GVSU supplies local firms with talent

October 24, 2009
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Spectrum Health is the area’s top employer of Grand Valley State University graduates, the university revealed in a recent report.

That’s no surprise to Erika Duncan, director of talent acquisition and development for Spectrum Health and a 1996 GVSU graduate.

“In the last two years, of all our new hires, about 10 percent are Grand Valley grads,” said Duncan, who also holds a master’s degree from Aquinas College. “It’s by far the college we get the most new hires from.”

And that’s no accident, Duncan said, pointing to internships, job shadow programs, clinical settings and coordination with public schools and GVSU to develop student pipelines. There are a slew of informal relationships, as well, such as using each other for job opportunities for trailing spouses of job recruits.

Spectrum, with about 14,000 on the payroll throughout West Michigan, is the largest employer in Grand Rapids. Three health care entities, six public school districts, four large local firms and GVSU itself round out the list, which appeared in the university’s third annual Accountability Report, released earlier in October.

Some 94 percent of GVSU alumni who graduated in 2007-08 were employed in Michigan, the report noted. That’s up from 88 percent in 2005-06.

Kent County sends far more students to GVSU than any other location: 5,698 this fall. Ottawa County ranks second, at 3,494. Muskegon County students numbered 1,033; Kalamazoo County, 608; and Allegan County, 693.

In laying out the university’s value to the West Michigan community, the report cites a variety of economic indicators, such as the $584,651 paid in city of Grand Rapids income tax by GVSU employees in 2008, and $5.3 million paid in state income taxes. GVSU employees paid $48,697 in Walker city income taxes in 2008.

The economic impact of 26,700 students, faculty and staff to the local economy was $592.1 million, the report stated.

The university spent $49.3 million on construction, enough to create 1,230 jobs. The report also cited two GVSU-sponsored SmartZones: the West Michigan Science and Technology Initiative in Grand Rapids and the Michigan Alternatives and Renewable Energy Center in Muskegon.

GVSU also reported that for fiscal 2009, the university engaged in 99 research projects representing $17 million in grants, up from $15.7 million in 2008. The Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center landed the largest grants — $2.77 million in 2008 and $3.4 million in 2007 from the U.S. Small Business Administration for counseling, training and market research.

The Michigan Department of Education also awarded GVSU $1.4 million for the Statewide Autism Resources and Training Project, for training and technical assistance to Michigan educators of students with autism spectrum disorder.

The National Institutes of Health awarded a $195,133, three-year grant to the chemistry department. The National Science Foundation provided a $280,028, three-year grant to the Annis Water Resources Institute for equipment.

At 24,408, GVSU ranks fifth among Michigan public universities for fall 2009 enrollment, behind Michigan State University, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Wayne State University and Western Michigan University. GVSU has more undergraduate students at 20,032 than all but MSU, WSU and Central Michigan University.

GVSU has experienced the highest rate of enrollment growth over the past 10 years at 42.6 percent, followed closely by Ferris State University at 40.2 percent.

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