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.’”
Though Assistant Professor of Nursing Andrea Frederick has been a full-time employee of SVSU for only a few years, her connection to the university started almost 20 years ago when in 1996 she obtained her Master of Science in Nursing. Subsequent to that experience, she served on the College of Health & Human Services’ Nursing Advisory Board, helped organize clinical experiences at Midland’s MidMichigan Medical Center (where she worked for 34 years) and served as an adjunct faculty member at SVSU. Andrea retired from MidMichigan Medical on June 30, 2010, and joined SVSU on July 1, 2010. She became acting assistant dean for the college on July 1, 2012, and served in that role until June 30, 2014. Having completed her doctorate in health administration, Andrea is excited about returning to the classroom for the 2014–2015 academic year.
You spent almost four decades in nursing before joining SVSU. What is your background?
I started my career with MidMichigan Medical Center as a staff nurse and then progressed into various leadership roles,culminating as the director of inpatient care, quality and infection control.
Tell us about your doctorate.
I’ve successfully defended my dissertation [sighs, smiles]. I am very interested in the impact that healthcare executives involved in the operating room environment have on staff perception of teamwork and safety. The operating room is a high risk, problem-prone environment because of its complex setting. Historically, executives don’t often venture in the O.R. but the value is that when they do, they can empower staff to speak up and share ideas. It also helps the executive make resource allocation decisions when they better understand the setting. The research indicates that it’s definitely worth the time for executives to be engaged in the O.R.
You seem to have reinvented yourself and your career at SVSU.
Yes, but not only reinvented. I’ve rediscovered my passion for teaching. There is true joy for me in teaching. Teaching has been for me an opportunity to emphasize the quality and safety agenda that is so important to me. It’s a privilege to be with our nursing students and to have an impact on how they will practice. My job is to help them to make meaning of what they see and find out in what nursing area they belong. There are so many options to explore, and I can help students talk through things, tease out options and look at the possibilities.
You have just left your role as acting assistant dean to return to the classroom. A tough or easy decision?
Honestly, both. When Dean [Judy] Ruland started here in 2011, I was tasked with introducing her to healthcare partners in the region. I was immediately attracted to her enthusiasm and creativity and when she asked me to become acting assistant dean, I was all onboard. As acting assistant dean, I still had opportunities to interact with students, but on a different level; it was more in an advising and problem-solving role. The downside of the administrative role is that is does limit your time in the classroom and that’s where I feel I can make my greatest impact. Judy has been very supportive of my return to the classroom.
OK, the recruitment question: Why should prospective students choose to study nursing at SVSU over other universities?
It’s the whole package. For starters, the facilities are excellent, especially the lab and simulations. Every week and at every level, simulation occurs. This allows our students to develop competencies and confidence in taking care of patients before they are in an actual clinical setting. Much of the learning is also interdisciplinary, which is so critical to a highly functional healthcare setting. Our nursing, kinesiology and social work students work together. And our faculty are amazing. They’re very well versed in both theory and practice and care deeply about our students.
Tai Chi Lee can look back with pride on a fulfilling 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 efforts 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 first, but research is important. Without research, we just teach the old stuff.”
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 difference 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 finished 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 Office 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 first 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 staff in 1997, working first 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 find 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 offered it to Bowrin — and, luckily, it was the right fit. 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 fit.”
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 field of sorts — the soccer field. 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 the 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 first-, 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 films, 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.
Saginaw Valley State University's Cardinal Marching Band will perform its 39th annual indoor concert for audiences next week.
Bill Wollner, SVSU associate professor of music, will direct an ensemble of 114 student musicians Monday, Nov. 24 at 7:30 p.m. in SVSU's Malcolm Field Theatre for the Performing Arts. Comprised of students from a variety of academic backgrounds, the marching band performs at all home football games and other fall events on campus.
The program lineup will include renditions of Billboard hits such as Pharrell Williams' "Happy," Randy Newman's "You've Got A Friend In Me," Elton John's "I Just Can't Wait To Be King," and Styx's "Mr. Roboto" and "Come Sail Away," along with "Let It Go" from the popular Disney movie, "Frozen."
The concert is free and open to the public. For more information on the concert, visit SVSU's Department of Music online at www.svsu.edu/music.
Saginaw Valley State University theatre students and faculty will team with Buffalo-based Road Less Traveled Productions as SVSU produces the new play “Safe” one year before the New York theatre group puts on the show.
The collaboration will allow the playwright Donna Hoke and Road Less Traveled Productions staff to see the work at SVSU in November 2015 before it opens in New York in 2016. David Rzeszutek, SVSU assistant professor of theatre, will direct the SVSU production.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for us,” he said. “We're working with a new script and having direct contact with the playwright.”
Hoke will visit SVSU during the pre-production phase – possibly revising the text and exchanging ideas about the play's other elements – and plans to be in the audience for opening night at the campus.
After their production is done, SVSU theatre students won't be finished with the project. As part of the collaboration, they will be invited to Buffalo to watch the Road Less Traveled Productions version of “Safe,” which examines social tolerance and high school bullying.
“We'll meet the professional cast and design team,” Rzeszutek said. “This project will offer a whole slew of learning opportunities for our students.”
Road Less Traveled Productions was founded in 2002, and has hosted productions that have included Hollywood actors such as Alec Baldwin and James Rebhorn. The company largely produces new plays not seen before on professional stages.
The company's collaboration with SVSU began when Scott Behrend, Road Less Traveled Productions' executive director, participated in a January symposium as part of SVSU's B.A.T. Project: Business, Art and Theatre Reinvent Urban Communities program.
The initiative involved efforts to establish arts in downtown spaces in cities along Michigan’s I-75 corridor. Road Less Traveled Productions was involved in a similar renaissance effort in Buffalo, and Behrend offered his expertise to SVSU's initiative. At the symposium, Rzeszutek and Behrend first discussed utilizing SVSU's theatre resources for a Road Less Traveled Productions play.