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April 16, 2020

SVSU, Saginaw Art Museum launch webpage collecting writing, artwork chronicling life during pandemic

Saginaw Valley State University has teamed with the Saginaw Art Museum to capture history as it’s happening, taken from the perspectives of those experiencing it: specifically, Great Lakes Bay Region residents. 
Launched this week, “The Quarantine Chronicles” webpage acts as an online repository for stories and artwork that reflect the experience of local life during the COVID-19 pandemic. Already, a small collection of content is available, but organizers hope the volume grows as community members submit more work. 
The project is a collaboration between SVSU’s Center For Community Writing and the Saginaw Art Museum, which hosts the webpage within its larger website. The URL is
“We want to provide a place for people to connect to one another, to be able to share their experiences,” said Helen Raica-Klotz, co-director of SVSU’s Center For Community Writing. “We know that art and writing are powerful mediums for self-expression and personal connection.” 
Eventually, Raica-Klotz said, she hopes the webpage will feature a long list of creative fiction and poetry, photographs, sketches, musings, artwork-in-process, video clips, interviews and journal entries, to name a few. 
Thor Rasmussen, marketing and creativity director at the Saginaw Art Museum, said he was excited to partner with SVSU on the project. 
“We are optimistic that ‘The Quarantine Chronicles’ will be a place that connects people and our shared experience during this unusual time,” Rasmussen said. “Interestingly, even now – during this crisis – we see people use creative thinking to solve problems and art as a means of expressing themselves.” 
The museum hosts items spanning thousands of years, he said: 
“Each piece gives a glimpse into history. In some ways, our compilation of ‘The Quarantine Chronicles’ is a way for art to tell the story of our current time. As the museum continues its mission of providing art for all, we hope this project is a vehicle for members of our region to recognize art is a part of their daily lives.” 

April 15, 2020

Defying a global pandemic, SVSU will move production of 'Macbeth' online for the world to watch from home

In Melanie Frasca’s mind, she imagined one final farewell on stage at Saginaw Valley State University; a climactic curtsy as the curtain closed in front of her, signaling a poignant end to her beloved experience as a student actor there that began in 2016. But when a pandemic led to the closure of public events worldwide – including her planned portrayal of one of Shakespeare’s most iconic characters – it seemed Frasca and her fellow graduating seniors would lose their chance at a proper sendoff. 
Like any redemptive turn that arrives in the climax of a feel-good drama, though, Frasca and her classmates will get their chance to bid adieu in style – and safety – after all. 
Using the trendy teleconference app known as Zoom, SVSU’s Department of Theatre will produce a live online performance of “Macbeth” Thursday, April 16, at 7:30 p.m., allowing audiences far and wide to watch for free (instructions on how to watch are available below). 
“This is a way to get closure and to heal a little bit of sadness that is coming from losing those last moments of my senior year,” Frasca said. “It means so much to me that I will still be able to perform in my final show at SVSU.” 
The change in venue may actually work more in favor of the theatre major, whose performance as Lady Macbeth will no longer be limited to those able to attend the production on campus. 
“My family lives far away and may not have been able to make it to the show when it was at the theatre,” the Waterford native said. “They will be able to see me perform now.” 
Four stage performances of “Macbeth” originally were scheduled this week before the COVID-19 pandemic led the state – and much of the world – to cancel public events throughout the spring. While there are plans to reschedule the stage version in the fall at SVSU’s Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts, director Tommy Wedge was inspired to organize the online adaptation after seeing the Midland Center for the Arts and Sciences produce its own version of a classic Shakespeare play on Zoom last month. Audiences responded well to the “King Lear” production – part of a series known as “Shakespeare & Chill LIVE” – and Wedge decided to take a page from his peers’ playbook, applying it to “Macbeth.” 
“It’s a way to come together in this strange time, to reconnect to each other,” said Wedge, an assistant professor of theatre at SVSU. “We’re looking at it as a way to share the work we’ve been doing while celebrating our graduating seniors.” 
The cast and crew began rehearsal in the weeks before the cancelation of the stage performances. While the students returning next academic year are expected to maintain their roles in the fall, two actors – including Frasca – as well as two crew members involved in music composition and sound design will not be involved in the stage production because they are expected to graduate in May. 
Wedge said the Zoom-based version of “Macbeth” will be a fun, entertaining experience that will showcase students’ talents and creativity. Each cast member will perform their role from the safety of their respective residences, using computers and smart devices to record their work. Audiences attending from home can watch live as their computer screen features rotating windows, each capturing a different student's portrayal of a character from the Shakespeare tragedy. 
“Whatever props or costume pieces the actors have at home are fair game,” Wedge said. “It’s not perfection, by any means. We’re making do like the rest of the world around us.” 
The production will involve a high level of coordination from crew members to highlight the cast of 21 students set to appear. Wedge, though, is experienced in leading plays involving high levels of coordination. His last directing job was the much-celebrated fall 2019 local production of “Mamma Mia!” The Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance-produced show featured an unprecedented collaboration between three area theatre companies: Midland Center for the Arts and Sciences, Bay City Players and Saginaw-based Pit & Balcony Theatre. 
Wedge said he is excited to bring the Shakespeare classic – about a man consumed with murderous ambition to fulfill a witch’s prophesy – to an online audience craving an entertaining distraction. 
“Hopefully, it’s an opportunity to let off a little steam and take a break; to just relax with a little Shakespeare,” he said. 
The lead for “Macbeth” – typically a role played by a male -- will be portrayed by a female performer, Megan Meyer, a fine arts major from Owosso. Meyer expects to return for the stage version in the fall. For others such as Frasca, though, Thursday will provide a final farewell as student performers at SVSU. 
“While nothing can replace performing on stage at the Malcolm Field theatre one last time with my theatre family, this is such an amazing way to still get to showcase all our work,” Frasca said. “Lady Macbeth is a dream role of mine, and I am blessed that I can bring her to life.”


To watch SVSU’s production of “Macbeth” online, audiences should follow these steps: 

  • Minutes before the show begins Thursday, April 16, at 7:30 p.m., another web link – this time, connecting to the performance produced using the app known as Zoom – will appear within the Facebook Events page. The link will not be available until the Zoom meeting is created shortly before the show begins. 
  • The performances likely will begin closer to 7:40 p.m. At 7:30 p.m., director Tommy Wedge plans to kick off the event by providing an introductory presentation, giving late-comers time to arrive before the show starts. Audiences can watch the show live or view a recording of the performance later. 

April 9, 2020

On front lines of COVID-19 battle in Saginaw, SVSU alumna serves community despite dangers

Smriti Pant never imagined showing up to work under protective layers of a hazmat suit and high-grade respirator mask. Years ago, she was inspired to care for others and use her personable nature to help people most in need of both, and now the Saginaw Valley State University educator and alumna is on the front lines of fighting a global pandemic. 
“It’s not something you expect you’ll be doing one day,” said Pant, a family nurse practitioner who was among the first health care professionals in the region to test patients suspected of carrying the COVID-19 virus. 
A member of the staff at Great Lakes Bay Health Centers, Pant and her colleagues since March 24 have collected nasal swab samples from more than 230 people at a drive-through sampling site built in the parking lot of the Great Lakes Bay Health Centers downtown Saginaw headquarters at 501 Lapeer. There, for six hours each day, Mondays through Fridays, they interact directly with people fearful they carry a virus that already has killed more than 82,000 people – and counting – across the globe. 
It is both an emotionally- and physically-taxing job for Pant. Her commitment to providing a comforting, human touch to each interaction is made more challenging because of strict safety measures and layers of equipment meant to prevent her from becoming infected during her job. 
For the danger she faces while helping others, some might call her a “hero.” She doesn’t share that sentiment. 
“I’m just fulfilling my role as a primary care provider, helping people the best way possible,” the 33-year-old said. 
“I’m a little part in this bigger puzzle of people who are working to fight COVID-19. Not just the health care workers; I’m talking about the first responders, the grocery store workers, the gas station attendants, and all personnel willing to sacrifice their time, talent and resources to keep communities safe.” 
Helping those in need is an instinct Pant followed since she pursued an education in nursing at SVSU. 
It’s an instinct reinforced later when she was returned to health by the same organization she works for today. 
Raised in her native Kathmandu, Nepal, Pant and her family relocated to the United States 14 years ago. In 2006, at the age of 19, Pant moved to Saginaw to pursue a career in medicine by enrolling in SVSU’s nursing program. Her desire to practice nursing, though, became more focused more than two years later when she fell severely ill. 
“I did not have health insurance and I did not want to go to the ER because I knew it could be costly,” Pant said, “and I could not afford to drop out of school.” 
Desperate for help, Pant during a Google search discovered the organization known today as Great Lakes Bay Health Centers. Originally called Health Delivery Inc., the organization began as a Saginaw-based mobile migrant health clinic in 1968. Since then, the federally-qualified health center has expanded to 30 clinics across 16 Michigan counties. Serving more than 54,000 patients, Great Lakes Health Centers provides medical, dental, behavioral, maternal and infant care services to patients including those considered underserved, underinsured or uninsured. 
“They really took care of me,” she said of how the organized helped her recover from illness in 2009. 
“I was thoroughly amazed at how I could access the majority of the healthcare services offered in private practices and ERs, but at a much more affordable cost. They had X-rays, labs, a pharmacy, WIC services and more, all in the same building.” 
The health center offers service costs on a sliding scale based on a patient’s income or household size. 
“I was fascinated by that system,” she said, “and I thought to myself, ‘When I graduate, I want to work here.’” 
Before she fulfilled that desire, Pant continued her extensive education at SVSU, which provided her both with practical skills in medicine and a strong sense of commitment to bettering the community. 
“This moment of service and serving the community at large would not have been possible without SVSU,” said Pant, who works as an adjunct faculty member in nursing at the university when she isn’t working at Great Lakes Bay Health Centers. 
“All the opportunities and support the university, staff, faculty members provided me over the years have truly enabled me to be in a position to do the work I do every day.” 
From SVSU, Pant earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing in May 2011, her master’s degree in nursing in August 2015, and her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree with a post-master’s certificate in nursing education in December 2016. 
After earning her first degree, Pant served as a registered nurse at Covenant HealthCare in Saginaw from 2011-16. Only months before receiving her most recent credentials at SVSU, she was hired as a board-certified family nurse practitioner at Great Lakes Bay Health Centers in August 2016. 
Prior to the emergence of COVID-19 in Michigan, her work involved serving as a primary care provider at many of Great Lakes Bay Health Centers’ clinics across the state. She cared for patients ranging from infants to the elderly. Often, a college student would walk into her office and remind Pant of her origins at the organization. 
“When I see them, and I listen to the stories and challenges they face, it reminds me often of the struggles I faced when I was in their position,” she said. 
COVID-19, though, was unlike anything Pant or her patients ever faced before. 
While Pant read about the global wrath of the coronavirus earlier in the year, she was first confronted with her potential role in fighting the pandemic during a March 12 meeting at Great Lakes Bay Health Centers. An infectious disease expert provided the staff with an educational session on the COVID-19 virus, which at that point already devastated thousands of lives across Asia and Europe. With a strong foothold on both American coasts, it became apparent the virus soon would grip the Midwest. The first two cases were confirmed in Michigan only two days earlier. 
By March 19, the Saginaw County Health Department informed regional health care providers of the urgent need for sample testing, a measure seen as critical for stopping the spread of infection. Five days later, Great Lakes Bay Health Centers became the first organization to answer the call when it opened the drive-through sampling site in Saginaw. The organization stepped up in other ways too. For instance, it remains the only health care provider in the region offering emergency dental procedures.
The drive-through concept was the design of the organization’s COVID-19 task force led by Paula Peters, who now serves as the sampling site’s manager; and it was supported by Dr. Brenda Coughlin, the president and CEO of Great Lakes Bay Health Centers. 
The plan required volunteers to perform the tests. Pant stepped up, joining a team featuring a the site manager, a registered nurse, two optometrists, two medical assistants, and maintenance staff. 
“Many people were hesitant to join because it is scary,” she said. “After all, you don’t want to catch this virus that is so contagious and you don’t want to take it home with you to your family, which is understandable.” 
On the first day of sampling, the team tested 10 patients. Since then, as many as 33 people seek testing there daily. So far, more than 230 individuals have been tested in Saginaw by Great Lakes Bay Health Centers, which opened a sampling site at its Huron County location earlier this month. The organization will open a third drive-through sampling site on Thursday, April 9, this time at its Great Lakes Bay Health Centers-Bayside location at 3884 Monitor in Bay City. The site will operate Mondays through Fridays, from noon to 4 p.m.
To be tested at any of the sites, a patient must bring a referral from a medical provider. Those who lack such documentation are scheduled for “telehealth” sessions with staff from Great Lakes Bay Health Centers. 
“We don’t turn anyone away,” Pant said. 
She also engages with patients in the telehealth sessions, a practice that allows her to utilize communications technology – such as smart phones or tablets – to assess patients without being in the same room with them. The practice eliminates the danger of transmitting the virus. 
The more challenging of the two responsibilities, Pant said, remains the testing. The process involves suiting up in a full-body yellow hazmat suit and an N-95 mask for up to three hours daily, Mondays through Fridays. 
“It was intimidating at first,” Pant said of slipping into the suit. 
“Folks who suffer from claustrophobia or certain chronic health issues would find it difficult to wear for a long period of time. The mask seals tight on your face to prevent any air leaks. Sometimes you can feel very foggy, but it’s what’s necessary to stay safe.” 
The discomfort of wearing the equipment likely pales in comparison to the emotional and physical distress experienced by the people seeking tests, Pant said. 
“People are scared,” she said. “There’s this big fear of the unknown, because we know so little about COVID-19.” 
When the patients see Pant, they often ask “really tough questions,” she said. When can I see my grandkids again? When can I go back to work to provide for my family? Will my chronic health condition be addressed like it was before? 
“We do the best we can to provide reassurance and information on how they can follow safety protocols,” she said. 
When Pant finishes each shift, she follows her own safety protocols and guidelines – provided by local health departments and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control – to ensure she remains healthy. Each worn hazmat suit is destroyed. When she arrives home, she changes out of her work clothing in her garage before entering the house. 
While such precautions ensure the virus doesn’t follow her home, COVID-19 remains a part of her life even after work. 
She communicates regularly with others working in the health care industry across the nation. Some of her closest friends work in metro Detroit and New York City hospitals, two virus hotspots where thousands have died from COVID-19 – including health care workers exposed to the virus on the job. 
“I have friends who work in intensive care units and ERs who have faced much harder scenes than I have faced,” Pant said. “It’s incredibly heartbreaking to hear what they are experiencing. They’re risking their lives to save lives.” 
In her Saginaw Township home, Pant plays the role of daughter, caring for her 71-year-old mother. With the virus proving especially deadly for older populations, Pant said she is helping to ensure her mother requires little – if any – contact with people outside of their home. 
“Thankfully, she’s a very healthy woman,” Pant said. “We are going to minimize risk as much as possible.” 
Despite her day-and-night schedule revolving around COVID-19, Pant said she is maintaining her own mental health. 
“I can’t let myself live in worry,” she said. 
“I’m human, just like everybody else, so this seems scary at times. Being well informed and doing our part to ensure safety is important. We just have to tackle this challenge and take care of each other like we would any other time.” 
To learn more about Great Lakes Bay Health Centers services relating to COVID-19, please visit The webpage includes locations and hours of operations for COVID-19 testing sites across the state, information about how to identify symptoms of COVID-19, and how Great Lakes Bay Health Centers can support individuals who suspect they carry COVID-19. 
The mission of Great Lakes Bay Health Centers is to provide excellent health care to individuals and communities, especially those who are underserved, uninsured or underinsured. The services provided are sensitive to the needs of the community, are not based on ability to pay and are offered without regard to criteria such as race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity. 

April 2, 2020

As COVID-19 exacerbates challenges of opioid epidemic, SVSU-led initiative offers solutions to health care teams worldwide

A Saginaw Valley State University-operated initiative is taking the lead — on a global scale — in providing expert solutions that support one of the populations left most vulnerable to COVID-19: people recovering from substance use disorders. 
The SVSU-organized Project ECHO beginning in October 2018 convened bi-weekly via teleconference, providing access for health care providers to a panel of substance use disorder experts from the Great Lakes Bay Region. When COVID-19 reached across all 50 states in March, attendance for the sessions more than doubled as social distancing measures and rising anxieties intensified the challenges already faced by substance use disorder recoverees. That group included the population already struggling through the nation's years-long opioid epidemic.
“Isolation is the enemy of a person with a substance use disorder,” said Kathleen Schachman, a Project ECHO organizer who serves as SVSU’s Harvey Randall Wickes Endowed Chair in Nursing. 
“It’s only through connections that they are really able to embrace recovery, and when we cut those connections, it has really negative consequences. There is an increased risk for relapse or overdose. That’s our challenge as health care providers — to prevent that — and so we at Project ECHO want to keep these health care teams engaged with their patients.” 
And, more and more, those health care teams are tuning in to the guidance provided during Project ECHO’s free bi-weekly sessions. One month ago, about 30 health care professionals on average attended each teleconference. During a Wednesday, April 1 virtual gathering, 70 people participated. 
The panel of experts include a social worker, pharmacist, addictionologist, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, a peer recovery coach and members of SVSU’s College of Health & Human Services faculty. After the group leads with a prepared lecture on a specific topic during each meeting, the session concludes with participants asking questions and sharing their own experiences and best practices. 
“We’re democratizing knowledge and expanding the workforce capacity by helping our primary care teams,” Schachman said. 
Largely, the Project ECHO sessions are attended by primary care teams in rural regions of the state, where in-person visits are more challenging for patients who live far from health care facilities that specialize in substance use disorder. Since Project ECHO began two years ago, the session attendees have included health care workers from 45 of Michigan’s 83 counties; 22 of the 50 U.S. states; as well as representatives from Canada and Tanzania. 
This Wednesday's teleconference session topic centered largely on a practice known as “telehealth,” which involves utilizing technology — including two-way audio/visual communication and mobile apps — to tend to patients as an alternative to visiting them in person. It’s a practice Schachman said will become particularly useful for treating substance abuse disorder while those individuals are isolated from help during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Schachman and her SVSU colleagues are experienced in fighting substance use disorder. She leads a number of university-backed initiatives that connect health care workers with individuals addicted to alcohol and opioids. 
In collaboration with Bay County Health Department, SVSU in 2015 established the Bay Community Health Clinic in downtown Bay City. The primary care clinic utilizes an integrated approach — teaming professionals in nursing, occupational therapy, pharmacy and social work — to address physical and mental health issues on multiple fronts. Those professionals are supported by students who provide help while receiving hands-on training. The clinic’s opening correlated with the escalation of the national opioid epidemic, bringing many Bay County residents suffering from addiction into the clinic’s care
With the support of nearly $6 million in U.S. Department of Health & Human Services grants, SVSU and Schachman established and expanded the clinic’s services. 
That expansion included the founding in 2018 of the SVSU-based GRACE Project, which established a team at the clinic that specializes in addiction recovery for patients 60 and older. 
More recently, the expansion included primary care support for patients unable to travel to the downtown site, instead utilizing telehealth practices to reach residents and caregivers in faraway rural communities. The Michigan Health Endowment Fund recently provided a grant funding the purchase of an important tool in telehealth — iPads — for patients and caregivers. 
Project ECHO is one of the latest branches to sprout from the SVSU health and human services community outreach tree. 
Health care professionals interested in participating in Project ECHO sessions can register for free at The next session is Wednesday, April 15.
The teleconferences are broadcast at noon on the first and third Wednesdays of each month via Zoom, an online program that connects users in a multi-screen platform for group meetings. Sessions typically last 90 minutes.

April 2, 2020

SVSU psychology educator offers advice on maintaining mental health during COVID-19

Maintaining a daily routine is one of a number of measures individuals can practice in order to maintain their mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, a Saginaw Valley State University educator advised.

Travis Pashak, associate professor of psychology, offered three tips and resources for those struggling with mental health during the pandemic. They are as follows:

1. This is an unprecedented global crisis, so mental health fluctuations are to be expected. It's perfectly normal to be feeling anxious, upset, sad, angry, etc., about the circumstances. I think we sometimes have a knee-jerk reaction to want to label and pathologize every non-happy emotion and every non-smile behavior, and that's simply not reasonable in these times. It's normal to feel.

2. While we're dealing with a lot of collective uncertainty and existential angst, there are some things we can do to protect our sanity. Routine, sleep hygiene, exercise, connecting with friends/family, nutrition, and healthy self-care can all make a positive impact.

3. Lastly, if the above efforts aren't enough and someone feels like they really need help, there are indeed resources available. Suicide hotlines, local therapists offering phone-therapy, crisis textlines, and plenty of self-help materials are only a few clicks away. A few are listed below:

Pashak this week was interviewed about mental health maintenance during a WNEM, TV-5 feature Wednesday, April 2.

April 1, 2020

With demand boosted by COVID-19, SVSU Master of Public Health program educators to host informational sessions online

Public health professionals are on the front lines of battling COVID-19 pandemic, and Saginaw Valley State University educators anticipate both demand and interest in public health professions will skyrocket in the coming years. Responding to the call for that demand and interest, SVSU is hosting two online-based informational sessions this month for individuals interested in enrolling in the university's Master of Public Health program, which is taught online. 
“Public health professionals serve in a variety of roles and settings along the public health and U.S. healthcare continuum, including health promotion, epidemiology, public health policy, regulation and leadership,” said Chris Noller, SVSU assistant professor of health science. 
“This is especially important in times of public health crisis, as evidenced by the current COVID-19 pandemic.” 
Noller and her colleague, Meghan Baruth, associate professor of health science, will lead the online informational sessions at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7, and noon on Wednesday, April 8. Participating in the virtual session is free. 
Those interested can attend the meetings by clicking on the following link:
The two helped launch the 30-credit Master of Public Health program at SVSU in fall 2018. Today, 75 students are enrolled in the initiative. 
Employees with a public health education are the second-largest sector of the health care industry, behind clinical practitioners — a category that includes doctors and nurses who work 1-on-1 with patients. Public health-educated workers deal in the administration, analysis, education and policy-making of health care. More and more employers in more and more industries are hiring workers with those skillsets. 
The national opioid epidemic, Flint water crisis, the implementation of Affordable Care Act policies, and the impact of climate change on infectious diseases all have contributed to a rising demand for public health-trained professionals in all types of professions. The COVID-19 virus will create an even larger need for workers in the public health industry for years to come, experts say. 
If you have questions about SVSU’s Master of Public Health program or are unable to attend these informational sessions, please contact Noller at

March 31, 2020

Provost offers more details regarding spring semester course offerings

Dear Students,

I hope that things are going well as we work through a very challenging semester. These unprecedented circumstances have been met with unprecedented efforts by the SVSU community and we continue to do our best to support you through this difficult time. In order to ensure that you can continue your education through this crisis, we have made the decision to offer courses only online for the spring semester. Fieldwork courses remain on the schedule, however, please check with your academic department as fieldwork is subject to agency, state and federal policies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The schedule has been updated to show our online course offerings for the Spring semester. For those of you who were enrolled in a face-to-face course, you have either been or will be contacted directly to make the switch to online. For those who are not enrolled for Spring courses, the online options have been expanded so this may be a great opportunity to take a course remotely. Registration for Spring courses is still open and the payment deadline has been extended to April 22.

To help you continue your education uninterrupted, we are waiving the Academic Computing Fee ($79/course) and the Online Course Fee ($44/ for Spring and Summer 2020. Students who had already signed up for an online course for the spring term will receive a credit or refund for the online fees they had already been charged.

We have not yet determined whether summer courses will be entirely online; however, we are monitoring the situation closely and will provide you with updates as soon as possible. Please continue to support each other and take care of yourselves during this difficult time.


Deborah Huntley, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

March 30, 2020

Waiting out COVID-19, Facebook group harmonizes SVSU music community

For Norman Wika and Saginaw Valley State University's music community, nothing can stop the music.
Hunkered down in homes scattered across the state in reaction to a global pandemic, members of SVSU's extended music department are transforming a Facebook group into a makeshift recital hall. There, individuals are uploading videos of their vocal and instrumental performances, offering each other feedback and levity in trying times.
Norman Wika, SVSU associate professor of music, created the Facebook group March 15, the day before SVSU transitioned its in-class courses to online and remote learning sessions as a response to COVID-19. 
“There’s a social aspect to making music that’s just not possible in this environment, so I hoped the Facebook group would keep people interacting musically,” Wika said. “It’s become very therapeutic for some of us in these circumstances.” 
While the Facebook group initially was utilized by students and faculty, several long-since-graduated alumni eventually joined the group to contribute their own musical performances. More than 120 people are members of the group as of today, with nearly 250 videos uploaded to the social media platform.
Many of those videos feature performances from the garages and basements of homes where the musicians are practicing social distancing in isolation or with family members. Some of the productions are standard fare as musical rehearsals go; others display  a creative -- sometimes humorous -- flair. 
In one video, a student performs George Michaels’ “Careless Whisper” on saxophone, using the chimes of SVSU’s Julia Edwards Bell Tower as a stand-in partner. Other recordings show individual performers syncing two rehearsals into a single split-screen video, creating the appearance of a duet featuring identical musicians. In another video, a student tests the patience of a pet during a rehearsal: “This guy is not happy about the at-home practice thing,” read a message accompanied by a video of a seemingly-unamused cat, looking interrupted from a nap. 
Other videos showcase SVSU alumni brushing off skills and instruments left untended for years. Valori (Robinson) Darling estimated nearly two decades elapsed since she last revisited some of the musical sheets she performed for the Facebook group in the last two weeks. 
Using the same flute she played as an undergraduate, the Saginaw Township real estate agent said she has enjoyed the escapism offered by the project. 
“I’ve been itching to play again,” said Darling, who earned a bachelor’s degree in music from SVSU in 2000. “This group is a great way to keep our minds on something productive, and I’ve been impressed with the work ethic I’ve seen from these students.” 
The social media connections made between alumni and their successors at SVSU could lead to in-person musical relationships.
A former member of SVSU’s Concert Band, Darling said she hopes to play in-person with some of those same performers during a tribute concert dedicated to the late Mary H. Andersen, a beloved music instructor in the region and former adjunct faculty member at SVSU. A tribute recital originally was scheduled for April but was canceled because of the COVID-19 outbreak. There are tentative plans to reschedule the gathering this fall.
In the meantime, current SVSU students such as Kylie Hawkins continue to find joy in performing for the Facebook group. Nearly daily, she uploads flute rehearsals recorded in her parents’ home in Flushing, where she temporarily re-located once SVSU transitioned to online and remote learning. 
“The group has helped me hold myself accountable,” said Hawkins, a music education major. “I try to make it a goal for myself to practice every day. If I were still at school, I might not practice as much.” 

March 27, 2020

SVSU teams with Saginaw distillery on plan to produce hand sanitizer in response to COVID-19

Saginaw Valley State University is doing its part to answer the call by beginning plans to produce 300 gallons of much-sought-after hand sanitizer that health care professionals can use while responding to the COVID-19 virus. 
SVSU's plans involve a partnership with Saginaw-based Old Town Distillery, which recently donated 270 gallons of 190-proof alcohol that serve as a key sanitizer ingredient. 
The project is one of several COVID-19 response initiatives being pursued by SVSU in collaboration with Michigan Health Improvement Alliance, a nonprofit that coordinates health care-related efforts across 14 mid-Michigan counties. 
“SVSU has long-established partnerships in the community,” said Matthew Kline, manager of the SVSU Independent Testing Laboratory where the sanitizer would be created. 
“As we face this public health crisis together, our university is proud to join with the Michigan Health Improvement Alliance and our regional economic development leaders to protect our brave health care professionals across the state." 
Production of the hand sanitizer tentatively is scheduled to begin next week, but the fast-evolving response to COVID-19 could shift those plans, he said. 
Kline would be involved in the production as well as an independent contractor and potentially an SVSU student, all while practicing social distancing in the lab setting. 
The hand sanitizer project isn’t the only initiative Kline is pursuing. 
Within days of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the state, SVSU began working with Michigan Health Improvement Alliance representatives to both explore developing prototypes and create access to critical personal protection equipment (PPE) needs for regional health care providers. 
Using 3-D printers and other campus resources, Kline in the last two weeks has created prototype face shields and face masks as well as medical swabs for the consideration of companies as far away as Connecticut, he said. 
While the hand sanitizer project is the initiative closest to reaching a full-scale production cycle, the SVSU alumnus hopes to add other initiatives to that category soon. 
“A lot of these projects are in their infancy, but I’m working hard to move them along,” said Kline, a Merrill resident. “When I see an opportunity to serve the community, I jump on it.” 
Along with the Independent Testing Laboratory, the effort to identify projects with Michigan Health Improvement Alliance has been coordinated by staff of the SVSU-based offices of Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center Northeast Regional Office and Great Lakes Bay Manufacturers Association. 


March 26, 2020

SVSU provides storage space for medical equipment donated to fight COVID-19 virus

As local health care organizations stock up on supplies while the fight against the COVID-19 virus intensifies, Saginaw Valley State University leaders committed a secure space for storing items that could prove critical to protecting the region's nurses and doctors. 
Through a partnership with Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance and Michigan Health Improvement Alliance, SVSU this week began providing space in its Ryder Center facility to store items such as disposable latex gloves, N-95 masks, medical face shields and gowns, and hand sanitizer. 
“SVSU is committed to assisting the community as we face this public health crisis,” said James Muladore, SVSU executive vice president for administration and business affairs. 
“We plan to provide this site for our health care communities and maintain it for as long as needed.” 
Representatives from the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance and Michigan Health Improvement Alliance have been collecting the donated items from across the community. Those representatives then drop off the donations in the secured room at the university, where the items will remain until health care officials request the additional resources. 
The stockpile continues to grow daily -- a delivery of thousands of disposable latex gloves arrived this afternoon -- with plenty of room remaining for additional items, SVSU officials say. 

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