Each year, the Alumni Association presents four awards — Distinguished Alumni Award, Outstanding Educator Award, Alumni Service Award, and Young Alumni Award — to deserving individuals. Criteria for each award is listed below; visit gvsu.edu/alumni/awards to learn more about the current and past recipients, and to nominate someone.
Dr. Mark Smith, '91
Distinguished Alumni Award
Mark Smith is the senior vice president of medical affairs/chief medical officer of Henry Ford Allegiance Health, and the CEO of the Henry Ford Allegiance Medical Group based in Jackson.
He is a part of the executive team that drives strategy, quality and vision for the health system and employs, recruits, retains and leads more than 140 providers who work for the medical group.
Inspired by his mother, who was a nurse, to pursue a career in medicine, Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in biomedical science in 1991, after four years of success in the classroom and on the football field.
After graduating from Grand Valley, Smith attended Wayne State University Medical School from 1992-1996. He has served on the board of directors of the Michigan College of Emergency Physicians, was awarded fellowship in the American College of Emergency Physicians, and was instrumental in collaborating with elected leaders to finalize the Medicaid two-tier payment model for emergency physicians.
Mark Switzer '11 and '14
Young Alumni Award
Mark Switzer is the career counselor at Gogebic Community College, located in the western Upper Peninsula. While supporting all students, he pays special attention to those 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’s spent the last four years volunteering as the assistant director for an after-school youth theater program that casts students with developmental disabilities in leading roles.
Switzer earned a bachelor’s degree in film and video in 2011 and a master’s degree in school counseling in 2014, both from Grand Valley.
Shinian Wu, Ph.D.
Outstanding Educator Award
Shinian Wu joined Grand Valley’s faculty in 1998. His research focus includes linguistic theory and second language acquisition. He teaches undergraduate linguistics courses as well as courses in the English Department’s master’s program in applied linguistics. He has also trained teachers in the College of Education’s Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) program.
Wu’s effectiveness as an instructor is regularly praised by students. His extensive knowledge of grammar, analytical mind, subtle humor, and sensitivity to the nuances of language use are among the many traits that students love about him, traits that build bonds that last long after graduation.
Wu maintains supportive relationships with Grand Valley alumni in a variety of fields, including the publishing industry and teaching English both in the U.S. and abroad. Wu assists alumni by answering grammatical questions, writing recommendations, dispensing career advice, and helping them develop their own pedagogy.
In 2016, Wu helped organize an alumni event, attended by President Thomas J. Haas, at Xi’an International Studies University in Xi’an, China. He was instrumental in making sure that GVSU alumni from across China were able to attend the event. Because of the strong relationships he’s developed, Wu has also facilitated exchanges between XISU and GVSU, and led study abroad trips to Xi’an.
Emily Miller '14
Alumni Service Award
Emily Miller is an elementary art teacher at Rockford Public Schools. She teaches art to students in developmental kindergarten through fifth grade, connecting with 700 students. She creates lessons that incorporate art history and align with her district’s curriculum, and establishes a safe classroom environment.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in art education with a minor in art history and certification in elementary education from Grand Valley in 2014. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in elementary education at GVSU.
Miller dedicates her time and passion to Grand Valley by regularly volunteering at or attending Alumni Association events, making charitable contributions to GVSU, and being a steward of the university for future and current students and alumni.
She is the co-president of Grand Valley’s College of Education Alumni Association, as well as a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors.