The 20th century Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget observed, “The principal goal of education is to create individuals who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done.” I saw that spirit firsthand this week, as several faculty hosted a teach-in on “Why do black lives matter?” Special thanks to Dawn Hinton, professor of sociology, and Brian Thomas, associate professor of sociology, who were the lead organizers. In addition to national events where people of color have been shot by police, closer to home we have seen this month racist literature and graffiti at public universities in Michigan. As a former Detroit police officer and criminal justice professor, I am well-acquainted with the underlying issues, and as president of our university, I call on each of us to do all we can to foster a campus environment that respects everyone and where people are free to discuss and debate different points of view. This is especially important when topics are controversial and conversations are heated. I see in our students a desire to not accept the status quo as their future. In the sessions I attended, I observed them asking thoughtful questions, treating opposing viewpoints with respect, and demonstrating a desire to learn. For me, it affirms why we do what we do at our university, and I hope each of us does our part to contribute toward progress in our community.
I continue to be impressed with how we are recognized for engaging with our community. Last Sunday, the Saginaw chapter of the NAACP honored 16 people who earned the 2016 Achievement Recognition Awards. The honor highlights individuals for outstanding career and professional achievements, as well as their contributions to others in support of social justice and equality. Of the 16 recipients, nine had SVSU ties. Nine! Let the significance of that sink in. Eight were alumni. They included Lawrence Crawford Jr., of Diversity Vuteq; Smriti Pant, a nurse practitioner at Saginaw-based Health Delivery, Inc.; Christopher and Kenyatta Pryor, of Saginaw-based Victorious Believers Ministries; Myiesha Smith, of Nexteer Automotive; Sam Tilmon, regional sales manager at Saginaw-based Duro-Last Roofing; and Manvel Trice III, recently appointed as the Saginaw County 70th District Court judge. Recipient Eddie Jones is an alumnus as well as SVSU’s director of the Student Counseling Center. Ken Jolly, professor of history, also received the award. What an incredible honor for these individuals and further evidence our faculty, staff and alumni are making meaningful contributions to quality of life in our region.
This week, our campus played host to more than 100 individuals from across the state during the second annual Great Lakes Bay Region LGBT Workplace Summit. A few weeks ago, SVSU was recognized as an outstanding place to work, and that reputation in part was built on our belief in promoting an inclusive culture. We welcome individuals from a variety of backgrounds, and so it was fitting that our university provided a platform this week to promote inclusion across the region and beyond. I’d like to thank everyone involved in making this a successful event.
My compliments to the students and faculty who have worked to organize the second annual TEDxSVSU event, which brings speakers to campus to present in the format used by the popular TED talks series. I am especially pleased that SVSU alumnus Marlin Jenkins, as well as Brian Thomas, associate professor of sociology, are among the speakers. A few tickets remain available. More information on their talks and the rest of the speakers are available online at tedxsvsu.com.
I’m pleased that we have been asked to host an entrepreneurial fair sponsored by the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance today. Mike Finney, president and CEO of Community Ventures Resources Inc. and an SVSU alumnus, is scheduled to deliver the keynote address. This is a tremendous community engagement activity, as it showcases our facilities and our people. The event is intended to encourage business development as a whole, but also a response to community events. Corporate consolidations bring downsizing and there are many bright, talented individuals seeking their next opportunity. We would love to see them start new businesses in our region. Tom Sesti, director of our Dow Entrepreneurship Institute, will be among those participating in panel discussions, and several higher education institutions across our region will be included, as well. My thanks to our colleagues in the College of Business and elsewhere who have been among those planning this since August.
Next week kicks off our Visiting Scholars and Artists series. We have an outstanding lineup of speakers set for the academic year, and it starts with our annual Rush Lecture. Mamie Thorns, special assistant to the president for diversity programs, will present on “Civility, Inclusivity and Equity on Campus and Beyond” Thursday, Oct. 6 at 4 p.m. in Founders Hall. I hope to see many of you there.
It may seem hard to believe, but we are rapidly approaching the midpoint of the fall semester, and Homecoming Week is right around the corner. This will allow many opportunities for students to show their Red Pride, and if your social media feed is like mine, you will be inundated with campaign messages from those seeking to be selected for Homecoming court. Please support our students as you see fit, and please invite alumni you may know to return to campus for the weekend’s festivities. Our colleagues in Alumni Relations have planned fun events for them to take part, and we want all members of the Cardinal family to be welcomed home.