Event celebrates student academic, leadership achievements

A new award presented at the Student Awards Convocation went to a student who, at one point, dropped out of college.

John Wen received the Provost's Student Academic Achievement Award. The award recognizes a student who has an outstanding academic record, exemplary character and potential for success.

Wen is a first-generation student who will earn a bachelor's degree in integrative studies and two certificates through the LEADS accelerated degree program. He is a stay-at-home parent and father of four children, ages 1-12.

John Wen types on a laptop at his dining room table, while a toddler hangs on to John's chair while holding a cup
John Wen sits at his dining room table with a laptop while his youngest child, David, holds on to the chair. Wen earned the Provost's Student Academic Achievement Award at the April 10 Student Award Convocation.
Image Credit: Kendra Stanley-Mills


With a restaurant management background, Wen completed a practicum project of his plan to open a high-end Chinese restaurant in Grand Rapids. He was featured in a spring 2023 Grand Valley Magazine article

Other top awards presented during the April 10 event included the Gayle R. Davis Award and Glenn A. Niemeyer Awards. Profiles of two award recipients are below. All student award recipients plus those who received Excellence-In-a-Discipline certificates are listed on the Provost Office website.

Natalie VeCasey is pictured in a blue KCON shirt and holding a stethoscope
Natalie VeCasey, a nursing major, earned a Glenn A. Niemeyer Award.
Image Credit: courtesy photo

Natalie VeCasey, nursing

Natalie VeCasey received a Niemeyer Award, presented to undergraduate and graduate students who demonstrate excellence in both the classroom and in extracurricular activities.

VeCasey, a native of Rochester, will earn a bachelor's degree in nursing. She works as a nurse technician in the emergency department at Corewell Health, although that wasn't the area she intended to work.

"I thought I was applying for a nurse tech position in the obstetrics department and it turned out to be in the emergency department," she said. "But I started working there and I loved it. No two days are the same, and I'm an adrenaline junkie."

VeCasey served as a Meijer Honors College student mentor and also a student researcher with a Kirkhof College of Nursing faculty member.

Yasmin Alemayehu stands by a sculpture next to a wall of greenery
Yasmin Alemayehu, an elementary education major, earned a Niemeyer Award and an Excellence-In-a-Discipline certificate.
Image Credit: courtesy photo

Yasmin Alemayehu, elementary education

Yasmin Alemayehu received a Niemeyer Award and an Excellence-In-a-Discipline certificate.

Alemayehu is an elementary education major who will graduate in 2025, after a year of student teaching. She is a co-founder of the student organization Educators of Color Network. 

Alemayehu is from a first-generation American household and said she is committed to making a positive impact in the field of education and contributing to a more equitable and inclusive educational system. She said the foundation Grand Valley provided has set her on a path to achieve those goals.

"I chose GVSU because of its dedication to training teachers who can make a positive difference in the world, its focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and its many opportunities for getting hands-on experience," she said.