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Staff and Tutors

Helen Raica-Klotz

Writing Center Director

I am pleased to be the Writing Center Director at SVSU, working with such talented and dedicated tutors! I’ve taught freshman composition and general education literature classes at SVSU for over 15 years; during that time, I served for seven years as the Writing Center Coordinator and for two years as the First Year Writing Coordinator. My writing center research focuses on embedded tutoring, international student tutoring, and community writing centers. Chris Giroux, the Assistant Director, and I are proud to be the Co-Directors of the Saginaw and Bay Area Community Writing Centers, the first on-site community writing centers in the state of Michigan. I also serve as the Director for the Saginaw Bay Writing Project, a National Writing Project site designed to create programs to support area K-12 writing teachers.

My favorite part of the day is anytime I walk out of my office into our writing center filled with students talking, debating, and thinking aloud about their writing—as Beth Boquet says, “It is a cacophony of sound” that I never tire of hearing.

Chris Giroux

Writing Center Assistant Director

I’ve worked at SVSU for almost 15 years and most of my time is spent teaching English 111, English 212, and general education literature courses. I take much joy in trying to demystify the writing process for students and teach them the conventions of academia; I love to witness that “ah-ha” moment when things click for students and they challenge themselves to move to the next level. My goal is to help students be conscious about and deliberate in the decisions they make as they engage in the joys (and pains) of writing.

Outside the traditional classroom, I have involved myself in various activities and programs that celebrate and promote good writing at SVSU: I’ve served as the faculty advisor to Cardinal Sins; I’ve been co-editor of Literacy Link; I’ve been involved with the Honors Program and the First Year Writing Committee; and I helped establish the internship program in English.

Other “writerly” aspects of my life? I recently completed my dissertation at Wayne State University, where I specialized in twentieth-century American literature, specifically African-American drama, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have poems published in various venues.

Hillary Degner

Technical Writer

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I graduated from SVSU in May 2015 with my degree in Professional and Technical Writing. As a student, I tutored at the Writing Center for over two years. I loved my time as a tutor and I am very happy to remain with the SVSU community through my technical writing position.

My favorite part about being a tutor was helping students feel more confident about their writing. I also gained confidence and became very involved in the writing center field. I mentored new tutors, conducted research about tutor mental health, presented at four writing center conferences, and received the YWCA Emerging Woman Leader Award for my leadership and contributions to the SVSU and writing center communities.

When I was a student at SVSU, I wrote for The Valley Vanguard and studied abroad in Ireland and Greece. I am a graduate student in Eastern Michigan University's Written Communication program, where I teach first-year writing and tutor in the University Writing Center. I am also researching PhD programs, and I hope to someday work as a university writing center administrator. In my free time I enjoy reading, listening to music (especially from my record player), making jewelry, traveling, searching for beach glass with my family, and practicing yoga.

Emma Kirsch

CWC Coordinator

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I am a third-year Early Childhood Education major from Clinton Township. In addition to working at The Writing Center, I am a closed member in Forever Red, a reporter for The Valley Vanguard, an Orientation Leader, and a member of Foundation Scholars. I think SVSU is such a special place, and I am forever thankful for the many opportunities and relationships it has given me. In May 2017, I became the Coordinator of the Saginaw and Bay Area Community Writing Centers. Through writing workshops and tutorial sessions, I have the opportunity to collaborate with members of the community and have interesting conversations about writing. I enjoy helping others, and this role allows me to do this in a meaningful way.

During the summer, I work for the Clinton Township Recreation Department as the Early Childhood Program Instructor. This is probably one of the best jobs imaginable! I get to be outside all day hanging out with adorable children while playing games and doing crafts. Additionally, I am a softball umpire for ten-year-olds.

I cannot pick a favorite book, which I know sounds cliché. Some of the books I have read and enjoyed are You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know, My Year with Eleanor, Escape, and The Glass Castle. I enjoy reading memoirs and autobiographies because they are often inspirational, remind me not to take my blessings for granted, and allow me to view someone’s life from their perspective. While reading is nice, I would much rather spend my time with family and friends. I would consider hanging out, goofing around, and eating to be my hobbies.

I love working at The Writing Center! Helping others gain knowledge and an understanding of the writing process is a task I truly enjoy. Writing is a wonderful way to express yourself clearly. When speaking, once the thought has left your mouth, you cannot take it back or modify it. Writing allows you to refine, clarify, and deepen your own understanding of your ideas. College students are constantly asked to write, and we all have room for improvement as writers. I look forward to helping my fellow students become stronger, more confident writers.

Joshua Cianek

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I grew up just north of Bay City in the small town of Linwood, where I still reside today. I started my academic career at SVSU through the Great Lakes Bay Early College. I am majoring in political science and history with the intent to attend law school after I graduate in 2020.

Over the course of my time at SVSU my appreciation for reading has grown immensely. Oftentimes it can be very difficult to find time to sit down and read for leisure. Although, when the opportunities arise I can be found reading books covering various topics such as political theory, early American history, or dystopian novels. If I had to choose one book that had carried the most impact in my life it would have to be John Stuart Mills' On Liberty.

When it comes to ice cream flavors, my go to is always cookies & cream. However, that's not to say I have completely closed myself off to the idea of dabbling with mint chocolate chip or black cherry. I personally think having a diverse appreciation of something (including ice cream) is very admirable. I have a very broad taste in music that leads to me listening to The Beatles on Monday and Billy Joel on Tuesday. If I have neglected to supply myself with music for a long road trip, I will often resolve to NPR or Polka music.

If I could live anywhere in the world I would probably settle in the northwest of the United States; flanked by the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean (along with ample opportunities to ski and hike). I have always found something soothing about the pattering of rain; therefore, the climate in Washington would be ideal. On rainy days I entertain myself with chess or other strategic board games such as Catan and Risk.

I am looking forward to working at the Writing Center because of the potential impact I can have on the campus of SVSU and the local community. Helping other individuals has always been a very important passion for me, and the Writing Center will provide me with an avenue to exercise that passion.

Michael Flores

I am a third-year student at SVSU, majoring in Political Science and minoring in Criminal Justice. Interestingly enough, I am from Saginaw! After spending an entire semester introducing myself to students and staff, I’ve come to realize just how rare it is to meet another Saginawian on campus.

I am a nontraditional student; I originally enrolled at MSU after graduating from Nouvel Catholic Central, but I wasn’t ready to commit myself to academics. I spent the next few years traveling outside of Michigan, and eventually made my way back to Saginaw and SVSU.

It may come as a surprise to some, but I do not have a favorite book or ice cream flavor. I enjoy plays more than anything else; Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams are my two favorite playwrights. Their bodies of work alone are worth getting lost in. When it comes to ice cream, I don’t like sugar or sweets at all. I do have one exception. I will eat a piece of my son Elliott’s cake upon request. He is four years old, and for the past two years he more or less has demanded that I eat a piece of his cake with him on his birthday.

On a rainy day I love watching CNN, looking for academic scholarships, and looking on Zillow for my dream house. If I could live anywhere, I would pick up and move to New Orleans yesterday. Like I mentioned above, I really do love Tennessee Williams, and, therefore, I have a serious obsession with NOLA. I visited there two years ago, and I am itching to return as soon as I can. I stayed in an Airbnb rental home in the historic neighborhood of Algiers, and I imagine that neighborhood is exactly what Heaven looks like.

Before I came to SVSU, I studied at Delta Community College and worked at their Writing Center. More than anything, I am excited to be afforded this new opportunity to continue my tutoring career in what I recognize as a more distinguished writing center.

Sam Geffert

I am a fourth-year Secondary Education student with a concentration in English and minors in ESL and Japanese. I am passionate about language, communication, and traveling. My goal is to teach English abroad.

Growing up, my favorite books were The Witches by Roald Dahl and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I was drawn to their illustrations and unusual characters. Currently, my favorite novel is The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.

The Writing Center has given me the opportunity to work with all types of students. Last summer, I was able to work with English language learners in Tokushima, Japan. This year, I will be hosting workshops in the Saginaw Correctional Facility. As an Education major, I enjoy learning through the different backgrounds and perspectives of the students who use our services. It is exciting to both facilitate and participate in the learning process.

Sara Houser

Sara Houser 2

I am senior at SVSU, but I still have a long way to go, as I am double majoring in Elementary Education and English Language Arts and seeking a minor endorsement in Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). Depending on when you are reading this, I am either student teaching in Grand Rapids, MI in an ESL transitional classroom, or I am teaching ESL (and hopefully a few other subjects!) in Costa Rica! I will be returning to SVSU to walk in December of 2017 with my fellow educators, but I will be sticking around the university after that to finish up my ESL certificate and actually graduate in June 2018, so you might catch me tutoring in the Writing Center a few days a week!

I love to read, although I could never single out a book as my favorite. Lately, I’ve been getting into thiller/horror novels—to match my love for scary movies—but Mark Zusak’s The Book Thief still holds the title of my favorite book. I love writing, too, and it has opened numerous doors for me: facilitating creative writing camps, editing and writing for the writing center publication Writing@SVSU, developing and implementing workshops in homeless shelters in Saginaw, tutoring at the Saginaw Community Writing Center, and privately tutoring a handful of elementary and middle school students in reading and writing.

In my free time—if such a thing really exists—I enjoy going on camping trips, kayaking, hosting bonfires, and taking road trips all over the state. I especially love spending time with my fiancée and our Husky/Sheppard puppy, Akira.

I am always so excited to tell people about my work at the Writing Center because I believe we really do make a difference in the lives of the students with whom we work. I have spent the past three years helping students with their writing, while also improving my own writing and honing my teaching skills, and I look forward to the last few semesters I have left before graduation. It never ceases to amaze me how much I can learn from the students with whom I work and how many opportunities to learn and grow exist on our campus. I like to think that I am lucky to have the chance to work with so many wonderful people and to help the students on our campus to be the best writers they can be.

Elissa Lovell

Hello! I am originally from Saginaw, but I completed most of my schooling in Midland, so I am very at home in the tri-cities! I am also in my third year at SVSU, majoring in English education and minoring in Spanish education with a social studies endorsement. I love learning about literature and other cultures, and I look forward to completing my degree so that I can share my knowledge and love of these subjects with students someday. Although I plan to teach in middle and high school classrooms, I also would like to attend graduate school and perhaps teach at the college level.

For the longest time, I have always said that Jane Eyre is my favorite book (I’ve read it at least four times), but more recently I have fallen in love with books by Colson Whitehead, especially The Intuitionist. I love both the themes of his books as well as the unusual threads of magical realism that he uses to tell his stories. Whenever I have free time, I love to read and cook. I also love to travel and go camping in the summertime. Although so far, I have only traveled in the United States, this summer I am planning a study abroad trip to Spain that I am very excited about. If I could live anywhere in the world, for right now I would choose somewhere west, like Colorado or Montana, because of the beautiful landscapes. There I would be able to live with my boyfriend and our plethora of pets, and I could also go hiking or camping whenever I wanted.

I have always been very passionate about writing as a form of communication and expression. Working at the Writing Center, I look forward to helping others develop their skills as writers. Furthermore, I also look forward to all that I will learn from the people I work with, as previous experiences have shown me just how much you can learn from other students.

Caroline Sawatzki

Hello, everyone! I am pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering, but language, writing, and communication are still very important to me. I transferred to SVSU in Fall of 2015 after receiving my Associate’s in Science from Delta.

With Delta, I had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica, where I practiced my Spanish and took a course on Latin American literature. In August of 2015, I spent a month in Greece, thanks to the generosity of my boyfriend's family. I was completely immersed in the culture of a small mountain village (Domvraina) and had the opportunity to stay on some islands as well, all while working on learning the Greek language.

As nerdy as it sounds, I love school. My academics are really important to me and I value the variety of experiences I have gained through my education. In addition to school (and being a proud member of your Cardinal Marching Band), I enjoy ballroom dancing, singing, and playing video games—which are my guilty pleasure. My favorite ice cream flavor is moose tracks—but only the kind from a parlor with the really large fudge swirls. My favorite novel is Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. If I could pick anywhere to live, I would go back to Evia, Greece and stay on the island there with my boyfriend's grandparents.

As I begin working at the Writing Center, I am looking forward to sharing my love of writing with other students and connecting with them on a personal level. I know what a fearful experience writing can be and I hope to help alleviate that fear and inspire a love for writing in my peers. Writing is an essential skill in any field, and I hope to foster deeper appreciation and understanding of the craft in others.

Kara Steinman

Hello! My name is Kara and I am a junior here at SVSU. I'm currently working on my prerequisites for the OT program, to which I will be applying this winter.

I have perfected the art of binge watching shows on Netflix in whatever downtime I might have. Some of my all-time favorite shows are Lost, Nurse Jackie, The Office, and, most recently, Shameless - all of which I have finished in record time. Although my involvement since high school has dwindled down significantly, I do enjoy drawing and playing soccer as well. One of the most fun things I've found to do here on campus is playing on some of the different intramural sports teams. My favorite color has always been blue and my favorite ice cream will be Moose Tracks for as long as I live.

Going into a career that is as broad as OT in its client base and services, I am thankful for the opportunity to be starting at the Writing Center where I will be able to gain those one-on-one interaction skills needed for my future profession. I am most excited to be able to work with students struggling in their writing as well as learn to overcome my own writing insecurities. Additional to the Writing Center, I recently started a job at a place called Rhoda's House where I work as a direct care giver to fostered adults.

Imari Tetu

I transferred to SVSU in the fall 2017 semester. I have my associate degree from Kirtland Community College. I am majoring in professional and technical writing with a minor in communication.  My hometown is West Branch, but I live near campus during the fall and winter semesters.

I don’t have one favorite color, but I tend to prefer earth tones over brighter shades. I like moose tracks ice cream in the winter, mint chip in the summer, and french vanilla with apple pie. Books were a very important part of my early childhood, and I loved authors Jim Kjelgaard and Jean Craighead George. If I had to choose one book that most influenced me, I would have to point to a collection of short stories by Rudyard Kipling that I found at a used bookstore many years ago. It was the catalyst for my interest in classic literature. My favorite authors today are Charles Dickens and James Fenimore Cooper, and my favorite book is the Count of Monte Cristo. I own two different translations, and I believe I have read each of them at least three times. On a rainy day, I’ll probably be enjoying a good book or playing a board game with my family. My favorite games are Risk, Stratego, and Battleship. When it’s not raining, look for me to be heading down the river in my kayak. In addition to reading and being outdoors, I have a longstanding passion for dressage. I find that many people are unfamiliar with the sport; I’ll apply the usual ‘ballet with horses’ metaphor. My dream home is in Tennessee, either Franklin or Maryville.

I am very excited to begin working at the Writing Center. I look forward to both teaching and learning the art of writing across numerous disciplines. I am delighted to have the chance to consider new ideas and topics from many different classes.