May 22, 2017

Isabelle Pacitto: Portrait of a 2017 SVSU graduate

From: Hartland

High school: Hartland High School

Major: Social Work

Future: Graduate school at the University of Michigan 

Isabelle Pacitto came to SVSU with a passion for helping others and leaves inspired to make it her life's work, thanks to engaging with a campus community filled with servant leaders.

A social work major from Hartland, Pacitto expected the usual stress and long hours of being a college student, but she was surprised at how "right" SVSU felt for her, and how it not only fueled her passion but also paired it with professional purpose.

"The best thing SVSU could have done for me was linking me with the hands-on opportunities in the community and outside of the classroom," she said. "Being a victim advocate for the Sexual Assault Center, a branch of Child and Family Services of Saginaw, was a requirement for class my very first semester here and I'm still engaged with that."

Pacitto's time at SVSU helped her find the program that was right for her.

"I think I've always wanted to do the work that social workers do, even before I knew what the social work profession really was," she said. "To me, social work is the most practical, hands-on way I could think of to just work with people – whether that be an individual or a family or a community – to help affect positive change."

On top of schoolwork and the required hours of volunteer work within her field, Pacitto worked as a tour guide on campus and as a resident assistant in MJ Brandimore House, a campus residence hall – and she still graduated in just three years.

Jamie Franklin, SVSU resident director, worked closely with Pacitto during her time as a resident assistant.

"The impact she has had on the SVSU community will be felt for years after her graduation as she has recruited and mentored many young students," Franklin said. "Graduating in three years often does not leave a lot of time to leave a lasting legacy; however, her attitude and love for people will continue to show in the people she had an impact on."

In connection with her program, Pacitto's field placement connected her with Innerlink, a runaway and homeless shelter and a division of the Saginaw County Youth Protection Council, where she worked as a social work intern.

Pacitto worked with those individuals ages 17 to 20 who find themselves with nowhere to go.

"I think, with any of the populations I've worked with, it's just a real privilege to be able to walk alongside someone when they're most vulnerable," she said.

Pacitto also participated in a study abroad opportunity through SVSU that took her to India in the summer of 2016.

"It was 10 weeks – basically all of this past summer. I think it really connected well with my passion for women's issues," she said.

"I'd eventually like to go back and do some sort of research in that area in India because there's not a lot of available research on it. I'd love to do international social work of any sort but I have a particular interest and connection with that country."

Pacitto stated that she would recommend studying abroad to anyone. Not only did it benefit her in her career path, but it also increased her confidence in her own abilities.

After three years at SVSU, Pacitto is proud of her accomplishments within the university and in the community. She has made lasting relationships with peers, mentors and professionals within her field.

"It's really the little things that make a college experience special," she said. "I'm just thankful and appreciative of the people who have taken the time to help me grow – whether that be my professors, residence directors, my friends, roommates or my staff. The people here are different than anywhere else."

Pacitto now heads to graduate school at the University of Michigan to pursue a master's degree in clinical social work.

"Because of what I've learned at SVSU, I feel better going into grad school," she said. "I'm confident in my skills as a bachelor's-level social worker at this point. I'm just grateful for the opportunity to be an engaged member of a school and of a community."