Florida State University

After two years at Florida State University, Kaitlyn Suveg was uncertain about her future career, so she took a year off from school and spent it with a faith-based ministry in North Carolina.

When she returned, she not only won her scholarships back but also showed such strong focus that she earned a 2009 Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Award for a summer project with a nonprofit organization.

She plans to graduate in December with a major in the College of Social Work.

"Taking time away gave me the perspective I needed," she said. "I learned to balance my personal aspirations with real life."

Suveg, from St. Johns County just south of Jacksonville, started as an art education major, tried English literature and then religion.

She spent time volunteering with Campus Ministries, the homeless and adolescents struggling with substance abuse. She was active in such campus organizations as Invisible Children, which raises money for schools in Uganda, and TOMS Shoes, a company founded to match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes free to a child in need.

Then, with life coaching from Florida State professors and advisors, she discovered she could combine her personal goal to make a difference with her interests in art, writing and societal issues by entering the field of social work.

"This major was me naturally," Suveg said. "All my experiences at FSU directly contributed to my decision."

When she returned to Florida State, she added the FSView student newspaper to her extracurricular activities. She wrote about social justice, international news and campus events. In the spring, the editor honored her as FSView writer of the semester.

Suveg was covering the symposium on 2008 undergraduate research grant recipients when she made the decision to go after the award herself.

"I ran into professors who believed in me," Suveg said.

With Nicholas Mazza, interim dean and the Patricia V. Vance Professor of Social Work, as her project advisor, Suveg developed a research study on the prevention of burnout in social workers. She used personal essay writing as one of the tools to encourage introspection and self-care among helping professionals at the Cocoa, FL, non-profit organization To Write Love on Her Arms.

"Dr. Mazza has such a gentle, genuinely compassionate nature about him," Suveg said. "He is inspirational, encouraging, loves to work with students and see their dreams come to fruition."

Mazza, a leading contributor in the field of poetry therapy, gave her permission to join his graduate-level course, where Suveg learned how to use writing in a therapeutic setting.

"It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Kaitlyn. She is a dedicated, responsible, and creative student with a clear commitment to her personal and professional development." Mazza said.

For her required field work in her final semester as an undergraduate in the College of Social Work, Suveg has chosen to volunteer at The Center for Drug-Free Living in Orlando. She plans to seek her master's degree in social work after a year as a full-time professional.

"The creative research grant shows FSU not only rewards people sitting in a lab in the biological sciences or someone traveling to another country, but also someone like me doing scientific research in the arts," Suveg said. "I am so proud to have chosen a school where the arts are valued across multiple departments."

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