GVSU selected by Amazon as educational partner for Career Choice program

headshot of Mark Sessions outside an Amazon fulfillment center
Mark Sessions, pictured outside the Amazon fulfillment center in Caledonia, can finish his GVSU degree at no charge under Amazon's new program.
Image Credit: Amanda Pitts

After 40 years, Mark Sessions looks forward to being back at Grand Valley to finish his degree.

And thanks to a new partnership with Amazon, Sessions, who is an Amazon employee, will not have to pay tuition bills.

Leaders at Grand Valley announced March 3 the university has been selected as an educational partner for Amazon’s Career Choice program, providing Amazon’s hourly employees access to an array of degree and certificate programs while removing financial burdens.

President Philomena V. Mantella said the university is pleased to be one of the Amazon Career Choice partners in Michigan.  

"GVSU is excited and prepared to partner with Amazon Career Choice to expand educational access for working adults in our community,” Mantella said. “Our commitment to Amazon employees, as to all students, is to help them discover their passions in a supportive environment, guiding them to achieve their goals, regardless of where they are in their professional and educational journeys.”

At 61, Sessions said he knows where his passion lies: history. He plans to take the courses he needs to finish a bachelor's degree in history. 

"I had always planned to go back, but now I don't have to pay for it," he said. 

Sessions was a GVSU student from 1979-1982, until, he said, "life happened." He worked various jobs in California and Florida before moving back to Michigan to work for Steelcase. He kept up with classes, enrolling at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida, and GRCC.

He started working at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Caledonia two years ago. In January, Sessions heard about the Career Choice program. "There were flyers out and a table set out and I hopped right on that. I was going to wait until I retire to finish my degree. Now I can move that timeline up," he said.

The Amazon Career Choice program has a rigorous selection process for third-party partner educators, choosing partners that are focused on helping employees through their education programs, assisting them with job placements, and overall offering education that leads to career success.

Kara Van Dam, vice provost for Graduate and Lifetime Learning, said Grand Valley's locations in West Michigan, Detroit and Traverse City and its ability to offer flexible degree programs and schedules will make the university an attractive option to Amazon employees.

"Working adults who want to learn new skills or complete their degrees can do so at Grand Valley in the format and timeframe that works best for them," Van Dam said. "We will do for Amazon employees the same thing we do for all students, meet them where they are and provide resources to help them be successful in their professional lives."

Amazon’s Career Choice program is an education benefit that empowers employees to learn new skills for career success at Amazon or elsewhere. In the U.S., the company is investing $1.2 billion to upskill more than 300,000 employees by 2025 to help move them into higher-paying, in-demand jobs.