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All Alumni Stories

Sophia Kolbus

August 2023

Sophia Kolbus, an SVSU alumna and Bay Area Women’s Center’s Residential Program Manager told us her story of how she started at SVSU wanting to be a nurse but then decided to change to social work to help people in a different way. Her favorite part about her job is working with the survivors and providing a safe space for them. 

Grace Berens

August 2023

Grace Berens is a Health Educator with the Emergency Preparedness Department at the Ottawa County Public Health Department. She studied Public Health at SVSU and loved how her professors and peers challenged her. She was very active in intramural sports while at SVSU and now trains for triathlons and coaches middle school volleyball. Grace says she would not be the person she is today without the people and opportunities from SVSU.

Lindsay Maynard Richardson

July 2023

Meet Lindsay Maynard Richardson, the Center's Director of Development and an SVSU alumna. She also serves as the president of the SVSU Alumni Board of Directors. We had a conversation with Lindsay about her experiences at both SVSU and the Bay Area Women's Center.

Kesha Montgomery

July 2023

Keysha Montgomery is a Saginaw native who graduated from SVSU with a degree in Criminal Justice and Communications in 2011. She was unsure of what she wanted to do but knew advocacy was her calling. She now owns Keys of the Kingdom, a consulting firm for individuals and businesses to learn how to be successful. Her favorite part of her job is helping others achieve their goals!

Ashley Kay

July 2023

Ashley Kay is an SVSU alumna from Detroit, Michigan. She has been pursuing her entertainment career since graduation and has made a splash in Detroit and worldwide with the success of her short film “Forgive Us Not.” When asked what her favorite part was about her career, Ashley said, “Being able to express who I am and to show people that it’s okay to be who you are and who God made you.”

Graciela Delgado

June 2023

Graciela Delgado, a 2023 graduate, has always been passionate about education. She has been working in schools since 1995 and has found that teaching and guiding students is where she belongs. She started her Master of Education- Principalship in 2021 when she was 59 years old because she knew this was the best way for her to have a positive impact on kids' lives'!

Jeff Raymaker

May 2023

Jeff Raymaker is an SVSU Alumnus and the Director of the Partnership Center in Saginaw, Michigan. 

When speaking with Jeff, it is clear that he has endless amounts of passion for his work at the Partnership Center. The Center helps people in the Great Lakes Bay region who need help with household furnishing and financial assistance. The Partnership Center takes a wrap-around care approach to each client; they get to know them as a person, learn where the root of their need comes from, and try to help find a long-term solution.

Derek Williams

August 2023

Derek Williams is an optometrist at the Great Lakes Bay Health Center. He was named Michigan’s Young Optometrist of the Year in April, something he finds very humbling. Derek loves his time with his patients and helping other young people interested in optometry. He always knew he wanted to give back to his community, and now he gets to do it through his career.

Jenna Smith

August 2023

Jenna Smith graduated from SVSU in 2020 with a degree in Nursing. She knew she wanted to attend SVSU since middle school and loves the network of alums she knows are willing to help and give advice, especially in the nursing community. “I love knowing that in the nursing world, there are other SVUS alum everywhere I go who are willing to help.” Jenna can be found at work at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing or at home baking for her loved ones.

Tyler Harfst

August 2023

Meet Tyler Harfst, an assistant principal in the Grand Rapids area and father to two young children. Raised in a family of educators, Tyler knew he wanted to be a high school teacher since his own high school days. His favorite aspects of teaching include connecting with students and watching them grow throughout their high school journey. Tyler coordinated Grandville High School's Senior Survivor Program, where students lived at school for an entire week, raising money for the Student Assistance Fund

Cassie Greshow

August 2023

Cassie went to SVSU to be an occupational therapist and has achieved that goal and been an occupational therapist for the past 8 years. She was integral in opening the first occupational hand therapy clinic in Mason, MI. Cassie has accomplished all her professional goals, Cassie is eager to fulfill her goal of becoming a mother.

Kaylynne Miesen

August 2023

Kaylynne is an SVSU graduate of the Masters of Public Health Program. She enjoyed the relationships that she built with her professors and how much they cared about her as a student. Kaylynne loves working at the Barry-Eaton District Health Department and enjoys being able to help people at a community level. When not working, Kaylynne likes to go camping with her horses and her dog.

Abby Engel

September 2023

Abby Engel is the Executive Director at Pet Angel Adoption & Rescue in Frankenmuth. She loves that her coworkers are cats! She works tirelessly to create a safe and fun environment for the cats and to find them great forever homes. Abby enjoys reading, listening to true crime podcasts, and going to the Crazy Quarters Arcade when she is not at work finding the best homes for the cats.

Raymond Deeren

September 2023

Meet Raymond Deeren, an accomplished professor, author, and proud alumnus of SVSU. As a first-generation college graduate with a Ph.D. in English, he is passionate about nurturing the minds of young students who remind him of his own early days. This month, he celebrates the release of his book, "Enough To Lose,".

Moregan LaMarr

September 2023

Moregan LaMarr is an SVSU Social Work graduate who loves to be connected with SVSU! As an adjunct professor, COVID contact tracer, and by having an SVSU Social Work intern at her full-time position at Saginaw Psychological Services, Moregan's love for her field and for being a Cardinal shines brightly!

Claire Dushane

September 2023

Introducing Claire Duchane, a proud SVSU graduate who loved her experience so much that she now represents the university as an employee! During her time as a student, Claire actively participated in campus life, leading organizations such as Kappa Tau Epsilon and Lambda Pi Eta. Now, she serves as the West Michigan Regional Admissions Representative and finds joy in connecting with potential students.

Samantha McKenzie

October 2023

Samantha McKenzie is an SVSU alumna, and President & CEO of Hidden Harvest. She loves working with community leaders and other nonprofits to be able to provide food to people all over the Great Lakes Bay Region who need it most.

Michelle Bahr

October 2023

Meet Michelle, a proud first-generation college graduate, an enthusiastic lifelong learner, and a dedicated special education teacher and administrator at Midland ESA. After years of devoted service, Michelle celebrated her well-deserved retirement on June 30, 2023! Both Michelle and her daughter, Kirsten, had remarkable experiences while attending the close-knit community at SVSU.

Cathy and Gabe Soto

October 2023

Get ready to celebrate SVSU’s 60th Anniversary Homecoming with our amazing Homecoming Marshalls, Cathy and Gabe Soto! With an incredible 74 years of combined experience at SVSU, their dedication is truly inspiring. Cathy, who retired in October 2023, devoted her 39-year career to the Campus Facilities department, providing invaluable clerical and support services. Not to be outdone, Gabe retired in June 2022 after spending an impressive 35 years at SVSU, the majority of which as a Duplicator Operator at the Graphic Center. For this power couple, education has always been a top priority. Both are first-generation college graduates, and while working full-time at SVSU, Gabe even managed to earn his bachelor’s degree, setting an outstanding example for their three sons and proving that higher education is worth every effort. Together, Cathy and Gabe embody the essence of what it means to be a Cardinal!

Saadman Bin Abdullah

October 2023

Saadman Bin Abdullah is a 2021 graduate in Mechanical Engineering from SVSU who loves connecting with people. He had a fantastic time on campus, from meeting his wife to getting published in a research journal to working with world-class professors. Today, Saadman thrives as a Manufacturing Equipment Engineer at Tesla in Northern California!

Cameron Thorp

November 2023

From the moment he stepped onto the stage in high school, Cameron Thorp knew that theater was his calling. As a proud 2013 graduate of SVSU's Theater department, Cameron not only discovered his passion for acting but also his desire to experience every facet of stage production. From the remote landscapes of Alaska to the sunny shores of Florida, Cameron's theatrical journey has taken him across the country. Now thriving as the Company Manager at Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota Florida, he cherishes every incredible minute spent in this captivating profession!

Brooke Elward

November 2023

Meet Brooke Elward, a proud SVSU graduate and the talented owner of Be Photographed. Fueled by her passion for photography, both as a hobby and a profession, Brooke has been professionally capturing life's precious moments since 2022. She adores working with people and feels privileged to be part of their most joyous occasions.

Check out Be Photographed at https://www.bephotographed.co/

Matt Zufelt

November 2023

Matt's clocks have captured the hearts of car enthusiasts worldwide, with designs primarily featuring vintage automobiles. Clock9Nine is truly a labor of love - a family-operated business run straight out of Matt's garage. Embracing the work-from-home lifestyle allows him to dedicate plenty of quality time to his loved ones.

James Preston

January 2024

Back in the 1980s, James was an athlete at SVSU, shining on the basketball court as a key player of a championship team and even earning the title of GLIAC's MVP in 1985. Though circumstances led him to leave just a semester short of completing his degree, he finally achieved his goal and graduated in December 2023 with a degree in General Studies. James has coached basketball for over 30 years and spent most of his life working in education

Jeanne Blum Lesinski

January 2024

Jeanne Blum Lesinski, a distinguished poet, has recently unveiled her inaugural poetry collection, Tethers End, in 2023. Although she has had an array of poems grace the pages of numerous journals and has authored other literary works, this marks her debut in the realm of poetry books. As a young girl, Jeanne's passion for poetry blossomed through her fascination with rhyming and constant immersion in literature.

Michael Finney

1956-2022

Michael was a talented businessman who devoted much of his career to helping communities grow. At the time of his death, he was the president and CEO of the Miami Dada Beacon Council in Miami, Florida, where he focused on job creation and economic growth by engaging local, national, and international audiences.

Sam Johnson

2023

Sam graduated in 2023 with a Computer Science degree. He plans on getting his Ph.D. in Computer Science and knows that none of his education would have been possible without the scholarships he received from SVSU.

Lexie Schultz

2023

Lexie’s dual degree ― music and theatre — opened doors to experiences she never imagined as a freshman. She has attended the regional and national Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival multiple times, winning accolades each time, including a prestigious Irene Ryan Scholarship nomination and a spot with the Open Jar Institute’s musical theatre intensive in New York City.

Olivia Getzinger

2023

Olivia Getzinger experienced a life-changing study abroad experience on Little Cayman Island. Daily dives and lectures from Central Caribbean Marine Institute scientists taught students about marine life and the impact of plastics and climate change on aquatic ecosystems, particularly coral reefs. A scholarship through SVSU’s Global Foundation Scholars (GFS) program enabled Olivia to have a transformative study abroad experience. 

Javon Sutton

2023

Influenced by his aunt, a pediatric neurosurgeon, and motivated by a desire to help others, Javon decided in high school that he wanted to become a doctor. His road to medical school – and a promising career in medicine – has continued at SVSU.

Zach Vega

2023

Zach is engaged to be married and working as a certified urban planner in Traverse City. Through Networks Northwest, a regional planning and economic development agency that serves 10 northwest Michigan counties, Zach helps small communities maximize their natural, social and economic assets to enhance the quality of life for residents and visitors.

Lindsay Maynard Richardson

2023

As a high school student, Lindsay Maynard Richardson knew that academic excellence was her path to higher education and a solid career. Lindsay grew up in Marlette, where her dad was a farmer. Because the family’s income varied from year to year, Lindsay and her twin sister, Allison, knew they would need to find scholarship funding for college. Thanks to their academic success, both Lindsay and Allison earned substantial scholarships from SVSU.

Captain Philip Markey

2023

Phillip is currently doing his specialty training (residency) in family medicine at Fort Eisenhower in Georgia. After he completes his medical training in 2025, Phillip will serve in the military, representing the third generation of his family to do so.

Valerie Peterson-Kelly

2023

Valerie is the founder and CEO of VP Kelly Enterprises, which encompasses her many endeavors, including Very Positive Outlook, a collection of 14 interactive and curriculum-based programs, each with its own identity and purpose. She is married to a talented Houston chef and author, Elliot Kelly, and has two young adult sons.

Jake Parcell

January 2024

Meet Jake Parcell, an accomplished SVSU alumnus from the class of 2014 who went on to earn his Ph.D. in Planning, Design, and Construction at Michigan State University. Today, he serves as the City Planner & City Development Manager for Sterling Heights. Despite his busy schedule, Jake cherishes his connection with fellow SVSU alumni and faculty. In fact, he even teamed up with SVSU Professor Erik Trump to author the book "The Architecture of Survival: Study of Politics in Apocalyptic Films."

Derek Humphries

January 2024

Derrek attended SVSU knowing that he wanted to be a doctor. He was very active on campus and attended St. George’s University in the Caribbean where he studied to become an internal medicine doctor. He is currently finishing his third year at CMU Internal Medicine and planning his wedding that is taking place this month!

RoShawndra Opara

February 2024

RoShawndra Opara is a newly retired educator from Saginaw Public Schools, where she spent 30-plus years. She was a teaching assistant when she began attending SVSU to get her bachelor's degree in Elementary Education (English and Math minors) with an early childhood education endorsement to become a teacher. RoShawndra loved her time with the students and encourages other teachers to "stay inspired and know that educating students is worth it, because you are making lasting impacts in students' lives."

 

Shawn Schutt

February 2024

Shawn is an SVSU alum who works at a local nonprofit organization called Underground Railroad. Underground Railroad is an organization that serves victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human slavery in Saginaw County. Shawn is the Community Engagement and Prevention Manager, where he gets to travel around the county and educate people of all ages about domestic and sexual violence. Shawn loves that the community is so supportive of the Underground Railroad's mission and loves being able to help serve them.

Crystal Sanders

March 2024

Crystal Sanders is a 2006 SVSU alumna who works as Underground Railroad's Volunteer Coordinator. Underground Railroad is an organization that serves victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human slavery in Saginaw County. Crystal loves her job because she gets to interact with individuals who desire to make a difference in the community and help to make Underground Railroad a fantastic organization to assist survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Cole Roys

March 2024

Cole Roys is a 2017 Chemistry graduate who currently works at a think tank that properly disposes of chemical weapons from the US government. He loves his job and the people he works with and could not imagine doing anything else!

Colleen McClure

March 2024

Colleen McClure is a 2015 SVSU graduate in management and marketing who is now a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham with her Ph.D. in marketing. She loves teaching her classes and interacting with students while also being able to conduct research and "nerd out" with fellow professors about their given fields.

Devin Smith

March 2024

Meet Devin Smith, a 2023 SVSU graduate who majored in Marketing and minored in Management. Devin's plans for his life at SVSU took a turn with the start of the COVID pandemic, but he found what he wanted to do through this and is pursuing a career in marketing for record labels, along with making his own music. 

 

Manish Osti

March 2024

Manish Osti graduated from SVSU in 2023. He works. SVSU helped Manish follow his passion for earning a Computer Science degree, which he now uses to excel at Hemlock Semiconductor and Georgia Tech. He loves that he is able to work with AI in both roles. Manish’s wife has been his biggest supporter. She encouraged him to reenroll at SVSU and helped him throughout earning his degree.

Megan Koch

April 2024

Megan is the Executive Director of Studio 23 in downtown Bay City. She graduated from SVSU with a major in history and a minor in art to complete her passion for art history. She loves meeting new people in the community and sharing local community members' work in Studio 23. When not working, you can find Megan enjoying downtown Bay City, camping, or enjoying delicious food with loved ones.

Andrea Rayl

April 2024

Andrea Rayl is an SVSU alumnae who graduated with a social work degree. She found her love for social work while at SVSU when she went on an Alternative Spring Break Trip. She works at the Bay Arenac Behavioral Health and loves it! She gets to work with kids and her amazing coworkers, who are a great support.

Christine Macey

April 2024

Christine Macey is an Assistant US Attorney in the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. She loved her time at SVSU and how it prepared her for her profession. She attended Georgetown Law School and has worked in DC as a federal prosecutor since 2012. She loves that her job is never dull, which helps sustain her during her long hours. If Christine could describe her time at SVSU in one word, it would be gratitude.

 

Rachel LaBerge

May 2024

Rachel LaBerge author of A Lodge Affair, a romantic comedy, and A Love Letter to Those Who Left Me Behind, a full length poetry collection, has enjoyed writing since she was little. With her first published books coming this year, she’s learned much about writing and publishing a novel. One of the key things that’s helped set her up for success is connections from places like Bookstagram (Instagram account for books). You can purchase Rachel's books HERE.

Emily Lezotte

May 2024

Emily is a 2024 graduate who sees herself as proof that a bad situation doesn't define you or your future. She stopped school with a fourth-grade education and gave herself a high school education through library books. She got her GED and enrolled at Kirtland Community College before transferring to SVSU. She is now headed to Michigan State University to study medicine!

Michelle Hodges-Pietryka

May 2024

Michelle Hodges-Pietryka is a clinical psychologist at the VA Saginaw Health Care. She graduated from SVSU in 2015 and loved her experience. She was supported by outstanding professors who were passionate about their work and helped her to succeed. Michelle loves that she is able to help people through her work and feels that she was put on earth to do this job.

We know that you do amazing things, both personally and professionally, and we want to hear all about it. Whether you've landed your dream job, started your own business, or made a difference in your community, we want to celebrate your accomplishments and share your story with the world. We can't wait to hear from you!

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