Major: computer information systems
Next up: George Mason University, master’s program in applied information technology
Career prospects: project manager in information technology
Fun fact: Aldubayyan initially thought of attending college in Australia, but an SVSU representative at a higher education fair in Saudi Arabia convinced him and his friend to choose Saginaw instead.
Rashed Aldubayyan couldn’t speak much English when the Saudi Arabia native first enrolled in the English Language Program at Saginaw Valley State University in 2010.
Five years later, he’s mastered the language along with the academics as he prepares to graduate in May and attend the master’s program in applied information technology at George Mason University in the fall.
“It has been an incredible experience,” the Riyadh native said of his growth at SVSU. “I feel like being here has developed so many of my skills.”
In a 5-year span, Aldubayyan went from speaking little English to becoming one of the university’s student leaders. His leadership at SVSU included serving as the Student Association’s ombudsman, and as a member of both Sigma Pi fraternity and Forever Red, a student-alumni networking organization that raises funds for student scholarships.
Pat Shelley, an international student advisor whom Aldubayyan considers a mentor, said one of the highlights of his career included being invited to stand with Aldubayyan during the 2014 SVSU homecoming football game where he was recognized as a member of the school’s homecoming court.
“He is a very good example of an international student who has made a very successful effort to go beyond the comfort zone of his own countrymen and language to meet and mix with all students on campus,” Shelley said.
Leaving “the comfort zone” wasn’t easy, Aldubayyan admits now. In fact, during his first year on campus — when he was still learning the basics of English — Aldubayyan struggled to find his place. Then he applied as a student worker for SVSU’s Orientations Programs.
“I was a little terrified to do it at first,” he said. “After talking to Rachel (Florence-Spaetzel, the program director), she talked me into it. I got an interview and I got the job, and when I saw all the Orientation leaders and how enthusiastic and energetic they were, I said, ‘You know what? This is amazing. I love it.’”
The experience helped him clear a hurdle socially at SVSU, and soon he joined other opportunities on campus. He gives credit to other faculty and staff that helped him adjust and excel at the new setting. Those supporters include Bryan Crainer, associate dean for Student Life and leadership programs; Scott James, professor of computer science and information systems; Jason Swackhamer, director of Web Communications; and Richard Thompson, ombudsman.
Aldubayyan said he would encourage any international student prospect to enroll at SVSU.
“I wish I could stay another year,” he said.
Still, he is excited for the next stage of his life: graduate school. Once he graduates from George Mason University, he hopes to find work as a project manager in the information technology field.
His experience at SVSU has convinced him to stay out of his comfort zone while pursuing his career.
“I would like to eventually go back home to Saudi Arabia and stay there, but I wouldn’t want that right away,” Aldubayyan said. “I’m enjoying this time.”
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Next up: teaching English in Colombia
Fun fact: Marr lived in Iceland for a year in 2003-04, when her mother was stationed there with the U.S. Navy.
Teaching and traveling have always fascinated Stephanie Marr.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Saginaw Valley State University in May, Marr plans to combine those two passions by teaching English in other countries. Her first stop in June is Colombia, as she has been chosen for the English Teaching Fellowship by Heart for Change, an organization that brings English teachers to Colombia.
“Ever since I was 7, I wanted to be a teacher,” the Freeland resident said. “I just love to learn, and one of the great ways to learn is to teach.”
Her SVSU experience — and her life, in general — has prepared her for a career as a globetrotting educator, engaged in the communities surrounding her, she said.
Through a study abroad program, she lived in Costa Rica for four months in fall 2013, when she volunteered to teach English to both children and adolescents. As a Spanish major, she is fluent in that language, but Marr said she also knows elements of 11 other languages: Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Filipino, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Swahili and Tagalog.
Marr has a well-traveled family. Her mother is from the Philippines, of Asian and Hispanic descent — and her parents met while serving in the U.S. Navy, traveling the globe. Her brother currently serves in the Navy and is stationed near Tokyo, where she plans to teach once she’s earned a teaching certificate at SVSU within the next year.
Marr also has hopes to teach in China, Taiwan and South Korea, as well as in nations in South America.
“Every experience abroad builds me as a person,” she said of her desire to teach abroad.
“It’s so fun to get out, to experience a different culture. I like to consider myself a person who is open to different things.”
Here at SVSU, Marr’s international interests were on display when she directed both the 2014 and 2015 Intercultural Night, an event featuring music and other expressions of culture from the school’s international students.
Her commitment to seeing the show — and its students — succeed provided one example of Marr’s outstanding leadership abilities, said one of her SVSU mentors.
“Stephanie is one of the most positive and upbeat students that I have had the opportunity to work with,” said Dick Thompson, SVSU’s ombudsman who has worked at the campus since 1970.
“She cares deeply about people, and it shows.”
Her involvement on campus is extensive.
Marr was a representative in Student Association (SVSU’s student government), and served in SVSU’s Residence Hall Association. She has been a member of the SVSU chapter of Alpha Phi Omega, a national co-ed service fraternity where she served as a voting delegate at the national conference in Chicago in December. Marr also joined the International Student Club, where she served as vice president during 2014-15. She has worked in SVSU’s Orientation Programs and Multicultural Services offices, and was a tour guide for the university’s Club Red group.
Her extensive résumé served purposes near to her heart, Marr said.
“Leadership, friendship and service are not just the cardinal principles of Alpha Phi Omega; those three principles have been important to me ever since high school,” said the 2011 Freeland High School graduate.
“I just want to continue teaching, and to touch other people’s lives.”
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Valerie Adams is ready for the next challenging step in her academic life.
And already she’s plotting the step after that.
After graduating from Saginaw Valley State University in May, she will move to North Carolina, where she is enrolled in the highly competitive Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Duke University.
The exercise science major begins the 3-year program at Duke next fall. With that destination locked in, she’s begun seeking institutions offering a Ph.D. in epidemiology, the study of the spread of disease.
“I would love to do research and be engaged in both the clinical and research side of things,” the Washington Township native said.
Adams, a 2011 graduate of Rochester Stoney Creek High School, hopes to open her own physical therapy clinic and specialize in women's health.
Rebecca Schlaff, SVSU assistant professor of kinesiology, was Adams' faculty mentor for both her honors thesis and a research project designed by Adams. Schlaff said Adams already displays the initiative of a graduate student and young professional as she pushes herself to deeply understand the material covered in classes.
“Of all the undergraduate students I have taught and mentored, I easily consider Val to be in the top 1 percent with respect to her intelligence, maturity, critical thinking ability, creativity, and capacity for high quality work,” Schlaff said.
As a student, Adams has received funding from SVSU's Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Student Research and Creativity Institute for her research about athletes’ perceptions of nutrition and their athletic performance. She has presented her research at the Midwest American College of Sports Medicine conference, where she was awarded the Undergraduate Research Award of Excellence.
Through her research, Schlaff said Adams has made a significant impact in educating SVSU student-athletes and her fellow kinesiology students about proper nutrition.
“Val truly is a leader among her peers, consistently seeking out opportunity to involve other students within any endeavor she engages, providing an excellent example for her peers. I truly believe these actions have significantly impacted the student culture within our department and will be felt for years after she graduates,” Schlaff said.
Adams is working on manuscripts with plans to publish her research. She also has served as a student research assistant for two faculty grant projects.
In addition to her academic prowess, Adams has served other leadership positions on campus. She is the fitness coordinator for SVSU’s Campus Recreation office, overseeing the Fit Into College Program that teaches SVSU freshmen about the value, fun and simplicity of leading a healthy lifestyle.
A resident assistant in SVSU’s Pine Grove apartments, Adams also is a member of the National Residence Hall Honorary. She serves on the board of directors for Forever Red, a student-alumni networking organization that raises funds for student scholarships, and is a member of the Student Exercise Science Association.
Adams values her SVSU opportunities and is grateful to the faculty members who have supported her through her undergraduate experience.
“That has given me the encouragement I needed to pursue some of my dreams and some of my goals,” she said. “They're reachable and I need to tackle them.”
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Saginaw Valley State University student Cullen James recently won the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science’s (ASCLS) 2015 viral video contest.
James, a medical laboratory science major from Birch Run, submitted a 99-second video that promotes the benefits of being a member of the society.
The video, featuring James providing voiceover audio to images showing clinical lab science being performed in facilities at both SVSU and Covenant HealthCare, is available on YouTube here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoYoIGoiFsM&feature=youtu.be
“I think this was a wonderful opportunity for me to use my hobbies to do something constructive, and I hope to be able to do so again in the future,” said James.
“I am very excited to represent my wonderful state and school with this video. I am so glad that people have not only watched it, but enjoyed it and want to share it with others. That kind of a reaction feels amazing and I am very thankful. I am grateful for the opportunity to share information about such an important profession that I love.”
In a letter informing James of his winning entry, ASCLS members praised the video.
“The originality of the music score and the visual effects were incredible,” the letter reads.
James, who is completing a laboratory internship at Saginaw's Covenant HealthCare, submitted the video as part of a project for his clinical experience at SVSU.
He will graduate from SVSU in May, when he hopes to begin a career as a lab technologist in an area medical facility. James said his experience with SVSU's medical laboratory science program prepared him for success in the industry.
“We have wonderful professors here who have fostered my academic growth,” he said. “We're the fifth class that's gone through this program, and it's improved every year. Before I came here, I saw SVSU as a place with great academic integrity that cared so much about the success of students, and (the medical laboratory science program) proved that to me.”
James will receive $200 toward a party to celebrate the contest win as well as free registration to the ASCLS annual conference in Atlanta in July. He plans to attend.
Next up: medical student, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine
Career prospects: E.R. doctor
Fun fact: Skwirsk is a recreational archer. “I’ve sacrificed a lot of hobbies because of the hours involved in being a pre-med student, but I’m hoping to pick all that up again,” he said.
Brandon Skwirsk knew he wanted to become a doctor in the sixth grade.
But it wasn’t until he began studying for the profession at Saginaw Valley State University that he truly realized the career was a match made for him.
“I fell in love with it here,” said Skwirsk, set to graduate from SVSU in May with a bachelor’s degree in biology.
Specifically, he wants to become an emergency room doctor. The next step in chasing such a career begins this fall when he becomes a medical student at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. There, he expects to spend two years at the pre-clinical campus in East Lansing and another two years on clinical studies at a medical facility somewhere in the state.
One of Skwirsk’s mentors, Gary Lange, professor of biology, said the Flint native “is bound to make SVSU proud” in his career.
“Brandon impresses me with his intelligence, care, and dedication to his academic studies,” Lange said.
“In all the classes he has taken from me, Brandon immersed himself into his work to deeply understand the specific field of biology. All students strive to understand the general concepts of a course, but Brandon delved significantly more deeply into the subjects to discover universal principles about the study of life.”
Lange predicts Skwirsk will prove “exceptional” in the medical field.
Skwirsk said his interest in the profession began as a boy.
“I was inspired by the doctors I saw when I was growing up,” said the 2011 Flint Carman-Ainsworth High School graduate. “They were such positive influences, and my pediatrician was wonderful. I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
He received his first taste of training when he joined the Boy Scouts, eventually achieving the rank of Eagle Scout in 2010. The experience educated him on performing C.P.R., dealing with illness and setting broken arms.
His experience while studying biology at SVSU piqued his interest further. The university provided opportunities to job shadow E.R. doctors and help people and communities in need. One of SVSU’s initiatives, the medical scribe program, tasks students with helping Covenant HealthCare physicians create medical documentation.
“This is the place where I found out who I was,” Skwirsk said. “It really validated what I wanted to do. This definitely prepared me for where I’m going.”
Skwirsk already has contributed to local health care. As a member of SVSU’s chapter of Phi Delta Epsilon, a fraternity for prospective medical doctors, he helped raise more than $6,000 for Hurley Medical Center's Children's Miracle Network in 2013. The network supports improving medical facilities and healthcare for ailing youths.
He also participated in SVSU’s Alternative Breaks program, which sends volunteers to locations across the globe during college winter and spring breaks. In December 2011, he traveled to San Francisco, where he helped victims of homelessness.
“It’s been invaluable, the experience with the community,” said Skwirsk, who rarely misses a chance to donate blood when local organizations set up donation centers on campus.
As he prepares for the next chapter in life, Skwirsk said he will miss SVSU when he graduates.
“Every chapter has to have an ending,” he said. “I’m just glad this is where I spent this chapter.”
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Hard work, academic dedication and opportunity earned Luke Sheppard a full-time job before he received his college degree.
The Saginaw Valley State University student was hired full-time as a math teacher at Bridgeport Middle School, weeks before earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics education in May.
“I really appreciate the fact that they noticed how hard I was working,” said Sheppard, who was a student teacher at the school before district officials hired him on a full-time basis in April.
“I’m really honored that they can trust me with a class without having too much to go on. It says they noticed that I work hard and that I’m passionate about the kids.”
Not everyone is surprised by Sheppard’s rare feat. Even those who understand the challenging job market for K-12 schools in Michigan.
Jonathon Gould, SVSU associate professor of teacher education, called Sheppard “a natural teacher.”
“It didn’t surprise me,” Gould said about news of Sheppard’s job. “He is great in public speaking, and he’s a genuine, team-orientated leader.”
Gould, a member of SVSU’s faculty for eight years, said Sheppard was among the “top 5 percent” of his students. Gould said Sheppard’s natural teaching talents and his efforts to network with officials in the K-12 system likely won him the full-time position.
“He was always willing to go above and beyond,” Gould said.
Sheppard said his efforts were aimed at achieving a goal he had been pursuing since he was a child, watching his now-retired father teach special education and coach track at local schools.
“I like it when kids have that ‘ah-ha’ moment, and they understand they might not have gotten there on their own,” the 2010 Frankenmuth High School graduate said.
Through his SVSU education, Sheppard had field experience at Bay City Handy Middle School as well as Bridgeport High School.
“I was thinking I would teach higher-level classes, but it’s been interesting to work with middle school students,” he said. “They’re really fun once you get through that hard exterior and goofball-ness.”
While he’s excited for the new career, Sheppard said he will miss his experiences at SVSU.
“Everyone I came across here was extremely helpful,” he said. “I’ll miss being a student in class, instead of being the one with everyone’s eyes on you.”
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An unexpected opportunity resulted in an impressive performance by students in Saginaw Valley State University's moot court program.Students Mark Babcock, a psychology major from Saginaw, and Felicia Jostock, a criminal justice major from North Branch, advanced as a team to the quarterfinals round of the American Collegiate Moot Court Association national invitational tournament in Chicago April 24-25.
The SVSU duo's deep run came as a surprise because SVSU wasn't planning to compete in the tournament just 24 hours before it began.
Julie Keil, assistant professor of political science and adviser to the SVSU moot court program, was scheduled to volunteer at the tournament. The day before the competition, one team dropped out of the tournament, and officials with the American Collegiate Moot Court Association asked Keil if SVSU students could step in.
Jostock and Babcock answered the call, driving to Chicago Friday morning.
“We have some awesome ‘mooters’ in our program,” Keil said. “Anyone who can pick up the case after five months of not looking at it, and can come close to winning the tournament on one day's notice, is an outstanding competitor.”
With little preparation, the duo won several rounds and advanced beyond the first day of competition. On the second day, the SVSU team defeated the tournament's No. 3-seeded pair before falling short in the quarterfinal round to a team from The University of Chicago.
In a moot court competition, students act as attorneys in teams of two. They make arguments to a panel of judges by drawing from constitutional law and Supreme Court cases. Judges then decide winners based on public speaking ability, knowledge of cases and of law, and the ability to answer questions.
“I had to get my shift covered at work and make arrangements at home, but I was able to go,” Jostock said. “It was extremely fun. I was super nervous.”
The successful showing for Babcock and Jostock is the latest accomplishment for the moot court program.
In January, Samantha Jackson, a political science major from Goodells, and Rachel Stocki, a business major from St. Clair, together placed 21st in the national tournament in Miami.
SVSU finished 2014 ranked No. 20 out of 75 colleges and universities competing in the American Collegiate Moot Court Association.
Earlier in April, SVSU graduate and former undergraduate moot court competitor Ashley Hanson Chrysler was part of a Michigan State University College of Law team that won the nation's largest law school-level moot court competition.
Next up: University of Rochester, Ph.D. program in neuroscience
Career prospects: neuroscience researcher
Fun fact: Salois once worked aboard Bay City’s Appledore IV sailboat, which provides tours and participates in events across the Great Lakes.
For years, Garrick Salois racked his brain, searching for his niche as an undergraduate student.
Eventually, the Kawkawlin native realized the brain was his niche.
Salois this fall will attend the University of Rochester’s Ph.D. program in neuroscience, studying for a career in brain research.
“The brain is one of the most complex things I know of,” said Salois, who will graduate from Saginaw Valley State University in May with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
“It’s incredible to see its workings firsthand. It’s an insanely complex system.”
Salois’ fascination with the organ began in SVSU’s Brain Research Laboratory, six years after he graduated from Bay City Western High School in 2007. His early years in college included stints as both a business and sociology major. Eventually, he settled on psychology. Then in 2013, when he heard a classmate’s presentation on the Brain Research Laboratory, he decided to investigate its opportunities.
“I have been in that lab ever since,” he said.
The Brain Research Lab specializes in how the brain changes following traumatic injury.
“It took me a while to adjust,” Salois said of his initial experience in the lab. “I started off by doing a lot of reading to see what other people were doing. I was in the lab every day.”
That dedication and passion paid off. Less than two years later, Salois’ research experience helped him gain acceptance letters from several Ph.D. programs for neuroscience.
Jeffrey Smith, SVSU’s Malcolm and Lois Field Endowed Chair of Health Sciences, called Salois “an exemplary example of what is possible at SVSU.”
“He is a hardworking, motivated learner who wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, but through exploration as a student at SVSU, found his passion,” said Smith, who helps oversee the SVSU laboratory. “Garrick fully embraced the life of a young scientist.”
Smith said Galois has excelled in engaging in challenging coursework across multiple departments.
His accomplishments at SVSU include earning both a Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Student Research and Creativity Institute grant as well as a Field Neuroscience Fellowship, presenting research at national conferences, and being part of a team that published research in the leading journal for neurotrauma research.
Salois credits Smith’s tutelage for this relatively newfound love of brain science.
“He’s changed my life,” Salois said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without him.”
Salois said finding this niche was worth the wait.
“There are incredible opportunities here if you’re willing to work for them,” he said.
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Next up: London theater internship
Career prospects: actress
Fun fact: Longwell’s acting career began at 4, when she played a duck in a production of “Noah’s Ark.” “I had little yellow suspenders and matching yellow shoes,” she said. “My line was, ‘Quack.’ That’s where it started.”
Lexee Longwell is about to make her dreams come true.
When she graduates from Saginaw Valley State University in May, the theatre major will move to London, England to join Ovation Limited Theatre Co. as an intern at the arts group’s venue, Upstairs At The Gatehouse.
“I woke up in the middle of the night a few months ago after having a dream of being abroad someplace,” said Longwell, who has appeared — many times as a lead actor — in 19 SVSU productions.
“I’ve always wanted to go abroad, but I never had time. After that dream, I decided I was going to make time.”
So Longwell sent an application to Global Experiences International Internship Programs, and within weeks, she was accepted. The program then placed her with the London theatre troupe, which will be staging a production of “The Drowsy Chaperone” during her stay from June to August.
David Rzeszutek, SVSU assistant professor of theatre, “was not surprised” to learn Longwell secured the internship.
“She is a driven and talented student,” said Rzeszutek, a director who has cast Longwell in a number of his SVSU productions.
Her responsibilities will include costume and stage design, public relations work and a variety of behind-the-scenes activities.
“I can’t wait,” she said of her first trip overseas. “I’m kind of nervous, but I have a lot of faith in taking chances. If things have fallen into place in such a remarkably short amount of time, I’m sure it’s going to be good.”
Longwell is accustomed to immediate results. After the 2011 Hartland High School graduate arrived at the university via the Distinguished Theatre Arts Scholarship, she scored a leading role in her first audition for an SVSU production, “Wiley and The Hairy Man.”
“I was told this was a school that allows opportunities, and there I was, as a freshman, and I had a lead,” she said.
Her favorite roles at SVSU include playing Desdemona in “Othello” this February, and Audrey in “Little Shop of Horrors” in April 2012. Others may remember her as Ulla in November 2014’s “The Producers.”
Rzeszutek said one of his favorite memories of Longwell happened in February 2013, when she performed with some of the nation’s best college thespians at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center during the American College Theatre Festival. The two were riding in an elevator following one of Longwell’s performances.
“She turned to me and said, ‘I now know I can do this,’” Rzeszutek recalled. “It was the moment that Lexee needed for herself; to give herself permission to succeed. I have no doubt that she will find continued success in her career.”
Born in Tennessee, Longwell describes her life in the performing arts as “an inevitable thing.” Her parents played in a band together in Ohio and encouraged Longwell and her older sister to participate in the arts from a young age.
“I have such an amazing support system with my family,” she said. “They’re all passionate about this with me. The same with my professors here, and my friends.”
When she returns from London, Longwell hopes to move near her family in Holland, Michigan and act in community theatre in the Grand Rapids region. Eventually, she wants to join Chicago’s professional theatre scene.
“I love putting energy into positive outlets,” she said, “and being able to be a part of something that’s bigger than me.”
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Double major: biology, Spanish
Next up: Miami University, Ph.D. program in ecology, evolution and environmental biology
Career prospects: biology professor
Fun fact: Strasburg is the first member of her family to attend college.
Miranda Strasburg wasn’t like most children.
Instead of being repulsed — as plenty of kids are — by the slimy, slippery nature of amphibians, the Millington native wanted to bring home frogs and newts as pets.
“I was the one who would go out and catch them in the woods,” she said.
Today, Strasburg continues to distinguish herself from her peers thanks to her love of all things amphibious and alive.
After she graduates from Saginaw Valley State University in May with a bachelor’s degree in biology and Spanish, she will leap-frog the typical path of a student who graduates with a baccalaureate degree and then enters a master’s program. Instead, Strasburg in August will immediately jump to a doctoral program when she moves to Oxford, Ohio to attend Miami University’s Ph.D. program in ecology, evolution and environmental biology.
There, she will study amphibian conservation.
“The populations of amphibians — animals such as frogs and salamanders — are declining because they’re susceptible to pollutants and diseases,” the 2010 Mayville High School graduate said. “They are important to this world because they’re a keystone species. We need them to sustain other species.”
Eventually, Strasburg plans to teach in higher education while continuing research in the field of ecology.
One of her SVSU mentors, Art Martin, associate professor of biology, said Strasburg has the work ethic, intelligence and passion necessary to become a solid Ph.D. student as well as a college professor.
“She’s one of the most aggressive students I’ve ever had,” Martin said. “Once she figures out what she wants, she jumps in feet first in a way I’ve never seen another student jump in. She’s relentless, and it has led her to huge success.”
While Strasburg’s love of frogs began in childhood, several experiences at SVSU cemented her desire to seek a career centering on the animal.
After switching one of her majors from biology to criminal justice, it was a trip outside the state that inspired her to return to her biology studies.
Through the campus Alternative Breaks program, Strasburg was one of 12 students who traveled to South Padre Island, Texas to help rescue, rehabilitate and release injured sea turtles in March 2012.
“For a while, I didn’t think I could do biology, but after that trip, I thought, ‘OK, yes, I can,’” she said.
Her interest in research was inspired by another SVSU experience.
Martin last year convinced Strasburg to apply for a grant through SVSU’s Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Student Research and Creativity Institute. Receiving the funding, Strasburg designed her own project, which analyzed the behavior of crayfish in different aquatic environments. In January, she presented her findings at the Society of Comparative and Integrative Biology conference in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Strasburg is a self-described “ball of energy,” whose interest in biology led her to participate in SVSU programs such as the Saginaw Bay Environmental Science Institute as well as the Dow Science and Sustainability Education Center. She also has kept busy at SVSU as a resident assistant, a Writing Center tutor, a member of both Alpha Mu Gamma and Sigma Delta Pi — both national collegiate foreign language honor societies — as well as a member of both the National Residence Hall Honorary and the Residence Hall Association.
“It has been life changing,” Strasburg said of her SVSU experience.
“I came here not knowing what I wanted to do, and SVSU has helped me discover my passion and find my path. I love everything about this place. I am truly going to miss it.”
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