GRCC retiree biography: Karen Walker

Karen Walker will be retiring from GRCC at the end of June. Karen joined the Grand Rapids Community College Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program in January 1987 as faculty and academic fieldwork coordinator. She developed fieldwork sites throughout West Michigan where a Certified Occupational Therapist (COTA) was not employed. Many of these facilities identified the benefit of a COTA and created this position after supervising a student. She developed several courses and unit topics in the OTA curriculum such as therapeutic relationships, adult development, and mental health.

Karen was appointed program director in August 2000. She serves as program director and faculty in the program. She facilitated and supported the OTA faculty (Matthew Mekkes, Lynda Jansen, and Sarah Ryder) to develop learning activities for the students throughout the college and community. These activities help the students to develop awareness and empathy for people with disabilities to be able to treat and advocate for them. The faculty partnered with facilities and programs such as; Lincoln School, Huntington Woods pre-primary impaired program, Martindill Wellness Center, Pilgrim Manor, Oak Ridge Retirement, Brookcrest Rehab, Adam Park apartments, GRCC dental clinic, GRCC preschool, and Michigan Works First.

Karen created unique hands-on learning experiences such as a wheelchair scavenger hunt. This hunt involves teams of students in wheelchairs ranging from sports wheelchairs, scooters, and standard wheelchairs to travel around the campus in search of clues while practicing their mobility skills and identifying campus accessibility.

Karen identified a need for a student conference so she developed and co-chaired the West Michigan Educational Consortium 2001-2015 which focuses on Occupational Therapy specialty practice areas. This was an annual conference for students in West Michigan Occupational Therapy and Occupational Therapy Assistant educational programs.

To keep current with OT practice she created externships for herself under the supervision of OT practitioners, many of whom were OTA program graduates. It was a pleasure being mentored by former students in areas of physical disabilities, home and community health, work hardening, and mental health.

Presently Karen volunteers in community and church activities. She has always been an outdoor enthusiast enjoying snowshoeing, rowing, kayaking, and backpacking. She enjoys traveling with family and friends. She plans to continue these activities in retirement and to explore new ones.

We wish you all the best in your retirement, Karen. Please stay in touch! Thank you for all that you did for GRCC and our students; you’ve made such a difference in the lives of many.

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