Grand Valley’s Regional Campuses at the Heart of Omni


Introduced in February, Grand Valley’s Omni initiative utilizes its expanding network of regional campuses and community college partners to bring a GVSU education that offers accessibility and flexibility for today’s adult leaders to balance their life and work commitments.

The universitys regional network means that learners across the state can access a GVSU education, whether they are in Detroit, Traverse City, Battle Creek, Jackson or Dowagiac. This is possible through GVSU's deep partnerships with numerous community colleges, including Northwestern Michigan College, Jackson College, Southwestern Michigan College, Kellogg Community College and more. Through this, Grand Valley forms a responsive network for students across the state. 

“Omni is going to be a leader in this space through this collaborative model, responding to community needs as they come and pivoting as needed,” said Al Shifflett, director of Southwest Michigan. “We’re expanding our reach to respond to the community’s needs.”

GVSU Omni will address a glaring statistic for Michigan’s economic future — a shortage of adults with post-secondary education degrees and certifications. Michigan reports 2.5 million adults lack post-secondary degrees. 

At her State of the State address in 2019, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer unveiled her “Sixty by 30” plan, targeting the skills gap among Michigan adults by aiming for 60 percent of adults to obtain either a post-secondary degree or skills training by the year 2030.

“What we're hearing from our local constituents and partners is that students are looking for more of a hybrid model with access to both online and face-to-face classes.”

Shannon Owen, director of Northern Michigan programs

In 2024, 51.1% of Michigan’s adult population have reached that milestone, rising from 50.5% in 2021, when the national average was 53.7%.

Shifflett and Shannon Owen, director of Northern Michigan, believe Grand Valley’s approach is unlike other programs around the nation. Owen said Grand Valley’s own presence in the state fortifies Omni’s credibility and mission.

“What we're hearing from our local constituents and partners is that students are looking for more of a hybrid model with access to both online and face-to-face classes,” Owen said. “They want to establish a community and want to have some in-person components. Not only is the hybrid model helping them connect with other potential or prospective students, but it also helps the students with accountability.”

At the end of April, Southwestern Michigan College in Dowagiac became the most recent community college partner to sign on with GVSU Omni. Building on their associate degree from SMC, students can continue their education and pursue a bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley while living and working in southwest Michigan. Kellogg Community College is also deepening its partnership with GVSU to provide academic programming for Battle Creek residents.

At SMC, GVSU Omni will offer the bachelor’s of applied science. The professional innovation and leadership and business majors will be offered on the SMC campus.

“For an adult who's already in the workforce, GVSU Omni will give them upward mobility and give them opportunities to promote within their current career or maybe choose even a different trajectory,” Shifflett said.

“In a way, we’re giving these students and communities hope. With having an educational partner, and with us intertwined within the economic development of our communities, we’re also giving a bigger voice for new industry, and building a talent pipeline for attracting that new industry as well.”

Q&A: Kara Van Dam


Kara Van Dam in light blue jacket and blue shirt, leaning against bridge over Grand River

Omni from Grand Valley is designed to help Michigan adults advance their careers by bringing the education they need — from continuing education to courses and degree programs — through the universitys regional network of campuses. Kara Van Dam, chief executive of Omni, is responsible for building those networks and leading the team that will deliver these programs to learners. She called GVSU Omni a learn where you live program and said Grand Valley is the perfect institution for this unique hybrid platform of learning.

Why did leaders at Grand Valley want to build Omni?

Grand Valley is a public university with a mission to serve the public good. When you look across the state at our regional network of campuses, we can offer programs that will serve Michigan residents. Its clear there is a huge need in our state for more students to advance their education, and for many that means a four-year degree.

For me personally, this opportunity to come back to Michigan and do this deep investment in our state is very exciting and deeply enriching.

How many Michiganders do not have a college degree?

Michigan ranks toward the bottom of all states in the number of residents who do not have a bachelor's degree; there are 2.5 million adults without post-secondary credentials. Through a program like GVSU Omni, we're helping to meet Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Sixty by 30 goal of having 60 percent of adults with a post-secondary degree or skills training by the year 2030.

How will GVSU Omni work? 

Our regional campuses and network will help to eliminate barriers to going to college. While online programs are important for access, this approach is not a let’s put all our academic programs online type of program. We know that working adults have said that they are missing the face-to-face relationship when it comes to being in a classroom. We will expand our networks and offer a mix of online and place-based services and programs.

I like to call it learn where you live.

GVSU Omni also includes our continuing education programs that help learners to upskill, reskill and pivot, if they need to. It also means we are constantly connecting with our industry partners to understand their needs for the talent pipeline.

Community colleges will be key to ramping up GVSU Omni, correct?

Yes, this deepens our relationships with our community college partners. Students feel at home on those campuses and already know the faculty and staff. We will build on our partners’ programs.

Our regional program offerings will be aligned to the local labor markets and industries. We want to help students leverage their community college experiences. It's all about getting more people to go to college and to be successful.

Can you give an example of how this will work?

Jackson College is a good example. Our initial partnership is in nursing, and we are adding allied health sciences, applied science and a bridge to Seidman College of Business’ general bachelor of business administration degree that is launching online beginning in the fall.

Will Grand Valley need to hire more faculty to teach these classes?

Yes, we will be hiring faculty local to the regional campuses in collaboration with the colleges. In many cases, these faculty will be existing faculty at the community college who are qualified to teach at the bachelor's level. 

Will all regional campuses have the same footprint and programming?

We see three different models for our regional footprints. First, each region will have an anchor campus. For instance, Battle Creek serves as the anchor campus in Southwest Michigan. Second, this will be complemented by a network of smaller locations in that region with staff and faculty delivering programming at that location. In Southwest Michigan, those locations are in Jackson on Jackson College’s campus and in Dowagiac on Southwest Michigan College’s campus. Lastly, there will be locations where we do not have permanent staff or onsite programming, but we will rotate regional staff to support students seeking to transfer to GVSU.

What excites you about helping adult learners advance their education?

I taught my first group of adult learners 25 years ago. They have so much lived experience that they bring to the classroom. They are hyper-motivated because they have to reprioritize a lot of things: working a full-time job, supporting their families, while still finding time for classwork.

How will this program stand out from other programs for adult learners?

It's a very relationship-driven approach. Relationships are the essence of Grand Valley; they are our heart and soul. GVSU Omni will be successful because it is grounded in that exact ethos.


Wimee, an orange robot looking puppet sits at a desk with a small globe

Welcome to Wimee’s World

Meet the Lakers behind the show on PBS that inspires kids to learn and create with technology

Linda Lewandowski in a blue jacket and black shirt and another dean in a suit

New Deans of Computing, Nursing Appointed

Marouane Kessentini and Linda Lewandowski begin working at GVSU in early July