GRCC Teams With Kettering

December 6, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Grand Rapids Community College and Kettering University parlayed their working relationship Tuesday into a strategic partnership giving local students greater access to engineering, scientific and managerial careers.

For the past 10 years, the two have had an “articulation agreement” regarding what GRCC course credits are transferable to the Flint-based university, said Robert Nichols, Kettering’s vice president for corporate relations and enrollment services.

Kettering has articulation agreements with about 40 community colleges, but strategic partnerships with only six: GRCC, Mott, Oakland, Delta, Sinclair and Miami Dade community colleges.

“There is a very good reason why we want GRCC as part of this group,” Nichols said. “Grand Rapids is a very important market for us and it has a lot of good employers that can hire our students.

“Also, GRCC is just a very good community college, and I think that’s the key. They’re producing some very good students.”

Kettering is one of a handful of educational institutions nationwide offering a professional co-op program that combines traditional classroom work with “real world” on-the-job experience. Students spend their four years at Kettering alternating every three months between attending classes on campus and working full-time for employers.

The university offers nine bachelor of science degrees in engineering, physical science, computer science and management that include concentrations, specialties and cognate study areas.

U.S. News and World Reports lists Kettering as one of the nation’s top specialty schools in engineering

Nichols believes partnerships like the one with GRCC encourage community college students to go on to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

“Employers will also help encourage that because they want them to have a four-year degree,” he said. 

The partnership represents a much closer relationship between GRCC and Kettering.

A West Michigan Endowed Scholarship Fund for GRCC students has already been set up, Nichols said. Kettering will be involved in GRCC career fairs and the two will collaborate in curriculum development and offer joint career and academic mentoring to GRCC students interested in Kettering.

They also will work together to create more cooperative education opportunities, and Nichols said the two also may put together some joint faculty programs.

“We have regular meetings with our partner schools,” he added.

“Part of the value of a partnership is that there are advocates for the students on both campuses. Not only is our faculty participating in programs there, but we have their faculty participating here. If a student shows an interest in transferring to Kettering or going into engineering, the partner college can help them plan and prepare well in advance.” 

GRCC President Juan R. Olivarez, Ph.D., said the partnership demonstrates GRCC’s commitment to providing students with “innovative programming and choices that are always right for the times.”

Kettering’s president, James John, underscored the importance of the university’s co-op system of education and said that together, Kettering and GRCC “can provide tomorrow’s leadership for business and industry.”

Under the Kettering-GRCC agreement, Kettering-bound students will complete their first two years of study at GRCC. The arrangement will include extra counseling and support services provided by both schools to smooth their transition to Kettering for completion of their bachelor’s degrees.

Students transferring to Kettering won’t gain as much co-op experience as a traditional four-year Kettering student does, Nichols acknowledged. But he said a lot of college students work for companies during the summer and already have work experience that can be taken into account.

“Their co-op requirements are a little bit less than the traditional Kettering student,” Nichols said. “The freshman and sophomore experiences are important, but they’re not as intense as the junior and senior level experiences.”

He said the schools will try to develop co-op working arrangements for GRCC students before they transfer.

Part of the benefit of the Kettering program is that students often stay with their co-op employer, Nichols said, and that helps reduce “brain drain” in West Michigan.

He said co-op education helps employers use local talent, as well as their community colleges to develop that talent.

Kettering alumnus Armen Oumedian added that co-op education not only helps keep jobs local, but builds the technical core of West Michigan.

GRCC’s vice president and provost, Velvie Green, Ph.D., said the partnership makes it easier for GRCC students who want to go on to Kettering because they know from the get-go exactly what credits will transfer and what will be expected of them down the line.

“Kettering has a long-standing reputation just as GRCC has,” she said. “This partnership opens some doors for students thinking about going on in business or engineering.”

Kettering Senior Brian Ulanch attended GRCC and graduates from Kettering this month. Ulanch said he’s excited about the partnership because it gives people like himself who maybe didn’t do so well in high school a chance to get the tools at GRCC that will help them tackle the academics at Kettering.

“All Kettering students realize the skills they’re developing, not only in engineering but in time management, because our curriculum is so difficult,” he said.

“The school does a very good job at providing us with the most opportunities.”

Ulanch said he went to GRCC with the end goal of getting into Kettering and its co-op education program.

“You go to school for 11 weeks, you put your nose to the grindstone and do a lot of work,” he said. “Then you go to work and actually apply what you learned.

“That’s a tremendous experience that many students don’t get,” he added.

“ We actually get both theoretical and work experience. I have the work experience, so I’m going to have a lot more opportunities when it comes to job interviews than a lot of people from other schools.”      

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