. Including professional mentors and family members, an estimated 7,500 people will descend on the Great Lakes Bay Region for the competition, which is designed to inspire students to pursue careers in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math.

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“We are dedicated to growing the next generation of passionate STEM individuals,” said Gail Alpert, president of FIRST in Michigan. “The robot is the vehicle we use to help them understand fields from mechanical engineering to computer science to business.”

SVSU President Donald Bachand said hosting the FIRST Robotics competition is a good fit for SVSU academically.

“We have highly determined students and faculty throughout our STEM disciplines, and they are winning national awards year after year,” he said. “This provides our students and faculty with an opportunity to volunteer for the event and support these high school students. It also allows us to introduce our academic programs to a motivated group of young people, including our specialized research and competitive opportunities that have received millions of dollars in private support over the past few years.”

The competition will feature 160 high school teams, which average 30 students and four professional mentors per team. Practice sessions and robot repairs will take place in SVSU’s field house, while competition events will be held in O’Neill Arena of the Ryder Center. Both facilities are part of SVSU’s athletic complex.

The Great Lakes Bay Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau, which provided assistance to allow SVSU to host the event, estimates the competition will result in direct spending of $1.2 million in the region. The event previously was held in Grand Rapids, but outgrew the facility as student participation has increased.

“SVSU presents us with more space and an absolutely beautiful facility,” Alpert said.

FIRST Robotics teams that qualify for the state finals will arrive Wednesday, April 12 for inspection. The qualifying rounds of competition will take place throughout the day Thursday, April 13 and Friday, April 14 with 40 teams in four separate divisions. A total of 32 teams will advance to the playoff rounds Saturday, April 15 with the champion crowned that afternoon.

In each round, three teams compete using autonomous and remote-controlled robots piloted by students, battling to earn points during a two-minute round.

“It’s almost like an internship, because students are partnering with industry mentors,” Alpert said. “Our students learn through hands-on experience and  problem solving. You don’t get that in a lot of other high school competitions.”

Leading regional employers such as The Dow Chemical Company and Nexteer Automotive are among the companies actively involved with FIRST Robotics, and a significant number of schools in the region field teams, including a first-year team from the Great Lakes Bay Early College at SVSU. For more information about FIRST in Michigan, visit

About FIRST in Michigan: The FIRST Robotics Competition combines the excitement of a varsity sport with hands-on training in science and technology to help high school students discover how rewarding a career in engineering or technology can be. Remote-controlled robots, piloted by students and cheered on by thousands of screaming fans, go head-to-head in short games on the floor of a sports arena, battling it out to earn points during a two-minute round.

About SVSU:  Saginaw Valley State University is a comprehensive university with more than 90 programs of study for its more than 9,000 students. Located on a suburban campus in Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region, SVSU is committed to a supportive and empowering environment for students, faculty and staff. SVSU is establishing itself as a leader in STEM education for the Great Lakes Bay Region, partnering with businesses, foundations and school districts to improve students’ performance in math and science at the middle school, high school and university levels.

February 16, 2017

SVSU Theatre to stage modern play ‘Really Really’

The Saginaw Valley State University Theatre Department will stage its production of Paul Downs Colaizzo's “Really Really” Wednesday, Feb. 23 through Sunday, Feb. 26 in SVSU's Malcolm Field Theatre of Performing Arts.

The play is set on a 21st century college campus, when a group of "Generation Me" college students attend a wild party called 'The Annual Tunnel of Love' where no phones or cameras are allowed. The morning after, the annual bash is filled with gossip, self-interest, and lies. The young adults are put in situations where the ways to get ahead are to betray each other, make stuff up, and cut moral corners.

“It is a play where students can really relate and see themselves and their friends,” said David Rzeszutek, SVSU associate professor of theatre, who is directing the play.  

The play includes mature subject matter, similar to an R-rated movie, and Rzesutek's goal is to send an important message to the community.

“This production is extremely modern and controversial,” he said, “and its purpose is to mainly educate the students in the taboo topics that are brought up during the play, including alcohol abuse and sexual assault.”

Rzesutek was worried that older audiences would not enjoy the play due to its extremely modern atmosphere.

“It scared me beyond belief. I was terrified that older audiences would not like it,” he said.

To his surprise, his adult peers also related to the characters and could see themselves in similar situations during their college experience.

“When people leave the theatre, people will still talk about it. It is definitely a conversation starter.”

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22 through Saturday, Feb. 25; there will be a matinee performance at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26. Tickets are $13 for general admission, and $10 for students and seniors. For more information please contact the SVSU box office at (989) 964-4261.

The production is the first of two plays planned for the winter semester at SVSU. “Assassins” by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman is scheduled to be staged in early April.

February 13, 2017

SVSU President Bachand offers statement on the passing of Ted Braun

Hugo E. “Ted” Braun of Saginaw passed away Wednesday, Feb. 8 at age 84. Saginaw Valley State University President Donald Bachand offered these thoughts:

“We at SVSU mourn the passing of one of our most loyal and committed friends, and one of the Saginaw community’s finest ambassadors, Ted Braun. We extend our deepest sympathies to his wife, Ruth, and their children and family.

“Ted’s rich and lasting legacy is evident throughout our university, and it is inseparable from that of his wife and partner of 62 years. Individually and collectively, he and Ruth have been deeply committed servant leaders, and we at SVSU will be forever fortunate that they chose to devote themselves to advancing our institution.

“Ted served on the SVSU Board of Control for eight years (1981-89) and was succeeded by Ruth, who served for 16 years (1991-2007). For nearly half of our university’s history, a Braun shaped the most important decisions we made.

“Ted and Ruth have shown extraordinary support for SVSU and the greater Saginaw community through their advocacy, their philanthropy, and their humble but steadfast resolve to work for the greater good. The Braun Fellowship, which provides financial support to SVSU faculty and staff for scholarly endeavors, and the Braun Writing Awards, which honor SVSU students for exemplary writing, are two shining examples of how they empower people within our university community.

“Ted also served many years as president of the board for the Harvey Randall Wickes Foundation, which long has been among SVSU’s chief benefactors, providing funding for three endowed chairs and numerous campus building projects.

“On behalf of SVSU, I extend our condolences to Ted’s family and friends, and I express our gratitude for the innumerable ways in which Ted has enriched our institution and those whom we serve.”

February 10, 2017

SVSU to host Great Lakes Bay Region College Night

Saginaw Valley State University will host the Great Lakes Bay Region College Night Monday, March 13 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in SVSU's Curtiss Hall.

The event will give high school students from the Great Lakes Bay Region, including sophomores and juniors, a head start in learning about colleges and the opportunities and resources available to them.

Admission representatives from more than 40 colleges and universities will be present to provide students and parents with information about financial aid, scholarships, academic programs, career opportunities, campus housing, clubs, athletics, and other college-related topics. Recruitment officers from the U.S. Armed Forces will also be present to supply information to interested students.

There is no charge to attend. For more information, contact SVSU's Admission office at (989) 964-4200 or visit

February 8, 2017

SVSU President responds to governor’s budget recommendation

Saginaw Valley State University President Donald Bachand issued the following statement in response to the state budget recommendation announced by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder today:

“We are grateful to see the recent trend of increased investment in higher education continue in Governor Snyder’s recommended budget for the 2018 fiscal year, as well as increased support for financial aid and scholarships. A well-educated citizenry and workforce is vital to the health and economy of our state, and SVSU alumni overwhelmingly choose to remain in Michigan.

“We are particularly pleased to see common sense applied to tuition restraint language. In recent years, this has been calculated strictly on a percentage basis, and has been punitive to schools like SVSU who have exercised tuition restraint over multiple decades.

“We will work closely and cooperatively with our region’s legislative delegation, as well as leadership in the House and the Senate, to maintain support for these priorities. We will continue to do our part to keep a college education within reach of students and families, and provide Michigan employers with the talent they desperately need.”

February 8, 2017

SVSU professors receive Braun Fellowship to improve health of pregnant women, write poetry collection

Two Saginaw Valley State University professors have received support from SVSU for their scholarly activity. Arra Ross, associate professor of English, and Rebecca Schlaff, assistant professor of kinesiology, have been selected for the Braun Fellowship.

Ross intends to write and publish a book of poetry, while Schlaff will further her growing community-based research aimed at improving the health of pregnant women and new mothers. Each will receive research support grants totaling up to $37,500 over the next three years to further their scholarly and professional activities. Funds may be used for research expenses, equipment, travel and/or other related support.

Ross plans to author a full-length poetry collection that will build on the work of her first poetry book, “Seedlip and Sweet Apple (2010),” which followed the historic personage Ann Lee to explore the spiritual roots of the Shaker religion in the mid to late 1700s. She also plans to submit poems for publication in leading literary journals.

Two sacred mythic figures, Mary Magdalene and the Old Norse fertility figure Frejya, will be examined by Ross in her work. Some of her poems will ask questions about dogma and judgment, and about compassion and faith, drawing from the gnostic gospel, The Gospel of Mary. Ross previously received an SVSU Research Grant which funded extensive place-based research into Scandinavian prehistory and Old Norse religion, which provides a foundation as she explores ideas about abundance and scarcity, both within the human psyche and on a larger scale.

Ross joined the SVSU English faculty in 2010. She completed a bachelor’s degree at Macalester College in Minnesota and a Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska. In addition to her previous book, she has written more than a dozen poems and short stories that have been published in literary journals. In 2015, Ross was invited to present at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs national conference.  

Schlaff, assistant professor of kinesiology, will expand her community-minded research to target postpartum depression and mental health outcomes among pregnant women and new mothers. Poor postpartum mental health has been found to be associated with negative maternal, fetal, and childhood outcomes. Little is known about the impact of initiating or continuing physical activity and healthy eating through participation in interventions during pregnancy on physical and mental health in the postpartum period.

Since joining the SVSU kinesiology faculty in 2012, Schlaff has worked to develop and implement a behavioral physical activity and nutrition intervention for pregnant women; this began in April 2016. The data will be used for scholarly publications and presentations; applications for grant funding; and will add knowledge to the field to help pregnant women at a vulnerable time in their lives.

Schlaff completed a bachelor’s degree at SVSU and a Ph.D. at Michigan State University. She has authored or co-authored 19 articles and abstracts that have appeared in scholarly journals. Schlaff also has been awarded eight research grants, including a 2015 grant of more than $19,000 from the Allen Foundation in Midland to study a pilot nutrition and physical activity intervention for pregnant women.

Established in 2005, the Braun Fellowship program was created through a $1.5 million endowment from the Saginaw-based Harvey Randall Wickes Foundation. Administered by the Saginaw Community Foundation, the program's purpose is to recognize the exceptional accomplishments and potential of select SVSU faculty and staff. It is named in honor of Ruth and Ted Braun of Saginaw.

February 8, 2017

SVSU to support cancer research during Relay For Life event Friday

Relay For Life’s cause against cancer strikes a personal chord for Courtney Franzel.

The Saginaw Valley State University senior’s grandmother, Martha Willis, died of breast cancer in 2000. Since then, Franzel has remained dedicated to helping others and fighting the disease in all its forms.

Soon Franzel, a biochemistry major from Sandusky, Michigan, will lead efforts to raise funds to combat cancer by coordinating SVSU’s Relay For Life event Friday, Feb. 10. It is scheduled from noon to midnight in SVSU’s Ryder Center.

“It’s an amazing event, for a good cause,” said Franzel, president of SVSU’s chapter of Colleges Against Cancer. The group organizes the university’s annual Relay For Life events.

“It brings people together,” Franzel said. “My saying is, ‘Together, we can.’ Together, we can make a difference with Relay For Life.”

Last year, the SVSU community raised $37,000 for the American Cancer Society through its Relay For Life. This year, Franzel said organizers hope to collect $40,000.

Those interested in contributing can donate online at

Friday’s event kicks off at noon with opening remarks from Franzel and SVSU President Don Bachand. Other activities include a dinner and a silent auction at 5 p.m.; the auction will include gift cards from local businesses and organizations as well as SVSU clothing and gear.

Alicia Ennis, a cancer survivor who graduated from SVSU in 2013, will speak at a ceremony recognizing fellow survivors at 6 p.m.  A ceremony to recognize all who have fought — and, in some cases, lost — the battle against cancer begins at 9 p.m., and the closing ceremony be held from 11:30 p.m. to midnight.

Franzel, who plans to pursue a career researching cancer genetics, has participated in SVSU’s Relay For Life events since 2014.

“It’s been a great feeling to know you’re helping people,” she said.

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.

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