Coming to the University of Michigan from a small high school in rural mid-Michigan could have been overwhelming for Caitlyn Mira (A.B. 2020). Though she was co-valedictorian of her Gladwin High School graduating class, she didn’t have access to as many Advanced Placement (AP) classes or extracurricular opportunities as her peers from larger schools in more affluent metropolitan areas. And, with about 500 students, her high school was just plain tiny compared to U-M. But a thoughtful combination of financial and program support unique to LSA helped Caitlyn chart a meaningful course through four unforgettable years in Ann Arbor.

Caitlyn’s starting point was the Comprehensive Studies Program (CSP), which she was invited to join upon admission. CSP, a student success program established in LSA nearly forty years ago, ultimately served as a sort of home base for Caitlyn throughout all four of her undergraduate years.

“I could’ve gotten lost really easily my first semester, but CSP helped tremendously with the transitions,” said Caitlyn, who registered for CSP course sections for her first- and second-year core classes, studied with CSP tutors, and met with a CSP advisor every month until graduation.

“My CSP advisor helped me in a multitude of ways. It started with mapping out a four year plan that let me focus on core credits my first two years and major/minor credits my last two years, leaving my summers open to use how I wanted,” explained Caitlyn. “This allowed me to work in sports marketing for Minor League Baseball after my first year, take a study abroad course in Greece after my sophomore year, and intern with a nonprofit after my junior year.”

CSP advisors are adept at helping students identify classes in which they are likely to be successful. Because natural sciences like biology and chemistry weren't her strong suit, Caitlyn’s advisor suggested a psychology class that would count as a natural science credit. That class ended up being one of her favorites at Michigan, and ultimately led to valuable undergraduate research experience outside the classroom, too. One day while attending a professor’s office hours she learned about an opportunity with the Media and Psychology in Everyday Life (MaPiEL) research team, and promptly volunteered as a research assistant.

“Knowing, from day one, that I would always have CSP as a place to come back to for guidance and assistance was a great confidence booster,” said Caitlyn of the program that encouraged her to seek a wide variety of opportunities in LSA to round out her bachelor’s degree in Communication and Media Studies.

She combined a CSP resume workshop with the services of the LSA Opportunity Hub to find--and fund--an unpaid summer internship with Make-A-Wish Michigan. The Hub not only provided assistance in searching and applying for internships, but also guided her through the scholarship application process, making it possible for Caitlyn to spend her summer getting the most out of the experience without having to worry about how she’d pay her living expenses.

“I didn't just work with our volunteers, I got to work with the Wish kiddos and their families as well,” she said of the job, which inspired her to get even more involved in making a difference for others. “After my internship ended, I became a registered wish-granting volunteer myself, and I am excited to participate as a volunteer in the Make-A-Wish fundraisers I staffed when I was an intern.”

"I took this photo during one of the Michigan hockey games when I was in charge of spotlight."

Caitlyn also found ways to get involved and give back on campus. As a senior, she was elected to the service committee for Henderson House, the women’s residential co-op where she lived her last two years.

She served as a campus tour guide for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, regaling prospective students and visitors with favorite campus legends and myths, pointing out the most iconic campus architecture, and clueing them in to the best secret study spots.

And she landed a dream sports marketing internship with the University of Michigan Athletic Department’s Fan Experience and Gameday Promotions team, where she coordinated Men's Soccer, Men’s Hockey, and Big House summer movie night events.

“My absolute favorite place on campus is the Big House because, before I fell in love with Michigan as a college, I loved their sports teams,” said Caitlyn. She got a chance to take the field herself as a first-year student when her Dance 100 class performed in a halftime show during the Michigan-Wisconsin football game. “It was one of the coolest experiences I've had--I even met Jalen Rose!”

“LSA encourages students to try so many different things, then helps you get the most out of each of the experiences,” said Caitlyn, who graduated near the top of her class during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and recently joined the customer service team at ProQuest, a global information-content and library technology company based in Ann Arbor.

“Thanks to LSA donors, I was able to graduate debt-free because of the scholarships I was awarded. I am grateful for that every day. It allowed me to have the best four years I could possibly have at U-M, but it also set me up for success after graduation.”