Next up: University of Michigan, Ph.D. program in chemical biology
Career prospects: research or higher education teaching
Fun fact: Lukowski is a jazz piano player.
April Lukowski is the epitome of the homegrown college student who found a calling and an exemplary education at Saginaw Valley State University, all while helping the community where she was raised.
Now that experience has opened new doors. Lukowski this fall will begin postgraduate studies at the University of Michigan, where she is enrolled in the Ph.D. program for chemical biology.
“It’s a very competitive program, and I was lucky to get into it,” said Lukowski, set to graduate from SVSU in May with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. “It was my top choice.”
Lukowski isn’t a stranger to challenges. Facing them at SVSU has included taking on some of the university’s top research opportunities, first with her Honors Program thesis and later via the campus-based Saginaw Bay Environmental Science Institute, where she studied bodies of water that have supported her community for generations.
But her first challenge at SVSU involved finding a niche academically. The 2011 Bay City Central High School graduate enrolled at the university, unsure at first which academic program best suited her.
Lukowski was a recipient of the Bay Area Community Foundation’s Bay Commitment Scholarship — an initiative supporting high-achieving, first-generation students in Bay County who attend SVSU or Delta College — and her interests largely centered on the arts.
“I was more into art and music and things like that,” she said, “but I also knew I always liked my science classes in high school.”
Lukowski took both Advanced Placement biology and chemistry classes at Bay City Central, and performed well.
“I was being exposed to college-level science classes there, and I decided to explore those more (in college),” she said.
Lukowsi initially declared her major as biology.
“Then I met Dr. Sivy,” Lukowski said, referring to Tami Sivy, the associate professor of chemistry who advised Lukowski to explore biochemistry.
“I liked it because it challenged me in ways I can handle,” she said. “There’s more math, and numbers make more sense to me.”
Sivy said the match made sense, and soon Lukowski found her footing academically.
“April has blossomed into a conscientious researcher and an excellent student,” Sivy said.
“At first, she was unsure as to what she wanted to do, but she took advantage of every opportunity that was offered her, and became more confident in her abilities and increasingly more clear in her goals for her future. She is extremely well-prepared for her continuation to graduate school, not only because of her work in the classroom, but probably more so because of the variety of research projects with which she has been involved.”
Lukowski said she discovered a love for research as a sophomore when she studied isoprene enzymes and fir trees as part of her Honors Program thesis. That passion continued with her undergraduate research with the Saginaw Bay Environmental Science Institute. There, she studied the Saginaw Bay watershed, testing bacteria content in the water.
She credits SVSU’s faculty in part for helping her discover her passion and take on academic challenges.
“The faculty here are really supportive, especially in the science departments,” Lukowski said. “It’s been a great experience here.”
Next up: master’s program, Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs
Career prospects: watershed environmental management
Fun fact: Before attending SVSU, Linskey had never visited a nation outside the U.S. “Not even Canada,” he said. Since then, Linskey has traveled to 12 countries. They are Sweden, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy and India. This summer, he will add Canada and Peru to that list.
Evan Linskey’s travels have taken him to 12 countries, but what was in his own backyard may have had the heaviest influence on his career aspirations.
The Prudenville native was raised alongside Houghton Lake, and now he is pursuing a profession in environmental management, analyzing data collected from watersheds across the world.
“I’ve always enjoyed water,” said Linskey, who will graduate from Saginaw Valley State University with a bachelor’s degree in economics in May.
“There’s a lot of information coming out of the environmental sector. Someone has to interpret it.”
When he begins his master’s program at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs in the fall, Linskey already will have logged plenty of hours in environmental management research in his own home state. At SVSU, he worked as a research assistant for the geography department, helping the community by studying the water quality of the Kawkawlin, Pigeon and Pinnebog rivers, analyzing how each affected the Saginaw Bay.
Linskey’s passion for scientific research as well as community engagement and service learning became a heavy theme of his SVSU undergraduate experience.
He has participated in several opportunities with SVSU’s Alternative Breaks, a program that sends students to volunteer in destinations across the world during the winter and spring breaks. He traveled to Atlanta to help children living in poverty; to Murphy, North Carolina to remove invasive species from the Hiwassee River; and to New York City to provide meals for the terminally ill.
Linskey also took advantage of SVSU’s Study Abroad connections, living in Prague for a semester in fall 2013 while studying economics and intergovernmental organizations at the University of Economics.
“I wanted a new challenge, and so I decided to go to a country with a language I don’t speak,” said the 2011 Houghton Lake High School graduate.
“It was a challenge. And I loved every minute of it.”
Linskey also stayed active on SVSU’s campus.
Along with his classwork, he was involved in the university’s Honors Program, served as the first president of the newly-founded Economics Club, and worked as an economics and statistics tutor in SVSU’s Center for Academic Achievement. He recently finished his Honors Program thesis on how higher education, religious and other social institutions impact secondary school performance.
One of Linskey’s mentors, Kaustav Misra, SVSU assistant professor of economics, described the student as a quiet, motivated “explorer.”
“His academic work has been recognized by many faculty members in the Department of Economics, and as a result, they recommended him as our outstanding econ graduate for this academic year,” Misra said.
“I do believe that he will reach his goal to become a geospatial researcher and solve various rural problems in Michigan. I am sure Evan will represent SVSU well.”
Major: criminal justice
Next up: police academy
Career prospects: deputy, Saginaw County Sheriff’s Department
Fun fact: Moore has competed in wrestling and jiu-jitsu matches for seven years.
Since childhood, Terrance Moore has been planning a career in law enforcement. Thanks in large part to his experience at Saginaw Valley State University — and all the opportunities it presented — that career already has begun.
By the time Moore graduates with a bachelor’s degree in May, the criminal justice major will have been working as a deputy corrections officer for the Saginaw County Sheriff’s Department at the Saginaw County Jail for two years.
Earning that degree, though, will allow Moore to move one step closer to his next career goal: Becoming a deputy qualified to patrol Saginaw County’s roads.
“I’ve always had a passion for law enforcement and performing those duties,” the 2010 Royal Oak High School graduate said. “SVSU has provided me with those opportunities, and now I’m ready to go out and be successful.”
He plans to attend police academy in the fall. With that training finished and his degree in hand, he is expected to begin road duties in 2016.
Moore hopes to rise in the ranks in the coming decades and, eventually, become Saginaw County’s sheriff.
“I could see him as a sheriff,” said one of Moore’s mentors, Joe Jaksa, SVSU associate professor of criminal justice.
“I could also see him getting a master’s or a doctorate degree and work as the chair of a criminal justice department.”
Jaksa said Moore’s “exceptional” communication skills are part of the reason he was able to excel in school and secure a job in law enforcement before graduation.
“It was wonderful to have him in class,” Jaksa said.
“He was hard working, dedicated and diligent. The outside experience he brought into the classroom really enhanced the class. When you have someone who is a good communicator like him, it really enriches the classroom experience.”
Moore in 2015 was named the criminal justice program’s outstanding graduate.
He gave credit to his many successes to SVSU’s faculty.
“All the professors have been awesome,” Moore said. “They’ve always been there for me, like when I applied for the job I have now. I was only 21 years old, and they wrote me letters of recommendation that helped me get that position.”
Moore said his education at SVSU exceeded his expectations. The criminal justice program offered cutting-edge lessons that deepened his understanding of law enforcement. For instance, one of Moore’s classes involved a project — led by Andrew Miller, assistant professor of geography, and James Bowers, assistant professor of criminal justice — that mapped crime “hot spots” in cities.
“We could see where the crime was happening and what type of crimes there were,” Moore said. “From that, we learned about proactive policing rather than just reactive, which is a skill not many people have in the field.”
His interest in law enforcement and community stewardship predates his arrival at SVSU.
Since childhood, Moore idolized his uncle, a now-retired Wayne County sheriff’s deputy who would bring him on ride-alongs. Some of those trips resulted in community service activities. Moore and his uncle sometimes helped mow the lawns of elderly residents.
During high school, he was a 2-time recipient of The President’s Volunteer Service Award for community service work performed in Florida, Tennessee and Texas.
Moore’s community engagement continued while he was in college. As a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, he helped paint the gyms of both the Saginaw YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club of the Great Lakes Bay Region, picked up trash along roadways and cut lawns.
And his efforts to better communities will extend beyond his college years, he said.
“I want to leave a mark here in Saginaw,” Moore said. “I want to leave Saginaw better than I found it.”
Major: health sciences
Next up: SVSU Master of Science in Health Administration and Leadership Program
Career prospects: health administrator, nurse anesthetist
Fun fact: Beverly was a cheerleader from age 4 to 19, participating in everything from independent competitions to high school sports.
Helping others doesn’t cost Shantinique Beverly energy. It provides the energy.
The Detroit native learned this lesson about herself through her studies and learning-based community service while at Saginaw Valley State University, where she will graduate in May.
Beverly’s involvement on campus led her to work with the United Way of Saginaw County’s Healthy Kids Healthy Futures Partnership AmeriCorps program.
“It’s been a great experience,” said the 2010 graduate of M.L. Winans Academy of Performing Arts in Detroit. “I really enjoy helping other people.”
The health sciences major connected with the nonprofit organization’s program — aimed at improving the lives of Saginaw County youths — during a SVSU Career Services fair. There, she met Joshua Hales, director of the AmeriCorps program, who brought her aboard the program last summer as a member.
Beverly made an impression on Hales immediately.
“She’s been phenomenal for us,” Hales said. “She is very reliable and dedicated to the kids she is working with. It’s the members that have kids come back to our program, and the kids enjoyed her and looked forward to coming back to be around her. She’s been instrumental for us.”
Beverly has utilized her SVSU education to implement programs promoting better health in children who attend the AmeriCorps initiative at The Salvation Army in Saginaw.
“They say they like it better than their regular gym class,” Beverly said of the youths, aged 7 to 11.
Her work also includes helping the children with homework assignments.
“Knowing I’m making an impact feels good,” she said.
SVSU has opened the door to other opportunities for Beverly, too.
She was among eight students who participated in a faculty-led study abroad trip Ghana in January 2013. The trip, led by Joseph Ofori-Dankwa, SVSU’s Harvey Randall Wickes Chair in International Studies, and Mamie Thorns, special assistant to the president for Diversity Programs, included a visit to an abandoned castle where captors housed slaves centuries ago.
“It was such a humbling experience,” Beverly said. “You got to experience what you thought would be people at their worst, but they were so friendly and loving. They were so welcoming.”
The experience continues to have a strong influence on Beverly, who said she has considered one day moving to an African nation to help a community there.
“I feel like there is so much more in the world to see, where my degrees can be useful,” she said.
Beverly’s desire to help others has defined her SVSU experience. She began her undergraduate life as a nursing student. In the years since, she changed her major twice before settling on health sciences, but her interests never strayed from pursuing a degree that would allow her to help others lead happier, healthier lives.
Her next step is to finish SVSU’s Master of Science in Health Administration and Leadership Program. Then she would seek a job as an administrator in a medical facility.
Beverly’s ultimate career goal is to become a nurse anesthetist, which specializes in the administration of anesthesia. That long-term goal means more school is in her future.
She credits SVSU staff and faculty for helping her toward that path, including Roberto Garcia, compliance specialist with School and University Partnerships, and Meghan Baruth, assistant professor of health sciences.
“(Garcia) told me I have to push myself, and not to give up on my dreams,” Beverly said. “(Baruth) has always been there when I need to vent about a class, and she would motivate me to finish it.”
She is grateful for all the opportunities she experienced at SVSU.
“I couldn’t see myself going anywhere else,” she said.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”