GVSU, GRCC Expand Lakeshore Offerings

December 3, 2007
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HOLLAND — In collaboration with Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University is expanding the academic program offerings at its Meijer Campus in Holland to help adult students who already have some college credits complete a bachelor’s degree.

Beginning with the 2008 fall semester, Grand Valley will offer non-traditional students a convenient and flexible degree-completion program that includes alternative formats and scheduling options. The intent is to reach out to people who may have started college but didn’t complete a four-year degree, said Simone Jonaitis, GVSU’s executive director of continuing education.

“Grand Valley is responding to the needs of lakeshore communities for greater access to higher education,” added GVSU President Thomas Haas.

“The university is also responding to the Cherry Commission’s call on Michigan’s colleges and universities to help adults who have earned college credits in the past to come back and complete their degrees,” he said, referring to the Commission on Higher Education and Economic Growth that is under the leadership of Lt. Gov. John D. Cherry.

Officials indicated GVSU could maximize the programs it has available at the lakeshore campus by having GRCC provide some of the core required courses — English, math, history, science, humanities — that every student has to take to complete a bachelor’s degree, Jonaitis said.

“This way, the university can focus on the remaining portion of classes for the degree completion,” she explained. “It’s very advantageous in that we are providing avenues for non-traditional students to use their previously earned credits.” 

GVSU is offering the program through its Department of Liberal Studies. The curriculum will include both core classes and classes in emphasis areas such as leadership, ethics or communication arts. Students can earn an associate degree in arts from GRCC and a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies with an emphasis in their selected areas of study from GVSU.

“Some people take all the Michigan Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers requirements, and then transfer right away and don’t complete an associate degree,” observed GRCC Associate Provost Patty Trepkowski. “There are always options, so people can decide what’s best for them.” 

The reason GVSU selected the liberal studies program is because non-traditional students typically have work obligations and civic responsibilities, so they need convenient, flexible formatting that includes online courses, hybrid courses and weekend classes, Jonaitis said.

According to Jonaitis, the liberal studies program really prepares students for “the work of the world.” Employers are looking for people who can be critical thinkers, who can analyze and problem solve, and who can transfer the information they’ve learned through their experiences into whatever profession they’ve selected, Jonaitis remarked.

The liberal studies program is broad-based, she said, and allows students to select courses from a variety of disciplines so they can build degrees that suit their interests. People may originally have started down one career path, but their interests and career aspirations may have changed over time. 

“This a way for them to gather together their experience and their previous college credits and design something that is flexible and much more aligned with who they are today,” she said. “We look at what courses they’ve already had and what their career plans and life interests are presently. The goal is to build a suitable program that will help them obtain what it is they want to obtain.”

GRCC has offered classes in Holland for 18 years through its Thompson Michigan Technical Education Center, which is an accredited campus, and in partnership with the Ottawa Intermediate School District’s Careerline Tech Center across the street, Trepkowski said. GRCC will maintain classes at Thompson M-TEC and will offer many of the same classes at GVSU’s Meijer Campus, so students will have the choice of studying at either campus. The partnership with Grand Valley gives GRCC more classroom space on another site.

Trepkowski noted, “We’re very full on our main campus, so this allows us to offer classes at another site and provides the opportunity for more students to access courses.”

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