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February 22, 2016

SVSU students take home three first-place finishes at forensics competition

Saginaw Valley State University students delivered an inspired performance at a recent intercollegiate speech tournament, showing themselves to be among the top college public speakers and debaters in Michigan.

Three students won their respective categories and have qualified for the national competition.

Erik Breidinger, a communications major from Auburn, took home first place in the informative event with a speech on the topic of Nano Drones. Melinda Dinninger, a communications major from Saginaw, captured first place in the persuasion event. Baron McBride, a communications major from Waterford, finished first in the impromptu event.

Overall, SVSU placed third at the Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League Novice States Tournament at Hillsdale College Saturday, Feb. 13.

SVSU has empowered students to enjoy such opportunities, having started the forensics program in 2001 through funding provided by a grant from the SVSU Foundation. Amy Pierce, associate professor of communication, serves as the team’s adviser.

Rishawnda Archie, a criminal justice major from Detroit, also placed well for SVSU, finishing fifth in the impromptu event. Dinniger followed her first place finish with a fifth place showing in the informative event.

Each tournament includes events from three genres: platform/public address, limited preparation and oral interpretation.

Students participating in the impromptu category are presented with prompts typically in the form of a famous quotation or political cartoon, and are then given 90 seconds to write a four and a half minute speech. Participants in the informative and persuasion categories are required to give a speech over a recent topic, citing 8-15 sources and with full memorization.

Breidinger, Dinninger, and McBride, the SVSU winners, will compete in the 2016 national championship tournament held April 14-18 at Ball State University in Indiana.

In December, SVSU’s forensics team placed third at the fall Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League tournament at Oakland University. The next state tournament will be at Eastern Michigan University March 11-12. There are currently 15 college and university forensics programs in Michigan.

February 18, 2016

SVSU theatre to perform 'Terra Nova,' play based on doomed South Pole expedition

Saginaw Valley State University's Department of Theatre in February will present Ted Tally's play based on a real-life doomed expedition to the South Pole in the early 20th century.

“Terra Nova” will be performed Wednesday, Feb. 24 through Sunday, Feb. 28 in SVSU's Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. Wednesday through Saturday will feature 7:30 p.m. productions with a 3 p.m. matinee set for Sunday. Tickets are $13 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors.

Steve Erickson, SVSU professor of theater, will direct the play that is set in the winter of 1911-12, when two separate expeditions raced to the bottom of the earth. Only one group returned home alive.

“Terra Nova” follows the story of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, the English explorer whose expedition arrives in the South Pole only to discover a team of Norwegian explorers arrived days earlier.

The drama is set in the terrain of the Antarctic, where Scott and his crew face the harsh elements of the South Pole. The final tragedy is recounted in a mixture of fantasy and realism, which underlines both the human and epic qualities of their adventure.

The production includes a cast of seven student actors and a set design crew attempting to recreate the South Pole environment. Peggy Mead-Finizio, SVSU assistant professor of theatre, is helping the production by creating lighting effects.

“Each show has different challenges and it is the lighting designer's job to collaborate with the production team to meet these challenges,” she said. “We work hard to hang and circuit the lights, focusing them and put colored lighting gel in them to create atmosphere and spend a great deal of time recording cues into the computerized light board.”

“Terra Nova's” production involves recreating the aurora australis, also known as the southern lights.

“The challenge here is that the southern lights are not stationary and change all sorts of brilliant colors,” Mead-Finizio said. “Lighting itself is best when the audience does not even notice it.”

For more information on "Terra Nova," contact the SVSU box office at (989) 964-4261 or visit‌.

February 17, 2016

Book examining the growth of Islam in Detroit wins SVSU literature award

The winner of the 2015-16 Saginaw Valley State University Stuart D. and Vernice M. Gross Award for Literature is an author of a book tracing the roots of Islam in Detroit.

Sally Howell, associate professor of history at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, received the award and its $1,000 prize.
Her book, "Old Islam in Detroit: Rediscovering the Muslim American Past," looks at the development of Muslim communities in Detroit since the first mosque was established in 1893. It analyzes the conflicts between new and established Muslims of 1970s Detroit over various subjects including manner of worship and the embrace of American identities.

Many Muslims, the book points out, came to Detroit after the invention of the assembly line, making the city their home during the auto industrial boom. In her book, Howell connects the phenomenon to current events, arguing that the 1970s view of Islam has influenced how many Americans view the religion today‌.

Howell has been published in multiple journals and was an editor for the book, "Arab Detroit 9/11: Life in the Terror Decade," and a co-author of the book, "Citizenship and Crisis: Arab Detroit after 9/11." She visited the SVSU campus Tuesday‌, Feb. 16 to receive her award.

Established by the late Stuart D. Gross and his wife, Vernice, the Gross Award for Literature is administered by SVSU.  Winners are selected by a panel of judges from SVSU's staff and faculty. Judges this year were M. Patricia Cavanaugh, professor of English; Catherine Curtis, reference librarian; Brad Jarvis, associate professor of history; Beth Johns, electronic resources and reference librarian; and Carlos Ramet, associate dean of the College of Arts & Behavioral Sciences.

Employed for many years as a journalist with The Saginaw News, Gross joined the SVSU staff in the school's early years and served in a variety of public affairs roles. He was recognized as a regional historian and published several books. Among his writings are, "Saginaw: A History of the Land and City," "When Timber was King," and "Where There is a Will." Following his retirement from SVSU, Gross wrote and produced a play, "Let's Have Lunch Sometime." He died in 1996; Mrs. Gross, in 2001.

February 16, 2016

SVSU Board grants tenure to 17 faculty

The Saginaw Valley State University Board of Control approved tenure for 17 members of the SVSU faculty during the Board’s regular meeting Monday, Feb. 15.

Those approved for tenure include:
•    Emily Beard, English
•    James Bowers, criminal justice
•    Colleen D’Arcy, teacher education
•    Sherrin Frances, English
•    Melissa Garmo, criminal justice
•    Dennis Gray, biology
•    Ellen Herlache-Pretzer, occupational therapy
•    Kimberly Lacey, English
•    Thomas Mahank, mechanical engineering
•    Andrew Miller, geography
•    Rajan Murgan, physics
•    Emmanuel Ncheuguim, mathematical sciences
•    Jean Prast, occupational therapy
•    Sheruni Ratnabalasuriar, criminal justice
•    Jennifer Stinson, history
•    Rebecca Toth, nursing
•    Charles Weaver, health sciences

The Board also authorized the issuing of general revenue bonds to advance or refund existing bonds. Given the current market conditions that include unusually low interest rates in the bond market, SVSU may see total savings of $6 million to $8 million by restructuring $60 million to $70 million in existing debt. The resolution also authorizes borrowing up to $10 million for the Zahnow Library renovation project that was previously approved.

In other action, the Board:
•    Passed a resolution to appoint a nominating committee for May Board elections.
•    Passed a resolution appointing Ryan Carley, Dirk DeBoer, Heather Gallegos, Leslie Perry, Maliha Shaikh and Kathy Stewart to the SVSU Board of Fellows, a community advisory board.
•    Passed a resolution to approve the development and implementation of a new marketing campaign in collaboration with The Image Group, a communication and marketing firm based in Holland, Michigan, at a cost not to exceed $600,000 through June 2017.

February 12, 2016

SVSU vocalists combine with Saginaw Choral Society in concerts

Saginaw Valley State University's Cardinal Singers and Concert Choir will team up with Saginaw Choral Society to perform in the concert “The Valley Sings Saturday, Feb. 20 at 3 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m. The performances in SVSU’s Rhea Miller Recital Hall are free and open to the public.

The program will feature sacred selections such as “Lobet den herrn” and “Organ Fugue” by J.S. Bach, and “Gloria” by Antonio Vivaldi.

Kevin Simons, assistant professor of music, will conduct both Cardinal Singers and the choir, which includes SVSU students and faculty. Amanda Lewis will provide musical accompaniment.

The Saginaw Choral Society will be conducted by its music director Jeremiah Kraniak. Catherine McMichael will serve as accompanist and Carl Angelo will perform on organ for certain selections.

For more information on the concert, visit SVSU's Department of Music online at

February 12, 2016

SVSU to offer college credit to graduates of teacher cadet programs

Saginaw Valley State University has signed an agreement with the Michigan Department of Education that will allow high school students from approved teacher cadet programs to receive university credit.

“We are dedicated to providing the best opportunities for students who want to pursue careers in education,” said Craig Douglas, dean of SVSU’s College of Education. “Many students feel a calling to be a teacher at a young age. This agreement empowers students to expedite their college education while still in high school.”

Under the agreement, students who graduate high school having completed an approved Teacher Cadet Career and Technical Education program will receive SVSU credit for the introductory teacher education course (TE 100/101) that is a prerequisite for SVSU's education programs.

There are nearly 50 approved teacher cadet programs in Michigan.

“The job market for teachers is improving dramatically, and that trend will continue, especially in Michigan,” Douglas said. “So this is part of our commitment to providing the best educators to support our region and our state and get outstanding students into the teaching pipeline to educate future generations.”

To qualify, high school students must complete each of the 12 segments of the teacher cadet program, including the field work component, with a GPA of at least 3.0. Upon successfully enrolling at SVSU within three years of high school graduation, students must complete at least 12 credits as a full-time student, in addition to other requirements, prior to applying for the articulation credit.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts nearly 700,000 new jobs in education fields through 2024, making it no. 8 on the list of occupations expected to see the most job growth over the next decade.  (

For more information on SVSU’s teacher cadet agreement, contact the College of Education at 989-964-7107.

February 10, 2016

SVSU hosts 2nd annual STEM teachers dinner on Thursday, Feb. 11, 4:30 to 7 p.m. in Curtiss Hall Banquet rooms.

SVSU hosts 2nd annual STEM teachers dinner
Thursday, Feb. 11, 4:30 to 7 p.m.
Curtiss Hall Banquet rooms

Saginaw Valley State University will welcome some 100 K-12 teachers in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, math) for the 2nd annual STEM teachers dinner Thursday, Feb. 11 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in the Curtiss Hall Banquet rooms.

Greg Johnson, science consultant for the Wayne Mathematics and Science Center, will deliver a special presentation on “Engineering in the Michigan Science Standards” as part of the program.

Attendees also will receive an update on the various initiatives SVSU is leading to advance STEM education in the Great Lakes Bay Region and beyond. An estimated 11,000 K-12 students in the region are being taught this year by teachers who participated in STEM professional development experiences offered at SVSU in 2015.

For more information on the event or SVSU’s STEM outreach programs, please contact Adrianne Cole, STEM program manager, at

February 8, 2016

SVSU to host ‘Heart of Teaching’ event

Saginaw Valley State University’s College of Education is hosting an event designed to increase interest in the teaching profession at a time when jobs in the field are on the rise. A “Heart of Teaching” panel discussion will be held Wednesday, Feb. 17 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in Gilbertson Hall, room GS 202.

The panel will include SVSU alumni who are currently teaching and enjoying their careers, as well as two school administrators who will describe what they look for when interviewing candidates for job openings.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts nearly 700,000 new jobs in education fields through 2024, making it no. 8 on the list of occupations expected to see the most job growth over the next decade.  (

SVSU posted a total of 1,032 potential jobs nationwide for education students and alumni last year. Of these, 849 job openings were in Michigan, up from 687 the prior year.

The “Heart of Teaching” event is open to all SVSU students, as well as members of the public who may be interested in pursing an education degree at SVSU. To register, or for more information, please contact Joan Garant in the College of Education dean’s office at 964-6067 or

February 3, 2016

Gershwin, Bach, Mozart music featured in upcoming SVSU concert

Saginaw Valley State University's Department of Music will present "Music Majors in Recital" Tuesday, Feb. 9 at 7:30 p.m.

The performance, in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall, is free and open to the public.

SVSU students majoring in music and music education as well as SVSU faculty members will perform a selection of classical music from across the centuries.

The program will feature George Gershwin's "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin,'" Mozart's "Act 1, Scene 1 from The Magic Flute," and Bach's "Cello Suite No. 2, Prelude."

Music from a number of other musicians will be featured including Italian Baroque composer Antonio Lott from the 18th century, Danish composer Launy Grøndahl from the early 20th century, and German composer Carl Maria von Weber from the 19th century.

Bill Wollner, associate professor of music, will direct the concert. Wollner is retiring this spring after a 34-year career leading musical concerts at SVSU.

For more information on the event, visit or call 989-964-4159.

February 3, 2016

SVSU students to analyze Super Bowl 50 commercials Sunday

A New Lothrop native once again will join one of the world's leading Super Bowl advertising experts in analyzing the trends and consumer impact of the ad lineup planned for this year's big game.

Saginaw Valley State University student Courtney Seamon and nine of her classmates will participate in a Super Bowl ad research project with Rama Yelkur, dean of SVSU's College of Business and Management.

Yelkur's work has been published in leading scholarly journals and has been cited widely in popular media, including Advertising Age, CNN Money, The New York Times, USA Today‌, and The Wall Street Journal. Seamon, a marketing major, has collaborated with Yelkur on the research since the dean began hosting student focus groups examining the Super Bowl commercials at SVSU in 2014.

“The critical thinking behind why some commercials score well and others not so much - and if our previous theories will still apply to the changing world of Super Bowl advertising - is really what intrigues me,” Seamon said.

This year - as with the previous two years - Seamon and her classmates will watch and analyze the Super Bowl commercials on the SVSU campus when the game starts at 6:30 p.m. Sunday‌, Feb. 7.

The stakes are high this year; a 30-second commercial during this year's broadcast costs $5 million.

Yelkur's research over the years has shown there are certain “likability factors” that can predict whether an ad will appeal to viewers. Some of those factors include the presence of humor, animals, celebrities or children. The SVSU focus group will analyze the advertisements during the game, predict how consumers will react to the marketing based on those likability factors, then research consumer reaction in the weeks following the Super Bowl to track whether those factors have changed.

Seamon also plans to co-author a research paper with Yelkur, which they plan to submit for publication in a peer-reviewed academic journal. Seamon presented an earlier research paper co-authored with Yelkur at the Marketing Management Association annual conference in Chicago in March 2015‌.

Seamon already has begun preparing for Sunday‌'s focus group, analyzing the Super Bowl commercial information that has been released before the game.

“Personally, I'm always interested to see what Anheuser-Busch comes up with; especially, since they are expected to have bought 3.5 minutes of air time this year,” she said.

Seamon also is looking forward to BMW's MINI vehicle commercial.

“They have posted several inspirational celebrity teasers online which will be interesting to see how they tie them all together,” she said. “I'm thinking it could be an encouraging, pull-at-the-heartstrings ad similar to Always' ‘Like a Girl’ 2015 commercial, which scored very well in terms of ad likability.”

Seamon will be joined in the research by fellow SVSU marketing majors Daniel Hill of Harrison, Valerie Klein of New Lothrop, and Kyle LaPine of Troy.

Other students participating in the study are Kevin Finley, an accounting major from Flint, Michael Hensley, a criminal justice major from Warren, Andrew Jarmon, an accounting major from Ortonville, Daniel Newton, a mechanical engineering major from Warren, Gerard Lefebvre, a biology major from Dearborn Heights, and Erica Seamon, a finance major from New Lothrop.

Courtney Seamon said participating in the Super Bowl ad research has been fulfilling, both academically and personally.

“Even after I graduate in May, and my research with Dr. Yelkur ends, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to watch a Super Bowl game without analyzing the ads,” she said.

“Personally, this experience has been life-changing because of the knowledge and advice I've received from Dr. Yelkur, not only as a mentor in marketing research, but also as a woman in business.”


EXTRA: Read about Rama Yelkur reflecting on Super Bowl commercial history by clicking here.

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