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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


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


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.

Josh Atkins

This is my fourth year at SVSU pursuing a dual-major in English Literature and Creative Writing. The 2016 Fall semester also begins my first year at the Writing Center as the new Social Media Coordinator—among other duties, I’m responsible for any weird memes that crop up on our various social media accounts. I was born and raised in a small town called Richville (about a half hour from SVSU), so mid-Michigan has always been home for me.

Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and related works will always top the list of my favorite books. I remember staying up late into the night rereading them throughout grade school—while the movies will never do the books justice, I’m also a big fan of those as well. I'm a huge Star Wars nerd and could probably fill an afternoon reciting what I know about that fictional universe. My dream home would be located near a warm coast—California and Florida both sound like they’d make great places to settle down.

I enjoy using my writing skills to help others who may be struggling with any part of the writing process. I learn a lot as a tutor and I know I will carry the skill-set I develop at the Writing Center with me throughout both my academic and professional careers.

Nik Berkobien

Nik Berkobien 2

Hello, everyone! I'm currently in my fifth and final year at SVSU. I major in psychology and minor in biology. I intended on pursuing a career in neuroscience a few years back, but my interests have since shifted due to some of my study abroad experiences, so I'm still working on finding my niche.

Even though neuroscience might seem a bit disconnected from the kind of work done in the Writing Center, writing is integral to the sciences, and I love being a tutor! I enjoy helping others articulate their thoughts and achieve both academic and personal success. Seeing a writer develop, achieve goals, and gain confidence is incredibly gratifying. I also love being a tutor in the Writing Center because I learn, gain, and develop just as much as the students who come in seeking feedback do. As tutors, we get to discuss all sorts of interesting topics, ideas, and perspectives with students who are from diverse backgrounds, which is always refreshing. I look forward to learning something from every session.

Bailey Brown

Hi friends! I'm Bailey and I am a second year student here at SVSU. I grew up in the small town of Fowlerville, Michigan (located just about half way between Brighton and Lansing). I am double majoring in Spanish and Criminal Justice and have a minor in Political Science. I plan to pursue a dual master's degree in Public Health and Health Administration in graduate school. I know those degrees sound all across the board, but I would like to someday work as a victim advocate for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. 

In my free time, which is practically non-existent, I like to settle in on the couch with a cozy blanket and binge a few episodes of whatever show I happen to be watching on Netflix. I enjoy watching Grey’s Anatomy, Criminal Minds, Bones, Parks and Recreation, The 100, and Supernatural. Aside from Netflix, I also do my best to fit in time for leisure reading. My favorite books include The Kite Runner and the Harry Potter series. I was overjoyed when The Cursed Child was released! I tried my best to read it slowly and savor it, but I ended up finishing it the day after I received it. My favorite ice cream flavor can vary depending on the day, but Schwan's raspberry cheesecake ice cream will always hold a special place in my heart. If I could live anywhere in the world, I would just want it to be somewhere warm!

I am so excited to be a tutor! I am most looking forward to the opportunity to learn in this process. Reading other people's papers is incredibly insightful and is especially exciting when it is on a topic that I may never have the chance to write on myself. I find the Writing Center unique in that many of the tutors have majors and minors that don't stereotypically "relate" to writing. In the same way, I am truly looking forward to working with the wide variety of students who utilize the WC. The truly fascinating thing about tutoring is that I am going to be learning just as much as those who I'm working with as we go through the writing process together.

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.

Alexa Foor

My name is Alexa; I'm a fifth-year English major with Creative Writing and Gender Studies minors. I’m a former facilitator of the creative writing workshops at the Saginaw Community Writing Center, and I’m co-facilitating a creative writing workshop on memoirs for the OLLI program during the Fall 2017 semester. I’m also the newest poetry editor for SVSU’s literature and art publication, Cardinal Sins. I’m a volunteer victim advocate and an assistant backup SANE coordinator for the Sexual Assault Center in Saginaw. I plan on graduating at the end of this year, May 2018, and will continue on to graduate school to pursue my interest in Ecofeminist Literary Theory. I’d love to eventually become a professor, but I guess whatever happens, I want to help people—which is the basis for why I'm working at the 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.

Jordan Hessbrook

Hello, everyone! I am a fourth-year Secondary Education student pursuing a History Education major, an English Education minor, as well as a Social Studies endorsement. I am from the small-town of Ithaca, located about one hour north of Lansing and 30 minutes south of Mt. Pleasant. At SVSU, I am involved with the Student Michigan Education Association (SMEA), where I serve as our chapter’s liaison to the monthly statewide SMEA meetings.

My favorite color has been blue for as long as I can remember, and still is to this day. I am a huge ice cream fan, but if I had to pick a favorite flavor I would choose moose tracks. My hobbies include sports (especially football, baseball, and basketball), hunting for deer in the fall and turkeys in the spring, and fishing. In terms of my reading interests, I enjoy reading books pertaining to my hobbies. Being more specific, I have always enjoyed John U. Bacon’s books detailing Michigan football. I have just bought (but have not started yet) his newest book, Endzone: The Rise, Fall, and Return of Michigan Football. Believe it or not, there is no place I would rather live in the world than Michigan! It is a great place to enjoy the outdoors, even if the weather makes it difficult at times. However, I am interested in traveling. A goal of mine has always been to go on a hunting trip for elk or whitetail deer with my dad and my younger brother. For an elk hunt, I would like to go to either Colorado or Oregon, and for a deer hunt I would go to Iowa or Saskatchewan, Canada.

I am very excited about the opportunity to work at the Writing Center! Going into the education field, I have a passion for helping others improve their skills and studies, as well as better developing their ideas, and cannot wait to share that passion with those who come into the Writing Center. I am also excited about learning from the other, more experienced tutors on staff about strategies and techniques they have found to make them better at their job. This is not only so I can better serve the students who come to the Writing Center, but also the students I will someday have in my future classroom!

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.

Madison Martin

Hello, all, I am Madison Martin, a fourth-year student at SVSU. I am hoping to complete a dual major in Theatre and English, and a minor in Creative Writing. What I'm going to do with these studies, I couldn't tell you. In addition to tutoring, I also work in the Office of Student Life where I coordinate events and book rooms for organizations on campus.

My favorite flavor of ice cream, if I had to choose, would be strawberry, or vanilla with rainbow sprinkles. I love theatre; it is a huge passion of mine, and I’ve been involved in plays since I was in fifth grade. As such, I would really like to live somewhere like New York, Chicago, or London, where there's a vibrant theater community—and night life. I’m also a very crafty person. Whether it’s making my own (awesome) cards, making jewelry, or creating characters out of clay, I love it all. On rainy days, I like to sit down with a book, or watch Netflix (currently binge-watching Supernatural). I am a night owl, do most of my best work at night, and definitely don't like getting up in the mornings.

At the Writing Center I enjoy helping students understand writing and come to love it as much as I do. It's a great way to express yourself, as it's literally your thoughts in words. I like that tutoring allows me to help students develop their written voices, and think of writing less as an obligation, and more as a fun exercise in expression.

Renee Okenka

Hi! My name is Renee and I am currently a third year at SVSU, pursuing a degree in English secondary education and a minor in English as a second language. My goal is to become an ESL teacher abroad in order to combine my passions for teaching and traveling.

The Harry Potter series have always been important books to me. They became more than just books, as it was something my whole family read and were able to bond over. This love for the series was carried over into college as well when I served three semesters as the president of Dumbledore's Army on campus. My favorite color is gold, and if I could live anywhere in the world, I would move every 6 months or so until I had traveled around most of the world and then settle in my favorite country.

As I begin working at the Writing Center, I really look forward to working with all of the students and learning from the experience, myself. I'm an English Ed major, so working with students on papers fits right into what I love to do. In addition, I'm excited to see the opportunities that the Writing Center will bring for working with ESL students.

Anna Paling

I’m a third-year student double majoring in Professional & Technical Writing and Creative Writing (it’s a mouthful, I know.) On campus I’m also involved with the Center for Usability Studies and Universal Design.

I love rainy days, mint ice cream, and burying my nose in a good book (or sinking hours into a binge-worthy show.) When I actually have time to read for fun, I like everything from literary fiction to sci-fi/fantasy. I also like graphic novels because they combine two of my favorite things: writing and visual art (if I had enough time, I’d work on actually creating one.) Because my interests seem to always be changing, I’ll just put it this way: I like interesting, morally-gray stories about complicated people.

I studied abroad in London over the summer and loved it there. If money wasn’t an issue, I’d immediately go back and explore the city more. I’d also travel across the entire world, because there are so many places I want to see. I would also live in a fancy apartment in a big city—preferably a rainy city full of interesting people. Maybe Seattle? My days would be full of exploring and creating all different kinds of art. I would spend a lot of my time writing stories about marginalized identities so maybe a teenage or young adult reader could feel a little less alone. Since I’m allergic to all of my favorite animals, I would probably keep either a nice hypoallergenic dog or maybe a goldfish for company.

I’m very excited to work at the Writing Center. We all have unique ideas, perspectives, and skills; I want to help students be able to express all of that on the page. I am also looking forward to learning from students and engaging in tutoring that makes us both better writers and communicators. I love the Writing Center’s atmosphere of constructive, thoughtful, and open discussion. It’s a great environment and I’m excited to be a part of it.

Victoria Phelps

I'm a senior majoring in English and minoring in history and creative writing. I plan to attend grad school after I graduate this May.

I love to travel and have already visited Haiti, France, England, and Scotland. If I could live anywhere, I would like to live in Edinburgh, Scotland or Bath, England. I'm obsessed with European history, so living in a place that can trace its roots back as far as these cities would be a dream come true. Better yet, I'd love to live in Hogwarts or Narnia.

I enjoy rainy, cold weather because it gives me an excuse to stay inside, curl up under a blanket, and read a good book or watch TV. I'm a big fan of Pride and Prejudice (and the 2005 movie adaptation). I also enjoy reading fairy tales and their adaptations; I just finished my honors thesis project on the depiction of disabilities in late-Victorian fairy tales. In addition to tutoring, I also serve as Editor-in-Chief of Cardinal Sins and as a reporter for The Valley Vanguard.

Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite movies, but I also enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy, Beauty and the Beast, The Harry Potter series, and The Secret Garden. Among my favorite TV shows are Daredevil, Sherlock, Parks and Rec, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Downton Abbey, and Psych. My favorite color is dark blue. I love salted dark chocolate and dark chocolate with raspberry filling. One of my favorite activities is shopping flea markets and hobby shops for rare books and coins. I also enjoy researching random historical facts.

I love that this job allows me to meet people from all kinds of backgrounds. I enjoy helping other students improve their writing skills, and I hope that, through their improvement, they'll come to enjoy writing as much as I do!

Brianna Rivet

Hello everyone! I am a fourth year creative writing and literature major with a psychology minor.

My favorite book would probably have to be The Handmaid's Tail; I love reading books that are heavily inspired by feminist literary criticism. My favorite color is blue—not to be confused with indigo, which is my least favorite color, though I couldn't tell you why. My favorite ice cream flavor really depends on the day, but I'm a sucker for any fruit/chocolate combo ice cream, so black raspberry fudge and chocolate strawberry have always been staples.

I love rainy days, especially when there's not much to do. I tend to have TV show marathons—really, the only proper way to watch a TV show is to binge-watch the episodes all in a row. Parks and Recreation is, of course, a favorite, and I'm pretty sure I've memorized most of the episodes of Friends.

If I could live anywhere, it would be somewhere warm. I do love the fall, but I could skip the winter season without shedding too many tears. I've always dreamed of traveling Europe. I'm too much of a homebody to want to move there permanently, but there is so much art and culture I want to experience first-hand. Perhaps I'll get there some day!

I'm excited to work in the Writing Center with people who love writing as much as I do. I'm looking forward to improving my own skills as I work to improve the skills of others, and through my work in the Writing Center, I hope to make writing less of a challenge for 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.