Cardinal Talks offer inspiration, advice for students

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SVSU’s Office of Student Life hosted Cardinal Talks Extended on Thursday, Nov. 30.

“We host Cardinal Talks Extended once a semester as a catered dinner event with four speakers,” said Cara Deschermeier, assistant director for Student Life and Cardinal Talks coordinator.

The Cardinal Talks Extended began with sisters Nancy Haddad and Sandy Haddad. Sandy is a fifth-year nursing major, and Nancy is a third-year communication student. They discussed their family’s journey from Jordan to Saginaw.

“Our father decided to start his own business, and that led us from the suburbs of Chicago to the corn fields of Saginaw Valley,” Nancy said. “We went through the Swan Valley School District. We had a lot of opportunities to take on leadership roles.”

SVSU was not the Haddads’ first choice, but it soon became their home.

“During senior year, you’re allowed to skip a day to go to colleges,” Sandy said. “So I took mine (at SVSU) and fell in love right away.”

Sandy quickly became involved on campus.

“I soon started developing myself as a leader on campus, joining things like Forever Red, orientation programs and I even did a service trip to Louisiana,” Sandy said.

Nancy never wanted to follow her sister to college but did so for financial reasons.

“At the time, SVSU was the best financial option for me,” Nancy said. “But it quickly became my home”

Associate Provost for Student Services and Dean of Students Sidney Childs followed with a speech about how students can develop their own values and discover what they want out of their life.

He suggested students find both a mentor and a sponsor.

“A mentor is a person who walks and guides you,” Childs said. “But your sponsor opens opportunities for you.”

Childs hopes that students will strive for greatness.

“Be great – not selfish greatness, but great in the way that you are making an impact in the world,” Childs said.

After a short intermission, history professor Kenneth Jolly lectured on the importance of social groups and learning from history. He did so by talking about the lessons his friends have taught him.

His friends included Malcolm X, Ella Baker, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and more. All of them have taught him the importance of learning and teaching, he said.

“Education is a liberating and empowering process again when it can occur formally and organically,” Jolly said. “(My friends) changed the world by learning about it through the perspective of the needs and aspirations of social groups.”

Jolly believes everyone should make friends with history, too.

“I urge everyone to make friends with the past and learn from those friends,” he said.

The last speaker was 2005 alumna and licensed master social worker Tina Blaschke-Thompson.

Her lecture discussed her journey toward helping veterans.

Her husband, Kevin Thompson, served as a sergeant in the Marine Corp after 9/11. His struggles transitioning back into civilian life inspired her to help other veterans who may be experiencing similar challenges.

“After the war, I had to bear witness to (my husband’s) struggles,” Blaschke-Thompson said. “(I remember) the chronic pain, the post-traumatic stress, realizing early on in our relationship to not wake him up when he’s in a deep sleep, to announce my presence before entering a room so I didn’t scare him, so I wouldn’t get sucker punched because he thought I was the enemy.”

Blaschke-Thompson helped create Michigan State University’s “Social Work with Combat Veterans Certificate,” which will launch next year.

Many students attended the Cardinal Talks Extended.

“(I came out) so I could get some inspiration and learn some leaderships skills, to get motivated,” nursing sophomore Sushma Ghale said. “(The Haddad sisters) were very good.”

Students were inspired by the presenters’ stories.

“I came out here because I am a big fan of Ted Talks,” said first-year communications student Alina DeVougd. “Dr. Childs’ talk was very relevant to our lives, and his thought process is very similar to my own. A lot of the things he brought up are things I already apply to my life.”