Traverse City Regional Center Blog


Permanent link for Librarian Designs Her Degree For The Ultimate Dream Job on July 31, 2020

Autumn Anderson is a soon to be Integrative Studies Graduate at Grand Valley State University’s Traverse City Regional Center. Autumn discovered her passion while in High school and was able to design a bachelor’s degree around her dream of becoming a librarian.

Autumn enrolled in early college programs at Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) while still in high school homeschooling. She began working at the NMC library with an interest in what the life of a librarian might be like. The more she gained experience the more she fell in love with the idea of becoming a librarian as her dream career. Autumn Explained, “It was totally what I wanted to do, and the librarians were my kind of people.” 

Pressing forward, she completed her Associates of Science and Art Basic at NMC. Autumn wanted to continue her education to receive a bachelor’s degree. She met with Jackie Abeyta, Student advisor at Grand Valley State University’s Traverse City Regional Center. Jackie was able to direct Autumn towards the Integrative Studies program. Autumn recalled, “Integrative Studies was interesting as it gives you the ability to tailor your degree to what you wanted.”

From there she worked with GVSU Traverse City Regional Center Advisor, Kate Fairman. Kate was a key leader in Autumn's choice of classes to help reach her goals. Autumn recounted, “it was hard to figure out at first. Even though it’s great to have the ability to create your own focus in your degree, there wasn’t always an easy clear pathway like most typical degrees. Kate Fairman really helped me figure out and decide what classes were right for me. We had a lot of meetings and emails. She really guided me through.”  

All her hard work has paid off. She will be completing her Bachelors of Integrative Studies with a library Studies focus this August after completing her practicum.

Autumn started her practicum at the Traverse Area District Library in May. The week before Michigan shut down, due to Covid-19, she had a meeting with her manager to outline what her duties would be, not realizing Michigan would go into lock down so soon. Unfortunately, Autumn's role changed drastically with the shutdown as most of her projects were outlined to be at the library and her new role suddenly became remote.

She adapted quickly and spent most of her initial time researching how other “class 6” Michigan libraries adapted to Covid-19 with a virtual presence online and in social media. When asked how she felt things have changed over the years with electronic vs. paperback books, Autumn said, “ We have a lot of capability for eBooks and audiobooks but there is still a lot of demand for hard copy and paperback books. It has been great to have the electronic ability to adapt to covid-19 so there wasn’t a lot of change there, but I prefer hard books and physical books myself. It just isn’t the same experience with electronic books.”

She looks forward to graduating in August and is very thankful to everyone that has been a part of her journey of success.

Autumn was able to carve out a path to her dream job as a Librarian and you can too! Call or email Jackie Abeyta to discover options that fit your goal and lifestyle.


Permanent link for Moving Forward Amidst Uncertainty on June 22, 2020

During this unprecedented time, all Grand Valley State University Traverse City Regional Center students had to quickly adapt to the changing education environment of partial online classes to full-time remote online classes. During this transition many have taken the time to reassess their plans, dreams, and future.  For Chris Cox, he is still moving forward full steam ahead to pursue his dreams and aspirations.  

Chris just graduated with his Bachelors in Allied Health Sciences from Grand Valley State University’s Traverse City Regional Center and is applying for the Master of Physician Assistant Studies (PAS) . Chris is also a tutor at NMC for anatomy, physiology and chemistry. His road to success has taken many turns over the years as he learned and discovered what he wanted to pursue in his collegiate and professional life.

Chris started his collegiate career in nursing school at Eastern Michigan University several years ago but decided to leave the nursing program to become a paramedic for the next six years. Chris spent the first two years in Flint and the last four years in southeast Michigan. During this time, he joined a group of PAS students from Eastern as the only paramedic to go to Haiti through the Foundation for Peace program. This experience changed his life as it made him realize his passion for serving and aiding underserved and rural populations as well as how important education and sustainability is.

After three years, Chris was finally able to go back to Haiti this past February. It was certainly a challenge as the border had been shut down for the past year due to unrest and this was the  only medical trip scheduled for the year. However, he was able to work with his Advisors from GVSU Traverse City Center to create a flexible schedule to travel and complete his studies simultaneously. After Chris returned it wasn’t long before everything at school changed rapidly due to Covid-19.

Despite this time of uncertainty and change, Chris is very certain in his next steps for success. Chris has submitted his application for the Master of Physicians Assistant Studies program with an aim to combine his paramedic experience with a PA position.

Chris described his dream job as leading a community paramedic program. Ultimately a PA who works under a medical director that handles the protocols for paramedics in community paramedicine.

Chris further explained that the community paramedicine goal is to keep people out of the hospital by allowing paramedics the training and the use of resources such as; administering certain tests out in the field that would normally be done within the hospital- examples are blood and urine tests. The goal is to meet the needs of the community and the system to fill the gaps on what people need without being hospitalized.

Chris further explained a hypothetical scenario of paramedics being dispatched to see a patient that had disabilities or mobility restrictions, who had UTI’s frequently.  It is difficult to get these types of patients to and from the hospital as it causes a lot of stress on the body and then having to sit in the ER when in this type of situation, wasn’t an emergency. This also presents an opportunity to lower the risk of nosocomial infections and lower exposure chances to things such as Covid-19. 

His dream role as a PA heading up the Community Paramedicine Program is to provide a remote assessment to give the OK to have the onsite paramedic teamwork on the situation rather than going into the ER.

Although Traverse City does not have a program like this currently, Washtenaw and Monroe County Michigan and Georgia have adopted this technique. During uncertain times like this, change is necessary and new leaders like Chris Cox have the skill sets, drive, and creativity to help bring new ideas to the forefront.

Chris wanted to give a special shout out to both Jackie Abeyta, GVSU Traverse City Regional Center Academic Advisor and Shannon Owen, Director of Northern Michigan Programs to say, “thank you both for being amazing people and super supportive. You two are one of the reasons I fell in love with GVSU.”

Take charge of your future and move forward by scheduling an appointment with Jackie Abeyta to start the conversation about your next steps to success. 


Permanent link for Connecting Community to the Classroom on June 16, 2020

Head west of Traverse City and, if you know where to look, you might find a unique community of families sharing a co-owned property of nearly 90 acres with sustainability in mind. Grand Valley State University faculty advisor Kate Fairman is one of those residents, and her commitment to community and sustainability is reflected in her life and her work on campus.

 Kate is a co-creator of Telford Farm, an intentional community in Cedar, Michigan which is devoted to ongoing practices of consensus decision-making and environmental best-practices. This includes implementing a conservation easement, bird sanctuary, and invasive species management as well as several “small experiments” in raising pigs, cows, chickens, maintaining a vineyard, fruits, vegetables, and forest edibles. Kate’s work as a sustainable home designer and builder (straw/clay construction and reused material) has been featured in Reuse Building Material tours and the Grand Rapids Press.  It seems that the Telford Farm community provides an excellent life-long learning opportunity for her to practice and fulfill her passion for sustainability and reverence for the environment.

Kate’s educational journey started with a BS in “Creative Process in Education” with specialization in Environmental Studies from the University of Vermont and also includes a MS in Natural Resource Planning, Management, and Behavior from University of Michigan (1996). “When I first moved to Traverse City, my husband and I started an environmental education consulting business and helped develop curricula for several area organizations including the watershed center, the regional math, science and technology center and New Designs for Growth. Notably, “we implemented a “Water Watch” program with 20 to 25 area schools, getting teachers and students involved in water-quality monitoring, understanding watersheds, and presenting their data and results to the community at a “student congress” of over 500 students and community members.” 

At GVSU, Kate currently teaches a number of courses that relate to sustainability.  A favorite course is a Wicked Problems in Sustainability class, focusing on the “wicked” complexity of energy issues. Kate involves students in community problem solving, and encourages students to experiment with their own project of sustainability efforts.  Fairman says “We examine various sources of energy, address the pros and cons of each, but more importantly, student groups experiment with implementing a small project helping our community to move towards positive solutions.  Students have worked on solar projects, brought awareness to single-use plastics or pipeline issues by organizing film screenings, and met with governmental representatives,” to name a few of the many action-oriented student projects.

Kate has been the primary faculty advisor for the Traverse City Regional Center since 2013, and she has taught for GVSU since 2007.  

GVSU’s Traverse City Regional Center is well-suited to help students in the Integrative Studies Program make their scholastic ambitions a reality, helping students create a unique course of study that can associate with immediate needs in the local community—and the nation.  “Integrative Studies is, in part, learning to be an active member or an active citizen within your community,” she said. 

For more information about the Integrative Studies Program or to connect with Kate Fairman the Faculty Advisor at the GVSU Traverse City Regional Center, contact Shannon Owen, Director of Northern Michigan Programs for Grand Valley State University at 231.995.1785 or

Permanent link for Leading In Uncertain Times on June 5, 2020

Leading In Uncertain Times

Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) Teachers and faculty have no doubt risen to the challenge of leading during this uncertain time. Biz Ruskowski and Katie Bonne are leaders within TCAPS as well as adult students continuing their education at Grand Valley State University Traverse City Regional Center. Biz Ruskowski is a TCAPS Elementary Principle while Katie is a TCAPS Interventionist.

When Governor Whitmer announced Thursday evening March 12th that K-12 schools across Michigan were to close for 3 weeks; neither Biz nor Katie would have predicted how the rest of the school year was going to unfold. Both recount that they really thought school would be shut down for the original three weeks with one of the weeks being spring break.

Biz recalls a powerful think tank of TCAPS leaders beginning the conversation, in early March, about what an extended closure might look like. “At that point we didn’t know the severity but were planning and thinking about a two to three-week closure. One of the big things we were worried about was the meals program for students and what that would look like along with how to deliver curriculum to kids three to ten years old that may not have a computer.” Next week things changed extremely fast and suddenly schools were announced Thursday at 11:00 p.m. by the governor to be closed by the following Monday and with already waining attendance during the week, TCAPS chose to close face to face school Friday at the end of school day with less than a 24-hour notice. 

Biz explained, “I think my biggest role on that day was being a cheerleader for staff.” She pulled together a quick meeting with her staff and said, “I know you are hearing lots of rumors and I don’t have all the answers. I had us all take three deep breaths and said to just allow yourself to breath and have fun with kids today. We are going to figure this out but today we are going to just have fun with the kids.”

The mindset of a three-week closure pushed forward the first-round attempt to keep students on track by sending home printed packets with enough activities to last one to two weeks along with electronic format information as well.

As a TCAPS Interventionist, Katie Bonne was a big part of getting the packets prepared for students and assisting teachers in uploading necessary activities and information online. Katie recalls her team being deployed on the Wednesday before schools closed and the abrupt change and sense of urgency to get packets completed once schools were officially announced to close that Friday.

Big wins took place with meal plans figured out, students set up with their at home learning packets, and online learning; things seemed to be going smoothly.

However, during the week of spring break (third week) Governor Whitmer made the announcement that schools would be closed for the remainder of the year. The TCAPS administrative team including Biz and other principles sprang into action. Tasked with first writing a district plan of curriculum to be submitted to the state. Without this plan submitted and approved, remote learning could not take place.

After the remote learning plan was approved by the state, Katie was on the front lines of executing the plan. Her main priorities were to navigate the new technology that was going to be used to connect teachers with their students and parents. Katie passionately stated, “We needed to keep that connection with our students and also the connection to meet kids and family needs.” Hot spots and devices became available for families to pick up so their children could continue at home learning remotely.

As TCAPS is rounding it’s sixth week of remote learning, both Katie and Biz shared their personal challenges with the transition as well as how thankful and impressed they have been with their staff and colleagues to rise and exceed the challenges of Covid-19 school closures.

Biz explained, “the most powerful thing for me and my building is the level at where the teachers were at the beginning and where they are now with technical communication skills. All my staff are very skilled communicators and maintain good relationships with students and family. Where it became scary for them was the traditional way of defining a relationship was now being taken away from them and they now had to rapidly learn new technology skills to stay connected with their students and families.” 

Katie said, “ Everyone is progressing and I think our teachers have done an amazing job with being open minded and rising to the challenge. My team constantly checks in on each other's mental health. We are all trying hard to go above and beyond to provide emotional support.”

Both Biz and Katie talked about the positive changes and perspective that have come out of this difficult time of leading.

Katie shared that everyone has been able to get to know their students in a different way and this has helped bring the teaching community together even though they are far apart. But she emphasized they certainly miss each other very much.

Biz shared that she has been so impressed with how staff have adapted, risen to the everyday challenges, and really become creative to maintain a fun learning environment. “At this point I only have 1 family out of 400 that I haven’t connected with at least once. Generally, it’s just a case of not being able to connect or understand the platform so we continue to send paper packets to those families. Support staff has also rolled up their sleeves to be available to assist with technical questions that families might have.”

Biz shared another creative change has been hosting their morning announcements on Facebook live. She started them out  then allowed other teachers to host and get creative with them. One of her teachers shot a rocket off in his backyard and another had a Star Wars theme. It has been a fun way to keep in touch with students.

No one could have predicted this unprecedented time. One thing is for certain, the TCAPS leadership has evolved and reached far beyond expectations. Both Katie and Biz wanted to extend a personal thanks to their teams.

Katie expressed gratitude to her principals and curriculum leaders at TCAPS; Kirk Ranney, Britany Kay, Kirsten Morgan, and Kate Burwinkle.

Biz shared a heartfelt thank you to her husband and sons along with a huge shout out to her Administrative Assistants Jill and Missy, who have been on this journey with her every step of the way.  She also credits her TCAPS Principal colleagues and Executive team, as well as her whole staff, and the kids and families at Eastern Elementary. 

If you would like to learn more about extended learning educational programs offered at Grand Valley’s Traverse City Regional Center, reach out to schedule a remote conversation with Jackie Abeyta, GVSU Traverse City Regional Center advisor.

Permanent link for On The Front Lines Of COVID-19 on May 22, 2020

Rachel Zemanek and Mikayla Thorman are Northern Michigan Paramedics and students pursuing a Bachelor in Allied Health Sciences at Grand Valley State University’s Traverse City Regional Center. They have graciously taken time out of their busy schedules for a phone interview to get a glimpse of their life as front liners during the covid-19 pandemic. 

While they both have similar jobs, how their paramedic journey started and how it has changed during covid-19 is uniquely different. One thing they agree on; emergencies do not just stop during a pandemic.

Rachel is a full-time paramedic at East Bay Ambulance along with being a full-time student. Rachel's journey towards this admirable occupation came when she started her collegiate career in journalism. As she interviewed and wrote about others making a difference, she realized she wanted to be a part of something bigger and make more of an impact herself. She started an EMT program in Colorado and when she decided to move back to Michigan to be closer to her family she chose to finish her degree at GVSU’s Traverse City Regional Center and continue working in the emergency medicine side of healthcare.

Mikayla’s path was paved through the loving influence of her family. Her father is the Fire Chief in East Jordan and wanted to get back into EMS. Mikayla helped her dad study for the tests, but her future sights were set on science and math at downstate colleges until her dad suggested looking into EMS while in high school. She dual enrolled at North Central Michigan College and took EMT courses. This was a great opportunity as she was able to get a job right out of high school at East Jordan EMS (Now known as Jordan Valley Emergency Medical Services Authority). Mikayla continued as a paid volunteer in Charlevoix, East Jordan, and Boyne City. When given scholarship opportunities for MSU and CMU she decided her love for EMT was greater and pursued her Paramedic License in 2015 and became full-time at Emmet County EMS. To go further, Mikayla reached out to Jackie Abeyta, Advisor/Student Service Coordinator to transition to Grand Valley State University Traverse City Center.

When asking about the changes, risks, and challenges since the onset of Covid-19; each could relate to the fast-paced protocol changes.

Middle of March is when things really started to evolve for Rachel. Her team started thinking about what they were going to do if the region saw an influx of cases, along with the best way to take care of each other and the community. It was an immediate upswing in purchasing and planning along with new sanitary protocols for equipment. Rachel is also the public information officer responsible for getting the daily covid-19 updates out to the public along with taking over the East Bay Ambulance Facebook page to help communicate with their community members more regularly.  

Mikayla also reported immediate protocol changes. More time is taken to disinfect and decontaminate the ambulance and equipment while adopting new methods such as the use of disinfecting UV lights inside the ambulance. Personal protection equipment (PPE) drastically changed as well with a full gown, longer gloves, and full-face respirators to keep the community safe and her team safe will they still make calls requiring entry to people’s homes. On site protocols also changed with only allowing 1 of the 2 paramedics inside the home, when typically, both would go in to help care and lift the patient onto the stretcher if needed.  

Both Mikayla and Rachel said one of the biggest challenges with everything is the decline and timeliness of 911 calls. Both stated they were receiving more last-minute calls to 911 with increased hesitation to allow the team to come into the home along with reluctancy and/or fear of going to the hospital.

Mikayla shared a difficult experience with a patient that was terrified of her coming into the home because of all the hazmat looking PPE gear along with difficulty being heard and understood through the respirator.  She had to talk the patient down and explain her PPE gear was just precaution. It was difficult to see the fear on the patient's face because of what she must wear. It was even harder to get the patient to go to the hospital due to fear of Covid-19 patients being there.

Rachel has also experienced a shift in behavior not only with delayed calls for 911 but also changes in mental and emotional health. During this pandemic there has been an increase in suicide patients with a lot more anxiety and depression. It has been taking a huge toll. “One thing that is so important, is that emergencies don’t stop because of a pandemic and people still need to call 911 when things happen and know it’s always open. We take every precaution we can.”

Rachel adds that it has been especially hard with taking people out of their homes and their family can’t come with them knowing they may never see them again. Paramedics are trained to act fast and remain vigilant but Rachel states that during this uncertain time it is about finding a balance of letting their family be with them for what could be their last moment. “At the end of the day, what’s really important is human connection and love for each other.”

Both Rachel and Mikayla remain positive with their team and focused on serving their community and the community has certainly shown their support in giving back.

Mikayla has been thankful for the community support through local donations of food and treats along with local distillery’s donating hand sanitizer. Seeing all the signs thanking essential workers has been heartwarming as well.

Rachel has also experienced amazing donations for food, homemade masks, and headbands. “Donations from the community have been really cool and just awesome to see people reciprocating and appreciating what we do.”

Both outstanding women have had a lot on their plate with just finishing up the semester of classes, which all shifted to remote learning as well as balancing their demanding professional lives. Somehow they find time and energy to keep themselves and their team in good spirits.

Rachel talked about the care between her EMS team- “we are so much more aware of our partners mental and physical health and talk with each other daily. We have really become close nit more than before.”

Mikayla perks up her EMS team’s spirits with homemade baked goods every Sunday- “I bake on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings to bring to work and everyone looks forward to it!” Baking also helps her relax, so it’s a win win for everyone.

Rachel and Mikayla wanted to give special thanks and appreciation to those that have really been there for them and their community during this time.

Rachel: “My boss Nick Lemcool- he is the ambassador for all the EMS agencies, working 7 days a week, and constantly putting out fires. He has been an amazing force of nature through this. All our local police- they have been through the ringer and may be overlooked. Special thanks to Officer Matt McKinley and Officer Preston Taylor, they are both really awesome!”

Mikayla: “My partner Erik, my parents, and my co-workers at ECEMS have been great and supportive. I’ve been very fortunate to have an amazing support system.  I’m really thankful to have such amazing mentors and friends. My mentors have instilled in me a drive to continually better myself and always do what’s best for the patients. I have also really appreciated the community and their support too.”

If you would like to discover what your story can be, Jackie Abeyta, GVSU Traverse City Regional Center advisoris here for you from start to finish and wants to see you succeed. All you have to do is start the conversation. That path is there, you just need to take it. Jackie can help you get started. Contact her today to set up your appointment. 


Permanent link for We Are In This Together on April 22, 2020

There is no doubt that Covid-19 has changed the way we all conduct our day to day lives. 

During these unprecedented and uncertain times Grand Valley State University’s Traverse City Regional Center is certain about the dedication to our students. We are in this together and still committed to our students, faculty and community. As soon as classes were no longer in person, Grand Valley State University Traverse City   Allied Health and Physician Assistant Studies program took deliberate and meaningful action to donate all protective equipment to Munson Medical Center. This included masks, gloves, hats, gowns, booties, and other personal protection equipment (PPE) used for class and clinical work. 

When Nicholus Kopacki, PAS Site Director-Traverse City, Assistant Program Director, and Affiliate Faculty Traverse City Campus, talked to his students, faculty and staff about donating all protective wear; it was no surprise that all were on board to help the local community workers at Munson Medical Center. Several have asked if there is more that can be done.

To show their gratitude the PAS students came together to create the below video for the staff as a token of their appreciation. Enjoy the below video of the PAS students to the GVSU Faculty. 

If you’d like to learn more about the Physician Assistant Studies program, RSVP and join us for a free virtual information session on May 1st, 2020 at 10am. This webinar will cover GVSU's MPAS program and criteria for application (as well as COVID-19 impact on application process), will introduce viewers to Traverse City Campus and will answer most commonly asked questions. You will also have an opportunity to ask questions. RSVP today

(Please note the video was created prior to mandate on social distancing)

Page last modified July 31, 2020