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April 12, 2016

SVSU honors service and dedication at awards banquet

Saginaw Valley State University honored one of Saginaw’s leading community servants, as well as faculty and staff who display extraordinary enthusiasm and dedication, during SVSU's All -University Awards Banquet Friday, April 8‌.

The Distinguished Service Award, SVSU's most prestigious award for a community member, was given to Leola Wilson. Counted among Saginaw’s most committed public servants, she is perhaps most recognized for serving as president of Saginaw’s chapter of the NAACP since 1998, where she represents nearly 1,500 members.

Wilson also  has served continuously on the board of the Saginaw Intermediate School District since 1975 and is believed to be the longest-serving member in its history. She also provided dedicated service to SVSU as a member of the Board of Control from 2005 to 2013, including a term as secretary. After completing her term on the Board, Wilson served as a member of the presidential search advisory committee during 2013 and 2014.

Several SVSU faculty and staff members also received recognition for outstanding achievement and dedicated service during the 27th annual ceremony.

Erik Trump, professor of political science, received the prestigious Franc A. Landee Teaching Excellence Award. He draws praise from students for his approachable demeanor and a teaching style that inspires students to perform. A student wrote: (Trump) “takes great pride and joy in teaching...  we are rigorously challenged to find real world connections between the class material and what is happening in the world.”

Scott Youngstedt, professor of sociology, received the Earl Warrick Award for Excellence in Research. He has demonstrated remarkable persistence to support his research agenda and the people of West Africa, conducting on-the-ground research, primarily in the nation of Niger, one of the hottest and poorest countries in the world. Youngstedt has authored 22 peer-reviewed publications since joining the SVSU faculty in 1996, including the book “Surviving With Dignity: Hausa Communities of Niamey, Niger.”

The House Family Award for Teacher Impact was presented to Dave Rzeszutek, associate professor of theatre; he is widely regarded to be passionate about the art of theatre and the growth opportunities it provides students. A student nominator – a computer information systems major – wrote: “Of all the professors who have pushed me, none had a greater impact than Professor Rzeszutek. His belief in me was a driving force in my accomplishments at SVSU.”

Walt Reynolds received the Mary H. Anderson Adjunct Faculty Award for his part-time teaching role in the criminal justice department. A retired FBI agent, he is praised by students for sharing his practical experience and knowledge regarding careers in law enforcement and using his professional network to bring guest experts to speak in his classes.

New in 2016, SVSU introduced the Thomson Award for Empowering Learning in Community Engagement, which recognizes innovation and leadership in advancing student learning through community engagement that fosters reciprocal community partnerships and enhances SVSU's contributions to the local, regional, state, national, or global community. The inaugural recipient was Jason Schoenmeyer, associate director of Student Life. Through his leadership of Cardinal Volunteers, he has connected students at 72 non-profit agencies in the Great Lakes Bay Region, and partnered with 29 agencies to offer volunteer opportunities that have resulted in more than 1,600 hours of community service completed thus far in 2015-16.

The Bank of America Ruben Daniels Community Service Award was presented to Joseph Ofori-Dankwa, the Harvey Randall Wickes Chair in International Studies. He has collaborated on interdisciplinary projects and service activities, encouraging students and colleagues to do the same; he also plays an important role in the development of international programs at SVSU and in the community.

Two recipients were given the Terry Ishihara Award for Outstanding Co-Curricular Involvement: Adam Coughlin, associate professor of kinesiology, and Jaime Leyrer, special assistant to the dean for the College of Business and Management.

Coughlin currently serves as the faculty adviser for four student organizations: the Student Exercise Science Association; Phi Kappa Tau fraternity; Music ‘n Motion, a west coast swing dancing group; and the Adventure Club, which seeks to expose students to outdoor recreation.

Leyrer advises more than 1,000 business students on curriculum, appropriate class sequencing, and other academic issues, while empowering students and student organizations and forging effective community-minded relationships in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Vanessa Brooks Herd, dedicates considerable time and resources to expose her students to diversity in all its forms. She is on sabbatical this semester, conducting field research on the study of inter-generational parenting in the African nation of Uganda. Brooks Herd also is passionate about providing support for young people who leave the foster care system at age 18, and received a $310,000 grant from the State of Michigan to establish the Youth in Transition program at SVSU.

The Outstanding Performance Award was shared by Denise Berry, director of military student affairs, and Debbie Fegan, senior programmer/analyst.

Berry played a leading role in creating and establishing SVSU’s award-winning programs and services for military-affiliated students. “Military Times” named SVSU as the No. 1 university in Michigan and No. 38 in the nation in its “Best for Vets: Colleges 2016.”

Fegan is recognized within SVSU and within higher education circles for exceptional work preparing computer systems for changes resulting from the Affordable Care Act. She also works to develop and implement project plans for new technology.‌

April 12, 2016

SVSU English professor to discuss 19th century black literature at Massachusetts event

A Saginaw Valley State University English professor will grace a stage that has spotlighted scholars prominent in literary studies and history such as David S. Reynolds, Carla Peterson and Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Add Eric Gardner of SVSU to the list of accomplished scholars invited to deliver the American Antiquarian Society’s James Russell Wiggins Lecture.

He will share how studying the lives of black Americans in the 19th century should reshape consideration of black writers, editors, and readers then and now.

Gardner plans to discuss diverse print material produced by and for the African Methodist Episcopal Church between 1840 and 1870. In his talk, titled “Re-envisioning Black ‘Book History’: The Case of AME Church Print,” Gardner will reference a similar pool of research that provided the basis for his Black History Month lecture hosted by SVSU in February.

Gardner’s American Antiquarian Society appearance is scheduled Thursday, April 14, at 7 p.m. at Antiquarian Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The American Antiquarian Society is the preeminent independent research library focusing on American history, literature and culture through 1876. The annual Wiggins Lecture is named for the late James Russell Wiggins, former editor of The Washington Post and a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in 1968.

Gardner, who received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, joined SVSU’s faculty in 1996. He served as chair of the Department of English from 2006 to 2010 and as associate dean of the College of Arts and Behavioral Sciences from 2013 to 2015. Gardner returned to the faculty in 2015.

His academic interests include black literature and culture, American literature and culture, and methods of literary study. His first monograph, “Unexpected Places: Relocating Nineteenth-Century African American Literature,”won the 2010 Research Society for American Periodicals Book Prize and was named a Choice “Outstanding Academic Title.” His second monograph, Black Print Unbound: The Christian Recorder, African American Literature and Periodical Culture,” was published by Oxford University Press in 2015.

April 8, 2016

SVSU Concert Band to perform in one of director’s final appearances

The Saginaw Valley State University Concert Band will perform in concert Wednesday, April 13 at 7:30 p.m. in SVSU’s Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. This event is free and open to the public.


The SVSU Concert Band is an ensemble consisting of 47 students under the direction of Bill Wollner, SVSU associate professor of music. Featured instruments include the clarinet, trumpet, euphonium and trombone, among others. 


The band will perform various music pieces including “Villages” by composer Michael Sweeney, and "Always United, Forever Young" by composer Brian Balmages. 


Bill Wollner, SVSU associate professor of music, is retiring this spring after 34 years as band director. Wednesday's performance will be among his final appearances leading the Concert Band.


For more information on this concert or the many other events hosted by SVSU's music department, visit


April 6, 2016

Historian to talk race, gender, ghosts during SVSU seminar

An award-winning author and historian will discuss her study of race and gender in southern ghost tours during a Saginaw Valley State University event.

Tiya Miles will serve as the guest speaker during SVSU’s Barstow Humanities Seminar Tuesday, April 12‌, at 5:30 p.m. in the university’s Curtiss Hall Banquet Room B. The event is free and open to the public. Her talk originally had been scheduled for Tuesday, March 1‌ but was postponed due to inclement weather.
The event is titled “Ghost Tourism and the Specter of Slavery in New Orleans.”

Miles is a professor at the University of Michigan in the Department of American Culture, Department of Afro-American and African Studies, Department of History, Department of Women Studies, and Native American Studies Program.

She is the author of several history books including “Tales from the Haunted South: Dark Tourism and Memories of Slavery from the Civil War Era” in 2015. Her other work includes “Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom” from 2005 and “The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story” from 2010.

Miles also writes fiction, academic articles on indigenous women’s history, and feminist essays.

Her debut fictional novel, “The Cherokee Rose,” was set on a haunted plantation in the Cherokee territory of modern-day Georgia. Publishers Weekly selected the novel as the Pick Of The Week in 2015.

For more information on the event, contact SVSU at (989) 964-2103 or email‌.

April 6, 2016

Islamic scholar to speak at SVSU for Akbar Lecture

Saginaw Valley State University will host speaker Ingrid Mattson for a presentation, “Qur'an: Text, Context, and Tradition” Thursday, April 14‌ at 6:30 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall. She is visiting for SVSU’s Dr. Raana Akbar Memorial Lecture series; the talk is free and open to the public.

A scholar of Islamic studies, Mattson is an expert in interfaith relations and a Muslim religious leader. Since 2012, she has held the London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies at Huron University College in London, Ontario.

Mattson's writings focus on Qur'anic studies, theological ethics, and interfaith engagement. Her book, “The Story of the Qur'an,” is an academic bestseller and was chosen by the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities for national distribution.

Mattson was elected as vice-president, then as president, of the Islamic Society of North America, and is a senior fellow of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Amman, Jordan. She has served on many boards, including the Interfaith Taskforce of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the Council of Global Leaders of the C-100 of the World Economic Forum, and the Leadership Group of the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project.

Educated in Canada and the U.S., Mattson completed a bachelor’s degree at the University of Waterloo and a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago.

The Dr. Raana Akbar Memorial Lecture Series on Islam and Culture at SVSU was established by Dr. Waheed Akbar, a Saginaw-based orthopedic surgeon, and the couple's children, Akbar, Zainab, and Ahmed, in memory of their wife and mother, who passed away in 2009.  Raana served on the SVSU Board of Control; Waheed currently serves on SVSU's Board of Fellows, a community advisory board.

March 31, 2016

SVSU sees growing interest from employers for employment fair

Saginaw Valley State University will host more than 150 employers during its spring university-wide employment fair Friday, April 1‌. The number of participating employers looking to hire SVSU students and alumni continues to rise; this year’s total eclipses last year’s fair, which drew around 130 companies and organizations and had been the highest participation since 2005.

The event, which will run from noon to 3 p.m., will be in the Curtiss Hall banquet and seminar Rooms.

Students who attend employment fairs can often find good opportunities, said Tom Barnikow, SVSU assistant director of Career Services.  

“The employment fair is a medium in which employers can meet with a large number of potential employees and gauge if the applicant is going to be a good fit for their company culture,” he said. “A good interview at an employment fair will usually lead to an in-person interview at the company's headquarters.”

Barnikow added that employment fairs serve as a great place for individuals to demonstrate that they have all the qualities employers are looking for.

“Employment fairs are the top way that companies and organizations are now hiring new employees because they want to evaluate how comfortable students are with oral communication,” he said. “As a student or soon-to-be-graduate attending an employment fair, you want to show the hiring manager that you have the ability to hold a conversation while also selling your problem solving, critical thinking and collaborative skills.”

In addition to there being employment opportunities, a professional photographer will be on-site to take portrait photos free of charge.

Last year, 83.7 percent of organizations reported follow-up with candidates they met at employment fairs, and 57 percent reported that they hired someone met through an employment fair.

Participating employers in SVSU's career fair include Covenant HealthCare, Independent Bank, Morley Companies, Nexteer Automotive and Saginaw Bay Underwriters.  A complete list is available online through the SVSU Career Services website,
Professional attire must be worn by all job seekers. The event is open to the public. Advanced registration for SVSU students is available on Cardinal Career Network.

March 31, 2016

SVSU welcomes author Andy Mozina for reading series

Mozina is the author of the debut novel "Contrary Motion." His first story collection "The Women Were Leaving Men" won the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award. His second collection "Quality Snacks" was a finalist for the Flannery O'Connor Prize and other awards.

Mozina's fiction has appeared in "Tin House," "The Southern Review," "The Missouri Review," "McSweeney's," and "The Small Chair." His work has received special citations in "Best American Short Stories," "Pushcart Prize," and "New Stories from the Midwest."

Born and raised in Wisconsin, Mozina studied economics at Northwestern University and later attended Harvard Law School for a year. He earned a master's degree in creative writing from Boston University. He moved to St. Louis where he completed a doctorate in English Literature at Washington University. Currently, Mozina teaches literature and creative writing at Kalamazoo College.

March 31, 2016

SVSU welcomes brass quartet Cones and Tones for concert

Saginaw Valley State University will showcase brass quartet Cones and Tones during the next Rhea Miller Concert Series installment Saturday, April 2. The performance, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall, is free and open to the public.

Cones and Tones is an exciting new project featuring four eclectic musical veterans. The brainchild of J.D. Shaw, longtime arranger and horn player from Boston Brass, the group combines Shaw's stellar classical and jazz arrangements with original compositions by pianist and musical traveler David Cutler.

The group is anchored by veteran tuba virtuoso Andrew Hitz, while multi-instrumentalist and comedian Lance LaDuke rounds out this diverse and energetic quartet. The audience can expect a little of everything, from beautiful melodies to virtuosic showpieces, presented in a fun and funky audience-friendly show.

J.D. Shaw is an associate professor of horn at the University of South Carolina. He was formerly the French hornist with the internationally acclaimed Boston Brass where he was creative director, music arranger and co-owner of the ensemble. Shaw is an active solo artist and travels extensively throughout the United States as well as many countries in North America, Europe, and Asia. In addition, Shaw has also been a featured performer on National Public Radio's Performance Today and the CBS Morning Show.

The Rhea Miller Concert Series is made possible by a generous gift from Rhea E. Miller, a longtime friend of SVSU. Her gift, administered by the Miller Trust for Music Education, has provided the university with the opportunity to offer outstanding performances by nationally and internationally acclaimed musical artists at no cost to the audience since 1993. For more information, call (989) 964-4159 or email‌.

March 23, 2016

SVSU to host watch party for men’s basketball game

SVSU to host watch party for men’s basketball game
Wednesday, March 23, 9:30 p.m. to end of game
Curtiss Hall banquet rooms

Hundreds of students, faculty and staff at Saginaw Valley State University plan to show their support for the men’s basketball team and share their enthusiasm Wednesday, March 23.

SVSU is hosting a watch party for supporters to view the NCAA Division II tournament game being played in Frisco, Texas. The Cardinals are playing Western Oregon University. The game is expected to tip off around 9:30 p.m. Eastern time.

SVSU advanced to the Elite 8 of NCAA Division II for the first time in school history by winning the Midwest Regional championship last week.

SVSU is providing complimentary food and beverages, as well as free T-shirts, to those who attend.

March 22, 2016

SVSU alum leads social media for NCAA Division II men's basketball tournament that features SVSU

When Chris Roekle first stepped onto the Saginaw Valley State University campus, he didn't have a Twitter account. Now, he makes his living in the social media realm, and that ability to adapt in a rapidly changing environment has led to an extraordinary opportunity.

Roekle will be coordinating all social media efforts on Twitter and Instagram for the NCAA during the Division II men's basketball Elite-8 in Frisco, Texas March 23-26.  

“It's extremely humbling,” Roekle said. “It's kind of like a break … How cool is it that I get to run all of the creative content for the NCAA Division II Elite-8?”

Roekle will find himself posting about his alma mater and Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) member, SVSU.  The Cardinals men’s basketball team defeated GLIAC rival Ferris State to win the Midwest Region and advance to the NCAA Division II Elite 8. They are scheduled to play Wednesday, March 23 around 9:30 p.m. Eastern time.

After coordinating the social media efforts during last year's NCAA Division II women's basketball tournament, Roekle said he is up for the challenge the men's basketball tournament presents.

“This is a bigger animal with a bigger spotlight, so it's a really good opportunity,” he said.

After graduating from Michigan Lutheran Seminary High School in Saginaw, Roekle graduated from SVSU in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in finance and then received his M.B.A. in 2013. He is currently the director of strategic communications for the GLIAC, where he operates much of the conference's social media.

After receiving his master's degree from SVSU, Roekle went to the University of Nebraska where he spent a year as a graduate communications intern and covered the 2013 Big Ten champion Nebraska women's soccer team.

While at SVSU, Roekle was an intricate part of SVSU Athletics' social media growth, which allowed for more attention to be garnered by the university. He also worked closely with the baseball, cross country, golf, track and field, volleyball, and women's basketball teams.

Looking back, Roekle credits his time at SVSU for developing the determination required to succeed in the field of intercollegiate athletics.

“I learned that hard work pays off,” he said. “I really felt like I paid my dues, and kind of went above and beyond which is always a good way to go about things. You don't want to just be content with how things are. You want to put your own spin on things.”

Roekle has developed a formula for social media success. He has successfully brought attention to the GLIAC by more than doubling the conference's followers on Twitter.

Roekle’s calling card has been employing creative graphics in his tweets, instead of “just posting text.”

“I have found that posts with multimedia – photos, graphics, video – take more time to generate, but they also produce a lot more interest,” he said.


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