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Chaz Fowler is as determined in completing his education at Saginaw Valley State University as he was in completing his training to become a United States Marine.
Thanks in part to financial support through the Robert and Ellen Thompson Military Scholarship at SVSU, the political science major from Bay City is closing in on his mission to graduate and return to military service.
Fowler served as a U.S. Marine and presidential sentry for five years. He said his training was grueling, but that he always had his eyes set on achieving his goals.
“This position required immense commitment and persistence in the face of adversity,” Fowler said. “Each time a new obstacle came my way, I prayed I would have the resolve to push through.”
His ultimate goal in the service – to be one of the White House sentries, comprised of four Marine Corps non-commissioned officers who act as a ceremonial guard outside the West Wing of the White House – proved to be just out of his reach.
“The aesthetic for the media required Marines be within a few inches of each other when standing outside the West Wing — for presentation. I was not 6-foot, 4-inches tall as Corporal Bernard was, and thus had come up short,” Fowler said.
He was devastated at the news but turned it into an opportunity to persevere.
“I wanted to prove that, if I was not going to the White House, I would be the best — wherever I went.” Fowler said.
His tour of duty included service as a presidential sentry at Camp David, where his responsibilities included safeguarding the president.
After completing five years of military service, Fowler enrolled at SVSU, which has been consistently named “Best for Vets” by Military Times and a military-friendly university by VIQTORY.
College presented many familiar challenges for Fowler.
“Time management, commitment and determination are all necessary components for success here. I would like to say I have done well at traversing these obstacles,” said Fowler, president of the Student Veterans of America club at SVSU.
Fowler was able to finance his degree until his senior year, where “again I had come up short.”
When he heard about the Robert and Ellen Thompson Military Scholarship, Folwer knew it would provide him the opportunity to finish one of his life goals.
Fowler is grateful that the scholarship will allow him to complete his degree and return to military service, this time as a college-educated officer.
“I would like to personally thank Mr. and Mrs. Thompson for their gracious efforts in helping students, veterans and, most specifically, for helping me when it mattered most,” Fowler said.
He will join others at SVSU in recognizing Veterans Day during a Veterans Day Celebration that begins at 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11 in the Curtiss Hall banquet rooms.
Col. Rhoda K. Daniel will serve as the featured speaker. Today a Freeland business owner, she has served over 34 years in both the Army and the Army National Guard. An Iraq War veteran, Daniel earned the Combat Action Badge, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.
The public is welcome to attend.
With women-led businesses on the rise, the need for role models, mentors and real-world training for female entrepreneurs is a demand that Rebecca Cox recognized clearly.
“Women interested in becoming an entrepreneur are five times more likely to start a business when they have a mentor,” said Cox, president and owner of the Midland-based Savant Group.
The need for more more female role models in business is a demand Cox plans to meet — along with three of her peers from the Great Lakes Bay Region — when they serve as panelists at Saginaw Valley State University's upcoming Women Entrepreneurship Week event.
“Life Lessons from Successful Women Entrepreneurs” is a panel discussion scheduled Monday, Oct. 21, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in SVSU's Curtiss Hall Banquet Room A. Hosted by the Dow Entrepreneurship Institute at SVSU, the event is free and open to the public.
Along with Cox, panelists include Mary Draves, chief sustainability officer and vice president of environment, health and safety for Dow; Kathie Fuce-Hobohm, founder and president of Midland-based SPACE, Inc.; and Wendy Traschen, owner of Bolger and Battle Marketing Communications as well as Whine, a Midland restaurant.
Cox said Monday's event will reinforce the importance of female-led businesses in advancing the region's economy.
“Continuing to highlight women business owners will break down gender stereotypes and biases, grow a greater support network and positively impact on our economy,” she said. “It’s not just good for women — it’s good for everyone.”
Draves, an SVSU alumna, said mid-Michigan remains a ripe environment for women ambitious to serve as leaders in business.
“The Great Lakes Bay Region is home to many examples of female entrepreneurs who are doing stellar work,” Draves said. “Their businesses are strong contributors to our region’s economic engine.”
Cox has participated as a board member for the Midland Chamber of Commerce, Midland Tomorrow, Midland Business Alliance, the Local Development Finance Authority Board of Midland, and the Small Business Association of Michigan. She is a Leadership Midland 2006 Class graduate, a member of the Midland 100 Club, and a founding member of the Women's Executive Round Table. Her business, The Savant Group, tests oils and lubrications for various industries. Cox received a bachelor's degree in business from Western Michigan University and a master's degree in business from Indiana University.
In her role at Dow, Draves leads corporate environment, health, and safety-related governance as well as the organization's 2025 Sustainability Goals. She joined Dow in 1989 and has served in several leadership roles since then. Draves has built a reputation for being an effective and collaborative leader who inspires commitment in her teams while also attaining results. She received a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in technological processes from SVSU.
Fuce-Hobohm started SPACE, Inc. in 1995 and has over 30 years of experience in the office interior industry. As president, she oversees the sales and financial strategies along with the overall operations for the company. Fuce-Hobohm has received honors for her work including the Midland Area Chamber of Commerce's ATHENA award, Girl Scouts Women of Distinction recognition, the MidMichigan Innovation Center Innovation Award, Corp! Magazine’s Entrepreneur of Distinction recognition, and Leadership Midland’s Leader of the Year. She also was named a Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame Laureate.
For more than 20 years, Traschen has served as a fierce advocate for the power of strong branding and integrated marketing communications to move organizations to the next level of their industries. In addition to her well-earned agency credentials — including leading a diverse team of writers, designers and account executives in support of about 150 clients — she brings a strong business background in retail, hospitality, nonprofits and education.
For more information or to register to attend this event, visit www.svsu.edu/entrepreneurshipinstitute/.
With the support of her family — and now a statewide organization that recognizes her strong leadership qualities — a Saginaw Valley State University senior soon will follow in her older sister’s footsteps as a first-generation college graduate.
Paloma Barba, a business management major from Detroit, recently earned the Hispanic Latino Commission of Michigan's Future Leaders Scholarship. She was one of nine Michigan college students to earn the $1,000 scholarship.
"I was surprised because I honestly did not expect to receive the scholarship since it was very competitive," she said.
To apply for the scholarship, Barba wrote an essay explaining why she believed she deserved the scholarship as well as why it was important for Hispanic students to earn higher education degrees. Barba said she wanted to apply so she could help finance her education.
"I come from a large family, and therefore my parents cannot support me financially," she said. "I saw an opportunity, and I seized it."
The scholarship will help her pursue an ambition her family supports.
"My parents have always encouraged my siblings and I to go to college and learn because knowledge is power,” Barba said.
She said her older sister, Berenice Barba, inspired her to attend college. Berenice is a graduate student at SVSU and works as a graduate assistant in SVSU’s President's Office. She received her bachelor's degree in business administration earlier this year.
"My older sister was the first one in the family to graduate with a bachelor's," Paloma Barba said. "I feel like she deserves most of the credit for my success because she basically paved the way for everyone in our family and, most importantly, for my siblings and me. I just hope that, after I graduate, I can offer the same support that has been offered to me."
The younger Barba graduates in May 2020. She said next she may pursue a master's degree or a career in sports management.
"I would like to go back to my hometown — Detroit — and hopefully work for the Pistons basketball team," she said of the NBA franchise.
The Future Leaders Scholarship awards will be presented to the recipients during a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration organized by the Hispanic Latino Commission in Grand Rapids on Thursday, Oct 10.
A Saginaw Valley State University alumna’s community-minded values helped her become selected for an innovative corporate leadership course associated with one of the world’s largest automotive companies.
Claire Gembrowski, who works in purchasing at Ford Motor Company’s Dearborn campus, was named to the latest Ford Thirty Under 30 Fellowship class. She was one of 30 people selected from a national pool of 300 applicants.
The honor means Gembrowski, who received a bachelor’s degree in management from SVSU in 2011 and later an M.B.A. from University of Michigan-Flint, will participate in a year-long philanthropic-driven leadership development initiative. The fellowship pairs the company's employees with nonprofits from their local communities.
The Freeland native said the opportunity fits with the values she learned growing up.
“I was raised Catholic and was taught that volunteering is something you should do,” she said. “If you have the means to volunteer your time, money or talent, you should.”
Rene Palileo, manager of employee engagement for The Ford Fund, said employees turn in a written application for the fellowship. If their application is chosen to continue in the process, a committee consisting of Ford and Ford Fund executives as well as former Thirty Under 30 fellows rate the applicants. The committee rates them based off how strongly each applicant represents Ford's seven cultural “truths:” "putting people first, doing the right thing, being curious, creating tomorrow, building Ford tough, playing to win and exemplifying the 'one Ford' philosophy."
Palileo said Gembrowski represented each of these “truths,” and helped bring them out in her fellow employees.
"Claire’s volunteer experience and genuine interest in helping the community was a strong point," Palileo said. "Being an SVSU Cardinal, Claire embraces the innovation and transformational work Ford Motor Company Fund provides and, as a Thirty Under 30 fellow, will help broaden our reach in the future."
Gembrowski and her Thirty Under 30 team will work with The Grandmont-Rosedale Development Corporation (GRDC). The organization focuses on preserving and enriching Grandmont-Rosedale — a Detroit neighborhood — and its economy.
"A problem GRDC continues to come back to is millennial engagement in their group,” Gembrowski said. “They have a senior citizen group that is extremely passionate, but the population in that area is very diverse. There are young families, new residents, renters and the like.”
Gembrowski said her team hopes to solve this problem by creating a junior society that supports the larger organization.
"I think, generally, millennials want to give,” she said. “I would say they are even a bit more passionate than other generations about helping and leaving some kind of impact. The tricky part is that millennials have the desire for something immediate and for instant gratification. The long game is not part of the vocabulary.”
Millennial lifestyles are a problem for more established organizations, Gembrowski said. These organizations want long weekly meetings and volunteers who are coming in for longer periods of time. She said this structure does not appeal to younger generations.
“You need to find ways that fit into the over-committed lifestyles of many millennials that still make an impact,” she said.
Gembrowski’s team will canvass for like-minded individuals within and near the neighborhood. She said some younger people have already expressed interest in volunteering for the Grandmont-Rosedale neighborhood group.
She hopes her team can find enough junior society participants for it to continue on its own after the Ford Thirty Under 30 Fellowship cohort leaves.
“The fear I have is that there are certain people who are the doers and people who are not,” she said. “So, we need to find the passionate people and give them some sort of power and freedom to help.”
Gembrowski’s work at Ford has exposed her to communities from across the world. She said she has worked with several departments within Ford and had the opportunity to spend last year in Valencia, Spain working with Ford suppliers in lean manufacturing.
“Ford has something called an ADP, an accelerated development program,” she said. “You do a job swap, so I was able to work in the same job function, which was a supplier coaching of lean, but I got to do it from another region.”
Gembrowski enjoyed the experience and Spain’s culture.
“It was difficult coming back from Spain because you get used to a certain lifestyle,” she said. “I loved the culture. I feel like I fit right in. I come from a big family, and our culture is quite close. We really value doing things together, and that is what is valued in the Mediterranean culture.”
After returning from Spain, Gembrowski worked to bring some of the Spanish culture back to her American co-workers, such as meeting up for coffee outside of work.
She has also continued her local volunteer work since returning. She said she felt the need to help children who were not fortunate enough to have the warm childhood she experienced. She volunteers as an English tutor regularly with Mercy Education Project, a Detroit-based nonprofit that helps girls and women receive an education.
Gembrowski’s motivation to volunteer was a major reason she applied for Thirty Under 30.
“Having that giving sort of mindset, I was excited about this project,” she said. “It combines business and philanthropic endeavors, which is a perfect fit for me.”
While she hopes to learn more about business from the fellowship, Gembrowski said she does not have definitive career goals. Rather, she simply wants to avoid being stagnate.
“I haven’t loved every assignment I have had, but I have tried to be self-aware so that, whenever I get to a point where I think I have learned all I can from a job, I say, ‘Give me more or give me something different,’” she said. “I am lucky to have worked at two different companies — Nexteer and Ford — that have allowed me to do that.”
Gembrowski said current SVSU Scott L. Carmona College of Business students can set themselves up for success now by taking advantage of their coursework in real-world settings, such as co-ops or work experiences.
“What served me well was the co-op opportunity,” she said. “While everyone has a different capacity, I would say try to work while you’re in school. It doesn’t matter if it’s at a restaurant or the bookstore on campus — try to get some work experience to connect to your schooling.”
She also said students should take the time to build up their soft skills before graduating.
“It’s the soft skills — like time management, organization, having high expectations for people, expecting people to do their part and keeping people motivated — that lead to success,” she said. “As easy as that is to say, when you’re working in a corporate environment or a non-profit, when people get stressed, that can be hard to actually do.”
Gembrowski said she is thankful for the groundwork for success SVSU provided her.
“SVSU has played a big role in my life,” she said. “I am very thankful financially, and I went to a great university. I walked away with no debt, I received a great education, made great friends and had work experience through my co-op. It was a great foundation for me.”
Job-seekers in accounting and finance industries will have the opportunity to connect with about 30 employers expected to attend an employment fair at Saginaw Valley State University this month.
The Accounting and Finance Employment Fair is scheduled Tuesday, Sept. 10, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the banquet halls and seminar rooms on the second floor of SVSU's Curtiss Hall.
The gathering is one of seven employment fairs that SVSU will host this academic year. These events are free and open to the public.
Tuesday’s fair will offer opportunities for attendees to meet with representatives from companies and agencies headquartered both in the region as well as across the nation.
The event is sponsored by Bankers Life, Chemical Bank, and Rehmann, which will feature representation there. Other representatives expected to attend include those from Dow, Frankenmuth Insurance, Independent Bank, Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans, Saginaw Bay Underwriters, and the state Department of Treasury, among others.
Thomas Barnikow, interim associate director of the SVSU Career Services office that coordinates the employment fairs, recommended attendees prepare by researching employers they hope to approach at the fair.
"Have your 30-second pitch ready to go," he said. "You want to be as informed as possible for the event."
Professional attire is required for all attendees.
For more information about the 2019 SVSU Accounting and Finance Employment Fair as well as future SVSU Career Services-organized events, visit www.svsu.edu/careerservices.
Saginaw Valley State University graduates will hear from Patti Poppe, president and CEO of Consumers Energy, during Commencement exercises Friday, May 10 and Saturday, May 11.
Through their hard work and commitment, nearly 1,100 students are expected to complete degree requirements, and 992 individuals have indicated they plan to don regalia and participate in their respective ceremony. SVSU has 921 students expected to complete bachelor’s degrees and 177 who will receive master’s or other advanced degrees.
Students graduating in the colleges of Business & Management and Health and Human Services will participate in the Friday ceremony at 7:30 p.m. Students graduating in the colleges of Arts & Behavioral Sciences, Education, and Science, Engineering and Technology will take part in the Saturday ceremony at 11 a.m. Both ceremonies are held in O’Neill Arena of the Ryder Center.
As is tradition, SVSU President Don Bachand will congratulate each graduate as they cross the stage.
Poppe is president and chief executive officer of Jackson, Michigan-based CMS Energy and its principal subsidiary, Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest utility and the nation’s fourth largest combination utility. Consumers Energy provides electricity and natural gas to 6.7 million of Michigan’s 10 million lower peninsula residents. She was named to this position in July 2016.
Poppe held a variety of automotive management positions and served as power plant director at Detroit, Michigan-based DTE Energy before returning to her hometown of Jackson to join Consumers Energy in 2011.
Poppe earned a master’s degree in management from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. She also completed a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in industrial engineering from Purdue University.
As president and chief executive officer, Poppe has focused on the company's triple bottom line commitment to people, the planet and Michigan's prosperity.
The Consumers Energy Foundation supported the Consumers Energy Talent Program for SVSU engineering students, as well as high school students who enrolled in SVSU’s Engineering Careers and Concepts course. Senior electrical or mechanical engineering students at SVSU applied for funding from Consumers Energy for senior design capstone projects focused on alternative energy. To qualify, students were required to propose a novel idea, plan the time line, budget for supplies and conduct research and development activities accordingly for a two-semester project.
For those unable to attend Commencement exercises, SVSU will provide a live video stream of each ceremony. The link and additional information can be found online at svsu.edu/commencement.
An economist hoping to familiarize Midwestern communities with the United States’ central banking system will visit Saginaw Valley State University later this month.
Cindy Ivanac-Lillig, an economic outreach specialist at the Chicago Federal Reserve, will discuss the central bank’s influence on the U.S. economy Thursday, March 28, at 6 p.m. in SVSU's Curtiss Hall, seminar rooms D and E. The event is free and open to the public.
Ivanac-Lillig joined the Chicago Federal Reserve in 2008. She leads a variety of economic education programs for Midwest teachers, students and professional associations while also managing education partnerships on behalf of the organization.
Prior to joining the Chicago Federal Reserve, Ivanac-Lillig provided financial consulting for London-based Ernst & Young and worked abroad for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Ivanac-Lillig received a master’s degree in international affairs and economics from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in 2003 as well as a bachelor’s degree in finance from Boston College in 1995.
For more information on her appearance at SVSU, please contact Kellie Konsor, SVSU assistant professor of economics, at (989) 964-4323 or email event organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
The childhood lemonade stands were just a warmup for Maggie Walker, a Saginaw Valley State University student whose entrepreneurial ambitions led her to start a retailing business as a college junior and win a first-place statewide award for it recently.
The SVSU accounting major from Laingsburg received the first-place nod in the entrepreneurship category of the Michigan Collegiate DECA competition hosted in Dearborn Feb. 1-3. She and five of her SVSU classmates at the contest qualified for Collegiate DECA’s national competition scheduled for April in Orlando.
“It was pretty surprising to win,” Walker said. “It was great hearing someone tell you that your idea could be successful.”
Collegiate DECA is an international association of high school and college students interested in marketing, management and entrepreneurship in business, finance, hospitality, and marketing sales and service. The organization hosts competitions judged by panelists, including mock investors.
The business plan Walker pitched to a mock investor in the entrepreneurship category, though, was no mock setup. She presented her own real-life start-up, Everyday Adult, which she founded in August 2018 to help young business professionals purchase professional clothing at affordable prices. Already, she has sold clothing to 60 customers and built an online following of 10,000 people.
Walker said Everyday Adult sprouted from her own shopping habits.
“I buy a lot of clothing for myself, and some of the prices are so high for a college student like me, so I like to find the best prices,” she said.
She decided to apply those bargain-hunting skills to a business plan by finding new or barely-used clothing and offering those items to customers largely through Poshmark, a retailing website. Her customers are primarily 25 or younger. Her Poshmark account can be found at https://poshmark.com/closet/poshwmw.
While the business transactions occur online, Walker said she hopes to expand Everyday Adult’s presence.
“My end goal is to purchase a trailer and sell at pop-up boutiques,” she said.
Walker said she applied many of the business practices learned while studying at SVSU. The result is a company with a promising start, she said.
“This is pretty much my first real business if you don’t count the lemonade stands I had when I was a kid,” she said. “It’s been great.”
Along with Walker, the following SVSU students competed at the Michigan Collegiate DECA contest earlier this month:
There are about 15,000 Collegiate DECA members representing about 250 colleges and universities nationwide. SVSU's DECA chapter is led by Amy Hendrickson, associate professor of law, and Betsy Pierce, associate professor of accounting.
During the 2019 national tournament, a pair of Saginaw Valley State University students demonstrated the hard work and tireless commitment that continues to make the institution's moot court program among the best in the United States.
SVSU teammates Lindsey Mead and Justin Weller advanced to the round of 32 at the American Moot Court Association national tournament Jan. 12-13 at Florida A&M College of Law in Orlando. They qualified for the second day of the competition and won their opening match of the day before being eliminated; 80 teams from across the U.S. qualified for the annual contest.
“It was a great showing for the team,” said Julie Keil, the program's founder and adviser as well as an SVSU associate professor of political science. “We expect to have both students back next season, which bodes well for us.”
Mead, an English major from Saginaw who also competed in the 2018 national tournament, is a junior at SVSU. Weller, a political science major from Bay City, is a sophomore.
Acting as teams of two attorneys, students competing in moot court tournament are tasked with arguing two hypothetical legal cases based on real-life courtroom battles. The competition is judged based on the clarity of the students' argument, their public speaking skills, their ability to answer questions, and how well they know the law and the case.
Mead and Weller were among 160 of the nation's most elite moot court competitors who qualified for this month's national tournament based on their performances in regional tournaments. In total, 878 students participated in the American Moot Court Association's 2018-19 season.
The SVSU moot court program has competed at the highest level over the years, and SVSU consistently has been ranked among the nation's top programs. Its current ranking by the American Moot Court Association at No. 19 is its highest yet, ahead of larger institutions such as Texas A&M University (ranked no. 21) and University of Louisville (No. 23).
A listing of the top 25 programs can be found at www.acmamootcourt.org/top-programs-in-intercollegiate-moot-court.
Two Saginaw Valley State University professors will expand their research through support received from SVSU’s Braun Fellowship. One research project will examine the efficiency of free market societies, while another will map invasive species at a national wildlife refuge.
Kaustav Misra, associate professor of economics, and Rhett Mohler, associate professor of geography, each will 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.
SVSU empowers students through research opportunities, and both projects will involve SVSU students serving as research assistants.
Misra's research will test existing studies and theories concluding that free market societies are more efficient than their non-free market counterparts. His project will involve researching the markets in India and Vietnam.
“The results will help institutional theorists and policy makers who are associated with policy designs, and increase the knowledge base of the field,” Misra said.
Misra received his Ph.D. in applied economics from Mississippi State University in 2010. He joined the SVSU faculty in 2011 and now serves as the chair of both SVSU's Department of Economics; the Research and Publications Committee; and the Vitito Global Leadership Institute, a student leadership development program for students in SVSU's Scott L. Carmona College of Business & Management. His previous economics-based research has appeared in over 20 peer-reviewed journals.
Mohler's research will involve mapping two invasive plants – buckthorn and common reed – in the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, south of Saginaw. Using drone technology, he plans to continue monitoring the plants' presence as treatment is applied in the coming years. The results, he said, will inform wildlife management communities about the treatment's effectiveness.
“Research like this helps me to teach informed classes by being on the leading edge of what is being done in my research field,” Mohler said.
Mohler earned his Ph.D. in geography from Kansas State University in 2011 and joined the SVSU faculty the following year. His earlier research – dealing in part with remote sensing and geospatial analysis – has been published in peer-reviewed journals 12 times over the years.
Mohler's studies have connected him with a number of environmental groups in the region. He is a member of both the Friends of the Bay City State Recreation Area as well as the Saginaw Bay Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area.
Both Misra and Mohler plan to present their findings through articles submitted in peer-reviewed academic journals as well as presentations at conferences across the globe.
Both projects will benefit communities - both local and global - all while providing hands-on experience for the student research assistants helping the educators analyze data and manage drone technology.
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.