Saginaw Valley State University works hard to maintain a high-quality education at relatively low tuition rates for its students. That commitment recently resulted in a top credit rating service praising SVSU for its fiscal responsibility and strength.
New York City-based Moody’s Investors Service in a Jan. 14 report announced an A1 rating for SVSU’s $102 million in existing debt, citing the university’s “prudent fiscal discipline.”
SVSU’s high rating is especially impressive considering Moody’s less-optimistic analysis and forecast for the higher education industry as a whole, said James G. Muladore, executive vice president for administration and business affairs.
“They have issued a negative outlook for higher education based on demographic and enrollment trends and what is seen as declining net tuition revenue,” he said. “We’re pleased we have this positive affirmation as well as a stable outlook for the future. We’re fortunate we’re in a relatively good place at this time.”
In its recent report, Moody’s stated “the A1 rating reflects SVSU's consistently well managed operations that continue to generate very good cash flow and debt service coverage.”
The positive rating — along with a similarly high A credit rating recently issued by New York City-based Standard and Poor’s Financial Services — will allow SVSU to seek low interest rates for potential future projects, Muladore said. The $102 million in existing debt largely represents campus construction projects that supported SVSU’s academic programs and student housing in recent decades.
Muladore said he expects SVSU will remain on solid footing relating to its debt, which he projects will fall to $70 million — a 31 percent reduction — by 2023.
He said the university’s fiscal strength was in part the result of following conservative budgeting practices over the years.
The Moody’s report is available online at www.moodys.com/research/Moodys-affirms-Saginaw-Valley-State-Universitys-MI-A1-outlook-stable--PR_905669736.
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.
A Saginaw Valley State University student's vocal talents earned him a prestigious honor while several of his classmates were praised at a recent theater festival featuring the best collegiate performing artists in the Midwest.
Over the winter break, 22 SVSU students displayed their acting skills, production expertise and more when they competed in several performing-arts related categories at the 2019 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Region III Festival (KCACTF) in Madison, Wisconsin, from Jan. 8 - 13.
Three SVSU students made it to the final round in their respective categories, and a fourth advanced to the national finals.
Theatre major Joshua Lloyd of Bay City and his partner Clay Singer, a psychology major from Frankenmuth, advanced from just under 300 students competing in the acting category to the final 16. This is the first time since 2014 that SVSU has had a student in the Acting finals.
Lloyd was also honored with the prestigious Voice and Speech Trainers Association's Vocal Excellence Award.
“It's a tremendous honor to be recognized by the American College Theatre Festival,” Lloyd said. “Attending the festival has always been a highlight of my winter semester, and to have finally made it through to finals and receiving the vocal excellence award only confirms that I must be on the right track. I'm incredibly thankful for family and friends rooting me on, and our superb faculty in the SVSU theatre department for their continued support.”
Olivia Greanias, a theatre major from Saginaw, competed in the musical theatre category and advanced to the final 16, marking the second consecutive year that SVSU was represented by a musical theatre finalist.
Arianna Whisman, a special education major and theatre minor from Bay City, made the national finals in the unrealized production costume design category.
Jennifer Lothian of Linwood, who graduated in December 2018 as a double major in communications and theatre, presented her costumes from the recent SVSU production of “The Servant of Two Masters” in the festival's costume parade. This is Lothian's second consecutive invitation to present her impeccable costume design work in the parade, which highlights costume design work by students and faculty members from across the region.
“The 2019 KCACTF Festival was a complete success,” said Ric Roberts, SVSU professor of theatre. “The theatre faculty, who traveled and coached with these 22 students, could not be prouder of all of their work.”
The Kennedy Center America College Theatre Region III covers colleges and universities in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.
An educator, an advocate for peace and the leader of a local NAACP branch will be honored at Saginaw Valley State University this month for community work that exemplifies the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision.
Ben Gibson, Jeanne Lound Schaller and Leola Wilson recently were named recipients of the latest Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Award, given annually to leaders in the Great Lakes Bay Region. The latest recipients will be recognized during the Great Lakes Bay Regional Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23 at SVSU's Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts, where former President Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett will serve as the event's keynote speaker.
The three recipients - one each from Bay, Midland and Saginaw counties - will receive a $1,000 award for a charitable organization of their choice.
The honoree from Bay County is Gibson, a retired flight instructor and educator who taught students at Bay City Public Schools for 26 years. He taught aviation courses at Averill Career Opportunities Center in Saginaw as well as Delta College. Several of his students joined the U.S. Air Force or became pilots working for major airlines. From 1996 to 2013, Gibson himself served as a corporate pilot.
In 2002, Gibson was elected as a trustee with the Bay City Public Schools Board of Education. He helped lead the school district until 2015.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Award honoree from Midland County is Schaller, who leads the Midland chapter of Nonviolent Peaceforce, a nonprofit organization working to "transform the world's response to conflict."
She worked as a peace advocate for a number of organizations including Community Resolution Center, which has offices in Saginaw and Flint. She also helped lead both Midland Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice as well as the Midland-based Helen M. Casey Center for Nonviolence. At age 68, she became a member of the Rotary Peace Fellowship. She earned a professional development certificate in conflict resolution and peace in 2015 at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand.
Wilson is the Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Award honoree from Saginaw County. Wilson who just retired as president of the Saginaw branch of the NAACP, the second-largest chapter in Michigan. Wilson joined the NAACP 50 years ago. She has served as area director of the organization's Michigan statewide conference as well as its state treasurer. She was the recipient of Michigan's NAACP President of the Year Award in 2008.
Then- Gov. Jennifer Granholm appointed Wilson to SVSU's Board of Control in 2005. She served on the board until 2013. In 2016, she received the Distinguished Service Award, SVSU's most prestigious award given to a member of the community. She remains involved in the institution as a member of the SVSU Diversity Council.
For more information about the Great Lakes Bay Regional Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration hosted at SVSU, contact the university's Office of Diversity Programs at (989) 964-4068.
A group pf 21 Saginaw Valley State University students will take their passion for theater to the annual Kennedy Center American College Theatre Region III Festival Jan. 8-13 in Madison, Wisconsin.
The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival is a national theater program involving college students across the nation dedicated to improving the quality of theater. The participating SVSU students will celebrate the creative process, share experiences and as one another's work, as well as offer insights within the theater community.
The festival honors excellence of overall production and presents student artists individual recognition through awards and scholarships in the categories of playwriting, acting, criticism, directing, and design.
Students participating in the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship will compete for $500 scholarships. The eight SVSU students who will perform are:
The following seven SVSU students will work with professionals experienced in musical theatre performance:
The following eight SVSU students will engage with professionals involved in costume, sound, stage, and lighting design:
A Saginaw Valley State University staff member overcame what she believed were her own physical limitations as well as rough environmental conditions to earn praise from a national nonprofit for her passion to raise awareness — and funds — to fight multiple sclerosis.
The Michigan chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society this month presented Michele Gunkelman with its Rookie Rider award for her participation in the Great Lakes Bavarian Breakaway event where cyclists rode through Frankenmuth to raise funds in September.
Gunkelman raised $2,790 and biked nearly 75 miles over the course of the weekend event, including a final day in which cold temperatures and rainfall caused 130 of 150 participants to drop out.
Gunkelman, SVSU’s director of Residential Life, was one of the 20 people who endured the harsh conditions. Her driving motivation was the same one that inspired her to sign up for the cycling fundraiser for the first time and train hard for five months.
“I did this for my mom,” she said of Sharen Gunkelman, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (sometimes referred to as "MS") 19 years ago. “When I heard about the terrible conditions on the last day, I thought to myself, ‘Mom can’t wake up this morning and choose not to have MS because of the weather,’ so I chose to keep going."
Michele Gunkelman said her experience helping to care for her 74-year-old mother over the years instilled in her a sense of responsibility to raise awareness and find ways to fight the disease that impacts the central nervous system.
“It’s a scary thing when you or a loved one is diagnosed with MS, because everyone is impacted differently,” she said. “You start to wonder how that person will be affected — like, will she be able to hold her grandchildren?”
Gunkelman said, nearly two decades later, some of her mother’s motor functions are affected by the disease. She at times has challenges communicating verbally and her memory suffers.
“It’s something I don’t want anyone — or their family — to have to go through,” Gunkelman said. “I want to do anything I can to prevent that from happening to others.”
So when a friend mentioned the Great Lakes Breakaway Ride fundraiser, Gunkelman decided to join despite not being an avid bicycler.
“The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to challenge myself,” she said. “Living with MS is hard, and I didn’t want to go easy on myself.”
The Freeland resident set her expectations high: She pledged to raise $2,500 and finish two 50-mile bicycle treks during the event. Meeting both goals involved a lot of work in the months leading up to the September event.
Beginning in April, she rode her bicycle between 10 to 40 miles per day and joined a sponsored team known as “Rollin’ with the Homies” that planned to support each other during the fundraising. Meanwhile, she campaigned hard for friends and family to support her fundraising goal.
“So many people supported me,” she said. “There was a tear in my eye every time I received a donation.”
In total, 50 people contributed to her fundraising goal, which she surpassed by $290.
Gunkelman said she was prepared but filled with anxiety when the Sept. 29-30 Great Lakes Bavarian Breakaway bicycling event arrived. Still, she managed to finish the first day’s 50-mile course. Gunkelman’s mother was present to cheer her on.
“I was drained but amazed I had accomplished that,” she said.
When the next day arrived, temperatures dropped to 41 degrees and a steady rain poured down on participants.
“Some of the more experienced riders were worried about hypothermia,” Gunkelman said. “I felt an obligation to try to finish, though.”
She slipped on a pair of winter gloves and a rain jacket, then set forth among a thin group of participants. Cold and soaking wet, Gunkelman pushed herself 12.5 miles that day.
“That was a challenge in those conditions,” she said. “There was no shame in not completing the 50 miles that day.”
Members of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society cited the St. Clair Shores native’s persevering spirit and supportive nature when presenting her with the Rookie Rider award earlier this month. With the new year approaching, Gunkelman said she already is making plans for a sophomore effort in a 2019 bicycling fundraiser for the nonprofit.
“Supporting the fight against MS is a cause that’s close to my heart,” she said. “It’s such a worthwhile cause.”
Carly McKenzie is a determined student, and her work ethic has resulted in winning a highly-competitive national scholarship. She was one of five students selected from more than 300 applicants to receive a $2,000 scholarship from the American Proficiency Institute (API), based in Traverse City.
A medical laboratory science major from Saginaw, McKenzie has impressed her professors.
“Carly has worked very hard throughout the medical laboratory science program and has been a very consistent performer in both the student laboratory and lecture courses,” said Kay Castillo, SVSU associate professor of medical laboratory science. “The API Scholarship is quite an honor and I am very proud of Carly. She will be an asset to the laboratory profession.”
The Institute’s scholarship program is in its 11th year of furthering students’ medical laboratory science education through funding its award recipients.
“It amazes me how far the medical field has come and what we are able to do,” McKenzie said. “Every tube of blood is a patient relying on us to offer accurate results.”
A graduate of Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy, McKenzie is completing her professional course work on campus and will begin field work in July.
Saginaw Valley State University students inspired to pursue a career in medicine now have an additional pathway to continue their education.
The Wayne State University School of Medicine and SVSU have signed an Early Assurance Program agreement that will provide SVSU pre-medicine students enhanced opportunities for admission to the WSU School of Medicine.
The program will reserve up to two seats in WSU's medical school for qualified SVSU students who have a passion for practicing medicine in underserved areas or who are dedicated to careers in medicine.
"Partnerships like this highlight our commitment to advancing the medical careers of our pre-med students, and this provides an additional pathway for them," said Heidi Lang, SVSU pre-health professions advisor. "Our professors really challenge our students — while supporting them at the same time — and that's a big reason our students consistently are accepted to medical schools at rates that far exceed the national average."
Through this latest partnership, SVSU students will apply in February 2019 for admission to WSU's school of medicine for acceptance into the entering class for 2020.
“This partnership with Saginaw Valley State University continues our efforts and commitment to recruit the finest students whose health career goals align with our mission as a nationally recognized top tier medical school known for urban clinical excellence,” said WSU Vice Dean for Medical Education and Professor of Ophthalmology Richard Baker, M.D. “Students who have the desire to serve others through medicine deserve the chance to become the type of physicians that we educate and train.”
A Saginaw Valley State University student government-led initiative that has raised over $425,000 for nonprofit organizations since 2003 recently received recognition from a group of regional fundraising professionals.
The Mid-Michigan chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals awarded its Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy Award to SVSU's Student Association for its work organizing the fundraising competition known as Battle of the Valleys.
“The annual fundraiser initiative is a phenomenal example of philanthropy in action,” said Dick Touvell, the secretary of the Mid-Michigan chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. “SVSU’s ‘Battle’ is, without a doubt, inspiring to countless nonprofit leaders and staff members throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region.”
Battle of the Valleys is an annual student-led charity fundraising competition between SVSU and Grand Valley State University. The competition takes place during the week leading up to the game between the universities’ rival football programs. Students from both institutions select a nonprofit partner each year to benefit from the fundraising effort.
During the most recent Battle of the Valleys in October, SVSU raised $36,210 for the Barb Smith Suicide Resource and Response Network. The funds helped bolster the Saginaw-based nonprofit’s work to prevent suicide, educate communities and provide no-cost, 24/7 aftercare for those affected when prevention is not possible.
Barb Smith, the organization’s founder and executive director, praised the Battle of the Valleys initiative in a letter to SVSU.
“While I continue to be overwhelmed with the fundraising success, I want you to know how deeply touched I was to witness the passion and heartfelt drive of the SVSU community toward this significant university tradition,” Smith wrote. “It was an honor to work with this next generation of leaders who are truly making a difference.”
Since Battle of the Valleys was established in 2003, SVSU has raised over $425,000 for nonprofit organizations. Both SVSU and GVSU have combined to raise over $650,000 during that same period of time.
“It is a great honor to receive this award,” said Cheyenne Wilton, a creative writing major from Ortonville who serves as the SVSU Student Association's philanthropy chairperson this year.
“It is really great to see that the community is recognizing our campus’ efforts to help others. So many of our students understand how important philanthropy is and do whatever they can to help out.”
The Association of Fundraising Professionals is a 30,000-member strong worldwide network that helps philanthropic organizations raise funds effectively and ethically. Aside from granting awards and celebrating charity work, the organization researches fundraising best practices and certifies fundraising professionals.
Saginaw Valley State University students often defy stereotypes. At the end of the fall semester, may college students return home to sleep in, binge watch Netflix and generally unwind. But for Alina Devoogd, Chantel Poquette and nearly 100 SVSU students, they are dedicating their winter break from school to volunteer at locations across the country, helping a number of organizations in need.
Alternative Breaks is a student-led program organized through SVSU's Student Life Center. The program offers college students an "alternative" to the traditional university break to learn about different social issues across the U.S.
Poquette departed for Lexington, Kentucky on Sunday, Dec. 16 to a crisis center called The Nest. The Nest offers a safe place for education, healing, counseling, and support to women, children and families in crisis. The social work major from Holly says she is passionate about her topic because it relates to her personal life.
“I want to be able to give back to people,” she said. “I am going into a career that focuses on serving others and this trip not only helps me achieve my own goals but to help others.”
Devoogd, a political science and Spanish double major from Algonac, and her Alternative Breaks team are focused on the topic of incarcerated youth. The SVSU students traveled to Colombia, South Carolina to work with youth in the juvenile justice system. There, they are engaging with the youth in positive ways, as well as celebrate the holidays.
“I chose to do an alternative break trip because my life calling is to use my privileges to help someone who needs a hand,” she said. “Sometimes we all need someone to believe in us and help us.”
Alternative Break destinations and topics for SVSU students this December include:
After returning from their trips, many of the SVSU students engage in volunteer service for a nonprofit organization in the Great Lakes Bay Region or their home communities devoted to a cause similar to what they experienced on their Alternative Break.
For more information about the Alternative Breaks program at SVSU, visit www.svsu.edu/officeofstudentlife/serve/.