Traverse City Regional Center Blog


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

Permanent link for From NMC, Anderson found a steady path to becoming a PA student on May 10, 2022

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

Permanent link for Degrees at NMC, GVSU set "water person" up for success on May 4, 2022

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,

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,

Permanent link for For internship project, Traverse City student creates inclusive week at elementary school on December 13, 2021

Grand Valley student Darla Eimers is the office manager at the Old Mission Peninsula School, a kindergarten-fifth grade school in Traverse City.

Eimers can now add "diversity and inclusion coordinator" to her title after planning a week's worth of activities for students focused on global cultures, differences and a sense of belonging.

She is enrolled in the LEADS program, an accelerated degree completion program for adult learners, and will earn a bachelor's degree in integrative studies, with an emphasis on cultural diversity and globalization, in April.

This project will fulfill an internship requirement. But more than checking a box for degree progress, Eimers said she planned Diversity and Inclusion Week to expose the elementary students to cultures other than their own and "bring them outside their comfort zone a bit." Old Mission Peninsula School is a charter school authorized by Grand Valley.

"I would like our students to learn about populations other than their own and understand that being kind and inclusive is free, and it's so easy to do," Eimers said.

Activities and events included a pen-pal program with an area nursing home; presentations by Disability Network, Native American and Latino groups; and global foods in the lunchroom. Eimers said feedback from parents and students was very positive and plans are underway to host a month's worth of diversity and inclusion activities next year.

Eimers earned an associate degree in applied science from Northwestern Michigan College. The LEADS program, she said, fits her schedule and the online, six-week classes move her toward a degree faster. 

"This program seems like it was made for me. I took what I learned from my classes and applied it to pull together this project," she said. "I want to get my bachelor's degree for my son, so he will understand the importance of learning."


Permanent link for The Renew Crew on December 7, 2021

(Source: Great Lakes Children's Museum Volunteer Spotlight December Newsletter)

GVSU Renew Crew

The ‘Renew Crew’ – a team of aspiring PAs from Physician Assistant Studies program. Every year, a crew from GVSU visits the Museum several times per year. This was the last visit from the 2021 crew and we closed the museum down for an afternoon of much-needed painting.

The Renew Crew helped revitalize the Freighter, Garden, Chicken Coop, Helicopter, Puppet Theater, Water Cycle, and several other odds and ends around the museum. Where once we had chipped corners and mismatched patches, now we have clean lines and bright colors. This crew is amazing!

Volunteers are critical to the mission of the Great Lakes Children’s Museum. We depend on volunteer help to go above and beyond offering a ‘decent’ facility and experience to our Museum guests. The work volunteers put into our building and exhibits doesn’t just make the place look nice – it adds care, ownership, and a sense of place. A professional painter can apply beautiful textures and clean lines, but only a volunteer can add love to a place with every paint stroke. So if you’re ever in the Museum and you see a paint drip, a mismatched color, or a brush mistake I hope it makes you smile and remember the love and care behind it. Thank you to ALL of our volunteers – we couldn’t do it without you, and we wouldn’t want to anyway.



Permanent link for Servant Leader and Devoted GVSU Laker Making an Impactful Difference on December 1, 2021

Learn more about GVSU in Traverse City

Since 1999, Lisa Migazzi has been a devoted GVSU Laker. Her educational, career, and life journey for the last 22 years have steered her towards a life of service and making a difference in the educational system for upcoming generations. 

Lisa first received her Bachelor of Science in Health Communications in 2003 from Grand Valley University, main campus. After graduating, Lisa worked in medical staffing sales for 6 months as a rehabilitation recruiter for a comprehensive medical staffing company.  However, her strong desire to serve brought her to change course and enlist in the United States Coast Guard (U.S.C.G.) shortly thereafter.

Lisa’s enlistment in the U.S.C.G. was 8 years of service, but it was in her 5th week of basic training that she had her educational epiphany.  She had received a package of letters from a 3rd grade classroom in her hometown of St. Johns, MI. Reading these letters of encouragement and positivity, brought tears to her eyes and when her Company Commander noticed and demanded to know if she was a teacher, she quickly responded with, “No sir. Not yet, sir.” 

During her time in the Coast Guard, Lisa received specialized training as an engineer on the CGC Mackinaw, a boarding team member at CG Station Curtis Bay, a health service technician, EMT, and pharmacy technician at USCG Air Station Traverse City. She loved serving her country but her favorite part of her job was always educating and helping others; especially during training schools. Lisa graduated the top of her class during her A-School and C-School training, but it was the tutoring groups she led on the Coast Guard and Air Force bases that solidified her true calling.

After completing her 4 years on active duty, Lisa returned to her alma mater and completed the Graduate Teacher Certification Program in the spring of 2010.  Her educational career officially began at Glen Lake Community Schools in young fives as a long-term guest teacher. Afterwards, Grand Traverse Academy hired Lisa as a kindergarten teacher. In 2012, Lisa returned to Glen Lake and served the next 9 years teaching third, fourth, and sixth grade. 

During the last three years, from 2018-2021, Lisa simultaneously worked as an elementary teacher while she worked towards her Educational Leadership degree from GVSU Traverse City Regional Center.

When researching university options for an Educational Leadership Program, Lisa came across many, but decided to go back to GVSU through the Regional Center in Traverse City. Lisa shared, “I chose GVSU Traverse City Regional Center because it was more than a program- it was an experience with a wealth of expertise and knowledge. The professors I had were some of my biggest cheerleaders and those professional relationships were genuine and extended way beyond the classroom. One of my professors called not long ago to check-in to see how things were going in my new role at Greenspire High School. It’s the relationships made that really make the educational experience at GVSU Traverse City.”

Grand Valley State University Traverse City Programs

Permanent link for Smaller Interactive Classes Made The Difference For My Health Care Education on August 23, 2021

Taylor Bills recently completed her Bachelors of Allied Health Science at GVSU Traverse City Regional Center and is now pursuing her Masters of Physician’s Assistant Studies through GVSU Traverse City Regional Center.

From the beginning, Taylor had always been the nurturing type and drawn to medicine. She stated, “even in high school I knew I wanted to go into the medical field- I enjoyed taking care of people so much. I have a passion for children and there are so many options in the medical field to work with them.” This propelled the direction for her academic career.  

While in high school at Traverse City Central, she took the opportunity to dual enroll her senior year at Northwestern Michigan College to gain college credits and graduated high school in 2016.

She was accepted to Michigan State University but decided to defer and stay in Traverse City for another year so she could use her dual enrollment credits to complete her associate degree at NMC by the Spring of 2017.

In the Fall of 2017, Taylor went to MSU for pre-med with a focus on becoming a physician. Taylor stated, “the teaching environment was very different from what I was used to at NMC. The class sizes were much larger, and I wasn’t able to form relationships with the students or professors. NMC provided me with a more personal, hands-on, and interactive approach that I missed and wanted.”

With much thought, Taylor realized that if this is what her undergraduate and graduate schooling was going to be like moving forward, she would rather shift her medical focus in hopes to fast track her education. Instead of pursuing a doctorate degree, she thought about nursing or other medical field options that required less school time.

While studying at MSU, a pop-up for Grand Valley’s Traverse City Regional Center appeared on her laptop screen. As if it was fate, she explored the site and found the Allied Health Science Bachelor's Degree which directly prepared students for the Masters of Physicians Assistant program offered at GVSU; all located in her hometown of Traverse City.

During Taylor’s winter break of 2017 she met with Advisor, Jackie Abeyta, and was walked through all the current credits she had obtained and how she could remain on course for pre-med through GVSU’s programs.

After one semester at MSU, Taylor moved back to Traverse City to begin the GVSU Allied Health Sciences program offered through the NMC University Center. Taylor said, “I am still amazed at how well the Allied Health Science courses prepared me for PA school”.

Taylor was a graduate of the 2020 class. Although she wasn’t able to have an in-person ceremony to celebrate the earning of her bachelor’s degree, it didn’t stop her from moving towards her end goal of being accepted in the Master of Physicians Assistant program.

Knowing that there was a large possibility of not being accepted in her first cycle of applications, Taylor applied for the GVSU PA program as well as programs at Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, and Detroit Mercy in an attempt to increase her chances of getting into a PA program right away.

Although Taylor applied to other PA programs across the state, her first choice was GVSU’s Physician Assistant Studies Program at the Traverse City Regional Center. Since she had already experienced what higher education at major universities was like, she knew that the small, 12-person design of the TC extension was the optimal for her. She applied in September of 2019 and was invited for an interview in November of 2019.

Delighted, Taylor described the process, “During my application season, 99 or so people applied with only 24 spots available for interviews and then only 12 people were given the opportunity to be accepted into the program”. After being placed on the waitlist, she was accepted to the GVSU PAS Program in January of 2020. Taylor was overjoyed to be selected in her first round and at her dream school.

As Taylor thought back to her journey she recalled, “the length of time required to become an independently partitioning physician, seven to eleven years, made me feel like I couldn’t plan for the family, travel, and personal life that I yearned for. The two- and half-year PA program felt like a perfect balance of education, work, and personal life. As a Physician Assistant I can still provide complete care to my own patients, but also have extra perks such as decreased liability, increased opportunities for interprofessional collaboration, and complete lateral mobility in the medical field. As my knowledge and interests in medicine grow and change, I am able to change specialties at any time without having to go back to school.” 

Taylors advice to anyone pursuing the Physician Assistant program at GVSU’s Traverse City Regional Center; network with people in Traverse City! Network for letters of recommendation, shadowing medical careers, and simply talk with fellow locals about your dreams- You never know where a connection may be. It was the difference that got me accepted in my first round when I applied for the PA program. They are looking for people that want to stay in touch with this community and give back.”

Taylor would like to thank her parents, fiancé, and fellow classmates for supporting her along her journey. 

Get connected with GVSU’s advisors to walk through your options and learn how you can have a balanced life while making an impact in your community.

Page last modified July 22, 2022