Faculty Spotlight

GRCC Recognized at 2014 Grand Awards

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Several GRCC students, alumni, staff, and faculty are recognized by the Grand Awards celebrating local college and community theaters!

Grand Rapids Community College’s production of The Hatpin received five Grand Awards this past weekend, but college faculty, staff, students and alumni also were well-represented among the other winners.

The Hatpin, a collaboration between GRCC’s theater and music departments that ran in May, was named Best College Production, and Rob Karel won for its direction. Student Meeka Postman was named Best Lead Actress in a College Production, and students Robbie Ellis and Madeline Jones received Best Supporting Actor and Actress, respectively. GRCC students Connor Manion and Nubia Gomez also received nominations for their work in The Hatpin.

With The Hatpin, A Sleeping Country and Jump/Cut, GRCC had three of the four nominees for Best College Production. GRCC students Jones, Henry Marcusse and Robert McFletcher received Grand nominations for their work in these productions.

“It’s always nice to be nominated, and you always smile when you get a win,” said Tom Kaechele, director of GRCC’s theater program. “But what we really love is being a part of the celebration of theater in West Michigan.”

He said the recognition for The Hatpin was especially rewarding as it was GRCC’s first collaboration with the music department.

“Rob Karel, a former directing student, came to us with The Hatpin, and it took about a year and a half for the logistics to work out so we could put it on,” Kaechele said. “It was an incredible effort, and we were fortunate to work with our accredited music department, especially department head Kevin Dobreff. Every time we came to a hurdle, Kevin helped knock it down, and he was also instrumental in coaxing former vocal director Duane Davis out of retirement to help us.”

Kaechele himself was honored at the 2014 Grand Awards, winning Best Director of a Musical for the Circle Theatre production of Spamalot. He was one of the many nominees and winners in non-college categories with GRCC ties:

  • Alumna Mary Lohman won Outstanding Choreography for the Civic Theater production of The Sound of Music. Alumna Kyle Dutkiewicz was also nominated in this category.
  • Alumna and GRCC staff member Michelle Urbane was named Outstanding Director of a Play for the Actors’ Theatre production of Venus in Fur. Kaechele was nominated in this category twice — for the Actors’ Theatre production of God of Carnage and Circle Theater’s Don’t Dress for Dinner.
  • Adjunct Christian Poquette received Outstanding Scenic Design for Actors’ Theatre’s Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson. He was also nominated in this category for Venus in Fur.
  • Alumni Sammy A. Publes and Darius “T.Q.” Colquitt were nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play for God of Carnage and the Jewish Theater production of The Whipping Man, respectively.
  • Alumnus Dylan Harris was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play for Circle Theater’s One Man Two Guvnors and for Outstanding Supporting Actor in the Actors’ Theater production of Love! Valour! Compassion!
  • Faculty member Nancy Wagner was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play for the Jewish Theater production of Driving Miss Daisy.
  • Kaechele and staff member Catherine Marlett Dreher were nominated for Outstanding Lighting Design for Venus in Fur and Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, respectively.

West Michigan will be able to see many of the current and past Grand Award winners in Open Door, a musical production celebrating GRCC’s 100-year history. A collaboration between the theater and music departments, the script was written by Walt Lockwood, a retired GRCC English professor, and James Schafer, GRCC’s coordinator of video broadcasting and distribution.

Performances are 8 p.m. Nov. 7 and 8 at GRCC’s Spectrum Theater, 160 Fountain St. NE. Ticket prices are $25 for the public, $20 for seniors, and $15 for students with a valid student ID. A complimentary dessert reception will be held in the theater lobby following each performance. Call (616) 234-3946 to purchase tickets.

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GRCC Faculty at ArtPrize!

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Two GRCC faculty are participating in ArtPrize this year – see their exhibits before the event comes to an end this weekend!

Matthew Schenk, Visual Arts faculty currently teaching two-dimensional design, is displaying his work Iterate 2 at the Women’s City Club – 254 East Fulton St.

Dianne Carroll Burdick, who has worked as a photography instructor at GRCC, is displaying her work The Pulse of the City at the UICA – 2 West Fulton St.

ArtPrize ends October 12, so there’s still time to see these and many other fine works!

Excellence In Education Award Winners

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GRCC’s Excellence in Education Awards were established in 1989 to honor GRCC employees, nominated by their peers, for their contributions to the college, higher education, and the community.  The three winners of the 2014 awards have different areas of expertise but are equally inspired to put in their own time to make sure students reach their full potential

Tom Neils, a chemistry professor in GRCC’s physical sciences department is the winner of this year’s Faculty Award.  Neils, who began teaching at GRCC in 1994, is known for arriving early, staying late and coming in on his days off to give students every opportunity to ask questions, complete labs and learn concepts. One colleague noted that Neils serves as a “recruiter” for science, working to spark an interest in the subject through his service at STEM events; summer science camps at Calvin College, MLK Academy and the University of Michigan’s Center for Engineering Diversity Outreach; and weekly meetings of the Science Club that he has helped start at City Middle School.  Tom has developed relationships with the chemistry departments at Hope College and Grand Valley State University that have given more than 40 GRCC students the opportunity to conduct paid summer scientific research at those institutions. He also leads GRCC’s chemical technology program, which prepares students to work in chemical industries.

Mary Beth O’Rourke, an adjunct instructor in the physical sciences department, received the Adjunct Award.  O’Rourke has taught courses in chemistry, physics, physical science and math during her 19 years as an adjunct instructor at GRCC. She often stays late to give students time to complete tests and laboratory activities. But she also spends much of her time working with her colleagues to find innovative ways to bring science education to students, exploring new lab assignments and introducing technology. Mary Beth spent two days a week this summer helping to create a series of online labs for a physical science course.

Mary Kay Bethune, a customer service manager in the financial aid office, is the winner of the Staff Award.  As a customer service manager in financial aid, Bethune often sees students and their families who are panicked and overwhelmed by the process. Combining persistence and compassion, she is known by colleagues as a “troubleshooter extraordinaire” who works tirelessly to connect students to the resources they need to help them reach their goals.

In addition to training GRCC staff on the many changes in financial aid, Bethune works to “de-mystify” the process for students and the community. She presents workshops for GRCC departments as well as for community organizations, including Bethany Christian Services and area women’s shelters. Mary Kay has worked on development of the My Financial Aid webpage and the Information Station, a series of videos guiding students and parents through various processes.

Congratulations to all three winners of the 2014 Excellence in Education Awards!

Armen Award Winners Announced

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The Armen Awards, sponsored by GRCC alumnus Armen Oumedian, are designed to inspire innovative teaching practices and focus on service learning.  The 2014 award winners have been announced!

First Place ($3000 award) – Sarah Krajewski and her Biology for Educators course, partnered with Immaculate Heart of Mary School.

Second Place ($1500 award) – Bethann Talsma and her Office Etiquette and Ethics course, partnered with Gilda’s Club of Grand Rapids.

Third Place ($750 award) – Jolanta Lanier and her Personal Health Course, partnered with the American Cancer Society.

Other Finalists:
Hope Hagan and her Business and Technical Writing course, partnered with Covenant House
Aleta Anderson and her Introductory German course, partnered with Palmer Elementary School
Dr. Sherry Knoppers and her Community Transcultural Nursing Course, partnered with South End Community Outreach Ministry
Gayl Beals and his Automotive Job Training Course, partnered with Mel Trotter Ministries.

Congratulations to the 2014 Armen Award winners and all who participated!

Retirement Celebrations!

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Two esteemed faculty members are retiring at the end of this year – join them in celebrating their contributions to GRCC!

Jonathon Russell has taught photography in the Visual Arts Department since 1977 and will be honored at a reception on Wednesday, April 23 from 1-3pm in Room 428 Main.

Dr. Robert Long has taught in the Biological Sciences Department for 38 years and will be honored at a retirement social on Thursday, April 24 from 3-5pm in Room 125/127 Calkins Science Center.

Faculty Viola Recital

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1-a6187f7dd9 GRCC and the GRCC Music Department present a faculty viola recital this Saturday, April 5 at 4pm in Room 200 of the Music Center.

Music by Franck, Brahms, Schubert, Giuliani, Gounod and other will be performed by musicians:

Libor Ondras, Viola
Brian Morris, Guitar
Sheryl Iott, Piano
Kenneth Bos, Piano

with vocalists:

Diane Penning, Soprano
William Bokhout, Baritone

Come and enjoy the sounds of GRCC!

GRCC Student Photographer Wins National Recognition

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Michele BrautnickGrand Rapids resident and GRCC student Michele Brautnick received an honorable mention in the 34th annual College and High School Photography Contest organized by Photographer’s Forum magazine.  Her award-winning photo featuring her two-year-old son Oscar started as an assignment for a GRCC photography class.

Brautnick says, “The assignment was specifically around the topic of light – seeing it, finding it, and acknowledging the effect it can have on a subject.”

Photography professor Chuck Heiney says the light project is a technical assignment that he gives early in the semester.  “In one sense, the light assignment is to ensure students are making correct exposures with their cameras, but light can be used to go beyond merely making exposures of the scene,” he said.  “When photographers begin to literally ‘see the light’ in their photography, they have made a huge step forward in the craft.  Michele’s photo shows that point of release from basic exposure to seeing, responding, and interpreting the scene.”

Like many GRCC students, Michele Brautnick is a “nontraditional” student who already has a degree and career, but returned to college in 2013 as a means of broadening her skills and ideally leading to a more advanced career position.

Chuck Heiney says he finds it especially rewarding to work with students like Brautnick, saying, “Nontraditional students seem to have a laser focus of knowing what they want and working hard to get to the end of the game as fast as possible.”

All of the competition’s winners, honorable mentions, and finalists will be featured in the book Best of College and High School Photography 2014.  To see Michele Brautnick’s award-winning photo, click HERE.