Presidential search update

GRCC’s presidential search has narrowed to two finalists, as Dr. Stuart Blacklaw has withdrawn from the search.

“I respect Dr. Blacklaw’s decision to head in another direction,” said David J. Koetje, chairperson of the GRCC board of trustees. “We will continue to move forward with our search and toward a potential selection on Nov. 21.”

Remaining finalists are: Dr. Timothy Casper, vice president for Student Affairs and Institutional Effectiveness at Madison Area Technical College in Madison, Wis.; and Dr. Charles Lepper, vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at Salt Lake Community College in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Golden Raider Happy Hour

Join the Golden Raiders at 5:00pm today at Brewery Vivant (925 Cherry St SE) 

Visit the world’s first LEED Certified Brewery. Located in the former Metcalf Funeral home at 925 Cherry SE, Brewery Vivant is known for European style brewing from the Belgium region. They have a number of interesting beers as mainstays and rotate a few seasonal items as well. They offer a fantastic food menu, especially the Vivant Burger, and if you like Poutine, this is the place for you! If beer is not your thing, there are spirits and other adult beverages on their menu, too. The staff at BV is very friendly, diverse, and knowledgeable and can explain much more about the brewing process they use and the menu items. The manager has offered us the use of The Walloon Room free of charge – so we will be in a private setting! Here are two links to explain more:

GRCC professor Justine Bryant works to expand opportunities for students as demand for American Sign Language interpreters grows

From her very first American Sign Language class in 2010 at Grand Rapids Community College, Justine Bryant knew she’d found the perfect career.

“I instantly fell in love with interpreting and knew it was my calling,” said Bryant, now a nationally certified ASL interpreter and new affiliate assistant professor of sign language at GRCC.

It’s a career that it’s in high demand not only in Michigan, but nationwide.

According to the most recent study released in 2019 by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, 733,356 Michiganders — about 7.4% of the state population — identify as deaf, deaf-blind or hard of hearing. In West Michigan, 8% of residents identify as members of that community.

“The need for interpreters is everywhere as people and businesses realize it’s crucial to include sign language interpretation with their message,” said Bryant, a Comstock Park High School graduate. “It’s becoming more mainstream, and the more people see it, the more people will want to pursue it as a career.”

The demand for ASL interpreters is expected to increase by approximately 24% by 2030, according to GRCC estimates.

That’s one of the reasons that in addition to teaching, Bryant is developing an education pathway for students seeking a career as interpreters for the deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind and deaf-disabled.

This path includes taking ASL and general education courses at GRCC and then transferring to Lansing Community College for its interpreter training program, said Mary Lucas, chair of GRCC’s Language and Thought Department.

“Once we finalize it with LCC, this will be a great pathway for anyone here in West Michigan interested in becoming an interpreter to start their education,” Lucas said.

Because Michigan has some of the strictest rules for ASL interpreter certification in the nation, it’s difficult to get into the profession without the proper education, Bryant said. Most ASL interpreter posts require a bachelor’s degree.

Bryant, who earned associate degrees at GRCC and LCC, completed her bachelor’s degree in ASL interpreting and transliterating in 2015 at Siena Heights University in Adrian. She worked as an ASL interpreter for the Kent Intermediate School District until 2021, has freelanced in the community since 2015, and has owned her own company, Access to ASL, since 2019.

She said she looks forward to developing the educational pathway between GRCC and LCC so more students can enter this growing field.

“When you’re working as an interpreter, every day is different … which is what I love about it,” Bryant said. “It’s one of those fields that remains a challenge because there’s always more to learn — but it’s a very rewarding and fulfilling career.”

This story was reported by Beth McKenna.

Danyel Bibbs’ 28 points, nine assists lead GRCC men’s basketball team to victory over Great Lakes Christian College junior varsity

Danyel Bibbs’ 28 points and nine assists propelled the Grand Rapids Community College men’s basketball team to a hard fought 103-90 victory Tuesday against the Great Lakes Christian College junior varsity team.

The win kept the Raiders unbeaten, improving to 3-0 on the season.

GRCC led by as many as 16 points and didn’t trail after the opening minutes of the game.

Brockton Kohler scored 19 points and added five rebounds, while Rico Wade chipped in 14 points, shooting six-of-nine from the field.  The two of them combined to go five-of-11 from three-point territory.

Bashir Neely scored 10 points and Herman Brown led the defense with six steals and a game-high nine rebounds.

The team’s next game is Nov. 10 at the Gerald R. Ford Fieldhouse against Lansing Community College, a former Western Conference foe, at 7:30 p.m. or 20 minutes after the conclusion of the women’s game.  

Audrey Torres and Eliza Thelen among eight GRCC volleyball players earning MCCAA honors

Audrey Torres and Eliza Thelen headline the list of eight Grand Rapids Community College volleyball players who received honors from the Michigan Community College Athletic Association on Tuesday.

Torres and Thelen were named to the All-MCCAA, All-Region, and First Team All-Conference teams, while six additional GRCC student-athletes were named to the All-Conference Team.

GRCC, currently ranked No. 13 in the nation, enjoyed its 11th conference title, finishing 9-1 in the MCCAA’s new Northern Conference. The team earned the MCCAA Championship – its sixth in the last seven years — and on Saturday celebrated its 11th Region XII-District championship to advance to the NJCAA National Tournament.

“GRCC is recognized as one of the top programs in the nation, a reflection of the excellent coaching staff and hard work from student-athletes,” Athletic Director Lauren Ferullo said. “It’s nice to see players recognized for their accomplishments. We’re looking forward to seeing the team compete in the national tournament.”

Torres, a sophomore from Caledonia, was also named Most Valuable Player at the NJCAA Region XII Great Lakes A Tournament. She ranks first on the team in kills with 328, second in aces with 35 and fourth in digs with 176.

Thelen, a sophomore from Grand Rapids, was second on the team with 269 kills while hitting an impressive .327, ranking her top-10 in the MCCAA. She also totaled 61 blocks and averaged 3.46 points per set.

Kara Hecht, a third-year player from Zeeland, was named First Team All-Conference and was a member on the All-Tournament team at the regional tournament.  She started all 27 matches, averaging 2.89 points per set. She was second on the team with 210 digs and thirds with 211 kills.

Karissa Ferry and Shannon Russell were named Second Team All-Conference as well as members on the All-Tournament team at the regional tournament. 

Ferry, a sophomore right-side hitter from Chesaning, was fourth on the team with 192 kills and second with 64 blocks. Russell, a sophomore setter from Grand Rapids, led the team in assists with 872, was third in service aces with 33 and third on the team in digs with 206.

Earning All-Conference honorable mention honors was Audrey Gower of Dimondale, Alena Visnovsky of Sparta and Vienna Koenigsknecht of Portage. Gower led the team in digs with 359 and Koenigsknecht added 161. 

Visnovsky totaled 120 blocks, averaging 1.28 per set, ranking her number one among all MCCAA players and one of the best in the NJCAA Division II.

Head coach Chip Will was named Conference Coach of the Year for the ninth time and MCCAA Coach of the Year for the eighth time in his 16 years at the helm.  

GRCC awaits its first-round opponent at the NJCAA Division II tournament, taking place in Cedar Rapids, Iowa Nov. 17 to the 19.

Creating an environment for student success: GRCC custodian and artist Mark Fortuna lovingly cares for Library & Learning Commons

The GRCC Library and Learning Commons is equipped with everything students need to be academically successful: computers, printers, study space, textbook reserves and numerous book, journal and video collections. 

It also has a hard-working third-shift custodian who doubles as an in-house artist, although Mark Fortuna laughs when he’s described that way.

Still, in any given week, visitors to the building that he’s cleaned for a decade-plus now are likely to be greeted by a large whiteboard adorned with his latest artistic work, even as they walk on his carefully cleaned carpets and work in his lovingly cared-for building.

And any conversation with Fortuna makes it clear that he takes painstaking pride in what he does as a custodian and an artist.

A graduate of Union High School, Fortuna had a chance to attend Kendall College of Art and Design after graduation, but, as he says, life got in the way, and he went straight into the workforce instead.

After a spell stocking shelves on the overnight shift at a local grocery store, he landed a job at GRCC. It took some doing, he said, despite the fact that both his mom, Lorraine, and his dad, Dave, were legendary GRCC employees, also working on the custodial side of things.

“I think the college didn’t want to be accused of showing favoritism by hiring me,” he recalled with a smile of that interview process two decades ago now. “It took a little bit, and I really had to jump through some hoops. But I landed my first job here, and it’s been great to be part of the GRCC family.”

Although his dad passed away soon after retiring from GRCC after a battle with pancreatic cancer, Fortuna said the lessons learned from him, and from his mom, have stuck with him and guide him daily in his work on campus.

“From him and from my mom I got a real strong work ethic,” he said. “I saw them just do their jobs, go to work and do your job. Really, my dad worked two jobs for most of my life. My mom worked and was president of our union. I’ve always felt a responsibility to live up to the examples they set.”

He approaches his art with a similar resolve.

“I take it seriously,” he said. “The whiteboard drawings I do at GRCC mean a lot to me, and I love it when people enjoy them. It’s also very relaxing to me. Almost therapeutic. If I have a day off, that’s what I’m pretty much going to be doing. I’ll just sit there and draw for hours. And it makes me happy to draw stuff and when people really get enjoyment out of it, that’s great, right?”

Although Fortuna prefers to work with pencils and pens, he said he has enjoyed the challenge of having to use markers for his whiteboard drawings. His work on campus also has a lighter feel to it than some of his other work he said, most of which he posts on social media.

“It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve really shown my work,” he said. “I’ve been content to just do drawings for friends and family. You have to be ready when you put yourself out there.”

Fortuna credits his colleagues in the Library and Learning Commons for encouraging him to put himself out there via the whiteboard exhibitions.

“The people that work at the library are so great,” he said. “It’s just a great community of people that work there and make my job very enjoyable. When they gave me the opportunity to do some drawing on the whiteboard, I wasn’t sure, but they encouraged me, and I’m grateful they did.”

The trust that his colleagues have in him is not something he takes lightly, and daily he does his best to make his colleagues’ workspace the best it can be.

“In some ways, my custodial work is a bit like my art,” he said. “There’s details to it; you work hard at it, and when it’s done, you can look at it with satisfaction. I wouldn’t trade it, that’s for sure.”

When he’s not cleaning and not making art, Fortuna stays busy with his family; his wife, Tonya, and children Mason, Shea and Brooklyn. His pride in his family is evident as he speaks about them.

“Mason will be graduating from Grand Valley in business and finance; Shea is in her second year at Calvin for computer science, and Brooklyn is a sophomore at Byron Center High School,” he noted. “And Tonya works at Railside Assisted Living Center as a resident caregiver.”

He also is proud of his brother Ben, the youngest in the family, who works in management in manufacturing, and his brother Dave, who is a custodian for GRCC at the Leslie Tassell MTEC.

He laughs when asked about the fact that four of the five members of his Fortuna family found themselves working at GRCC.

“It is a bit unusual I guess,” he said. “But GRCC is a great place to be, and, hopefully, we’ve all played a little part in making it even better.”

This story was reported by Phil de Haan.

GRCC Stuff the Sled 2022

There are a lot of great ways you can help make someone’s holiday a little brighter this year.

One way is to join the GRCC United Way campaign and Stuff the Sled — formerly Adopt a Family. This program provides holiday gift bags to children in Kent County Head Start.

Donations can be made November 1 through December 7

How to Donate:

Go to the GRCC Holiday Helpers page, click on the Donate Now button top right, add items you would like to purchase to your cart and check out. It is that easy!  

Thank YOU in advance!

Connect with future students at Fall Open House at the Lakeshore campus

GRCC’s Admissions Team is hosting one of our annual Fall 2022 Open Houses from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at our Lakeshore Campus on Saturday, November 12. This is normally an event highly attended by prospective students and their families.

The days’ events will include:

  • Student Tours.
  • Campus Overview and Admissions Presentation.
  • Academic Advising and Transfer Presentations.
  • Financial Aid Presentation.
  • Resource Fair.

We would love to have your department represented. It is a great chance to connect with future GRCC students, answer questions and showcase your department! Please sign up for one or both events so we can reserve a spot for you.

Lakeshore Campus Sign Up (Saturday, November 12)

If you have any questions, please reach out to Lori Cook and Francisco Ramirez. We hope to see you there. Thank you!