Dr. Gregory Karas, ’98, G’03

They say timing is everything. For Dr. Gregory Karas it certainly was.

He was working in Boston one summer several years ago, when out of the blue he decided to check out what was going on at his alma mater. He clicked on the Bridgewater State website and found a headline seemingly addressed directly to him.

“The main news item was about the launch of the new master’s program in accounting. As luck, or fate, would have it, the information session was that same night,”
Dr. Karas recalled.

Dr. Jeri Katz, G’78

Dr. Jeri Katz was hooked early in life on her chosen profession.

She grew up in New London, Connecticut, where in eighth grade she began volunteering in her hometown’s Headstart program. As a high school student, she served at a camp for students with disabilities and, in her junior year, tutored students each week at the Little Red Schoolhouse, a substantially separate public school program for students with severe disabilities. With that, her path was sealed. “I liked seeing the small steps the children made,” Dr. Katz said.

Vivi Pierce, ’11, G’14, CAGS’18

For Professor Vivi Pierce, Bridgewater State University is like a second home.

“That’s why I kept coming back for my graduate degrees as well,” she said. “When I decided that I wanted to teach at the college level, it was the natural place to apply. I also knew that there were so many excellent faculty members in the math department that I could learn from, and those are the kind of people I want to work with.”

Dr. Meghan Murphy, ’06

When Dr. Meghan Murphy was thinking of a career in academia, she was given some advice.

Luckily, she chose to ignore it.

“All of my faculty advisors over the years encouraged me to conduct a nationwide search since jobs in academia are not always easy to come by,” the Walpole native recalled.

“I begrudgingly listened, but when the opportunity allowed me to come back to Bridgewater, it was a no-brainer,” she said. “I had such a positive experience as a BSU student that I knew I wanted to remain a part of this community.”

‘Moving a mountain’

When Stephen Fanus walked across the stage at Bridgewater State University’s 2019 commencement, it was the culmination of a long journey.

“Words can’t explain it,” he said. “The trip that I’ve made from where I came from to here, to be able to do that, I can’t explain it. Someday maybe I will.”

If words fail him, it’s understandable. The 59-year-old’s story is one full of sadness and challenges that would defeat most mortals. However, it’s also a tale of grit and determination, as well as proof of how far an indomitable will can take one.

Faculty Focus

As with many faculty members, Dr. Jakari Griffith’s life experience has helped shape the educator and researcher he is today.

The assistant professor of management and 2019 Award for Academic Excellence recipient came to Bridgewater State in 2003, after teaching at Salem State College. Early in his career, he focused on management issues revolving around positive psychology and leadership.

Dr. John Marvelle, ’72, G’76

If there’s a hallmark of Dr. John Marvelle’s long and impressive career, it’s movement. That may sound strange describing a man who’s spent his college years and most of his career at the same place.

However, his wide-ranging interests and desire to deliver to his students life-shaping experiences means stasis isn’t an option. “I’ve been through a lot of changes,” said Dr. Marvelle, a professor in the Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education. “Lots of it has to do with luck and spectacular mentors here at Bridgewater and other places,” he said.

From homeless to helping others

When Jackson's Center for Leadership, Advocacy, and Supportive Services, Inc., helps people facing homelessness, CEO Sasha Heggie- Jackson, ’16, can relate to what they are experiencing. She overcame homelessness herself about six years ago.

“I know what it’s like to need help and not know where to go,” she said. “A lot of what I’ve been through has helped me want to give back and educate others. … Being able to help someone else who may be experiencing something similar is really rewarding.”

Student Spotlight

It must be nice to rewrite history as a senior in college. Vanessa Sherman, ’19, recently did just that. For her efforts, she earned a place at Posters on the Hill, one of the nation’s most prestigious forums for undergraduate research.

Cynthia Svoboda, ’84

Her initial dream had been to become a kindergarten teacher, but after Cynthia Svoboda, ’84, took an afterschool job at the Mansfield Public Library, that changed. Being surrounded by books, helping others with academic work and research, and always learning new things seemed like an interesting and fulfilling way to spend a career.

“Libraries and librarians are bridges,” she said. “We help people make academic and social connections beyond the classroom. Also, libraries provide spaces for users to engage with each other, with technology, with research materials and more.”

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