March 19, 2015

SVSU, Delta alumna Christal Ross found calling in mathematics; Ph.D. program up next

Some second acts are worth the wait.

Christal L.S. Ross’ first stint in higher education had its share of promise. The onetime theater major scored leading roles in Saginaw Valley State University productions from the early 2000s such as “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” and “The Comedy Of Errors.”

But the curtain closed on that first act when she was married and had her first child before she finished her degree. Today — while raising two sons, 10 and 14 — she has completed two degrees with more expected.

“My life totally changed when I went back to school,” said the 1998 graduate of Heritage High School in Saginaw Township. “I’m really busy and I never sleep, but I find myself loving every minute of it.”

Her second act in college proved different than the first. Leaving theater behind, Ross discovered a passion for mathematics.

“I love math,” Ross said of her rediscovered interest in the subject. “The weirder math gets, the more I like it. They’re like little puzzles you have to solve.”

After receiving her associate’s degree from Delta College in 2008, she returned to SVSU. Along with adding a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from SVSU to her résumé in 2013, she earned a spot on the school’s dean’s list, and a position as secretary of the university’s Math Club.

An aspiring professor, some of the faculty Ross hopes to emulate supported her at SVSU including professors of mathematics Steven Sepanski and Thomas Zerger, as well as Tony Crachiola, associate professor of mathematics and acting assistant dean for the College of Science, Engineering and Technology.

“Tony was my teacher during my first semester after my transfer from Delta,” Ross said.

“I was intimidated, fearing that I would not be successful in math, especially since I started in developmental math classes when I was almost 30. I approached Tony after class one day, expressing my concerns, and he was very encouraging. I will always appreciate that pep talk, as it came at a time when I really needed a boost in my self-esteem.” 

Now she hopes to pay forward the support received from Crachiola and his colleagues.

“I’ve had wonderful professors everywhere,” Ross said. “I really feel like they’re cheering for me, and encouraging me to apply for new things. It’s been a very supportive environment.”

In August, she expects to earn a master’s degree in math at CMU, where she works as a graduate teaching assistant and is a member of the American Mathematical Society Graduate Student Chapter at CMU.

Her education will be far from finished when that master’s degree arrives. In fall 2015, she will begin CMU’s Ph.D. program for mathematics.

Eventually, Ross hopes to start a career not unlike that of the staff and faculty who helped her succeed during her second act in higher education.

March 19, 2015

SVSU program to improve literacy, writing education at regional K-12 schools

Teachers from three K-12 school districts this year will receive professional development from Saginaw Valley State University faculty in literacy and writing across the curriculum.

The news comes after SVSU secured a $220,000 Michigan Department of Education grant for the one-year program, which kicks off in August.

The professional development will benefit 30 to 35 educators in Standish-Sterling Community Schools, International Academy of Flint and Marlette Community Schools. That professional development will impact their teaching approach for underrepresented students in grades 5 to 12.

Deborah Smith, SVSU professor of teacher education, said the initiative will mirror a professional development project she oversaw five years ago. In 2009, the Michigan Department of Education provided SVSU with a $184,830 grant aimed at supporting teachers’ literacy integration and community building skills at SVSU-supported charter schools.

“This new project is built on what worked from that grant, so I am hopeful that it will go even better,” she said. “We plan to collaborate closely to be sure that we are responsive to the changing needs of the teachers involved,” Smith said.

Smith said Helen Raica-Klotz, SVSU's Writing Center director, and Paul Hernandez, an outside consultant for SVSU, will help her coordinate the project. Hernandez is chief academic officer of The Future Project, a national nonprofit organization focused on education.

March 17, 2015

SVSU Rhea Miller Concert Series features pianist with global résumé

Saginaw Valley State University will showcase internationally acclaimed pianist May Phang during its next Rhea Miller Concert Series installment Saturday, March 21. The performance is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall.

Phang has performed on three continents including solo recitals and chamber music concerts in Singapore, Montreal and the Netherlands. Her résumé includes performances with the Singapore Symphony, the Banff Chamber Players, the Montreal Symphony, and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Phang was a finalist in the 2007 Iowa Piano Competition and won the Chopin Young Pianists' Competition in Buffalo, the Canadian Music Competition, and Pontoise International Young Artists Competition in France. She began piano studies in her native Singapore.

An active music educator, Phang serves as an assistant professor of music at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. She is a graduate of McGill University in Canada and earned her Ph.D. from Temple University in Philadelphia. Phang also is a teaching artist of Young Audiences of Indiana, the state's oldest and largest provider of professional arts education programs for children; and conducts master classes at institutions such as Idyllwild Arts Academy in Idyllwild, Calif., and Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, Mich.

Phang’s Rhea Miller Concert Series program will include selections from musicians such as 19th century's Franz Schubert and Frédéric Chopin, as well as contemporary musician Roberto Sierra.

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 music@svsu.edu.

March 17, 2015

SVSU Student Association seeking charity benefactor for Battle of the Valleys 2015

The Saginaw Valley State University Student Association is once again seeking a charitable partner for the 13th annual Battle of the Valleys fundraising drive.

Each fall, students at SVSU and rival Grand Valley State University host a week-long fundraising competition that culminates at the Saturday football game. This philanthropic tradition at each university encourages not only school pride, but gives students the opportunity to give back to their community through non-profit fundraising efforts.

Over the past 12 years, SVSU students have raised more than $300,000 for local organizations. SVSU students have won this fundraising competition nine out of twelve times, including the most recent seven “Battles.”

In 2014, SVSU students raised $32,000 for the Cory Rivard Jr. Promise Foundation, a Michigan-based non-profit that had ties to both schools that exists to raise awareness about depression, suicide, and anxiety among college students.

For more information or to apply to be this year's Battle of the Valleys charitable partner for SVSU, please visit www.svsu.edu/bov or contact SVSU Student Association's BOV coordinator, Emily VanFleteren, by email at eavanfle@svsu.edu. The deadline to apply is Friday, April 10.

March 16, 2015

SVSU honors 'Best in Business' at award ceremony

Saginaw Valley State University's College of Business and Management honored regional businesses, students, alumni, and faculty during its second annual Academia Awards: Best in Business ceremony Friday, March 13 at SVSU.

The Bavarian Inn in Frankenmuth received the Outstanding Family Business award. This lodge and restaurant offers visitors the chance to explore over 40 shops, yearly festivals and events, and a taste of classic German architecture. They employ more than 400 people and serve over a half million meals each year, and are annually ranked among the top independent U.S. restaurants. Ten members of the Zehnder family work side-by-side to keep the Bavarian Inn business going and maintain strong ties to the community.

The Outstanding Business award was given to Frankenmuth Insurance. This insurance company employs 127 previous attendees of SVSU, including 100 SVSU graduates. They were named National Company of the Year in 2013 by the Professional Insurance Agents Association. Frankenmuth Insurance promotes core values of caring, commitment and teamwork in addition to providing industry-leading technology and automation from their independent agent partners. With more than 600 employees, they focus daily to exceed policyholder expectations.

The Outstanding Business Leader award was presented to Paul Rowley. A Bay City native, he has played important roles in reviving downtown Bay City through growing his company, Rowley Brothers Inc., and in helping projects such as the river walk, the skate park, the rail trail, and the first downtown condo project. Rowley also has served on the Bay City Downtown Development Authority, the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Bay County, the Historical Society of Bay County, and numerous other community organizations.

Shaya Jewani received the Outstanding Undergraduate Student award. As an undergraduate, she was selected to the prestigious Roberts Fellowship program at SVSU during the 2013-2014 school year where she studied abroad in China, Japan, and Taiwan. A native of Fort Gratiot, Jewani also completed an honors thesis, “Does Bilinguality Significantly Impact a Student's Intellectual Capabilities and Academic Achievements Compared to Monolinguality.” She currently is enrolled at SVSU as an MBA student.

Lindsey Zion received the Outstanding Graduate Student award. A Fenton native and recent MBA graduate, she finished her graduate studies with a 4.0 GPA and, like Jewani, was a member of the Roberts Fellowship Program, which allowed her to study abroad in China, Taiwan, and Japan. She also has studied abroad in Mexico, Greece, Spain, India, and the Czech Republic. Zion recently began working for Consumers Energy as an account manager.

The Outstanding Alumnus award was presented to David Abbs. A 1983 graduate of the SVSU with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management, he is the owner of Abbs Retirement Planning Advisors in Saginaw; he is also a certified financial planner. Active in the community Abbs has served as chair of SVSU's Board of Control and the Saginaw Community Foundation Board.

Kylie Jaber, assistant professor of economics, received the Excellence in Teaching: Faculty award. Students in Jaber's economics courses recognize her passion, energy, and enthusiasm for teaching. In her own words, "teaching is like an orchestra or a play, where each performance is different - the experience will be new every time the musicians or the actors take the stage… And those attending the productions will hopefully be entertained, challenged, and impacted in some way." Jaber is passionate about teaching because it allows her to explore the things she loves the most: people, challenges, and creativity.

The Excellence in Teaching: Adjunct award was presented to Merle Davis, who has taught marketing and management courses at SVSU since 2010. He was recognized for his commitment to teaching and student learning; more specifically, his passion is in developing critical-thinking skills that allows students to identify opportunities and take advantage of them. Davis is also the president of Davis Performance Consulting, where he provides consulting services to manufacturing, health care, and service organizations.

Hong Park, professor of economics, received the Excellence in Research award. He has conducted pioneering research on the application of transaction cost economics to supply chain management and job turnover.  Among an impressive list of publications, Park has published a paper titled, "Foreign direct investment and global sourcing choices of firms in the U.S." which was included in a two volume book, "Global Supply Chain Management" edited by leading scholars in the field. He is currently working on a research project on knowledge, entrepreneurship and innovation, and has recently completed a study of the economic impact of SVSU on the Great Lakes Bay region commissioned by President Bachand.

Amy Hendrickson, SVSU assistant professor of law, received the Excellence in Service award. Before joining SVSU in 2013, Hendrickson worked at the California Attorney General's Consumer Protection Section, and spent some time providing volunteer legal services. During her time at SVSU thus far, she has engaged in volunteer activities such as coordinating an international Global Business Sustainability Conference at SVSU last year, and serving as judge and assistant for SVSU’s moot court competition.

March 12, 2015

SVSU named top 20 business school by military-focused organization

Saginaw Valley State University was ranked No. 20 nationally on a list rating the best educational institutions for military-affiliated students seeking an education in business.

 SVSU also was the No. 1-rated Michigan university or college on the Military Times' Best For Vets: Business Schools 2015 rankings.


Rama Yelkur, dean of SVSU's College of Business and Management, said SVSU takes pride in providing a top-notch education and experience for students affiliated with the military.

“The College of Business and Management at SVSU focuses on both classroom and experiential learning,” Yelkur said. “We also provide flexible day and evening classes that allow veterans to schedule around their full-time jobs and families, as they are often different from the traditional 18- to 22-year-old student.”

The Military Times is an independent media organization dedicated to news and information about the military. In November, the organization ranked SVSU No. 40 in its Best for Vets: Colleges 2015 list.

To determine its business school rankings, Military Times focused on culture and curriculum that cater to military-affiliated students.

The rankings will be published in the issues of Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times and Marine Corps Times - on newsstands now - as well as online at ArmyTimes.com, NavyTimes.com, AirForceTimes.com, MarineCorpsTimes.com and MilitaryTimes.com.

The full rankings are available online here: http://bestforvets.militarytimes.com/business-schools/2015/

SVSU’s College of Business and Management is accredited by the leading accrediting agency for business colleges, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, or AACSB. Less than 5 percent of the 13,000 collegiate business programs worldwide are so accredited.

March 11, 2015

Anti-slavery advocate, historian to visit SVSU

An expert on the history of slavery will visit Saginaw Valley State University Tuesday, March 17, as part of the institution's Barstow Humanities Seminar series. Stacey Robertson will deliver her presentation, “Using History to Make Slavery History: Historical and Contemporary Human Trafficking,” at 7:30 p.m. in SVSU's Curtiss Hall banquet rooms.

Robertson, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at Central Washington University, also serves as co-director of Historians Against Slavery, a nonprofit organization that advocates against modern-day slavery and human trafficking. She also recently appeared as a historical expert on the TLC television series, "Who Do You Think You Are?," hosted by actress Zooey Deschanel.

Robertson - who completed a Ph.D. in history at the University of California, Santa Barbara - is an author of four books including “Betsy Mix Cowles: Champion of Equality” and “Hearts Beating For Liberty: Women Abolitionists in the Old Northwest.” She is the recipient of several teaching awards and research fellowships and has lectured at more than 100 venues internationally.

To watch Robertson speak about the history of slavery and abolitionism in an online video, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaGjiMQ1hOI&t=27. Her SVSU talk is free and open to the public.

March 11, 2015

Islamic studies expert to give lecture at SVSU

Saginaw Valley State University will welcome a world-recognized leader in Islamic studies for SVSU's annual Raana Akbar Memorial Lecture Series on Thursday, March 19, at 6 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall.

Imam Achmat Salie, director of the Islamic Studies Program at the University of Detroit Mercy, will deliver a presentation titled, “Muslim Americans as Cultural, Spiritual and Political Citizens.”

Speaking on philanthropy, global ethics, architecture, democracy, spiritual values, non-violence and green housing, Salie has been invited to share his story at venues across five continents. He completed a bachelor’s degree at Darul Uloom Newcastle in South Africa, and an M.B.A. and Doctor of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.

This will be Salie’s second public appearance at SVSU; he delivered the invocation during President Donald Bachand's investiture ceremony last June. His upcoming talk is free of charge and open to the public.

The annual Dr. Raana Akbar Memorial Lecture Series on Islam and Culture at SVSU was established by Dr. Waheed Akbar, a Saginaw-based orthopedic surgeon, and the couple’s children, Akbar, Zainab, and Ahmed, in memory of their wife and mother, who passed away in 2009.  Raana served on the SVSU Board of Control; Waheed currently serves on SVSU’s Board of Fellows, a community advisory board.

March 10, 2015

Professional Profile for February 2015

• Martin Arford, associate professor of geography, was presented the Osprey Award for Outstanding Conservation Volunteers by the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy for the work at the Frankenlust Township Park and the invasive species removal that he coordinated with the help of SVSU student volunteers.

• James Bowers, assistant professor of criminal justice, and Poonam Kumar, director of online/hybrid learning, co-authored an article titled “Students’ Perceptions of Teaching and Social Presence: A Comparative Analysis of Face-to- Face and Online Learning Environments” that was accepted for publication in the International Journal of Webbased Learning and Teaching Technologies, 10(1), 2845.

• Ann CoburnCollins, director of academic programs support, recently attended the Innovations for Adjunct Faculty Support conference in Phoenix, Ariz., where she gave three presentations: “Creating an Inclusive Orientation Process”; “Developing Adjunct Faculty for Improved Student Success”; and “Developing and Resourcing an Adjunct Faculty Support Center. 

• Danilo Sirias, professor of management, provided training for 112 math teachers on his Problem Solving Maps methodology in Manila, Philippines. He was sponsored by Theory of Constraints for Education and hosted by the Rotary Club of Makati Central. More than 1,000 Philippine teachers have been trained on this methodology.

• Marilyn Skrocki, associate professor of health sciences, and Poonam Kumar, director of online/hybrid learning, gave an invited session titled “Strategies to Support Student Retention in Online Courses” at the Transforming the Teaching & Learning Environment: the 2014 PASSHE virtual conference, organized by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

• Stephen Taber, professor of biology, had a manuscript titled “The Previously Unknown Female of the Fungus Gnat genus Paratinia Mik (Diptera: Mycetophilidae) with Notes on Nearctic Males” accepted for publication in Southwestern Entomologist magazine.

• Bob Tuttle, professor of mechanical engineering, was selected by the American Foundry Society to receive its 2015 Applied Research Award for his “Ultrasonic Testing Gage R & R Study.” Tuttle’s research involves the ultrasonic testing of steel castings and has helped make advancements in testing standards. The project’s goal was to measure the repeatability and reproducibility of Xray and ultrasonic testing readings for castings, and to compare the results. This information is now being used in participating foundries as a way to work on permitting ultrasonic testing, as opposed to Xray standards.

• Gardner Umbarger, associate professor of teacher education, presented at the 16th International Conference for the Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilies-CEC in Clearwater Beach, Fla., in January. The topic of his presentation was “The Ethics of School Immunization Exemption Laws.”

• Scott Youngstedt, professor of anthropology, presented a paper titled “Water Vendors, Gender, and Islam in Niamey, Niger” at the 113th annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association

March 10, 2015

Professional Profile for January 2015

• James Bowers, assistant professor of criminal justice; Kim Lacey, assistant professor of English; and Poonam Kumar, director of online/hybrid learning, presented “Teaching Presence on the Rise: Engaging Undergraduate Students in Online Course” Nov. 15, 2014, at the Bucknell Digital Scholarship Conference.

• Brandon Haskett, assistant professor of music, recently published two articles: “A Case Study of Early Professional Development Opportunities for Steel Band Directors in the United States: The Haystack Steelpan Program,” in Visions of Research in Music Education (December 2014); and “A Survey Study of U.S. Collegiate and K12 Steel Band Directors’ Attitudes Relating to Steel Band Curriculum and Pedagogy” in Update: Applications of Research in Music Education (November 2014). Also, Haskett presented “The Development of K- 12 and Collegiate Steel Bands in the U.S.” at the Percussive Arts Society International Conference in November 2014.

• Robert Tuttle, professor of mechanical engineering, and Yousef Jabbari, associate professor of mechanical engineering, have received a $21,359 grant from the American Foundry Society for their Thermal Property Trends in Green Sand. This project focuses on determining how the thermophysical properties of foundry molding sands vary with temperature and sand composition. Results from this project will improve the performance of the solidification simulation software by creating new thermophysical property data sets and developing a better understanding of the effect of molding sands on removing heat from a casting. 

• Sara Beth Keough, associate professor of geography, and Scott Youngstedt, professor of anthropology, have coauthored an article that was published in Vol. 57, no. 4 (2014) of the peerreviewed journal, FOCUS on Geography. The article is titled “The Material Culture of Water: Transportation, Storage, and Consumption in Niamey, Niger.” Funding for fieldwork in Niger was provided by the American Geographical Society’s McColl Fellowship and an SVSU Faculty Research Grant.

• Jeffrey Koperski, professor of philosophy, has published his first book with Wiley-Blackwell: The Physics of Theism: God, Physics, and the Philosophy of Science.

• Helen Raica Klotz, Christina Montgomery, and Christopher Giroux, with Crystal Brinson, Zach Gibson, Taeler Singleton, Kramer Stoneman and Ka Vang, published “‘Developing Writers:’ The Multiple Identities of an Embedded Tutor in the Developmental Writing Classroom” in Praxis: A Writing Center Journal (12:1), December 2014.

• Anne Tapp, professor of education, and Joe Jaksa, associate professor of criminal justice, presented “The Role of Technology in Virtual Mentorships and Internships” at the 13th Annual International Conference on Education, Jan. 8 in Honolulu.