Learn from the Best: Nursing Faculty member Fred Comer’s dream? To help his student’s reach theirs.

Fred Comer smiling.

After 10 years of teaching Grand Rapids Community College nursing students as an adjunct faculty member, Fred Comer, MSN RN reached his goal of teaching as a full-time faculty member at GRCC.

Comer values the unique population of students who come to a community college.

“I appreciate the variety of students, and the various walks of life they come from, when starting their life journey at GRCC,” he said. “They are students of different ages, backgrounds, and life experiences. You could have in your class students who are first-time college students, adults that are returning to finish school after life halted their educational journey, and students that are starting a new career path.”

Comer’s students see his commitment to their success as he teaches them. His classes might not be easy, but he is making sure his students graduate with skills to land them a job in a demanding field.

“Professor Comer is caring, willing to help, and has a very calm demeanor,” shared one of his students. “He creates a comfortable atmosphere and will answer any question you have. He is a great listener and really wants you to succeed.”

Being accessible to students in and out of the classroom is key to Comer’s support of their success.

In this virtual world it is important to be accessible to students,” he said.“I flex my availability, and am willing to meet with students outside of my scheduled office hours. This has meant answering a few more emails over the weekend or staying after class an extra 30 minutes to an hour to allow students to ask questions or practice a skill.”

Comer switched careers in his 30s, from biology to nursing, and wishes he would have made the decision sooner.

“This would have given me many more years to serve as a nurse and nursing professor instead of entering a great profession in my mid 30s,” he said. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Biology, Comer earned a bachelor’s degree, and then master’s degree, in nursing.

Look for Comer this fall, teaching Introduction to Practical Nursing Concepts, Health Illness Concepts for the Practical Nurse I, Health Illness Concepts for the Practical Nurse II, Application of Basic Nursing Skills, Health Illness Concepts II, Health Illness Concepts III.

My Story Started at GRCC: CJ Norton shares how Michigan Reconnect, Veterans Center helping him work toward engineering degree

CJ Norton smiling with a flag behind him.

It’s the kind of place where everybody knows your name.

“The Veterans Center is always my first stop when I get to campus,” said CJ Norton, who served in the U.S. Marines and is now enrolled at Grand Rapids Community College. “When you meet another veteran there for the first time, it’s like an instant connection … you know you’ve gone through similar circumstances.”

Start at GRCC and go anywhere. Every student has a story to tell about how GRCC gave them the education and opportunity to be successful, with support services available to help them through.

GRCC’s new Veterans Center on level G2 of Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall opened in October to serve as a single point of contact for students who served in the military, connecting veterans with campus resources, including financial aid, advising and disability support.

It’s also a place to call their own on campus.

“The other veterans I’ve met there have been great. I met another former Marine who I studied physics with, and another guy who I work out with every morning I’m on campus,” said 26-year-old Norton, of Wyoming.

Norton enlisted in the Marines at age 17, serving four years as an embarkation logistics specialist at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. After his 2016 discharge, he returned to West Michigan and tried GRCC for the first time.

“I was still sort of transitioning from the military and I just couldn’t handle college,” he said.

After years working security, waiting tables and odd jobs in warehouses, Norton decided to follow in the tracks of a childhood friend pursuing an engineering degree. He re-enrolled at GRCC in 2019 and is making progress toward his own engineering degree.

“I’m super happy with how I’m doing in school now,” he said.

A big part of that is thanks to GRCC’s Veterans Services team, which Norton said goes above and beyond the call of duty to support military and veteran students at every stage of their academic journeys. It was the Veterans Services staff that told Norton about Michigan Reconnect.

Michigan Reconnect is the largest effort in state history to ensure that Michiganders who are 25 or older and don’t have a college degree have an opportunity to earn an associate degree or skills certificate, with the cost of in-district tuition covered.  

“As soon as they told me about Michigan Reconnect, I applied for the scholarship and immediately qualified. It was a huge weight off my shoulders,” said Norton, who’s transferring to Grand Valley State University this fall to continue his engineering degree.

The Veterans Center is helping GRCC expand its partnerships with state and local veterans’ agencies, helping students access benefits and support in the community. It’s also making veterans in the community aware of opportunities at GRCC to earn credits for degrees or transfer and in-demand career skills.

Norton said the center fills different needs for veterans.

“If you want to go there and study, you can study,” he said. “If you want to talk with another vet, you can do that. If you want to play video games with a buddy, you can do that. There are people there to help you in whatever you might need.

“I see it as such a bright light, and I feel like if other veterans go in there they’ll feel the same way.”

Students can connect with the Veterans Center by phone at (616) 234-2578, and by email at veterans@grcc.edu. Additional information is available online at grcc.edu/veterans

This story was reported by Beth McKenna.

GRCC TRIO students looking to study abroad will gain help purchasing passports through an Institute of International Education grant

Up to 25 Grand Rapids Community College students will be able to get United States passports for studying abroad through a grant from the Institute of International Education.

The IIE American Passport Project, in its second year, is intended to increase participation and diversity in study abroad programs, giving all students access to the academic and career benefits of international experience.

GRCC, one of 40 colleges and universities selected for this second cohort, will identify 25 students in the TRIO/Student Support Services program to participate. TRIO is a federally funded program that provides academic advising, tutoring, financial guidance, counseling and other supports to assist students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

A United States adult passport costs $165, a price that can put studying abroad out of reach for many students.

“A passport is an essential tool of mobility for our students,” said Anna Maria Clark, academic advisor for GRCC’s TRIO program. “So many current events around the world today continue to show us that we live in a global society, and lack of experience within our global world will only continue to perpetuate our world’s inability to work together to solve problems.

“A passport, learning a new language, and study abroad go hand in hand in providing our students with essential experiences they, in turn, will be able to apply to their studies and professional lives.”

AAA Kentwood-Grand Rapids has also committed to providing 25 sets of passport photos for free to the 25 GRCC students.

GRCC is restarting its Study Away program, which shut down temporarily because of the pandemic. Past trips have allowed students to work in health care in Costa Rica, study literature in Spain, and learn about the cultures of Morocco, Greece and France.

GRCC In the News 05/31/2022

Baseball legends honored at JUCO banquet

5/28/22 The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, Colo.)

Mayhem breaks loose today for the 64th Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, but the 10 teams, coaches and community gathered Friday at the Grand Junction Convention Center for the calm before the storm.

… Doug Wabeke (2022)

Wabeke was a decorated athlete with Grand Rapids Community College (Michigan) before parlaying the success into a stint at Central Michigan University.

Longtime Walters State baseball coach Ken Campbell inducted into NJCAA Baseball Hall of Fame

5/29/22 Citizen Tribune (Morristown, Tenn.)

GRAND JUNCTION, CO – With his former program in attendance, longtime Walters State baseball coach Ken Campbell was inducted into the NJCAA Baseball Hall of Fame on Friday night at the NJCAA DI JUCO World Series’ annual banquet.

Campbell was announced as a member of the Hall of Fame in 2020 but, due to COVID-19, was not officially inducted until Friday night. Campbell went into the Hall of Fame with Lamar Community College’s Scott Crampton, Rick Hitt of South Florida State and Charlie O’Brien of Cecil College (Maryland) in the class of 2020 and Andrea Gordon of Diamond Sports, Doug Wabeke from Grand Rapids Community College, Rob Fournier of Wabash Valley and Jeff Johnson of Chipola from the class of 2022.

Internet Explorer- End of life

Internet explorer symbol - an e.

Beginning June 15, 2022, Microsoft will be retiring Internet Explorer.

If you are still using Internet Explorer as your default browser, please switch to another browser such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

We have a helpful knowledge base article to assist you.

Any applications or sites that are traditionally only accessible in Internet Explorer can be opened in Microsoft Edge using the Compatibility Mode feature

If you use Internet Explorer for linking documents, you may now use any browser to complete this function. 

If you have any questions about this change, we encourage you to reach out to the IT Support Desk at 616-234-4357 or by visiting our Customer Support Portal at supportdesk.grcc.edu to submit a ticket. 

School News Network: GRCC Collegiate illustrator Abby Haywood earns national awards for telling stories through art

Goofy, funny and random items have become fodder for Abby Haywood’s cartoons, which include appearances by a vintage Garfield phone and a huge rubber duck.

But she also draws inspiration from serious material: news headlines and issues affecting the world and teenagers. Her bubbly, big-eyed characters provide commentary on relationships, the pandemic, politics and more, serving as an outlet for her own perspective on things.

“I kind of just latch onto anything that I think is kind of funny,” she said. “I try to make fun of it, I guess, with pictures.”

Abby graduated from East Kentwood High School this week, and has been dual enrolled at Grand Rapids Community College, working on The Collegiate, the campus news outlet.

She created a cartoon about a character listening to CDC guidelines and removing her mask before noticing an enormous virus labeled “Delta Variant” looming ahead. Another features a student tallying up major costs for a community college course after boasting about “saving so much money.”

Abby is a two-time national winner of Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for cartoons published in The Collegiate. She earned the Herblock Award for Editorial Cartoons scholarship in 2021 for an editorial cartoon about President Trump.

The award recognizes three students nationally who exhibit exceptional skill in editorial cartooning and provides each with a $1,000 scholarship. She is invited to attend the national awards ceremony at Carnegie Hall in New York this summer.

Abby has also won several other awards for her illustrations through the Scholastic competition. East Kentwood art teacher Le Tran has watched Abby develop her craft.

“Abby’s style is definitely very distinctive and unique. She has a real vision and I love seeing how all of that comes together,” said Tran, a GRCC alumna. “When I see her work, it gives me a feel of looking at vintage art, and I feel like I am traveling back in time, yet her ideas are so relevant and connect with her peers.”

Abby plans to continue courses at GRCC and to start at Grand Valley State University in the fall to pursue illustration and eventually make it a career.

A Pandemic Outlet

A longtime art student, Abby got involved in editorial cartooning as something to do while she was staying at home during the pandemic. Her mom, Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood, a former Grand Rapid Press journalist who is the adviser for The Collegiate, approached her about getting involved with the paper through cartooning. She started during the summer of 2020.

“I was like, ‘You know what? This is actually kind of fun,’” Abby said about seeing her work published.

She describes her style as influenced by American cartoons and anime. She remembers as a young child watching Pokémon, pausing the screen and drawing the scene.

Last school year in AP Art, she created her biggest project to date, a 30-page cartoon book, called “Love with Strings Attached.” She won a Scholastic Gold Key award for it.

Whether it’s a personal issue or one grabbing the headlines, Abby said illustrating is a great way to work through her thoughts about what’s going on.

“There’s a lot of stuff happening. I don’t journal or anything. It gives me an outlet to be like, ‘OK, things are happening. I’m going to draw a picture,” she said. “Hopefully, it’s funny and it’s going to help me process what is going on. (For others), it can maybe make it less intimidating than a news story. They can just see a picture and be like, ‘Oh, yeah! I know what’s happening.’”

Publishing also helped her connect with others during the school closure. “Everybody knows virtual school and being stuck at home – the pandemic in general – sucks. It’s not fun. There was a lot going on. Everybody was in kind of a bad place, mentally. It was really important when I was literally physically stuck in my house, just to be able to do something.”

She’s learned her comics resonate with others who see themselves in the characters and experiences, from having anxiety about making phone calls to uncertainty about life in a pandemic. Friends and even strangers at Grand Rapids Zine Fest, where she had a booth, have told her they can relate.

“A lot of people would come up to me and say, ‘Oh, my gosh! I love this one. I experience this!’”

This story was reported by Erin Albanese of the School News Network

My GRCC Story: Futures for Frontliners helps Jason Reckner get a degree, a job, a raise – and become an inspiration for his family

What does the Futures for Frontliners scholarship mean to GRCC graduate Jason Reckner?

Well, there’s his recently completed degree in Tooling and Manufacturing for one. He said without the scholarship he probably would not have finished that degree.

There’s also the work he was doing as an HVAC technician for a local hospital. That work was definitely made better by his GRCC degree, he said.

And, oh yeah, there’s that new job he just took.

That position, which came with a nice raise, will see him doing maintenance, repairs and diagnostics on injected plastic mold machines, including being directly involved with installing and setting up the latest expansion of his new employer, West Contract Manufacturing, a subsidiary of Pennsylvania-based West Pharmaceutical Services.

That job, he said, would not have happened without his GRCC degree.

“I have always been very mechanically inclined, a problem solver,” he said. “But I would never have gotten this interview, let alone the actual job, without having my degree. Yay for Futures for Frontliners!”

Futures for Frontliners is a state program that covered the cost of in-district tuition for people who worked in essential fields during the state’s COVID-19 shutdown. A similar program, Michigan Reconnect, is available for residents age 25 and older who have not completed a college degree. Additional information is available at grcc.edu/reconnect.

Futures for Frontliners, he added, was critical in that it removed the largest obstacle that previously had stood in his way: money.

“I was motivated when I saw a chance to open my possibilities with this scholarship,” he said.

And he admitted he had a little extra motivation at home.

“I also felt it was very important that my daughters see me graduate and be a part of the hard work it took to get it all done,” he said.

Those daughters have seen him for the past few years as Coach Jason, a dedicated softball and basketball coach for their teams in Northview Little League and elsewhere. They now can also see him as a college graduate, and that brings a smile to his face as he talks about it.

“For them to see what happens when you’re given an opportunity, and that if you meet that opportunity with hard work and dedication you can flourish, is pretty special,” he said.

Jason first started taking classes at GRCC in 2009, transferring in credits he had earned during a short stint at Defiance College after his 1992 high school graduation. A graduate of Morenci Public Schools, he headed to Defiance to play baseball but ended up on academic probation after, he said, spending too much time on baseball and not enough on academics.

He soon slid into a career in construction.

“It was what I grew up with and felt comfortable with,” he said, “but I was never really pushing my limits or excelling in other areas.”

He got married in 2008, and they began their family in 2010 which put a halt to his first return to the classroom.

But, as his daughters got older, Jason felt more and more of a push to finish the degree he had begun almost three decades earlier.

When the Futures for Frontliners program was announced there were no reasons not to make it work he said.

“Education is very important, but it is very hard to validate a degree that you are not completely sure will pay off,” he said simply. “This program was a way to have no excuses to make it happen.”

This story was reported by Phil de Haan.

GRCC In the News 05/27/2022

 13 Reads: GRPL hosting writing, reading workshops with national and regional authors

5/26/22 WZZM

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids Public Library (GRPL) is hosting a series of workshops over the summer that pairs regional and national authors and aspiring writers.

… Thursday, June 23

Guests: James McBride and Mursalata Muhammed

James McBride is a New York Times bestselling author who recently released his new book, “Deacon King Kong.”

Mursalata Muhammed is an English professor at Grand Rapids Community College.

2022 Annual Magazine from Michigan Brewers Guild Celebrates 25 Years in the “Great Beer State”

5/26/22 West Michigan Tourist Association

(LANSING, Mich) — The 2022 edition of “Michigan. The Great Beer State” magazine was recently released by the Michigan Brewers Guild, which celebrates its silver 25th anniversary this year.

… Another noted story, entitled “Educating the Next Generation of Michigan Brewers” by Wensdy Von Buskirk, focuses on the various colleges and universities in the state offering brewing programs including Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Kalamazoo Valley Community College in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids Community College in Grand Rapids.

Payroll Memorial Day reminder

As we prepare for the long holiday weekend, the Payroll Team has a reminder about your timesheets for the 6/10/22 pay date (for the pay period of 5/16-5/29/22). We don’t want the due dates to sneak up on you!

Because of the Memorial Day holiday on Monday, 5/30/22, timesheets will be due one day later than normal, on Tuesday, 5/31/22.

We know some of you may be taking some extra time off. Please take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the most accurate version of your timesheet is submitted on or before Tuesday, 5/31/22.

And, supervisors, if you’re out for any additional time around the holiday, please ensure you have a backup approver in place to review and approve timesheets by the deadline of Wednesday, 6/1/22 (also one day later, as approvals are usually due by the Tuesday following a pay date).

More information on setting up a backup approver can be found on the Supervisor Back Up Delegation & Back Up Approver Instructions form on the Employee Forms webpage.  

As always, please reach out to us with questions at hrpayroll@grcc.edu.

Policy review and updates

Policy Meeting

May 2022

10.5 Student Refunds

III. Policy Statement

  • Replaced “Refunds will be made under very limited circumstances” with “Refunds will be issued under limited circumstances”
  • Updated Related Documents / titles throughout policy
  • Clarified that process is done through online center only

VII. Related Documents

  • Added Grading Policy

X. Procedures

  • The Student Records fee is non-refundable
  • changed from “unusual” to “extenuating” circumstances
  • Class(es) will remain on transcript with a Withdrawal (W) or Drop (DR) grade 

11.8 Investment

III. Policy Statement

  • Change “Section 389-142, as amended, of the Michigan Compiled Laws” to “MCL 389.142”.

IV. Reason for Policy

  •  Change “Michigan Compiled Law” to “applicable Michigan statutes”

VII. Related Documents

  • Change “Section 389-142, as amended, of the Michigan Compiled Laws” to “MCL 389.142”.

X. Procedures

  • Title changes throughout. 
  • Added B. “The College may contract a qualified external entity to manage its investments. In this case, the entity will agree to follow all related College policies.” We have done this and wanted it reflected here.
  • Changed C. Replaced “except if” with “unless”
  • Removed D. because we don’t actually do this. We manage investments on the whole separately from what fund they had been in.
  • Added “any new” to G. because we don’t actually present the list to the Board every year, but would (and have) present if there were changes.
  • Changed J. This was demonstrating that there is oversight and, while VP of Finance & Administration does not manage individual transactions as it had been written, she does review them on the whole regularly.

14.6 Hazard Communication

  • Updated links throughout the policy

III. Policy Statement

  • Changed “hazard communication program” to “Hazard Communication Plan” for consistency.

Please visit our College Policies website to see all college policies.

Scholars focused on careers in business, education saluted with first GRCC Foundation Board of Directors Excellence Scholarships

Two incoming Grand Rapids Community College students will start their higher education journey debt-free after being selected for a new GRCC Foundation scholarship through a partnership with local districts.

Gabriel Gloria, a Jenison High School senior, and Sophia Vincent, a Caledonia High School senior, are the first recipients of the GRCC Foundation Board of Directors Excellence Scholarships.

The award covers tuition and all fees associated with registered classes for a full academic year. High school counselors nominated students, with one student each from Kent and Ottawa counties, receiving the scholarship. Counselors were asked to consider academics and a variety of factors including barriers and obstacles the student has faced, involvement in community service, and leadership activities or qualities.

“This has proven to be a wonderful partnership with counselors in West Michigan schools,” said Dr. Kathryn Mullins, vice president of College Advancement and executive director of the GRCC Foundation. “Our foundation board members know very well the struggles our students face and are thrilled that this new scholarship offers another way to help them attain a life-changing education.”

Gloria plans to study finance and business administration at GRCC. For him, the new scholarship is important to keeping his college experience debt-free.

“I’m humbled and appreciative of the fact that my high school counselor felt that I was deserving of this prestigious award,” said Gloria, who plans to continue working part time for Meijer. “I was extremely excited and blown away by the generosity of this scholarship and what it will provide.”

Vincent will major in early childhood education at GRCC.

“This year, another student and I committed to devoting our afterschool time on Monday nights to assist a local elementary school teacher in setting up her classroom, cleaning, and creating lesson plans,” said Vincent, who has also worked as a nanny and swim instructor. “This not only liberates her of stress and time but also enables us to gain more experience in the early education field.”

The GRCC Foundation plans to distribute $1.4 million in more than 300 scholarships this year to over 1,000 students. More information about the foundation – including ways to contribute to a life-changing GRCC education – can be found online.

GRCC In the News 05/26/2022


5/25/22 Community College Daily (American Association of Community Colleges)

… Juan Olivarez, president emeritus of Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC), will serve as interim president of the Michigan college. He was the first Hispanic president of a Michigan college when he guided GRCC from 1999 to 2008. After retiring from GRCC in 2008, Olivarez became president and CEO of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. He was a distinguished scholar in residence for diversity, equity and inclusion at Grand Valley State University’s Dorothy Johnson Center for Philanthropy between 2018 and 2021.

Student cartoonist is two-time national award winner

5/25/22 schoolnewsnetwork.org (Kent Intermediate School District)

Kentwood — Goofy, funny and random items have become fodder for East Kentwood High School senior Abby Haywood’s cartoons, which include appearances by a vintage Garfield phone and a huge rubber duck.

… Abby, who is dual-enrolled at GRCC, is the two-time winner of the The Herblock Award for Editorial Cartoons through Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for cartoons published in the GRCC student newspaper, The Collegiate. In 2021, she won for “The Real Reason Trump Created Space Force” and this year for “Too Soon?” (her Delta variant ‘toon).The award recognizes three students nationally who exhibit exceptional skill in editorial cartooning and provides each with a $1,000 scholarship. She is invited to attend the national awards ceremony at Carnegie Hall in New York City this summer. 

Hylant Hires Industry Veteran Carman Baines as Client Executive

5/25/22 press release

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., May 25, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Hylant, a leading full-service insurance brokerage serving markets across the United States, announced today that Carman Baines has been hired as client executive.

… Baines previously served as Vice President, Employee Benefits at USI Insurance Services. She studied Business Administration and Management at Davenport University and Grand Rapids Community College.

Student-athletes off to next level

5/25/22 Clarkston News

Nine Clarkston High School student-athletes signed their letters of intent in front of family, friends, teammates and coaches at the CHS Performing Arts Center, May 16.

The spring signers include: Ryan Bovee, soccer, Saginaw Valley University; Emily Horne, soccer, Lawrence Tech University; Caden Ladd, lacrosse, Grand Valley State State University; Evan McClorey, lacrosse, Mercyhurst University; Lucas McKinney, baseball, Grand Rapids Community College; Maddy Skorupski, basketball, Michigan State University; Nathan Steinman, basketball, Albion College; Karl Wandrei, lacrosse, Grand Valley State University; and Liam Zimmerman, soccer, Trine University.

Finalists named for student ArtPrize competition

5/25/22 MLive

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Ten students from Grand Rapids Public Schools have been selected out of nearly 40 submissions for the annual student ArtPrize competition.

… The finalists were selected by a panel of art professionals from Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Community College and Kendall College of Art and Design at Ferris State University.

AACC update: Schaffer set to chair AACC board

5/25/22 AACC 21st Century Center

Joseph Schaffer, president of Laramie County Community College, will become chair of the American Association of Community Colleges board of directors on July 1, succeeding Richard Rhodes, chancellor of the Austin Community College District in Texas.

… The board’s new council representative is Tracy Hall, president of Southwest Tennessee Community College. The board appointed Susan Looney, president of Reading Area Community College (Pennsylvania), to fill the second council position. The board of directors appointed Nancee Sorenson, chancellor of Louisiana State University Eunice, as the new institutional at-large representative, and Lynn Tincher-Ladner, president and CEO of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, as the public at-large representative. Mordecai Brownlee, president of Colorado’s Community College of Aurora, was selected to fill the vacancy left by former Grand Rapids Community College President Bill Pink, who accepted a position outside of the sector.

Payroll Memorial Day reminder

As we prepare for the long holiday weekend, the Payroll Team has a reminder about your timesheets for the 6/10/22 pay date (for the pay period of 5/16-5/29/22). We don’t want the due dates to sneak up on you!

Because of the Memorial Day holiday on Monday, 5/30/22, timesheets will be due one day later than normal, on Tuesday, 5/31/22.

We know some of you may be taking some extra time off. Please take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the most accurate version of your timesheet is submitted on or before Tuesday, 5/31/22.

And, supervisors, if you’re out for any additional time around the holiday, please ensure you have a backup approver in place to review and approve timesheets by the deadline of Wednesday, 6/1/22 (also one day later, as approvals are usually due by the Tuesday following a pay date).

More information on setting up a backup approver can be found on the Supervisor Back Up Delegation & Back Up Approver Instructions form on the Employee Forms webpage.  

As always, please reach out to us with questions at hrpayroll@grcc.edu.