Nontraditional students at Grand Valley sometimes stand out in their classes because they are older than their classmates. Sherri Slater stands out for other reasons: the liberal studies major is a force for change in her community.
Slater was one of four recipients of the Lakeshore Athena Scholarship, an award for nontraditional students pursuing college degrees. “The great thing about the Athena people is they keep tabs on your progress after you win the scholarship,” Slater said. “So it shows they have an vested interest in you.”
Among her accolades, Slater has worked on projects to increase the reach of the arts in her Muskegon community. She is an actor and playwright, having written one play and currently at work on another play and a performance lecture.
Slater’s first play on Dorothy Parker raised money for the Woman’s Club, Howmet Theatre and Every Woman’s Place. She was the first Arts Project Coordinator for the Muskegon Area Arts and Humanities Festival. She founded the Intensive Theatre Training Program, which gives Muskegon Community College and Grand Valley students, and the public, increased access to professional theater training.
Slater helped initiate a dedicated committee to organize an interracial choir group in Muskegon shortly after the 2001 terrorists attacks. Aptly named “Community Connects,” the choir evolved from a gospel workshop and was perhaps the first of its kind, according to Slater.
“It was an incredible mix of gospel and traditional music with excellent conductors of both genres that brought our very segregated communities together in a very healing way,” she said.
Her efforts in the classroom are equally stellar. Slater organized a group of her classmates to help her with a project for the Hume Home Assisted Living facility that shed light on issues impacting the elderly in Muskegon.
“She is so fun, creative, full of ideas and engaged,” said Judy Whipps, professor of liberal studies and philosophy.
Slater shows no signs of stopping; she is currently working on a one-woman performance lecture, “Dorothy Parker and Other Loud Mouths for Social Justice,” about women who have worked for social reform in what Slater called a passionate and articulate way.
“Every class I have taken at GVSU has brought to light a new female activist who intrigues me and I want to add their voice to this work. It’s an exciting project for me and I love working on it!” Slater said.