Hauenstein Center Staff

Gleaves Whitney Photo

Gleaves Whitney


Gleaves Whitney has been the director of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies since 2003. Receiving a National Endowment for the Humanities grant in 2012, he established the first sustained and comprehensive common ground initiative in U.S. higher education. Since 2015 he has worked with his colleague Jon Lauck to revive Midwestern history as an academic discipline; together they have hosted six major conferences and edited four books. In addition, Gleaves launched the first presidential Q&A column in the nation, Ask Gleaves, in which he fielded questions from political junkies around the world. Under his direction, the Hauenstein Center's Cook Leadership Academy has become a premiere center for leadership excellence. The fellow candidates have met with four U.S. Presidents, three First Ladies, two Vice Presidents, four Secretaries of State, one U.N. ambassador, more than one dozen state governors, and a host of business and non-profit entrepreneurs. “Gleaves Whitney is a real treasure for those of us who do presidential studies and work in the field of presidential history,” said award-winning biographer H. W. Brands. “He’s also one of the most effective entrepreneurs in the business of higher education. You can tell this by the growth of the Hauenstein Center over the years that he’s been the director.” Noted historian Richard Norton Smith said that "Gleaves Whitney and his energetic team at the Hauenstein Center have become, in a remarkably short time, a force to reckon with — and learn from — in the presidential studies field. The Hauenstein Center is a jewel in the crown of Michigan." 

Prior to directing the Hauenstein Center, Gleaves served for eleven and one-half years in Michigan Governor John Engler's administration as (seriatim) senior writer, chief speechwriter, and historian. During that time, he assisted in the creation of Michigan's Department of History, Arts, and Libraries. He earned an MA in history and is ABD in PhD studies at the University of Michigan. For more about his doctoral work at Michigan, click here. He has a BA and MA from Colorado State University. His honorary Doctor of Humane Letters is from the Graduate Theological Union's Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California.

For a summary of Gleaves's publications, awards, and board service, click here.

Gleaves Whitney: Introduction to Jon Meacham 

Gleaves Whitney: Common Ground?

Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies director Gleaves Whitney recalls the life and legacy of former First Lady Barbara Bush.

Gleaves on leadership 

Gleaves Whitney

Gleaves Whitney Photo

Brent Holmes

Brent Holmes 

Assistant Director

 Brent Holmes joined the Hauenstein Center in March 2018 as the Assistant Director.  Prior to joining the Hauenstein Center, he worked as a Student Support Specialist with Gaylord Community Schools.

Brent is a 2007 graduate of Davenport University with a bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management. He is a U.S. Army veteran with 20+ years of leadership instruction and training, as well as recruitment experience with young adults. Brent is passionate about all the things that Ralph Hauenstein saw were necessary in the presidential studies center – most of all, the development of the leadership, talent, and capacity for service in the rising generation.

In his free time, Brent enjoys spending time with his family, watching college sports, and traveling with his wife, Julie.

Contact:  holmebre@gvsu.edu 

Grace Tummel

Grace Tummel

Program Manager, Cook Leadership Academy

Grace Tummel joined the Hauenstein Center in August of 2019 as the Program Manager for the Cook Leadership Academy. She received her Bachelor’s of Business Administration from Eastern Michigan University and immediately left for Florida to obtain her Master's of Science in Higher Education at Florida State University.

Her experience and studies have been centered around student leadership development and she finds energy working with college students. She is most recently moving from the Detroit Metropolitan Area and is excited to make Grand Rapids her long term home.

When Grace is not at work, you will likely find her on a hike or swimming in Lake Michigan with her husband, Justin, and their two dogs. Once the weather has cooled off she enjoys all things that make her smile, including time with friends and family, board games, skiing, eating good food, and sporting events

Contact: tummelg@gvsu.edu 

Jakob Biggard

Jakob Bigard

Program Manager, Common Ground Initiative

Jakob Bigard joined the Hauenstein Center in June of 2019, after serving one year as a Fellow in the Cook Leadership Academy.

A first generation student, Jakob graduated from Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and minor in Anthropology. He plans to go on to earn his Masters of Public Administration at Grand Valley, where he will focus on municipal and regional government, as well as urban and regional planning.

During his undergraduate time at Grand Valley, Jakob served two years on Student Senate’s External Relations Committee; his first year as a Senator, his second as the Chairman of the committee. His focus was on civic education and participation by the student population at Grand Valley, with special attention to the millennial voting block.  

Jakob has worked on a number of political campaigns for both the left and right, bringing his acquired skills to his role as the Program Manager of the Common Ground Initiative. Furthering the path set forth by his predecessors; Jakob will continue giving platform to finding the common ground of the social and political left and right, to ensure the common good for all.

In his free time, Jakob enjoys film photography, playing harmonica, metalsmithing, and spending time lost in conversation with friends and family.

Contact: bigardja@gvsu.edu

Allie Goeddeke

Allie Goeddeke

Office Coordinator for the Hauenstein Center

Allie Goeddeke is the Office Coordinator for the Hauenstein Center, a role which she began in June 2018. She is a recent graduate of Grand Valley State University, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Science with a minor in Biology. She supports the Hauenstein Center staff by working to ensure the office operates smoothly on a daily basis.

Prior to finding her permanent home at the Hauenstein Center, Allie gained experience working in a variety of offices at Grand Valley including Conference and Event Planning at the Alumni House, and the Dean of Students Office. Most notably, as a student, she worked in the Alumni Relations department where she enjoyed welcoming alumni back to campus and assisting with the execution of various events.

In her spare time, Allie enjoys laughing with her family and friends, floating around Hubbard Lake, walking on local trails, testing new recipes, reading, and cheering on the Laker football team.

Contact: goeddale@gvsu.edu

Rachel Florida

Rachel Florida

Event Planner

Rachel Florida joined the team in March 2018 as the Event Planner for the Hauenstein Center.  She graduated from the Frederik Meijer Honors College at Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management and a minor in Spanish in 2018. 

As a student, Rachel worked in several offices at Grand Valley State University.  She worked in University Communications, the Office of the President, and Legal, Compliance, and Risk Management.  She has completed several internships for her degree at the J.W. Marriott and Grand Traverse Resort and Spa.  While attending Grand Valley State University, Rachel was an active leader on the Well Program Team for Campus Ministry.

In her free time, Rachel enjoys spending time with her husband, hanging out with her friends and family, reading, traveling, and spending time outdoors.

Contact: floridra@gvsu.edu

Brian Smit

Brian Smit

Marketing and Communications Specialist

Brian Smit joined the Hauenstein Center as Communications Specialist in June of 2019. Prior to his work at the Center, he received his Master’s Degree in Communications from Grand Valley State University.

Brian graduated from Calvin College in 2010 with a degree in Japanese Language and Literature. He chose the major as a result of his love for Japanese culture, as well as his passion for International Relations and global outreach. Following graduation, he spent four and a half years working in Yamagata Prefecture, Japan as an International Relations Specialist and English Teacher. He has travelled extensively in North America, Europe, and Asia and brings a solid foundation in global communications to the Hauenstein Center.

Brian is an avid writer of fiction, and loves reading, playing tabletop games and softball with his friends, and photography. He also enjoys collecting first edition books and presidential signatures. 

Contact: smitb2@gvsu.edu