John Baesler was a boy in Bensheim, West Germany in the 1980s when his family — watching a crime drama on TV — heard a knock at the front door one evening. On the other side were two members of his family he met for the first time that night: His father’s niece and her daughter, who had arrived there after a daring escape from then-Communist-occupied East Germany.
“That was an amazing experience,” said Baesler, now an associate professor of history at Saginaw Valley State University. “They had escaped through Hungary and showed up at our door.”
Not long after that, the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and the Cold War’s grip slipped loose. The two German nations reconciled. Families reunited without fear. The anxiety of those divided days went the way of history.
It’s that distancing history that Baesler chases today. With the help of his students, he is leading a research effort aimed at capturing the experience of living in West Germany during a Cold War that spanned four decades, including the 28-year existence of the Berlin Wall. For now, the project involves interviewing United States military veterans stationed near communities such as his hometown in Bensheim, just south of Frankfurt with a population of 40,000, although he may expand the work’s scope depending on his findings.
“I want to answer the question, ‘How did that everyday interaction with each other influence Germans and Americans, and how did that influence the Americans when they came back to America?,’” he said.
“There was an everyday diplomacy between Germans citizens and American soldiers. Especially in small German cities, that represented a major change in daily life.”
Baesler was witness to much of that cultural interplay. He remembers the weddings between American soldiers and German daughters. He listened to the U.S. Armed Forces’ radio stations. He saw their military vehicles traveling the streets. He enjoyed their food.
“Once a year, the Americans in our town had an open-door event, where they invited us in,” Baesler said. “They played really good music, and I remember eating marshmallows for the first time there. Germans didn’t have marshmallows.”
More than 20 million U.S. military veterans have served inside Germany's borders. A U.S. military presence remains there today, albeit at a much smaller scale than before the wall was leveled in 1989.
Baesler hopes to interview at least 25 U.S. veterans before beginning to write a scholarly paper and, eventually, a book about his findings. He also aims to create an oral history repository that the campus can store in its library archives for future academic use.
Already, Baesler and his students have heard stories from 14 veterans — recording their accounts on video, audio and paper — and he continues to search for more witnesses of that history.
“There are so many stories to tell, and I’m interested to hear them,” he said. “This is a labor of love for me.”
Veterans once stationed in Germany who are interested in contributing to the oral history project can reach Baesler at (989) 964-4381 or email@example.com.
Saginaw Valley State University will host a Human Library event Tuesday, March 21 from 5 p.m. 8 p.m. on the first floor of the Zahnow Library.
The Human Library will be a one-time, three-hour event where people can check out “books.” These “books,” in reality, are human beings, community members who have volunteered to share their stories, experiences and life choices. The “readers” — in fact, the attendees — and the “books” then have one-on-one conversations for anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.
Sherrin Frances, SVSU associate professor of English, helped transplant the concept to SVSU from Denmark, where the Human Library Organization conceived the idea more than a decade ago.
Frances told The Valley Vanguard, SVSU’s student newspaper, that the event will provide audiences with an opportunity to speak in-depth with people who have dramatically different life experiences, histories, and perspectives.
“Based on the heated, divisive rhetoric generated during the presidential campaigning in the fall of 2016, it seems clear that creating safe, facilitated spaces for meaningful conversation among people with different beliefs, experiences, and histories is more valuable than ever,” she told The Vanguard.
Every Human Library's specific catalog varies depending on community needs and specific volunteers. SVSU’s version will feature people who tell stories about single-parenting an autistic child, maneuvering through the U.S. citizenship process, surviving brain cancer, recovering from drug addiction, and rebuilding one's life after homelessness.
Frances received a resource grant from the SVSU Foundation to put together the event. SVSU students, faculty, and staff are helping to organize, including Victoria Phelps, an English literature major from Rochester Hills.
“We hope the event leads community members to have conversations with other community members who are more outside their typical social circles in order to expand their understanding and empathy for people who are often stereotyped,” Phelps told The Vanguard.
The event will take place in the lower corner "Reference Collection" area of the library’s first floor. Due to ongoing construction, those interested in attending can reach the first floor through a temporary first-floor entrance adjacent to parking lot D or by entering through the second floor.
The event is free and open to the public. For more information on Human Libraries, visit http://humanlibrary.org/.
Saginaw Valley State University business students are organizing an event in the spirit of service. Home Runs for Heroes will honor local military veterans in partnership with the Great Lakes Loons Thursday, April 6 for the team’s home opener at 6:05 p.m. at Dow Diamond.
The participating students have been selected for SVSU's Vitito Global Business Leadership Institute, a program for students who are driven to pursue leadership roles in business organizations that operate in an increasingly global setting.
The game will be free of charge for the first 100 veterans who register.
Additional tickets have been reserved that can be purchased for spouses or other guests who wish to attend the game with a veteran. The Loons have also generously agreed to let veterans have early access to the game so that they can watch batting practice. If attendees wish to do so, they need to arrive by 3:30 p.m.
“We are looking to have as many SVSU students as possible come out to the game, represent our school, and show their appreciation for our veterans,” said Carter Mazur, a business management major from Saginaw and one of the four SVSU students organizing the event.
Aranya Biswas, an economics major from the Asian country of Bangladesh; Kara Brunk, an accounting major from Southfield; and Mitch Kennedy, an accounting major from Bad Axe, have been working with Mazur to plan and promote the event and raise the funds needed. They have a GoFundMe page set up and are accepting donations through that channel, https://www.gofundme.com/homerunsforheroes. All donations will be used to offset the cost of tickets, food and t-shirts.
Any veterans interested in being a part of this event are asked to register online at https://goo.gl/forms/sXp4riulI20DwFso1.
SVSU has received multiple awards for its commitment to supporting veterans. Military Times recognized SVSU as part of its Best for Vets: Colleges 2017 rankings, as SVSU was rated No. 34 nationally by the independent media organization dedicated to news and information about the military. This was the highest ranking for any Michigan institution.
The Best for Vets rankings evaluate many factors, such as university culture and academic outcomes, in evaluating what makes a school a good fit for service members, military veterans and their families. For more information on the rankings, go to http://www.militarytimes.com/bestforvets-colleges2017.
A group of Saginaw Valley State University students, the SVSU Comic Strippers, will host a free workshop on drawing comics for youths, ages 7 to 17.
The SVSU Comic Strippers has been a registered student organization since 2009, dedicated to the advancement and appreciation of comic artwork, sharing resources and development of artistic skills.
The Comic Strippers club taught workshops in previous years at Zauel Library in Saginaw Township. In the past, members taught skills in layout and design, Japanese-style manga characters, realistic human faces, and tentacle-faced monsters.
Participants are encouraged to bring their artwork to show the SVSU artists and each other. Paper and drawing pencils will be provided.
For more information on the Butman-Fish Library workshop, please contact Kristine Swanson at (989) 799-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Five elementary education majors from Saginaw Valley State University will be presenting at the Early Childhood conference hosted by the Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children. The event will take place Thursday through Saturday, April 20-22, at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and DeVos Place in Grand Rapids.
The conference is the largest gathering of early childhood educators in the state, offering over 200 workshops, two keynote presentations, as well as several learning fairs and exhibits where students and professionals within the field can network and learn.
SVSU student Anna Nowak, of Garden City, will discuss her topic, "20 Ideas I Plan to Steal For My Classroom."
"Experienced teachers often get "stuck" in their own classroom," Nowak said.
"My presentation is going to be about strategies and ideas I have observed that were implemented in my field work experiences and how I would implement them in my future classroom. I want to share these ideas with teachers who might not get the opportunity to see these strategies."
Her fellow elementary education majors will discuss other projects focusing on classroom resourcefulness.
Katelyn Rumsey, of Flushing, will present, "Cooking Up Writers: A Recipe For Early Writing Workshops," which demonstrates different elements needed to conduct a successful writing workshop in an early childhood education classroom setting.
Abigail Lopez, of Saginaw, will contribute to a learning fair during the conference focusing on the implementation of bilingualism in the classroom. Her presentation is called, "More Than Uno, Dos, Très – Incorporating Spanish Into Your Classroom."
Julieann Derra and Rachel Hansen, of Algonac and Saginaw, respectively, will discuss, "Philosophies On Diffusing Conflict In The Classroom." They will speak during the "Interactions and Guidance" portion of the conference.
Beginning Thursday evening and concluding Saturday afternoon, the conference will offer students a chance to demonstrate what they've learned within the teaching program at SVSU while also allowing them to glean knowledge from other early childhood education professionals before taking the next step towards their career goals.
Saginaw Valley State University's Flute Choir will perform in concert Thursday, March 30 at 7:30 p.m. in SVSU's Founders Hall.
The event is free and open to the public.
Townes Osborn Miller, an instructor of music at SVSU, will direct the choir, which includes SVSU students as well as faculty and community members.
The concert will feature classical selections from historic European musicians such as “Sellenger’s Round” by 17th-century English composer William Byrd, “Rondeau” by 18th-century French composer Francois Couperin, and “Four Bagatelles” by 19th-century German composer Ludwig van Beethoven.
For more information, contact Townes Osborn Miller at email@example.com or the SVSU Department of Music at 989-964-4159.
Saginaw Valley State University will be hosting acclaimed graphic designer Shogo Ota the weekend of Friday, March 24 as part of the Dow Visiting Artist series.
On Friday at 6:30 p.m. in Arbury 159, there will be a poster display opening where Ota will talk through his career progression as well as the development of his own independent design studio.
On Saturday, Ota will serve as the keynote speaker for the "Where the Rubber Meets the Road" American Institute of Graphic Artists Portfolio Review. This talk will be held at 10 a.m. in banquet rooms A and B in Curtiss Hall.
These events are free and open to the public.
Ota's artwork has appeared in renowned publications such as The New York Times, HOW Magazine, STEP Magazine, and Communication Arts. His most recent publication was a feature in the book, "Graphic: Inside the Sketchbooks of the World's Great Graphic Designers.”
Originally from Japan, Ota studied art and design at the University of Idaho, where he earned a bachelor's degree in graphic design.
While working for Modern Dog Design Company in Seattle, Ota collaborated with well-known clients such as the Seattle Aquarium, Disney, Live Nation, Chronicle Books and Blue Q. In 2012, Ota founded Tireman Studios, his design company.
Ota has been praised for having a "unique, artsy, wild style," by Lost at E Minor, an online publication that focuses on art and music. His unique style has drawn the attention of Starbucks Coffee, for which he designed a "Green Cup" released for a limited time in November 2016. Other clients of Ota's include Lucky Scooters, Kinatonic Gin, Seven Coffee Roasters, The Growl Store, Magnolia Moonshine, Big Gin and many others.
For more information on his appearance at SVSU, please contact Carlos Ramet, SVSU associate dean of the College of Arts & Behavioral Sciences, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 989-964-4062.
Seventy-seven Saginaw Valley State University students are spending their spring break traveling to seven states in order to lend a helping hand as part of the Alternative Breaks program.
Alternative Breaks is a student-run organization that sends its members to locations across the U.S. to participate in a range of volunteer opportunities during regular school break periods.
SVSU students are on spring break from March 6-12. Divided into seven teams, each group has traveled to a different U.S. city to aid nonprofit organizations.
One Heartland, a nonprofit organization in Willow River, Minnesota, is benefiting from SVSU's Alternative Breaks. Students are working with the group to aid in the development of a safer LGBTQ+ community.
Champion Athletes of the Ozarks, another organization impacted by the Alternative Breaks program, is located in Springfield, Missouri. The group's aim is to help children and adults with disabilities develop life skills while growing their confidence.
Grace Point Alliance, an organization in Buffalo, New York, also is receiving help from SVSU students. They are assisting Grace Point Alliance in helping the homeless community through research and resource distribution.
A Wider Circle in Silver Spring, Maryland is a nonprofit focused on ending poverty by providing supplies as well as a support system for the impoverished. Students are providing assistance in distributing home essentials donated by the community.
In Morgantown, West Virginia, the SVSU Alternative Breaks team is aiding in building affordable homes for local residents. The students are working with Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit that builds home for people in need.
Boston, Massachusetts is home to Community Servings Food Heals, a nonprofit that provides food to people ailed by a critical or chronic illness. Students are helping the organization prepare and package meals tailored to the needs of those suffering from illness.
The Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal, located in New Orleans, works to promote social, economic, racial, and environmental justice. SVSU Alternative Breaks students are assisting with in-service education and community involvement. They also are aiding in tornado cleanup and home restoration.
Saginaw Valley State University student Rebecca “Becks” Meredith has been selected by the YWCA Great Lakes Bay Region to receive an Emerging Leader award for her enthusiastic service on campus and in the community.
The award is designated for women between the ages of 18-25 who demonstrate emerging leadership skills and a philosophy of empowerment; it is given to one student from each of four colleges and universities in the Great Lakes Bay Region.
A special education major from Rogers City, Meredith has displayed a passion for extracurricular involvement at SVSU. She serves as a resident assistant in one of SVSU's residence halls; she coordinates service trips for Habitat for Humanity and Alternative Breaks, and she is a dedicated member of Forever Red, a student organization that works to enhance the student experience at SVSU and prepare students for life after college.
Meredith also coaches Little League teams and has taken volunteer-based leadership roles for Relay for Life and Special Olympics.
While Meredith shines academically, posting a 3.87 GPA, she is most inspired by her learning outside the classroom.
“My academic life and accomplishments show a lot of hard work and dedication to that area,” she said. “However, my holistic education means even more because I can take everything I encounter and learn from it in a different, more useful way.”
Meredith’s first volunteer service trip to rural Harlan, Kentucky through SVSU’s Alternative Breaks program made a lasting impression.
“We did everything from volunteering at a senior living facility to making dog houses,” she said. “I didn't know what to expect, and I left that trip with a new sense of appreciation for volunteering and gratitude for the things in my life. It was the first time I had actually seen the direct impact my service could have on someone and the gratitude that comes along with it.”
Meredith later traveled to Orlando, Florida on an Alternative Break to volunteer for A Gift for Teaching, an organization gives school supplies to teachers, who distribute the supplies to their students in need.
“I saw firsthand how important it is for students to have the appropriate supplies they need to truly succeed,” she said. “As a future educator, it was interesting to compare and contrast our school systems here in Michigan to those in Florida. It reinforced that I want to be a teacher and help students.”
Beyond service trips, Meredith also traveled to Italy as part of a study abroad program. She expects to graduate SVSU in May 2018. She will receive her award during the 2017 YWCA Women of Achievement ceremony Wednesday, March 15.
For more information regarding the YWCA Women of Achievement Awards, please visit www.ywcaglbr.org/women-of-achievement-awards/.
Saginaw Valley State University is providing expertise to a community-oriented research project aimed at improving access to food for low-income households.
In partnership with the United Way of Midland County, SVSU began a project in late 2015 to evaluate emergency food assistance in Midland County.
“They weren't seeing a whole lot of people coming through the doors, so they were concerned that there was a disparity between the need and people who were actually coming to get some of these services,” said Brian Thomas, SVSU associate professor of sociology.
This led to United Way planting the seed that would become Midland County Hunger Connections, a collaborative project between several nonprofits and SVSU to raise awareness and reduce barriers for those who might fall into the classification of “food insecure.”
According to the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA), food insecurity “is a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.”
Many food-insecure households have an income above the U.S. poverty level and struggle to meet the basic needs of their family due to the cost of living.
United Way distributed a survey early in 2016 to gauge the food security needs of the community and how access to such things as food banks, backpack programs and school programs can be improved.
“We had these initial meetings between United Way, and there was a discussion about what would be the best way for SVSU to provide expertise,” Thomas explained. “We decided that we would provide some input as to the survey development and that we would assist with survey analysis.
“There are many families with people who are working low-wage or perhaps seasonal jobs and, even though they are employed, they don't have reliable access to healthy food. Many of these families met USDA definitions of food insecure.”
Though the survey and analysis portion of this community project has concluded, there is still work to be done. Midland County Hunger Connections will continue to educate families and individuals on how to access available food resources.
Thomas will remain involved with the project moving forward as he currently sits on a subcommittee within the group which will allow him to play an advisory role.