Mark Switzer '11 & '14
Mark Switzer earned his bachelor’s degree in film and video in 2011 and his master’s degree in school counseling in 2014, both from Grand Valley State University. He began his career as a school counselor at Lakeview Middle School in Battle Creek, Michigan, serving the suburban school of more than 1,300 fifth through eighth grade students. He was one of two school counselors in the building.
During his four years at Lakeview Middle School, Switzer obtained numerous specialist designations focusing on: Critical incident stress management, suicide prevention, new student orientation program coordination, creating LGBTQ+ safe schools, trauma-informed schools, and school-wide systems of bullying prevention.
The work that Switzer did at Lakeview Middle School secured him a position on the Michigan School Counselor Association’s Governing Board. He served the organization as a middle school representative, middle school vice president, and social justice chair, and plans to assume the role of president-elect for the 2019-2020 academic year prior to taking the office of president.
Switzer’s accomplishments at Lakeview Middle School led to state and national recognition as he, his co-counselor, and their program were highlighted during last year’s National School Counselor of the Year Summit in Washington, D.C.
Believing in the power of community and creating wholly inclusive spaces for everyone, Switzer has spent the last four years volunteering as the assistant director for an after-school youth theatre program. The program, Lakeview Middle School Masque, became the only school-based site for the nationally known “Penguin Project,” a theatre program that casts students with developmental disabilities in leading roles and gives students a unique opportunity to support their differently-abled peers.
Presently, Switzer is the career counselor at Gogebic Community College, located in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is the only counselor for both campuses of the college and it’s more than 1,300 students. Switzer is charged with supporting his students academically and socially as they pursue their career goals.
As a career counselor, Switzer has used his position to advocate for the removal of barriers to education that his students face, as well as increased support systems for them. He pays special attention to those students who are the first in their family to go to college, have disabilities, are living below the poverty line, or are pursuing nontraditional careers.
Switzer’s work has involved the expansion of the college’s food pantry and supply of free clothing. He’s also partnered with the Range Suicide Prevention organization in order to destigmatize issues of depression and suicide. He is currently working to partner with college-based, mental health support groups such as “Active Minds,” and reaching out to present on depression and suicide at area public schools that do not have trained counselors on staff.
In recognition of his tireless efforts to remove barriers to education and create inclusive spaces within his community, Switzer received the 2018 Young Alumni Award. The award is annually presented by the Grand Valley Alumni Association to a recent graduate who is making outstanding contributions to society, and whose accomplishments and careers reflect favorably upon Grand Valley.