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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.

February 3, 2016

SVSU ad expert Yelkur shares insights on 50 years of Super Bowl commercials

EXTRA: Below, watch video of Rama Yelkur and SVSU students reflecting on Super Bowl commercial history. Also, click here to read about Yelkur's plans to analyze Super Bowl 50's advertisements using an SVSU focus group.


Rama Yelkur, Saginaw Valley State University's dean of the College of Business and Management, has been one of the world's leading experts on Super Bowl advertising for pretty much all of the 21st century.

She has studied figures and charts and equations spanning 49 Super Bowls and the hundreds of marketing campaigns that have accompanied them. Her findings sometimes reveal complex data that points to even more complicated human behavior. Other times, it shows something she understood even before she became an expert on the subject of Super Bowl commercials: Watching people flee from a stampede of squirrels is hilarious.

“That one always sticks out in my head,” Yelkur said of the scene captured in Electronic Data System's “Running of the Squirrels” advertisement during the 2001 Super Bowl. “That really caught my attention because it took a worldwide event – the running of the bulls – and turned it into a memorable parody.”

The advertisement isn't often recognized among the iconic Super Bowl advertisements - the Mean Joe Greene appearance in a Coca-Cola 60-second spot in 1980 and the Orwellian Apple ad in 1984 are more likely to make that list, Yelkur admitted - but the squirrel-centric advertisement does represent a winning formula she has identified for many of the modern advertisements: humor and animals.

With Super Bowl 50 set for Sunday Feb. 7, Yelkur reflected on how that “winning formula” has changed for Super Bowl commercials over a half-century.

As was the case with the Super Bowl game itself, the coinciding advertisements in those early years weren't celebrated with nearly the same level of hype generated in 2016. That fact can be measured in dollars, Yelkur pointed out. For instance, CBS will sell 30-second advertising spots for $5 million during Super Bowl 50. In 1967, those same ads would have sold for $40,000, or about $280,000 when adjusting inflation to today‌'s dollars.

“You didn't really see the advertising ramp up until the 1980s,” she said. “The 1974 Joe Namath and Farrah Fawcett ad for Noxzema created a lot of hype, but the 1980s were when Super Bowl advertising really took off.”

The success of the Mean Joe Greene and Apple advertisements helped solidify the Super Bowl broadcast as high-profile advertising space that decade. So did the fact companies realized women also were watching the game and began adjusting their marketing accordingly.

Before the 1980s, most Super Bowl advertisements marketed shaving cream, razors, motor oil and vehicles. In the 1980s, marketing for food, beverages and movies became more prevalent. Many of those same types of products remain Super Bowl ad pillars today.

Trendy products have risen and fallen in prevalence during the game's commercial breaks. For instance, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, many Internet-based companies threw their hat in the ring. During the 2000 Super Bowl, 11 dotcom companies bought advertising space – some before their businesses had generated a single dollar of revenue, Yelkur said. The dotcom bubble burst shortly after, and the majority of those Internet-based advertisers from 2000 no longer exist.

The creative approach to Super Bowl advertising also has changed over the decades, Yelkur said. Advertisements from the 1960s and '70s were longer than their modern counterparts, often featuring people discussing the product's benefits in great detail.

“Then the game got so hyped, and people didn't want to hear lectures during commercials anymore,” Yelkur said. “They just wanted to be entertained.”

In the 1980s, more celebrities began appearing in the marketing spots. Commercials featuring children also scored strongly with consumers around that time. By the 1990s, two new trends in Super Bowl advertising strategy emerged that remain a strong formula today: Animals and humor.

“Particularly, when they are paired together, we start to see animals and humor are huge drivers of advertisements,” Yelkur said. “Anheuser-Busch started using the Budweiser frogs, Dalmatians and Clydesdale horses. There was the E-Trade monkey and the Coca-Cola polar bears.”

Yelkur will gather with about a dozen SVSU students this Super Bowl Sunday – as she has since 2014 – to watch the game and its commercials. They will study the ads live and analyze the marketing campaigns' impact on consumers in the days following the game, looking for trends that could define future generations of Super Bowl advertising.

“It's fascinating,” Yelkur said of the way Super Bowl advertising has grown into its own institution. “In many ways, it dominates the scene for businesses. It's exciting to see what they bring, year after year.”

Along with her late research colleague Chuck Tomkovick, 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.


EXTRA: Click here to read about Yelkur's plans to analyze Super Bowl 50's advertisements using an SVSU focus group.

February 3, 2016

SVSU welcomes author Julie Iromuanya for reading series

Writer Julie Iromuanya will speak at Saginaw Valley State University as part of the school's “Voices in the Valley” reading series Monday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. in SVSU's Founders Hall. This event is free and open to the public.

Iromuanya is the author of “Mr. and Mrs. Doctor,” an award-winning novel. The book was selected for the 2016 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Debut Fiction Longlist and 2015 National Book Critics' Circle John Leonard Debut Fiction Award Longlist; it also was named to the San Francisco Chronicle’s “Best of 2015,” and the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Critics' Choice for 2015.

Born and raised in the American Midwest, Iromuanya is the daughter of Nigerian immigrants. Her creative writing has appeared in “The Kenyon Review,” “Passages North,” the “Cream City Review,” and the “Tampa Review,” among other journals. Iromuanya’s scholarly-critical work most recently appears in “Converging Identities: Blackness in the Modern Diaspora.”

An assistant professor of English and Africana literature at the University of Arizona, Iromuanya teaches in the creative writing M.F.A. program. She previously served on the faculty at the University of Dayton, the University of Tampa and Northeastern Illinois University, and she taught for seven summers at the Johns Hopkins University, Center for Talented Youth, both in the U.S. and in Hong Kong.

Iromuanya completed a bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Florida, and a master’s and Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she was a Presidential Fellow and award-winning teacher.

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