Excellence: Werner Absenger, Victoria Janowiak, and Marne Apolo honored for their work with students and the community

Grand Rapids Community College’s Opening Day celebration included honoring three employees for their work with students and the community.

The Excellence in Education awards were established in 1989 to honor GRCC employees for their contributions. On Thursday, the faculty award went to Werner Absenger, program director for the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education, with Marne Apolo, of the Language and Thought Department, and Victoria Janowiak, executive director of Operational Planning, receiving the adjunct and staff awards, respectively.

In presenting the faculty award to Absenger, President Emeritus Juan R. Olivarez, who is serving as GRCC’s interim president, noted his work on restructuring the internationally respected culinary program’s curriculum to improve access and affordability and on building community partnerships to bring his nutritional knowledge to underserved populations.

“He is innovative, always looking on the horizon for what his faculty and programs should be incorporating in order to best prepare our graduates,” Olivarez said.

Absenger, noting that he usually hates surprises, said, “Without our faculty and staff, it wouldn’t be possible.”

Apolo started at GRCC in 2008 and developed the college’s first online communications course in 2010. Her colleagues call her “the kind of teacher who we all want to be and we all want to learn from.”

Apolo looked back on her career and noted she was excited to have in-person classes once again.

“It’s hard to believe my daughter was five when I started, and now she’s in college,” Apolo said. “She’s hiking in the mountains right now and I wish I could call her because she’d be so happy about this, too. It means a lot. It’s really sweet and meaningful to be acknowledged.”  

“Her adaptable approach allows all kinds of learners to reach their potential,” Olivarez said.

Janowiak oversees how the college’s spaces are used and maintained, making sure they are run effectively for students, faculty, staff and community members. That job has proven especially challenging during the past few years because of COVID-19. She worked with all the departments and administrators, along with state and county health agencies, to ensure that students and employees were able to return safely to on-campus instruction after the pandemic shutdown.

“While Vicki’s work has always been outstanding, she has done exceptionally impressive and important work during one of the most difficult times the college has faced,” Olivarez said.

Janowiak noted that she’s written many recommendation letters for others and never expected to receive the award herself.

“Thank you for putting me in such good company,” she told the Opening Day audience.

Tech Tip: Experiencing a technical outage

Is a GRCC system not working right or appear to be down? Please visit GRCC IT Status for at-a-glance status updates of all Information Technology’s services – from Blackboard to PeopleSoft. From this website, you will be able to see the current status of all of our services, and a historical record of any service disruption or maintenance.

The website is available to both students and employees and is designed to be accessible even in the event of a major network outage. 

Are you trying to run reports from CSProd but everything is moving at a snail’s pace? Maybe it’s heavy traffic, something on your local computer, or a campus wide issue. GRCC IT Status will let you know of any problems we’re detecting.

Don’t see anything posted to GRCC IT Status? Then give us a call. You may be the first one to experience an issue that we need to look into. 

For more information, please visit the Status Hub or contact the IT Customer Support Desk.

If you have a suggestion or a Technology Tip you think can be useful, you can submit them by emailing techtips@grcc.edu 

GRCC partners with Spectrum Health on innovative apprenticeships to ‘fill the cracks’ in healthcare fields

A new program that sees GRCC partnering with Spectrum Health has already produced its first six graduates with the next cohort of seven students starting this fall – and setting the stage for additional programs to fill needs in emerging healthcare fields.

The Neurodiagnostic Apprenticeship Program was designed to fill a significant gap in the United States healthcare system: a shortage of neurodiagnostic technologists (NDTs) and a greater and greater need for NDTs as the baby boomer generation ages and retires in larger numbers.

“NDTs are highly skilled and in-demand medical professionals,” said Julie Lacksheide, GRCC’s Program Director of Radiologic Technology/MRI. “Their specific skill set in recording electroencephalograms (EEGs) is what sets them apart from other healthcare professions.”

GRCC and Spectrum also worked with Lansing Community College, West Michigan Works! and the U.S. Department of Labor to create the new apprenticeship program.

All six members of the first group of graduates are Spectrum employees who were able to complete the apprenticeship at no cost, while continuing to work full time for the hospital system. Upon graduation they have the potential to make $22 an hour — well above Spectrum’s normal $16 per hour minimum wage — and if they pass a board exam to become certified, they qualify for a $25 per hour wage.

Lacksheide, who had a dozen years of work experience in Diagnostic Radiography and Computed Tomography before coming to GRCC in 2010, noted that the new apprenticeship program follows a model the college is bringing to multiple areas of its certificate and degree programs in the healthcare field.

“Throughout the state of Michigan, we have or will have shortages in a number of different areas of healthcare,” she said. “But the challenge is that we can’t really sustain a really large cohort in any one location. So, with this new approach we are taking, we may have six students that are at one location and another college has six at their location, and this could happen across seven different colleges. Our overall group then becomes large, and we start to fill the cracks in the statewide system. It’s a really innovative and effective approach.”

Students agree.

Phoebe Potter has been with Spectrum Health for almost four years. She has some college courses under her belt but not a degree, so after being hired as a Neurodiagnostic Assistant, she started looking at schools she could attend to get registered.

When she heard about the new partnership between her employer and GRCC, she was thrilled.

“I love the fact that I didn’t have to split my time between work and school,” she said. “I couldn’t afford to cut back work hours to go to school to do unpaid clinical hours at a facility across the state every week.”

Kyle Smestad echoed her remarks.

He originally went to school to become an Emergency Medical Technician and has a certificate from Great Lakes EMS academy. Just shy of 10 years ago he was hired by Spectrum, first as a student in nutrition services and then in the cardiac monitoring center at Blodgett Hospital before accepting the EEG job and training through the apprentice program. 

“There was so much that was appealing about the program,” he said. “For starters, it gave me the ability to work fulltime, have a hands-on experience working with patients and be around co-workers who have the knowledge and experience to help me learn at a faster pace than if I was solely in a classroom setting.” 

Such comments bring a smile to Lacksheide’s face.

“The apprenticeships that we generally hear about are generally in areas like manufacturing and skilled trades,” she said. “This is different. The fact that we get an opportunity to do an apprenticeship in healthcare, that just doesn’t happen very often. It’s life changing for a lot of students.”

Lacksheide said the program is structured so that participants are considered GRCC students while they also remain fulltime Spectrum employees. They take online classes – both synchronous and asynchronous – and all of the labs are done in-house at Spectrum.

At the end of the program, the students earn a certificate of completion which makes them board eligible and once they pass the boards, they are on track for the bump from $22 per hour to $25 per hour.

For the first six graduates, the extra money was a significant incentive, but the program was about much more than just the money.

“Going to school at your place of employment is such a huge benefit,” Potter said. “I always had a mentor on hand, and everyone in the department wants you to succeed. I know this program has prepared me to give the best care I can give to our patients who deserve it.”

The next cohort of seven students will all also be both fulltime Spectrum employees and GRCC students.

The twist to this group is that some of them were GRCC students who heard about the program, wanted in and got hired by Spectrum to gain entry into the apprenticeship.

One such student is Noah Tietz. He’s excited to be part of the next cohort.

“When I came across this new program that acted like an apprenticeship, it caught my attention,” he said.

As he explored it further, he became even more excited, and he eventually left his job at another health system to work for Spectrum and pursue the apprenticeship.

“I couldn’t pass this up,” he said.

This story was reported by Phil de Haan.

Website updates to reflect the new ASA reorganization

As part of the Academic and Student Affairs reorganization, GRCC has updated its online presence to reflect changes in the following areas:

As a reminder, if your bio should reflect any changes with the reorganization, feel free to log in at grcc.edu/user, navigate to your bio and submit the form for changes! 

Please contact webhelp@grcc.edu with any questions or feedback. Thank you for partnering with us through these changes!