Across Campus

November 24, 2014


Local business leaders looking for employees with drive and desire to win

People who are willing to work hard, are reliable and have the desire to win are what leaders from Universal Forest Projects in Grand Rapids are looking for in employees, according to three leaders of the company.

William G. Currie, chairman of the board; Matthew J. Missad, chief executive officer; and Peter F. Secchia, retired chairman of the board, shared “Business Lessons Learned” during the Peter F. Secchia Breakfast Lecture, November 19 at the L. William Seidman Center.

Founded in 1955, Universal Forest Products is the nation’s leading manufacturer and distributor of wood and wood-alternative products. The company has 80 facilities throughout North America and employs about 6,000 people.

Secchia, who retired in 2003 as chairman of board, said he learned how to run a business from the discipline he learned while in the Marine Corps. He said he also learned a lot from his mentors, Rich DeVos and President Gerald Ford. “Gerald Ford was all about integrity; integrity at the helm,” said Secchia. “His ideas weren’t always supported by everyone, but he had the respect of both Republicans and Democrats because he had integrity.

Diana Lawson

Photo by Bernadine Carey-Tucker

Diana Lawson, dean of the Seidman College of Business, thanks Matthew Missad, Peter Secchia, and William Currie after their lecture November 19 at the Seidman Center.

Secchia talked about the early years of the company and how he took classes to figure out parts of the businesses he didn’t know, like accounting and working with balance sheets. He talked about a “no nepotism rule” he implemented at the company. “Many family-owned businesses are successful, especially in our area and there is nothing wrong with that,” said Secchia. “We have children who are talented enough to run the company, but that wasn’t what was best for our company. It wouldn’t have been good for our families or for our longtime employees.”

Currie said when the company was growing, they looked to hire students who were willing to work hard and were willing to win. “We looked for athletes or those who were in a fraternity or sorority,” said Currie. “We wanted students who were highly competitive and understood the team concept.”

Currie said he loves the sales part of the job. “I can sell,” he explained. “I could sell lumber to someone building a manufactured home and I could sell the company to those looking to work for us.”

Missad, who worked his way up from doing maintenance work in the company at age 16 to CEO of the company, told students to find someone they admire and respect and follow them. He called Secchia and Currie terrific mentors. Missad said their goal is to hit $3 billion in sales by the end of 2017.


Johnson Center report shows $100 million increase in Kent County giving

A new report from the Johnson Center for Philanthropy shows that charitable giving in Kent County increased by more than $100 million in 2012, the last year in which comprehensive data is available, and may pass the $1 billion mark in 2013 or 2014.

The Estimate of Charitable Giving in Kent County report indicates that in 2012 donors of all types in Kent County gave a total of $947.25 million, which is a substantial increase of more than $100 million from the 2011 total.

Of the total, Johnson Center researchers determined that almost 65 percent of donations came from individuals, while foundations contributed about 26 percent. In fact, the data shows that Kent County is exceptionally generous compared to the rest of the state. While only 6 percent of all Michigan households are located in Kent County, individuals in the county contributed 10 percent of Michigan’s total estimated individual giving in 2012. Foundations in Kent County follow the same trend, contributing a much higher percentage of total giving (26 percent) than foundations nationwide (14 percent).

“Kent County continues to give almost twice as much through foundations as the national average, and individual giving rebounded after a decline in 2011, but is still not quite back to pre-recession levels,” said Michael Moody, the Johnson Center’s Frey Foundation Chair for Family Philanthropy. “Tracking all of these trends over time gives us a clearer picture of the dynamics of giving in the community, leveling out year-to-year variations that naturally occur. We hope the data on giving trends help both donors and grantees understand the nature of philanthropy in Kent County.”

To see a full copy of the report, visit


Tech Center program preps health professions students for college

Kyra Hull arrived at Grand Valley with a full resume that highlighted her experience in health professions.

For example, the sophomore biomedical sciences major had already earned certifications in phlebotomy and CPR; completed a summer internship in the labs and product development areas of Ranir, a manufacturer of health care products; and completed a FEMA disaster training exercise.

Most of those highlights came through Hull’s participation in Kent Career Tech Center’s Health Sciences Early College Academy. As a high school junior and senior at Forest Hills Eastern, Hull took health professions courses at Grand Valley’s Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences and through Ferris State University.

“Having that hands-on experience makes me different from other students and helps me to stand out,” said Hull, who is also a member of the Laker track and field team. “Having that knowledge through interactive learning really prepared me for college.”

Kyra Hull

Photo by Amanda Pitts

Sophomore Kyra Hull attended the Health Sciences Early College Academy during high school and said she enjoyed the hands-on approach to the curriculum.

Instructor Russell Wallsteadt recalled one of Hull’s research projects, a family history to track the possibility of diabetes among her relatives and identify those at a greater risk for developing the disease. “It was amazing work that impressed some Grand Valley faculty members,” he said.

About 40 high school students attend the Early College Academy each year; the partnership between Grand Valley and the Career Tech Center dates back a decade. Of that total, Wallsteadt said about 20 students matriculate to Grand Valley. The program’s college placement rate overall is 98 percent.

Hull said during her senior year, she took respiratory therapy classes through the Career Tech Center’s partnership with Ferris State.

For more information about the Health Sciences Early College Academy, visit


Grand Valley ranked in top 10 for study abroad participation

Grand Valley is ranked in the top 10 of institutions its size in the number of students who participate in study abroad programs.

The Institute of International Education released data from the 2012-2013 academic year, and Grand Valley was ranked 10th among master’s degree instititions for study abroad, with 721 students. During the 2011-2012 reporting year, Grand Valley was ranked fifth, with 825 students.

Mark Schaub, chief international officer, said Grand Valley is third in Michigan behind Michigan State University and the University of Michigan in terms of participation.


Wesorick Center establishes institute for polarity thinking

Thomas Viggiano

Thomas Viggiano, professor of medical education and medicine at the Mayo Clinic, gives an address as the Distinguished Wesorick Lectureship on November 12 in the DeVos Center.

Part of the work in transforming the health care system, according to experts, rests in polarity thinking, the skill set required to avoid wasting time, money and energy.

The Bonnie Wesorick Center for Health Care Transformation has established an Interprofessional Institute for Polarity Thinking in Health Care.

Housed in the Kirkhof College of Nursing, the institute will offer diverse educational and networking opportunities for leaders who are interested in growing their knowledge of polarity thinking and their ability to leverage polarities.

Evelyn Clingerman, executive director of the Wesorick Center, said the legacy of today’s health care leaders relies on polarity thinking. Polarities are two or more values or views that may appear as opposites but are interdependent and need each other to reach a goal that neither can achieve alone.

“Knowledge and use of polarity thinking will lead to sustainable, quality, cost-effective systems that will serve humanity from pre-birth to death,” she said. “The major issues haunting health care are a combination of problems to be solved and polarities to be managed. Both skills are essential.”

Clingerman explained that polarities are common in health care organizations, businesses and society, and that they are ongoing and cannot be problem-solved away. One common polarity in health care is mission and margin; both are important, so learning to leverage the tension between the two poles can ensure sustainable quality performance.   

She said future continuing education opportunities at this institute would be appropriate for clinicians, managers, executives, consultants, educators and researchers.

For more information about the Wesorick Center, visit


Students collaborate with Ford to share inspiring stories

Students from the School of Communications are getting hands-on advertising and public relations experience working with Ford Motor Company through a storytelling competition.

The project is a competition between Grand Valley, Calvin College and Compass College for Cinematic Arts in which students must develop and produce online videos showcasing inspirational stories about people or organizations in Michigan.

Lindsey VanDenBoom, advertising and public relations major, said that while the different groups have free range to explore stories in any area of Michigan, Grand Valley’s team wanted to keep their stories as local as possible.

“One of the stories is about Archangel Ancient Tree Archive founded by David Milarch,” said VanDenBoom. “It’s an organization dedicated to cloning the world’s largest and most iconic trees in order to replace the natural filter system of our water and air to fight global warming caused by climate change. Today, AATA has established living archives containing hundreds of vital trees in Michigan.”

As a student, VanDenBoom said she didn’t hesitate to agree to work with her fellow students and Ford on this project.

“I am a huge supporter of getting involved outside of course work and applying your knowledge to external activities,” said VanDenBoom. “From the beginning I was prepared to work hard, give my personal best and, in the end, walk away with a better understanding of the advertising and communications process.”

Frank Blossom, affiliate professor of advertising and public relations at Grand Valley, is guiding students throughout the creation and distribution of these videos.

Grand Valley’s videos will be posted on YouTube where “public voting” will take place through December 17. The winner will be determined by the total number of video views.