Success Stories

Unique course earns honor

Grand Valley’s Women's Community Collaborative received the 2011 National Association of Student Professional Administrator's silver medal award, recognizing the program's excellence in creating high-impact learning through a unique academic-student affairs partnership with nonprofit agencies.

The WCC is a service-learning and career discovery course sponsored by Women and Gender Studies and the Women's Center that allows a dozen students each winter semester to learn about feminist leadership and nonprofit organizations in the classroom. They then apply this knowledge into an internship at a local nonprofit organization of their choice, focusing on women and girls issues. 

"The WCC is unique in that it’s a collaboration between student services and academic affairs, and its connectedness to the community makes it very different," said JoAnn Wassenaar, associate director of the Women's Center and WCC internship coordinator. "This award recognizes the WCC nationally as an effective program."

Since it began in 2005, WCC students have served more than 6,000 hours in the community at multiple organizations including the Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women, YWCA of West Central Michigan, Center for Women in Transition, Kids Food Basket, and Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore. Many have gone on to hold jobs at their internship site, continuing to address community needs.

Julia Mason, assistant professor of women and gender studies, said the course challenges students to push forward for social change. "Students who participate in the course have the ultimate goal of strengthening their interest in becoming the next generation of nonprofit leaders," Mason said. "The program is very replicable and the award gets the word out to use the WCC as a model."

Harvard University implemented this model after learning about the program in 2008.

To receive the award, the NASPA review committee examined the WCC in terms of the program’s inception, retention, application and impact. "The WCC encompasses the GVSU mission statement completely," said Katherine Butler, a 2009 WCC student, who wrote a letter of support for the award. "The WCC was a huge transition in my education, learning in the classroom environment and applying it into the community, positively impacting the lives of women and girls."

The award was given at the NASPA conference in March.

by Sarah Schultz

This story was filed with the tags: Helping the Community, Impressive Internships