Alumni Highlights

Chinese

2010

Jeff Hayes in China

Jeff Hayes

Jeff Hayes 

2000 Graduate

Major: Journalism

Jeff was a student of Chinese during the developmental stages of the GVSU program. Although Jeff graduated with a degree in Journalism, he was very passionate about the Chinese language while attending GVSU. After graduation, he attended the University of Hawaii on a Foreign Language Areas Studies fellowship to further his love for Chinese culture and language and in 2005, he received his MA in Asian Studies. In 2006, he returned to West Michigan and started a high school Chinese language and culture program at Rockford High School in Rockford, Michigan and has been teaching there ever since. 

Updated March 2019


French

2011

Nicholas Norris in a boat in front of a castle

Nicholas Norris

Nicholas Norris

2011 Graduate - Dual Degree

Bachelor of Music
Major: Flute Performance

Bachelor of Arts
Major: French Linguistics

During his studies, he was the recipient of the Arthur Hills Music Scholarship as well as a two-time winner the GVSU Music Department Concerto Competition. He was also inducted into Pi Delta Phi, Mu Epsilon, the GVSU chapter of the National French Honors Society. In 2016, he graduated from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University with a Master of Music in Flute Performance.

After graduating from GVSU, Nicholas moved to Nantes, France for the 2011-2012 academic year to work as an assistant d’anglais in Collège Gaston Serpette and Collège Claude Debussy via the Teaching Assistantship Program in France. In addition to his teaching duties, he helped the English faculty at Collège Gaston Serpertte establish an annual exchange program with Presdales School and Richard Hale School in Hertfordshire, England. After completing his graduate studies at Indiana University, Nicholas decided to return to Nantes, France to once again teach English, but this time as a lecteur d’anglais at the Université de Nantes. During his tenure, he taught conversation and translation classes to students studying English in both Langues Étrangères Appliquées and Langues Littératures et Cultures Étrangères academic programs.

Nicholas Norris returned to the United States in August 2018. He is currently working as a substitute teacher for high school French teachers in the Grand Rapids area. In January 2019, he will return to GVSU to get his certification to teach French at the secondary level.

Updated December 2018

2010

Ashley Thorsberg professional headshot

Ashley Thorsberg

Ashley Thorsberg

2010 Graduate

Major: French

Minor: English

After graduating, Ashley moved to Columbus, Ohio and obtained a job as a high school French teacher in the Columbus Public School District. She taught high school French for five years and led student tours to France and Spain among other countries. While working, in 2015, she earned a Master's Degree in Foreign and Second Language Education with an endorsement in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from The Ohio State University. She then changed jobs within the Columbus Public School District and is now the ESL teacher at a French Immersion school, where the majority of her colleagues and students are native French speakers. Ashley credits a strong undergraduate experience and the skills she learned from studying abroad as a huge factor in her success today.

Updated March 2019

2009

Veronica Kirin sitting on a chair holding a book

Veronica Kirin

Veronica Kirin

2009 Graduate

Major: Anthropology

Since graduating, Veronica Kirin has started six companies, traveled the country to interview the Greatest Generation to understand how technology has changed everything, published a corresponding book and documentary film called Stories of Elders, and she continues to travel the world regularly. Learning French fed my degree in Anthropology and certainly helps me get along when I visit Paris! The French professors were fantastic at teaching not just the French language but also French culture and history, which I think is pivotal to successful travel and relating to others.

Updated January 2019

2006

Jessica Cruz professional headshot

Jessica Cruz

Jessica Cruz

2006 Graduate - Dual Degree

Bachelor of Arts
Major: French

Bachelor of Science
Major: Public Administration - Community Development Planning

Every aspect of work in the life of Jessica Cruz, ’06 is geared toward education equality. She earned two degrees in Public Administration and French from Grand Valley in 2006 and then went on to earn a doctorate from the Teachers College of Columbia University in 2013. Dr. Cruz is a founder and the executive director of the Center for Latin@ Studies at Ferris State University and the founder and chair of the Latin@ Scholar Success: A College and Graduate School Conference. Currently, Dr. Cruz is Northern Michigan University's first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. Dr. Cruz earned several accolades, including the 2015 GVSU Young Alumni of the Year Award. More recently, she was one of two selected in the nation for the National Association of Diversity Officers (NADOHE) Chief Diversity Officers Fellowship in 2017. 

Updated March 2019


German

2018

Travis Brubaker standing in a park

Travis Brubaker

Travis Brubaker

2018 Graduate 

Major: International Relations and German

Since graduating from GVSU with a dual International Relations and German degree, Travis moved to Munich, Germany and is currently pursuing a Master's in Science in the program Politics and Technology at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). He also recently started working a student job at Allianz, the world's largest insurance and asset management company, supporting a global project to comply with Europe's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law. While at TUM, Travis has started to study Spanish through the university, which allowed him to recently conduct a week-long course in Madrid, Spain. Travis says "None of this would have been possible without studying German. In short, learning German opened up many new doors for me, and encouraged me to learn other languages as well."

Updated March 2019

2017

Stephanie Tanis in front of a theater

Stephanie Tanis

Stephanie Tanis

2017 Graduate 

Major: Biomedical Sciences and German-Linguistics

Minor: Chemistry

Moin moin! Shortly after graduation, Stephanie enrolled in a Molecular Biology graduate program at the University of Kiel in Kiel, Germany, where she still is today. Although the bulk of the program is taught in English, Stephanie says knowing German opened up so many opportunities. To name a few, she received a student job at her university's International Center due to her German skills and has sat in on German-taught biology courses where there is no English-taught equivalent. Stephanie has also given bilingual lectures to local German high school students on the culture and topography of the Midwest.

She is incredibly thankful for the practical training she received as a language student at GVSU. "Without the great professors in the GVSU German Department, I wouldn’t have had the necessary language and cultural skills to start my scientific career in Germany!"

Updated March 2019 

2016

Ryan Grabijas in front of stores in Korea

Ryan Grabijas

Ryan Grabijas

2016 Graduate - Dual Degree

Bachelor of Arts
Major: German

Bachelor of Science
Major: Hospitality and Tourism Management
Minor: General Business

After graduating in April 2016, Ryan spent the summer working as a German language instructor at Concordia Language Villages in Bemidji, Minnesota, and then as a hiking guide in the Canadian Rockies for German-speaking tourists. Following that, he left the U.S. in March 2017 to teach English in South Korea through the English Program in Korea (EPIK). Ryan currently teaches at two public middle schools in Ulsan, South Korea. In his time there he's been able to travel quite a bit throughout East Asia as well as pick up a new language. Most recently, Ryan passed the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) level 4! In April he will be leaving Korea and returning to Germany where he will attend a two year bilingual Master's program in Intercultural Communication and European Studies. 

Updated March 2019

2011

Elly Rosenthal in front of shipping cranes in Germany

Ellyanne Rosenthal

Ellyanne Rosenthal

2011 Graduate 

Major: German and International Relations

During her two study abroad semesters in Schwäbisch Gmünd (near Stuttgart) in 2009 & 2010, the German language came to life for Elly. She lived with a host family in 2009, who inspired her to really improve her German. After such a positive first experience in Germany, it became pretty clear to Elly that she would love to live and work there one day.

Fast-forward to 2019 and Elly is happily settled in Hamburg, Germany, and she works in the exciting field of Global Mobility (Expatriate Management). Between 2011 and 2018, Elly lived and worked in Stuttgart, Germany and most recently in London, England. She started working in the Global Mobility field in London, where was able to use her German skills on a daily basis. Using a foreign language in a professional setting is a challenge at times. However, it is a wonderful experience which opens many doors, and allows Elly to really integrate in to the German culture. 

Elly still maintains close contact with her host family from 2009, and she has made many friends and contacts in Germany along the way. Learning a language is the most exciting journey one can go on.

Updated April 2019


Japanese

2013

Clarice Okada posing during a Japanese cooking class

Clarice Okada

Clarice Okada

2013 Graduate

Major: English Language and Literature

After graduating from Grand Valley, Clarice was accepted to the JET Program to teach English in Japan. She lived there for three years, where she first taught at a junior high and then an elementary school full time. Clarice continued her Japanese studies by being immersed in the language, and later obtained JLPT N3 certification. During this time, she also met her current husband, who was studying at a nearby university. They held their wedding ceremony in Japan.

Although not currently using Japanese professionally, Clarice uses Japanese in her personal life constantly in order to talk to her Japanese family. She says, "If it wasn't for my language study at GVSU and the amazing professors I had, I never would have wanted to pursue a career in Japan. If I hadn't moved there or been able to use Japanese, I wouldn't have been able to connect with my Japanese coworkers as I did, or made so many connections with so many wonderful people. Indeed, I wouldn't have married the love of my life! Studying Japanese at Grand Valley certainly changed my life for the better." 

Updated April 2019

2010

Adam Cuthbert posing in front of CDs in a store

Adam Cuthbert

Adam Cuthbert

2010 Graduate

Major: Music Composition

Having fallen in love with Tokyo’s urban expanse during his semester abroad through the Padnos International Center, Adam Cuthbert moved to New York City (America’s next-best thing) after graduating from GVSU’s music program. In NYC, he enjoys a multifaceted career as a freelance composer and sound designer, and record label manager, having performed programs at The Asia Society and Japan Society, as well as myriad concert and theatre venues around the city. In 2018 he returned to Japan as a sales and licensing representative of Cantaloupe Music, meeting for business with Japanese record industry executives and assisting in the production of a concert in Tokyo of music by Studio Ghibli composer Joe Hisaishi and American composer David Lang. Last year, Cuthbert co-composed the GVSU New Music Ensemble’s album RETURN (Innova Records) and returned to campus to perform on the album release concert, and also to accept the 2017 Distinguished Alumnus Award from GVSU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He uses his Japanese language and linguistics background daily to keep in touch with friends from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, where he studied abroad, enjoy Japanese-language books, manga, and animation, and cook from Japanese recipes.

Updated March 2019


Spanish

2016

Hector Belmont professional headshot

Hector Belmont 

Hector Belmont

2016 Graduate 

Major: Spanish Literature

Hector is currently employed at Grace Christian University in Wyoming, MI as an Undergraduate Enrollment Advisor. His primary responsibility is recruiting students in southwest Michigan. He regularly uses his degree from GVSU to connect with students and families whose native language is Spanish. Whether it is giving a campus tour in Spanish or helping translate a financial aid meeting, Hector enjoys putting his degree into practice by helping students achieve their dreams of attending college. Hector is starting his Master of Education Degree in Higher Education with an Emphasis in Adult and Higher Education at GVSU in spring 2019. 

Updated March 2019

Kassie O'Brien professional headshot

Kassie O'Brien

Kassie O'Brien

2016 Graduate 

Major: Spanish and International Relations

Minor: International Business

Kassie is a Spanish Medical Interpreter in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She currently works with Voices for Health, interpreting for patients with limited English proficiency throughout the city's hospitals and clinics. Before Voices for Health, she was an interpreter in the AmeriCorps program at Cherry Health in Grand Rapids. Kassie loves getting to interact with the native Spanish-speaking population on a daily basis. Although she never majored in any healthcare programs during her academic years, a true passion of hers was unearthed when she began working in the medical field after graduation. Kassie owes much of her linguistic and cultural knowledge to her time studying at GVSU, as well as during the semester that she lived abroad in Quito, Ecuador.

Updated March 2019

2015

Courtney Daman 2015 graduate with minor in Spanish in front of Yuma, AZ sign

Courtney Daman

Courtney Daman

2015 Graduate

Major: Biomedical Sciences

Minor: Spanish and Chemistry

Courtney continued her education after her undergraduate degree and earned a Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Grand Valley in August, 2018. Currently, she is a traveling physical therapist and recently had a 3-month contract in Yuma, Arizona which is just north of the US-Mexico border. Courtney had the opportunity to treat Spanish-speaking patients in a completely Spanish-speaking clinic (therapists, receptionists, and other staff included) that would otherwise not have access to physical therapy care. She looks forward to more contracts in areas with Spanish-speaking patients so she can connect with different cultures and provide accessible care to those in need.

Updated March 2019

2014

Caitlin Smith hiking

Caitlin Smith

Caitlin Smith

2014 Graduate

Major: Secondary Education and Spanish

Minor: Psychology

After graduating, Caitlin applied to jobs in Europe and South America and eventually accepted a position teaching 5th grade students in Quito, Ecuador. Her students were Ecuadorian children in an immersion program in English. During the two years she taught, Caitlin explored the coastal, Amazonian, and mountainous regions of Ecuador all while immersing herself in Spanish language and culture. Making time to travel to Colombia and being able to spend two months volunteering in Ollantaytambo, Peru were also life changing experiences. Now Caitlin is working in the Immersion Program at Rockford Public Schools teaching Language Arts. She leads the Spanish Club and will travel to Costa Rica in the coming months with a group of students. Caitlin is a proponent of language learning because it introduces people to different cultures and beliefs. The ability to communicate with millions more people around the world is something she would never give up. 

Updated March 2019

2013

Trazy Collins in front of Statue of Liberty

Trazy Collins

Trazy Collins (nee Richter)

2013 Graduate

Major: Spanish

Minor: Latin American Studies and Music 

Trazy is currently living in New York City, serving as the Program Director of Food and Nutrition programs for Project Hospitality, Inc. Following her graduation from GVSU in 2013, she moved to NYC almost immediately to complete an internship with Project Hospitality. Only 4 months later, she was promoted to oversee 5 emergency food programs, which has evolved now into 6 programs. She currently leads a team of 8 staff and over 1000 volunteers who provide up to 1.9 million meals to New Yorkers who are food insecure every year. She went on to receive a Masters of Arts in Global Development and Social Justice from St. John's University in 2017.

When asked how her modern languages and literature background plays a role, Trazy told us that she still uses her Spanish skills every day, whether greeting hungry families, or advocating on behalf of those who are looking for resources within the community, or providing cultural competency to programming happening within immigrant communities. She was recently recognized by the Staten Island Hunger Task Force for her leadership and exemplary professional service.

Updated March 2019

Molly Goss alumni

Molly Goss

Molly Goss

2013 Graduate

Major: Spanish

Minor: Political Science

Immediately after graduation, Molly moved to Nashville, Tennessee as a Teach for America corps member and began teaching high school Spanish in Metro Nashville Public Schools. In 2017 she was awarded Teacher of the Year. She currently teaches at one of the most diverse high schools in the South, with more than 120 languages spoken inside the walls. Molly teaches Spanish to native Spanish speakers from all across the Caribbean, Central, and South America. She also serves as a coordinator for immigrant youth programming. Molly graduated with her MEd from Lipscomb University in 2016 and is currently pursuing her doctorate in ESL and bilingual education. Her goal is to start a bilingual high school for Spanish speaking students. After studying abroad in Argentina during her time at GVSU, she learned the importance of traveling and she continues to travel around the Spanish-speaking world to get to know where her students come from and perfect her Spanish. She most recently spent last summer in Venezuela and has been instrumental in providing school support for undocumented and asylum seeking students from Central and South America. She attributes her experience at Grand Valley as being instrumental in developing her passion for helping immigrant students and being a spokesperson for the global communities, especially those who don't have a voice.

Updated March 2019

Marvis Herring Professional headshot

Marvis Herring

Marvis Herring

2013 Graduate

Major: Broadcasting

Minor: Spanish

Marvis is multimedia journalist at WOOD TV8, West Michigan’s legacy NBC affiliate. After graduating in 2013, Marvis worked as a reporter and anchor at WMBD News in Peoria, Ill. He’s covered widespread tornado damage, high-profile murder trials, and broke several dynamic stories informing his community. Marvis also spent a year in Cadillac, Mich. as a news producer at WWTV. While at GVSU, Marvis studied abroad in Granada, Spain for three months. 

You can look at his WOOD TV8 profile here

Updated March 2019

Cassandra Kiger professional headshot

Cassandra Kiger

Cassandra Kiger

2013 Graduate

Major: Psychology 

Minor: Spanish

Cassandra Kiger graduated with a BA in Psychology and a minor in Spanish, and later a Master in Social Work, all from GVSU. Cassandra entered her undergraduate career proficient in spoken Spanish, but was able to improve in speaking, and learn to read and write in Spanish while obtaining a minor. This skill set alone has moved her to the top of the hiring pool in every job she has had since graduation, where she works in translation and interpretation for the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan (both as full-time work and an extremely well paid side hustle), in the Immigrant and Refugee department of Bethany Christian Services, and as the Prevention and Diversity Director of the Children's Advocacy Center of Ottawa County. Having spoken and written fluency has not only improved her career, but has given her access to live internationally and frequently travel abroad. In fact, language proficiency and fluency has so greatly impacted her life that she continues to pursue learning in other languages. Her recommendation to all students is that language proficiency and international travel will be the most important investments that they can engage in during their collegiate experience.

Updated March 2019

Tricia Nichol professional headshot

Tricia Nichol

Tricia Nichol

2013 Graduate

Major: Spanish Education

Minor: English and Secondary Education

Tricia graduated from GVSU in the winter of 2013 and immediately accepted a Spanish teaching position at Coopersville High School. She loves working with novice level students as she shares her passion of the Spanish language and culture. While at Coopersville, Tricia started to work with native Spanish speakers which led her to seek a Master's degree in TESOL. Not only does she teach Spanish, but she now mentors high school students who speak English as their second language.  She has learned so much about language acquisition and methodology for both Spanish and English, and she is excited to see where her degrees will take her in the future!

Updated March 2019

Grace Poquette professional headshot

Grace Poquette

Grace Poquette

2013 Graduate

Major: Spanish and English 

Minor: General Business

After graduating from Grand Valley in 2013, Grace moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where she attended Mitchell Hamline School of Law. During her time in law school, Grace became a certified student attorney, working with local Legal Aid to provide free legal services to low income members of the community. During this time, she found her experience learning and speaking a foreign language made her better equipped to work with not only Spanish-speaking clients, but clients speaking other languages as well. Grace’s understanding of language barriers made her a more sympathetic and understanding counselor, and allowed her to build strong connections with her clients. Grace graduated from law school in 2016, magna cum laude, and went on to become a licensed attorney in Minnesota state and federal courts. 

Grace began practicing law in a Minneapolis-based law firm, where she advised corporate clients on matters related to employment law and corporate compliance. She left private law practice to work in a corporate setting, and currently works as a Compliance Attorney at Thomson Reuters, located in the suburbs of Minneapolis. She has been at Thomson Reuters for over a year, where she currently works to provide guidance on compliance with financial laws and regulations. While Grace does not directly use her foreign language experience on a daily basis, it has proven to be a valuable asset in her practice of law. She has found many more opportunities to be available to her with foreign language experience, including being able to work on international law, and she has been able to form more powerful connections with her clients.

Updated March 2019

2012

Kelli Dykstra on rocks in front of the ocean

Kelli Dykstra

Kelli Dykstra Darcia

2012 Graduate

Major: English-Language Arts and Spanish

Minor: Elementary Education 

After graduating from Grand Valley in 2012, Kelli went on to teach elementary school in Costa Rica. She taught English Language Arts in the private bilingual school where she did her undergrad student teaching. She taught there for two years before moving back to the United States to start teaching in a Spanish Immersion program for elementary schools. She teaches all subject areas in Spanish to native English speakers. Teaching in a Spanish immersion program encouraged her to seek out her Master's degree in Dual Language Instruction. Not only does she use her education in her full time job, but she also tutors adults who are hoping to learn Spanish to be able to communicate with Spanish speakers in our community. In 2017, she became a part-time Realtor in West Michigan where she is able to use her Spanish speaking abilities to help native Spanish speakers feel assured and comfortable throughout what can be a high stress transaction.

Getting her major in Spanish was one of the best things she could have done for herself. She is thankful for the opportunity to have studied abroad in Costa Rica through the Padnos International Center because without that experience, she would not be as successful as she is today.  

Updated March 2019

2011

Ruben Juarez Hurtado headshot

Ruben Juarez Hurtado

Rubén Juarez Hurtado

2011 Graduate

Major: Broadcasting

Minor: Spanish

Rubén has worked in the broadcasting field since graduating in late 2011. He has worked at stations in Michigan, Indiana and Texas, where he is currently located. He is a sports anchor/reporter at KRGV-TV in Weslaco, Texas. Rubén reports and anchors in Spanish and English. The station began broadcasting Spanish news programming in January 2018. Rubén was asked to lead the Spanish sports department and took on the challenge, despite not having Spanish-language broadcast experience. Rubén grew in a bilingual home. He understood and spoke Spanish growing up fluently, but never learned how to read or write in Spanish until taking classes at GVSU. The rules of written and spoken Spanish he learned at GVSU helped him greatly as he embarked on his Spanish broadcasting career.

Updated March 2019

Sarah Kuklish in a restaurant

Sarah Kuklish

Sarah Kuklish

2011 Graduate

Major: Biopsychology

Minor: Spanish

After graduating from GVSU in 2011, Sarah went on to earn her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from University of Indianapolis in 2014. During her time at GVSU, Sarah had the opportunity to study abroad in Granada, Spain for six weeks. She is currently working as a pediatric physical therapist at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis where she is able to use her Spanish education daily with a diverse patient population. Speaking Spanish has been invaluable at the hospital not only to gather and relay important information but to create positive rapport and trust with both patients and families.

Updated March 2019

Rachel Lopez professional headshot

Rachel Lopez

Rachel Lopez

2011 Graduate

Major: Spanish and Public Relations

Rachel has been a champion for youth in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector of Grand Rapids for more than a decade. Using what she learned in her Spanish classes and year-long study abroad in Spain, she infuses her work with a racial equity and social justice lens. She currently serves as the Development Director at Affinity Mentoring, a local nonprofit, where she regularly uses her degree from GVSU to connect with students and families whose native language is Spanish. Before joining Affinity she served as the Director of Youth and Parent Services at the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan and as a consultant for the DeVos Foundation. She also earned a Master of Science in Communications from GVSU in 2018. 

Understanding a second language and culture has propelled her career and helped make her, not only a competitive candidate in the workforce, but also a powerful change agent for racial equity. Rachel has been recognized nationally for her evidenced-based practices that help accelerate Latino student success in higher education and has presented her findings at UnidosUS Annual Conference, UnidosUS Workforce Development Conference, National Summer Learning Association Annual Conference, and Excelencia in Education’s Accelerating Latino Student Success (ALASS) Conference. She is active in the community and serves as the Chair of the Diversity, Inclusion, and Global Outreach Committee at YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin, Marketing and Communications Co-Chair at Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, and is a mentor for a 2nd grade student who is learning English as her third language. They communicate in both of their second languages, Spanish.

Updated March 2019

Katy Salter headshot

Katy Salter

Katy Salter

2011 Graduate

Major: Spanish

Minor: Elementary Education 

Upon graduating from Grand Valley, Katy accepted a Kindergarten teaching position in a Grand Rapids Public School Dual Language Immersion Program. She teaches completely in Spanish to native Spanish speakers and English speakers. Katy is passionate about bilingual education and sees firsthand how quickly her students become fluent in Spanish through the immersion program. Along with teaching, she attributes much of her Spanish fluency on studying abroad in Guadalajara, Mexico. She loves speaking with the families and enjoys learning more about their culture. She recently completed her Master's degree in Urban Education through Davenport University. She is excited to see where Spanish will take her!

Updated March 2019

Deb Weststrate headshot

Deb Weststrate

Deb Weststrate

2011 Graduate - Dual Degree

Bachelor of Fine Arts
Major: Art and Design - Graphic Design

Bachelor of Arts
Major: Spanish

Following her official graduation in April of 2011, Deb was determined to travel and to immerse herself in the Spanish language through GVSU’s study abroad program in Bilbao, Spain. While taking a class at the University of Deusto, Deb also completed a month-long internship with the art producer and publisher, Consonni, based in the San Francisco district of Bilbao. Upon her return to the U.S., Deb sought out opportunities in which to utilize her degree in the Spanish language. In the fall of 2011, Deb began working for a school in Holland, MI as an office administrator and interpreter for the Spanish-speaking families at the elementary/middle school. She enjoyed this opportunity to assist families in staying connected with their child’s education, especially when the parents feared that the language barrier would prevent them from helping their child learn. During her employment at the school, Deb initiated an English class for Spanish-speaking parents through the program, Rosetta Stone, and created a Multicultural Night, in which families of all cultural backgrounds came together to enjoy food, music, and entertainment.

In addition to her occupation at the school, Deb served as a commissioner for the Holland International Relations Commission for three years, and was chair for the third year of the term. This commission was created to maintain Holland’s sister city relationship with Queretaro, Mexico, and has also become a citizen-led group focused on educating the community on international matters.

In 2018, Deb was hired as GVSU’s Van Andel Global Trade Center Assistant. Though there is less use of the Spanish language in her current occupation, she continues to maintain connections to the Spanish-speaking community through tutoring and mentorship. Deb believes learning a foreign language has opened up many doors for her to experience life from new perspectives, and continues to allow for friendships and connections that would have otherwise not been possible.

Updated March 2019

2010

Alyssa Rodriguez headshot

Alyssa Rodriguez

Alyssa Rodriguez

2010 Graduate

Major: Spanish

Minor: Psychology

Following graduation in 2010, Alissa began working as a bilingual family support worker for the Healthy Families program within Catholic Charities West Michigan. Even with little experience, she was hired because of her fluency in Spanish. The majority of her caseload was made up of Spanish speaking families looking for guidance in raising young children. Not only did she use her skills to communicate with clients during home visits, but also as an interpreter during medical and assistance program appointments. In 2013, Alissa pursued a highly competitive internship to become a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS). She completed her clinical internship at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit where she used her Spanish to communicate with many pediatric patients and families. Alissa continues to find value in speaking Spanish as a CCLS at Metro Health-University of Michigan Health in Wyoming MI. During her time as a student, Alissa studied abroad in Bilbao, Spain during the summer of 2009 and traveled to Nicaragua for spring break as part of her capstone final project. Through these experiences she learned not only language and culture, but most importantly, made lifelong friendships.

To anyone considering Modern Languages and Literatures, Alissa’s advice is this: “I highly recommend pursuing a language degree because it will always put you at the top of the job market and the connections you develop will provide you with endless opportunities.” 

Updated March 2019

Danielle Snow at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.

Danielle Snow

Danielle Snow

2010 Graduate

Major: Mathematics-Secondary Education 

Minor: Spanish-Teaching

Danielle is a high school math teacher who has used Spanish to help English Language Learners in the classroom as well as to communicate with her student's families. She loves to travel and has visited numerous Spanish-speaking countries. Throughout Danielle's travels, her Spanish language skills have helped her get around and connect with communities! Picture is at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.

Updated March 2019

Mary Zick-Turner in front of a river and castle

Mary Zick-Turner 

Mary Zick-Turner

2010 Graduate

Major: Social Work

Minor: Spanish

After graduation, Mary spent a school year in Spain teaching English with the Language and Culture Assistant program through the Spanish Government. She was encouraged to do so by her Spanish faculty advisor in the GVSU Modern Languages and Literatures Department. The opportunity to be immersed in the Spanish language allowed her to build upon what she learned in her GVSU Spanish courses and helped her feel more confident in her speaking abilities.  

Following her return from Spain, Mary earned her Masters Degree in Social Work from The University of Michigan, focusing on interpersonal practice with children and families.  Over the next 5 years, she went on to work in various non-profit agencies in New York City and Washington, DC where she provided case management, and individual and family therapy services to Spanish-speaking clients. She now resides outside of Boston, MA, and works as a therapist with a community health center that serves a large Spanish-speaking population in Lawrence, MA. The ability to speak Spanish has opened up many wonderful opportunities for Mary and she is grateful for the education she received from the Spanish section at GVSU. 

Updated March 2019

2007

Jessica Knoth headshot

Jessica Knoth

Jessica Knoth

2007 Graduate

Major: Social Studies and Spanish

Jessica Knoth is the principal of Zeeland East High School. Her previous jobs include teaching Spanish and history at Byron Center Public Schools, and serving Wellspring Preparatory High School in Grand Rapids as the assistant principal for 2 1/2 years and principal for 1 1/2. In addition to her undergraduate degree, she also earned two masters degrees at Grand Valley for Literacy and TESOL and Educational Leadership and Administration. 

Updated March 2019


Russian Studies

1998

Rick Rossow professional headshot

Rick Rossow 

Rick Rossow

1998 Graduate

Major: Russian Studies

Minor: Economics

Richard Rossow (Rick) is a senior adviser and holds the Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a prominent think tank in Washington, DC. Rick is also a Director for India and South Asia at McLarty Associates, the strategic advisory firm founded by former White House Chief of Staff Mack McLarty. Between these roles, Rick helps frame and shape policies to promote greater business and economic engagement between the two countries, and advises some of the largest firms in the world on their India operations.

Rick has spent the last twenty years working in a variety of capacities to strengthen the partnership between the United States and India. From 2008 to 2012, Rick was with New York Life Insurance company, most recently as head of International Governmental Affairs, where he developed strategic plans for the company’s public policy and global mergers and acquisitions work. From 1998 to 2008, Rick served as deputy director of the U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC), the world’s leading advocacy group on behalf of strengthening economic ties between the United States and India. While at USIBC, he managed the Council’s policy groups in the energy, information technology, insurance, media and entertainment, and telecommunications sectors.

Rick and his wife Georjean have one son, Alex, who attends school in Washington, DC.

Updated March 2019




Page last modified July 19, 2019