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October 19, 2016

SVSU to host Advocates for Latino Student Advancement Conference

Saginaw Valley State University will host some 500 high school students from across Michigan for the 14th annual Advocates for Latino Student Advancement in Michigan Education (ALSAME) Conference Friday, Oct. 21. The event will be held in SVSU’s Ryder Center and Curtiss Hall; it runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The event will feature keynote speaker Carlos Ojeda Jr., founder of CoolSpeak: The Youth Engagement Company, at around 2:40 p.m. A former college administrator, Ojeda focuses on teaching students across the country that their voices can be powerful through events meant to both educate and empower them.

ALSAME is a non-profit organization that works to aid Latino students in their college endeavors. In bringing high school students to different universities across the state of Michigan, the organization gives them the opportunity to be introduced to a collegiate setting and equips them with information and training regarding college and career readiness. The theme of the conference is “Embracing Our Heritage and Achieving Success for ME.” Workshop presenters will include SVSU faculty members, staff, students, and community members, as well as ALSAME members.

The organization advocates for the involvement of parents, teachers, advisors and counselors in preparing Latino students for academic success. The conference will provide information regarding student admission, financial aid, career and housing information as well as special interest opportunities for Latino students.

The conference will give visiting students the chance to tour the SVSU campus and participate in several workshops throughout the day. Lunch and transportation will be provided.

Sponsors of the ALSAME conference include SVSU, Eastern Michigan University GEAR UP, Grand Valley State University GEAR UP, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, the Saginaw Community Foundation and the Imlay City School District. For registration information, please contact Patricia Young at

October 19, 2016

Reflections exclusive: Gene Hamilton muses on 47-year SVSU career

By Jan Poppe

The following profile appears in the fall 2016 edition of Reflections magazine. Following the profile is online exclusive material featuring a timeline of Gene Hamilton's career and his thoughts on aspects of his professional life.

There are two kinds of people who say “yes” to a challenge. One reluctantly says “yes” out of obligation. The other enthusiastically says “yes” out of faith.

In his 47 years at SVSU, Gene Hamilton showcased his faith in the institution as he answered “yes” to multiple challenges, charges and positions given to him, knowing that the request was always intended to be in the best interest of the university, for the good of its students and the good of the community. That faith and his success in executing it were recognized in June 2016, when Hamilton — surrounded by family, cohorts and supporters — witnessed the renaming of Cardinal Gym to Hamilton Gymnasium, days before his retirement.

Many who know Hamilton know the story of how he arrived at SVSU in 1969 via a chance encounter at Owosso St. Paul High School with Paul Gill, an admissions representative who later retired from his position in the SVSU financial aid office. Gill talked to Hamilton — then a coach, teacher and guidance counselor at St. Paul — and saw a hard-working, multiple hat-wearing guy who would be a perfect fit for a fledgling college headed toward its imagined future. 

When Hamilton and Mary Pat, Gene’s wife, met with the college’s president at the time, Sam Marble, Hamilton sensed the palpable sincerity of Marble’s vision of a great university. The Hamiltons decided a leap of faith was in order, and in 1969, he joined the admissions staff.

Over the course of nearly a half-century, Hamilton worked in cooperative education, economic development, international programs, conference bureau, advancement, community affairs and government relations. And, along the way, he coached a few basketball games, helped identify the “Cardinal” as SVSU’s mascot, and secured his Ph.D.

Now that he is a retired Cardinal, Hamilton looks back — not so much at his many titles and positions — but at the life lessons that came from the challenges he accepted. 

“I learned from every president I worked for and a lot from colleagues,” Hamilton said. “That group taught me how to view both the academic as well as business side of a university.”

He said “the greatest lessons” he learned from those colleagues were perseverance and the value of forming friendships.

“It’s really always been about people; whether working with legislators or students, it’s been about forming relationships,” he said. “That’s my life at SVSU and that’s the way my life will go on. I’ll continually look to see if there’s something I can do to help. And I’ll be out in the community doing the same.”


The following is a Reflections magazine online exclusive, featuring a deeper dive into Hamilton’s history at SVSU and his thoughts on his 47-year career there, starting with a timeline of his professional career:

  • A native of Flint, Hamilton graduated from St. Mary’s High School in 1957 and then received his associate’s degree from Flint Junior College (later Mott Community College);
  • Hamilton transferred to Western Michigan and received his bachelor’s degree in 1961 (education; English major) and met the love of his life, Mary Pat;
  • After graduating from Western, the Hamiltons returned to Flint where Gene accepted a position with St. Mary’s  in Mt. Morris. In 1962, he was head basketball coach and teaching English and history;
  • From 1964-69, Hamilton was teacher, head basketball coach and guidance counselor at St. Paul’s in Owosso. During the summers, he worked on his advance degree and completed his master’s in guidance counseling in 1969;
  • In 1969, Gene accepted a position in “Admissions” at then-Saginaw Valley College (now SVSU);
  • In less than a year, he was asked to serve as director of scholarships and financial aid — a job he admits to not being his favorite. But before he could consider a career change, he was told about a federal grant for cooperative education, and suddenly Hamilton was the director of cooperative education, followed by a position as director of cooperative education and placement.
  • His responsibilities increased when he was asked to recruit more students in off-campus settings that included the Thumb and Wurthsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda. Hamilton helped set up the courses for these sites and his title increased to included director of cooperative education, placement and continuing education. During this period, he was part of a search group that hired then-criminal justice professor Don Bachand, now SVSU’s president.
  • In 1979, Hamilton completed his doctorate and became dean of continuing education, placement and international programs.
  • By the early 1980s, he added oversight of the conference bureau, as part of the “continuing education” aspect of his title.
  • In the early 1980s — and at the request of then-president Jack Ryder — Hamilton worked with Saginaw resident Yoko Mossner on a small “English as a second language” program for six students headed to Tokushima, Japan. President Ryder asked Hamilton to accompany the students to Japan.
  • In 1988, the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce was intent on creating an economic study about regional economic development. The chamber approached the university to discuss its involvement and Ryder offered to “loan” a dean in a full-time role to organize the study of economic development via agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, retail and education. That “loan” was Hamilton, and the outcome was the formation of what was to become Saginaw Future Inc. 
  • Hamilton returned to campus in 1990 and became the associate vice president for advancement.  This work included community affairs and government relations.
  • Then-president Eric Gilbertson determined Hamilton could best serve the university by focusing on Lansing and named him special assistant to the president for government relations. While his title changed in the years since, Hamilton’s role as a community ambassador largely remained the same through the remaining years of his career.
  • In 2001, Hamilton considered retirement but instead said “yes” to cutting back to half time and staying highly engaged in and focused on government relations.
  • In 2016, he fully retired from SVSU.

‌Hamilton also shared his thoughts on certain aspects of his career, beginning with his origins with SVSU's sports programs in the late 1960s and early '70s:

“You have to remember, Athletics had no facilities (at the time). The administration wanted Athletics, and wanted to start with golf and basketball. They had someone else in mind as basketball coach, but asked if I would be the assistant. In the middle of the planning, that coach decided not to come to SVC and so I was asked, ‘will you coach?’ I said, ‘yes.’

In the third year, the school hired an athletic director who was also to be coach. He was here about a month and wanted to focus on the bigger picture and I was asked if I would take over as coach. I said ‘yes.’ That’s when Cardinal Gym was built, 1971.”

On his government relations role:

“I loved the early days. Legislators were friends. I remember the days when I’d pick up Jon Cisky (then a Republican state senator) and Jim O’Neill (then a Democrat in the state House), and we’d stop, get coffee and donuts, and drive to Lansing together. Over the years, that camaraderie has been replaced by partisanship. Partisanship has become so intense. Bi-partisanship and teamwork is challenging, but it is so much better.”

October 14, 2016

Popular physicist Michio Kaku to visit SVSU Oct. 24

Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku — world-famous for bringing science to popular culture — will speak at Saginaw Valley State University Monday, Oct. 24.

His presentation, titled “The Next 20 Years, How Science Will Revolutionize Medicine, the Economy and Our Way of Life,” is scheduled for 7 p.m. in SVSU’s Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. The event is free and open to the public.

As the co-founder of string field theory and a professor of physics at the City University of New York, Kaku has written several New York Times Bestselling books about the future of physics including "Hyperspace" and "Physics of the Impossible." He also has contributed science-related essays for publications including Newsweek, Popular Mechanics, and Variety. Kaku is a regular guest on TV talk shows on networks such as ABC, BBC, CBS, CNBC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox Business, and Fox News. Stephen Colbert, David Letterman and Jon Stewart are among the hosts who have booked Kaku as a guest.

Kaku’s appearances on shows appealing to a wide range of audiences helped propel Kaku as a popularizer of science in the same vein as Carl Sagan, said Matthew Vannette, an SVSU associate professor of physics.

“He presents science in a very engaging way that the general population can understand,” Vannette said. “He takes these complicated ideas and expresses them in terms that someone who is not a specialist can understand.”

Vannette said Kaku’s appearance is generating excitement on campus, particularly among his physics students. Kaku’s value, though, extends to his ability to present ideas not exclusive to science.

“In particular, when he discusses the topic of futurism, it has a lot of potential to spark conversations across the disciplines, from science to psychology to history,” Vannette said. “For me, personally, that’s one of the hallmarks of a university: cross-discipline conversation.”

Kaku is among several thought-provoking speakers scheduled to appear as part of this year's SVSU Visiting Scholars and Artists Series. The series will run during both the fall and winter semesters and is part of SVSU’s community-minded mission to bring leading scholars to campus and share their insights with residents of the Great Lakes Bay Region.

All lectures are open to the public and admission is free of charge.

Kaku’s visit also is part of SVSU’s William and Julia Edwards Lecture in Philosophy and Religion. The William and Julia Edwards Lecture in Philosophy and Religion was established through a gift from the couple in 1993. It annually brings distinguished scholars to SVSU to discuss timely and relevant religious and philosophical topics. ‌

October 13, 2016

SVSU to host third annual Alumni Authors Showcase

Saginaw Valley State University will host its third annual Alumni Authors Showcase Wednesday, Oct. 19, at 4 p.m. The event, scheduled in Curtiss Hall Banquet Room A, will feature a panel of four SVSU alumni authors followed by a book signing at 5 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Featured panelists include Jill Bellestri, Dennis Hensley, Joe Hickey and Roberta Morey.

The books cover a range of topics and genres including young adult fantasy, mystery and suspense, historical nonfiction and inspirational fiction. They will be available for purchase at the event, as well as in the SVSU Bookstore preceding the event and afterward, while supplies last. Authors will also be available for a meet and greet before and after the panel session.

Bellestri was one of several authors to contribute to “The Thinking Mom’s Revolution: Autism Beyond The Spectrum,” a true story about a group of people connected through their parenting of children with disabilities. Bellestri earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from SVSU in 1994.

Hensley was the co-author with Diana Savage of “Pseudonym,” a mystery about a prospective author’s attempts at becoming published, and the twists and turns she experienced along the way. Hensley earned a bachelor's degree from SVSU in 1969.

Hickey is the author of the “Secret Seekers Society” series, which follows the fictional account of two orphans who become monster hunters. Hickey earned a bachelor's degree in creative writing from SVSU in 2004.

Morey was the author of “Saginaw: Labor and Leisure,” which examines real-life businesses and personalities from Saginaw’s early history. Morey graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1981.

The Alumni Authors Showcase is part of SVSU's celebration of the National Day of Writing. The event is sponsored by SVSU's Forever Red, Alumni Relations and University Writing Committee groups.

For more information about the event, contact Bryan Crainer at (989) 964-4091 or Ashley Youngstrom at (989) 964-4196.

October 13, 2016

Former SVSU president, constitutional scholar to discuss U.S. Supreme Court, politics at Oct. 19 lecture

“The Empty Ninth Chair: Politics and the Supreme Court” will be the subject of Saginaw Valley State University’s 2016 James E. O’Neill Jr. Lecture.

Eric R. Gilbertson, SVSU’s retired president and current executive-in-residence, will discuss the topic Wednesday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. The event is free and open to the public.

Gilbertson will discuss the closely divided court, the conflicting judicial philosophies and political backgrounds of the justices that create the divisions. The presentation will examine key issues that illustrate those divisions such as abortion, campaign financing, same-sex marriage and gun control. Gilbertson also will focus on the backgrounds of the judges, the nomination and confirmation process over time, and the court’s period of transition.

Currently teaching SVSU courses in administrative science and constitutional law, Gilbertson formerly served as legal counsel to the Ohio Board of Regents. He completed a bachelor's degree at Blufton College, a master’s degree in economics at Ohio University and a law degree from Cleveland State University; he also has received honorary degrees from the University of Mysore in India and Ming Chuan University in Taiwan.

The James E. O’Neill Jr. Memorial Lecture Series was established in 2003 to honor the late Saginaw educator, legislator and community servant. Co-sponsored by SVSU and the Field Neurosciences Institute of Saginaw, the series is intended to dynamically reflect O’Neill’s passion for excellence in government, education and the neurosciences, and to provide opportunities for people to learn about public service from individuals who have unselfishly contributed to the betterment of the human condition.

Gilbertson’s appearance also is part of SVSU’s 2016-17 Visiting Scholars and Artists Series. The series will run during both the fall and winter semesters and is part of SVSU’s community-minded mission to bring leading scholars to campus and share their insights with residents of the Great Lakes Bay Region.

October 13, 2016

SVSU faculty and students recognized for empowering research

Saginaw Valley State University students and faculty showcased community-based health-related research projects to representatives from private foundations at the University of Michigan’s “Big House.”

The Council of Michigan Foundations held their 44th annual conference in Ypsilanti for approximately 450 trustees and staff of Michigan foundations September 18-20.

SVSU was among eight universities across Michigan invited to present. The group from SVSU presented information regarding four projects: community needs assessments given to the Midland and Saginaw communities, an intervention focusing on physical activity and dietary behaviors among older adults, a physical activity and dietary intervention focusing on healthy weight gain in pregnant women, as well as an Exercise is Medicine on Campus project at SVSU.

SVSU faculty members provided support and guidance, and students gained valuable experience with key components to the studies.

“The students play a critical role in all of the projects,” said Meghan Baruth, SVSU assistant professor of health science. “They recruit participants, conduct measurements, help run the interventions. They are very involved in all aspects.”

The group from SVSU attended one of the breakout sessions from the conference, a showcase on the evening of Monday, Sept. 19. The event was located in the Roth Clubhouse of the University of Michigan football stadium.

Along with Baruth, four undergraduate students and two faculty members involved with the research presentations:

•    Ashley Boggs, an exercise science major from Linden
•    Brenna Dressler, a health sciences major from Saginaw
•    Holly Simon, an exercise science major from Lyons
•    Jessica Walker, a biology major from Freeland
•    Samantha Deere, assistant professor of kinesiology
•    Becca Schlaff, assistant professor of kinesiology

Not only does the practical research provide students with invaluable experience that will help prepare them for graduate school and their careers, but they help induce real-life change in the communities where the research is conducted, Baruth said.

“The projects are allowing the students to apply what they’re learning in the classroom to a real-life setting, and also teaching them how to work with communities and people,” she said. “It’s allowing them to learn many new skills that will benefit them not only in their graduate studies and careers, but as a person as well.”

The Council of Michigan Foundations is an organization comprised of dedicated philanthropists that advocate for the communities they serve, provide learning opportunities for members, and connect local, global and governmental leaders for the collection of resources to support the region.

“SVSU looks forward to opportunities like this to present our student and faculty research to the public,” said Andy Bethune, executive director of the SVSU Foundation. “We were honored to participate and it was even more rewarding to see our students and faculty interact with representatives of private foundations from throughout the state of Michigan.”

The conference is the largest statewide philanthropic conference in the nation and features over 35 breakout sessions focusing on pressing philanthropic issues such as Michigan’s public school system and the Flint water crisis. The theme for the conference, “Think Boldly, Act Urgently,” aligned with SVSU’s health-based projects as students and faculty engaged in critical thinking and then took action in their communities.

For more information regarding the council and its conference, please visit

October 7, 2016

SVSU to host presentation of “Reaching for Opportunity” report

SVSU to host presentation of “Reaching for Opportunity” report
Monday, Oct. 10
Curtiss Hall, Saginaw Valley State University

Saginaw Valley State University will host presentations by John Austin, president of the Michigan State Board of Education, and Brandy Johnson, executive director of the Michigan College Access Network, Monday, Oct. 10.

Austin will share key findings of the Reaching for Opportunity report, which details that Michigan will need 779,000 more citizens with education beyond high school by 2025 to meet the needs of state employers. This will require increasing the proportion of the population with degrees and credentials from its current 46 percent to 60 percent. Current projections call for an additional 232,000 individuals with bachelor’s degrees and an additional 45,000 with graduate degrees over the next decade.

Johnson will share data specific to the Michigan’s Prosperity Region Five, which includes Arenac, Bay, Clare, Gladwin, Gratiot, Isabella, Midland and Saginaw counties.  The full report can be found at

Following Austin and Johnson, several individuals will also share information on what initiatives are in place in the region to meet the region’s education and workforce needs.

The event is by invitation only; some 70 school leaders, business leaders and others have registered to attend. The presentations are open to news media.

October 6, 2016

Dark comedy ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’ kicks off SVSU theatre season

The Saginaw Valley State University Theatre Department will stage its production of Martin McDonagh’s classic “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” beginning Wednesday, Oct. 12 in SVSU’s Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts.

The play is set in 1934, when the people of Inishmaan learn Hollywood director Robert Flaherty is coming to the neighboring island to film his documentary “Man of Aran.” No one is more excited than Cripple Billy, an unloved boy whose chief occupation had been gazing at cows and yearning for a girl who wants no part of him. For Billy is determined to cross the sea and audition for the Yank. And as news of his audacity ripples through his rumor-starved community, “The Cripple of Inishmaan” becomes a merciless portrayal of a world so comically cramped and mean-spirited that hope is an affront to its order.

“It’s a very dark comedy; it pokes fun at certain things we wouldn’t normally laugh at,” said David Rzeszutek, SVSU associate professor of theatre and the production’s director.

The audience can expect to relate to the characters in unexpected ways.

“Often times, it’s the darker side of us that we don’t want to share with everybody else,” Rzeszutek said.

Rzeszutek said he is very excited about the challenges that the students have been embracing.

“The greatest challenge for the actors is the use of the Irish dialect,” he said. “For the first time in our department, we have a dialect coach to assist the students.”

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12 through Saturday, Oct. 15; on Sunday, Oct. 16, there will be a matinee performance at 3 p.m. Tickets are $13 for general admission, and $10 for students and seniors. “The Cripple of Inishmaan” features mature language. For more information please contact the SVSU box office at (989) 964-4261.

The production is the first of three plays planned for the fall semester at SVSU. “A Raisin In The Sun” is scheduled for November and “Christmas of Yesteryear: 1940’s Radio Variety Show” is planned for November and December.

October 6, 2016

SVSU Wind Ensemble in concert Oct. 13

Saginaw Valley State University's Wind Ensemble will perform in concert Thursday, Oct. 13 at 7:30 p.m. in SVSU's Rhea Miller Recital Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

Norman Wika, SVSU assistant professor of music and director of bands, will conduct the ensemble of 29 students. This is Wika’s first year as director, as he replaces Bill Wollner, who retired in May after serving in that role for 34 years.

The concert will feature selections including “Shepard’s Hey” by Percy Grainer, “Give Us This Day” by David Maslanka, and “The Fairest of the Fair” by John Philip Sousa.

For more information, contact Wika at or the SVSU Department of Music at 989-964-4159.

October 6, 2016

SVSU hosts reading by decorated poet Marcus Wicker

Saginaw Valley State University will host decorated poet Marcus Wicker on Thursday, Oct. 13 at 5 p.m. in SVSU’s Founders Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

Wicker’s poems have appeared in The Nation, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Oxford American, and Boston Review. His second book, “Silencer,” is forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2017.

Wicker is the recipient of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, a Pushcart Prize, The Missouri Review’s Miller Audio Prize, as well as fellowships from Cave Canem and The Fine Arts Work Center. His previous collection “Maybe the Saddest Thing,” a National Poetry Series winner, was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award.

Born in Ann Arbor and a Michigan native, Wicker is the poetry editor of Southern Indiana Review and serves as director of the New Harmony Writers Workshop. He is an assistant professor of English at the University of Southern Indiana.

This event is sponsored by SVSU’s Voices in the Valley Reading Series. For more information, contact Arra Ross, SVSU associate professor of English, at (989) 964-4032.

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