Skip to main content

Across Campus

January 16, 2017


Undergraduate research program gets national boost

Grand Valley’s undergraduate research reputation was boosted nationally after the university was one of 11 selected to administer the Beckman Scholars Program.

Funded by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, the program will award two Grand Valley undergraduates $21,500 grants each to conduct a 15-month long research project. A total of five students will be selected as Beckman Scholars through the duration of the three-year program.

Sok Kean Khoo

Sok Kean Khoo

Sok Kean Khoo, associate professor of cell and molecular biology, and Susan Mendoza, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship, will direct the program. They collaborated to write the Beckman application, and successfully navigated a field of 180 applicants and 75 finalists.

Robert Smart, vice provost for Research Administration, said the Beckman Scholars Program accelerates the university's pledge to engage talented students through mentored undergraduate research. 

"Being one of only a small handful of institutions selected this year, reflects very favorably on the caliber of life-science research at Grand Valley, the quality of our faculty and undergraduate students and our university’s growing commitment to support collaborative faculty-student research,” Smart said.

Grand Valley was the only institution in the "master's large" category to earn the Beckman Scholars Program in the 2016 application cycle. Khoo said it an honor for Grand Valley's undergraduate research program. The program is one of the nation’s most notable awards designed to stimulate, encourage and support research activities by undergraduate students.  

Students majoring in chemistry, biology, biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, or biomedical sciences, and have a strong research interest, and a GPA of 3.7 or higher  can apply to the program. The selected scholars will be mentored by an interdisciplinary committee of faculty members, and will have the opportunity to travel to conferences and meet visiting scholars on campus.

“The exposure to diverse narratives of success is critical for students who are pursuing graduate and professional school,” Mendoza said. “Engaging with leaders of industry, nationally renowned academics, as well as campus speakers on the life sciences helps students see a path for themselves.”

The application deadline for students is February 22; selected scholars will be announced in March and expected to begin their projects in May. Details are available online,

Research through the program will be conducted under the guidance of 12 Beckman Faculty Mentors: Bopi Biddanda and Kevin Strychar, Annis Water Resources Institute; Shannon Biros, David Leonard, Richard Lord, Rachel Powers and Brad Wallar, chemistry; Dawn Hart and Sok Kean Khoo, cell and molecular biology; Jennifer Moore and Amy Russell, biology; and Cynthia Thompson, biomedical sciences.

Susan Mendoza

Susan Mendoza


King Commemoration week speakers inspire audiences

Keynote speakers during Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week urged campus audiences to have difficult conversations, learn from people who come from different backgrounds and be community leaders.

Kevin Powell presenting during Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week

Kevin Powell and Kimberlé Crenshaw gave presentations during Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week.

Kevin Powell kicked off the week's events with an address January 16 in the Fieldhouse. 

Powell said the signs posted along the route of the silent march reminded him of how young King was, and how much responsibility he held. "I believe as a student of Dr. King's that he would say the leadership you're looking for is right in the mirror," he said.

He urged audience members to study history, read King's speeches and works, and learn from people who come from different backgrounds and cultures. Doing so, he said, would be steps to creating inclusive and diverse communities.

Noted civil rights scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw took a campus audience beyond the borders of race during the a presentation January 18 in the Kirkhof Center. Crenshaw is a professor of law at University of California Los Angeles and Columbia University. She coined two terms — critical race theory and intersectionality — that have proved foundational in many areas of study and organizational inclusion efforts. 

Crenshaw spoke about the catalyst for critical race theory, which came from a conflict between Harvard Law School administrators and students of color who pressured Harvard to hire faculty of color. Generally, critical race theory considers the intersection of power, race and law in its framework.

"Critical race theory came out of these difficult conversations," she said. Crenshaw said the protests of the 1960s that centered on access to lunch counters had shifted in the 1980s to institutions like Harvard. 

A Common Ground event on January 17 sponsored by the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies drew 300 people to the Eberhard Center.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, from the New York Times Magazine, and Jason Riley, the Wall Street Journal, debated views on a number of topics that intersect with race, including educational policies and legacies from the civil rights movement. Their discussion was moderated by Kyle Caldwell, from the Johnson Center for Philanthropy.

Kimberlé Crenshawpresenting during Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week

Kevin Powell and Kimberlé Crenshaw gave presentations during Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week.


Researchers find increase in coronary artery disease expenses in West Michigan

Grand Valley researchers said there has been a significant increase in per-capita expenditures for coronary artery disease in West Michigan over the past few years.

Kevin Callison speaks during the Health Check Forecast

Photo by Amanda Pitts

Kevin Callison speaks during the Health Check Forecast; Leslie Muller is at right.

Economics faculty members Kevin Callison and Leslie Muller, from the Seidman College of Business, presented the eighth annual Health Check report during the West Michigan Health Care Economic Forecast January 13 at the Eberhard Center. The report details health-related trends and issues in the Grand Rapids metropolitan area of Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Allegan counties.

Callison said from 2014 to 2015, per-capita expenditures for CAD increased by 22 percent in West Michigan, compared to less than 20 percent in the metro Detroit area. He added that of all the chronic medical conditions reported in the Health Check, CAD is the only condition in which West Michigan surpasses Detroit. 

The average expense for a privately insured person diagnosed with CAD in West Michigan is $25,895, compared to $23,474 for the same diagnosis in Detroit.

He said possible explanations for the increase include differences in patient health, intensity of treatment, and prices for health care services.

For the second consecutive year, researchers surveyed West Michigan residents about health insurance coverage. Muller said the uninsured rate dropped from 9 percent in 2015 to 5 percent in the 2016 survey. She added that 40 percent of people who became insured last year did so through employer coverage, and 21 percent enrolled in Medicaid. In last year's survey, 25 percent of the previously uninsured obtained coverage through an employer, which is much less than this year. 

Muller said there are two possible reasons for the increase. "The individual could have obtained employment that offered insurance, or the company he/she works for could have started to offer a plan," she said. "The West Michigan unemployment rate fell by approximately 1 percentage point during that period, and there is also evidence that firms had increased their health insurance offerings."

She added that access to care continues to improve, especially for Medicaid enrollees, with 90 percent seeing either no change or improved access to care.


Flu vaccines still available

Members of the campus community can still get flu vaccine shots at the GVSU Family Health Center, 72 Sheldon Blvd. SE.

There is no charge for students, faculty and staff members, their dependents and retirees to get the vaccine.

More than 1,150 flu vaccines were given to students, faculty and staff members last year at campus clinics by KCON faculty members and students.

For more information, call the GVSU Family Health Center at (616) 988-8774 or visit


Grand Valley receives grant to help prevent sexual assault

Grand Valley received a grant from the State of Michigan to support sexual assault prevention programs.

The Campus Sexual Assault Grant Program, led by First Lady Sue Snyder, aims to change the overall culture of sexual assault among college-age students. Grand Valley was awarded $33,454.

Jessica Jennrich, director of the Women's Center, said the grant will go toward developing a peer bystander training program to teach students about consent and how to engage in bystander intervention behavior. Peer educators will be trained by a model from the national program, Bringing in the Bystander. 

"Research indicates that peer education is one of the most effective ways to deliver messages," Jennrich said. "While Grand Valley does discuss consent and bystander intervention with students, it is delivered by external agencies or professional staff. We do not currently offer a peer education program." 

Victim Advocate Ashley Schulte, who is based in the Women's Center, and campus partners will also work with educators and staff members from Allendale Public Schools to show how bystander and consent education can be used in the classroom.

Eighteen community colleges and universities in Michigan were awarded a total of $506,191 in state grant funds. More than 29 applications were received. 

"While response and reporting is vital to our efforts to eliminate sexual violence on college campuses, we must empower our students who are well-positioned to help lead the most effective prevention efforts," said Jennrich. 

Participating in CSAGP is just one effort to reduce the number of sexual assaults at Grand Valley. The university received a VAWA grant in 2010, which was renewed in 2013, to fund initiatives such as the theater education group ReACT! and student organization Champions for Change. Sexual violence and consent training is provided for new faculty and staff members, and Grand Valley also participates in the national campaign "It's On Us." 


Proposals sought for research at Sustainable Agriculture Project

The Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship is accepting proposals from faculty members for projects related to the university's Sustainable Agriculture Project.

Amy McFarland, assistant professor of environmental studies, said projects should reflect the SAP's mission of triple bottom line (environmental, economic, social justice) sustainability associated with agriculture. McFarland cited project examples, such as research on sustainable food systems, public health or nutrition, andsocial and food justice.

Faculty members from all disciplines are encouraged to apply; up to $6,000 will be awarded in supplies and materials. The deadline for submission is January 27. 

Criteria for proposals are posted online <here> and include a 200-word abstract, letter of support, updated CV and a research/scholarship statement. Application packets can be sent to Susan Mendoza, director of undergraduate research and scholarship, via email at

This fund is supported by the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies and the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship.


Winter gear drive supports refugees

Several campus groups are working together to collect winter gear for refugees who are settling in West Michigan. 

The second Welcoming Our Neighbors Winter Gear Drive is collecting donations of snow shovels and adult-size hats, gloves and jackets. The items will be donated to Bethany Christian Services. 

Items can be dropped off through February 10 in collection boxes located in the following locations on the Allendale Campus: Kirkhof Center: Community Service Learning Center (1110), Women's Center (1201) or Office Multicultural Affairs (1240); Student Services Building: Deans of Students Office (202); Zumberge Hall, Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center (068) or Office of Inclusion and Equity (4035); Wesley House/Sustainable Agriculture Project (4530 Luce St.); Lake Ontario Hall: Area Studies Office (117); Niemeyer Learning and Living Center, front desk; Holton Hooker Learning and Living Center, front desk.  

Ranya Hwail, president of the student organization Better Together, estimated that there are 700 refugees currently living in West Michigan. She said many are in need of basic items when they first arrive in the U.S.  

Hwail said the winter gear collection drive is part of Better Together's ongoing efforts to provide a space for students to build interfaith cooperation and talk about diversity, inclusion and religion.

The drive is sponsored by Student Senate, Division of Student Services, Division of Inclusion and Equity and Division of Enrollment Development. 

For more information, contact the Community Service Learning Center at x12468.