School News Network Feature: Trailblazing GRCC band director Shannor Shaker advocates for inclusion and access

Shannon Shaker, GRCC’s new director of bands, began conducting “Planet B”.

It’s almost 1 p.m. in Grand Rapids Community College’s Recital Hall and as professor Shannon Shaker takes the podium, she signals her wind ensemble to quiet their instruments for the start of class.

Shaker’s students start tuning their instruments, preparing themselves for an hour and a half of practicing music for their upcoming spring concert.

After warming up, Shaker, GRCC’s new director of bands, began conducting “Planet B,” written by Ukrainian composer Catherine Likhuta. She counted off three intro beats, took a breath and the sounds of trumpets, flutes and percussion swelled.

Third-year GRCC student and percussionist Zane Goldsmith praised Shaker for her growing success as conductor over a short period of time during a break between pieces.

“We experienced a bit of an awkward transition last semester having a new director to get used to, but Professor Shaker is so musically talented,” Goldsmith said. “She picks great pieces, expects a lot more and knows how to get us to grow and produce a higher quality of music.”

GRCC students Jonah Walters, left, and Joe Schimmelmann play alto saxophone in the wind ensemble

Trailblazing Through Music

Shaker is a woman on a mission to make music education more accessible and inclusive at the college level. 

“This position is a dream come true,” Shaker said. “GRCC truly offers high quality music education, and it’s really a place where we can take students as they are and help take them where they want to be, no matter their prior experience.”

As the first female in the role, Shaker seeks to advocate for the inclusion of equitable and inclusive practices into her teaching and research to ensure everyone has access to a high-quality music education.

“This department and the people in this school are seeking out diverse voices and people who are changemakers in their fields,” she said. “It’s great to be in a community where they see the value I bring to the table.”

Student and alto saxophone player Jonah Walters agrees with Shaker that the “end goal of music education shouldn’t be to churn out highly skilled musicians.”

“Studying music is about enjoyment and striving for personal mastery,” Walters said. “We’re iron sharpening iron and sounding really good after (Shaker) only being with us a short time.”

Becoming Professor Shaker

As a high school sophomore, Shaker decided she wanted to be a band director. Despite growing up in poverty, she became a first-generation college student and graduated from Central Michigan University in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in music education.

“I am a first-generation student. I’m here with a doctorate now and along that way there were a lot of times when I wasn’t sure I was good enough to pursue my career,” Shaker said. I kept doing the next right step to get there, and if you find the right people, anything is possible.” 

Job searching fresh out of college during an economic recession proved difficult, but Shaker traveled to Colorado for an opportunity to teach music.

“Music teaching jobs were in short supply, so when I was offered a job teaching elementary music, I took it,” Shaker said.

She moved back to Michigan to teach music in Ypsilanti schools, while she researched and applied to master’s programs. She returned to Central Michigan to complete her master’s degree of music in wind conducting.

“I conducted some of (CMU’s) bands, assisted with music education and conducting classes, and I fell in love with working with undergrads,” Shaker said. “I thought, ‘I want to do this at the higher ed level and this is the group I’m really meant to teach.’”

During graduate school, she began noticing the gender bias present in music education.

“I was in my third year of graduate school when I realized I had never programmed one piece of music by a woman,” she said. “I hadn’t taken the time to learn any music by women composers or teach them to my students when I was teaching in public schools.”

Frustrated, she completed a doctorate of musical arts in wind conducting from Arizona State University to eventually work in higher education and increase equity and diversity for future music educators.

“As a teacher, I have full control over the music that my band plays, which means I can choose music that accurately reflects our students and their cultures and incorporates diverse composers,” Shaker said.

Conducting the wind ensemble class at GRCC this semester, Shaker says her students love learning a variety of new music.

“A music education student who only experiences music written by white men will only have those experiences to draw on later when they select the music to teach their own students,” she added.

Shaker also works to diversify the guest artists and clinicians brought into her classes, to provide “a wealth of resources, voices and topics” for her students to learn and one day, incorporate into their teaching.

 ‘You Don’t Have to Be the Best’ 

Shaker envisions living in a “society of musicians” at GRCC where people “never have to stop playing their instrument” because of money or because they do not wish to pursue music as a career.

“Not everyone needs to major in music, but having those opportunities provides more people in the community with a place to come and experience really wonderful music education,” she said.  

Next fall, GRCC is bringing back their campus band, designed for non-music majors who would like to continue playing a band instrument in college or music majors performing on their non-major instrument, after a hiatus during the pandemic. The band will meet one day a week in the evening, making it more accessible to students and community members who work or take classes during the day.

 “You’re not here because you’re perfect; you’re here to learn,” Shaker said. “So often, if a student is struggling in a competitive field, it can be really hard for students no matter how much talent they have.”

Access to music education during their primary schooling years is beneficial for musicians to succeed at the secondary level, she said.

“If a student at a low-income school has their music program cut, they’re not going to pursue it at university level,” Shaker said. “(Music education) needs to be something that doesn’t get cut when times get tough. If we have good, relevant music education in all levels of schools, it encourages all students to keep doing it.”

In addition to her teaching responsibilities at GRCC, Shaker is on a mission to be a music education resource through workshops and presentations.

“Giving middle and high school teachers concrete things they can do translates to more diverse and equitable band rooms,” Shaker said. “We are part of the community and we are serving the community.

Explore more unique video stories of students learning, interesting school programs and educators working to help all children succeed.

This story was reported by Alexis Stark and photographed by Dianne Carroll Burdick of the School News Network.

Here to Help: Jeff Byrd helps GRCC Job Training students learn about their options

Jeff Byrd wearing a brown shirt and smiling.

Always remember, at GRCC, you are surrounded by people who want you to be successful and are ready to walk with you on your educational pathway. We are here to help!

Meet Jeff Byrd. Jeff  is here to help GRCC students realize a new dream or career path. Which is both satisfying and challenging work. 

“Working with a diverse group of students keeps it very interesting,” Jeff said. “Understanding their different backgrounds, and the journey for them to get to this point, and then helping them figure out their life path or change of career is very rewarding for me.” 

As an educational training specialist and career coach, Jeff helps GRCC Job Training students learn about their options. He helps them explore the skills they’d like to develop and the career they’d like to begin. Then he helps students choose a Job Training program that will get them the type of entry level employment that will help them reach their career goals.

Jeff is someone prospective students and their parents can really talk to. “As a coach I enjoy talking with the students to understand what their experience was before they came to us, and try to understand where they want to go,” said Jeff. “With this information, hopefully I can recommend an educational pathway that will be successful for their future.”

The students Jeff coaches learn quickly that he is dedicated to helping them pick the right path. They also know that they can rely on him. Jeff holds himself accountable to his students because he expects the same in return. 

“I will work with them and support them to achieve all of the educational goals that they desire,” said Jeff.  “I want students to be dedicated and accountable for their educational goals, and to take their education seriously. I am my student’s biggest supporter but will also hold them accountable for not following through.”

“Communication is a very important part of a career coach and student relationship,” said Jeff. “So, I encourage my students to communicate so that we can eliminate any misunderstandings.  Connecting this way, I believe, helps with a better experience.”

Jeff attended GRCC to take one class as a guest student while earning his bachelor’s degree. “My experience here as a student was great and the staff were very helpful,” he said. “GRCC has always been very helpful in the community, and so I am very proud to say that I work for an organization that cares for its students and community.”

Jeff earned his bachelor’s degree in business from Ferris State University and then a master’s degree in business from Davenport University. 

“I’ve had the opportunity to work in various careers, from local government work, k-12 education, manufacturing and back to education,” said Jeff. I have always been in careers where I am helping people and that is something that I truly enjoy.  Helping someone realize their potential and dreams is a satisfying thing for me.  So, I hope to continue this journey helping others.”

Learn about GRCC Job Training programs can lead to a rewarding career in the skilled trades in a relatively short amount of time at

My GRCC Story: Corey Wright says determination and scholarship support helped him find success after difficult start

Corey Wright smiling.

It takes determination to start again – especially when you’ve already failed once. Sometimes it also takes extra help from supporters you didn’t even know you had.

Corey Wright spent a lot of his life moving from place to place with his mother, three sisters and three brothers. Focused on helping his family, school wasn’t really a priority for him.

“I suffered academically growing up because I did not take school very seriously, which I regret fully,” he said.

After graduating from Ottawa Hills High School, he enrolled at Arizona State University in 2018. He didn’t have a firm plan and randomly chose to follow in his father’s footsteps by majoring in electrical engineering.

“Prior to this, I had no clue what electrical engineering even was, so you can only imagine what happened once I started my classes that fall,” he said.

“It was terrible. I failed five of my classes that year – not because I could not learn the material, but because I got caught up in the wrong crowd of friends. Along with failing five of my classes that year, I also had a past-due balance of $12,000 on my student account. Combining the wrong group of people along with bad grades and a past-due balance, it caused me more harm than I could have ever imagined.”

Wright returned to Grand Rapids, disappointed in himself and mad at the world. He felt like he had failed his family and friends.

After a while, Wright decided he needed to give college another try, but this time, he was going to approach it differently. His first step: enrolling at GRCC. His next step: majoring in astronomy, a subject he was passionate about.

“Attending GRCC throughout the years has turned out to be one of the best decisions that I have ever made,” he said. “This college has shaped me into a better thinker than any other college could have done. The faculty and staff are friendly and supportive of everyone’s needs, which can make anyone feel like they’re at home.”

Wright especially credits GRCC’s academic tutoring labs with helping him succeed.

“This year has been academically challenging to me because I had to take multiple calculus and physics courses,” he said. “These courses have made me consider majoring in physics, but I’m still a big fan of astronomy.”

Wright, who graduates this spring with an associate degree in mathematics, has mapped out a plan to combine both his interests: After graduating from Grand Valley State University with a bachelor’s in physics, he plans to attend graduate school at Michigan State University for a degree in astrophysics.

A scholarship from the GRCC Foundation played an important role in helping Wright persevere in his second attempt at college.

“By receiving this scholarship, it has helped me to remember that there are people out there that are watching and rooting for me to make it through college,” he said.

Wright plans to eventually help students like him succeed: “I hope to accomplish this goal by becoming a professor who will be able to convey the materials of science in a way that anyone will be able to understand.”

You can have an impact on a student’s life by donating to a GRCC Foundation scholarship at

Photo by Andrew Schmidt.

Wellness Champions: Disposing of unused medications in a safe way

Expired or unwanted medicines can be dangerous, but the Grand Rapids Community College Police Department can help you get rid of them.

Be a champion! GRCC is helping students and employees focus on all areas of health and wellness as we emerge together from the pandemic.

Wellness is a full integration of physical, mental and spiritual health. That includes physical health, but so much more. During the next year we’re also looking at emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, environmental and occupational health, and how we all can work to help ourselves and each other.

There are many resources at GRCC to help all of these types of wellness. Each week, we’ll introduce you to people and places here on campus ready to support you on your wellness journey.

This Saturday, April 30, is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

America’s substance misuse crisis is a public safety and public health emergency that threatens the well-being of individuals who misuse drugs as well as their families, communities, and, ultimately, the nation.

A secure drop box has been installed at Campus Police headquarters, 25 Lyon St. NE, where you can anonymously drop off unneeded and expired prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, supplements, pet medicine and medicated ointments and lotions. Collected items will be incinerated.

GRCC’s Student Life office funded installation of the drop box in 2018. Before bringing your medicine to the drop box, block out all identifying personal information on the prescription — but do not remove the name of the medication. Medications can be packaged together in small baggies for disposal.

The SafeMeds drop box can be used by GRCC staff and students — and anyone in the community. It is for residential medications only and cannot be used by businesses and pharmacies.

Supporting the field in addressing this epidemic is one of the U.S. Department of Justice’s top priorities and, at the center of this response, is the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Abuse Program.

GRCC In the News 04/29/2022

Provost John Selmon chosen as Muskegon Community College’s next president

4/28/22 MLive

MUSKEGON, MI – Muskegon Community College’s provost and vice president has been selected as its next president “for the morale” of the college.

… (John) Selmon previously served as executive dean of student services at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor and in student services at Kennesaw University in Atlanta. He also worked 18 years for the Davenport University Educational System, including as group vice president, and started his career with Grand Rapids Junior College.

Please help us out: Commencement volunteers still needed

Commencement is tomorrow and we still need volunteers!

Please show your support for our graduates by volunteering to help make this time memorable for our students.

Students in the School of Arts and Sciences will attend a 4:30 p.m. commencement, and students in the School of Workforce Development will be at a 7:30 p.m. service.

Most volunteer positions will require you to arrive approximately 1.5 – 2 hours prior to the start of commencement.

Complete this quick form to let us know your interest in volunteering. We will respond with additional information and your specific volunteer assignment at a later date.

Raider Salute to GRCC Lakeshore Campus Open House team

I want to extend a huge THANK YOU to all of you for participating and volunteering during the 2022 GRCC Lakeshore Campus Spring Open House event last Saturday.

We battled what could have been the nicest day of the year in terms of weather, yet, we believe it was a success. We estimate more than 150 visitors explored the Lakeshore campus, spoke with our faculty and staff during the resource fair, and participated in the presentations and workshops that we offered.

Kudos GRCC family! Our next step is to select the GRCC Foundation scholarship winner, notify them, and highlight them through our communications department.

Special thanks to the faculty and staff who spoke with our visitors during our resource fair about our programs and departments. Also, thank you to the volunteers who assisted in the various roles throughout the day, especially the student employees: Alexandra, Suzanne, Angel, David, and Cierra.

It takes time to plan and execute such a large event and the planning committee was instrumental months in advance of the Open House. Dean Daniel Clark, Director Lori Cook, Jaqueline Araiza, Danielle Nyland, Miguel Espinoza, Rose Muller-Trinh, and Kerry Hayward deserve the majority of the credit for the success of this event. Thank you, team.

It is always our goal to learn from and improve these events. Please share your feedback with us by completing our short survey.If I missed anyone in this message, please share it with them.

With gratitude,

Francisco Ramirez

‘Quitting was not an option’: Tanaya Shepherd says she balanced work and home responsibilities to earn degree

Tanaya Shepherd smiling.

Friday is a huge day for Tanaya Shepherd.

It’s not only the day when the 44-year-old single mother will graduate from Grand Rapids Community College, it’s also the very first time Shepherd will step foot on campus.

“If you’re a busy person like I am, and you don’t want to do the whole classroom thing, online is the way to go,” Shepherd said. “I earned my GRCC degree completely online: classes, books, counseling – everything.”

That’s not saying it was easy.

Shepherd had dreamed for years of pursuing a college degree. But with four growing children — and their schools, hobbies and sports — plus a full-time job as a life coach at Hope Network in Grand Rapids, time was one thing Shepherd couldn’t spare.

Inspired by her mother, Yolanda Johnson, who’d recently earned her master’s degree, Shepherd knew she needed to follow her dream.

“I needed something else,” she said. “I’m never a person to be content staying where they are.”

Shepherd was able to balance all her responsibilities by taking classes part-time and strictly online.

“I know some people need to be in a classroom, and that’s OK,” she said. “But for me and my schedule, online classes was the way to go.”

Time management was key.

Shepherd took no more than two courses each semester. After working all day and between ferrying her children to school, cheerleading, band or basketball practices, she studied evenings in a makeshift office upstairs in her Kentwood home.

“All the kids knew that when I said I needed to do my homework, they needed to let me concentrate,” she said. “They were great.”

Although she originally planned to earn a juvenile criminal justice degree at GRCC, she eventually chose to avoid the required math courses. Instead, she earned an Addiction Studies Certificate as a certified peer recovery mentor and will receive a General Studies Associate Degree on Friday.

Although she enjoyed her classwork, Shepherd has no plans to earn a bachelor’s degree. Now her goal is to help the Grand Rapids community in whatever way she can.

And on Friday? There’ll be a whole cheering section on campus at commencement watching her accept her GRCC degree.

“Honestly, I thought I was just too old to go back to school,” she said. “But my family and friends and coworkers were behind me all the way.

“Quitting was not an option.”

This story was reported by Beth McKenna.

Summer 2022 Employee Exercise class schedule and registration

Three pineapple with sunglasses on yellow background, colorful ananas photo

Summer 2022 Employee Exercise Schedule

Classes begin Monday May 2, end Thursday August 25

NO class Memorial Day and 4th of July


RaiderStrong with Lannie


214 FFH or Outside (meet at FFH entrance)


Fitness Fusion with Beth


214 FFH


RaiderStrong with Lannie


214 FFH or Outside (meet at FFH entrance)


Strength Blast with Lannie


214 FFH

Please sign up for whichever class/es you’re planning to attend. The registration includes the waiver as well. All participants must complete the form.

Employee exercise classes are FREE to all GRCC employees. External participants (non-GRCC employees) are invited to join and need only pay a $20/semester fee.

Looking forward to getting our summer sweat on!

Questions? More information? Email

Tech Tip: Making Panopto Videos Accessible to Students

As we get closer to the start of the new semester, we hope that you are getting an opportunity to explore the new Panopto software!

Please follow the directions below on how to update share settings for Panopto videos to ensure they will be visible to students or others with a direct link.

To change the settings:

  1. Navigate to the Video in Panopto
  2. Select the Gear menu on the top right corner
  3. Once inside the Gear menu, select Share
  4. Once in the share options, under who can access this video change the setting to one of the following options:
    • Private- Only Specific People or Groups (They will need to be added in the top half of the screen)
    • Organization (Unlisted)- Anyone at your org who has the link
    • Public (Unlisted)- Anyone who has the link

Sharing a Panopto Video

For more information and helpful tips, please visit the IT Customer Support Portal or contact the IT Customer Support Desk at x4357.

If you have a suggestion or a Technology Tip you think can be useful, you can submit them by emailing 

Tech Tip: Linking your course to Panopto

Are you planning to use Panopto this semester for your Blackboard course? The easiest way to fix access issues, is linking your course directly to a Panopto Folder, follow the steps in our knowledge base below: 

Add Course in Panopto

For more information and helpful tips, please visit the IT Customer Support Portal or contact the IT Customer Support Desk at x4357.

If you have a suggestion or a Technology Tip you think can be useful, you can submit them by emailing 

GRCC In the News 04/28/2022

Summer registration is open at GRCC

4/27/22 eightWest

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – Thinking about your summer plans? Registration is now open for Grand Rapids Community College’s two summer sessions, whether you want to get a head start on the fall semester or just continue your education.

Muskegon Community College announces next president

4/27/22 FOX 17

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Muskegon Community College will have a new president starting this July. The Muskegon Community College Board of Trustees unanimously voted on Wednesday for Dr. John Selmon to be the next president.

… Dr. Selmon was previously the Executive Dean of Student Services at Lake Michigan College. He has also worked at Kennesaw State University, Grand Rapids Community College, and Davenport University. He has a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from Eastern Michigan University. He also has a Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Local restaurateur receives Governor’s Service Award

4/27/22 Grand Rapids Business Journal

The co-owner and chef of Amore Trattoria Italiana received an award for making a difference during the pandemic.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Community Service Commission last week awarded Jenna Arcidiacono and nine other Michigan residents the 2020/21 COVID-19 Governor’s Service Award, which honors individuals who supported significant needs and made a difference in food distribution, health or other arenas during the pandemic.

(This article doesn’t mention it, but Arciadiaconno is a GRCC alum.)

Alumni Spotlight: Paola Mendivil

4/27/22 The Ferris State Torch (Ferris State University’s student newspaper)

Paola Mendivil won the 2021 Pacesetter Award as an alumnus at Ferris. She is the first Latina to have won the award. She was born in Mexico and moved to Grand Rapids when she was 16 years old, where she then finished high school. She was originally going to go back to Mexico after graduating high school, but then she was offered a scholarship to Grand Rapids Community College. 

She’s shaking things up

4/27/22 (Kent Intermediate School District)

It’s almost 1 p.m. in Grand Rapids Community College’s Recital Hall and as Professor Shannon Shaker takes the podium, she signals her Winds Ensemble to quiet their instruments for the start of class. 

Who is Dr. Bill Pink?

4/27/22 The Ferris State Torch (Ferris State University’s student newspaper)

Motivated by his faith and the opportunity to help others, Dr. Bill Pink is looking forward to joining the Ferris community as president. 

Pink was named Ferris’ presidential search finalist on March 28, five years into his presidency at Grand Rapids Community College.  

GRCC, Kuyper College partner to create seamless pathway for students working toward business leadership degree

BA 256 Principles of Accounting professor Robert Groenleer teaching at Lakeshore Campus in Holland.

Grand Rapids Community College students will have a seamless path to Kuyper College’s bachelor’s degree programs through a new agreement between the two institutions.

The transfer partnership agreement ensures that GRCC students can transfer to Kuyper with minimal credit loss or duplicate coursework.

“GRCC is for many students the first step on their educational journey,” said Dr. Bill Pink, GRCC president. “It is rewarding to see students build on that solid academic foundation with additional degrees. Agreements with four-year institutions such as Kuyper College create outstanding opportunities for students and reflect the value our community places on education and collaboration.” 

GRCC has transfer program agreements with most higher education institutions in West Michigan. This agreement with Kuyper, the first between the two colleges, notes that GRCC students who are specifically seeking a bachelor’s degree in business leadership will be able to take their classes at Kuyper’s urban campus at the Center for Community Transformation, 1530 Madison Ave. SE.

“This new partnership agreement allows any GRCC student pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Kuyper, Michigan’s only federally recognized Work College, to transfer into low-cost bachelor’s degree programs with guaranteed jobs,” said Dr. Patricia Harris, Kuyper College president. “Transfer scholarships and grants are available, allowing students the opportunity to graduate with little or no debt.”

The articulation agreement idea got its start when professor Felix Pereiro, head of GRCC’s Business Department, and Marc Andreas, associate professor of Business Leadership and Business Leadership Program Director for Kuyper College, collaborated in discussions about how to help business students and our community.

“GRCC offers our students a high-quality education at an affordable price. We are at a pivotal time in our society where the cost of obtaining a college degree is beyond the reach of many, especially those in disenfranchised populations,” Pereiro said. 

“Kuyper’s campus at the Center for Community Transformation is a breakthrough moment for the community we serve. Students who earn their Associate of Business degree at GRCC now have a path to earn a baccalaureate degree and employment opportunities that are aligned with their coursework. The location of the building was critical. It is strategically located in a neighborhood to help those most in need.”

Pereiro said discussions with Andreas focused on how they could help students attain academic, career, and life goals.

“Many students begin their journey to obtain their goals at GRCC and then move onto one of our great transfer college and university partners. We challenged each other to develop programs that are truly exciting and innovative to offer our students,” Pereiro said.

Photo by Steve Jessmore.