Safe and celebratory: GRCC plans commencement in two sessions on April 29 to allow families to attend with distancing

Grand Rapids Community College is offering commencement in two sessions to provide students with a safe, in-person celebration.

The college plans to hold ceremonies on Friday, April 29. 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, all at the Gerald R. Ford Fieldhouse, 111 Lyon St. NE.

Students can have up to five tickets for the event.

“Holding two ceremonies will allow everyone to spread out safely as we continue recovering from the pandemic,” said Registrar Valerie Butterfield, who is overseeing commencement. “This is a special moment in the lives of our students, and we want them to be able to share it with their friends, families and other supporters.”

Birgit M. Klohs, recently retired as president and CEO of The Right Place, will provide the keynote address at each ceremony.

Klohs has spent more than four decades working to enhance economic development in West Michigan. Under her leadership, The Right Place Inc. created or retained more than 50,000 jobs and stimulated more than $5 billion in new investment. Among the projects she worked on were the opening of Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine and the creation of the Manufacturers Council.

Since stepping down from The Right Place in 2021, Klohs has served as a director for the New Community Transformation Fund, a venture fund she co-founded for entrepreneurs of color.

Last year, GRCC hosted four ceremonies over two days and did not allow guests because of the pandemic. The 2020 commencement was provided virtually.

Additional details on this year’s event will be posted at

Hip-hop artist Talib Kweli will discuss his memoir in final GRCC Diversity Lecture Series event of the semester

Hip-hop artist Talib Kweli standing with his arms crossed.

Hip-hop artist Talib Kweli will be the final speaker in this year’s Grand Rapids Community College Diversity Lecture Series, appearing virtually at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 6.

The Diversity Lecture Series provides students, employees, and community members access to scholars, thought-leaders, activists, and artists and is presented by GRCC’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Kweli, a New York native, is a rapper, activist, and entrepreneur and is recognized as one of the most accomplished hip-hop artists. 

He is known for partnering with Mos Def for the duo Black Star, teaming up with producer Hi-Tek for Reflection Eternal, releasing landmark solo material, and collaborating with Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Just Blaze, J Dilla, and Madlib.

“ODEI has never shied away from inviting speakers whose influence ranges from academics at the pinnacle of their scholarship to grassroots activists making an impact in their part of the world,” said Dr. B. Afeni McNeely Cobham, GRCC’s Chief Equity and Inclusion officer. “Talib’s family roots, love of hip- hop, socio-political awareness, immeasurable talent, and infectious work ethic have positioned him as an iconoclast of popular culture. How he got there will unfold as part of the moderated discussion.”

 In 2021, Kweli released his memoir, Vibrate Higher: A Rap Story. A reviewer for the Washington Post wrote, “the push-pull between commercial hip-hop, with its frequent emphasis on empty materialism, and Kweli’s message-driven, popular conscious rap is one of the main topics at the heart of the [book].”

The book discussion will be moderated by Bakari Kitwana, author, journalist, and executive director of Rap Sessions, which has hosted over 100 town hall meetings around the nation on difficult dialogues facing the hip-hop and millennial generations.

A live DJ set featuring Monk Matthaeus of GR Hip will begin at 5:30 p.m.

Anyone interested in attending can RSVP at

Wellness Champions: Stress relief can he only headphones away

Music students playing instruments.

These have been stressful times, for sure. But help can be as close as a set of earphones.

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.

Music can get us fired up, but it also can help us relax – and well as provide a host of other wellness benefits.

Kevin Dobreff, program director in the GRCC Music Department, has been with GRCC as long as it has been a community college – joining the faculty in 1991. He is a member and chair of the Commission on Community College Accreditation and serves as a visiting evaluator for the National Association of Schools of Music. He is very interested in chamber brass and vocal jazz.

And, Dobreff knows about how music can help us relax. He recommended three songs in particular, from Autumn Hill collections:

“Recovery” (
“Clair de Lune” (

“Dreams” (

The website Exploring your Mind posted and article “10 Benefits to Listening to Relaxing Music” to go with your songs from Kevin.

Here are some of the tips, and you can read the rest here:

Music reduces stress: According to scientists specializing in neuroscience, listening to relaxing music does relieve stress.

Natural sounds improve concentration: There is rhythm and music in nature! Natural sounds, such as rain on a window or a flowing river, have a certain cathartic effect on our body. One recent project showed relaxing music with added nature and bird sounds improved concentration and performance from students with ADHD.

Relaxing music helps us sleep better: Listening in bed with headphones helps us release worries and the exhausting thoughts that feed anxiety.

It’s good for your heart: Relaxing music lowers blood pressure and our heart rates. Our heartbeat becomes more regular and rhythmic, we have fewer arrhythmias, and we feel calmer.

Relaxing music helps us eat more attentively: Listening can help us eat in a more conscious, balanced and healthy way. It has a lot to do with mindfulness. It helps us eat more slowly and thus recognize sooner when we’re full. We taste food more intensely and savor the sensations of eating.

The GRCC Library and Learning Center has a large music collection, and reference librarians will be happy to assist you.

Wellness Committee Initiative

Earth Day is April 22–Let’s focus on the Environmental Dimension of Wellness! 

Socks are the most thrown-away piece of apparel. GRCC can help with that! The Wellness Champions are teaming up with Smartwool’s Second Cut Project to create a more circular economy and give every sock a second chance at life.

Smartwool has partnered with Material Return circularity platform to deconstruct socks and upcycle them into new products, like dog beds.

The Wellness Champions have identified 9 locations around campus for sock drop-off. More details to come on these locations, so please stay tuned.

This initiative will go from April 8-April 22 and we hope you can participate! 

GRCC In the News 04/05/2022

U-M, MSU thrive while Michigan regional universities scramble for students

4/4/22 Bridge Magazine

For Michigan public universities, state demographic trends have been a ticking time bomb: Fewer students are graduating from high school each year, and a smaller percentage of those who do are heading to college.   

… “So our biggest competition in that local area is no institution, not Central or even (Grand Rapids Community College) or another community college — it’s literally not going anywhere,” (Ferris State University dean of enrollment Kristen) Salomonson said. 

Bill Pink Chosen as the Next President of Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan

4/4/22 The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education

Bill Pink was named as the sole finalist to become the nineteenth president of Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan. He will be officially named president at the board of trustees meeting on May 6 and will take office on July 1 upon the retirement of current president David L. Eisler.

… Dr. Pink has been serving as president of Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan since May 2017. Earlier, he was vice president and dean at the college.