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Biden Administration drops by GRCC

Dean of Workforce Training Julie Parks, Interim President Juan Olivarez, U.S. Department of Education representatives Amy Loyd and Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant in the U.S. Education Department Catherine McConnell, GRCC Vice President for Finance and Administration Lisa Freiburger, and Provost Brian Knetl in GRCC's Applied Technology Center. (Shane Madden/The Collegiate)

By Shane Madden 

Representatives of President Biden’s Department of Education, Amy Loyd and Roberto Rodriguez, dropped by Grand Rapids Community College Tuesday afternoon for a meeting with Interim President Juan Olivarez and several members of the board as well as a brief tour of the Wisner-Bottrall Applied Technology Center (ATC). 

Loyd is currently serving as the Assistant Secretary for the department’s Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education and has extensive experience across the career and technical education (CTE) field. 

Rodriguez leads the Education Department’s office of planning, evaluation, and policy development, and previously served in former President Obama’s administration. His ties to Grand Rapids and GRCC are notable.

“Roberto’s father was one of our founding board members here when we became a community college, he was on our first board,” Olivarez said.

“I do have deep roots here in Grand Rapids and I’m really proud of that…I think it was 13 years my father was on the board here.” Rodriguez said. “I earned my undergraduate degree on the other side of the state at the University of Michigan, but my first job was here at Grand Rapids Community College…and I took some of my undergraduate courses here at GRCC and transferred them over to Michigan, so it’s in my DNA.” 

The items discussed in the short meeting varied greatly and hastily scratched notes were taken by all. Topics included recognizing the importance of community colleges as a hub, not only for new students, but also for members of the workforce coming back to further their careers with short term training credentials. 

Both Loyd and Rodriguez were particularly interested in the surge in attendance from 25–35-year-olds as a result of the “Michigan Reconnect” and “Futures for Frontliners” programs, which are exclusive to students here in Michigan. 

The conversation then turned to grant money. Future grants and the way they could be spent, but more importantly past CTE grants and the facilities they produced.  

The group then moved from the Ransom Conference Room through the halls of the ATC building. Loyd and Rodriguez toured the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education, Advanced Manufacturing lab, HVAC and Cooling Repair Lab, and the Maker Lab.   

“This administration is really focused on skills based hiring and truly values the role of short term credentials,” Loyd said. “So we think about how that translates into education, and really honoring our workers and partners of all ages and all walks of life, how to honor their experiences and translate that into (college) credit, (and) how to get them that short-term credential because they might not have two to three years to complete a longer term degree program.”

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