On Monday, the Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustee met to announce that Carlos Sanchez will fill the vacant trustee seat and discuss distance learning.
During the meeting, the trustees took time to vote for the new Trustee member. Interviews held for C.J Shroll, Sheryl Siegel and Sanchez were held on Wed. June 14.
All members of the board stated who they thought would be the best choice for the board and gave brief statements as to why they chose that candidate. The candidate who received four votes would become the new trustee.
Both Trustee Richard Stewart and Trustee Cynthia Bristol thought that Siegel would be the best person to join the board because of her extensive background in community building.
“I believe that that is what we need,” Trustee Stewart said. “We need to build a better bond between this institution and the Grand Rapids Community.”
Trustees Kathleen Bruinsma, Kenyatta Brame, Deb Bailey and Chairperson, David Koetje, all thought that Sanchez was going to be the best person to add to the board.
“Mr. Sanchez is widely respected by the Western Michigan business community and his relationships with the governor’s office is unmatched by any of us sitting on this board,” Koetje said. “So with that we say congratulations and welcome and we are honored to have you sitting with us.”
Chairperson Koetje and the rest of the board members expressed their happiness in welcoming Sanchez onto the board.
“I’m very excited and happy to have been chosen to be on the board,” Sanchez said. “I look forward to working with the other trustees to help move the college and community forward.”
In other news, Laurie Chesley, provost and executive vice president for Academic and Student Affairs, presented information about the growing status of GRCC’s distance learning program.
Chesley offered a brief history of the program at GRCC, where the first recorded distance learning course was offered in the fall of 1999. Later in 2002, the GRCC administration received their first accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) to offer online courses.
In 2012, GRCC applied as it’s own entity to the HLC for permission to offer up to 20 percent of the certificate and degree programs online.
“We are not close to 20 percent at this point,” Chesley said. “But we did get approval and we do offer several degrees and certificates to be taken online.”
Those online degree and certificate programs include business, computer information systems, web design and security. Online certificates in child development, criminal justice and others are also offered.
“I believe it’s also important to note that in almost every academic department at GRCC,” Chesley said. “Nearly every one of them offers online and hybrid courses being offered and I can count the exceptions on one hand.”
Chesley said that here is a 5 percent success gap between online and in-class learning.
“That percent has gone down over the years, but it is still too high for our liking,” Chesley said. “But we are headed in the right way.”
To ensure that the students are getting the best quality learning from the online courses, there are orientations for both students and instructors to make sure that both parties can succeed.
To help improve the vision of the distance learning program at GRCC, it was decided that there needed to be a distance learning director. A director was recently hired into the program by Chesley and other GRCC executives.
Bill Knapp was recently hired as the program director. Knapp has held a number of titles at Lakeland Community College as the dean of Academic Technologies and chief learning resources officer.
“Bill Knapp has a rich experience in instructional technology and distance learning,” Chesley said.
Kathryn Mullins was the last to present with a foundation update.
Mullins presented to the board that there were many scholarships and donations that added up to over $700,000 in scholarships in the 2016-17 academic year.
“So, for this school year, $766,000 were dispersed to 876 students,” Mullins said. “That is an increase of $148,000 over last year, allowing us to provide 156 additional scholarships.”
Next year, the Spectrum Health Scholarship program will kick off and the foundation will be awarding over $1 million in scholarships.
The next Board of Trustees meeting will take place on Mon. July 17.