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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Russian part-time professor becomes U.S. citizen

Russian Natalia Chugunova, a Southwestern Michigan College part-time biology professor, became a U.S. citizen July 16 along with her husband and daughter.

The president’s desk in the White House Oval Office appears behind Natalia and Leonid in a photograph from the naturalization ceremony.

That’s because their ceremony capping a six-month process took place at Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids.

Eighty citizens were naturalized from 33 countries.

Hugh W. Brenneman Jr., federal magistrate judge for U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, presided.

Leo manages Three Rivers Health’s laboratory.

Chugunova, who completed medical school in Russia in 1996, grew up in President Vladimir Putin’s hometown, St. Petersburg, the second-largest city after Moscow and the northernmost city in the world with a population exceeding 1 million.

The former Leningrad, a major European cultural center with more than 5 million inhabitants, is home to one of the largest art museums in the world and a major port on the Baltic Sea.

Chugunova, who lives in Constantine, wears a cluster of identification badges around her neck to teach at four campuses, including Ivy Tech in Elkhart and South Bend, Ind.

This summer Chugunova taught on SMC’s Dowagiac campus, but fall semester, beginning Sept. 2, she returns to the newly-renovated Niles Campus.

Chugunova previously lived in Topeka, Ind., near Shipshewana in LaGrange County.

She joined SMC two years ago and has taught for four.

This August afternoon she and her children, Alexandra, 17, who automatically became an American citizen with her parents, and U.S.-born Victor, 8, are bound for Warren Dunes on Lake Michigan.

“The beach is a favorite Russian pastime,” she said. “I take books so I can read.”

“My husband’s parents moved here first” 20 years ago, Chugunova said. “It was much easier to get Green Cards in the ’90s” pre-Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“We moved here in December ’98,” she said.

Green Cards, received in 2008, extend residency to someone granted authorization to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis.

As proof of that status, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues Green Cards.

“In Russia, I have a degree in medicine,” Chugunova said, “but I don’t have a license to practice here. I wanted to be a physician, but the ’90s, as you know, was not a good time economically in Russia.”

The 15-republic Soviet Union dissolved in December 1991, spurring conversion of the world’s largest state-controlled economy to market orientation.

“All health care was government-owned. They paid hardly anything to health care workers,” she said. “My husband and I graduated medical school and stayed in Russia two more years. He worked for Johnson & Johnson as a sales rep. My husband’s parents moved to northern Indiana, to Ligonier,” the City of Murals in Noble County. “They had friends here because my father-in-law was a Rotarian in Russia. They’re both engineers.”

“You can take (six-year) medical school entrance exams immediately after high school,” Chugunova said. “There were five applicants for each spot. It’s very competitive because education is free, plus they pay you a stipend.”

Her younger brother and older sister also finished medical school.

Her mom is a retired physician, her dad a university professor for 54 years who’s happy a child followed him into teaching.

Chugunova watches tensions between the United States and Russia since Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 went down in eastern Ukraine July 17, killing all 298 on board, from an unusual perspective.

“We don’t believe anything,” she said. “Not the news from Russia, not the news from here. I haven’t heard any truth yet. I teach science. I need evidence. I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who are friendly to me personally and to Russia.”

 “We went back four years ago and two years ago and it was good,” Chugunova said. “At this point in time I think it would be difficult because of the tensions.”

The naturalization process included being interviewed and taking a 100-question civics exam in Detroit.

Citizenship offers “more freedom,” she said. “I would have been reluctant to say anything before I had U.S. citizenship.”

Also contributing to tensions is National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, staying in Russia through July 2017.

Snowden made international news in 2013 by revealing details of NSA phone and Internet surveillance programs.

“You don’t know what a police state is,” Chugunova said. “It’s kind of disturbing, but at the same time you feel more secure. If they know who to monitor, it’s not a bad thing.”

 “I usually tell people unhappy with immigrants coming to ‘take our jobs,’ ‘So you’re 100-percent Native American?’ They shut up.”

“I very much like teaching for SMC,” she said. “It’s a great school.”

SMC celebrating 50th anniversary Sept. 20

The Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees announced details of the College’s upcoming 50th anniversary celebration, awarded service pins, accepted gifts and grants and conducted other business at its Aug. 18 meeting on the Dowagiac campus.

Saturday, Sept. 20, will be a day-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 founding of Southwestern Michigan College.  The events shown below are all free and open to the public.  Community members, former students, prospective students, current students, employees both current and past….everyone (including children) are invited to attend.  

According to Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Fred L. Mathews, “Since its founding, SMC has provided affordable access to high-quality college education.  Our graduates have gone on to do great things.  We are excited to celebrate the cumulative successes of all of our former students, and to thank the community for 50 years of support. We hope you will join us.”

In addition to all of the free events listed below, there will be a “President’s Reception” honoring former trustees, presidents and foundation board members.  Tickets are required for this event and are $75 per person or $100 per couple, with proceeds going to fund scholarships.  To purchase a ticket, call Eileen Toney, Director of Development, at 269.782.1301.

For a complete up-to-the-minute listing of events, times, and locations, including alternate locations for inclement weather, download the SMC mobile app for your smartphone and select 50th Anniversary or go online to

Guest Check-in
8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. • In front of the Fred L. Mathews Library

Register to enter into a drawing for a Frigidaire Gallery 26 CU. Ft. Smudge Proof Stainless Steel Side-by-Side Refrigerator donated by Camdens Appliance.

Prediction Run
8:30-11 a.m. • Student Activity Center in the Charles O. Zollar Building
Stop by the Student Activity Center to sign-in for the Prediction Run beginning at 8:30. Please plan on checking in at least 10-15 minutes prior to your predicted start time. An awards ceremony will follow the race at 11:30 a.m. at Coaches Corner near the Charles O. Zollar Building.

Coaches Corner Reunion
9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. • Outside the Charles O. Zollar Building
Reminisce with past SMC coaches, athletes and extreme sports students.

Student Service Center
10 a.m.-5 p.m. • David C. Briegel Building
The Student Service Center is open for business. Learn about our degrees and programs and get all your questions answered

10 a.m.-5 p.m. • Bookstore
Come browse SMC apparel or new 50th Anniversary clothing at the bookstore.

Faculty Art Show
10 a.m.-5 p.m. • Art Gallery in the Dale A. Lyons Building
See new works by SMC’s talented fine arts faculty.

Open House

11 a.m.-1 p.m. • David C. Briegel Building
Interested in becoming an SMC student? Stop by the Student Service Center and learn all about our academic programs, campus services and more. While you’re there, grab a complimentary sno-cone or some popcorn.

Art Fair
11 a.m.-3 p.m. • In front of the David C. Briegel Building
Browse art displayed and for sale by SMC alumni. Alumni who wish to participate may register online  for this event.

Pottery Wheel Demo
11 a.m.-3 p.m. • Near the Dale A. Lyons Building
Watch as an expert SMC instructor crafts a piece and learn about the ceramics-making process.

School of Business and Advanced Technology Car Show
11 a.m.-3 p.m. • In front of the Jan and A.C. Kairis Building
Take a look at cars refinished by SMC students and vintage cars owned by community members, or preview new models for sale. Prizes will be awarded to the best in show. Have a vintage car? Sign up online to participate in the auto show.

History Gallery
11 a.m.-5 p.m. • SMC History Gallery
The new SMC History Gallery is a must-stop for any visitor on campus. The wide assortment of items found in the History Gallery depicts the history of the college from its conception to current day happenings.

Alumni Welcome Tent
11 a.m.-5 p.m. • Dale A. Lyons Building
Whether you took one class or finished your degree, we consider you a part of SMC! The first 250 SMC alumni to visit will receive a free gift. Bethel College and Ferris State University at SMC alumni are welcome too!

Disc Golf
11 a.m.-5 p.m. • Student Activity Center in the Charles O. Zollar Building
Grab a friend and enjoy a game of disc golf around our beautiful campus.

SMC Theatre
Noon-12:30 p.m. • Alumni Plaza Main Stage
Watch rising local stars perform an act of SMC’s upcoming children’s play.

Rock Climbing
Noon-3 p.m. • Student Activity Center in the Charles O. Zollar Building
Ever wanted to try rock climbing? Now’s your chance! Stop in and scale our 35-foot rock wall.

Noon–4 p.m. • In front of the Foster W. Daugherty Building
Let your inner child come out on these fun inflatables brought to you by the Army National Guard.

Ferris Wheel
Noon-9 p.m. • Dailey Road Parking Lot
Come take a turn on the Ferris wheel brought to you by SMC’s educational partner Ferris State University.

Food Vendors
Noon–9 p.m. • Near the Foster W. Daugherty Building
Food from area vendors will be for sale throughout the day.

Bounce House
Noon–9 p.m. • near the Foster W. Daugherty Building
Let kids get the wiggles out at the Bounce House!

Criminal Justice Demonstrations
12:30-5 p.m. • Near the William P. D. O’Leary Building

See demonstrations by local law enforcement and the fire department. Learn how to escape a smoking building in a simulated smoke house or see a police dog in action.

School of Nursing and Health Services Demonstration
12:30-5 p.m. • Nursing and Health Services Building
View demonstrations on a mannequin capable of simulating real-life medical emergencies.

SMC Select Voices
12:45-1:15 p.m. • Alumni Plaza Main Stage
Hear the harmonious talent of SMC choir students in this special concert.

Book Signing
1-4 p.m. • Fred L. Mathews Library
Dr. Fred L. Mathews, Chairman of the SMC Board of Trustees will be signing his book, which depicts the history of Southwestern Michigan College.  All net proceeds will go to fund scholarships at SMC.

STEM Interactive Exhibit
1-4 p.m. • Foster W. Daugherty Building
Learn more about science, math, engineering and technology in this interactive experiment.

Twister Mike Balloons
1-5 p.m. • Picnic Area in front of the Dale A. Lyons Building
Challenge Twister Mike to sculpt a balloon creation for you.

Face Painting
1–5 p.m. • Picnic Area in front of the Dale A. Lyons Building
Face painters will turn your face into a masterpiece.

Campus Tours
1-5 p.m. • Student Service Center in the David C. Briegel Building
Experience our beautiful campus buildings and grounds. Tours begin every half hour.

Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Tribal Dancers
1:30-2:30 p.m. • Alumni Plaza Main Stage
Local dancers from the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians perform traditional tribal dances.

Alumni Photo Booth
2-4 p.m. • Bookstore Building
Whether you have a group of two or ten, come get your photo taken with your fellow SMC alumni.

Student Housing Reunion
2-4 p.m. • The Backyard
Catch up with your old suitemates and reminisce about life in the dorms.

Local Marching Bands
2:30-3:30 p.m. • Near Steps in front of Fred L. Mathews Library
Bands from Cassopolis, Dowagiac, Marcellus, Niles and Edwardsburg march into the center of campus for your enjoyment.

Alumni Soccer Game
3-4 p.m. • Soccer Field
Former intramural soccer players reunite in a game of soccer.

Alumni Flag Football Game
3-4 p.m. • Football Field
Intramural flag football players relive the glory days in a game of flag football.

SMC Bands
3:30-4:15 p.m. • Alumni Plaza Main Stage
Listen as music from the SMC Brass Band fills the Plaza.

4-5 p.m. • Next to the David C. Briegel Building
Observe or join in on this medieval jousting role-play game — one of the latest fads on campus.

Sky Diving Demonstration
4:45 p.m. and 6:40 p.m. • Softball Field
Watch as skydivers from Plymouth Sky Sports  join SMC President Dr. David Mathews to descend on the SMC campus.

Garcia & Scott Concert
5 p.m. and 7 p.m. • Steps of the Fred L. Mathews Library
Country music artists Garcia & Scott perform live twice on the steps of the Fred L. Mathews Library.

Withers Choo Choo Train Rides
5-7 p.m. • Picnic Area in front of the Dale A. Lyons Building
Children of all ages can journey around campus on the train.

Paul Erdman Band
6-7 p.m. • Alumni Plaza Main Stage
Professional rockers from the Paul Erdman Band perform live on the plaza, brought to you by our educational partner Bethel College.

Arrival Concert
8-9 p.m. • Alumni Plaza Main Stage
Journey tribute band Arrival performs the legendary band’s greatest hits.

9 p.m. • Southeast Corner of Campus
Watch as fireworks light up the sky over the SMC campus. 

SMC retirement luncheon

Southwestern Michigan College honored five retirees with 114 years service June 30 at a luncheon in the Student Activity Center of the Charles O. Zollar Building on the Dowagiac campus.

“It’s a testimony to the lives, energy and commitment our retirees put in that they have so many people come to wish them well,” SMC President Dr. David M. Mathews said.

Dr. Naomi Ludman
Developmental Studies Director
Communications Department Chair
35 years

When SMC embraced developmental studies in the 1970s to bolster underprepared students, it was a relatively new concept in the country.

“When the Dale A. Lyons Building was built, there was a developmental education lab where the choral music area is now,” Mathews said. “It grew to be a hugely important component of achieving our very mission of ‘knowledge for all.’ If our students are not successful, we are not successful. Because of the variety of life circumstances students have brought to us for almost 50 years, it remains the right thing for us to do to figure out how to give those students what they need,” particularly encouragement.

Dr. Naomi Ludman

George Dierickx
Director of Buildings and Grounds
18 years

“The most common refrain I get from visitors who come here from all over the state is, ‘Wow! What a beautiful campus and facilities SMC has.’ We hear over and over again that students, upon coming to campus, very quickly decide to come here because of what our facilities look like and how they’re maintained. That doesn’t happen by accident. In fact, it doesn’t happen most places, which is the reason it’s so remarkable.”

Dierickx will oversee the two projects renovating the William P.D. O’Leary and Foster W. Daugherty buildings.

George Dierickx

Gary Tomlinson
Buildings and Grounds
26 years

About 10 years ago — and Dr. Diane Chaddock, the executive vice president and chief operating officer who retired in 2013, swore it was true — a man wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase was trying to find her for an interview.

Ever helpful — “another characteristic of our maintenance staff,” the president said — Tomlinson showed him the way, but impishly cautioned that she was hard of hearing.

“You’re going to have to look right at her and speak loudly,” he advised the visitor.

About halfway through the interview, the man realized Chaddock’s hearing was fine.

“It was a prank we pulled on salesmen because our boss didn’t like salesmen,” Tomlinson said. “I thought it was a good joke to pull on her. She lived in Baroda, too. She said, ‘Was it a tall, thin guy?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ She knew it was me.”

Like SMC’s other retirees, “Gary has put his life’s energy into making Southwestern Michigan College work so well,” the president said.

Gary Tomlinson

Jack Crouse
Humanities/speech instructor
20 years

As president, Mathews’ attention focuses more on political and financial arenas, leaving instruction supervision to Vice President Dr. David Fleming.

Though Mathews, a mathematician who periodically teaches rock climbing, is mostly removed from daily student interaction, he’s struck by reports which cross his desk showing Crouse year in and year out at or near the top of faculty in the number of students taught.

“There is nothing more important we do than to provide affordable access to high-quality education to students, and we do that in a setting we are very proud of, and rightfully so, because of the personal interaction where faculty members know your name, care about how you’re doing, keep track of you and know if you’re there or not.”

Jack Crouse

Lois Owen
Arts and Sciences
administrative assistant
15 years

“Lois has the exact right temperament for meeting our students where they are with what they need and being a helpful person,” Mathews said of Owen, who started as a work-study in developmental education. “She has done that for a variety of bosses in a variety of places. She always does that as if this place is her home and these people are her family.

“It would be hard to imagine Southwestern Michigan College without Lois here, which is why she has convinced me that she needs to manage the Christmas party for the rest of her life. In fact, I kid you not, she is out scouting places because Riverfront (in Niles) closed. We will not say goodbye to Lois Owen, but ‘Merry Christmas.’ ”

Art Professor Emeritus David Baker a year ago painted a series of watercolors depicting ornamental trees blossoming on the Dowagiac campus.

Working with the Wellness Committee, he created a walking contest, “In the Footsteps of an Artist,” to identify the vantage point from which paintings were produced.

As the winner, Baker presented Owen with her favorite, the cone-shaped linden tree between the Foster W. Daugherty and the David C. Briegel buildings.

Lois Owen