Meet The Staff

Dr. Nykia Gaines

Dr. Nykia Gaines, B.S., M. Ed., Ph.D., Director

Hi, I'm Nykia D. Gaines, also known as Dr. G. Welcome to TRIO STEM! I started my journey at Grand Valley in the fall of 1994. As a freshman from Detroit, I was enthusiastic about my new life as a Laker. After earning my B.S. in Criminal Justice in 1998 from Grand Valley, I pursued an M.Ed. with a specialization in College Student Affairs and Leadership in Grand Valley's Higher Education Master's Program. During my master's program, I worked as a Graduate Assistant in Health and Wellness and in the Office of Housing and Residence Life. I also interned at the University of Detroit-Mercy in the office of International Services. After I graduated with my M.Ed. in 2001, I accepted a full-time position at GVSU as a Living Center Director in the Office of Housing and Residence Life. In the summer of 2008, I decided to depart from my beloved Grand Valley to pursue my doctorate full-time at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in Bowling Green, OH. As a doctoral fellow, I worked in the College of Education and Human Development as an academic advisor. In May 2012, I graduated from BGSU with a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration. Less than one-year post-doctorate, I graciously accepted this position at my alma mater. I am excited to be able to once again give back to a school that has continued to give to me, a Laker for a Lifetime. In my free time, I enjoy caring for and playing with my rescue dog, Karma. I also take pleasure in traveling abroad, attending church, Skyping with distant friends, and spending time with my family.

Full-Time Position: Director, TRIO-STEM Health Services
Office Address: 200 STU
Phone: (616) 331-5430


L Rettig

Linda Rettig, B. A., M. Ed., Program Advisor

I am so excited to be a program advisor for the TRIO STEM program and look forward to working with students. I have been with Grand Valley State University since 2007. I began in the Curriculum Materials Library with education students helping with lesson plans and other classroom needs. I left there to join the Office of Multicultural Affairs and follow my passion for working with underrepresented students. While at this position I was able to travel to Ghana, Africa, and experience being in a culture completely different than my own. One of my duties was to work with the Freshman Academy Program, which later was renamed the Oliver Wilson Freshman Academy after our dean of OMA, Oliver Wilson. In 2011, I joined the Student Academic Success Center and began working with the Oliver Wilson Freshman Academy, Pre-Majors and Learning Skills as the Office Coordinator. There have been many great opportunities that have prepared me for this new position including the Academic Success Institute and teaching both the Laker Strategies for Success (LSS 180 and EDH 182 Strategies for Success courses. Prior to GVSU, I was a K-12 educator. I am married with four children, 3 dogs, and a cat. Being a first generation student myself I know the importance of having support and resources and that is exactly what I am here to offer. 

Full-Time Position: Program Advisor, TRIO-STEM Health Services
Office Address: 200 STU
Phone: (616) 331-5430

Patrice Pierre

Patrice Pierre, B. A.; M. A.; Special Assistant

Patrice Pierre (she/her), born and raised in Grand Rapids, is new to the Laker family, but familiar with the community. She graduated from Ferris State University with a Bachelors in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Mathematics. She taught Math in both middle and high school for a number of years.  Patrice then graduated from Western Michigan University with a Masters in College Counseling.  Previously she worked as a Success Coach at the University of Central Florida and the GEAR UP coordinator at Ferris State University. She has always been passionate and dedicated to helping students be successful. Her goals for TRIO STEM- Health Sciences are to increase retention, persistence, and graduation by supporting all students.  Outside of work, Patrice enjoys life with her three sons, serving in her community, and spending time with her family and friends.

Full-Time Position: Special Assistant, TRIO-STEM Health Services
Office Address: 200 STU
Phone: (616) 331-5430

Graduate Assistants

Headshot of Maria Raab


Maria Raab

Maria Raab (she/her) is a Graduate Intern who assists with first-year advising, programming, events, and training for TRIO-STEM Heath Services. Maria is originally from Bay City, Michigan and graduated from with her Bachelor of Arts (BA)  from Saginaw Valley State University in August of 2020. She is currently pursing her M.Ed. in College Student Affairs Leadership. During her time at Saginaw Valley, she worked in the Office of Advanced Studies & International Student Services as a study abroad peer advisor for both inbound and outbound programs. You can also find Maria on campus working within the CECI Undergraduate Advising Center as a Graduate Assistant on the Downtown campus.  In her free time, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her partner and their puppy Milo. She is excited to learn more what services TRIO offers for students and to gain experience in holistic advising.


Student Assistants

Katie S



Katie Schroff

Katie (She/her) is from Rochester Hills, Michigan. She is majoring in Advertising and Public Relations with a minor in Marketing. She is expected to graduate in Spring 2022.  After graduation she plans to work in the sports industry. 



Sydney Fisher

Sydney (she/her) is from Byron Center, MI. She is majoring in comprehensive science and arts for teaching with an emphasis in special education. Her expected graduation is in April 2023. After graduation, she hopes to find a way to incorporate therapy dogs into special education programs. In Sydney’s free time she enjoys walking her dog and watching movies. This is her second semester working with the TRIO STEM- Health Sciences program.

Cassandra D. Headshot

Cassandra Denhof

Cassandra Denhof (she/her) grew up in Byron Center, MI and is in her second year at Grand Valley. She majors in elementary education and minors in Spanish. Cassandra is graduating in Spring 2024 and has plans to become a Spanish immersion teacher. This is her first year working in the TRIO STEM office. Cassandra enjoys hiking and listening to music in her free time. 

Bio Photo

Savion Southern

Bio coming soon!