Desire for diversity

GVL / Courtesy Ella T. Fritzemeier

GVL / Courtesy Ella T. Fritzemeier

Natalie Lussier

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Attracting College Graduates to Grand Rapids: A Student-Driven Model, called PA 380, is a special topics course taught by Grand Valley State University professor Mark Hoffman. It focuses on developing recommendations for helping Grand Rapids thrive and increase diversity through attracting and retaining young professionals. Partnering with the city of Grand Rapids, the class developed 10 recommendations over the course of the Fall 2014 semester and presented them to the City Commission in December.

To enroll in the class, students were required to send in an application which included a resume, cover letter and faculty recommendation. Once completing the application process, prospective students were called in for an interview and only 13 were selected.

Mayor George Heartwell announced that he will implement three recommendations the class constructed, including creating a universal app called “YGR” for events and destinations of interest to young professionals.

A Millennial Advisory Board of college students and young adults will also be established to continue the class’ efforts, as well as developing a partnership with local businesses to double the mayor’s internship programs.

GVSU student Hannah Fernando spoke about the results of the class and diversity in Grand Rapids at the State of the City Address.

“Our job was to collect recommendations throughout the semester and present them to the city at the end of the year,” Fernando said during her speech to an audience of over 700. “The task was daunting and engaging, overwhelming and captivating. We dug deep (and) worked very hard.”

When asked about the speech, Fernando said it was “humbling and honoring at the same time.” She added that to have a diverse city, we need to understand that change has to come from the individual. In one of her concluding statements of her speech, she said there needs to be desire to grow as a city past just government.

“This message is not just for City Hall; these ideas hope to simply make Grand Rapids thrive, and you all are the hands and feet, ears and mouths, of these ideas. We all need to take the desire to grow in community, grow in hospitality and grow in diversity back to our homes, classrooms, offices, churches and town halls.”

Aziza Ahmadi, another GVSU student in the course, said the class taught her how to apply academic knowledge in the real world.

“Working with the 12 other students in the course was very stimulating since we discussed everything as a group and broke recommendations into smaller categories to focus on in smaller groups,” Ahmadi said. “This format, I feel, was very beneficial to collaborating effectively when crafting our recommendations.”

Ella Fritzemeier, a participating student in the course, said she feels privileged to be a part of Grand Rapids with the number of great things happening in the city.

“It was such an honor to not only be invited to the State of the City address, but also to be given the opportunity to be acknowledged for the hard work we have done,” Fritzemeier said.

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