Alumni Award recipients epitomize service, mentorship, professionalism

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Marisa smiles with her hair down, wearing a magenta blazer and black dress shirt

Marisa Kwiatkowski ’05

Marisa Kwiatkowski is an award-winning investigative reporter with USA Today. Kwiatkowski graduated from Grand Valley in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She earned a master’s degree in business administration from Indiana University. Her work has spurred federal and state investigations, criminal charges, resignations and changes to federal law and state policy.

Kwiatkowski and her Indianapolis Star colleagues earned numerous national and state awards for their investigation into USA Gymnastics’ handling of child sexual abuse allegations, including those against former doctor Larry Nassar. Kwiatkowski sits on the board of directors for Investigative Reporters and Editors. She helped launch the GVSU Alumni Indianapolis Network. Kwiatkowski has earned more than 60 journalism awards, including the Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism, Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism, Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, and Indiana Journalist of the Year.

Ricky smiles wearing dark frame glasses, a blue-gray button up and a brown blazer

Ricardo Benavidez ’14 & ’19

Ricardo Benavidez is a senior associate at Ktisis Capital, where he serves as a strategy and organization advisor, researcher and project manager for a diverse mix of individuals and foundations. Benavidez graduated in 2014 and 2019 with bachelor’s degrees in history, public and nonprofit administration, and a master’s degree in public administration. After graduating, he held several positions at Grand Valley and served on the Young Alumni Council for six years.

He is an adjunct faculty member at Grand Valley, teaching classes on courses on belonging and inclusive/visionary leadership. Benavidez’s public service work keeps him tied to his West Michigan roots. He serves on the City of Grand Rapids Community Relations Commission and is the board president of Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities and the co-chair of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s LGBT Fund Advisory Board. In 2022, the Grand Rapid Business Journal named him a “40 under 40” business leader.

Michael sits behind Janean. Michael is wearing a light blue button up shirt and Janean is wearing a white shirt with a blue scalloped necklace and her hair up in a bun.

Janean ’05 & ’08 and Michael Couch ’06

Janean and Michael are true examples of Lakers for a Lifetime. They met on their first day of a Math 110 class and have been active volunteers at Grand Valley ever since, serving in leadership roles in their fraternity and sorority, mentoring students, and returning to campus to participate and speak at events. They established the Michael and Janean Couch Black Excellence Scholarship, which assists Black students who are the first in their family to go to college.

Janean is a program director at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. Michael is the vice president for Enrollment Management at Martin University. Janean graduated in 2005 and 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in public and nonprofit administration and a master’s degree in adult and higher education. Michael graduated in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in movement science. He earned a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs from Western Michigan University, and a doctorate from Ferris State University.

Adrienne smiles at the camera wearing glasses, a v-neck blue patterned shirt and a simple necklace

Adrienne Wallace ’01, ’05, & ’08

Adrienne Wallace, associate professor of advertising and public relations, has a passion for student-to-professional development. Wallace has been teaching at Grand Valley for more than 14 years. She advises the award-winning, student-run PR firm, GrandPR, and the university’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter.

Wallace graduated from GVSU in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in health communications and advertising and public relations, in 2005 with a master’s degree in communications, and in 2008 with a master of public administration in public policy. She earned a doctoral degree in public affairs, policy and administration from Western Michigan University. Wallace serves as a planning commissioner for the City of Grand Rapids. She is a prolific writer and conference presenter. In 2019, Adrienne was named PR Practitioner of the Year by the West Michigan Public Relations Society of America.

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