Higher Ed Cooperates For Adults

April 14, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child, but apparently it takes 13 higher education institutions to create a student.

In an effort to promote higher education as a whole, instead of one particular institution, Aquinas College, Central Michigan University, Cornerstone University, Davenport University, Ferris State University-Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University, ITT Technical Institute, Michigan State University, Northwood University, Spring Arbor University, University of Phoenix and Western Michigan University are working together this time.

Their aim is to make it easier for the nontraditional student to get back into the educational swing.

The 13 schools have created GRAHEN, or Grand Rapids Area Higher Education Network, to recruit students and offer them any major or area of interest they desire.

"This is something that is really easier to do as a team," said Zoe Carmichael, co-chair and student services coordinator for WMU.

"This is healthy competition to benefit students. We are able to put aside that competitive spirit and even when a school can't attend one of the businesses, we will bring their materials for them."

The program operates by going into the workplace and directly recruiting students. A representative from each of the schools goes to a workplace and sets up a table of information. During lunch or a break, employees have the opportunity to get acquainted with the schools and obtain more information to find the school that is the right fit for them.

"This helps the business, so that we aren't taking away from production time, and it also helps the worker so that they can have 13 different universities, colleges or technical training facilities at their disposal," said Nick Murphy chairperson and corporate education consultant for the University of Phoenix.

"And it offers the students one opportunity to be able to have each and every area of interest at their fingertips. This way if one of us isn't able to offer one thing, one of the other schools probably has it," added Carmichael.

Workers have the opportunity to further their education and bring those transferable skills to the workplace, making them more valuable, especially in a down economy.

Not only do Carmichael and Murphy see this as a benefit to potential students, but also for employers who are looking for a stronger workforce.

The employer has the opportunity to offer its employees the chance to obtain more of an education as well as increase the talent of its work force through these programs.

"We are a one-stop shop for HR people looking for advancement in education, as well as for a way to give employees a benefit for tuition," said Carmichael. "We can offer them what they are looking for and in the end it really makes the business look good."

In addition to improving businesses and their employees, GRAHEN offers an incentive to working through its program and going back to school. For the last four years, since its inception, the group has awarded one higher education learner from each institution the GRAHEN Outstanding Adult Learner Award (OAL).

This year's awards ceremony will be April 17 at the DeVos Center Exhibition Hall on the GVSU Pew Campus and will honor 13 students that have been nominated and meet the criteria of a certain GPA, have good classroom performance, have overcome outstanding odds and have an outstanding commitment to their work, family and furthering their education.

After adult learners have been nominated, they then must write a brief essay on why they deserve the award and fill out a short application. In addition, they must have two letters of recommendation.

Next, the nominee's information is sent to a selection committee, which chooses a winner or candidate from each school. The winners are then notified and encouraged to attend the ceremony with their families and friends.

"It is nice to have the families there also because we are also rewarding them for the support they have given to the candidates throughout their time juggling a family, work and school at the same time," said Murphy.

GRAHEN tries to convey the idea of teamwork and how by working together, the 13 institutions can create an awareness of lifelong learning opportunities for adults at colleges and universities in the greater Grand Rapids area.

Businesses and interested adult learners can obtain more information by calling Murphy at 647-5100, Ext. 110.

"This is a good time to go back to school," said Murphy. "And if you can go back to school and bring those transferable skills back to your workplace, therefore furthering yourself and your place of business, this is really a win-win for all involved."           

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