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High school: Saginaw High
Future: graduate student, SVSU master’s degree in administrative science
Brandon Jones describes himself as a man of purpose. He does his best to fulfill his genuine purpose every day at SVSU.
As Homecoming King, president of the Valley Voices Gospel Choir, member of Forever Red, student mentor and orientation leader, Jones has had a busy but fulfilling journey at SVSU.
“I don’t believe in labeling or being part of just one group. I have an open and loud personality, so getting involved on campus was natural for me,” he said.
Jones will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business management in May, but plans to stick around SVSU to pursue a master’s degree in administrative science.
The Saginaw native has a passion for students and eventually wants to pursue a career as the dean of students at a university. He loves meeting new generations of Cardinals and hopes to make an impact on students that will stay with them forever.
Nick Wagner, SVSU’s director of institutional research, said Jones provided support to a student success grant-funded initiative, the King-Chavez-Parks 4S program. Jones advised and empowered hundreds of students who enrolled at SVSU, many of whom attribute their academic success to Jones.
“I will always remember the impact he tried to impart, whether it was providing counsel to a student about their semester schedule or just providing some encouraging words so someone could matriculate and persist,” Wagner said. “He willed himself to have a positive influence on many and he has achieved that and so much more during his time here at SVSU.”
Among Jones’ long list of achievements at SVSU, being named Homecoming King in 2015 is one he will always remember. “Breathtaking” is the word he used to describe the experience.
Jones and his Homecoming partner Charnae Keith, who was named queen, devoted hours upon hours into their campaign. They went above and beyond to make sure people remembered them. They even performed their own choreographic rendition of the music video “Thriller” by Michael Jackson. Ultimately, Jones enjoyed the process and was grateful to be recognized for his hard work and sacrifices.
Out of all his experiences at SVSU, being part of the Valley Voices Gospel Choir has impacted him the most. He has thought of the choir members as his family away from home. As president, Jones was responsible for teaching the music, managing the choir and making sure everyone felt they were in a safe place to worship and share their stories. The members of the choir pushed him to grow in his faith and as a leader, and supported him throughout his journey.
As Jones looks back on his experiences at SVSU, he is most grateful for the people he’s met at SVSU. He refers to his support group as his “chocolate chips,” and he claims that they have made him the person he is today. He hopes he has been able to impact people the way he has been impacted.
“If I had an impact on at least one person at SVSU, my job was fulfilled,” he said.
High school: Lapeer East High School
Major: Economics and Applied Mathematics
Future: University of Oregon, Ph.D. in Economics
Jenni Putz enjoys a challenge. Her research record is extraordinary for an undergraduate, and one of those research interests resulted from challenging herself to step outside of her comfort zone. Far outside.
Her first experience on a plane came in 2015 on a trip all the way to India, and the flight included hitting bad pockets of air turbulence.
“It was really interesting,” the Lapeer native said, a hint of sarcastic humor in her tone. “And when we got to India, it was quite the culture shock. Quite the culture shock.”
The Saginaw Valley State University student, though, traveled with a dozen classmates and three professors as part of a 10-day study abroad trip to explore how India’s businesses operated. With an academic spirit in mind and supportive, familiar faces by her side, Putz overcame those initial anxieties and enjoyed one of the defining experiences of her life.
“That was a great opportunity SVSU provided,” she said. “It seemed like SVSU went by so fast. Part of me wishes I could stay another year.”
Putz graduated in May 2017. A first-generation college student, she completed bachelor’s degrees in economics and applied mathematics in four years, capping off a list of accomplishments that included a research portfolio that rivals many doctoral students.
One of those projects involved her experience in India. Putz researched the benefits of short-term study abroad programs with Kaustav Misra, SVSU?associate professor of economics.
Misra said he enjoyed watching Putz develop as a researcher.
“She has excellent interpersonal skills, a hard-working attitude and strong work ethic, which will definitely help her in the long run,” Misra said. “She has transformed and developed professionally at SVSU. I think she took every single piece of advice she was given by her professors during her undergraduate work.”
Their research found students’ participation in a short-term study abroad program had a positive correlation with influencing their career aspirations and leadership skills. Putz presented her initial findings at the Academy of Economics and Finance Conference in Pensacola Beach, Florida in February 2016.
“There weren’t many undergraduate students at the conference, and they were all in one session, while I presented to a group of people who were all professors,” she said. “It was really scary at first, but it was a really interesting experience to present to people who have been doing this for years and whose job is to do research.”
In India, she observed various foreign and international businesses such as Amazon and pharmaceutical companies.
“I had the time of my life,” she said. “I thought it was a very valuable experience and I’d love to study abroad again. It had a huge impact on my life and I’m really glad my research is connected to that, which makes it mean that much more.”
Putz also presented her research at an undergraduate conference at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, where her paper took third place among 16 competitors.
Not satisfied with a single research interest, Putz later began examining early college initiatives, where high school students can enroll in programs to earn college credit. She presented on that study in Washington, D.C. in November 2016.
During that same month, through her participation in SVSU’s honors program, Putz presented her honors thesis on a third research interest: income inequality. She previously presented those findings at an international conference in Portland, Maine, where she won an award for her work.
“I’m still very much into income inequality research right now,” she said. “I’m planning on studying public economics: How the government allocates resources such as health insurance. It’s an important field nowadays.”
Putz plans to continue that research in August when she will enroll at the University Oregon on her way to a Ph.D. in economics.
“Hopefully that (income inequality research) can turn into something I can write my dissertation on or work with faculty on something else pertaining to income inequality,” she said. “I feel like the things I’m doing my research on are valuable to a larger pool of knowledge.”
Eventually, she hopes to teach economics at the college level. Misra said Putz has the necessary skills to excel in the profession.
“Jenni’s interest in economics, passion for research and ultra-levels of patience for her students will definitely make her a great professor of economics,” Misra said. “Students like Jenni are putting SVSU on the map.”
Maps are something Putz has become more familiar with. Thanks in part to her flight to India, Putz said she’s ready for her next plane ride to Oregon. Living so far from home, though, will offer another new adventure.
“I’ve never lived anywhere other than Lapeer and Saginaw, so I’m definitely a little anxious about that,” she said, “but it should be another exciting learning experience.”
Two Saginaw Valley State University students have been awarded scholarships to attend a national conference in June.
Mallory Rivard, an elementary education major from Bay City, and Mikaela Ashton, a management major from Grayling, were each given scholarships from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and the AAUW Midland Branch to attend the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders. The conference will be held at the University of Maryland June 2-4.
Both recipients earned the awards with strong academic and volunteer backgrounds.
Rivard has served as a program director for the Youth Volunteer Corps of Bay City, the SVSU Dean's List and the Foundation Scholars Program. She has also been a member of National Society of Leadership and Success and the SVSU Lions Club, and as the current Miss Saginaw County 2016.
Like Rivard, Ashton has had numerous work experiences that have honed her desire to excel in leadership roles. In addition, she is a member of Alpha Phi Omega, a local service fraternity that focuses on projects in Saginaw, Bay City and the SVSU campus.
The National Conference for College Women Student Leaders, attended by more than 1,000 young women, will offer the opportunity to be inspired by women in leadership roles, to honor Women of Distinction, to attend workshops offering leadership skills, to network with young women from across the country, and to explore Washington, D.C.
AAUW advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research. There are AAUW branches in Midland, Saginaw, and Bay City.
Two students from Central Michigan University, Delta College, Northwood University or SVSU are awarded with the scholarships from AAUW each year.
SVSU has been represented frequently at the national conference, with Kimberly Salwey attending in 2015 and Bethany Thrun attending in 2014.
SVSU students to present "Saginaw Revitalization: Drawing on Our Different Strengths"
Thursday, April 21, 5:30 to 8 p.m.
Dow Event Center, downtown Saginaw
Saginaw Valley State University students in the disciplines of business, art, theatre and sociology will share their ideas for advancing the revitalization underway in downtown Saginaw during a special program Thursday, April 21 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Dow Event Center.
These students have devoted a semester to developing strategies for urban redevelopment. One visible reminder of past programs is the 50-foot-tall mural - titled “I Just Like To Make Marks” - affixed along the exterior of the Dow Event Center's parking garage.
In addition to exploring revitalization, community outreach has included SVSU working with the First Ward Community Center in Saginaw to bring students in the center’s after-school programs to campus for art and theatre workshops. The United Way of Saginaw County and Saginaw High School also are partners in the project.
In addition to the presentations, SVSU will honor Charles McNair with the 2016 B.A.T.S. award for Excellence in Community Service. He is a long-time educator for Saginaw Public Schools, and the primary coordinator of the Saginaw African American Cultural Festival.
Saginaw Valley State University students Mallory Rivard and Natalie Schneider were honored for their community-minded actions during the Michigan Campus Compact Awards Gala in East Lansing Thursday, April 7. Each received a Commitment to Service award for her extensive community involvement.
Rivard also received the prestigious and highly competitive Outstanding Community Impact Award, which honors up to five undergraduate students in Michigan who have made service an integral part of their college experience by their significant contribution to community resources. There are 37 colleges and universities who are members of Michigan Campus Compact.
An elementary education and early childhood major from Bay City, Rivard has been involved with several service projects and community engagement activities. She has spearheaded initiatives with a number of local agencies including Special Olympics, food pantries, and local schools.
Within SVSU, Rivard is a founding member of the university's chapter of Lions Club, a service club; she also is a Kantzler Fellow, part of a select group of Bay County students that participate in community engagement initiatives to improve the Bay Area. Rivard is an inducted member of the National Society of Leadership and Success, a member of Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority, and a host of other organizations.
Rivard also has volunteered for multiple Alternative Breaks trips, performing community service in places such as Grand Rapids and Nashville, Tennessee. Active in scholarship pageants, she was crowned Miss Bay County in 2015 and is the current Miss Saginaw County.
Schneider, a business management major from Saginaw Township, has a passion for improving her campus and community. She coordinated SVSU's Battle of the Valleys fundraising competition in 2015, collecting more than $24,500 in one week for Get Outside For A Healthy Inside, an affiliate of the Saginaw Community Foundation dedicated to increase physical activity in Saginaw, focusing specifically on building parks and maintaining trails.
SVSU received an Innovations in Community Impact award from Michigan Campus Compact for Battle of the Valleys at the same ceremony. This is the first year for the award.
Schneider serves as the philanthropy chair for SVSU’s student government and is a Wolohan Fellow, part of a select group of Saginaw County students working to improve the image and quality of life for their hometown.
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.
Saginaw Valley State University's College of Business & Management recently honored outstanding regional business leaders as well as SVSU students, alumni and faculty as part of the university’s third annual Academia Awards: Best in Business.
Several committees featuring SVSU faculty, staff and students — along with members of the business community — chose the awards recipients. They will be recognized during a dinner ceremony on campus Friday, March 18.
The recipients include the following:
David Dittenber received the Outstanding Entrepreneur award. Dittenber has more than 20 years of entrepreneurial experience, working extensively in sales and marketing, including national sales management and leadership roles. He is the owner and CEO of Downtown Restaurant Investments, which operates three restaurants in downtown Bay City. He also is the president and owner of both Facilities Management Consultants International as well as DLR Development, a design-to-build solutions firm that works with the healthcare industry.
Annette Rummel, CEO of Great Lakes Bay Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau, received the Outstanding Business Leader award. Rummel also has served as the president and CEO of the Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce. She has worked in the Michigan travel and tourism industry for more than 30 years.
Scheurer Healthcare Network received the Outstanding Business award. The Pigeon-based organization aims to provide a variety of healthcare services to mid-Michigan communities and has established a continuum of care with Elder Care Services, which include an independent living facility, an assisted living facility and a long-term care unit.
Zehnder's of Frankenmuth received the Outstanding Family Business award. Zehnder's of Frankenmuth is a popular destination in Frankenmuth, offering a restaurant, golf course, waterpark and café. The business has served customers for more than 150 years.
Thomas Braley, who graduated from SVSU in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in management, received the Outstanding Alumnus award. The Saginaw resident is a financial advisor and a managing director of investments for Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC in Saginaw Township. He also has served on a number of boards including the SVSU Board of Fellows, Saginaw Promise Zone and the Child Abuse and Neglect Council of the Great Lakes Bay Region.
Kayla Bischer received the Outstanding Undergraduate Student award. The Harbor Beach native will graduate from SVSU in May with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. With a 4.0 GPA, she has been a member of SVSU’s President’s List for eight semesters. She works as a payroll generalist for Bad Axe-based Gemini Group, a plastic and metal products supplier where she hopes to advance her career after graduation.
Michael Stackhouse received the Outstanding Graduate Student award. He has more than 25 years of experience working in information technology, including areas ranging from software development to hardware. Stackhouse also serves as an adjunct faculty member in SVSU’s Department of Computer Science and Information Systems.
Robert Chadwick, an adjunct faculty member in SVSU’s Department of Management & Marketing, received the Excellence in Teaching: Adjunct award. Chadwick was chosen for his passion for giving back to students.
Stacie Krupp, SVSU assistant professor of accounting, received the Excellence in Teaching: Faculty award. The Chesaning native spent 21 years as a public accountant before trading her calculators for syllabi when she joined SVSU and the higher education world in 2012. Part of her academic approach involves challenging students with projects that mimic tasks faced by employees in the public and private accounting sector.
Betsy Pierce, SVSU assistant professor of accounting, received the Excellence in Service award. She has served on SVSU’s Vitito Global Leadership Institute selection committee since joining SVSU in 2013. The institute is a leadership development program for students studying within SVSU’s College of Business & Management. Pierce is a member of a number of other committees such as the Faculty Association Banquet Committee, Workplace Culture Committee and the Indian Student Association Holi Festival Committee.
A community-minded marketing class at Saginaw Valley State University hopes to help the Village of Chesaning reinvent public perception.
After the loss of the popular Chesaning Showboat Festival in 2013, leaders in the small town located in largely rural in southwestern Saginaw County are hoping to strengthen the village's image.
Gary L. Clark, SVSU professor of marketing, and 26 students in his marketing research course plan to provide a blueprint that empowers the community of about 2,000 residents.
“The Village of Chesaning is primarily interested in four things,” Clark said. “What is their current image, how can they increase their population, what does their population want to be offered that the village council can provide, and how should they brand Chesaning?”
The collaboration began when Chesaning Village Administrator Troy Feltman sought out Clark, whose previous classes have led marketing-related projects for approximately 130 businesses and organizations.
“The reason the village engaged the marketing class was to help us with a branding process we're going through,” Feltman said. “We're trying to create a new identity for the community.”
Students will survey the community's residents, teachers, municipal leaders, business owners and members of the Chesaning Chamber of Commerce.
At the end of the semester in April, Clark and his class will present their findings to Feltman, who will then decide what to do with the information.
“We will give them data on what the surveyed people think, and they will make their data-driven decisions,” Clark said. “We will suggest certain things they should do, but they'll have to make their own decisions based on the information.”
Zackary Gibson, a marketing major from Davison, has enrolled in several classes with Clark that worked on marketing projects with other organizations. Gibson said collaborating with a community such as Chesaning has presented a unique challenge not put forth by the companies and organizations they've worked with in the past.
“It's going to be a challenge,” he said. “We're used to businesses, where it's easy to look at what your strengths and weaknesses are. But, with a community, there are so many things you can do. You can deal with the council, the school system, the downtown, the businesses or the residents.”
Brittany Lentz, a communication major from Applegate, has been a part of the website analysis team that compares Chesaning to other communities of similar size to see where the village measures up. This process includes comparing municipal websites, school systems and opportunities for growth.
For Lentz and her classmates, the project offers a hands-on learning experience that will strengthen their résumés.
“It's really good real-world experience,” Lentz said. “The assignments you do apply to real-world jobs.”
Gibson echoed his classmate's sentiment. He said students will not only know how to do a job, but they'll be able to show it as well.
“As a marketing student, this real-world experience is something I can discuss in a job interview,” he said. “You have something tangible you can take into an interview. This is something you can't get from other classes because it's beyond theory. You've applied it, and that's what employers really like.”
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.
Born in 1980 in Poland, Izabela Szymanska witnessed the birth of the country’s Solidarity movement, and though young during its flourishing decade, was awestruck by its impact. She saw this movement transform her country’s peoples as it empowered them to take responsibility for their lives. Notable were economic changes, as citizens went from being government-supported to owning businesses.
Family business and entrepreneurship were fledgling opportunities that motivated a young Szymanska to dream that one day she would study business and entrepreneurship in the U.S. because, as she asks, “Who does it better?”
So it is no wonder that the assistant professor of management chose a case study of family business and innovative changes for her recently-defended doctoral dissertation.
And it’s equally no wonder that Szymanska felt that when she arrived at SVSU in fall 2014, she had found a “perfect fit.” That’s because she is teaching entrepreneurship classes as well as working with the Dow Entrepreneurship Institute at SVSU, the Stevens Center for Family Business, and SVSU students.
She is quick to point out that SVSU’s focus on family business was not only very attractive to her, but that such a program affiliated with a university is not very common. That, she says, is great for both students and the region.
It is in the role of teacher that Szymanska makes her greatest impact. “I work with students on independent studies, take them to business events, and bring speakers into the classroom, all to enrich the student experience. “
And in the very brief time she has been at the university, she has led a student team to the University of Vermont’s Family Enterprise Case Competitions held each winter. She is already planning a return trip in 2015-16, noting the value of this competitive experiential learning for her academic college’s students.
Szymanska especially enjoys teaching Introduction to Entrepreneurship, a semester-long course where students create a comprehensive business plan. “Some love it and some learn that entrepreneurship is not for them. That’s not a bad thing; rather it’s invaluable for students to participate in that discovery process,” Szymanska said.
And some students are excited about becoming an “intrapreneur,” an employee within a company charged with bringing new products or innovations to market. “This can be very appealing to students who don’t necessarily want to start a business, yet who want to bring that entrepreneurial energy to a company.”
Szymanska’s enthusiasm and efforts must be paying off, as an influx of student interest in entrepreneurship has led to adding another section of the course this academic year.