GVFaces: Michelle DeWitt

September 27, 2022 (Volume 46, Number 3)
Article by Peg West

Michelle DeWitt in a white lab coat holds a trophy in a chemistry lab room, the foreground of a piece of clear equipment frames her on the right side

Michelle DeWitt, chemistry lead lab supervisor, earned the Manager of the Year award from the National Association of Scientific Materials Managers.

Photo Credit: Amanda Pitts

Ensuring nearly 130 sections for chemistry laboratories run smoothly requires an army of workers to set up the labs, purchase the right supplies, mix solutions, address leaky faucets or inoperable hoods and more.

Leading those efforts is Michelle DeWitt, lead laboratory supervisor for chemistry, whose work was recently recognized with the prestigious Manager of the Year award at the annual meeting of the National Association of Scientific Materials Managers.

DeWitt, who has worked at Grand Valley for 14 years after spending much of her career in environmental laboratories, said the fundamental part of her job is hiring and managing student employees and graduate assistants to make sure labs are ready for learning. Currently she leads 17 students and one graduate assistant.

"We're the behind-the-scenes people who make it all seem so smooth so faculty members can do their teaching and impart all of their knowledge on the students without the stress of things going wrong," DeWitt said.

While those fundamental duties are crucial for successfully carrying out the large number of laboratory sections, DeWitt also goes above and beyond, and those efforts were a significant factor in receiving national recognition.

DeWitt helped lead an effort in March 2020 to donate more than 400 boxes of disposable gloves to Spectrum Health as the COVID-19 crisis was quickly worsening and medical supplies were scarce. She also undertook an attempt in 2019 at creating the world's largest periodic table.

But when it comes to going above and beyond, DeWitt said she is most proud of how she finds ways to support students, from a food pantry to address food security to a comfortable area with couches for studying and relaxing, complete with an area rug donated by a faculty member.

Interacting with students is one of her favorite parts of working at GVSU, DeWitt said. She also likes that the academic calendar provides continual new opportunities.

"You're starting again every semester with a refresh. You're celebrating the end and celebrating the start," DeWitt said.

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This article was last edited on September 26, 2022 at 1:40 p.m.

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