Since 1996, Amy Koning has held many roles in technology development and business at Grand Rapids Community College. This summer, she will step into the role as Dean of Workforce Development, as her predecessor, Bill Pink, moves up to college president.
GRCC functions as both a school and a business, and part of that is working with industry leaders to find out what students need to know before entering the workforce. There are 91 workforce programs at GRCC, including nursing, engineering, automotive, dental hygiene and the police academy. Of these programs, 73 award an associate degree or certificate and 18 are workforce training certificate programs, which are non-credit and vary from 18 weeks to shorter spans of time. The for-credit programs offer one year certificates and two year associate’s degrees.
“In workforce development, I really firmly believe we have a role to play as a community college to help our industry partners develop talent that they need, which is ever-changing,” said Koning, 47.
The process is seen through from the beginning, she said, from when industry leaders lay out what they need and when, to making sure that a student is hired with the appropriate skills in that industry in a certain amount of time.
“(We) listen to the skillset that they need, try to adapt to that on an ongoing basis, and then provide them with someone within a year or two years that can be productive in the workforce,” Koning said.
After it became known that the position would open this summer, Koning was asked to take on the role after being appointed by Pink and Provost Laurie Chesley to GRCC President Steven Ender.
Koning said she is “humbled and excited” to step into the new role.
“I had made it known that I was looking for upward mobility at some point,” Koning said. “GRCC is my home, I’ve been here for so long, and now I get to take that next step.”
Koning was first hired by Jody Graves in 1996, who is still an employee with the college in the Information Technology department. Graves, who started at GRCC in 1985, said this was a time of transition in technology, and workers were trying to understand how to use personal computers, which were new compared to the computers they were using then.
“Back then people were pretty afraid of this technology sitting on their desks so I was looking for someone who not only knew the technology but had the personality to be kind to people, because they were afraid,” Graves said. “Amy’s personality was perfect.”
At the time, Koning had her own business, Thornapple Kellogg Customized Training, where she did technical training. Koning was recommended to Graves by a GRCC student, and Graves hired her to do what she knew how to do – train people on technology.
Since then, Koning has worked in staff development, has been an adjunct business professor and now has been the associate dean of operations in the school of workforce and development for seven years.
In her new role, Koning said she’s going to take the lead from the executives above her, and make new goals for the college with the new president.
“I think it was very fortunate that we found her back in the nineties and she was able to continue on with the college,” Graves said. “It doesn’t surprise me that she’s done so well … She really has found her passion and what she wants to do.”
Chesley, one of two who appointed Koning to her new job, said she has proven herself over the years to land this promotion.
“Every step of the way in her career she has distinguished herself,” Chesley said. “She is an immensely hard worker, she is very organized and focused on detail. She cares deeply about the faculty and students here at the college and she has well proven herself over her time here that she was the obvious choice to become the next dean of that school. That was not a hard decision for me to make at all.”
Koning said GRCC students should feel comfortable approaching her, and that she will do the same.
“If they see me, stop, say hi, door’s always open,” Koning said, smiling. “If I’m the person talking to them in the elevator make sure they answer and engage in conversations.”
On a weekly basis, Koning makes an effort to leave her office in the ATC building and be more apart of campus.
“Even in this job, I do what I call ‘walkabouts,’” Koning said. “I schedule them into my day and I make sure no meetings get put over them and I will literally put my coat on and boots, if I need to, and I will just walk about the campus and just see students, see faculty.”
Originally from Fremont, Koning went to Fremont High School. She graduated from Ferris State University with a degree in business education, followed by a master’s degree and PhD from Western Michigan University in educational leadership. She enjoys living vicariously through her two adult children, theater, crafts and walking outdoors.
As she climbs the administrative ladder, Koning said she could see herself one day taking the role of a college president.
“I do have aspirations of someday becoming, I would love it to be either a technical or community college, president, but I’ve got a lot to learn.”