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Meet Pat Cavanaugh

"This is a place that doesn’t try to be anything but what it is. I don’t see how anyone could come here and not feel at home."

- originally published in 2009 edition of This is SVSU

cavanaugh With “home” serving loosely as a thematic thread for the stories of this year’s edition of this publication, Pat Cavanaugh shared in her interview a great deal about her background, the cities in which she lived, and the early years of her career. It was interesting material.

About three weeks after the first interview for “This is SVSU” occurred, Pat called to say, “I really want my story to be about the programs, the Braun Fellowship, the Bay City High School Writing Workshop and the Saginaw Bay Writing Project,” — “please.” And so, a second interview was scheduled and the truer face and truest story of Pat Cavanaugh emerged — that of a teacher who loves teaching.

A little bit of Pat’s past certainly doesn’t hurt, and it helps explain her passion. She is the daughter of an English teacher, and the granddaughter of an English teacher; hence it should come as no surprise that early in Pat’s career, she was a high school literature and writing teacher in Bay City. Fast forward to 1999 and her arrival at SVSU, armed with her Ph.D. and a teaching load that consistently includes First Year Writing, Methods of Teaching Writing, General Education Literature, American Lit, Writing in the Professions and Methods of Teaching English, a class for English majors and minors who will be teachers. This is not just a laundry list of courses. It is what Pat Cavanaugh does, and what Pat Cavanaugh loves.

When Pat is not teaching in a classroom setting, she is working with all sorts of students who’ll become better writers. Elementary kids. High school students hoping to improve their chances of getting into college. College students who might need help themselves or possibly college students who can mentor and help others become better writers. They all cross paths with Pat Cavanaugh.

Writing students throughout the region have benefited from Pat Cavanaugh’s devotion to teaching and writing. She worked closely for years with the Bay City Central Writing Center to recruit SVSU students to head outbound to Bay County to work with high school students. An inbound program she coordinated with a teacher at Bay City Central brought high school seniors to campus to work with SVSU mentors to become literacy coaches. Four years ago, a teacher and friend of Pat’s suggested they do a project together that brought SVSU tutors to Bay County’s McAlear and Sawden Schools to work one-on-one with kids. Bob Pawlak was another teacher-friend and when he transferred the next semester to Auburn, the two repeated the program there. With Bob, Pat also co-leads the Saginaw Bay Writing Project Summer Institute, a four-week program held on the SVSU campus for practicing teachers, kindergarten through college. The joy of these projects, all true labors of love, is obvious in conversations with Pat.

When is enough enough? Apparently “never” if you’re Pat Cavanaugh. Her newest projects now include one she is developing with Trish Burns, director of Saginaw Public Libraries, who wants to find ways to get students involved in tutoring at libraries, as well as ways to get teachers connected to libraries. Pat’s Methods of Teaching English course is where she got “a germ of an idea” to have students go to Saginaw’s Hoyt Library and work with the librarians. “I don’t know yet if it’s a gem (or a germ),” she laughs, but knowing Pat, it’ll likely be another successful outreach program.

Another project Pat is highly engaged in is a result of her selection as a recipient of the prestigious Braun Fellowship Program, an annual fellowship for three years that is designed to recognize and further the scholarly or professional activities of SVSU faculty. It is probably pretty obvious that Pat’s work would center around tutoring and students, and so she has created what she calls the “Braun Team,” a group of four student researchers who are assisting her with her plan to discern every tutoring and mentoring program or opportunity at SVSU. The result will be a published book and a Web site that will not only recognize the programs, but tell the stories of how much the SVSU community is engaged in vital, volunteer work. Additionally, Pat will author a journal article on tutoring, likely looking at its history and the differences between the U.S. and other parts of the world.

It’s no wonder that this highly active and enthusiastic professor was named recipient of the 2007-08 Franc Landee Award for Excellence in Teaching. And with a little time spent with her, it’s further no surprise that she wanted her story to be about everything she does — for what Pat Cavanaugh does, is who Pat Cavanaugh is.

Mentor who makes things happen. Tutor and teacher. Woman who wants the writer in all of us to be shared and celebrated. This is Pat Cavanaugh. This is SVSU.