Traverse City Regional Center Blog
Permanent link for Collaboration allows Ankerson to earn degree, job and stay in northern Michigan on November 4, 2022
Through a collaboration between two community colleges, McKenzie Ankerson was able to stay in northern Michigan and earn a degree for the job she wanted. Ankerson earned an associate degree in respiratory therapy from Muskegon Community College, which partnered with Northwestern Michigan College and Munson Medical Center to offer the program in Traverse City. Ankerson completed her general classes at NMC and the clinical courses at Munson. “Doing the clinicals gave me an idea of what I wanted to do. We did job shadowing and rotated among all the hospital departments to learn how a respiratory therapist works in each area,” she said. Ankerson finished her associate degree in December 2020, just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, when the term “ventilator’ became common vernacular. She was hired to work at Munson on the general hospital floors and this past January moved to the neonatal intensive care unit. It’s the same neonatal unit Ankerson and her twin brother spent time in when they were born 10 weeks early and stayed in the unit for six weeks before going home. “One of the nurses remembered our family,” she said.
The graduate of Traverse City West High School said she excelled in math and science classes during high school and entered NMC knowing she wanted to do something in the medical field. It was a family connection that led Ankerson to respiratory therapy. “My grandpa used to need oxygen and I remember people coming to his house with new tanks and the care they showed him,” she said. As demonstrated at the height of the pandemic, there is a critical need for respiratory therapists. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 23 percent increase in the occupation from 2020-2030. Yet even with a third-shift work schedule, Ankerson decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in allied health sciences at Grand Valley State University’s Traverse City Regional Center. She expects to graduate in April. “I wanted to get a bachelor’s degree in case I want to change careers at some point,” she said. The hybrid class schedule allows for great flexibility, Ankerson said. “The faculty are great to work with,” she said.
By Michele Coffill
Permanent link for Personal trainer at NMC, Dedenbach pushes himself to learn more, has goal set on master's degree from GVSU on November 2, 2022
Much like he pushes the clients he trains in the gym, Isaac Dedenbach pushes himself to learn more and find a path to a career he will be passionate about. Dedenbach is a personal trainer at the fitness facility at Northwestern Michigan College. The Leland Public School graduate enrolled at NMC after earning the Commitment Scholarship, which focuses on first-generation students who show academic promise and have financial need. “The scholarship allowed me time to explore a lot of different classes to find my interests,” he said. Dedenbach worked as a resident assistant at NMC, which he said helped his communications skills and served as a boost on his resume. After earning an associate degree, Dedenbach took his passion for physical fitness to the next level and studied to become a certified trainer. He worked at a gym in the Detroit area and found his clients would ask questions about health and nutrition that he wasn’t prepared for. “It made me want to go back and educate myself so I could educate others, in a public health role. And that was at the start of the pandemic when most people were stuck in their homes and not able to get out as much to exercise, so I wanted to be able to help,” he said.
Dedenbach moved back to Traverse City and enrolled at Grand Valley State University’s Traverse City Regional Center. In April, he earned a bachelor’s degree in integrative studies with an emphasis in public health.
“I liked the smaller class sizes and I had a good relationship with the professors,” he said. Dedenbach was involved in a class project that helped him better understand the role of a public health educator. “For a team project we worked with the Northern Michigan Coalition to End Homelessness and it’s similar to what I’d like to do with my degree,” he said. “We created educational materials and welcome home baskets to give people a good start once they get into a home.” He has his next goal set: a master’s degree in public health from Grand Valley, which he hopes to begin in fall 2023.
By Michele Coffill
Permanent link for NMC provides strong foundation for student to enroll in Grand Valley's physician assistant studies program on October 28, 2022
When Anne-Marie Deming graduated from Glen Lake High School, she was unsure of what to study in college. Northwestern Michigan College provided Deming an opportunity to explore many avenues, including the sciences that had become a passion of hers during high school. She earned an associate degree from NMC, which created a smooth transition for Deming to enroll at Grand Valley State University’s Traverse City Regional Center and earn a bachelor’s degree in allied health sciences. Deming has since continued her education and is now enrolled in Grand Valley’s Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) master’s degree program. She is pleased to be able to continue to live in northern Michigan and work, when needed, at her family’s 140-acre cherry farm. “I knew I wanted to stay in this area after high school to help on the farm, so I started at NMC and it was such a great fit,” Deming said. Before graduating from NMC, Deming would talk with various university representatives at the college about the next steps. She said Grand Valley’s Traverse City program felt right. “The people I met were so incredibly welcoming and so supportive. I was able to continue taking a blend of NMC courses with professors I knew and hybrid Grand Valley classes at the University Center, which gave me variety,” she said.
Deming noticed advertisements for the PAS program and felt compelled to investigate. Grand Valley opened its satellite PAS program in Traverse City in 2015, to educate students who want to stay in northern Michigan and provide patient care. Since that program began, more than 70 percent of students who earn PAS degrees work in the area. “I liked what I saw, I liked the emphasis on rural health care. We’re caring for my 98-year-old grandmother, and I like the support network she has here,” Deming said. In January, Deming and others in her PAS cohort will begin clinical rotations to continue their medical training. Currently, they are shadowing physician assistants at various hospital and health care sites. The PAS students in Deming’s cohort are regularly connected via ITV to Grand Valley’s Grand Rapids cohort, which meets on the Health Campus on the Medical Mile. “It’s almost like we are in the same room, having the same experiences through interactive television,” she said. When Deming graduates, she hopes to work in the greater Traverse City area and be an agent for change. “I see that staffing is an issue as is transportation, getting to a provider. Hopefully, more telehealth capabilities can help change that,” she said.
By Michele Coffill
Permanent link for GVSU partners with Michigan Works! to offer job seekers short-term training programs on October 19, 2022
Grand Valley's Traverse City Regional Center has partnered with Michigan Works! on a program that assists job seekers in rural areas who want to transition from education and training programs to better-paying jobs and careers.
The Michigan Learning and Education Advancement Program (MiLEAP) helps fund tuition and other costs for underemployed or dislocated workers who are economically disadvantaged. Navigators like Kailey Rubinas work closely with participants to help overcome barriers.
Rubinas, a Grand Valley graduate, said she is excited to potentially match MiLEAP job seekers with GVSU certificate programs. "My goal is to help people get the credentials they need to upscale their skills to get jobs," she said.
Shannon Owen, director of the Traverse City Regional Center, said the university offers seven industry recognized academic and non-credit certificate programs, which range from 10 weeks to nine months and meet MiLEAP requirements.
"GVSU and Michigan Works have long been connecting to share information and help community members overcome barriers," Owen said. "With MiLEAP, there was really great synergy and efforts made to take our collaboration to another level."
Questions about GVSU certificate programs can be directed to (616) 331-7180, or by email at [email protected].
Permanent link for Students in environmental studies class immerse themselves on northern Michigan's Beaver Island during field school on July 22, 2022
Ten Grand Valley students had what a faculty member called "a study abroad experience in the middle of Lake Michigan" to cap off an environmental and sustainability studies course.
Kelly Parker, professor of philosophy and environmental and sustainability studies, led students to Beaver Island for a week of field work in late June. Parker began planning this trip three years ago with a colleague, Seamus Norgaard, from North Central Michigan College in Petoskey, who owns property on Beaver Island.
"Beaver Island is a magical place, one of the most ecologically diverse places in Michigan," Parker said. "When you are crossing over on the ferry from Charlevoix to this distinct, somewhat isolated place, it's like going to a study abroad experience."
Home base for the group was the Central Michigan University Biological Research Station campground. Students completed group and individual projects that focused on the island's rich ecological and cultural history and engaged with island experts.
Courtney Allen, an integrative studies major, is participating in the accelerated degree program. She said she enjoyed learning from the island's residents, including Cynthia Pryor, a member of the Amik Circle Society, who led a trip to a sacred stone circle.
"The circle is thought to have been used for ceremony and wayfinding by Native Americans," Allen said. "We also had the great honor of participating in a water ceremony led by Gennie Morgan, a Chippewa wisdom keeper and elder, who opened the island's sustainability fair."
As an adult learner, Allen said she wanted to take this ENS 380 course because it aligned with her passions when she first attended Grand Valley.
"When I left Grand Valley in 2014, environmental studies was only a minor. It's so great to see the interest in sustainability studies and the growth of the program," she said.
Parker was pleased with how the inaugural field school went and plans to offer the course next year, saying it embodies the interdisciplinary nature of the environmental studies program.
"Our interdisciplinary approach was to immerse ourselves in the history, ecology, economy and culture of the island. Each of us developed what I think of as a ‘deep map’ of Beaver Island. Our local contacts were so helpful and so excited to be working with us; they were happy to share their knowledge and love of the island," Parker said.
By Michele Coffill
Ashley Anderson laughed when she recalled it was a cat that sent her down her current career path.
Anderson will begin the master’s program in physician assistant studies (PAS) at Grand Valley State University in August. She earned an associate degree from Northwestern Michigan College (NMC); in April, she will earn a bachelor’s degree in allied health sciences from GVSU at the NMC University Center.
During an anatomy and physiology class at Traverse City Central High School, Anderson and her classmates were dissecting cats when a GVSU representative came into the class to discuss the PAS program.
“I really enjoyed the presentation and learning more about what a physician assistant does,” Anderson said. “So, from my junior year, my career path was pretty much set. I like the flexibility of being a PA and that I can give back to my community.”
There were a few bumps on her path, however.
Anderson, a lifelong resident of Traverse City, was accepted into GVSU after graduating from high school and began her first fall semester on the Allendale Campus.
“What I learned about myself is that I really preferred being in northern Michigan and being with my family,” Anderson said.
After that initial semester, she transferred to NMC.
“NMC was a great buffer for me after my one semester at GVSU,” Anderson said. “I found it was not as much pressure as a traditional campus and I continued to be on track toward my degree. It was flexible and everyone was super supportive.”
Anderson works as a medical assistant at Traverse City Orthopedics. She said her connections with the area’s health care community may help her be successful when she’s ready to enter the workforce.
“With our clinical rotations, I will be learning where I’m planning to practice,” she said.
That is the primary reason Grand Valley opened a satellite PAS program in Traverse City in 2015: to educate students who want to stay in northern Michigan and provide care for area residents. Since that year, more than 70 percent of students who earn PAS degrees work in the area.
Grand Valley’s PAS program has an articulation agreement with NMC that grants preferred admission to the program at the Traverse City Center for two qualified NMC students who meet admission criteria.
Learn more about Grand Valley’s Physician Assistant Studies program in Traverse City online.
By Michele Coffill
Permanent link for NMC graduate now working in health care pursues degree in physician assistant studies at GVSU on May 10, 2022
Like many students who graduate from high school, Elias Sanchez had aspirations to attend a large, traditional, four-year university many miles away from Traverse City.
Also like many students, Sanchez then realized paying for that type of college experience would have been a financial burden.
“The reality of our financial situation set in, and I was not able to go away for school,” Sanchez said. “I needed to stay in town and help my mom.”
Sanchez received scholarships to enroll in Northwestern Michigan College. He said the student discounts offered by area businesses help to keep costs down, as does living with his mother, rather than renting an apartment with friends.
In April, Sanchez will earn a bachelor’s degree in allied health sciences from Grand Valley State University’s Traverse City Regional Center. He earned an associate degree from NMC.
He is now focused on a career as a physician assistant and plans to apply to Grand Valley’s master’s degree program. As a phlebotomist at Munson Medical Center, Sanchez said he has met PAs and appreciates their interactions with patients and their work-life balance. He hopes someday to work as a PA in a hospital emergency department.
Sanchez had worked as a pizza cook at the Filling Station but wanted to work at the hospital. A friend told him about Munson’s phlebotomy department and its on-the-job training; he was immediately hired. “Sometimes I get to draw blood from patients in the emergency department and I really enjoy it. I like the energy in the emergency department. Plus, I’m quick on my feet and able to multitask,” he said.
He also hopes those connections at the hospital will prove beneficial when it’s time to find a PA job. “By working at Munson now, I’m able to meet people who work in management and develop professional networks,” he said.
He works 12-hour shifts three days a week, which sometimes presents challenges keeping up with homework. But Sanchez said he has developed a good system of time management and credited his manager for being accommodating.
“On my days off, I plow through my school work. I find time to go to the gym and that helps with stress management,” he said. “I have a routine down.”
By Michele Coffill
Permanent link for GVSU students juggles jobs, family responsibilities with plans to earn master's degree on May 9, 2022
Juggling family and job responsibilities is enough for many people. Catherine Russell-Maxson adds college classes and applications for a master’s degree program to the mix.
In April, the Traverse City resident will earn a bachelor’s degree in allied health sciences from Grand Valley State University’s Traverse City Regional Center. Russell-Maxson was a concurrent student at Northwestern Michigan College and GVSU, then transferred to GVSU in 2017.
She and her husband have two children under the age of 2. They moved from New York City to Traverse City six years ago to be closer to family. It was then Russell-Maxson decided it was time to finish college.
“I was a medical assistant when we lived in New York but I always knew I wanted to be a provider,” she said. “I would take a class here and there, chipping away at a degree.”
Russell-Maxson worked as an insurance adjuster in New York, a job she continues to do in Traverse City, while working as a nurse assistant at Munson Medical Center.
“At Munson, I help with rounds and patient care, take their vital signs and help with their personal care,” she said.
She said her proactive attitude helps keep her and her busy schedule organized.
“I have never been a reactive person. I also prioritize all my daily tasks,” she said. “It’s nice that all of my classes are online and offer flexibility.” Russell-Maxson plans to apply to GVSU to enroll in the physician assistant studies program. “I have always enjoyed medicine and the interaction you have with patients,” she said. Her children are young, but Russell-Maxson said her jobs, education and career aspirations are all done with them in mind. “I keep pushing myself not only for me, but I want my kids to be proud of me,” she said.
By Michele Coffill
To some people in Traverse City, especially K-12 students, Chelsea Cooper is known as the “water person.”
Cooper is the conservation technician for the Manistee Conservation District. Her passion for fresh water bodies and their habitats started when she was young. Two degrees and countless high-impact experiences at Northwestern Michigan College and Grand Valley State University have given her the skills to work in a field she loves.
Cooper graduated from Grand Valley State University’s Traverse City Regional Center last year. She earned an associate degree in freshwater studies from NMC’s Great Lakes Water Studies Institute in 2018.
“I grew up by a woodland pond and was just fascinated by the transitions in the seasons and what was growing there, but I never thought it would be a career,” Cooper said.
She got a start toward a career after looking at an NMC catalog, which detailed its freshwater studies major. “So, I enrolled and soon was spending a lot of time at the Great Lakes Water Studies Institute and it was amazing, even given that I had no background in biology or conservation,” Cooper said. “The center has a water quality lab and all this equipment I learned to use. We learned about Traverse City organizations in this field and heard from speakers about what a career in water science looks like.”
While at NMC, Cooper also participated in a study abroad program, traveling to Costa Rica to learn about sustainable farming and help test local drinking water. She also had an internship, working with the Long Lake Association on a water quality project.
Cooper started her own business, Protect Our Watersheds, with another NMC student, focused on providing curriculum about water and water activities to Traverse City Area Public Schools.
“Then the pandemic hit and we tried to offer virtual workshops, but it wasn’t working,” she said.
After a string of dog sitting jobs, the Manistee Conservation District hired Cooper last year. Her duties encapsulate prior internships and class projects.
“I’m the program manager for area lakes and streams, meaning I coordinate with local watersheds and offer education and outreach to area schools. I’m known as the water person,” she said.
Cooper transferred to GVSU in 2019 to complete a bachelor’s degree when she noticed many job postings required that degree. She enrolled in GVSU’s Integrative Studies program, which allows students to choose their own path to degree completion.
“I was very happy Grand Valley accepted all my credits and offered a bachelor of science degree. That was important to me. I was able to build a program, mine was in freshwater preservation and sustainability,” she said.
Her capstone project continues to help Cooper’s workplace. She created a computer program, MNOH (minnow), using standard Microsoft Office programs to more efficiently collect data in the field. Cooper created a Google form to input data and automatically populate a spreadsheet, saying it streamlines the process.
“If I spend three hours collecting data and two hours creating a spreadsheet using our old method, MNOH has cut my time in half,” she said.
By Michele Coffill
Permanent link for Experiential Team Building Brings Awareness to Homelessness Within The Community on April 7, 2022
Team building from an experiential learning perspective is the core of MGT 345-Team Building class and how Tina Allen, adjunct professor at GVSU’s Traverse City Regional Center, brings her passion for experiential learning and love for her community together. After retiring from Northwest Michigan Coalition to End Homelessness after 8 years, Tina decided to continue making a positive impact within the community through teaching the next generation. She now introduces her GVSU Traverse City Regional Center students to community outreach programs so they can choose their semester-long team building projects, with applied experiential learning practice.
This semester, both student teams chose projects to support homelessness awareness within the community through the Coalition's Welcome Home Basket Program. Welcome home baskets support individuals and families moving from homelessness into new homes. There are over one hundred people on Traverse City’s streets any given day. The Coalition houses about two hundred households per year and welcome home baskets are given if baskets donations are available.
Both student teams chose the Welcome Home Basket initiative, however their approach was uniquely crafted by their separate team members. Students spend part of their semester collaborating in teams to identify what works, what doesn’t work, analyze, then take those things learned and put them into practice.
Tina Said, “This is the fifth time teaching a team building class… homelessness is a complex societal problem that cannot be solved unless people are willing to work as teams and have people from a variety of perspectives help solve the problem.”
Each team’s approach reached different audiences within the community.
Team One reached out to West Middle School faculty for approval to bring Ryan Hannon, Housing and Homeless Services Community Engagement Officer for Goodwill Northern Michigan, to speak at student council about the issue of homelessness in our community and the need for welcome home baskets. West Middle School students were shocked to know some of their own peers were homeless. They created a challenge for most donations within their classes and were able to support the assembly of several welcome home baskets. GVSU Team One students picked up all donations and assembled the baskets.
Team Two chose a more public approach. They reached out to local business owners for permission to set up tables outside of their locations to hand out flyers for awareness and needs along with asking shoppers to consider buying some of the welcome home basket needs and dropping them back at their tables.
Through experiential learning, both teams improved their team building skills individually and as a group, but also found an intrinsic value doing the work. Collectively, they were able to provide over 25 full Welcome Home Baskets along with additional supplies for those moving out of homelessness and into a home. More importantly, team members developed and analyzed the teamwork skills they need to be part of successful teams in the future whether they’re going into health care, construction management, or business.
When people move into a home after homelessness, often they do not have anything. Having a home to feel safe in again, and a welcome home basket of essential items shows their community cares for them. Simple acts of donated kindness bring awareness, hope, and transforms lives. Learn more about opportunities to donate and help end homelessness, https://www.endhomelessnessnmi.org/opportunities-to-help.
If you would like to learn more about GVSU Traverse City Region center programs and classes aligned with our local community, talk to our team here, https://www.gvsu.edu/traverse/lets-get-started-42.htm