Tears were shed, awards were given and leaders were inspired at Grand Rapids Community College’s Fall Opening Day event this morning.
Annually, GRCC President Steven Ender awards two college employees an excellence in education award. This year’s Excellence in Education Faculty Award went to Michael Klawitter, reference librarian and archivist.
Klawitter thanked his family and the library staff for their support.
“I also have to … acknowledge my staff and colleagues in the library who are always willing to help out with whatever activity or project I’m working on,” Klawitter said.
Ender also awarded the Excellence in Education Staff Award to Laura DeVries, support professional in the English department.
“This is the best job I have ever had in my life,” DeVries said, wiping away tears. “The English department, you have opened your arms to me and I am so grateful to have and work with you all.”
Guest speaker Terrell Strayhorn, director for the Center of Higher Education Enterprise at Ohio State University, spoke on a college student’s sense of belonging.
“Belonging is related to success,” Strayhorn said. “Students with a greater sense of belonging, on average, have higher achievements, higher grades. They become more satisfied alum.”
Strayhorn involved the crowd with an interactive poll where GRCC staff texted in what student success means to them, and Strayhorn read the responses aloud. Many included words like “belonging,” “respect,” “relationships,” “support,” and “sense of safety.”
Ender began the ceremony by talking about the college’s accomplishments and made a few announcements.
- Two new projects have been added to the college’s strategic plan. First Scholars is a program that will assign academic advisers to first time, full time students and Guided Pathways is an initiative that helps students successfully choose a program and complete it in a minimal amount of time.
- Ender also informed staff and faculty that 83 class sections at the college are using Open Educational Resources (OER), or free textbooks online. Ender said this is saving over $500,000 for students.
- The student employee hourly wage has gone up from $8.50 to $9.25, and lifeguards now make $9.75 per hour.
Ender concluded the ceremony by showing appreciation for his job as president, which he will retire from in June.
“I have never worked with a more gifted faculty and staff,” Ender said. “I believe that we do the right things, for the right people, for the right reasons and when you’re in a role in a profession that allows you to serve to that capacity, I don’t see how it gets any better.”
*Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 4:10 p.m. Aug. 25.