Library hosts first community partnership showcase

GVL/Brianna Olson
Faculty member Mary Schutten reviews items at Hoon Lees booth

GVL/Brianna Olson Faculty member Mary Schutten reviews items at Hoon Lee’s booth

Lucas Escalada

Grand Valley State University hosted the first “Community as Classroom” partnership showcase at the Mary Idema Pew Library on Jan. 30. Various presenters gathered in the library’s multipurpose room with posters and presentations to showcase their community engagement projects.

Ruth Stegeman, director for community engagement, said turnout was better than expected. Around 175 people attended the event, including presenters.

“The purpose was to create a space for networking and idea-generating,” Stegeman said. “Students met community partners from organizations where they would like to work or volunteer. Faculty met other faculty with common research and project interests. Community partners learned ways they could expand their collaboration with GVSU, such as working with a marketing class or a video class.”

Stegeman said the planning team will review evaluations of the event. After looking at the effort to create the event and the potential impact, the team will decide whether to host the event again next year. However, Stegeman said positive verbal responses created a good outlook for next year.

The event featured presenters from a variety of disciplines and fields.

Tonisha Jones, assistant professor of criminal justice, presented a research study to assess the types of sexual violence programs and resources available to victims of sexual violence in Kent County. She said the partnership showcase is a nice way to approach students.

“(The Community Showcase) is a way for us to be able to talk to students, as well as other individuals, about the type of research that you can do or the type of partnership you can have to address a social issue,” Jones said.

She said her group was able to develop a study about an issue they were passionate about. Now they will bring their findings back to the team to decide what to do next.

“Then we’ll take everything that we’ve done and provide it to the community, so the community is informed about this issue and can use our recommendations,” Jones said.

Jody Vogelzang, GVSU director of the Master of Science program in Clinical Dietetics and professor of Public Health, presented findings of food availability and procurement in Grand Rapids. Over 80 students in the course of three semesters conducted door-to-door surveys of over 200 households. Students also conducted a food basket survey, visiting stores and buying prescribed foods. Vogelzang said it was exciting to see many students who are interested in the program.

“There have been nursing students, and I know they’re here on assignment, but they were genuinely interested and asked questions,” Vogelzang said. “It just made us feel like what we had done was valuable and useful and interesting for other people.”

This type of engagement could help students get involved in a similar area, Vogelzang said.

Monica Zavala, family outreach coordinator for Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities, worked with “Portrait of my Community: A collaborative Youth Leadership Initiative.” This community partnership helped 31 students from kindergarten to 8th grade. Most of the students were from immigrant families. Zavala said the program was meant to help those students learn about their past.

She said the project started by talking with the parents and helping them communicate with their children. The students learned about their parents’ lives while growing up.

Zavala said it was important to bring this project to GVSU to show that Latino students are a part of the community.

“It’s important for other people who are maybe not familiar with the Grandville Avenue neighborhood know that we are there and we also have a lot to share with other people,” Zavala said.

Management professor Michael Ricco showcased his engagement with Hudsonville Ice Cream to provide live business cases in the classroom. Over 100 students interacted with representatives in class, and he said he wants more professors to bring corporations into the classroom.

“I’m trying to develop a network, and then trying to convince them to come into the classroom,” Ricco said.

Hospitality and tourism professor Mark Gleason presented a community partnership related to marine technology and exploring Great Lake shipwrecks. Archaeologists use underwater robots to explore shipwrecks with the Alpena Community College Marine Tech Program.

Gleason said students interested in Archeology, maritime tourism and engineering could all be involved with the program.