Across Campus

September 22, 2014


Pilot programs support mindfulness practice


Abigail Hollenback

Abigail Hollenbeck, a vocal music student, learned more about mindfulness while in Kathryn Stieler’s class. The practice is a growing trend on campuses nationwide.

Two pilot programs this semester support a national trend on campuses: practicing mindfulness.

At its simplest, mindfulness means intentional focusing and being present in the moment. It does not mean, for example, walking to a class or a meeting with eyes glued to your phone, or talking on the phone while checking email.

The Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center began exploring ways to incorporate mindfulness in the classroom two years ago when Grand Valley and Ferris State University faculty members established a learning community. Christine Rener, vice provost for Instructional Development and Innovation and director of FTLC, said the science behind contemplative pedagogy, or mindfulness, enhances learning.

“There is evidence on how people who practice mindfulness are better learners and better listeners,” Rener said. “There are neurological changes, it reduces your heart rate and stress level.”

The FTLC and Health and Wellness have teamed to established a six-week pilot program for College of Health Professions faculty members, who are working with Carol Hendershot, co-founder of the Grand Rapids Center for Mindfulness; and a six-week course for faculty and staff members will begin in October. “Learning the Art of Mindfulness” will be led by Sue Dilsworth; visit to learn more.

Kathryn Stieler, associate professor of music, said while she practices mindfulness, she was at first skeptical of its benefits in the classroom.

“They enjoyed it,” said Stieler, also a FTLC faculty fellow. “The students told me they rarely have any quiet time.”

In five-minute mindfulness sessions, Stieler would ask her students to “silence their voice and listen.” Sometimes, she led them with questions about stage performance.

Abigail Hollenbeck was in Stieler’s master class and said she enjoyed those sessions. “Professor Stieler also asked reflective questions that encouraged a deeper level of learning,” Hollenbeck said.

Joe Gibson took a physics course last year taught by Karen Gipson, professor of physics. He said Gipson’s mindfulness sessions sometimes focused on awareness of breath and others were topic driven.

“Our class topics were pretty abstract, when we would discuss black holes, or theories about time and space,” Gibson said.

Gibson found the sessions calming, and practiced mindfulness before he took the GRE and before a successful internship interview with NASA last year.

“I enjoyed it and I think other students in the class did, too,” Gibson said. “It really puts you in a different state of mind.”


National magazine recognizes university's inclusive efforts

Grand Valley’s commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive campus was recognized September 16 by the country’s oldest and largest diversity-focused publication for higher education.

Grand Valley was among 83 recipients of the 2014 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award from Insight Into Diversity. Award recipients are selected based on an institution’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, and ability to embrace a broad definition of diversity on campus.

Dwight Hamilton, associate vice president for Affirmative Action, said it’s an honor to receive a HEED award, and it validates the university’s commitment to inclusion and the hard work of the campus community.

“This award belongs to the many collaborative partners who have worked to advance inclusion and equity at Grand Valley and provides a fitting capstone to Dr. Jeanne Arnold’s groundbreaking work in establishing the Division of Inclusion and Equity,” Hamilton said.

Intersections Event

Pictured is an Intersections event, one of many initiatives on campus that help create an inclusive and diverse environment.

He noted the award serves as motivation to further engage campus and community partners in efforts to enhance inclusion on campus. “By striving to provide a rich, inclusive learning and working environment, Grand Valley enriches the quality of education for all students,” Hamilton said.

All HEED award winners will be highlighted in the magazine’s November issue.


MEDC president calls Michigan comeback state

Michael Finney

Photo by Bernadine Carey-Tucker

Michael Finney addresses the audience at the September 18 Peter F. Secchia Breakfast Lecture, held at the L. William Seidman Center.

Michael Finney, president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, said lowering the state business tax helped bring jobs back to Michigan. Finney was the guest speaker for the Peter F. Secchia Breakfast Lecture, sponsored by the Seidman College of Business.

It was standing room only for Finney’s presentation, “When Michigan Means Business,” held at the L. William Seidman Center on September 18.

Finney said his model for economic vitality for the state includes three things: talent, businesses and vibrant cities. He said Michigan is America’s “comeback state” because of the success of several initiatives, including lowering the state business tax.

“Lowering the business tax dramatically changed the business climate in the state,” said Finney. “We were 49th out of 50 states, second worst when it came to the business tax. Now, we are in the top six or seven.”

Finney said the Small Business Credit Initiative, a loan program, is the MEDC’s most effective tool for helping small businesses because, unlike grants and tax credits, funds are available right away. He also said the Pure Michigan branding campaign has been a huge success.

“We have created an incredible brand with the Pure Michigan campaign,” said Finney. “It has generated $1.1 billion in additional tourism dollars spent. The general public understands how exciting it is to visit and vacation in Michigan.”

The MEDC is a public-private partnership serving as the state’s lead agency for business and job growth, talent enhancement, tourism marketing, arts and cultural grants, and overall economic growth. Finney’s responsibilities at MEDC also include serving as Gov. Rick Snyder’s Economic Growth Group executive and as president and chairman of the Michigan Strategic Fund.

Prior to his position at MEDC, Finney served as president and CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK, a public-private partnership whose mission is to advance innovation-based economic development in the greater Ann Arbor region. He also served as president and CEO of Greater Rochester Enterprise in Rochester, New York; vice president of Emerging Business Sectors, at MEDC; and senior vice president and general manager at Thomson Saginaw.


Volunteer says Schools of Hope is fun, rewarding

The Schools of Hope program, run by the Heart of West Michigan United Way, pairs Grand Valley faculty and staff volunteers with students who may need help improving their reading abilities. The program has a track record of helping students reach appropriate grade level abilities, and volunteers say the program is rewarding.

Ben Rapin, a web manager in Institutional Marketing, has served as a volunteer since 2009 and described the program as a fun way to make a difference with a student in the area.

“My wife, Holly, is an elementary school teacher and has always loved teaching kids to read,” Rapin said. “She has shared stories of kids who have struggled with reading and the impact extra time spent reading has had on their education. I saw my time with the Schools of Hope as a way to give back to the community and to provide kids with an opportunity to improve their reading.”

Rapin said teachers who are involved with the Schools of Hope program help keep the program structured, which makes time spent volunteering with the students easy and fun.

“Each week I would have a series of goals or tasks to get through with my student that focused on reading skills, vocabulary or comprehension exercises,” Rapin said.

Rapin’s volunteer experience with Schools of Hope wasn’t limited to students who were reading below grade level. He has worked with students who are reading at a higher level than the rest of their class. The Schools of Hope program gives those students opportunities to read more challenging material.

Heart of West Michigan United Way is hoping to see more volunteers from Grand Valley take part in the program.

Faculty and staff members can take part without using personal or vacation time, with supervisor approval. To volunteer, sign up for a training session online at Training sessions will take place October 7, noon-1:30 p.m. in Zumberge Hall, room 1100; October 8, noon-1:30 p.m. in DeVos Center, room 302E; and October 14, 3-4:30 p.m. in Zumberge Hall, room 1100.

Volunteers who are unable to attend the Grand Valley trainings can attend United Way-organized training sessions.

“This is a fun way to have a great impact on a student in the area,” Rapin said. “The students and teachers are always excited to work with the volunteers and are very appreciative of the extra time we can spend reading with kids.”


Padnos Artist-in-Residence announced

Grand Valley has selected internationally recognized visual artist Nayda Collazo-Llorens as the Stuart and Barbara Padnos Distinguished Artist-in-Residence for the 2014-15 academic year.

Endowed by Holland area businessman Stuart Padnos, and his late wife, Barbara, the nine-month position offers an opportunity to teach, mentor students, and speak on campus and to the wider community. The Artist-in-Residence recognition is granted to a working artist or scholar with an established record of promise or achievement in art and teaching.

“[Nayda] will be here in the department primarily working with our students and providing them with an example of what a practicing, active artist in the world does while helping them understand how they’re going to manage, navigate and succeed once they have graduated,” said Virginia Jenkins, professor and chair of art and design.

Collazo-Llorens will also teach Intermediate Drawing and participate in critiques and reviews of students’ work — specifically junior and senior reviews at the end of each semester.

“I appreciate the opportunity of linking my studio practice to Grand Valley, sharing research and making purposeful connections with students, faculty and other members of the community, within and beyond the department of art and design,” said Collazo-Llorens. “I envision this position as one of exchange, which allows me to exist in a porous and elastic space within the institution.”

Nayda Collazo-Llorens

Nayda Collazo-Llorens 

Working in various forms of media including drawings, prints, video, installation works and interventions, Collazo-Llorens strives to examine the way in which information is perceived and processed while dealing with concepts of navigation, language, and hyperconnectivity.

“My work invites the viewer to reflect on the complexities of the mind and the fragmented manner in which we perceive what is inside and around us, particularly as we try to cope with a complex world in an age that is as much about data overload and hyperconnectivity as it is about distancing and dissociation,” said Collazo-Llorens.

Collazo-Llorens has held previous residency positions in New York, Florida and Puerto Rico, and also has teaching experience from Carnegie Mellon University and Indiana University in Pennsylvania. In 2013, she was the juror, coordinator and exhibition designer for Western Michigan University’s ArtPrize venue in Grand Rapids.