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March 14, 2019

SVSU earns Voter-Friendly Campus designation

Saginaw Valley State University's commitment to civic engagement has been recognized with the  institution being selected as a “Voter Friendly Campus.”

The Voter Friendly Campus Initiative is led by the national nonpartisan organizations Campus Vote Project and NASPA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, which hold participating institutions accountable for planning and implementing practices that encourage their students to vote.

In total, 123 institutions in 31 states earned the designation for 2019-20.

To participate in the Voter Friendly Campus designation program, SVSU worked with the organization to craft a statement of interest, draft and execute an action plan for democratic and civic engagement initiatives and events happening on campus and evaluate their efforts to set new goals for the future.

The staff of the SVSU's Center for Civic Engagement also created a coalition of community members, on-campus partners and student groups who helped draft and submit SVSU's application.

“Your institution's efforts to break down barriers and empower students with the information and tools they need to participate in the political process puts the civic mission of higher education into action,” read a statement by organizers of the initiative when SVSU's designation was announced.

As part of their action plan, the Center for Civic Engagement included its plans for the 2018 Cardinals Vote campus initiative, which saw hundreds of SVSU students registered to vote, educated about their choices and transported to the polls.

Riley Hupfer, assistant director of the Center for Community Engagement, credits SVSU's success on a campus community full of engaged citizens.

“I think it's a combination of things. Students across campus are interested in this and putting time into it, and there is kind of a wave of youth voter engagement improving,” Hupfer said. “SVSU students as a whole were engaged in this. They were interested, and when the resources were there, they engaged with them. I think people were just excited to get involved.”

The Voter Friendly Campus designation program was started in 2016 with the goal of helping institutions develop plans to coordinate administrators, faculty and student organizations in civic and electoral engagement. It focuses primarily on voter registration, voter education, voter turnout and treating students as voter advocates.

“It reinforces the commitment across the country and the recognition that when students vote and get involved, great things happened,” Hupfer said. “This is just a large support network for that, and that's pretty promising.”

March 13, 2019

Economist to discuss central bank's influence on U.S. economy during SVSU talk

An economist hoping to familiarize Midwestern communities with the United States’ central banking system will visit Saginaw Valley State University later this month.

Cindy Ivanac-Lillig, an economic outreach specialist at the Chicago Federal Reserve, will discuss the central bank’s influence on the U.S. economy Thursday, March 28, at 6 p.m. in SVSU's Curtiss Hall, seminar rooms D and E. The event is free and open to the public.

Ivanac-Lillig joined the Chicago Federal Reserve in 2008. She leads a variety of economic education programs for Midwest teachers, students and professional associations while also managing education partnerships on behalf of the organization. 

Prior to joining the Chicago Federal Reserve, Ivanac-Lillig provided financial consulting for London-based Ernst & Young and worked abroad for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Ivanac-Lillig received a master’s degree in international affairs and economics from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in 2003 as well as a bachelor’s degree in finance from Boston College in 1995.

 

For more information on her appearance at SVSU, please contact Kellie Konsor, SVSU assistant professor of economics, at (989) 964-4323 or email event organizers at kmeyer@svsu.edu or plliving@svsu.edu

March 13, 2019

SVSU international students plan evening of dance, music, celebration of cultures

Audiences can expect to behold a colorful lineup of songs, dancing, fashion and theatrical performances — representing more than a dozen cultures — during Saginaw Valley State University’s 18th annual Intercultural Night.

 

Members of SVSU’s International Student Club will host the event — free and open to the public — Friday, March 15, at 7 p.m. in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. 

 

About 50 international students plan to participate on stage that evening. They will represent cultures and nations such as Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, China, El Salvador, India, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Palestine, Poland, South Korea and Saudi Arabia. Members of SVSU’s African Student Union also will perform.

 

Each group will present entertainment and clothing native to their culture through traditional song and dance, instrumental performances, skits and a fashion show. 

 

"We consider learning about other cultures as an important part of a college education,” said Pat Shelley, an international student advisor at SVSU who advises the International Student Club. “Even if students don’t get a chance to study abroad, they still get an opportunity to interact with different cultures here on campus.”

March 13, 2019

SVSU event to connect teens with STEM professionals

An inspired idea by local teenagers to encourage their peers to pursue science careers will take shape at Saginaw Valley State University later this week.

SVSU will host a Teen Science Café on Thursday, March 14, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., in rooms GS 115 and GS 117 of Gilbertson Hall. The event is free and open to all middle and high school students.

Teen Science Café events aim to empower students by connecting them with STEM professionals eager to discuss their respective industries. The professionals planning to appear at SVSU's event will represent careers such as nursing, mechanical engineering, cybersecurity and agriculture, organizers say.

The SVSU-hosted Teen Science Café in part was the creation of local high schools students involved in the university's Chief Science Officers program, which is a branch of a national initiative designed to encourage middle and high school students to serve as advocates for science education among their peers.

Mackenzie Jean-Marcoux, a senior at John Glenn High School in Bay City and a member of the group that organized the Teen Science Café, said she was inspired to widen her influence as a science education advocate during her second year with the Chief Science Officers program.

"This year, I wanted to focus on STEM career exploration in more than just my high school," she said. "I thought the Teen Science Café would be a great idea that would accomplish my goals."

Jean-Marcoux said she is eager to survey those in attendance to measure the event's impact.

"I am most excited for when we'll be able to ask the students what they've learned and, hopefully, to see that some of them now have new ideas for possible careers," she said.

Adrianne Cole, the director of STEM@SVSU, said Teen Science Café events help attendees better relate to people in science-related careers.

"Teens gain a more realistic and positive perception of STEM professionals, get a glimpse of the interesting lives they lead, and learn that they are real, complex, multi-dimensional humans — just like them," Cole said.

For more information on the Chief Science Officers program as well as other STEM-based initiatives at SVSU, visit www.svsu.edu/stem/.

March 12, 2019

SVSU to host nationally renowned author and commentator Michael Eric Dyson

Outspoken New York Times columnist, political TV pundit and Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson will visit Saginaw Valley State University this month.

The Detroit native will serve as the keynote speaker at the SVSU-hosted Equity in the Classroom conference Sunday, March 17, at 6 p.m. in SVSU’s Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. The event featuring Dyson is free and open to the public.

An outspoken voice on a range of social issues - including race, politics, religion and culture - Dyson is recognized nationally both for his television appearances on top-rated political talk shows as well as his best-selling books and newspaper columns.

“Michael Eric Dyson is one of our nation's preeminent thought leaders,” said Mamie T. Thorns, the SVSU special assistant to the president for Diversity Programs who helped organize Dyson's visit.

“His talents as an orator and his deep, scholarly understanding of our culture gives him a commanding presence as a speaker. Whether you agree or disagree with what he is saying, he has a true talent to engage audiences and encourage meaningful discourse.”

Dyson - the recipient of an American Book Award and two NAACP Image Awards - has appeared on TV programs such as Meet The Press, Face The Nation, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Real Time with Bill Maher, Good Morning America, and the Today Show.

Along with working as a New York Times op-ed writer, Dyson serves as a contributing editor for both The New Republic magazine as well as ESPN's The Undefeated website.

His 19 books include New York Times bestsellers such as “Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has The Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?” His 1994 book, “Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X,” was considered one of the most important African-American books of the 20th century and was also named a “Notable Book of the Year” by The New York Times. His book, “The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America,” was a finalist for the prestigious Kirkus Prize in 2016.

His latest New York Times Bestseller, “What Truth Sounds Like: RFK, James Baldwin, And Our Unfinished Conversation About Race In America,” was a recipient of The 2018 Southern Book Prize.

Dyson also serves as a sociology professor at Georgetown and as an ordained minister.

Karen S. Carter, the chief inclusion officer for The Dow Chemical Company, will serve as moderator for Dyson's discussion during his visit to SVSU. In January 2018, Carter was the keynote speaker at the Great Lakes Bay Regional Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at SVSU.

For more information about Dyson, visit his website at www.michaelericdyson.com.

For more information about SVSU's event, contact SVSU's Office of Diversity Programs at (989) 964-4068.

March 11, 2019

Trailblazing retired Navy captain to speak at SVSU

A military veteran who retired as the highest-ranking African-American woman in U.S. Navy history will talk about her career as a trailblazer during a visit to Saginaw Valley State University.

Gail Harris, a retired U.S. Navy captain, will deliver her address, titled “Take Command and Win,” Thursday, March 14, at 5 p.m. in Curtiss Hall Banquet Room A at SVSU. The event is free and open to the public.

Harris was the first woman in U.S. Navy history to serve as an intelligence officer in a Navy aviation squadron. Harris, who served from 1973-2001, made groundbreaking strides for women and persons of color in the Navy, often serving as the “first” of every post she accepted in the military.

“We are extremely honored to welcome the highly-decorated Capt. Harris to SVSU,” said Bethany Alford, director of the university's Military Student Affairs office. “She is a true pioneer in the Naval community. We are very fortunate to hear about her experiences firsthand.”

Harris earned honors of distinction during her career in the military. She received the Meritorious Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, as well as the Navy Commendation Medal three times. Harris' story has been profiled by international TV networks including BBC and Fox News.

During Harris' visit to SVSU, she also will meet with student groups including individuals affiliated with the military.

Her visit to SVSU is sponsored by SVSU's offices of Multicultural Student Affairs, Military Student Affairs, Residential Life, and Student Life.

For more information on the event, please contact SVSU's Multicultural Student Affairs office at (989) 964-7090.

March 7, 2019

SVSU student qualifies for second event at forensic national championship

After another strong performance in a statewide contest, a Saginaw Valley State University student qualified to compete in a second event at the National Forensics Association Championship Tournament.

 

Dan Visnovsky was among three SVSU students — as part of the SVSU Forensics Team that competes against college peers in public speaking-based contests — to earn accolades at the Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League State Championship hosted Saturday, March 2 at Eastern Michigan University.

 

The political science major from Sparta won one Top Novice award in the competition's Informative Speaking category and a second Top Novice honor — as well as fifth place overall — in the Extemporaneous Speaking category.

 

Top Novice honors are given to students who have both competed in fewer than six tournaments in the forensics league and placed highest in a particular category.

 

In February, Visnovsky placed second in the Informative Speaking category at the Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League Novice State Championship, qualifying him to compete in that same category at the 2019 National Forensic Association National Championship Tournament scheduled April 18-22 in Santa Ana, California.

 

His performance Saturday will allow him to compete in a second category — Extemporaneous Speaking — at the national championship.

 

Jessica Carpenter, an English major from Saginaw, also will represent SVSU in Santa Ana after placing sixth in Poetry during the March 2 state championship.

 

Karlie Sherwood, an English major from Royal Oak, earned Top Novice honors in the After Dinner Speaking category during Saturday’s competition.

 

The SVSU Forensics Team next will compete in the National Speech Championship scheduled March 23-24 at Oakland University.

 

The group is advised by Amy Pierce, SVSU associate professor of communication, and Ryan Rigda, SVSU lecturer of communication.

March 6, 2019

SVSU students spend spring break volunteering at nonprofits

Saginaw Valley State University students are spending their spring break vacations this week supporting communities across the Midwest and East Coast states.

Through Alternative Breaks, a student-run organization that sends SVSU volunteers to help nonprofit agencies during the university's winter holiday and spring break sessions, 70 students are participating in six projects spanning four states this week before classes resume March 11.

Hospital-bound children and elderly in need of support are among the people benefiting from the students' work. Volunteer efforts also are focusing on improving the environment, raising awareness about HIV and AIDS, and improving housing conditions for families in need.

The six SVSU Alternative Breaks projects include the following:

  • Volunteers are assisting Asheville Greenworks, an environmental advocacy organization, as it works to enhance the Asheville, North Carolina community through educational and volunteer-based environmental programs. During their stay, SVSU students also will learn about human contribution to environmental degradation, urban forestry and invasive plant removal.
  • Another team of SVSU students are working with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Nashville. Volunteers there are spending the week interacting with child patients by playing games with them, reading books, as well as supervising arts and crafts and other activities. The students also are assisting with short-term relief services for families and caregivers there.
  • Volunteers are supporting Citymeals on Wheels, an elderly hunger advocacy group in New York City. Participants are spending the week ensuring that home-bound elderly New Yorkers receive a continuous lifeline of nourishment and companionship.
  • A second group of students volunteering in New York City are teaming with Gay Men’s Health Crisis, a provider of HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy. Participants are helping to organize educational workshops, meal services and an AIDS Walk project.
  • Volunteers are aiding a Habitat for Humanity spring service trip in Elk Park, North Carolina. Students there also will learn about substandard learning conditions as well as how affordable housing builds strength, stability and self-reliance.
  • A group of SVSU students are assisting La Casa de Amistad, a youth and community center in South Bend, Indiana. Alternative Breaks participants there are helping teach English as a second language, hosting mock interviews, providing digital assistance and preparing the center’s youths for citizenship exams.

For more information about the Alternative Breaks program at SVSU, visit www.svsu.edu/officeofstudentlife/serve/.

March 5, 2019

SVSU student-vocalist bests Midwest's top college talent at singing competition

After years spent working tirelessly to reach her potential as a vocalist, Alivia Combs is rising to the top of the singing competition among her peers.

The Saginaw Valley State University student’s singing prowess earned her a first-place award from a panel of judges at a National Association of Teachers of Singing regional contest for competitors from Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Ontario. She bested her peers in the category for female junior and senior college students.

“I never try to think of these competitions in a way of winning or losing, but just to gain new experiences,” Combs said. “When they called my name, I was shocked."

The music major is no stranger to delighting audiences. It’s a scenario that dates back further than her memory can recall. The Warren native said her mother often recounts tales of Combs as a toddler, belting out tunes during the family’s grocery store visits, then earning praise from strangers in the shopping aisles.

She carried that love of singing with her at first to the Detroit Institute of Music Education, where one of the educators there — Elizabeth Belluni — recognized a talent in need of fine-tuning.

“When I first started at the institute, I was singing with a lot of tension and pressure, which is unhealthy and doesn’t sound the best.” Combs said.

Belluni helped Combs improve her vocal techniques, recommended exercises aimed at strengthening her ability to sing, and prepared her for life as a performer after college, she said.

That student/mentor relationship continues today at SVSU. Combs said she enrolled at the university in fall 2018 after Belluni joined SVSU's Department of Music as an adjunct faculty member.

“Without her, I wouldn’t be able to do any of this,” Combs said.

A recipient of the university’s Rhea Miller Scholarship in Music, Combs said her hard work at SVSU is focused on a single goal: To become a musical theatre performer. She dreams of landing roles such as the lead in the Tony Award-winning musical, “Waitress."

After graduating next year, Combs plans to pursue a musical theatre career in Chicago. She already has traveled to the Windy City multiple times to audition for roles.

“The end goal would be to move to New York City, for Broadway,” she said. “I’m taking the stepping stones to get there.”

 

A video here features Alivia Combs performing in the SVSU holiday video produced in December 2018.

February 27, 2019

SVSU alumna's book aims to inspire interest in science among children

When her daughter was two, Jennifer Douglas read an article that encouraged parents to "make up science stories for your children" in order to inspire their interest in the subject.

"So, at bedtime, I would refer to one of her favorite books and add a science spin on it," Douglas said. "She grasped the concepts quite quickly, but when I tried to buy books to aid me in my quest, I found they didn't readily exist."

So the Saginaw Valley State University alumna took matters into her own hands. She authored the recently-published "Itsy-Bitsy's Science Adventure," a 28-page children's book aimed at encouraging interest in science, technology, engineering and math — known as STEM, for short — among children.

"I wanted to be an inspiration to my children and show them you can do anything you put your mind to, while addressing — what I saw as — a need," Douglas said. "Understanding the world around you from a child's perspective can help foster not only a scientific foundation in young minds, but will also encourage environmental responsibility."

"Itsy-Bitsy's Science Adventure" — published by FriesenPress in late 2018 — explores the day in a life of a spider who meets various creatures along his journey while learning about their biology, such as the differences between an arachnid, an amphibian and an insect. The book is available at outlets including online stores such as iTunes and Amazon.

The story isn't finished, Douglas said. The book is labeled as the first of the "Itsy-Bitsy Science Series," and Douglas already has plans for follow-up titles that continue to explore the spider's adventures in learning about science.

Douglas knows a thing or two about science. She works as an environmental health and safety project manager for Ontario-based Golder Associates, a global company that provides consulting, design and construction services.

Douglas said her interest in a STEM-based career began when she was an undergraduate at SVSU more than a decade ago.

"I have always been interested in science, though I was not planning to study science or pursue science as a career," said the Lexington, Michigan native whose maiden name is Jennifer Watson.

In 2003, she enrolled in a course taught by Richard Trdan, a longtime SVSU biology professor who retired a year before his death in 2018.

"He got me excited about science, and we — with our colleagues and classmates — ended up working together on various research projects for five years," Douglas said. "That eventually led me to a career in science."

Among her undergraduate projects at SVSU was research examining potential genetic weaknesses in zebra mussels that could aid in bioremediation efforts.

One year after graduating with a bachelor's degree in biology in 2007, she began her job at Golder Associates.

In 2010, she married SVSU alumnus Matt Douglas, who earned a bachelor's degree in marketing in 2007. They now reside in Ontario, where they are raising two children.

Jennifer Douglas, meanwhile, hopes her writing helps other parents raise their children to love science. Less than three months after its publication, "Itsy-Bitsy's Science Adventure" has sold about 400 copies, she said.

"My children — ages six and three — have heard the stories for years, so to have the book in hand has been very exciting for them," Douglas said. "They know the book was inspired by them, which they love."

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