My Story Started at GRCC: New York attorney Steven Van Iwaarden says GRCC professors helped him gain confidence, focus

Steven Van Iwaarden smiling.

Steven Van Iwaarden lives in Manhattan with his wife and dog and works at a prestigious New York law firm. He has law degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of California-Irvine and helped launch a first-of-its-kind law journal. 

It all sounds like a dream come true, but Van Iwaarden didn’t believe it could happen to him – not at first.

“For various reasons, my high school career was less than stellar, and I did not attend college for years after graduating high school,” he said.

Start at GRCC and go anywhere. Every former student has a story to tell about how GRCC gave them the education and opportunity to be successful.

When Van Iwaarden decided to finally get serious about his education, he enrolled at GRCC. He found knowledgeable and understanding professors and uses many of the skills he learned in those early classes – College Writing, Principles of Microeconomics and Macroeconomics, and Fundamentals of Public Speaking – in his career today.

“In my first semester at GRCC, I entered – and ended up winning – the ‘One Book, One College’ essay contest,” Van Iwaarden said. “The prize for this was getting to attend a dinner with the author of the book that was the subject of the contest, Josh Sundquist, and then getting a front-row seat to his keynote speech later that evening.

“Winning this contest really put wind behind my burgeoning academic sails. It was through this experience that I realized my talent for reading and writing could lead to great things, so long as I put the requisite effort into developing it.”

Another turning point: a GRCC-sponsored bus trip to Ann Arbor to tour the University of Michigan.

“That ended up being an important factor in me thinking I could actually attend that university after graduating from GRCC,” Van Iwaarden said.

After receiving his associate degree in 2016, he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, politics and economics in 2019 from U of M, where he served as an ambassador to transfer students. He earned Juris Doctor degrees from the University of California and, most recently, Michigan.

He gained experience working on employment discrimination claims as a clerk to Administrative Judge Thomas Harward of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s hearings unit in Los Angeles. He also helped a group of law students and doctoral candidates launch the Michigan Journal of Law & Society, which brings the humanities and social sciences into legal scholarship.

Last year, Van Iwaarden, who passed the New York State Bar exam in July, accepted an offer from Latham & Watkins LLP to become a lawyer in its New York office.

Van Iwaarden credits the success he’s seen to the support of his family and friends, as well as his willingness to take advantage of opportunities offered to him, like the Ann Arbor bus trip. 

For him, GRCC means two things: hope and opportunity.

“I view GRCC as a place offering hope to prospective students who don’t fit the archetype of the over-achieving high schooler who goes straight to a four year university,” he said. “GRCC is an institution that serves an invaluable social goal: a gateway to prosperity for those who didn’t have it handed to them. 

“I would not be where I am today without GRCC.”

Start your GRCC story today here.

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