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May 24, 2016

Bay City Western students analyze sports physics through SVSU, Dow Corning Foundation initiative

Jarret Deming is a natural with a tennis racquet in his grip. Until recently, he never considered how it could empower him to better understand physics.

On a brisk morning - temperatures below 40 degrees - the 17-year-old junior at Bay City Western High School doesn't appear phased by the cold as he swings at the tennis ball. Deming is a natural, after all.

But this year he is getting a little help on his tennis posture and follow through. That support isn't coming from a coach or a teammate or even a how-to video. It's happening in Deming’s third hour physics class, where science, sports and technology are colliding thanks to a community partnership aimed at improving K-12 education in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

“I enjoy this more than sitting in a classroom and listening to a teacher talk,” said Deming, who spent class time mapping out and analyzing the physics of his tennis form.

The lesson plan comes from Lisa Welch, a teacher participating in her second year as a participant in The Dow Corning Foundation/SVSU STEM Community Partnership.

The initiative is aimed at influencing 4,000 K-12 students within the Great Lakes Bay Region. Funded by a $254,000 Dow Corning Foundation grant, the project connects teachers with SVSU faculty and Dow Corning officials as they work on ideas for stimulating student interest in STEM.

In summer 2014, Welch was among 12 teachers in the region selected as part of the inaugural group of participants. In summer 2015, Welch was one of 16 educators enrolled in the initiative. She and her colleagues participated in education seminars and interacted with STEM professionals.

That same group of Dow Corning Fellows plans to discuss how the program impacts their classroom during a symposium Tuesday, May 31, from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in SVSU's Curtiss Hall banquet rooms. The event is free and open to the public.

Welch plans to share how Deming - and other students involved in her classroom's sports physics research - benefit from The Dow Corning Foundation and SVSU initiative.

Along with tennis balls, students in Welch's third hour physics class are hitting baseballs and golf balls in the name of science in the name of sports physics research. With iPad technology purchased through the Dow Corning Foundation/SVSU STEM Community Partnership, students are using computer software to produce 3-D maps of their peers simulating at-bats, tennis serves and golf ball chipping.

“I'm really interested to see what we learn from all this,” Welch said. “It's great seeing the way students are reacting to this. They are getting a chance to see firsthand how the topics we are learning in class apply in the bigger picture of sports perfection”

Welch said The Dow Corning Foundation/SVSU STEM Community Partnership has inspired her – and given her resources – to keep students engaged in STEM-geared learning.

Another benefit: “The network of people I've met, from SVSU and Dow Corning,” she said. “I'm not teaching in a small room anymore, on my own. I have a league of people who want to help me teach.”

Each Dow Corning Fellow is paired with an SVSU faculty member as well as professionals from Dow Corning. Welch works with Jason Pagano, assistant professor of chemistry, and Kelly Broker, a Dow Corning product development team leader.

Broker is impressed with how Welch has found new ways to engage students in STEM education.

“There's so much more to science than just what you learn in the classroom,” Broker said. “Experiences such as these give students such a broader perspective of what science is about.”

And it's not always exclusively about science, as Deming has discovered. Sometimes a STEM education ties in with elements of life that don't require hours of classroom lectures or thick textbooks to study. Sometimes a STEM education is found in the swing of a tennis racquet.

“This has been fun,” the 17-year-old says of the classroom assignment. “If it helps me understand the most efficient way to swing in tennis, then that's even better.”

May 24, 2016

SVSU honors outstanding nurses at annual awards

Saginaw Valley State University celebrated the valuable contributions of eight registered nurses in the Great Lakes Bay Region during the sixth annual Carleen K. Moore R.N. Nursing Excellence awards Tuesday, May 10 during National Nurses Week.

Established by SVSU's Department of Nursing, the honor recognizes the continual dedication, quality service and front-line leadership exhibited by nurses in clinical practice, education, leadership, and community service. Awards were presented in the categories of acute care, nurse educator, long-term care/rehabilitation, and nursing in the community.

•    Tracy Bruff of Saint Mary's of Michigan, received an Acute Care Nursing award; she was nominated by her Director, Jill Loftus. Bruff is described as the Saint Mary's “stroke clinical outcome queen!”  She works quietly and independently to continuously improve the work environment for patients, their families and staff.

•    Tiffini Jarstfer of MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland was one of three recipients of the Acute Care Nursing award; she was nominated by her nurse manager, Amy Barnhart. Jarstfer is cited as a role model for other nurses in how she treats her patients and coworkers. She also has been key in helping students to transform from shy and scared to confident take-charge professionals.

•    Eric Maher, the stoke coordinator at Saint Mary's of Michigan, also was a recipient of the Acute Care Nursing award; he too was nominated by his nurse manager, Loftus. Maher gets a “first touch” with patients when they first become aware of their stroke symptoms. Many departments have gained a strong respect for him due to his ability to coordinate the testing necessary for timely stroke intervention.

•    Cindy Baker of Marlette Regional Hospital, received one of two Community Nursing awards, she was nominated by her director, Vicki Meiburg. Baker successfully initiated and implemented the Patient Centered Medical Home Model of care delivery for six practices. A colleague said, “Cindy is a gifted Nursing Leader. She always puts the patient first in everything she does.”

•    Kathy Janer of the Bay County Health Department, was a recipient of the Community Nursing award; she was nominated by Molly Stapish and Joel Strasz, public health director for Bay County. Janer was part of the pilot school nurse program in Bay City Public Schools. One of her significant accomplishments was instituting best practices for medication administration in the school setting.

•    Colleen Markel of who was a recipient of the Nursing Education award, was nominated by Greg Ghilardi, vice president of human resources for MidMichigan Medical Center. Markel served as a nurse in the Intensive Care Unit for 20 years before accepting her current position as manager of workforce development. She is described as exceedingly student-focused in her role, where she and her team coordinate nursing clinical placements for more 400 students per semester from seven different colleges and universities.

•    Karen Rezmer of Covenant HealthCare, received one of two of the Long-Term Care/Rehabilitation Nursing awards; she was nominated by her director, Christine Clayton. Rezmer meets and greets her residents each day, reviews their charts, and discusses their care and progress with them, their physician and their family. She is known and appreciated by the residents and their families in addressing daily care needs.

•    Patti Krenz, who was a recipient of a Long-Term Care/Rehabilitation Nursing award, is currently a staff nurse at McLaren Bay Special Care. She developed the “Precious Reflections” support group more than 25 years ago, and continues to serve as a facilitator to provide support for those who have experienced the death of a full-term baby or miscarriage.

The awards were presented by SVSU alumna Ellen Talbott, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer for McLaren Bay Region. The ceremony featured Judy Ruland, dean of SVSU’s College of Health and Human Services, as a guest speaker.

May 18, 2016

SVSU Cardinal Formula Racing adapts and perseveres to again place among world’s best

The Saginaw Valley State University Cardinal Formula Racing team competed well and finished highly during the 2016 Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) Collegiate Design Series at Michigan International Speedway May 11-14.

“I'm thrilled with my students,” said Brooks Byam, SVSU professor of mechanical engineering and the team's adviser. “They're a sophisticated race team that can build a car, get it ready and have it go fast right away. They're just awesome.”

Teams from higher education institutions across the globe attend the series, where student teams design and build an Indy-style race car over the course of the year. The competition features multiple competition categories such as endurance, acceleration, autocross, cost, presentation, and skid pad. The scores from each category determine an overall tally.

The competition is tougher than ever before, Byam said.

The evidence: While this year's SVSU team placed 30th out of 120 teams in the competition by scoring 568 points, last year's team placed higher – 26th – despite scoring nearly 50 points fewer.

“We're facing a lot more graduate schools from overseas, with students working at big, European professional sports car companies,” he said. “It's really tough.”

The top three teams in the 2016 competition arrived from Germany and Austria.

Year after year, SVSU has proven itself as one of the top university teams with exclusively undergraduate students. For the second consecutive year in 2016, SVSU placed highest among schools without a graduate program in engineering.

To put 30th place in perspective, SVSU’s students outperformed teams from schools such as University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (who finished No. 46 overall), as well as Duke (No. 37), Northwestern (No. 53) and Georgia Tech (No. 54).
(A full list is published at

Byam said the FSAE contest - and the year of preparation that precedes it - offers valuable learning experiences for SVSU students eyeing a career in engineering.

“The competition is results-oriented, there's a tight time line, a tight budget, and you have to perform at your absolute peak in a globally-competitive environment,” he said. “If you have to hire someone to be an engineer, you want to be able to check those boxes. Students who can check those boxes will make an impact on the industry.”

Ryan Whitman, the team's captain and a mechanical engineering major from Standish, said working with Cardinal Formula Racing opened doors for him professionally.

“It's prepared me for everything I want to do with my career after college,” he said. “I want to work in racing or performance vehicles, and this has been a great experience for me.”

Whitman recently began a spring- and summer-long internship at Auburn Hills-based Chrysler's SRT (street and racing technology) division.

“The only reason I got this opportunity is through Cardinal Formula Racing,” Whitman said. “Chrysler looked at my résumé, saw I had the experience and brought me here.”

The team has formed partnerships with several companies in the industry over the years, and those networks often help students land jobs after graduation. For instance, Buena Vista-based Nexteer Automotive, which donated tires as well as trucks and trailers to transport the students' car and equipment this year, employs several Cardinal Formula Racing alumni.

“Nexteer has been a huge supporter of our program because they know what kind of students come from this program,” Byam said.

The FSAE competition helps students keep score of their skills in ways that aren't measured in final points tallies.

For instance, this year's team's toughest challenge at the Michigan International Speedway happened when a judge's interpretation of a competition rule forced the students to perform some on-the-spot welding during the technical inspection portion of the competition, Byam said.

When a judge ruled that the SVSU car's fuel tank was too exposed to the ground, the team added a steel frame beneath the tank. The work partly damaged the vehicle's electrical system. The students discovered the damage later during a timed portion of the competition.

“They fixed the problem but our time was running out. They had less time to go through their normal processes and procedures, so they overlooked some things that cost us,” Byam said. “We probably could have gotten another 30 points out of the car if that hadn't happened.”

Another 30 points would have landed the team in 20th place.

While the lost points irked the competitive side of Byam, he said being forced to adapt the vehicle on the fly provided valuable training for the students.

“All these things the judges can throw at them – where the students have to react and innovate – helps them in the long run,” Byam said. “It's about learning. That's what we do.”

For more on SVSU’s Cardinal Formula Racing Program, visit

May 18, 2016

SVSU students to partner with Hidden Harvest for 2016 ‘Battle of the Valleys’

Saginaw Valley State University's Student Association has selected its charitable partner for the 14th annual “Battle of the Valleys” fundraising competition. SVSU students will raise funds for Hidden Harvest when they compete against their rivals from Grand Valley State University during the week-long challenge this coming fall.

Hidden Harvest strives to alleviate hunger and end food waste in the Great Lakes Bay Region. The organization provides a safe, coordinated system of rescuing surplus food and redistributing it – free of charge, – to recipient agencies that feed people in need.

Hidden Harvest rescues surplus food from area restaurants, food wholesalers, bakeries, grocery stores, farms, and anyplace else that has good, nutritious food to donate. SVSU Dining Services has participated as a food supplier for several years. Hidden Harvest then distributes good, surplus food to soup kitchens, food pantries, after-school programs, senior centers, shelters and other agencies serving those in need.

The SVSU Student Association hopes the selection will remind students at both schools of the importance and true meaning of “Battle of the Valleys,” which began in 2003 to capitalize upon the schools' football rivalry by raising funds for deserving non-profits. Over the past 13 years, the competition has generated $508,850 in charitable donations between the two schools. SVSU students have raised a total of $331,329, winning ten of the thirteen annual competitions.

In 2015, SVSU students raised $24,540 in one week for Get Outside for a Healthier Inside, an affiliate of the Saginaw Community Foundation whose goal is to increase physical activity and promote healthy living in Saginaw, focusing specifically on building parks and maintaining trails.

The 2016 “Battle of the Valleys” fundraising campaign will be held October 30-November 5.

May 17, 2016

SVSU chooses next class for leadership development program

SVSU chooses next class for leadership development program

A Saginaw Valley State University selection committee chose 10 students to participate in the 18th class of the highly competitive Roberts Fellowship Program.

The year-long leadership development initiative empowers students to grow through both academic course work and extracurricular activities designed to enhance their potential as future political, economic and civic leaders. The program culminates in a trip to Asia to provide the Fellows with an international perspective on leadership.

This year's class was selected in part for demonstrating academic excellence and leadership potential.

The students selected as Roberts Fellows for the 2016-17 academic year include:
•    Nikolas Berkobien, a psychology major from Saginaw
•    Reanna Cantrall, a biology major from Frankenmuth
•    Brandon Errer, a political science major from Saginaw
•    Kevin Finley, an accounting major from Flint
•    Stephen Holihan, a biology major from Saginaw
•    Imran Khan, a computer science major from the Asian nation of Bangladesh
•    Sandra Lamarche, an international business major from Frankenmuth
•    Christina Micale, a psychology major from Macomb
•    Samuel Oswald, a psychology major from Midland
•    Natalie Schneider, a business management major from Saginaw

To qualify, students must have completed between 48 and 100 credit hours with a minimum grade point average of 3.40 and pass a rigorous selection process. Students are chosen based upon their academic accomplishment, a record of university and community service, and other evidence of leadership potential.

Students selected to be Roberts Fellows will be required to complete a 3-credit "Leadership Seminar" in the fall and winter semesters, within one or more academic departments. During the year, the Fellows will also meet for informal seminars and discussions with various political, business and civic leaders from throughout the Great Lakes Bay region. Andrew Swihart, professor of psychology, and Brian Thomas, associate professor of sociology, serve as the group's faculty advisers.

Established in 1999, the program is named in honor of Donna Roberts of Midland, who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to SVSU through her personal generosity and prior service on the Board of Control and the Board of Fellows. A respected attorney, business leader and philanthropist, Roberts retired from The Dow Chemical Company, where she was Secretary and Assistant General Counsel. She is an honorary director of the SVSU Foundation Board.

May 9, 2016

SVSU Cardinal Formula Racing hopes for better final day during 2016 international contest

The faculty adviser for the Saginaw Valley State University Cardinal Formula Racing team says hard work, dedication and teamwork could propel this group to a strong finish at the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers Collegiate Design Series later this week at Michigan International Speedway.

Then again, one bad break could undo all of that.

“This is a sophisticated race team, and we are prepared and we are ready,” said Brooks Byam, SVSU professor of mechanical engineering and the team’s adviser since 1998. “Sometimes, though, it can come down to racing luck.”

Byam and last year’s team learned that the hard way when a 10-cent oil line broke during the final day of the annual competition. The team still finished in 26th place out of 110 institutions – the highest of any exclusively undergraduate team – but likely would have finished in the top 10 if not for the malfunction, he said.

“We were so unbelievably close, it was heartbreaking,” Byam said.

This year’s team hopes to combine last year’s performance with better luck when the annual competition kicks off again at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan May 11-14.

Recognized by his peers, Byam received the Society of Automotive Engineers Carroll Smith Mentor's Cup in 2013, an award given to one faculty member annually who advises college formula racing programs.

Teams from higher education institutions across the globe attend the series, which features multiple competition categories such as endurance, acceleration, autocross, cost, presentation, and skid pad. The scores from each category determine an overall tally.

The defending overall champion was Austria-based Graz University of Technology, whose students for the last six years have stayed in SVSU housing facilities in the days leading up to the competition.

The hospitality allows Byam and his students a sneak peak at the competition.

“I have a hard time sometimes believing that students built these,” Byam said. “These look like professionally-built cars. The competition is unbelievably stiff.”

Despite last year’s setback, SVSU recorded the highest overall finish among institutions without a graduate program in engineering, thanks to top 15 showings in categories such as acceleration, autocross, cost, presentation, and skid pad. The oil line break happened during the endurance competition.

The 26th-place overall finish was the fifth-best all-time showing for SVSU’s team. Four times Cardinal Formula Racing hast placed in the top 20 overall: sixth place in 2002, eighth in 2005, 14th in 2008 and 18th in 2010.

May 9, 2016

Outstanding SVSU Criminal Justice Alum Sworn in as Saginaw Police Officer Tonight

Outstanding SVSU Criminal Justice Alum Sworn in as Saginaw Police Officer Tonight
Monday, May 9, 6:30 p.m.
Saginaw City Hall

Included in the four new officers who will be sworn in to the Saginaw Police Department Monday, May 9 is Terrance Moore, who graduated from Saginaw Valley State University in 2015.  He was named SVSU’s Outstanding Criminal Justice graduate last year, and remains enrolled at SVSU pursuing a master’s degree in administrative science.

Terrance recently graduated from the police academy and will take part in a swearing in ceremony at 6:30 p.m. at Saginaw City Hall.

For more about Terrance, visit

May 5, 2016

Taylor Fisher: Portrait of a 2016 SVSU graduate

From: Emmett

High school: Yale

Major: political science

Future: law school

Taylor Fisher has built quite an email signature during her time as an SVSU student.

Honors student. Roberts Fellowship Program member. Former SVSU moot court director. Former parliamentarian for Student Association, SVSU’s student body government. Former SVSU Law Club vice president. Former co-editor of the campus political science journal, The Sovereign.

In May, the political science major’s determination will allow her to add “SVSU graduate” to that lineup of titles listed in her email signature. She expects to include “law school student” shortly thereafter.

“Starting last year, I was comparing my email signature to the email signatures of students I looked up to when I was a freshman,” said Fisher, of Emmett, a rural community with one stop sign in southeast Michigan.

“I remember thinking, ‘I want to have a lot of accomplishments listed in my signature, like they do.’ I think I got to where I want to be.”

By most measures of success — email signatures included — Fisher is a distinguished student compared to many four-year graduates. Yet she belongs in a different category. After all, her academic persistence led to her securing those accomplishments in three years.

After mixing 18-credit hour semesters with spring and summer semester classes, Fisher one year ago realized she was on pace to graduate in May 2016. Advisers cautioned her against taking that road, instead recommending she enroll in a light load of courses while studying for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

“But I was thinking, ‘I want to do this in three years,’” she said. “I wanted to see if I could do it.”

And she did — all while passing the LSAT in October 2015. As a result, she will be less than a month into her 21st year when she is honored during SVSU’s commencement ceremonies in May. Shortly after that, she plans to pick which law school to attend this fall.

Fisher credits faculty, staff and students for helping her meet her goals so efficiently.

“I had a lot of people who took the time to sit down with me, work out a timeline and help me finish in three years,” she said. “And it wasn’t just people helping me figure out my schedule.”

For instance, former SVSU President Eric Gilbertson was among the mentors who helped Fisher along the way. Gilbertson, a former Constitutional attorney who now serves as SVSU’s executive in residence, was among Fisher’s advisors for the university moot court team that competes nationally in simulated courtroom cases scored by a panel of judges.

“I don’t know another school where a president or former president will sit down with you, critique your courtroom argument and offer you life advice at the same time,” Fisher said. “Those are the kinds of opportunities you have at SVSU.”

Of those SVSU opportunities, moot court was among Fisher’s favorites. She served as the group’s student director in 2015-16, when the American Collegiate Moot Court Association ranked the program No. 17 in the U.S. In January, her team competed in the association’s national tournament at California State University-Long Beach.

“Moot court was such a bonding experience with the other students,” she said. “And it really helped me learn how to better my legal writing, get up in front of a whole courtroom of people, be aware of time and not fall on my feet. I think I will have learned the most at SVSU from being on moot court.”

She was inspired enough by the program that it became the basis for the thesis she wrote as part of her involvement with SVSU’s Honors Program. Her paper, “Benefits of undergraduate involvement in moot court programs,” explores how SVSU’s moot court program — formed relatively recently, in 2010 — has catapulted a number of alumni into successful positions at respected law schools.

Fisher said she hopes the paper finds life after her graduation.

“I’d like to see it get across the country and maybe lead to other schools creating their own moot court programs,” she said.

Speaking of life after graduation: Fisher won’t quite be finished at SVSU when the commencement ceremony concludes. As one of 10 students selected for the university’s Roberts Fellowship Program, an initiative that develops leaders, she will travel to Asia in May as part of the capstone experience.

“I’ve just done so many things since I’ve been here,” said Taylor, who, by the way, also is a third-generation owner of her family’s boarding kennel that trains Great Danes and Boxers for dog shows across the nation.

 “A lot of it went by so fast. I blinked and it was done.”

May 5, 2016

Scott Stanford: Portrait of a 2016 SVSU graduate

From: Novi

High school: Novi

Major: accounting

Future: audit staff, Plante Moran accounting firm

Scott-Stanford-CurtissOn a warm October day in 2011 on Michigan Tech University’s football field, Scott Stanford experienced one of his first feelings of success at Saginaw Valley State University.

Stanford, a freshman kicker on the Cardinal football team that season, had already sent two field goal kicks sailing between the goal post uprights — including a 45-yard boot — by the time the GLIAC rivals began overtime play. The third kick, if Stanford could hit it, would win the game and lift the SVSU Cardinals above Michigan Tech in the GLIAC North standings.

“I had already hit a few field goals, so I was relaxed by that point,” Stanford remembers of the moment.

Yes, the story ends well for Stanford: He nailed the 23-yard attempt to win the game for SVSU, 44-41. Teammates and traveling fans cheered in celebration.

Stanford expects to hear another kind of cheering when the Novi native’s name is called during SVSU’s May 2016 commencement ceremonies. In many respects, Stanford has kept his winning streak alive since that October 2011 moment, with the latest victory arriving because of his successful completion of SVSU’s bachelor’s degree program in accounting.

“My experience at Saginaw Valley was really great,” he said. “I really enjoyed my time there. I was able to have the college experience I was looking for, and was prepared well for my career afterward.”

That “career” may begin at the Plante Moran accounting services office near his hometown of Novi. In the absence of one scenario that could change his plans (more on that later), Stanford expects to begin work as a full-time auditor in August 2016.

The job was offered to Stanford based on the accounting know-how he displayed during an internship in that same office for four months beginning in January 2016.

That internship opportunity happened when Stanford attended the SVSU Career Services-hosted Accounting and Finance Fair in September 2015, when employers such as Plante Moran visited the campus and met with its deep pool of prospective workers. After a follow-up interview, Stanford was offered an internship that involved participating in audits of companies from industries including construction, manufacturing and nonprofits.

The work was perfectly suited for Stanford’s interest and off-the-field abilities.

“I always liked numbers, so I’ve known for a while that I wanted to go into accounting,” he said. “With that subject, there’s just so much to learn. There are so many rules and regulations. I can go into work and know I’m going to learn something new every day.”

Learning was a priority for Stanford during his undergraduate studies. His focus on the classroom even shined through in his collegiate football life. One of his proudest accomplishments at SVSU came when he was named to the 2013 Capital One Academic All-America Division II Football Team, which recognized 49 athletes nationally that excelled academically that year.

“I’ve always wanted to do well academically and athletically,” he said. “That award was an honor for me to receive.”

While Stanford is near advancing his SVSU studies into a career in accounting, he continues to work first toward advancing his SVSU athletic career into a career in the world’s top football league. In the next few months, Stanford hopes to secure a tryout session with an NFL team that could lead to a professional football contract for the 2016-17 season.

“Ideally, I’m looking at the NFL,” he said. “The difficulty is in getting a foot in the door. I’m trying to market my name as a kicker right now, and get someone interested in me.”

Stanford works out five days a week with the help of a personal trainer to stay in shape in the event his number is called. He likely will know if an NFL team is interested by the time his Plante Moran job is scheduled to start.

“I’ll play it by ear,” he said. “For me to comfortably extend my offer, it will have to be something that’s a promising opportunity.”

Stanford recognizes very few people play in the NFL, but is optimistic — if given the chance — he can keep his on-the-field winning streak alive before he turns his attention toward his off-the-field talents. 

May 5, 2016

Marianna Cuevas: Portrait of a 2016 SVSU graduate

From: Tecumseh

High School: Manchester

Major: social work

Future: Marianna is currently pursuing her Master of Social Work degree at the University of Louisville.


Marianna Cuevas knows that leaving SVSU to take the next step toward fulfilling her professional ambitions will be bittersweet. 

The social work major has a deep passion for SVSU and is sad to leave the university behind, but is excited to pursue her personal and professional goals.

Cuevas didn’t always know she wanted to be a social work major. SVSU’s competitive nursing program brought her to SVSU, and after changing her major five times, she eventually discovered her passion after joining the social work program.

After some trial and error, the Manchester native was elated when she learned that the social work profession aligned with her own goals and interests. Cuevas found a path that would allow her to make an impact in the areas of social justice, homelessness, poverty and mental health — the subjects she is most passionate about. Despite her initial indecision, Cuevas still managed to graduate within four years and plans to pursue a master’s in social work in the fall.

“My family always put a strong emphasis on human relationships,” she said. “I wanted a job that was fulfilling. I love connecting people to the things they need.”

Cuevas has worked as a research assistant at SVSU — studying library services and what it can do for homeless people — and as an assault advocate for the Saginaw Child and Family Services Center. When she finishes grad school, she would like to work in case management in either a homeless shelter or women’s shelter.

"I am struck by Marianna's high energy and commitment to every task she takes on,” said Mark Geisler, professor of social work at SVSU. “For the research project on homelessness with which she has assisted me, she has demonstrated not only academic proficiency and integrity, but also a compassion toward our subjects that embraces the social work values of dignity and worth of all. Her positive attitude and optimism towards her work are indeed infectious."

Inspired by her internship as an assault advocate at the Saginaw Child and Family Services Center, Cuevas started the Sexual Assault Prevention Team (SAPT) on campus in September 2014.  

“I looked online and couldn’t find anything about sexual assault prevention at SVSU,” she said. “No one likes to talk about sexual assault because it’s not happy or fun, but it is important for students to be educated about the resources available to them.”

Cuevas is grateful for the unique experience of starting her own student organization and is proud of how SAPT has grown over the last two years. The timing was impeccable as it coincided with new federal laws requiring more sexual assault prevention measures. Faculty and staff at SVSU have also been very supportive of the organization and have aided in its success, she said. 

In addition to her efforts in preventing sexual assault, Cuevas has taken part in several service trips across the globe. She was able to do this through a student organization that sends students to volunteer during winter and spring breaks. Cuevas was also fortunate enough to meet her fiancé, William Strasz, on one of her service trips. The two SVSU graduates plan to get married this fall.

“I am proud that I trusted my gut and came to SVSU,” she said. “My experiences here have made such a significant impact on my life. I love it here and I am going to miss it." 

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