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Writing Center Staff / 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 international student tutoring, embedded tutoring, and community writing centers. Chris Giroux, the Assistant Director, and I are proud to be the Co-Directors of the Saginaw Community Writing Center, the first on-site community writing center 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. Currently, I am also a graduate student in Eastern Michigan University's Written Communication program, where I teach first-year writing and tutor in the Writing Center. I hope to someday work as a writing center administrator. In my free time I enjoy reading, listening to music (especially from my record player), making jewelry, traveling, and practicing yoga and Pilates.

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

I am currently in my senior year at SVSU, and I study psychology and biology. I plan to continue my schooling at the graduate level and eventually pursue a career in neuroscience. This field fascinates me, and I look forward to one day obtaining a more thorough understanding of how we function from this perspective.

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.

Alexa Foor

My name is Alexa, I'm a 4th year English major with a Creative Writing minor and a Gender Studies minor. I was born in Bay City but moved around a lot with my family, going from a few places in Michigan to Colorado and back. For this reason, I'd love to live in Colorado again. Denver is the perfect city for me. Of course if money weren't an issue I'd also own a house on Lake Superior in Houghton and probably a house in a really rainy state, like Washington. Maybe near Seattle? My greatest passions in my life are cats, volunteer work revolving around helping survivors of sexual assault, feminism, reading, and writing, in that order. The only goals I have set for my life right now revolve around living where I want, traveling wherever I want, getting my papers published in reputable journals (because I'm the biggest nerd) and getting my doctorate. Not necessarily in that order. I guess whatever happens, I want to help people. Which is the basis for why I'm here, along with a million other reasons. I don't see myself having kids and I can't picture myself getting married, so just imagine a future Alexa hiking mountains, helping people, and owning 10 cats. Also, my favorite ice cream is probably pistachio.

Sam Geffert

I’m Sam, a third year SVSU student with a major in English secondary education and minors in Japanese and ESL. My goal is to become a high school English teacher, and I would like to travel abroad to Japan. I am very interested in Japanese culture, animation, and poetic forms. 

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. Now, my favorite novel is The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. I also love Claymation and stop motion film, and my favorite directors are Jan Svankmajer and Henry Selick. If time/money/reality weren’t an issue, I would like to take sculpture classes and create my own Claymation film. I have also considered becoming an ancient astronaut theorist (I am a huge fan of the TV show Ancient Aliens). I enjoy creative writing, but am not able to dedicate as much time to writing as I'd like.

Because I am a secondary education major, I am looking forward to learning how to help students improve their writing. I am also excited to work with international students, and am very interested in learning from people of other languages and cultures.

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. I am currently taking classes in the College of Education and hope to graduate by Fall 2017.

I love to read, although I could never single out a book as my favorite. My most recent favorites include Mark Zusak’s The Book Thief and Hillary Jordan’s When She Woke. I love writing, and I was even lucky enough to spend a week helping out at the Cardinal Creative Writing Camp these past two summers. I also spend time tutoring local children 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 have lived in Saginaw my whole life, but someday I would love to travel outside of the United States and explore cultures that are vastly different from my own.

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 year helping students with their writing, while also improving my own writing and honing my teaching skills, and I look forward to the years to come. 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.

Victoria Phelps

I'm a junior majoring in English and minoring in history and creative writing.

I love to travel and have already visited Haiti, France, England, and Scotland. I hope to check more countries of my to-visit list soon! If I could live anywhere, I would like to live in Edinburgh, Scotland or Bath, England. Possibly both. I'm obsessed with European history, so living in a place that can trace its roots back as far as these cities can would be a dream come true. Better yet, I'd like to live in Hogwarts or Narnia or at Pemberley Estate. Realistically, though, I hope to live in the Seattle or east coast area. Somewhere rainy, cold, and near the ocean would be nice.

I love 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), but I have a soft spot for Victorian Gothic literature, as well. I also enjoy reading fairy tales and their adaptations; in fact, I'm currently working on a thesis project related to the depiction of disabilities in Victorian fairy tales. In addition to my thesis work, 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 like Guardians of the Galaxy, Beauty and the Beast, The Secret Garden, and Les Misérables. I watch way too many TV shows to list. Among my favorites are Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Sherlock, Parks and Rec, Doctor Who, Gilmore Girls, Downton Abbey, and Psych. My favorite color is dark blue. I can't have dairy, but Ben and Jerry's has a delicious new line of dairy-free ice cream, and the chocolate fudge brownie flavor is my favorite so far.

I look forward to meeting people from all kinds of backgrounds through this position. I'm also excited to help students improve their writing skills and I hope that, through their improvement, they'll come to enjoy writing as much as I do—or more!

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.

Centered: Writing Center Tutors Reflect

Centered: Writing Center Tutors Reflect

Centered: Writing Center Tutors Reflect (24,495kB), a collection of stories from SVSU Writing Center tutors about their work.