Lori Cook, Michael Michewicz and Michelle Richter receive Excellence in Education Awards for helping students during pandemic

Grand Rapids Community College honored three employees for their efforts in helping students stay on track in reaching their goals during the uncertainty of COVID-19.

Lori Cook, Michael Michewicz and Michelle Richter received GRCC’s 2021 Excellence in Education Awards during opening day activities Thursday. The awards, established in 1989, honor employees for their contributions to GRCC, higher education and the community.

Cook, director of Admissions and Enrollment, was recognized with the staff award. She was praised for initiatives, such as mandatory orientation, “Service Saturdays” and open houses, that provide students with the best possible start to their college career — and then for successfully reworking them during the pandemic. 

“Lori is an exemplary employee because she is able to take the broader mission and vision of our college and translate that into processes and procedures that truly support student success as they onboard and as they continue as GRCC students,” President Dr. Bill Pink said.

Michewicz, an instructor in the Music Department, received the adjunct award. He usually teaches applied saxophone lessons, but the 2020-21 academic year presented him with two new challenges: COVID-19 and an assignment as GRCC’s interim director of bands.

“This past year was particularly challenging for all music faculty, but even more so for Mike,” said Kevin Dobreff, program director and head of the department. “He met every challenge — including staying ahead of all CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and local health department updates that impacted the ability of ensembles to rehearse together.”

Michelle Richter, director of the Nursing program, received the faculty award. Her colleagues noted that while her responsibilities mostly lie outside the classroom, she still makes connections with students, through the ADN 240 leadership course she created and teaches, visits to the Health Sciences and Resources Tutorial Lab, and her open-door policy. 

“Under Shelly’s leadership, the program has had a 100% pass rate on the NCLEX licensing exam for both Associate Degree Nursing and Practical Nursing students,” Pink said. “Graduates have achieved a nearly consistent 100% job placement rate after graduation in recent years.”

The awards were presented on Thursday during opening day activities for faculty and staff. GRCC’s fall semester starts Aug. 30.

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