Karen Erwin, SVSU administrative assistant to the dean of students, has an office located in the Student Affairs suite. The team in this suite — Erwin included — carry many responsibilities, largely involving helping the many students who find their way to the office.
Erwin, though, is quite modest when talking about herself, and often directs the attention on others. But the Saginaw native is more outspoken when the conversation turns toward her job, her workplace environment, and the points of pride that lead her to love both.
“We’re here to help students succeed,” she said. “That’s why we’re here. That’s why I’m here.”
Erwin’s road “here” began as a member of SVSU’s clerical pool in 2000. Eventually, she was hired part-time to help manage the budgets of Student Affairs, Residential Life and two registered student organizations. By 2008, she became a full-time staff member, inhabiting the role she maintains to this day.
With Erwin’s desk located at the center of the Student Affairs office, she interacts with a lot of students. She greets everyone who enters the office with a friendly smile and asks how she can help. Frequently, she guides students and visitors to classrooms or offices around campus.
Among her favorite days are those in which the Cardinal food pantry lifts the spirits of students in need. Erwin is a member of the committee that created the program, which collects and distributes non-perishable food for SVSU students in need of sustenance.
“We have to do our little part to help students who need help in that way,” she said. “When students are content physically, they’re able to succeed academically. That’s important.”
“Karen is the best-est,” Michele Gunkelman said, peaking her head into the office where the interview for this profile was underway. “You can quote me, and maybe correct my grammar.”
When Gunkelman learned her colleague was earning attention as the recipient of Staff Member of the Month, Gunkelman decided some playfully-interjectory praise was in order.
She wasn’t alone in making sure the office’s inhabitants’ high praise for Erwin was known. Erwin’s care for students was reciprocated too.
“You’re going to be famous,” one of the office’s student-workers said — in an excited tone — to Erwin as the author of this profile exited the suite. “Yes!,” another student exclaimed in response to the suggestion.
Erwin smiled at the students’ giddiness on her behalf.
“It’s a great day to be a Cardinal” is emblazoned on a sign above the suite’s front door, and it’s a mantra beloved by Erwin.