The Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees interviewed four more candidates today to fill a vacant seat after the death of Deb Bailey in late April. Her term was set to expire Dec. 31, 2020.
David Koetje, Chairperson of the board, noted to each applicant the uniqueness of this format and thanked them for their willingness to participate. He said the field of candidates is outstanding and, speaking on behalf of all the members, they are humbled to have a deep pool of people to choose from.
“Makes us (board members) wonder if we might not want to all just step aside and let six or seven new ones come in, but we’re not going to do that because we’re having way too much fun doing what we’re doing here,” Koetje said jokingly.
A risk analyst at Aon since 2005, Erlewein was named Assistant Vice President of the company. The Central Michigan University and Wayne State University graduate is the treasurer and a trustee on the Kent District Library Board. He attended GRCC while still in high school.
“As an early college student, I quickly learned the expectations of Grand Rapids Community College were on par with any four-year institution. My calculus course taught me that pretty darn quickly,” Erlewein said with a chuckle.
Viewing the college as a “valued community asset,” Erlewein wants to serve GRCC and its students.
“My perspective that I would like to bring to the board is a long-term view in that I want to have that sustainability of GRCC over the long term so that they can continue for the next hundred years providing for the education of local students,” Erlewein said.
When asked by the chairperson if he would campaign for a full term, Erlewein said, “I would intend to run for election.”
Interim Associate Dean and Department Chair at Davenport University, Goulet has worked at the university since 1996, according to her LinkedIn account. She took summer classes at GRCC while working on her undergraduate program at Western Michigan University and graduated from Walden University with a doctorate in business administration.
“My passion is really around helping students take it to the next level,” Goulet said. “…I worked in a program that helps high school juniors and seniors figure out what that next step is and I love helping that and helping them try to figure out where they want to be next.”
Being an educator for so long, Goulet said she understands the vast needs of students and hopes to further assist them as they begin their higher education, workforce training programs, or adult college students. Goulet notes that affordability, location, and flexibility with schedule is a great benefit that GRCC has to offer to students.
“I understand the importance and relevance that community college plays in the higher education landscape,” Goulet said.
When asked if, should she be appointed, she would run for a six-year term, which would begin at the beginning of 2021, Goulet indicated she would.
Noland, an attorney at McGraw Morris P.C., graduated with a juris doctorate from Indiana University and has been named a Grand Rapids “Super Lawyer.” He has represented school districts throughout Western Michigan and GRCC itself.
“(I view GRCC) conceptually like the hub of the wheel,” Noland explained. “You’ve got relationships and support from other public institutions and you’ve got the cultural energy that the college provides, you’ve got the diversity of programs for fulfillment for students.”
Given his involvement with the inner workings of educational institutions and seeing some of the challenges firsthand, Noland said he is led by an intrinsic motivation to assist others in finding and excelling in a rich environment that provides “fulfillment” for others.
“My core beliefs, again, center on the student,” Noland said. “They center on all the valuable experiences I’ve had witnessing educators and administrators and, frankly, a compassion for students that have struggled and parents that have struggled with their students. I take that with me.”
The future needs of students are ever-evolving and the “uncharted territory” higher education institutions currently find themselves will require careful consideration from board members. Noland believes that closely following strategic plans will be of great importance.
Noland said he would “absolutely” run for the full term if he were appointed to fulfill the time left on Bailey’s vacated seat.
Whipps taught liberal studies at Grand Valley State University before she retired in 2019. She has a doctorate of philosophy from Union Institute & University in 1998 and graduated from The University of Chicago with a masters degree in divinity studies.
With over 25 years in higher education, Whipps said she “so admires” GRCC’s mission for open access and the accessibility the college offers. Though she is no longer actively involved with students, the longtime professor believes she can still help GRCC learners should she be appointed to the board.
“…You also have to be aware of a deep empathy for what the students are experiencing, what the faculty are experiencing, and what the administrators are experiencing,” Whipps said. “It is a work of breadth but also a work of empathy in order to make the right decisions and hold that trust that the community has given.”
Whipps indicated that if she were appointed in June, she would like to run for a six-year term, though she would likely hold off on making a final decision until after she has been involved in one or two board meetings “just to see how useful my work would be with the board and make sure that that is a good fit in terms of what I can bring and whether I can make a contribution.”
The board will vote and appoint a candidate during their next meeting scheduled for June 15.