Seven months of determined preparation for a team of two Saginaw Valley State University students resulted in winning a regional moot court competition in Chicago. The win earned teammates Connor Hughes and Madison Laskowski an invitation to the national tournament in Gulfport, Florida in January 2017.
In a moot court competition, students act as attorneys in teams of two. They make arguments to a panel of judges by drawing from constitutional law and Supreme Court cases. Judges then decide winners based on public speaking ability, knowledge of cases and of law, and the ability to answer questions.
In May, competitors received an informational packet containing court documents and rulings related to the case. Hughes and Laskowski immediately began readying for the November tournament when the packet arrived seven months earlier. Julie Keil, assistant professor of political science and advisor to SVSU’s moot court program, said the pair devoted five to 10 hours each week studying and preparing.
“It’s been a huge time commitment for them,” she said. “They know the case; they are hard to shake on the facts, and that really showed.”
Despite several impressive showings over the years and a national top 20 ranking, SVSU’s victory marked the first time a team from the university won an American Moot Court Association regional tournament. Hughes, a political science major from Howell, and Laskowski, a political science major from Bay City, will extend SVSU’s impressive streak of earning berths to the national contest, where they will be among 80 teams competing.
The current uninterrupted run spans the entirety of the 6-year-old SVSU moot court program’s existence.
“That’s not common,” Keil said. “There are a number of teams that are always very competitive, but they aren’t in the nationals every year like this. This says a lot about our students.”
More than 350 colleges and universities field American Moot Court Association teams. During the regional tournament, Hughes and Laskowski outperformed accomplished programs from institutions such as California State University-Long Beach, the College of Wooster, George Washington University, the University of Chicago, the University of Texas-Dallas, and Loyola University Chicago, which hosted the competition Nov. 11-12.
Another SVSU team of Alexander Partridge, a history major from Vassar, and Jaclyn Zembrodt, a political science major from Walton, Kentucky; placed 13th in the 19-team contest.
“They were all so impressive,” Keil said of her two teams. “They worked very hard on this, together, for months.”
Each year, American Moot Court Association organizers create a single fictional U.S. Supreme Court case — often based on actual cases heard in lower courts — that competitors must address when participating in the regional and national tournaments.
This year’s case study concerns voter rights. The case specifically deals with a citizen who divorced her husband, changed her name but did not update her ID documents in time for the election. As a result, clerk employees did not allow the citizen to vote because her ID did not match the voting registry.
“The timing on that was funny,” Keil said, noting that the national presidential election and subsequent voter rights concerns made headlines during the same week as the Chicago tournament.
Keil said SVSU’s success — and the moot court program’s culture of excellence — is fueled by a proud network of supportive faculty and alumni. Among Keil’s assistant advisors this year are former SVSU President Eric Gilbertson, a constitutional scholar who now serves as the university’s executive in residence; Amy Hendrickson, SVSU assistant professor of law; as well as SVSU graduates and former moot court members Mark Babcock and Jacob Mojica.
“None of these people get paid to help our students,” Keil said. “They’re doing it because they care. It’s a network, and it’s a culture of belief that we are capable of succeeding at any level.”
Keil said additional SVSU students may earn invitations to the national tournament. Six more teams from the university will compete in a American Moot Court Association regional tournament hosted by SVSU Dec. 2-3.
Saginaw Valley State University's Concert Choir will perform in concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17 in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall. The event is free and open to the public.
Kevin Simons, assistant professor of music, will direct the choir, which includes 39 SVSU students.
Amanda Stamper, who graduated from SVSU as a music major in 2013, will serve as the pianist and organist alongside the vocalists.
The concert will feature classic selections from composers Giachino Rossini and Josquin des Prez, as well as more contemporary selections from David Dickau and Paul Halley.
For more information on this concert or the many other events hosted by SVSU's music department, visit svsu.edu/music.
Military Times has recognized Saginaw Valley State University as part of its Best for Vets: Colleges 2017 rankings.
SVSU was ranked No. 34 among 130 four-year institutions ranked nationally by the independent media organization dedicated to news and information about the military. No other Michigan institution cracked the top 75.
SVSU ranked No. 38 last year and No. 60 the year before that.
The Best for Vets: Colleges 2017 rankings evaluate many factors that make an organization a good fit for service members, military veterans and their families.
To be considered, colleges filled out a detailed, 150-question survey. Military Times evaluated institutions based on survey responses as well as on data collected by three different federal agencies.
Those decisive factors included university culture, academic outcomes, student support, academic policies, and cost and financial aid. The factors of university culture and academic outcomes were worth the most in the survey, and cost and financial aid was worth the least.
For more information on the rankings, go to http://www.militarytimes.com/bestforvets-colleges2017.
Saginaw Valley State University will showcase The Breaking Winds Bassoon Quartet during the next Rhea Miller Concert Series installment Saturday, Nov. 12. The performance, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall, is free and open to the public.
The concert, called “A Broken Anthology of Western Music,” will feature selections from the 14th to the 20th century including “Rondo Alla Bassoona” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and “Claire De Lune” by Claude Debussy.
By performing a uniquely twisted theatrical blend of classical and popular music on their unlikely instruments, the Breaking Winds Bassoon Quartet members Brittany Harrington-Smith, Yuki Katayma, Kara LaMoure, and Marissa Olegario aim to demonstrate that music is a universal language.
In 2013, the Breaking Winds premiered their commissioned concerto, Scott A. Switzer’s Breaking Out for quartet and wind ensemble, with the Yale Concert Band. The Breaking Winds’ quirky affability lends them a global following on social media. To date, their YouTube channel has garnered over 1 million views and has received coverage from NPR and MTV.
The Rhea Miller Concert Series is made possible by a generous gift from Rhea E. Miller, a longtime friend of SVSU. Her gift, administered by the Miller Trust for Music Education, has provided the university with the opportunity to offer outstanding performances by nationally and internationally acclaimed musical artists at no cost to the audience since 1993.
For more information, call (989) 964-4159 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You could say Tommy Wedge has been preparing for this moment since the day he first opened the pages of “A Raisin in the Sun” while in high school. The Lorraine Hansberry classic has informed every play written in the last six decades, said Wedge, now an experienced theatre professional.
Still, the celebrated story of a struggling black family in 1950s Chicago continues to surprise Wedge even today as he prepares to direct an adaptation for the stage at Saginaw Valley State University.
“This is a play that touches on race, and here I am, a white man from South Dakota, directing this pillar of black literature,” Wedge said. “It’s been a wonderful learning experience for me, trying to honor that.”
The adjunct instructor of theatre said the time was right for SVSU to host “one of the best plays of the last 60 years.”
“We have such a talented pool of actors of color,” Wedge said of the production's largely black cast. “We have some fun things in mind for lighting and the setting, but a lot of this production is going to showcase the very realistic and naturalistic elements of the play. This is a daunting play to produce because it’s so richly-written, but the cast members are really showing their acting gifts.”
Donté Green, a theatre major from Detroit, will play the lead, Walter Lee Younger, the patriarch of the black family featured in “A Raisin in the Sun.”
“He brings a lot of gravitas and confidence to the role,” Wedge said of Green, whose previous SVSU roles include Cassio in “Othello” and Brom Bones in “Sleepy Hollow.”
Walter Lee Younger was perhaps most famously portrayed by Sidney Poitier, who was cast both in the Broadway production from 1959 to 1960 as well as the 1961 Hollywood film.
“It was an extremely popular play, and the first black play that really punctured the American experience,” Wedge said of Hansberry's tale. “It was universally popular for all audiences.”
The plot follows members of the Younger family as they clash with racial politics — and each other — after being offered a substantial sum of money to sell their home in an effort to ease the anxieties of white neighbors.
“It’s a serious play but it has some very lighthearted moments too,” Wedge said. “It’s about the journey of a family. No matter what your experience, you’ll be able to identify with the story and enjoy it.”
While Wedge has never been involved in a production of “A Raisin in the Sun” before, he is familiar with the play’s world. In spring 2015 at Saginaw-based Pit & Balcony Theatre, he directed an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Clybourne Park,” which takes place in the formerly all-white neighborhood where the Younger family lived 50 years earlier.
Both plays are challenging, sometimes uncomfortable character studies that allow Wedge and his cast to explore — and learn — more about the human experience, he said.
“During rehearsals, there have been a lot of moments where I’m helping the cast try to find these truthful moments they can capture,” Wedge said. “They’re learning a lot about themselves and I’m learning a lot about myself as a director. It’s been a pleasure being part of that.”
Wedge hopes audiences are similarly pleased after the curtains open for “A Raisin in the Sun” during showings at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, Nov. 16-19, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20, in SVSU’s Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. Tickets are $13 for the general public and $10 for students or attendees 60 or older.
For more information or to order tickets, contact the SVSU box office at (989) 964-4261. Click here to purchase tickets online.
Saginaw Valley State University recently drew national attention for its students’ dedication to helping their fellow students financially.
Eliza Lanway, a communication major from Gaylord and the current Student Life Program Board coordinator at SVSU, spoke at the National Association for Campus Activities Conference Thursday, Oct. 27 in Covington, Kentucky.
Lanway presented the new and improved program plan for SVSU's annual Streetfest event at the national conference.
Traditionally, Streetfest has been a day of fun for SVSU students to relieve stress as they prepared to take final exams. During Streetfest 2016 this past April, students also raised money to benefit Forever Red's Student Giving Campaign, which ultimately provides scholarships to SVSU students.
Tony Cianciolo, SVSU assistant director for Student Life, said that Lanway was one of the students leading the charge for change.
“Eliza had an immense drive to change SVSU's already very successful Streetfest from a purely entertainment-focused event to adding a whole new side to the event,” he said.
Cianciolo added that Lanway's ultimate goal was to make the event about fundraising for student success.
Program Board reached out to local businesses and other campus organizations seeking sponsorships. Sponsors’ business names and logos were placed on lawn signs as well as Streetfest t-shirts. The idea was to preserve the integrity of the event while also giving it a new purpose.
Because of her involvement in the communication program at SVSU as well as experiential learning through Student Life, Lanway was well-prepared for her speech at the conference.
“I feel a lot more comfortable leading meetings, setting up programs for other people – things like that,” she said. “I really appreciate having those skills now.”
Lanway said she is proud to be a part of what they have accomplished, as she prepares to graduate in December.
“It's super exciting because I'm leaving it in a good place,” she said.
Streetfest 2016 was a trial run of this new structure, and set an ambitious goal of raising $12,000 through sponsorships and advertising. They raised more than $4,000 for student scholarships the first year and will work to build on that amount.
“This is a long-term growth process and that's something I wanted to relay in my presentation,” Lanway said. “We're already in the process of setting up for this year's event and selling a little bit earlier.”
Saginaw Valley State University recognized seven of its graduates and one future graduate who are excelling in their careers and improving their communities at its annual Alumni Celebration Friday, Oct.28. Five alumni were honored with the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest award presented by the SVSU Alumni Association. In addition, the Young Alumni, Veteran Alumni and Future Alumni awards were bestowed.
The Distinguished Alumni Award is presented to an SVSU graduate in recognition of distinguished service and accomplishment in any field of human endeavor that enhances the prestige of the university.
In the College of Arts & Behavioral Sciences, David Points received the 2016 Distinguished Alumnus honor. Commander David S. Points is the former Director of the Joint Information Bureau, Joint Task Force -160 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was recalled to active duty and worked as a public affairs officer on the “U.S. Navy's Napalm Outreach Team” in several states and was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal. Points completed a bachelor’s degree in 1976; he later completed a law degree and a Ph.D. His public service includes a term as a Michigan state representative. Points is currently the sole owner of Mahon Communications, Inc. which owns and operates WFJX AM, FOX Radio 910 in Roanoke, Virginia.
In the College of Business & Management, the 2016 Distinguished Alumnus award was given to John Stadwick. He began his career with General Motors in 1984 and has served in various leadership positions, including a stint as vice president of GM China; he is currently the global customer experience officer for GM. Numerous organizations and publications have recognized Stadwick for his professional accomplishments and community service. In 2013, Forbes magazine named him to its “Global Meets Local” list of top influential leaders of global corporations. Stadwick completed a bachelor's degree in business management in 1983, and was a two-time All-American member of SVSU’s national championship track and field teams in 1982 and 1983.
In the College of Education, Robert Loftus received the 2016 Distinguished Alumnus honor. He received a football scholarship to play at SVSU, and had a memorable and inspiring playing career. Loftus played for SVSU’s first football coach, the late Frank “Muddy” Waters, and was named one of the captains for the team his junior and senior year. Loftus graduated in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education. He has held teaching, coaching and administrative positions within secondary education. Currently he is the owner and president of Loftus and Associates, income development specialists for the auto industry.
In the Crystal M. Lange College of Health & Human Services, the Distinguished Alumna award was given to Sarah Fechter. Founder of Sarah Fetcher Fitness, she has helped members of the community achieve a better and healthier life. She has received multiple awards such as the Great Women of the Great Lakes Bay Region, Business of the Year in 2013, and most recently a RUBY Award. Fechter's business continues to grow and evolve; she currently employs a team of 14 including five SVSU kinesiology students. Fechter completed a bachelor’s degree in exercise science in 2007.
In the College of Science, Engineering & Technology, John Tolfa received the Distinguished Alumnus honor. Upon graduating from SVSU in 1985 with a degree in chemistry and a minor in Mathematics, Tolfa was hired by CPI Engineering Services Inc. in Midland, where he worked on research and development. In 2010, Tolfa co-founded Xaerus Performance Fluids International, a company that develops, manufactures and exports specialty lubricants around the world. Two of the senior chemists at Xaerus are SVSU alumni; he also provides internship opportunities for SVSU students. Tolfa is an inventor of several patents related to synthetic lubrication and bio-based industrial chemistries.
The Young Alumni Award recognizes an individual who has graduated within five years, contributed to student and campus life, has a strong affinity for and connection to SVSU, has been recognized for a strong work ethic, and has shown evidence of professional achievement and civic service. The 2016 recipient is Chunchun Tang, who arrived at SVSU from Shenyang, China and graduated in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in English literature. In 2013, she earned a master's of science in international education development from the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania. Tang's high skills in international exchange and cross cultural education led her to pursue an internship with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, known as UNESCO. She currently serves as director of international programs at Oxford Community Schools in Oxford, Michigan.
New in 2016 is the Veteran Alumni Award, presented to an outstanding alum who served in the military. The inaugural award's recipient is Matthew Schiebner, who graduated from SVSU with a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2004, and earned his master's degree in nursing as a nurse practitioner. He started his nursing career in the United States Air Force as a medical officer. Schiebner was presented with a company grade officer of the quarter honor for his outstanding leadership during wartime while training new recruits and caring for the active duty and veteran soldiers in the hospital setting. He is currently practicing primary care for all ages at Great Lakes Medical Center in Bay City. Additionally, Schiebner has been employed at Covenant Med Express since 2011, where he provides his services in an urgent care setting.
The Future Alumni Award is presented to an SVSU student of junior or senior class standing who meets the same criteria as the Young Alumni award. The 2016 recipient is George Copeland, a business administration major and communication minor from Southfield who is expected to graduate in December. While at SVSU, Copeland has served as a resident assistant in M.J. Brandimore House, and has been an active member of several student organizations. Copeland is also the youth pastor for The Nations Church in Saginaw, where he strives to help people reach their goals and fulfill their purposes.
Saginaw Valley State University students showed their passion to help their community. The streak continues.
For the ninth consecutive year, SVSU won the annual week-long Battle of the Valleys fundraising competition with Grand Valley State University.
“I’m so impressed with the dedication everyone showed all week long during this fundraiser,” said Samantha McKenzie, whose nonprofit benefited from SVSU’s $26,000.25 in collections. “Everyone did a fantastic job.”
McKenzie, president and CEO of Hidden Harvest, said the funds will support her Saginaw-based organization's mission of supplying Great Lakes Bay food pantries while also helping it develop a partnership with the Diaper Alliance, a Midland-based nonprofit that provides diapers to families in need.
“Student and community support like this makes our big goals and aspirations seem possible,” McKenzie said.
The competition kicked off Sunday, Oct. 30 and concluded when the collection totals were announced at halftime of the football game between SVSU and GVSU Saturday, Nov. 5 at SVSU’s Harvey Randall Wickes Memorial Stadium.
Emma Eldred, an SVSU nursing major from Lake Isabella and the philanthropy chairperson for the SVSU Student Association, wept for joy when she learned her university’s inspired effort would preserve a prized bragging right.
“It was a great feeling,” Eldred said. “So much work went into that effort.”
Battle of the Valleys 2016 was “one of the most rewarding” — and most challenging — experiences of Eldred’s life. Along with coordinating the initiative’s daily lineup of events, she also had a demanding week academically with two exams and nursing clinical placements, in addition to regular classes.
“Luckily, I had so much help from my committee and friends on Battle of the Valleys,” she said. “It was all worth it.”
Over the 14-year history of Battle of the Valleys, SVSU students have now supported community causes with a combined $357,329 in donations.
This year, GVSU students raised $17,000 for Laker Children’s Fund, a nonprofit that awards grants for Kent and Ottawa county-based organizations specializing in childhood health programs. In total, the two universities have collected $552,150 since 2003.
Saginaw Valley State University student tutors demonstrated dedication to support aspiring writers during a creative writing workshop for 12 students for students from Bad Axe and Merrill high schools Friday, Oct. 28.
Two tutors from SVSU’s Writing Center, Victoria Phelps, a literature major from Rochester Hills, and Brianna Rivet, a creative writing major from Bay City, facilitated the workshop.
Chris Giroux, SVSU associate professor of English, worked with the pair to submit a grant proposal, “The Prose Project: A Service-Learning Opportunity Uniting Writing Center Tutors and Area High School Students,” that was approved for funding by the SVSU Foundation.
In June, Giroux, Phelps and Rivet attended a week-long writers’ workshop held at the Interlochen School for the Performing Arts, providing an opportunity to engage with and learn from creative writers, who inspired them to create this workshop.
After months of studying and researching, Phelps and Rivet combined their creativity and determination to develop a the day-long workshop, focused on the writing of fiction, specifically for rural high school students. They partnered with high school teachers Stephanie Anderson of Bad Axe and Allison Jordan of Merrill, both of whom are active participants in the National Writing Project.
The SVSU students plan to collect some of the high school students' work in the next weeks to keep up with their progress. The materials and lesson plans created by Phelps and Rivet will also be shared with the tutors who staff the Saginaw Community Writing Center, located at Butman-Fish Library in Saginaw.
The Saginaw Valley State University International Student Club is hosting its annual International Food Festival Tuesday, Nov. 8 in the Marketplace at Doan cafeteria on the campus of SVSU. The public is invited.
SVSU international students are expected to welcome some 2,000 attendees and invite them to taste cuisine from 14 countries on four continents, as students from those regions prepare dishes from their native cultures.
Students, faculty, and staff from across the globe will partner with SVSU Dining Services to cook for the public. Among the nations represented will be China, Costa Rica, France, India, Japan, Nepal, and Taiwan.
Featured dishes inclue French “Camembert,” a potato wrapped in bacon; “Okonomiyaki,” a Japanese-style pizza; Chinese ham fried rice and lotus seed soup; and Taiwanese boba milk tea as well as marbled tea eggs.
The International Food Festival rums from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The cost is $8.75 per person for the public; SVSU students may use their meal card.
Based on past attendance, about 2,000 diners are expected to attend. The cafeteria will be decorated with flags and banners from the different cultures represented.
More than 700 international students attend SVSU.
For more information on the food festival, contact Zach Myers, marketing manager for SVSU Dining Services, at (989) 964-2118 or email@example.com.