Across Campus

November 18, 2018

Service dog aids invisible disability

When Billy Wallace projects a louder "teaching voice" in the classroom, Ziggi walks over to him and stands at the ready. 

Ziggi is a 2-year-old Labradoodle and trained as a service animal to assist Wallace, who is the director of Grand Valley's Police Academy and teaches criminal justice courses. 

After suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder for more than 25 years, Wallace, who served in the Army during the Gulf War then as a police officer, sought medical help and took up the suggestion to get a service animal. 

"Ziggi helps when my heart rate is elevated and my adrenaline is pumping," Wallace said. "If I get upset, or he thinks I'm getting upset, he comes over." 

Wallace worked with a dog trainer in Holland when Ziggi was 11 weeks old, first with obedience training, then task-specific training. He began bringing Ziggi to campus in 2017, first to work during a summer Police Academy session, then to his classes. 

"I always give rules to my class: don't touch him, he's a trained service animal. But he still is a dog, and when someone brings something to class that smells good, sometimes Ziggi's nose gets the best of him," he said. 

Wallace requested an accommodation to bring a service animal to campus from Disability Support Resources. He said that process was easy, as was getting Ziggi acclimated to campus. What's difficult, Wallace said, is the number of people who approach him and want to pet Ziggi. 

"A lot of people think that I'm training the dog for someone else. Then I have to explain our situation, which often leads to discussing my medical condition. Not all disabilities are visible," he said. 

He said service animals who are wearing vests should not be distracted in public. "When people talk to or try to pet Ziggi, it takes his attention away from me," Wallace said. 

Shontaye Witcher, director of DSR, said while there has not been an increase in use of service animals on campus, the use of emotional support animals has risen and caused confusion. 

"We are seeing more dogs without appropriate classification, which hurts individuals with disabilities," Witcher said. "Service dogs perform a task." 


Photo by Amanda Pitts 

Ziggi sits at Billy Wallace's feet while Wallace teaches an introductory criminal justice class in Lake Superior Hall.

Service animals (dogs or sometimes miniature horses) are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and are trained to perform tasks for the benefit of the person with a disability. Emotional support animals provide comfort to owners and are protected under the Fair Housing Act, which applies to residences. 

Witcher said emotional support animals are not allowed in public spaces, including classrooms and facilities, and all animals on campus must be on a leash. She added when inquiring about an animal, it's appropriate to ask two questions: Is this animal a service animal and required because of a disability? and What task is it trained to perform? 

Wallace said Ziggi has been a huge help and his mental and physical health have improved. He added Ziggi is able to "clock out" of his work day when Wallace takes Ziggi's service vest off. 

"I keep tennis balls in my office and am able to play fetch with him before or after class," he said. 

Trailblazers highlight Founders Day event

Seven trailblazers, including people who were among the first African Americans at Grand Valley as students or faculty members, led a Founders Day event for students. 

"Paving the Way for Future Generations" was held October 24 at the Alumni House. Chris Barbee, director of Alumni Relations, said the idea came to him while visiting the Grand Rapids Public Museum with his daughter. Barbee said he noticed an exhibit highlighting the late Dr. Julius Franks and other African Americans who, in 1962, led integration in the Auburn Hills neighborhood in Grand Rapids by purchasing property to establish middle-class housing for people of color. 

Franks was also among the founders of Grand Valley and the only African American. "I started to wonder how many people knew that an African American man was among the founding members of Grand Valley," Barbee said. 

The idea of highlighting "firsts" took off and Barbee enlisted help from Human Resources and others on campus to compile a list of notables. 

Along with Franks, six other people were highlighted:Curtis Joseph Jones, first African American male professor;Julianne Vanden Wyngaard, first African American female professor; James Moore, first African American male student to enroll at Grand Valley in 1963;Betty Burton Groce, first African American woman to serve on the Grand Valley Foundation board; Danny Poole, first African American student athlete to earn a scholarship; and Ron Gates, who portrayed the Great Laker. 


Photo by Kyle Bultman 

Front row from left to right: Julianne VandenWyngaard, Betty Burton Groce, Victoria Stevenson; back row from left to right:Chris Barbee, James Moore, Curtis Jones, Cheryl Franks, Ron Gates and Danny Poole.

Moore stressed how different the campus was in 1963, with one building and 200 students. "It was a big, bold experiment; Grand Valley took a chance on us and we took a chance on Grand Valley," he said. 

Moore earned a bachelor's degree in political science and later two master's degrees from Aquinas College and Michigan State University. He worked in human resources, job placement and social work before retiring from full-time work in 2008. 

After sharing their experiences with students, panelists offered advice to be successful in college and career. 

Barbee said students asked questions and stayed after to connect with panelists. "I hope that students walked away with an idea of what it was like to be in a population where not a lot of people looked like you, and understand the challenges they faced," he said. 

The event was sponsored by Alumni Relations, the African American Alumni Chapter and the Division of Inclusion and Equity.

Accountability Report shows continued strong performance 

Grand Valley's annual Accountability Report shows the university is again a top performer in the state in several key areas, including providing access to students who might not otherwise be able to afford a college degree and keeping students on a path to a timely graduation. 

The 12th annual report was released at the Board of Trustees meeting November 2.The full report can be viewed online at 

The report tracks more than 40 separate measures of university performance and student outcomes, and ranks Grand Valley's performance with other public universities in Michigan and nationwide. 

It also outlines seven core values that form the basis for Grand Valley's 2016-2021 strategic plan: excellence, integrity, inquiry, inclusiveness, community, sustainability and innovation.Highlights from the report are below. 

• Grand Valley welcomed nearly 25,000 students (24,677 in fall 2018); first-year enrollment was one of the largest in history (up 4.4 percent). More than 4,000 first-year students have enrolled for seven years in a row. 

• Grand Valley ranks in the top four of all public universities in Michigan for graduation and retention rates. The retention rate for first-year students was one of the highest in history at 84.5 percent. 

• 95 percent of recent graduates are employed or in graduate school, and 86 percent are working and giving back in Michigan. 


Photo by Valerie Wojciechowski 

Steven Naganashe Perry, of Grand Valley's Native American Advisory Council, presented President Haas with a feather.

Veterans honored at annual breakfast 

President Thomas J. Haas hosted the Eighth Annual Veterans Day Breakfast to recognize the service and sacrifice of Grand Valley students, faculty and staff members who served or are currently serving in the U.S. military. 

Currently, there are 439 military-connected students attending Grand Valley.More than 100 people attended the November 9 breakfast event, held in the Kirkhof Center. 

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland), whose father and grandfather served in the military, said Grand Valley's focus and emphasis on helping veterans has elevated the culture at the university and in the community. 

Steven Naganashe Perry, of Grand Valley's Native American Advisory Council,presented President Haas with a feather,saying it's one way veterans honor other veterans.

Blackboard Ally increases student accessibility 

More than 209,000 digital course content items have been scanned by Blackboard Ally since the software was made available in June to students, faculty and staff members. 

Blackboard Ally scans files uploaded into Blackboard and evaluates the level of accessibility of content by displaying colored "dials" (red, yellow and green). These indicators are only visible to instructors and the goal is to get the dials to green. 

"After Ally automatically scans course content, an indicator is displayed that estimates the level of accessibility of the file and an accessibility score is given," said Eric Kunnen, associate director of eLearning and Emerging Technologies. "The system then providesguidance to make the file more accessible." 

Themost common accessibility concerns include contrast issues, missing document headers and images without alternative descriptions. Kunnen said, so far,125 files have been manually fixed by faculty in 38 courses. 

"Blackboard Ally also helps us build capacity to respond to increased federal and legal requirements for accessibility," Kunnen said. 

More than 1,600 students, faculty, and staff members have registered with the Disability Support Resources office for disability related needs.


An article in the November 5 issue of Forum incorrectly referred toCherokee poet and scholarQwo-Li Driskill as he.Driskilluses gender neutral pronouns such as they/them. 

Driskill is the keynote speaker during an event for Transgender Day of Remembrance, scheduled for 4 p.m. today in the Kirkhof Center, room 2204. 

We apologize for this error. 


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Page last modified November 18, 2018