(Gown shown in this image is an example. The final selection that graduates wear in May could differ.)
For those of you who attend Commencement this May – and I hope that includes most of you – you will see a very visible change. After a number of serious conversations with student leaders on campus, we have decided that graduates receiving bachelor’s degrees will don red regalia. Those receiving advanced degrees will continue to wear black gowns. These students had done a lot of fact-finding; they came to me well-prepared and made a persuasive argument for this change. More than 60 percent of our students who were surveyed were in support of this, and it is consistent with the practices of many of our peer institutions. While the homework the students had done was impressive, what impressed me more was their passion for our university, their future alma mater. Now that I have put Jim Dwyer in charge of alumni relations, I figured the least I could do for him was to give him one class of happy graduates to start with.
Over the weekend, I received a good deal of positive reaction to Friday’s announcement that after 35 years in enrollment management, Dwyer has agreed to serve as the new executive director of alumni relations. I can tell you Jim is very excited about this opportunity.
As we continue to work with corporate, educational and community partners to build upon our solid foundation as a leader in STEM education, it became apparent that we need someone to oversee our growing and diverse offerings, and to enhance our relationships. I’m pleased to report that Carolyn Wierda has agreed to serve as our executive director of STEM. In addition to her fine work as associate dean in the College of Education and previously as superintendent of Bay City Public Schools, Carolyn has been serving as chair of the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance Education Council and played a key role in that group’s STEM Impact Initiative. She is highly respected throughout the region and I expect her to be a great asset to SVSU and the entire region in her new capacity.
In light of Carolyn’s new responsibilities and Mary Harmon’s impending return to the faculty, I am pleased to report Craig Douglas has agreed to serve as dean of the College of Education, effective July 1. Last year, Craig replaced the retired Joe Rousseau as director of our School and University Partnerships office. Prior to that, he served as superintendent of Carrollton Public Schools for 22 years, so he is well-acquainted with what our education students must learn in order to be successful teachers and administrators. Craig will be joined by Anne Tapp, professor of teacher education, who has agreed to serve as acting assistant dean.
Please join me in congratulating and supporting these fine colleagues as they take on these new and important responsibilities.
I would like to express my appreciation to our colleagues in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Jo Brownlie, director; Shelley Wegner, associate director; Debra Storch, senior secretary; and Debra Piotrowski, secretary, do a fine job offering meaningful programs for our region’s over-50 population. They have more than 1,500 members who come to campus for all manner of programs. Recently, OLLI introduced something new: two faculty-led study-abroad scholarships of $2,500 for current students with no prior experience on SVSU faculty-led programs. Through these scholarships, Ashley LeFever, a nursing major from Standish, will travel to China; and Alaina Kuebler, an occupational therapy major from Saginaw, will be visiting Ecuador. My thanks to Jo, Marilyn Skrocki, associate professor of health sciences, and Steve Parkhurst, chair of the OLLI advisory board, for serving on the selection committee and making these opportunities a reality for our students.
While our Admissions Open House in the fall continues to be our single largest campus event for student recruitment, we are seeing increased interest in other events that draw prospective students to campus. The Cardinal College Day this past Saturday was a success by every measure. Students and their families had a quality experience, and compared to a year ago, our attendance increased from 91 high school students and 250 total visitors to 229 high school students and more than 600 total visitors. Kudos to Jen Pahl, director of Admissions, and her staff for a job well done. I also extend my appreciation to the 13 faculty – representing all five colleges – who devoted their time to speak with students and families, along with the more than 20 staff from departments across the university who did the same. This is the type support we need to see from faculty, staff, alumni and others in all our efforts to recruit good students.
Our men’s basketball team finally lost a game, but they are still tied for first place. This Saturday, Jan. 31, they will host Ferris State – the other team tied for first – in what promises to be one of our biggest games in quite some time. The women’s team will play at 1 p.m., followed by the men at 3 p.m. Both games are part of the “Pink Wave” to raise funds for breast cancer awareness, and the men’s game will feature a reunion of the 1984-85 men’s basketball team. Go Cards!