DETROIT – Those who are or have been Warriors — even Tartars during a bygone era — speak with such admiration about Wayne State University and what their individual experiences on campus have meant to them.
In her first video to the WSU community, President Kimberly Andrews Espy, Ph.D., started the dialogue by asking faculty, staff, students and alumni to share with her what they are most proud of about Wayne State.
Social mobility, diversity and inclusion, “transformational,” research opportunities, “embedded in the community,” and premium education are a few of the phrases used by the more than 90 individuals who answered Dr. Espy’s online survey.
Harpreet Singh, Ph.D., beams with pride when asked about the institution he’s called home since moving from India in 1981.
“After all these years, I found a fairness for all and diversity for different cultures and religions at this university,” said Singh, a professor of electrical and computer engineering. “This makes me and my family proud of Wayne State. We hope the school will achieve its highest glory under President Espy’s leadership and guidance.”
One of Singh’s proudest moments occurred when then-president David Adamany invited him and a dozen other faculty members to offer suggestions for campus improvements.
“From Day 1,” Singh said, “Wayne State has felt like a new and happy home.”
Merilyn Merkison’s Warrior pride also runs deep. The associate director of benefits in Wayne State’s Human Resources Department has two degrees from the university in business and a master’s in the study of law.
She said the university provided her, and thousands like her, an environment to soar to the next level.
“I am most proud of the academic, cultural and social diversity students are allowed to explore while attending WSU,” Merkison said. “I am proud of the numerous student organizations, which appear to thrive with the support of the university. The committed faculty and staff, provide a nurturing home-away-from-home environment to our students. Student engagement — both academically in research and other areas, and socially — are essential and contribute to the success of our students and the community. Our students and staff enjoy the numerous activities sponsored throughout the year designed to help with balancing life. The capital improvements made over the last few years have certainly added to the campus’s academic resources and on-campus quality of life.”
Mary Beth O’Connell, Pharm.D., is proud to work for one of the top research universities in the United States.
“I’m proud of the fact that WSU emphasizes, utilizes and experiments with new teaching and learning pedagogy and the active learning taking a personal approach to each student’s success,” O’Connell said. “I’m proud of all the research findings generated at Wayne State that are implemented to improve student success, human health, and our society and world. I’m also proud that we are an engaged university doing valued community engagement activities.”
Not to be outdone, several alumni members chimed in to voice pride in their alma mater.
“I am most proud of the amount of money President M. Roy Wilson raised to make possible some of the happenings going on now at WSU,” said Paula Trilety. “The increased community outreach and the fact that WSU has the most diverse campus in the state make me proud to be an alumna. Additionally, the work that the Irvin D. Reid Honors College has done with the Race to the Finish program is remarkable, as well as the university’s ability to provide higher education to graduates of Detroit Public Schools.”
As a member of one of the school’s most successful football teams, David Lillvis fondly recalls his days on campus and his participation in the Junior Year in Munich (JYM) program.
“Both football and JYM were significant, not only in their own right, but also as opportunities to encounter others from different backgrounds,” said Lillvis, who played on the 1967 team. “While that may be obvious with regard to Munich, it was also a part of my team experience, where — for the first time in my life — I was working toward a common goal with a group that was socially, economically and racially diverse.”
Back then, Wayne State student-athletes didn’t receive scholarships, so Lillvis was happy to graduate with $2,000 in tuition debt. Today, he continues to contribute to the scholarship aid for Wayne State athletes, Junior Year in Munich, and the Department of German and Slavic Studies.
“Yes,” said Lillvis, who earned his bachelor’s in German Language and Literature in 1970, “I am proud that WSU continues to be a place of opportunity for students of limited means, such as I was back in the late ’60s.”
Read what other faculty, staff, students and alumni shared with Dr. Espy about the university that they love:
Wayne State Student
"I love that WSU meets students where they are and that instructors and faculty work with you and that they help find financial resources."
Eric Ash, Ph.D
Professor and Acting Chair, Department of History, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
"We are probably the single greatest engine of social mobility in the region. That's what I love most about this place, that we serve and educate those for whom college was more of a dream than an expectation. We change lives, as all good universities do, but the lives we change are not the obvious ones."
Laura Benjamins, M.D.
Professor, Adolescent Medicine, School of Medicine
"I am most proud of Wayne's commitment to the community and the students' enthusiasm to serve."
Cynthia Bir, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering
"I am proud of how we care for our students. Our number one priority is, and should always be, helping our student be successful in all aspects of life."
Erik Carter, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor and Director of Undergraduate Programs, College of Nursing
"Empowering collaboration with individuals who share a collective vision for our interconnected communities, fostering a sense of purpose and dedication in our work together here in the D."
Assistant to the Associate Dean, College of Engineering
"I am most proud of completing my BA in Communication this past December. As a single mom to two kids who are both here at WSU also, it was something that was very important to me to finish what I started in 1985."
Administrative Assistant, Department of Physics, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
"Everything. I have watched this university grow and continue to prosper with diversity, new programs, and leadership change during some often unsure times, (the pandemic and economic cutbacks to start). But what I am most proud of, as I am entering my 35th year here, is that I am still here to see a woman take the helm of this wonderful university."
Wayne State Student
"The community, and the connections that I have been able to make with professors and staff."
Senior Corporate and Foundation Relations Officer, Division of Development and Alumni Affairs
"I am proud to work at Wayne State. I see every day what this institution does for so many divergent stakeholders: students, alumni, faculty, staff, the city and state. I see this institution as not just a world-class R1 research institution, but an institution that welcomes everyone from every background and extracts the extraordinary. I've always felt that WSU not only prepared me for the change I would encounter in the world, but also the change I would make."
Jaime Goodrich, Ph.D.
Professor of English and Director of the Humanities Center, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
"I am most proud of our urban mission. It is such a privilege to make a different in the lives of our student body."
Deborah Habel, Ph.D.
Associate Professor (Teaching) - Accounting, Mike Ilitch School of Business
"Our students and their perseverance make me very proud. They are working so hard on multiple fronts: home, work, school, and social/professional development. I love congratulating them at commencement and other milestone events."
Wayne State Alumna
"I am proud of the career I have had for over 30 years and now being able to fight the stigma of mental illness through my music composing."
Director of Philanthropy, Mike Ilitch School of Business
"I am most proud of how we build circles of support around every student, staff, and faculty member to create a culture of family, learning, and philanthropy."
Wayne State Student
"I am most proud of the never ending growth and dedication our school has whether its to the community around us or the students and staff itself. Being a student at Wayne State makes me so proud to be apart of such an amazing group of people and I feel privileged to get to call Detroit and this school my home."
Wayne State Student
"What makes me proud about being at Wayne State is that it is one of the few colleges that I can afford while also having a premium education. I wanted to have access to a great education while not having to go into debt because of it."
Associate Director, IRB Administration, Human and Animal Research Compliance, Institutional Review Board
"My proudest moment is not only being a graduate of WSU! I am proud to be a staff member, alumni and community member of this great institution! I am also proud of the very vital work and responsibility as a staff member of our Human Research Protection Program-Institutional Review Board in serving our community by protecting the rights and welfare of our community members that volunteer to participate in research studies."
Lara Jones, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
"I'm most proud of and pleased with our super supportive Office of Teaching and Learning. They offer many helpful and interesting workshops, panels, groups, and trainings throughout the year such as the Student Voices panels (e.g., students who are caregivers). During the first months of the COVID pandemic, OTL provided needed training that made the process of rapidly switching to online teaching much smoother and less stressful than it would have otherwise been."
Virginia Kleist, Ph.D.
Dean, Mike Ilitch School of Business, Professor of Information Systems Management
"I am extraordinarily proud of how our excellent faculty and staff care for and uplift all of our students, helping them to walk through the doors of success that are opened by a R1 caliber business education. I also am proud of how we contribute to the economic prosperity of the greater Detroit region via our superb graduates, degree programs, research, service and support of the business ecosystem."
Part-Time Faculty, Department of Communications
"I am proud of my 25 years of teaching (part-time). We have incredible students, many whom would not have had an opportunity to earn a degree if it was not for Wayne State."
Wayne State Student
"I am most proud of Wayne State University Men's Club Soccer. We have represented the university at a regional level, competing against other big universities such as the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Cincinnati while keeping barriers to participate on the team low, and being student-funded."
Senior Director, Office of Contract Management, Department of Business Services
"I am proud to be a part of an institution that is deeply committed to diversity and inclusion."
Program Project Assistant, Student Affairs, School of Medicine
"I am so proud that the university, through Covid has afforded us the availability of work/life balance that includes remote working options. This helps some of us to have two more hours to be with family and not fighting the commute. Because some of us have to work and we love what we do, that extra two hours a day that really equates to four hours a week or 208 hours a year, with our family is priceless."
Associate Director of Public Relations, Office of Communications
"I'm proud of the students we get to serve at Wayne State. They are exceptional and they care about the world around them. Many of them have had to try a little harder to get where they are, and I'm proud that our university is a welcoming place for all in higher education."
Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate Teaching and Student Assistant, Department of Sociology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
"I'm most proud of Wayne State's consistency and commitment to evolve to best serve its community."
Senior Research Compliance Specialist, Human and Animal Research Compliance, School of Medicine
"I am proud to be a Warrior because of WSU's commitment to research which I have been involved in since the late 90's. I'm also proud to say that two of my children are WSU grads!"
Wayne State Alumnus
"Detroiters are very proud of the great university that is located in the center of our city. It has given us many opportunities to succeed as individuals and as a community. I am most proud of the many alumni who have remained in Detroit and contributed so much to the vitality of my hometown."
Karen Myhr, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
"The efforts and outcomes of faculty and students to learn and thrive together."
Wayne State Student
"I am most pleased with the extensive research opportunities available to undergrad students. It feels great to contribute to and learn from a position at the front of human knowledge and to watch firsthand as that climate progresses."
Shane Perrine, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Translational Neuroscience Program, School of Medicine
"I am also proud of DPBN for the research and training we do."
Mary Jo Pilat, Ph.D.
Director of Physician Assistant Studies Program, Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
"I have been fortunate to see the growth of Wayne State University and been amazed of the hardworking faculty and staff that are here. That is what I am most proud of."
Director of Publications and Design, Marketing and Communications
"The relationships I've made over the years are my favorite. Met my husband and some of my closest friends are fellow WSU employees. Also, I've always been impressed with the diversity of the Wayne State community -- in culture, expertise, life experiences, etc."
Engagement and Outreach Officer, Latinx Faculty and Staff Association, Office of the Provost
"I am most proud that long before becoming employed at Wayne State University, I considered myself a life-long Warrior with strong ties that kept me close to the university throughout my years of post-bachelors professional development through partnerships and volunteer commitments in support of students like myself."
Donor Experience Writer, Division of Development and Alumni Affairs
"I am proud to have funded endowed scholarships at four of its colleges. I believe accessibility is fundamental and financial assistance is the key."
Audit Manager, Office of Internal Audit
"I am most proud of our community outreach initiatives and our spirit of collaboration. It is only fitting since we are centrally located in the heart of Detroit. I am a proud staff member and alumna of the university. I'm proud to have called Wayne State home for over 20 years."
Jukka Savolainen, Ph.D.
Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
"I'm most proud of the fact that Wayne State has a truly diverse and global student body. Diverse in terms of race and ethnicity, but also socioeconomic class, national origin, and religious background."
Don Smolenski, Ph.D.
Wayne State Alumnus
"I was able to complete my Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering part time over several years while working full time and raising a family. I volunteer in the College of Engineering, my wife works in the College of Pharmacy and my son (with a doctorate in Nursing Practice from Wayne) teaches in the College of Nursing. Wayne State serves the underserved!"
Curriculum Development Consultant, Office of Learning and Teaching, School of Medicine
"Of the time I've spent as faculty and staff at Wayne State University, I am most proud of the work I contributed to the building of a formal and effective CQI practice during my time with a team that sadly no longer exists now, Planning, Assessment & Innovation."
Monica Tracey, Ph.D.
Professor of Learning Design and Technology, College of Education
"I'm proud that Wayne State welcomes and educates numerous first generation college students."
Diving Coach, Department of Athletics
"As the current Wayne State diving coach and proud WSU college of engineering Alumni, I am proud to see the strives that the athletic department has been making to ensure student-athlete success. I am inspired daily by these athletes and their passions both in their perspective sports and majors. Very few institutions are able to support student athletes both in their athletic and their academic journeys quite like Wayne State."
Coordinator of Student Organization Programs and Events, Dean of Students Office
"I am proud that I am a member of the DOSO team whose combined mission is to serve students!"
Yongli Wager, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering
"A diverse body of students, faculty, and staff that makes Wayne State University the home for everyone. Its high-quality research that serves the local and broader communities. Many faculty are research active that brings the state-of-the-art knowledge to teaching."
Academic Services Offier, Incusion, Diversity, Equity and Access, School of Medicine
"At Wayne State University, what I am most proud of is our Post Baccalaureate Program. As an academic staff member, I have actively supported the program through unique courses focused on medical diversity, legal cases for medical diversity in the state and country, underserved populations, professionalism, and cultural issues in medicine."
Part-Time Faculty in Accounting, Mike Ilitch School of Business
"The resilience of faculty, staff, and students. Also, how we work together to help our students."
Executive Assistant to the Chief of Staff, Office of the President
"I am most proud of the sense of community at both the staff level and student level here at the university."
Alumni Relations Officer, Law School, Division of Development and Alumni Affairs
"I am most proud of how WSU continues to embrace Detroit and the surrounding cities/counties while recognizing there are always additional opportunities to evolve and grow in the hopes of creating a stronger sense of community and belonging."
Assistant Dean of Student Services and Part-Time Faculty in Foundations, Mike Ilitch School of Business
"I am most proud to be able to assist students each day and watch them achieve their goals."