And … we’re off! The fall semester kicked off this week and there is a real sense of renewed excitement that comes with the anticipation of another engaging academic year. That renewed excitement is aided by the arrival of our freshman experiencing the college lifestyle — and life at SVSU — for the first time. At times, that inexperience will come with a need for guidance. I want to thank everyone who has offered support and shown understanding to our newest Cardinals, whether they had a question about a program or needed directions to a classroom. They are part of our family now, and I appreciate everyone who has made them feel at home.
While we are welcoming new Cardinals, let me take a moment to bid a very fond farewell to one of our institution’s longest-serving and most dedicated staff members ever. Debwin Williams, financial aid advisor, has helped thousands of students over the course of her 45 years here. SVSU had not yet turned 10 years old when she began working here. She will conclude her service this Friday. Debwin has been such a positive and friendly influence on our campus, both for the students she served as well as the staff and faculty she supported. We will dearly miss her kindness and work ethic. Please join me in wishing her well in her retirement.
We are now entering the second year — and second phase — of our marketing campaign. In a statewide survey of high school seniors, awareness and perception of SVSU reached their highest levels in a decade among students in our region, covering 16 counties. This is encouraging, but we have plenty of room to grow. We are working to extend this improvement to other parts of the state, especially metro Detroit. This next phase launched Monday with a new TV commercial, new radio and Pandora ads, new billboards and new digital ads. Our emphasis in this wave is on key academic programs; too few prospective students are aware of the breadth and strength of the programs we offer. We have developed new Admissions materials to draw attention to our special academic opportunities. You will see changes to our website this semester that reflect this, as well. As always, you can support these efforts through your conversations and your social media, and I encourage you to do so.
Building reputation occurs at the grassroots level, as well, and our colleagues continue to do a tremendous job strengthening our presence as a regional leader. Next week, we will be presenting at two chamber of commerce events. Josh Ode, associate vice president for academic affairs, and Andrew Miller, associate professor of geography, will discuss our community engagement work in Saginaw – especially related to crime reduction – next Thursday during the Saginaw Chamber of Commerce Percolator Breakfast. The following day, J.J. Boehm, director of media and community relations, will introduce the Midland Chamber of Commerce’s new members during that organization’s Wake Up! Midland breakfast. Each of these meetings draws hundreds of attendees and it is great to see us well-represented at these chambers’ first fall programs.
In fact, we have our bases covered for the Great Lakes Bay Region’s chambers of commerce. SVSU alumnus Ryan Tarrant was named the chief executive officer of the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. Ryan had worked as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar after earlier serving U.S. Rep. Dave Camp. Ryan earned his bachelor’s degree in political science here in 2001. I expect he will continue to make us proud in this latest role.
The new semester also means a new season for our student-athletes. While none of our teams play at home until Sept. 8, some of you may be interested in following our teams on the road over the course of the next week. The women’s soccer season kicks off Thursday with a 7 p.m. match at Cedarville University in Ohio; they play again at Indianapolis at noon Sunday. The volleyball team plays four games in the Hillsdale Tournament this weekend. Those games are Friday at 11 a.m. vs. Findlay and 5 p.m. vs. Glenville; then Saturday at noon vs. Indianapolis and 6 p.m. vs. Hillsdale. Cross country begins its season Friday at noon at Central Michigan University. The men’s soccer team plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Quincy University in Illinois and then again at noon Sunday in the same venue against Truman State. Finally, the football team kicks off its season at noon Saturday at Alderson Broaddus University in West Virginia. I want to wish the best of luck to all our teams this season. Go Cards!