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November 30, 2016

SVSU professor receives national neuroscience honor

A Saginaw Valley State University educator has earned accolades from colleagues nationally for his commitment to support and empower students with research opportunities.

Jeffrey Smith, SVSU’s Malcolm & Lois Field Endowed Chair of Health Sciences, received the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience’s (FUN) Service Award, given to individuals who contribute to the development of the national organization and its mission of advancing neuroscience studies.

Smith received the award Sunday, Nov. 13, when he attended the Society for Neuroscience’s annual conference in San Diego.

He was nominated in part by students such as Zackary Bowers, an SVSU psychology major from Freeland. He said Smith’s leadership encourages an academic curiosity that enables students to succeed in classrooms and research laboratories alike.

“With Jeff, finding your passion in neuroscience is what matters,” Bowers said. “As long as you are willing to work hard, he will work twice as hard to provide you with opportunities.”

Bowers has experienced Smith’s empowering impact first-hand. This year, Bowers attended two national conferences to present research conducted with Smith’s help in the SVSU Brain Research Lab. Bowers received an Undergraduate Student Outstanding Poster Award from among 180 poster presentations at the Michigan Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience conference in May.

“He demonstrates, on a national scale, how our faculty are willing to go above and beyond for undergraduate education and the societies which support them,” Bowers said.

One of the societies Smith supports includes FUN, which Smith first joined in 1999. From 2013-15, he served in various leadership roles for the group, including as its president.

Lisa Gabel, another former FUN president, was one of the individuals who presented the Service Award to Smith in San Diego.

“For Jeff, it is all about the students,” said Gabel, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.

“He worked tirelessly to develop lasting relationships with our sponsors to increase the number of travel awards we are able to offer to exceptional students to attend the Society for Neuroscience meeting. Jeff is dedicated to the development of undergraduate research and has provided the opportunity for SVSU undergrads to participate and lead award-winning projects that are presented at national conferences and ultimately published in peer-reviewed journals.”

Smith joined SVSU in 2010; he completed a Ph.D. at Emory University. He called receiving the award “a tremendous honor.”

“FUN is a great organization,” he said. “It’s not just an organization dedicated to research; members are very supportive of each other and are active in helping each other become better teacher and better practitioners of neuroscience.”

In 2016, SVSU added a neuroscience major to the curriculum. It features teaching and research activities of faculty members from the departments of biology, chemistry, health sciences and psychology.

November 30, 2016

SVSU College of Business & Management program to host elevator pitch competition

SVSU College of Business & Management program to host elevator pitch competition
Thursday, Dec. 1; 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Curtiss Hall banquet rooms A and B, Saginaw Valley State University

The Saginaw Valley State University College of Business & Management’s Dow Entrepreneurship Institute will host its second annual Elevator Pitch Competition this week.

SVSU and eight other universities from across Michigan are sending a combined 25 teams of students to pitch their new business ideas during a 2-minute presentation to a panel of judges in front of an audience for a chance to win $2,000.

During the contest’s inaugural year, Joshua Zyrowski, an SVSU international business major from Saginaw, earned a $1,000 grand prize after impressing the judges with his inspired idea of a magnetic travel mug that clings to metallic surfaces.

The Dow Entrepreneurship Institute, part of SVSU’s College of Business & Management, is organizing the event, as part of a series of opportunities for students to engage in the business start-up experience.  

The Dow Entrepreneurship Institute at SVSU's College of Business & Management was funded by the Herbert H. & Grace A. Dow Foundation. The institute stimulates creation of new business ventures, serves as a resource for research activities aimed at business innovation, and provides internship opportunities with area businesses for student entrepreneurs.

November 30, 2016

SVSU to host 100 fourth grade students for Hour of Code event

Saginaw Valley State University will host students from four local elementary classrooms Friday, Dec. 2 for an Hour of Code program. The event is part of a national initiative to increase diversity in computer science as well as to introduce coding to students at a young age.

Elementary students will participate in an hour of coding, the process of writing a computer program using a programming language. George Corser, SVSU assistant professor of computer science and information systems, and SVSU computer science students will provide instruction to the elementary students. SVSU hosted a similar program last year.

The four participating classrooms are two fourth grade classes at Kirk Elementary in Millington, and two classrooms from Saginaw Public Schools: Merrill Park Elementary and Stone Elementary.

In addition to writing code, students from those schools will tour the Marshall Fredericks Sculpture Museum at SVSU, where they will engage in a new STEM-geared activity session at the museum.

The Hour of Code event is a global movement that reaches students in over 180 countries.

November 28, 2016

SVSU actors, vocalists to bring 1940s radio show-style holiday production to stage

Saginaw Valley State University student actors and vocalists will collaborate again for the school’s annual live radio show-style production, “Christmas of Yesteryear: A 1940s Radio Show.”

This one-hour play will relive the hope, the determination and the patriotic celebration of the holiday season during the post-World War II years. The production is a callback to the days when Americans sat around the radios in their homes, waiting for information during and immediately following World War II.

Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 30-Dec. 1, in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. Tickets cost $13 for the general public, and $10 for both students and attendees 60 and older.

Ric Roberts, professor of theatre, and David Rzeszutek, assistant professor of theatre, are co-directors.

The cast will include student thespians along with students involved in SVSU’s Cardinal Singers vocalist group. This production will mark the seventh year SVSU has hosted a live radio show-style performance in the theatre.  

For more information or to order tickets, contact the Box Office at (989) 964-4261 or purchase tickets online at .

November 23, 2016

SVSU students head to regional Ethics Bowl competition

Saginaw Valley State University will send its first team to the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics' regional Ethics Bowl this fall. The team, featuring eight dedicated SVSU students, will travel to Illinois to compete against institutions from across the Upper Midwest region.

Harper University will host the event Saturday, Dec. 3.

The purpose of the Ethics Bowl is to give college students from across the country the chance to defend their stance on any number of morally complex ethical issues facing society.

Teams must demonstrate an ability to understand all elements of the given case and present an argument on how to best resolve the ethical dilemma.

SVSU's team is led by advisor Peter Rose-Barry, the SVSU Finkbeiner Endowed Professor of Ethics, who said that the team is "looking forward to a vigorous competition and hope to advance to nationals in the upcoming calendar year."

In preparation for the event, the team has been provided with 15 potential case studies made available to them by the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics.

Since they don't know which case study they will be required to present, they are "attempting to determine all of the ethically salient issues in each case study so that they can put together a presentation in response to whatever the moderator asks just prior to the competition," Rose-Barry said.

Out of 11 regions, 36 teams in total will be selected to advance to the Ethics Bowl Nationals, taking place Feb. 26 in Dallas.

SVSU's Ethics Team is supported by a generous grant from the SVSU Foundation.

November 21, 2016

SVSU student’s intellect and work ethic result in outstanding research projects as undergraduate

Jenni Putz plans to go to graduate school. The Saginaw Valley State University student already has the resume of a PhD. student.

The Lapeer native is in her fourth and final year at SVSU. Putz expects to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in economics and applied mathematics, and a resume filled with research experience rivaling many doctoral students.

Putz has researched the benefits of short-term study abroad programs with Kaustav Misra, SVSU  associate professor of economics. Their research found students’ participation in a short-term study abroad program had a positive correlation with influencing their career aspirations and leadership skills. Putz presented her initial findings at the Academy of Economics and Finance Conference in Pensacola Beach, Florida this past February.

“There weren’t many undergraduate students at the conference, and they were all in one session, while I presented to a group of people who were all professors,” explained Putz. “It was really scary at first, but it was a really interesting experience to present to people who have been doing this for years and whose job is to do research.”

As part of her research, Putz traveled to India over SVSU’s winter break on a 10-day study abroad trip within the College of Business and Management, where she observed various foreign and international businesses such as Amazon and pharmaceutical companies.

“I had the time of my life,” said Putz. “I thought it was a very valuable experience and I’d love to study abroad again. It had a huge impact on my life and I’m really glad my research is connected to that, which makes it mean that much more.”

Putz also presented her study abroad research at an undergraduate conference at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, where her paper took 3rd place among 16 competitors. She has submitted her research for publication.

With ambition to conduct additional research, in May Putz began looking at early college programs, where high school students can enroll in programs to earn college credit. She is now compiling her findings into a presentation that she is set to give in Washington, D.C. at the end of November.

Through her participation in SVSU’s honors program, Putz presented her honors thesis on a third research interest, income inequality, Friday, Nov. 11. She previously presented her findings at an international conference in Portland, Maine where she won an award for her work.

While drawing upon her own self-determination, Putz is quick to credit the support she has received from her faculty mentor and the university she calls home.

“Dr. Misra is great,” Putz said. “If it weren’t for him, none of this wouldn’t have happened, and for that I can’t thank him enough. Dr. Misra, the business faculty and SVSU as a whole care so much about helping students and helping them research. I just don’t think it’s something you’d get anywhere else.”

Putz has received financial support from SVSU’s Undergraduate Research Program. It supplied a travel grant for her trip to Florida, and provided research funds for her dual enrollment study.

“The program is something that is really valuable but something a lot of people don’t know about yet,” she said. “Dr. Misra mentioned it to me. It’s something SVSU offers that provides students with great opportunities for research whether they want to work with a faculty member or just work individually. They give you an opportunity to present your work and I think that’s really awesome.”

With aspirations to pursue a Ph.D. in economics as a graduate student, Putz is serious about her education and her research.

“I’d like to continue my research in income inequality because I’m really interested in it,” Putz said. “Hopefully that can turn into something I can write my dissertation on or work with faculty on something else pertaining to income inequality. I feel like the things I’m doing my research on are valuable to a larger pool of knowledge.”

November 21, 2016

SVSU selects K-12 educators for Gerstacker leadership program

A new group of K-12 education leaders committed to professional growth will join the Saginaw Valley State University Gerstacker Fellowship program in 2017.

As part of the initiative, 11 teachers, principals, superintendents and program administrators from across Michigan will receive concentrated leadership training over a 1-year period. The experience concludes with a capstone international trip to Japan in April.

Previous overseas trips have included Finland, China, South Korea and Taiwan. Last year's group also traveled to Japan.

These trips send participants to educational institutions, where participants learn about international educational systems and corporate settings, where they discover how leadership plays out in different cultural and economic settings.

Kimberli McMahan, an elementary Spanish teacher in Midland Public Schools, was one of the 11 educators chosen for the opportunity.

“This is, without question, the most treasured and important opportunity of my professional career,” she said.

“I look forward to studying, in depth, what it means to be a good leader and a good educator in this global world with the other members of the cohort. The Gerstacker family is so generous to provide such a rich fellowship program, and I know the students of Michigan will benefit as we take action with the things we learn over the next year.”

The program was established in 2005 with a $1.5 million endowment from the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation of Midland. Participants are known as Gerstacker Fellows. They meet monthly on weekends.

SVSU faculty from various disciplines instruct the group on subjects such as organizational leadership, ethics, finances, communication, human resources, entrepreneurship and education with a global perspective.

In addition to McMahan, those selected to participate in the program in 2017 are as follows:

•    Gordon Culver, a science teacher at Frankenmuth High School
•    David Farley, principal and the K-8 curriculum director at Richfield Early Learning Center at Richfield Public School Academy in Flint
•    Renae Galsterer, assistant superintendent of the Mt. Morris Consolidated Schools District
•    John-Matthew LaGalo, principal of Bridgeport High School
•    Patrick Malley, principal of Meridian Early College High School in Meridian Public Schools
•    Vicki Mikusko, an elementary school principal and director of special education in the Bullock Creek School District
•    Carla Postell, the director of curriculum integration and instruction at Hazel Park Schools in southeast Michigan
•    Noreen Saylor, a high school English language arts teacher at Carrollton Public Schools
•    Brigette Uhrich, an assistant principal at the Saginaw Intermediate School District Transitions Center
•    Lisa Williams, principal at Lincoln Middle School in the Van Dyke Public School District in Warren

The Fellows were nominated by their schools and selected on the basis of their past academic and service accomplishments, and the recommendations of others as to their potential for true excellence in leadership.

November 21, 2016

SVSU student continues winning ways in public speaking contest

A Saginaw Valley State University student with a passion for public speaking recently continued an impressive streak in earning honors for his ability.

Erik Breidinger was named winner of SVSU’s 27th Annual Sims Public Speaking Competition in November. The victory earned him $400. The title of his presentation was “Feeling Lucky? The Descent into Google-ocracy.”

The communication and geography double major also won the contest in 2015. In the competition’s history, the Auburn native is the sixth student to win twice and the third person to do so in consecutive years.

Breidinger has excelled in competitions outside of campus too.

In October 2016, he earned top honors for presenting his community-minded research on the Kawkawlin River. The first-place win came in the undergraduate paper presentation category at the American Association of Geographers East Lakes/West Lakes conference hosted by Northern Michigan University.

In February 2016, he won first place in the informative category of the Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League Novice States Tournament at Hillsdale College.

In total, six students earned prizes during the 2016 Sims Public Speaking Competition:

•    Melinda Dinninger, a communication major from Saginaw, who earned $250 for a second-place finish
•    Shafayat Alam, a management major from Bangladesh, who earned $150 for a third-place finish
•    Cody Bromberg, a communication major from Essexville, who earned $100 for a fourth-place finish
•    Melanie Frasca, a communication/theatre education major from Waterford, who earned $75 as a finalist
•    Cheyena Pettaway, a communication major from Saginaw, who earned $75 as a finalist

The competition is endowed by Larry and Linda Sims, long-time supporters of SVSU. Linda currently serves as senior executive assistant to the president/executive director for communications and external affairs at SVSU.

November 18, 2016

Prince, Bowie, Hendrix music planned for SVSU marching band concert

Saginaw Valley State University's Cardinal marching band will perform in its 41st annual indoor concert this month.

Norman Wika, SVSU associate professor of music, will direct an ensemble of 91 student musicians Monday, Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall. Encompassing students of various academic backgrounds, the marching band performs at all home football games and other fall events on campus.

The program lineup will consist of renditions of popular songs such as Prince's "Purple Rain," David Bowie's "Let's Dance," and Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean," "Smooth Criminal," and "Don't Stop til You Get Enough."

Fall Out Boy's "Centuries," Meghan Trainor's "Lips Are Movin," Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off," Mark Ronson's "Uptown Funk," Jimi Hendrix's "Crosstown Traffic," Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours," and Styx's "The Best Of Times" also will be featured.

The concert is free and open to the public. For more information, visit SVSU's Department of Music online at

November 16, 2016

SVSU Student Association creates student empowerment scholarship

The Saginaw Valley State University Student Association has created a new scholarship aimed at improving the educational experience of students. The Student Association Student Empowerment Endowed Scholarship will award scholarships to students based on both academic and extracurricular achievements, beginning in the 2017 winter semester.

The academic scholarship will be awarded to one residential student and one commuter student per year. This will be given based on a student's academic excellence in the classroom and in research endeavors.

The extracurricular scholarship will also be awarded to both one commuter and one residential student based on a student's achievements outside the classroom. This may involve a student's engagement with the Saginaw Valley community, registered student organizations and volunteer work.

Each recipient will receive a $500 scholarship.  

The scholarships are made possible through a $52,000 contribution from Student Association to the SVSU Foundation to establish an endowment that will allow the scholarships to be awarded annually on a permanent basis. The 2016-2017 Student Association hopes that the future Associations will continue to award funds to this scholarship so that it will remain available to current and future students.

For more information on how to apply for this scholarship, please contact the SVSU Student Association at (989) 964-4232.

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