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June 26, 2019

SVSU theatre student’s ‘Rocky Horror’ production coming in July, preview at Great Lakes Bay Pride Festival June 29

With help from time warps and Transylvanians, Saginaw Valley State University student Jessica Hurley hopes her theatrical production of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in July transports audiences to a magically strange place.  More importantly, though, she wants the campy cult classic to help gather, support and celebrate the region's diverse communities.

“It's important for people to be themselves, and to feel accepted and loved,” Hurley said. “‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ – as wild and crazy as it is – is all about giving people a chance to be themselves.”

Audiences can catch a free glimpse of the production when the largely SVSU student-based cast performs three of the production's musical numbers at the Great Lakes Bay Pride Festival Saturday, June 29, at about 3:25 p.m. at the World Friendship Shell in Bay City's Wenonah Park.

Full performances of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, July 10-12, as well as Sunday, July 14. A late showing is set for 10 p.m. Saturday, July 13. All performances are in SVSU's Black Box Theatre, located in Curtiss Hall, room C180.

There is no ticket price; instead, attendees are asked to donate money for admission. Half of the proceeds will benefit The Human Rights Campaign, a national civil rights organization dedicated to achieving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer equality. The remaining proceeds will be used to fund future plays that are both affordable and support social issues, Hurley said.

“I wanted to impact the community – not just produce art – and so I wanted to make this event affordable for people who can't always afford to buy tickets to plays while also allowing people to support this important cause,” said Hurley, a theatre major from Essexville.

 “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is the first production to fly under the banner of Rebel Theatre Co., a theatre ensemble Hurley founded with a mission statement promising to “enact social awareness and change.” She said the organization – featuring a number of her peers in SVSU's theatre scene – aims to create partnerships within the community, enables social change, and provides a safe, welcoming environment for performers and audiences to enjoy the arts.

“I want to tell important stories that impact people beyond the stage,” said Hurley, the group's artistic director.

Hurley is an actress – she played one of the three leading roles in SVSU's April production of “9 to 5" – but she will remain largely behind the scenes as producer for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Hurley will play a small role in the ensemble. The rest of the cast and crew includes a mix of SVSU theatre students, as well as alumni with experience in the region's theatre community.

“None of this would be possible without the dedication and hard work of my outstanding team,” Hurley said.

While SVSU's Department of Theatre is not producing this particular play, its faculty and the university are providing support for Hurley's endeavor. SVSU’s Undergraduate Research Program awarded Hurley’s proposal for the project a $4,500 grant to cover production costs, marketing and surveys researching the play's impact on the community. Margaret “Peggy” Mead-Finizio, assistant professor of theatre, and David Rzeszutek, associate professor of theatre, will serve as advisers on the production.

In producing the play, Hurley is applying leadership skills and leadership developed in one of SVSU's Programs of Distinction. Hurley in 2018 was selected as one of 10 members of the SVSU Roberts Fellowship Program, a year-long leadership development initiative that exposes students to influential figures in business and culture. The program concludes with a 2-week trip across Asia. Hurley returned from that visit in May.

Attending “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” does not require purchasing tickets, but to ensure a seat at a showing, Hurley advises those interested to reserve seats at the following URL: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-rocky-horror-show-tickets-60083353929?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

June 21, 2019

SVSU program empowers nurses supporting patients suffering from mental health conditions, substance use addiction

Demand is high for a new Saginaw Valley State University academic program designed for advanced practice nurses passionate about caring for patients suffering from mental health conditions or substance use addiction.

 

In May, SVSU enrolled the first 16 students — all certified nurse practitioners — in its Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program, created by the university in response to shifting medical care demands caused in part by the opioid epidemic.

 

Less than two months after the first classes began, more and more certified nurse practitioners have expressed interest in joining the program, said Kathleen Schachman, the initiative’s coordinator and educator.

 

“We have heard from many people who have expressed interest in this program,” said Schachman, SVSU’s Harvey Randall Wickes Endowed Chair in Nursing. “We knew there was a high demand. Since we started the program, the demand has exceeded expectations.”

 

Schachman said students who complete the program will be certified on how best to utilize resources and telehealth — a form of medical practice that in part utilizes telecommunication technology modified for health care-related response — to treat patients both in-person and from afar. For instance, the curriculum will address how to respond to patients living in rural settings, where medical care facilities are scarce and patients often are unwilling to travel outside their community to seek help.

 

“By combining didactic, simulation, and clinical immersion experiences, graduates of the program will have the expertise to effectively manage the complexity of both medical and psychiatric conditions, with a unique focus on addictions,” she said.

 

“In rural communities — where access to care is an obstacle — having a provider with expert knowledge and skill to integrate these aspects of healthcare should lead to improved clinical outcomes by making mental health care more available, and by reducing stigma associated with mental health and addictions treatment.”

 

Schachman and SVSU have experience in delivering the type of medical care taught in the university’s new post-graduate certification program. She helps oversee Bay Community Health Clinic, which is a Bay City-based medical facility operated jointly by SVSU, the Bay County Department of Health, and Bay-Arenac Behavioral Health. There, staff and student interns respond to local residents, including a growing number of individuals dealing with opioid addictions. The clinic also practices telehealth with patients residing in rural communities outside Bay City.

 

Nurses enrolled in SVSU’s Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program engage in exclusively-online studies over the course of a four-semester schedule.

 

Information for the program will be available at svsu.edu/pmhnp.

June 20, 2019

SVSU updates RN to BSN program to better serve working nurses

Saginaw Valley State University is adapting its curriculum to more effectively meet the needs of nurses who are seeking to further their education. This fall, SVSU will expand its academic program for registered nurses seeking a bachelor's degree in nursing, making it better suit the lifestyles of the adult professionals enrolled in the RN (registered nurse) to BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) program.      

“We asked registered nurses who are already in our program what changes might be recommended by their colleagues not enrolled in our program,” said Karen Brown-Fackler, chair of SVSU's Department of Nursing.

“We wanted to see what we should change to convince RNs to enroll.”

In response to that survey, SVSU added elements to the academic program that Brown-Fackler and her colleagues believe will entice nurses once hesitant to embark on an academic endeavor while simultaneously working a full-time job in the field.

The changes include the following:

  • Changing courses to completely online. Previously, classes involved attending classroom lectures.
  • Allowing students to begin the program at three points during each academic calendar. Before the changes, enrollees could only start the program in the fall semester.
  • Allowing enrollees to complete the academic degree at their own pace. Previously, nurses were required to participate in a schedule of courses that began in the fall semester and finished the following fall semester. As a result, nurses now can enroll when they want and take courses at their own pace.
  • Adding electives to the program that allow nurses to enroll in courses that can be used as credits for those also pursuing a degree in SVSU's Master of Science in Nursing program.

Brown-Fackler said the adjustments create a more flexible program for nurses who are busy people. Both she and Deborah Gibson, SVSU's RN to BSN program coordinator, say the adjusted program is better fit for a schedule that sometimes makes it challenging to tackle academic demands during traditional classroom hours.

“Nurses are often working full time and have families,” Gibson said. “This new program makes it easier for them to get a bachelor's degree.”

Brown-Fackler said the online courses are designed to be engaging. While those courses don't require visiting campus, students will enjoy a supportive connection with SVSU faculty, as well as a dedicated adviser.

“We make our online courses very interesting,” Brown-Fackler said. “A lot of our faculty record their lectures, so students aren't just reading books assigned to them. They're interacting and learning with the faculty.”

SVSU created its RN to BSN program more than a decade ago in response to a growing trend in the medical field to require registered nurses to earn bachelor's degrees.

Registered nurses interested in learning more about the program can contact Gibson at (989) 964-4184 or dkgibson@svsu.edu or visit svsu.edu/rntobsn.

June 20, 2019

Careers in IT: ‘Girls can do it’ during Camp Infinity at SVSU

Saginaw Valley State University is working with partners to inspire more young women to consider careers in STEM fields. Camp Infinity, a week-long science-based camp for girls hosted at SVSU, saw 31new and 16 returning campers explore their interest in computers and Information Technology (IT).

The camp - which began Monday, June 17, and concludes Friday, June 21 - and is designed to encourage fifth through eighth-grade girls to consider the field of IT and engage their interest in computers, programming and robotics.

Campers are taking part in hands-on activities and are introduced to volunteers, mentors and visiting professionals offering insight about working and studying in technology fields. 

“We have camp counselors who are in the IT field or are pursuing that, so they can network and mentor the campers, and that's huge,” said Betsy Diegel, SVSU's STEM Mobile Lab coordinator and director of Camp Infinity.

This year, campers are designing and coding their own personal websites where they explore their interests. They are also assembling and coding small robots. The week will end with a showcase where campers can show off what they made and take part in a robot dance party.

These types of projects are right up seventh grader Malini Joles' alley.

“I thought it was really cool that we would get to code and stuff,” the Saginaw native said. “I love robots and building them.”

Joles said she was happy to have the opportunity to meet with and learn from women established in their STEM careers.

“It motivates you to figure out where you can go, and it shows you an example,” Joles said.

For camp organizers, the age range of the campers is critical.

“Research shows that if we don't grab their attention by sixth grade, we won't get them later,” said Beth Wendling, director of IT client interface services at Dow. “It's really critical to influence them at this age that IT is exciting, that it's easy and that girls can do it.”

Wendling also noted that the IT workforce in the U.S. is only about 20% female.

“As part of Dow's community outreach and STEM initiative, we feel it's important to make these kinds of investments in our communities,” Wendling said. “It's good for our youth and it's good for Dow. We hope these girls become future Dow employees and help increase the percentage of females in IT careers.”

This is the third year that SVSU and Dow have hosted the camp for middle school-aged girls, which is a collaboration with the Michigan Council of Women in Technology Foundation.

For the second year, SVSU will also host a camp for high school-aged girls that will run from July 29 - August 2. For questions regarding Camp Infinity, email CampInfinity@mcwt.org or contact Nicola White at (248) 218-2578 ext. 105

June 18, 2019

SVSU Board approves tuition increase of $505

The Saginaw Valley State University Board of control approved a tuition increase of $505 for in-state undergraduate students as part of the 2019-20 general fund operating budget adopted during the Board's regular meeting Monday, June 17.

A Michigan undergraduate student taking 30 credits will pay $10,813 for the upcoming academic year. SVSU will continue to have the lowest tuition among the 15 Michigan public universities for 2019-20, even after the increase of 4.9 percent takes effect.

“We are committed to supporting our hard-working students and preparing them for the careers that await them,” said Donald Bachand, SVSU president. “That requires sufficient resources to ensure our programs remain of the highest quality to meet students’ expectations, while understanding the challenging financial circumstances many students and families face.

“We will continue to have the lowest base tuition in the state, even after this increase, and we have made strategic investments to increase the scholarships and financial aid we make available to students. Our budget is based on the guidelines set by the Michigan Senate. We are prepared to adjust if the final state budget differs when it is passed.”

The Board also approved a three-year contract with the Police Officers Association of Michigan, which represents University Police patrol officers. The deal calls for officers to receive wage increases of 2 percent for each year of the contract, and health insurance coverage equivalent to administrative/professional staff.

“The men and women of University Police do an outstanding job maintaining the safety of our campus community, and we think this is a fair contract,” Bachand said.

The Board of Control also approved extending President Bachand’s employment contract through June 30, 2022.

“We as a Board are pleased with President Bachand's performance and the direction of the university,” said Jenee Velasquez, chair of the Board of Control.

“A healthy enrollment is critical to the university's present and future, and despite these challenging times, SVSU managed to grow its freshman class by 28 percent last year and is on pace for another strong class. President Bachand and his team also have done well to secure resources from donors and the state to support construction of an addition for the Carmona College of Business. We think extending President Bachand's contract at this time will allow the university to continue its positive momentum.”

In other action, the Board:

  • Passed a resolution to amend the charter of the SVSU Student Association.
  • Passed a resolution to change the name of the Scott L. Carmona College of Business & Management to the Scott L. Carmona College of Business.
  • Approved the reauthorization of public school academies.
  • Approved the confirmation of board members for previously authorized public school academies.
  • Authorized establishing a new public school academy, Sigma Academy for Leadership and Early College in Highland Park.
  • Authorized establishing Faxon Academy in Farmington Hills as a public school academy under SVSU’s auspices. The school had been authorized by Grand Valley State University.
  • Approved promotion for 16 faculty members. Promoted to the rank of professor are: John Baesler, history; Fenobia Dallas, rhetoric and professional writing; Olivier Heubo-Kwegna, mathematics; Mazen Jaber, marketing; Emily Kelley, art; Yu Liu, management; Jennifer McCullough, communication; Kaustav Misra, economics; and Matthew Vannette, physics. Promoted to associate professor are: Cal Borden, biology; Tammy Hill, nursing; Maureen Muchimba, health sciences; Travis Pashak, psychology; Sylvia Fromherz Sharp, biology; Izabela Szymanska, management; and Norm Wika, music.
  • Passed a resolution granting emerita status to Joni Boye-Beaman, who retired in 2018 after 19 years of service in faculty and administrative roles.
  • Passed a resolution to grant emeritus status to Gerald Peterson, who retired as professor of psychology in 2018 after 37 years of service.
  • Passed a resolution to approve a construction and completion assurance agreement, a conveyance of property, a lease and an easement agreement, if necessary, for the building addition under construction for the Carmona College of Business.
  • Passed a resolution authorizing the issuance and delivery of general revenue bonds.
  • Approved an updated parking and traffic ordinance.

June 17, 2019

After earning Miss Michigan crown, SVSU graduate student eyes national stage

For Mallory Rivard, winning the 2019 Miss Michigan title Saturday was a triumph of grit and the culmination of a lifetime of hard work dedicated to serving her community.

 

While the Saginaw Valley State University alumna and graduate student is enjoying the crown secured at the June 15 pageant, her work is far from finished, she said. Rivard is readying for a year representing the state while preparing for an approaching competition that could lead to her representing a much, much larger community. As Miss Michigan, she will be one of 50 women vying for the 2020 Miss America title later this year.

 

“I will definitely be living my life to the fullest after this,” Rivard said. “It’s already been a whirlwind since Saturday, so I’ve been trying to soak in all of this experience. It’s all so exciting.”

 

The Miss Michigan title is one of several dreams-come-true for Rivard in recent years. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and childhood education from SVSU in 2017, she began work as a teacher for Bay City Public Schools. Today, she enjoys educating first-grade students at MacGregor Elementary School in her hometown of Bay City.

 

“I’ve known I wanted to be a teacher ever since the third grade,” said Rivard, now pursuing a master’s degree in early childhood education at SVSU. “I’m really passionate about educating young people.”

 

She applied that passion for education to her pageant platform campaign, which focused on promoting reading to children. As Miss Michigan, Rivard plans to visit classrooms across the state and speak to parents on how best to improve childhood literacy.

 

“The earlier we introduce kids to the joys of reading, the more they will flourish and succeed,” she said.

 

Rivard understands the power of childhood influences. She participated in her first pageant — the Miss Bay County Princess competition — at the age of five, when her on-stage talent involved dancing to “Cotton Eye Joe.”

 

“I remember meeting Miss Bay County there,” said Rivard, now 24. “I thought to myself, ‘I want to do that.’”

 

And she did. Rivard was crowned Miss Bay County in 2015. It was one of seven consecutive local or regional pageants she earned on her way to advancing to the Miss Michigan competition, hosted each year in Muskegon. This year, she competed there as Miss Great Lakes Bay.

 

Rivard nearly received the Miss Michigan crown a number of times before this year, finishing as the first runner-up in both 2017 and 2018. As first runner-up, Rivard earned $5,000 scholarships both years from the Miss Michigan organization. As the competition’s victor this year, she will receive $12,000 in scholarship support for her college education.

 

An even larger victory could be ahead. The Miss Michigan Scholarship Pageant is affiliated with the Miss America Organization. Rivard will compete for the national title along with the women representing the other 49 states. The event's date and venue have not yet been announced.

 

“I’ve dreamed of this moment for so long,” she said. “I’m very thankful for all the people who have supported me through the years: Family, friends, people at SVSU. I couldn’t be more grateful or more blessed.”

June 14, 2019

SVSU’s Stec named Michigan's Career Services Professional of the Year

Bill Stec is dedicated to serving students, alumni and employers as the interim director of Career Services at Saginaw Valley State University. His exceptional dedication and work ethic has earned him a statewide honor.

Stec was selected as the 2018-2019 Career Services Professional of the Year at the Michigan Career Educator and Employer Alliance. The award was announced at the group’s annual conference in Kalamazoo Thursday, June 13.

Stec said the award shows the impact Career Services makes on SVSU students and alumni.

“We want our students to succeed,” Stec said. “We are going above and beyond to make sure we can give our students these opportunities and this award represents the return on investment that we are putting in for our students.”

The Michigan Career Educator and Employer Alliance's mission is to promote career potential within Michigan through relationships among employers, colleges and universities. The group includes public and private universities, colleges and community colleges across the state. Each year, the alliance presents its Employer of the Year Award, Don Hunt Service Award, and Career Services Professional Award. This is the first time SVSU has been awarded.

Stec joined the SVSU Career Services office in 2014 and has demonstrated a passion and dedication to building partnerships with employers and changing the lives of students and alumni. He has served as interim director for nearly a year since Mike Major, director, who serves in the U.S. Navy Reserves, was asked to teach at the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland.

Stec hopes his individual honor will encourage students, alumni and employers to further utilize opportunities through SVSU Career Services.

“Even if you know the direction you want to take or unsure of that direction, we can help at any level,” said Stec. “The world is there for you, you just have to figure out the passion. We can place you and introduce you to the people we know all over.”

Stec served as the Michigan Career Educator and Employer Alliance conference co-chair in 2016, and is a past president of the executive board. He completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees at SVSU.

June 13, 2019

SVSU, Dow Library, Dow Home & Studio partner to bring Michigan authors to Midland for writing workshops, public readings

Saginaw Valley State University’s Center for Community Writing – in partnership with the Grace A. Dow Library and the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio – invites the public to a week-long series featuring critically acclaimed Michigan writers this July in Midland.

The Michigan Authors’ Workshop Series will showcase the talents of Michigan writers and support the writing of prospective authors in the region. Eight authors from the state will be in attendance to discuss and read their work, and many of these writers will be teaching community writing workshops for writers of all ages.

“Because one of the goals of the Center for Community Writing is to support writing across the Great Lakes Bay Region, we are excited to bring such a diverse group of gifted Michigan authors to the city of Midland to share their work and their talents with our larger community,” said Helen Raica-Klotz, the co-director of the Center for Community Writing at SVSU.

“And, of course, we feel fortunate to be able to collaborate with the library and the Home and Studio, as both organizations are such strong supporters of the arts and education.”

Among the authors involved in The Michigan Authors' Workshop Series are Newberry Book Award winner Gary Schmidt, author of “Orbiting Jupiter;” Jim Ottaviani, who wrote “The Imitation Game;” and Michael Zadoorian, author of “The Leisure Seeker,” now a film starring Helen Mirren.

Raica-Klotz encouraged community members to attend the keynote address featuring Anne-Marie Oomen, winner of multiple Michigan Notable Book Awards, along with the other evening readings and book signings held throughout the week. All these events are free and open to the public.

The writing workshops held during the week are designed for writers of various ages: Lynne Rae Perkins will be leading a drawing and writing workshop for fourth and fifth graders. Gary Schmidt will be leading a workshop for sixth through eighth graders. Patrick Flores Scott will be leading a workshop for high school students, and Mardi Link and Jack Ridl will be leading adult workshops in memoir and poetry writing.

“All of the writing workshops will focus on generating writing with professional writers who also have a reputation of being skilled and thoughtful teachers,” Raica-Klotz said.

These workshops cost between $10 to $25 per person. Detailed workshop descriptions, along with the online registration, are available at svsu.edu/ccw/miauthors.

The week's free activities – which include the keynote address, author readings and book signings – are as follows:

  • Monday, July 22, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at Central Auditorium, 305 East Reardon: Anne-Marie Oomen, author of "The Lake Michigan Mermaid," will provide a keynote address.
  • Tuesday, July 23; 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Midland Center for the Arts Saints and Sinners Lounge, 1801 W. St. Andrews: Patrick Flores Scott and Gary Schmidt will present author readings and host book signings.
  • Wednesday, July 24, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Midland Center for the Arts Saints and Sinners Lounge, 1801 W. St. Andrews: Mardi Link and Michael Zadoorian will present author readings and host book signings.
  • Thursday, July 25, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Midland Center for the Arts Founders Room, 1801 W. St. Andrews: Jack Ridl and Jim Ottaviani will present author readings and host book signings.
  • Friday, July 26, noon to 12:30 p.m. at the Grace A. Dow Library story room, 1710 W. St. Andrews: Lynne Rae Perkins will host a book signing.

For more information, contact Raica-Klotz at 989.964.6062.

June 7, 2019

SVSU STEM program inspires computer coding curriculum in Freeland schools

More than 1,000 students in the Freeland Community School District were inspired to learn about computer coding – and the power of scientific persistence – thanks to a teacher's participation in a Saginaw Valley State University-hosted program aimed at enriching STEM education regionally.

Jessi Koehler, who teaches STEM curriculum in the Freeland Community School District, was a member of the latest group of K-12 teachers participating in the Dow Corning Foundation/SVSU STEM Community Partnership. The professional development program equips educators with training and resources to generate interest in the sciences among the region's youth.

Thanks in part to her participation in the initiative, Koehler created an academic program this school year that engaged students across the district in computer coding science and robotics, impacting youths from grades 1 to 6.

“In their eyes, they were playing with robots, so they loved it,” said Koehler, now in her 18th year as an educator. “You could tell, as the year went on, they began to see the robots as tools - and not just the toys they initially believed them to be. They still get pretty excited when the robots come out.”

The program, which she called "Bringing Coding To Life," tasked students with programming computer codes to command robots designed for such educational endeavors.

Many of the students used online resources such as the website code.org to engage in the coding experience, she said. They applied their learning to program command codes into robots purchased using Dow Corning Foundation/SVSU STEM Community Partnership resources. Younger students utilized Blue-Bot robots while their older peers worked with Dash and Dot robots.

“The basis of the project was to see if students working on coding would begin to show more of a growth mindset toward problem-solving throughout the school,” Koehler said.

“We began talking about using a growth mindset in the lower grades by reading picture books with characters that never give up, even when it appears as if they failed. Older grades talked about famous fails in history by successful people.”

Koehler said that, after conversations with fellow teachers who shared students exposed to her computer coding curriculum, the program appeared to have an influence even outside of STEM-related studies.

“Almost all of the teachers said that they saw students using more of a growth mindset in the general education classrooms as well,” she said. “That they are able to carry it over to a different environment shows me that it has made an impact on the students."

Koehler was among 20 Great Lakes Bay Region K-12 educators selected to participate in the 2018-19 Dow Corning Foundation/SVSU STEM Community Partnership. Each year, a new class of 20 participants is selected. The initiative begins with a two-week, summertime professional development program housed at SVSU. Koehler and her peers partnered with SVSU faculty and staff to develop strategies for improving STEM education in the region.

“Bringing Coding To Life” was influenced heavily by that experience, Koehler said.

“I really like the ability to share ideas and talk to other like-minded teachers,” she said. “It is great to be able to network with others.”

The Dow Corning Foundation/SVSU STEM Community Partnership was established in 2013. For more information about the program, go to www.svsu.edu/dowcorningfoundationfellows.

June 7, 2019

SVSU program inspires teacher to engineer biodiesel assignment for Millington High students

Empowered by a Saginaw Valley State University program aimed at enriching STEM education regionally, a Millington High School teacher gave his students a taste of life as an engineer during a project that spanned the 2018-19 academic year.

Mark Ratza was an enthusiastic member of the latest group of K-12 teachers participating in the Dow Corning Foundation/SVSU STEM Community Partnership, a professional development program that equips educators with training and resources to generate interest in the sciences among the region's youth.

Ratza said the program led him to task 25 students in his 10th, 11th and 12th grade Principles of Engineering classes to spend the 2018-19 academic year building a biodiesel processor. The effort, he said, exposed the teenagers to many different engineering-based sciences and their associated professions.

“At the beginning of the project, many students could only list the work done by one or two types of engineers,” he said. “By the end, most could tell the type of work done by five or six engineers. They now understand the collaboration that takes place between engineers such as mechanical, manufacturing and industrial design.”

Along with building the processor, Ratza's students also collected waste vegetable oil and created biodiesel fuel.

“My goal was to expose students to engineering as a viable career option and help them understand the role of different engineers in the development of a project,” he said.

For Ratza, the project began even before he was selected as a member of the Dow Corning Foundation/SVSU STEM Community Partnership 2018-19 class. His passion for STEM began when he was a K-12 student. While attending Davison High School, a chemistry teacher piqued his interest in the sciences. “I remember having a lot of fun in the class and enjoying all of the labs and demonstrations,” he said.

His professional life began in biochemistry research. “I found the work interesting, but lonely and independent,” he said.

Remembering a positive experience helping others understand STEM while serving as a teacher's assistant during his undergraduate years, Ratza decided to pursue a career in teaching. His first job as an educator arrived in 1989 at Adrian Public Schools before he moved to Beaverton Rural Schools. He next joined Millington Community Schools, where he has worked for 28 of his 30 years in the education industry.

After two of his school district colleagues raved about their experience in the Dow Corning Foundation/SVSU STEM Community Partnership initiative, Ratza applied to participate last year. The opportunity began with a two-week professional development program on SVSU's campus. Ratza and his peers partnered with SVSU faculty and staff as well as Dow Corning representatives to develop strategies for improving STEM education in the region. Aside from inspiring the biodiesel fuel project, the program was valuable for educating Ratza on tips for seeking and securing grants for similar school projects, he said.

The Dow Corning Foundation/SVSU STEM Community Partnership was established in 2013. For more information about the program, go to www.svsu.edu/dowcorningfoundationfellows.

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