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November 5, 2020

SVSU student-led fundraiser raises over $18K for Bay Area Women's Center

Overcoming logistical challenges presented by the pandemic, Saginaw Valley State University students worked hard to support a regional nonprofit, raising $18,573.46 to help the organization bolster its services preventing domestic violence and sexual assault. 
The SVSU student-run Battle of the Valley fundraiser benefited the Bay Area Women’s Center, an organization that operates in Arenac and Bay counties
While adhering to SVSU’s health and safety guidelines related to the pandemic, students hosted a series of fundraising events from Oct. 18-24 including a date auction, pumpkin-painting event, a pumpkin-smashing event, and a T-shirt sale. SVSU students last week presented the resulting $18,573.46 check to representatives of the Bay Area Women’s Center. 
Olivia Nelson, the student who served as chairperson of the fundraiser organized by SVSU’s student government, said she was thankful for the dedication and support demonstrated by her peers during Battle of the Valley. 
“I have never been more proud of our SVSU community for coming together in the way we did to raise funds for such an important cause,” said Nelson, a psychology major from Highland. 
“In these chaotic times, seeing the level of student engagement at every single event while also witnessing everyone being mindful about keeping themselves and others safe was empowering.” 
Lindsay Maynard Richardson, a 2013 SVSU alumna and director of development at Bay Area Women’s Center, said funding the center has proven difficult this year. Richardson said she was thankful for SVSU students’ support. The $18,573.46 in funds they raised will support the center’s crisis office operations, which includes a 32-bed emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence as well as a 24-hour hotline. 
With the completion of this year’s Battle of the Valley, the annual tradition has provided $670,958 for nonprofits across the state in total since the event was established in 2003. 
The fundraiser began as a competition between SVSU and Grand Valley State University before GVSU students backed out of the fall-time tradition last year. SVSU student-led fundraising has accounted for $464,532 of the total funds collected over the years. 

November 2, 2020

SVSU, MiSTEM honor regional K-12 educators excelling in STEM

To honor the hard work, dedication and contributions made to STEM education, Saginaw Valley State University and MiSTEM East Central Michigan Region recognized 10 K-12 educators and staff with an award that will benefit their students’ education. 

Recipients of the “STEM Star” award include K-12 teachers, coaches for high school Robotics teams, and staff members overseeing STEM programs. The awards were made possible through a collaborative effort between SVSU’s STEM Program and MiSTEM East Central Michigan Region. The MiSTEM Network — funded through a statewide grant — promotes the impact of STEM on economic development and education in the state.    

Recipients received a $300 award to benefit STEM education in their classroom or program. The recipients work in Arenac, Bay, Clare, Gratiot, Midland, and Saginaw counties.

Nominations were reviewed by a selection committee. 

Listed below are the STEM Star winners, including remarks about the recipient from their respective nomination letter. 

  • Ethan Shannon, a chemistry teacher at Garber High School and a Robotics adviser 

“Mr. Shannon dedicates thousands of hours each year to STEM education. Through STEM education, he challenges, inspires, and empowers students of every age and skillset to be the very best version of themselves.”

  • Mark Lyons, a technology integration specialist at Bay-Arenac ISD 

“He is invited frequently to present across the state, making his STEM impact even greater than our region. He is indeed, though, an asset to our area schools and region, and we are proud to have him as part of the (Bay-Arenac ISD) team.”

  • Kevin Smalley, a technology coordinator for the Robotics Club at Harrison High School 

“The most important thing that Kevin has provided is a true leader and mentor figure. Harrison High School students know that he will hold them accountable but support them through hard work and their own creativity.”

  • Duncan Gervin, a general and alternative education teacher at Farwell High School 

“With the STEM learning objectives and the strong student relationships, Mr. Gervin weaves relationships into a masterpiece of academic success.”

  • Amy Hindbaugh-Marr, a teacher at North Elementary School and South Elementary School in Ithaca 

“Her enthusiasm was contagious, her work ethic impressive, and her knowledge of science and ability to create exciting labs for our students was second to none! She was a positive, inviting resource for the staff.”

  • Jennifer Lenon, a learning coach at Northeast Middle School in Midland 

“In her role as learning coach, she works with many teachers to provide support in the classroom to implement best practices and come shoulder-to-shoulder as a colleague to provide direct support for teachers.”

  • Jessie Bassett, a teacher at Frankenmuth High School 

“Through all of these involvements, she has been integral in creating a STEM culture in our district. Serving as our Science Department chairperson, Jessie has expanded her focus on science curriculum and instruction to include all of our buildings and grade levels. Her passion for science and math is evident, and her reach and impact seems to broaden each year.”

  • Shawn McFarland, a teacher at Jessie Loomis Elementary School 

“Mrs. McFarland is a dedicated, hardworking, creative, dynamic and patient teacher. She is so committed to teaching her students concepts and skills that she often supplements her teaching by using her own money to buy what she needs.”

  • Terrie Robbie, a STEM coordinator at Arrowwood, Hemmeter, Sherwood, Weiss, and Westdale elementary schools as well as White Pine Middle School and Heritage High School 

“Terrie has implemented many programs across (Saginaw Township Community Schools) district.  At White Pine, she has built partnerships with Covenant (HealthCare), (Central Michigan University), SVSU, Nexteer, and (Hemlock Semiconductor). Terrie is worthy of being recognized as your STEM Star, as she certainly serves as ours.”

  • Thomas Lockwood, a technology director and Robotics adviser for Hemlock Public School District 

“Tom has been the instrumental figure in the new addition of a regional Robotics facility located at Hemlock High School. Tom has not only provided the students at Hemlock with an excellent facility but all students in the area, so each team can work together in collaboration.” 

For more information about SVSU’s STEM program, visit or follow the program on Facebook and Instagram.

October 29, 2020

SVSU theatre to stream play that explores race relations

As conversations about social justice and race relations are in the forefront of American culture, a Saginaw Valley State University theatre director hopes his latest production provides valuable perspectives for a constructive conversation.

SVSU will host a movie-style play, titled “No. 6,” available virtually to audiences at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, Nov. 4-7; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8.

The $10 tickets must be purchased online. One hour before the play begins, attendees will be emailed a link where they can watch the pre-recorded production online.

Written by playwright TJ Young, “No. 6" centers on a fictional African-American family's experience during a real-life tragedy that struck the Cincinnati community in 2001. Following the shooting death of an unarmed African-American teen, protests and civil unrest shook the community for five days. “No. 6" takes place in the midst of that period, when one member of the family brings home an unconscious white man and the civil unrest creeps closer to the family's home.

The real-life unrest from 2001 in many ways mirrors elements of the modern-day Black Lives Matter movement, said Tommy Wedge, an SVSU assistant professor of theatre who is directing "No. 6."

“There are issues we wanted to explore,” Wedge said. “We want the audience to be thinking about what is happening today and how it relates to what happens in ‘No. 6.’”

Wedge is no stranger to shedding light on topics of race relations and spotlighting SVSU's strong community of African-American student-actors. He directed SVSU’s recent productions of “A Raisin in the Sun” in 2016 and “Stick Fly” in 2018. “No. 6,” similarly, will feature a largely African-American cast.

“It's important to elevate actors of color with roles written by and for them,” Wedge said. “That has to continue as we work toward strengthening ties with the diverse community in Saginaw and the Great Lakes Bay Region.”

Jahari Essex, an art major from Saginaw who is playing the role of Felix, is looking forward to engaging the audience in thought-provoking material.

“This play is an opportunity to tell a story that isn't as often told – or at least it's not told from a different perspective,” he said. “The ending starts a conversation, showing more hope than hurt.”

Jared Kaufman, a communication and theatre education major from Bay City, also was looking forward to providing audiences with engaging ideas. Kaufman plays the role of Kelly.

“Everyone has the opportunity to learn something from watching the show,” Kaufman said. “The audience can make a connection with any of the characters and the stories they have to tell.”

Wedge is experienced leading nontraditional plays. For SVSU, he directed a Zoom-based production of “Macbeth” in April. He also was the director of the 2019 production of “Mamma Mia,” which utilized the combined resources of three local community theaters in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

For “No. 6,” Wedge directed his student actors as if they were performing on a theater set, and then his team began recording them one scene at a time with a three-camera set-up. Filming began on Oct. 16, and video and audio will be edited together in the production's opening. This recorded production then can be accessed by patrons at the times of the performances via a livestream, similar to a streamed movie.

Wedge said the production at all times will observe practices that ensure the safety of all cast and crew members during the filming and production of “No. 6.” Along with practicing social distancing, actors will be wearing clear face masks.

To aid in their film movie production, five SVSU students were selected as video interns. Wedge said the unique nature of the production required extensive support from other SVSU faculty and staff. Among the chief contributors to that process were Peggy Mead-Finizio, SVSU assistant professor of theatre, as technical theatre supervisor; and Andy Sharrow, an event and theatre technology specialist with SVSU, as the video and editing supervisor of “No. 6.”

For more information about “No. 6" and to purchase tickets, go to the SVSU Department of Theatre website at

October 19, 2020

SVSU student-run fundraiser launches; Bay Area Women’s Center to benefit

In a year of unknowns, one thing remained certain for Olivia Nelson and a group of her fellow student leaders at Saginaw Valley State University: their commitment to enriching the community would not be obstructed. Despite challenges presented by a global pandemic, their dedication will power SVSU's annual student-run fundraiser known as Battle of the Valley, which kicked off Sunday and concludes Saturday, Oct. 24.
“This will give a sense of normalcy that students may not get with other parts of their college experience this year,” said Nelson, the chairperson of the fundraiser organized by SVSU’s student government.
Battle of the Valley has remained a proud tradition at SVSU since students organized the first fundraiser in 2003. Each year, a student-selected nonprofit benefits from funds collected during a series of fun activities often hosted on campus. This year, Bay Area Women's Center will benefit from Battle of the Valley.
Participants can donate to the fundraiser and view the lineup of events online at
“We still plan to do all our big events — just outside and socially distanced,” said Nelson, a psychology major from Highland.
She said students this week will organize many of the beloved events that made Battle of the Valley one of SVSU’s signature traditions, including a “car smash,” ice cream social and T-shirt sales.
Bay Area Women's Center serves Bay and Arenac counties, where the nonprofit works to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault while supporting its victims. Founded in 1975, the organization provides free-of-charge crisis intervention, advocacy and safe haven to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and violence prevention education to the community.
From Battle of the Valley's conception in 2003 until 2018, the annual event was a fundraising competition between SVSU and Grand Valley State University students. The two sides raised $652,385 for various nonprofits and organizations over the years. In total, SVSU raised $445,959 of that total.
Although GVSU students backed out of the event in 2019, SVSU student leaders decided to continue the tradition minus the competition beginning last year. Battle of the Valley raised $20,302 for The Rock Center for Youth Development in Midland last year.

October 16, 2020

SVSU enrollment shows gains in student retention and graduate programs

Saginaw Valley State University reported solid enrollment numbers for the 2020 fall semester, given the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. SVSU has 8,030 students taking classes this fall, a drop of 2.8% from last year’s total enrollment of 8,265. The university saw encouraging improvement in student retention and an increase in the number of graduate students. 
SVSU’s retention rate improved to 77.4%, an increase from 74.1% last year and 70 percent in 2014. Earlier this year, the university made a concerted effort to contact current students, many of whom left campus abruptly when the pandemic hit in March. 
“I would like to thank the many faculty and staff who reached out to students over the summer months to encourage them to stay on course to finish their degrees. Our region and our state need our students’ work ethic and their talents to contribute to Michigan’s recovery, and I’m pleased to see so many of them remain on track to complete their degrees and begin their careers,” said Don Bachand, SVSU president. 
SVSU also recorded a 6.3% increase in graduate students, compared to last year, as the total number of students pursuing advanced degrees rose from 775 to 824. The Master of Public Health program introduced in 2018 continues to show growth, as does the postgraduate program for psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners begun in 2019. SVSU also saw more students pursuing MBA and Education Specialist degrees. 
“After careful study and consultation with regional employers, we have added high-demand graduate programs in recent years, and we’re pleased to see strong interest for them, particularly in careers that are critical to the health of individuals and communities,” Bachand said. 
SVSU froze tuition for the current academic year and continues to have the lowest tuition among Michigan’s state universities. 
The number of incoming freshmen fell from 1,470 to 1,382, a decline of 6%. 
Fall classes at SVSU began Monday, Aug. 31 with a mix of in-person, hybrid and online courses offered. 

October 13, 2020

With Saginaw native's help, group aims to continue SVSU student voter registration trend in time for November election

With a passion for empowering often-underrepresented communities, Saginaw Valley State University student Angelo Martinez has focused his efforts on providing his peers the power to vote.
The Saginaw native this year joined SVSU’s Cardinals Vote, a non-partisan campus organization that relays resources and information regarding elections to students at the university.
“We need more people to vote,” said Martinez, a professional accountancy major. “Voter turnout is so important. Making sure others take advantage of their right to vote is something I have always been interested in.”
Boosting college student participation in elections can prove a challenging task in a typical year. Voter engagement increases with age, with U.S. Census figures consistently showing citizens between the ages of 18 to 29 represent the smallest turnout percentage among eligible voters. One of the contributors to that low turnout: higher education students living on campuses – and away from the hometowns where many are registered to vote – often are unsure where and how they can vote in their college communities.
SVSU’s Cardinals Vote was created to tackle such challenges at SVSU. The organization demonstrated its effectiveness during the last major national election, the 2018 mid-terms. A report by The Institute for Democracy & Higher Education showed the percentage of SVSU students voting doubled during the 2018 election compared to the 2014 mid-terms, from 18.4% to 36.8%.
Martinez joined Cardinals Vote this fall in part to help the organization continue that positive trend. He understood, though, that the 2020 elections would present additional obstacles that his predecessors did not face when they advocated voting among their peers.
“The virus makes all of this more difficult,” Martinez said of COVID-19. “Because of social distancing, you can’t get people into a group to tell them how they can vote this year. You have to find other ways.”
With dedication and hard work, Martinez committed himself to finding those “other ways.”
Before the pandemic, one of Cardinals Vote’s most effective programs involved inviting Secretary of State voter registration mobile units on campus. And, on election days, the organization coordinated mass transportation for students to voting precincts. Because of social distancing guidelines, neither tactic was an option the group pursued this year.
Instead, Martinez and his Cardinals Vote peers in the fall began engaging in a much more tedious approach, spending hours walking the hallways, seeking students in need of help to participate in the election.
Practicing social distancing and wearing a protective face mask while conversing 1-on-1 with students about the sometimes-complicated matter of voter registration made the task exceptionally challenging, Martinez said. But his determination to help others kept him focused on the task.
“It’s not easy, but it’s important work,” he said.
Martinez’s passion for American democracy stretches back to his childhood. His grandfather, Daniel Soza, once served as an elected member of the Saginaw City Council. As a child, Martinez often talked with his grandfather about his work leading the community.
“I was always asking him about what he was doing on the council, and about different processes,” Martinez said.
Along with Martinez’s work on Cardinals Vote, he also signed up this year to help Power the Polls, a nonprofit organization that recruits election poll volunteers.
With a determined spirit and passion for helping others, he found time for those efforts despite a busy schedule that includes a full lineup of college courses and responsibilities elsewhere.
Martinez was elected president of the SVSU chapter of Beta Gamma Sigma, a business honors society. He also volunteers at Emmaus House of Saginaw, Inc., a home for women released from prisons and rehabilitation programs. There, he provides women with information technology support as well as help creating résumés. On top of all those duties, he serves as a delivery driver for Jimmy John's to help pay the bills.
“There are a lot of things going on right now,” Martinez said of his schedule. “I just want to help.”

October 8, 2020

'I had a great support system': Student reflects on quarantine experience in SVSU apartment

When she got the call with orders to quarantine at her on-campus apartment at Saginaw Valley State University, Paige Dejohn initially felt frustrated by the prospect of spending so much time by herself. 
Looking back now — only days after her required quarantine period expired — the sophomore from Kimball, Michigan said she never felt alone. In fact, she was delighted that she made a few new friends because of her circumstances. 
“It was a good experience, even though the reasons I had the experience weren’t so good,” she said. 
One of Dejohn’s roommates tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, all four women in the four-bedroom residential housing unit were required to quarantine for two weeks until Tuesday, Oct. 6. 
Dejohn spent the duration of that quarantine period in the two-story apartment. The roommate who tested positive was moved to a different on-campus apartment, where she was separated from others. The other two women left campus to live with family during their quarantine period. 
Dejohn spent her two weeks alone attending classes via her laptop, playing video games with her family remotely, cooking meals, streaming shows on Netflix, tending to a plant, and enjoying the company of SVSU staff members who checked on her regularly over the phone. 
She said she likely enjoyed the quarantine more than her peers at other colleges, where some students have reported a lack of assistance from staff coupled with intense feelings of isolation. 
“I had a great support system of people here at SVSU,” Dejohn said. “I missed being able to see people, but I also met people I wouldn’t have otherwise met.” 
Dejohn never felt completely alone without her human roommates. She spoke regularly with SVSU Residential Life staff members, and she also was kept company by the contact tracing staff member assigned to the case, Moregan LaMarr, a two-time SVSU alumna. LaMarr is one of SVSU’s contact tracers; her duties involve mapping human exposure to the COVID-19 virus within the university community while offering mental health support to people who need it. 
“She was super sweet and relatable,” Dejohn said of LaMarr. “When she checked in with me, I thought we would only be on the phone for a short time, but then 25 minutes would go by. She brightened up my days.” 
LaMarr and SVSU staff monitored Dejohn from afar. She was instructed how to recognize potential symptoms. Daily, she took her own body temperature. 
“I was always at 98.3, which is normal,” said Dejohn, who never experienced symptoms during the quarantine period and was not tested for the virus. 
Dejohn never stepped beyond the front and back entrances outside her apartment, which is part of SVSU’s nationally-renowned student housing facilities. The rare times she opened her doors happened either when she picked up the food and supplies SVSU staff left on her welcome mat or when she placed the celosia plant outside the apartment’s back entrance to collect sunlight and air. 
While isolating, Dejohn ordered fresh food from SVSU’s Dining Services delivered to her front door. Her go-to food item was a plate featuring delivered fried rice and broccoli mixed with jasmine rice she kept stored in a kitchen cabinet. 
Other SVSU offices provided her arts and craft supplies that kept her busy. For instance, she built a stuffed bear during the quarantine using materials provided to her. 
Dejohn also spoke regularly with family members over the phone. A few members of that family played video games with her from afar. A Nintendo Switch owner, Dejohn teamed up with an uncle in Germany and an aunt in Illinois as they together navigated the survival thriller, “Dead By Daylight.” Her boyfriend in the region also occasionally joined the games remotely.
Dejohn watched plenty of Netflix and YouTube during her time alone, including many episodes of “The Walking Dead.” 
After the quarantine period ended late Tuesday, her three roommates returned. 
“It felt good for the quarantine to be over,” Dejohn said. “I said to myself, ‘I want to go get myself some Panda Express and do all the laundry that’s been building up in here.’” 
And she did. Dejohn woke up early Wednesday and filled three washing machines with clothes and blankets that piled up over the 2-week span. 
“When I was there, a few of my neighbors walked in to do their laundry,” Dejohn said. “It was nice to see people. I missed being able to say, ‘Hi.’” 

October 6, 2020

Meijer teams up with SVSU to offer flu vaccinations for campus community

To promote community health, Saginaw Valley State University this week is partnering with Meijer to offer flu vaccinations to students, faculty and staff at SVSU. The 3-day program began Monday and concludes Wednesday. 
Members of the media are invited to the Wednesday session, which spans 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the SVSU Fieldhouse located in the Ryder Center facility on campus. 
Twelve pharmacists from Meijer have been administering the vaccinations this week. SVSU students – including 20 students studying nursing at the university – are assisting with a health screening process. 
“Getting vaccinated for the flu has always been important, but it is especially important this year,” said Susan Brasseur, SVSU’s director of continuing education and external project management. 
“The flu and COVID-19 share many of the same symptoms. By vaccinating people for the flu, it will keep them from getting sick with an illness that could be mistaken for COVID-19. It will keep people healthier.” 
Brasseur is serving as a coordinator of the campus flu vaccination program. 
For each day of this week’s program, more than 200 people were signed up to receive the vaccination. Walk-in appointments also are encouraged. The entire vaccination process spans about 10 minutes on average, Brasseur said. 
The flu vaccination program is not open to the general public. 
Campus staff members have worked with students to help pay for the flu vaccination if they do not possess health insurance that covers costs. 
As with all visitors, members of the media entering SVSU facilities must wear a protective face mask, practice social distancing of at least 6 feet, and complete and pass an online health screening form. The form is available at the following URL:

September 28, 2020

SVSU-based Michigan Small Business Development Center gets CARES Act boost to help region's economy

Great Lakes Bay Region communities will be among 83 Michigan counties where small business owners challenged by the pandemic will benefit from expanded support offered by the Michigan Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which operates a regional office at Saginaw Valley State University. 
With support from CARES Act funding, resources are allocated to help boost the region's economics. Those resources include the following: 
  • 46 additional business consultants to meet the increase in demand for one-on-one consulting support
  • New partnerships with service providers (website development, marketing, accounting, etc.) that can help businesses weather the effects of COVID-19 
“As small businesses begin to restart, recover and launch, they will be required to have a heightened awareness and response to our ever-changing economic environment,” said Beth Roszatycki, regional director of the SBDC operations housed within the Business Excellence Centers in SVSU's Scott L. Carmona College of Business building. 
“This shift will also require modifications to how they previously operated, including their social norms. Being able to equip business owners and future entrepreneurs with the resources, tools and knowledge to respond to these evolving requirements and best practices will be critical. I see the SBDC being the support network to help with these necessary changes.” 
The expanded services will be available through March 2021. 
“We were able to add consulting staff to meet increased demands and extend our service offerings into key areas that we know will expedite small business recovery,” said J.D. Collins, state director of the Michigan Small Business Development Center. “This tangible support will aid in business recovery from the immediate effects of COVID-19 while building resilience for the future.” 
Michigan Small Business Development Center offices – including the operations housed at SVSU – provide no-cost consulting, training, market research, and technology commercialization services to assist Michigan businesses to launch, grow, transition and innovate. 
Assistance includes business plans, marketing plans, applying for financing, budgeting, hiring, business forms, feasibility, and strategic planning. 
Small businesses owners can access free business consulting, on-demand and online training, and market research at

September 21, 2020

SVSU to host virtual panel featuring women entrepreneurs

The Saginaw Valley State University-based Dow Entrepreneurship Institute will host an empowering virtual panel discussion featuring successful women entrepreneurs. 
“Life Lessons from Successful Women Entrepreneurs” – scheduled Wednesday, Sept. 23, at 5:30 p.m. – is the institution’s third annual panel discussion featuring women entrepreneurs. The public is invited to attend the virtual session.
“The speakers are from a variety of different backgrounds and fields, and show that people from any field can be successful in starting their own business,” said Izabela Szymanska, interim director of the SVSU Dow Entrepreneurship Institute and an SVSU associate professor of management. 
The panel will include the following guests: 
Gina Adams is the founder and CEO of Wareologie, a clothing innovation company. A social entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in the apparel industry and social sector, Adams creates adaptive clothing for people with dexterity issues. 
Wendy Bloembergen is vice president of clinical affairs at GreenMark Biomedical Inc. Through its regenerative treatment technology, GreenMark is developing treatment products for the diagnosis and treatment of tooth decay. 
Stacey Feeley is the founder of GoSili Inc., a silicone tableware company that provides an alternative to single-use plastics in the kitchen. She regularly serves as a guest speaker for Marshall School of Business at University of Southern California in Los Angeles and Northern Michigan College in Traverse City. 
Julia Winter is the founder and CEO of Alchemie, Inc., a company creating digital learning tools that provide an intuitive learning experience that encourages students to explore and experiment with concepts in chemistry. Winter taught college-level chemistry courses for over 20 years at Detroit Country Day School. 
Interested participants can join the meeting on Lifesize, a video- and audio-conferencing program, using one of two methods: 
  • In Google Chrome, enter the URL address
  • Or call in to the meeting via telephone (audio available only) at 1-(312) 584-2401, then use meeting extension 5345023# 
For more information or to register to attend this event, visit

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