A Saginaw Valley State University professor in philosophy will research the concept of evil, and another in geography will engage in focused scholarly work on the importance of water to the people of Niger in West Africa, after being selected for the Braun Fellowship.
Peter Brian Barry, associate professor of philosophy, and Sara Beth Keough, associate professor of geography, will each receive research support grants totaling up to $37,500 over the next three years to further their scholarly and professional activities. Funds may be used for research expenses, equipment, travel and/or other related support.
Both are recognized by their SVSU colleagues for their research. Barry received the SVSU Faculty Association Outstanding Scholarship Award in 2013; Keough received the same honor this year.
Barry plans to examine the fundamental question, “What makes someone evil?” An authority in the field, he has authored a book on the subject, “Evil and Moral Psychology,” and in 2010 he was awarded a $25,000 teaching grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop an interdisciplinary course on the topic of evil and evil people.
Barry intends to use the fellowship to write a new book, with the working title of “The Fiction of Evil.” While his first book was targeted for academic scholars, he hopes his new volume will result in material more accessible to undergraduate college students.
Barry joined the SVSU faculty in 2005 and has chaired the philosophy department since 2012. He has written 10 articles since 2009 that have appeared in academic journals. Barry completed a Ph.D. at the University of Florida, a master’s degree at Bowling Green State University, and a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Keough has previously traveled to the West African country of Niger to study water consumption, storage, and transportation among its people. While social scientists have studied water quality and access to water resources in Saharan countries, Keough found little attention has been paid to the tangible nature of water, the materials that allow water to be transported and stored, and the landscapes created by these materials, such as the role of water vendors in the story of water access in Niamey.
Keough intends to produce multiple scholarly articles for peer-reviewed publications and give at least three academic conference presentations as a result of her research.
Keough joined the SVSU faculty in 2007. She has authored seven scholarly articles that have been published since 2011. Keough completed a Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee, a master’s degree at Virginia Tech and a bachelor’s degree at Jacksonville University.
Established in 2005, the Braun Fellowship program was created through a $1.5 million endowment from the Saginaw-based Harvey Randall Wickes Foundation. Administered by the Saginaw Community Foundation, the program's purpose is to recognize the exceptional accomplishments and potential of select SVSU faculty and staff. It is named in honor of Ruth and Ted Braun of Saginaw.
Saginaw Valley State University's Cardinal Singers, Concert Choir and Valley Steel musical groups will perform in the concert "St. Francis in the Americas: A Caribbean Mass" Monday, Dec. 1. The 7:30 p.m. performance in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall is free and open to the public.
The program features both sacred and secular music, including renditions of D. Scott Tuttle's "The Red, Blue and White," Glenn McClure's "St. Francis in the Americas: A Caribbean Mass," Ras Shorty I's "Conscious Chutney" and Ralph Manuel's "Alleluia."
Kevin Simons, conductor, and Cheryl Cheger-Timm, pianist, will perform along with the two vocal ensemble groups and Valley Steel, which performs on steel drums. The SVSU Concert Choir features 37 musicians; Cardinal Singers, 16; and Valley Steel, 9.
An assistant professor of music at SVSU, Simons also serves both as director of music and as organist at St. John's Episcopal Church in Saginaw. Cheger-Timm is a staff accompanist at SVSU. She also is active with Saginaw's Pit and Balcony Theatre.
For more information on the concert, visit SVSU's Department of Music online at www.svsu.edu/music.
Selections to be performed include Joan Moss’ “That September Feeling,” Neal Herti’s “Splanky,” and Gordon Goodwin's “Back Row Politics.”
Ikeler started playing piano at age 7, taking private lessons concentrating on classical music. He branched out later to study the rock and jazz genres. He began performing in the 1970s with groups such as Asmodeus Dream, Sass and In The Red. In the 1980s, he performed jazz regularly with percussionist/singer Ron Trombly at Mr. Gibby's restaurant in Flint. Now Ikeler plays with the classic rock group, Roxius.
For more information on the concert, visit SVSU's Department of Music online at www.svsu.edu/music.
As a student at Buena Vista High School, Rollin Johnson, 2009, M.B.A., set his sights on the world outside mid-Michigan. His travels and experiences after graduation took him halfway around the world, then back to his hometown, and most recently on to Baltimore Md., where he serves as director of the Center for Social Concern at Johns Hopkins University.
After graduating from college, Rollin joined the U.S. Peace Corps in 2003, serving first in Nepal, then in Burkina Faso through 2005. Those eye opening and mind-broadening experiences helped Rollin realize that he wanted to continue working for a greater good and that furthering his education would help him do so more effectively.
“The Peace Corps helped me think about how to use my business acumen in a way I hadn’t considered, how to use it around public service.”
When he returned to the United States from Africa, Rollin joined the staff of a small college in Iowa, where he promoted volunteerism and the Peace Corps.
“My experiences internationally with the Peace Corps created a really strong sense of connection with people and with organizations. That helped shape who I am.”
Rollin is a man committed to bringing public service to the forefront, and effecting meaningful change in a city [Baltimore] facing many social challenges. SVSU’s M.B.A. program, he said, helped prepare him for this work.
Going global . . . close to home
Rollin said when he decided to pursue his Master of Business Administration, SVSU was on his list of possible universities.
“Being from the area, I knew about SVSU,” Rollin said. “When I looked into the M.B.A. program, I was attracted to the curriculum; the global emphasis of the program was very interesting to me.
“I also liked the size of the program,” Rollin added. “I knew I’d have access to my professors.”
For Rollin, SVSU offered global reach in a close-knit community. “SVSU has a really friendly atmosphere,” Rollin said. “And the M.B.A.’s international emphasis was really exciting. Connections with people from around the globe opened up this cool space for me to learn from my colleagues. I liked being able to sit with someone from halfway across the world and work together to build rapport and friendships. I’m still in touch with some of those people.”
While working on his M.B.A., Rollin served as a graduate research assistant for the Entrepreneurship Institute at SVSU.
“I worked with Harry Leaver [executive director] and the team at the Center for Business and Economic Development, and with Ken Kousky [at the time, SVSU’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence],” Rollin said. “That helped me sharpen some of the ‘soft’ skills, learning how to work with people around mutual gain and goal. And the opportunity to address some real world problems provided great experience.”
That experience, and other strategies and skills Rollin learned and honed at SVSU, has helped him meet the challenges of his job.
“My work at the Center for Social Concern [Johns Hopkins University] provides new challenges,” Rollin said. “We have change agents out in the city and the community, working to pull together the optimal courses of action for a lot of different interests. Identifying the right route to prime results is challenging. SVSU prepared me by sharpening my technical skills and developing my ability to think critically.
“At SVSU, I learned the importance of plugging in and connecting,” Rollin said. “If I have any advice, it’s ‘get involved.’”
Tai Chi Lee can look back with pride on a fulilling career at SVSU. Since his arrival in 1988, the professor of computer science has published more than 51 scholarly papers and three books on subjects such as computer security, NASA mission software and computer operating systems. For his eforts to advance understanding in his discipline, Lee was recently awarded the Earl Warrick Award for Excellence in Research, SVSU’s highest recognition for faculty scholarship. “All these years, it’s been my number one goal to promote undergraduate research,” he said.
Lee, who announced his retirement in spring 2014, stayed on through the summer months to complete work on a high-performance computing platform made possible through a three-year, $123,000 National Science Foundation grant. In regard to the proper role of research at a teaching institution, Lee noted that “teaching comes irst, but research is important. Without research, we just teach the old stuf.”
Lee has worked closely on collaborative research projects with many students, most of whom have gone on to graduate school. “I’m very proud to have to have made a diference in students’ lives,” he said. He has helped students acquire external grants, present papers at conferences and apply for prestigious graduate programs. Among those students he recalls were James Kruchkow, 1995, B.S., who completed a Ph.D. at the University of Idaho; Eric Henne, 1999, B.S., who inished his master’s degree at Wayne State University; and Frederick Miller 1994, B.S., who earned his Master of Science in Technological Processes at SVSU in 2003 and is now a vice president at Yeo & Yeo Consulting. “When I think about these students, I’m really very proud that they are so successful. They stand out for me because they had motivation, were hard- working and had a keen interest in research.”
He also mentioned former students Amanda Pavlicek, 2012, B.S., now with Chase Bank, and Heather Mindykowski, 2009, B.S., a Web application developer at Dow Corning. While he has not noticed a dramatic increase in the number of female students majoring in computer science, he thinks “the women who do major in computer science tend to be at the top of the class.”
A lover of learning, Lee completed a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from National Taiwan Normal University before earning a master’s degree in mathematics from Southeastern Louisiana University and a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from the University of Utah. “I wanted to study in this country because the U.S. has the most advanced mathematics research,” he explained. “You have greater freedom [in the United States] to develop your own research ideas, and students are also freer to express their ideas.”
In order to enhance his skills and pursue more knowledge, Lee earned a second master’s degree — in electrical engineering and computer science — from the University of Illinois at Chicago, subsequent to completing his Ph.D. “I have to credit my parents for instilling in me a desire to learn,” he said. “My dad would say, ‘If you don’t have an education you can’t go any further.’ But it was really my mother who encouraged me to work hard, study, learn.”
Lee looks forward to a well-earned retirement where he can spend more time with a son, who lives in Minnesota, but also travel abroad with his wife Jessica. “I also want to catch up with my reading in literature and history. I love those subjects but have mostly studied other things. I’ll probably keep reading technology too,” he laughed, “just to stay current.”
It’s always about the learning.
Tamara (Tammy) Arizola Barrientos, 1995, B.A.; 2002, M.A.T., is a success story on many levels. A self-described “nerd” at Arthur Hill High School in Saginaw, she spent a year at Central Michigan University and another year at Delta College before transferring to SVSU. Even as a commuter student, the elementary education major felt connected and supported, due in great part
to the assistance she received from the Oice of Multicultural Services. “We would go there just to hang out,” Barrientos said. “One time, I wanted to drop a course because I didn’t think I would get an ‘A’ for the semester, but my mentors encouraged me to stick it out. And I’m glad I did because I ended up doing better than I thought I would.”
As a Cardinal, Barrientos used her connections with other students she met in Multicultural Services to get involved in campus organizations. She founded a campus chapter of a sorority, Sigma Lambda Gamma, for Latina students. “When I attended the national conference, I was so excited to be among so many high-achieving women,” Barrientos said. “At that moment, I felt proud I had made the most of my opportunities to be successful in life.”
A graduate of the Master of Arts in Teaching program at SVSU, Barrientos at irst hesitated pursuing an advanced degree. She was already working as a middle school teacher and had good experiences with parents and students at Ricker Middle School. In addition, she pointed out, “a lot of the time [school] teachers are reluctant [to earn a graduate degree] because they don’t see the value it will hold in their classroom, how it will directly afect them on a day-to-day basis.” But Barrientos said that in earning her MAT, she learned that her work with research made her a better teacher.
She now advocates for all teachers to learn more theory through graduate studies, adding that it will markedly increase their success with students.
Barrientos joined SVSU’s professional staf in 1997, working irst as a coordinator of the Regional Mathematics and Science Center and, since 2010, as its director. The Center, which is housed in the College of Education, is part of a network of 33 such regional centers; Barrientos designs curricula for local schools and helps educators improve their teaching.
Barrientos takes as her philosophy the importance of doing everything to help students who are challenged by math and science and supporting math and science teachers who wish to improve. “It’s all about seeing the students be successful,” Barrientos said. “Even now, as director of this center, if I can help one teacher, I know that ultimately I’m helping a lot of students learn that it is possible to enjoy math and science.”
There are many reasons why someone who has never been to SVSU would ind it appealing.
For Anthony Bowrin, associate dean of the College of Business & Management, it all started with a coat.
Some 2,700 miles from his native Trinidad and Tobago, Bowrin came to campus for an interview in early March 2009 and stepped of the plane without a winter jacket. Meeting him at the airport was his future colleague, Professor of Accounting Mark McCartney, who immediately took of his own jacket and ofered it to Bowrin — and, luckily, it was the right it. That type of hospitality, Bowrin says, is exactly the type of interaction he was looking for when he decided to relocate from the University of the West Indies in search of an institution that also was “just the right it.”
Bowrin was hired as an associate professor of accounting and wasted no time introducing his students to a teaching philosophy he admits is predicated on tough love.
“My belief is that every student who is willing to work hard can succeed,” he said. “I ask them what are their strengths and weaknesses, and their likes and dislikes. If they answer honestly, they can craft a plan that will almost guarantee their success.“
Last year, Bowrin took that same philosophy to a new administrative position when he was named associate dean.
“Honestly, an administrative role wasn’t a goal when I came to SVSU,” he said. “But I can still help students as associate dean — I can still mentor them, and I can still help them navigate a plan that will help them be successful.”
Bowrin has also taken his desire to help others to a new ield of sorts — the soccer ield. For the last three years he has served as a youth soccer coach for recreational soccer teams at the Midland Soccer Club, where he says working with the children is “the highlight of my week.”
Still, he says, there is no greater joy than watching one of his own students find success after graduation.
“I especially enjoy getting a phone call from a student or employer commenting on the quality of what we do in the college or the quality of a student,” Bowrin said. “Thankfully I’ve received quite a few of those calls.”
Monika Dix hadn’t planned to study Japanese language, much less teach it.
As an undergraduate student at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, the native of Germany was an Asian art history major, developing a deep appreciation for Japanese art. When she continued in graduate school at UBC, she had to learn — really learn — Japanese to better understand the art she was studying. In time, she earned a Ph.D. in Japanese literature through UBC’s Department of Asian Studies.
After spending three years in Tokyo, Dix joined SVSU’s Department of Modern Foreign Languages in 2010. At the time, the university didn’t have a Japanese program, so she was able to shape it from the beginning. Now there are eight courses that contribute to a minor in Japanese, including irst-, second- and third-year Japanese.
“Some students are interested in Japanese because they are interested in Japanese pop culture, including manga [Japanese comic books] and anime,” Dix explained. “I use elements of culture in my classes. We see ilms, read and create manga and sample Japanese food. Language is more than language study, so I try to bring in the cultural aspects.”
Japanese culture has a growing following in the United States. SVSU students can share their love of all things Japanese through the Japanese Culture Club. Dix advises the group, which discusses a variety of topics, including Japanese history and mythology as well as media and art.
“The students pick their topics for meetings each week, invite faculty to talk and help at the annual Japanese Festival [at the Japanese Tea House and Cultural Center in Saginaw]. It helps nurture their interest and understanding.”
Bringing East to West, Monika Dix helps broaden the horizons of SVSU students.