Blog - Category: Career

How Michigan colleges and Google are Reinventing Classroom Learning

When Alma College Professor Anthony Collamati sat down with all the students in his winter semester Media Theory and Culture class for the first time, the course was almost over.

You read that right.

Collamati was part of a revolutionary pilot program led by the Michigan Colleges Alliance that allowed students at Alma, Albion and Calvin colleges to take courses at member campuses using video conferencing technology from Google and interactive 55-inch “jamboards” to communicate.

That means Collamati had seven students in a classroom at Alma, six Albion undergraduates dialed in from their campus and three from Calvin attending from Grand Rapids.

The collaboration between the Michigan Colleges Alliance — a group of 14 of Michigan’s best private colleges and universities working together to provide opportunities for students in and outside of the classrooms — Google, which donated technology, and Steelcase, which outfitted learning environments for optimal communication, is the first-of-its-kind nationally.

The idea behind the interactive multi-campus class sharing is to maximize limited resources and provide students wider learning opportunities, said Michigan Colleges Alliance President Dr. Bob Bartlett.

“Nothing like this is happening in the country other than right here,” Bartlett said recently to students and instructors involved in the pilot. “It’s cutting edge. You’re a part of something brand new and it’s happening right here in Michigan and with Michigan Colleges Alliance.”

“We’re on to something that is going to have a national scope. I think that’s pretty exciting.”

Students agreed with Bartlett’s assessment.

Nichole Brown, an Albion junior studying math, was part of Collamati’s class. She registered for the section specifically to experience and learn the technology. Brown said any initial skepticism ended with the interactive nature and excitement of being part of something new.

“This is opening up opportunity for students to take classes we’ve never had access to and to be a part of something that’s never been done,” Nichole said. “Technology has such a wide range of applications in other fields that learning it now will benefit me later.”

The pilot was structured around three classes that are unique to the school or typically have lower student registrations. Bartlett said the courses, “Earth, Art and the Environment” offered through Albion, “Visual Sociology” through Calvin, and Collamati’s, were chosen to highlight that the program could tackle demanding topics.

Collamati described building a close connection to and between the students despite the distance between the campuses. He and the students had to lean-in and engage each other, developing seminar-style robust discussions. Each class session felt like an event, Collamati said.

“It supports the type of personalized teaching that we value and know is most valuable,” Collamati said.

Collamati reflected on the recent lunch at which he physically met two-thirds of his students, saying it didn’t feel like their first encounter.

“I knew their personalities just like I would if they had been sitting in front of me the entire semester,” he said.

The colleges are studying how to improve the experience while planning to expand the partnership in Fall 2018 to include seven classes. Roman Williams, a Calvin College sociology professor who taught one of the three pilot classes, said the evaluation will help all parties understand the program’s strengths and how it can develop.

“We have a hunch that there are two entirely different experiences when you’re in class and when you’re video-conferenced in,” he said. “What are those differences?  How did the student react and how did the professor adapt? I know, for me, the technology forced me to reinvent some of the ways I taught and I think it challenged everyone for the better.”

The second edition of the collaboration will focus on more traditional math and science courses to explore how the technology works in those arenas.

Bartlett praised the institutions for being innovative.

“Our presidents are really visionary and wanted to create something different, something exciting for students,” he said. “I’m amazed at the degree of collaboration that I’ve seen in this process. The way work gets done now is what our students are experiencing in the classroom. Everyone is working together to lay the tracks for our future.”


Michigan Colleges Alliance takes Second in Stryker Engineering Challenge.

Michigan Colleges Alliance (MCA) and its team of four engineering students finished second out of seven teams in the most recent Stryker Engineering Challenge. MCA competed against six teams from University of Notre Dame, Michigan Tech University, Western Michigan University, Miami University of Ohio, and Purdue University. Michigan Colleges Alliances beat out everyone, except for Michigan Tech University, who took first place in the competition.

Their team was a collective team of engineering students from two of their 14 schools, Andrews University and Calvin College. Levi Vande Kamp from Calvin College and Eric Anderson, Darrick Horton, and Justin Wiley from Andrews University made up the MCA team.

Gunnar Lovhoiden, a professor of engineering at Andrews University, supported the MCA team at the competition.

“I think our team worked really well together. Their design worked well and they represented MCA with honor. Second place—how about that,” says Lovhoiden.

This is the 8th year of the Stryker Engineering Challenge. The competition this year was held on March 22nd and 23rd.

 Left to right: Darrick Horton (Andrews), Eric Anderson (Andrews), Justin Wiley (Andrews), Levi Vande Kamp (Calvin). (Photo by Gunnar Lovhoiden, professor of engineering)

Michigan independents fastest way to four-year degree for community college students


Congratulations. You have an associate degree. All that hard work has paid off.

Now what?

If you’re like many, you’re ready for more after community college. After all, a four-year degree is the best ticket to prosperity, with pay averaging $400 per week more than those with two-year degrees, according to federal statistics. Within 10 years, the gap is closer to $25,000 per year.

And Michigan’s 14 independent colleges and universities are the fastest way to a four-year degree. That’s because they make it easier to transfer and most of their students actually graduate in four years rather than five or more at big state schools.

“Students often think transferring from community college is far more difficult than it really is,” one admissions officer said. “It’s even easier at Michigan independent colleges and universities.”

Time was, transferring was difficult, in large part because credits wouldn’t transfer, wasting time and money. Not anymore.

Not only do Michigan independent colleges and universities have admissions staffers specially trained to work with community college transfer students, recent state law has taken the guesswork — and subjectivity — out of the process.

The state Legislature passed laws in 2012 to make more community college core classes transferrable at four-year institutions statewide, a system known as the Michigan Transfer Agreement.

Transfer students to Michigan independents hit the ground running. On average, the percentage of students who graduate from independents in four years is nearly double that of public institutions, not only saving them a year of tuition but giving them an extra year of earnings in their careers.

And speaking of cost, the independents are among the most affordable in the Midwest. That’s because more than 93 percent of students receive financial aid, lowering advertised tuition and bringing actual costs on par with many public universities.

That means our education is not only priceless. It’s affordable too — one of many differences with traditional universities.

Unlike big state schools, class sizes are small and taught by incredible faculty who help students forge their own path. They have a deep and committed network of alumni who help after graduation. It’s an experience that simply isn’t available at traditional universities.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Michigan Independent Colleges Make it Easy to Transfer from Community Colleges


Community colleges are hot. Nationwide, some 7.3 million students attend them and, all told, they comprise nearly half of all undergraduates in the United States, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.

Too often, though, they’re a final destination instead of a starting point. That’s in part due to misperceptions that credits are difficult to transfer to four-year colleges to obtain a bachelor degree.

Like a lot of stereotypes, it’s far from the truth, especially at Michigan’s top 14 colleges and independents.

Some of the best schools in Michigan, the independents are also some of the most welcoming to community college students, with specially trained admissions counselors who make what can be an intimidating transition a smooth one.

The difference between an associate and bachelor is huge. Start with pay: It’s $400 per week higher, on average, for those with bachelor degrees, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And that’s just on average. The gap grows wider as careers progress. Within 10 years, the difference between an associate and bachelor pay grows to $25,000 per year on average.

And the Michigan independent colleges make it easier than ever to transfer. With that in mind, here are a few tips to consider.

  1. Plan ahead. Know which courses transfer for full credit. Check guides such as the ones operated by the Michigan Transfer Network or the Michigan Department of Education.
  2. Call ahead. Hook up with a counselor at one of the Michigan Colleges Alliance member colleges and universities.  If you are early in your community college career, they can offer advice on classes to take, which to avoid and how to ease transfers.
  3. Get ahead. Meet regularly with advisers, keep them informed of transfer plans and make sure they are in touch their counterparts at transfer institutions. They get paid whether you use them or not. Use them.

No doubt. Transferring is a big endeavor. But it’s well worth it and will change your life for the better.

That’s because Michigan’s top 14 independent colleges are national leaders in education that help students chart a path to rewarding careers.

With low class sizes and award-winning faculty, the schools are proud that students forge lifelong bonds with professors.

Often comparable in price to public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Marygrove College Offers New Program to Improve Police Relations


These are tense times. Snipers are killing police. Unarmed motorists are dying at the hands of police. Common ground between law enforcement and African Americans can seem elusive.

The answer, as it always does, begins with education. And as they always have, Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities are stepping forward to lead the dialogue toward solutions.

This week, Marygrove College announced a new online bachelor of arts in criminal justice degree. What makes it unique is its approach.

Rather than focusing on punishment, it emphasizes what’s known as restorative justice, an approach that focuses on the needs of both victims and offenders and how crime affects community.

“In this time of crisis, where there is distrust between law enforcement and the community,” Marygrove College Provost Sally Welch recently told Hometown Life, “our institution is prepared to help bring about peace and reconciliation through its online bachelor of arts degree in criminal justice based on Restorative Justice principles.”

The program is aimed at working criminal justice professions and accepting applications for fall semester that starts Sept. 6.

The program’s intent is broader than simply preparing students for careers. It does that spectacularly. But its goal is to also change the mindset that perpetuates distrust between police and communities, taking a holistic approach to crime rather than simply locking people up.

Victim-centered, restorative justice gives victims and offenders the opportunity to take steps to repair harm to communities. Because crime isn’t simply an attack on individuals. It’s an affront to communities.

And community is at the core of Marygrove College and the other Michigan independents. Their mission is to lift all boats, preparing students for awesome careers and preparing them to help the world at large.

Community infuses everything about the independents. Unlike big schools, class sizes are small and taught by incredibly faculty who help students forge their own path.

Students form lifelong bonds with professors, as well as an impassioned, caring network of alumni who help after graduation.

And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates that big state schools.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Unique Hope College Program Helps Bring Great Ideas to Life


You never know what will spark your inspiration.

For Isaac Newton, it was an apple falling on his head. For physical therapist Joseph Ross, it was struggling to put a wheelchair into a car trunk and thinking, “wow, this is heavy.”

But inspiration is one thing and innovation is another. And Ross, who works at Spectrum Health Center, knew just where to turn to lighten the load.

After experimenting by using a crutch as a lever, Ross took his germ of an idea to Hope College’s Center for Faithful Leadership, an innovative program that pairs students with experts to bring awesome ideas to fruition.

A unique mentoring program, the center believes that college is as much about solving real-world problems as theoretical principles. It complements the classroom, pairs freshmen and sophomores with experts and stresses that productivity is integral to happiness.

In short, the program is about going to work.

So that’s what four Hope College students did with Ross, the therapist with a fuzzy idea.

The result is LoadMate, which looks like a pitchfork but makes heavy lifting a breeze

“I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed working on this project,” Brenden Merriman, a biomedical engineering major who worked on the project.

“Spectrum Health was always extremely helpful whenever we ran into a question we couldn’t answer, and I think it’s a great program they have set up with Hope College students.”

The idea seems simple. But the real world applications could be huge. Ross wanted to develop the product to give freedom of movement back to some of his clients, who think twice about travel because of the prospect of lugging around a wheelchair.

“An elderly gentleman was able to load his wife’s wheelchair into the back of his car with one hand while holding his cane in the other,” Merriman said. “Seeing his excitement at being able to so easily do this simple task again for the first time in years was really touching.”

The product isn’t ready yet for market. But it won a $1,000 prize this year at MWest Challenge 2016, West Michigan’s regional business plan competition.

And it’s a great example of the unique spirit at Hope College and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities. They’re proudly different, committed to human betterment and all about fostering lifelong bonds between their award-winning faculty and students.

All emphasize community over crowds and an ethos of cohesion that just doesn’t exist at big state schools.

Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Calvin Nursing Camp Strengthens Community Bonds


They sat in a circle, these girls from inner-city Grand Rapids, laid their hands on their neighbor and listened for a pulse.

So began an innovative, soul-searching week at Calvin College last month, which brought in 50 girls from three neighborhoods to learn about their health, God and themselves.

They were there for HEALTH Camp — Health, Education and Leadership Training for a Hopeful future. The first-of-its kind day camp at Calvin is an outgrowth of an eight-year outreach between Calvin’s nursing department and three Grand Rapids neighborhoods.

The girls learned some basic nursing skills, assisted at Calvin’s Health Service department and were taught by faculty and others about reproductive health, exercise, nutrition, chronic disease and more.

“These girls are the future of these neighborhoods, and it’s empowering for them to understand how their bodies work and how to keep themselves healthy,” said Elise Veurink, a Calvin senior and nursing student.

The camp was an effort of 10 Calvin departments. One main goal is to prevent unintended pregnancies. Another is self-respect. Long-range plans call for the idea to spread, empowering girls in other communities to respect their bodies and themselves.

“We want (this) to grow, even beyond our Grand Rapids neighborhoods, to continue to make an impact,” said Adejoke Ayoola, a nursing professor who launched the program.

“We hope the camp brought an increase in knowledge to the girls, but we also hope for change in behavior down the road, that they would actually adopt a culture of health.”

Community. It’s what sets apart Calvin College and Michigan’s other top 15 private colleges and universities.

They’re not merely in towns and cities. They are an integral part of their fabric, reaching beyond campus walls and greens to improve the lives of those around them.

It’s one of many differences with traditional universities.

Unlike big state schools, class sizes are small and taught by incredible faculty who help students forge their own path.

They have a deep and committed network of alumni who help after graduation. It’s an experience that simply isn’t available at traditional universities.

And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates than four-year institutions.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Adrian College Daycare Doubles as Learning Lab


Doing good for students. Doing good for the community.

It’s a way of life so ingrained at Adrian College and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges that it’s practically second nature.

So it shouldn’t have been a surprise this month when Adrian announced the creation of the Baby Bulldog Center, a daycare designed to help both working parents in the Michigan community and education majors at the college.

The center on the first floor of Valade Hall is full-fledged daycare, accommodating up to 12 children from birth to 3 years old. But it’s also a lab for Adrian College students pursuing early childhood education certificates.

“As schools are increasingly under pressure to do more with less, they will look for teachers who have credentials, such as the early childhood endorsement, beyond the basic certification,” Andrea Milner, Adrian’s director of the Institute for Education, told the Adrian Daily Telegram.

“We want to provide all our students — babies and undergraduates — the best start we can.”
Rather than seek jobs outside the college, students will work in the daycare alongside licensed childcare professionals. That will help them meet the 60 hours of internship required for an early childhood education certificate.

And it will help ease a childcare crunch in Lenawee County, where an estimated three quarters of youths under 5 have two working parents.

It’s Adrian College’s second venture into childcare. Its first, a collaboration with Little Maples Preschool for toddlers, was so popular it had to open a second location in 2014.

“We’re glad we can address that need while helping our students become the best teachers they can be,” Agnes Caldwell, Adrian dean for academic affairs, told the Daily Telegram.

A daycare might not be the first thing that comes to mind when considering colleges. But it’s the sort of detail and dedication to both students and surrounding communities that make Adrian and other Michigan independent colleges unique and truly special.

National leaders in education, the schools recognize that college is about both preparing students for careers — and experience.

All emphasize community over crowds and a spirit of togetherness and cohesion that just doesn’t exist at big state schools.

With low class sizes and award-winning faculty, the schools are proud that students forge lifelong bonds with professors.

Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Kalamazoo College Professor a Pulitzer Prize Finalist


Take a glimpse of Diane Seuss’ biography, and it’s no wonder she’s a favorite at Kalamazoo College.

The poetry professor describes herself as the spawn of “old school barbers, small town musicians, telephone operators and … one-eyed pool players.”

Her best advice? Learn to cook, be alone, fix a toilet with a paper clip and write poetry because “you may be living in an abandoned potato chip delivery van somewhere in South Dakota without a friend in the world, and maybe even your dog ran away, but you’ll always have the sestina.”

Now, her unique talent and vision is receiving international acclaim, being named one of two finalists this week for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

It’s a huge honor for Seuss, since the Pulitzer is the something of the equivalent of the Oscars or Grammys for the written word. It’s the latest in a series of awards for Seuss, who has taught at Kalamazoo since 1988 and is its writer in residence.

The Pulitzer committee praised her book, “Four-Legged Girl” as “a richly improvisational poetry collection that leads readers through a gallery of incisive and beguiling portraits and landscapes.”

At Kalamazoo, students praise Seuss as a muse, calling her classes a freewheeling experience that opens them to new possibilities and ways of thinking about the world.

Her secret? Seuss is passionate about what she does and her love is contagious.

“For me, life is writing,” Seuss said in 2010, at the Fetzer Writer’s Retreat.

Seuss is also something of a rarity in academia: A world-renowned expert who still teaches introduction-level classes as well as advanced ones. At most bigger schools, 100-level classes often are handled by graduate students.

That’s not the case at Kalamazoo and Michigan’s top 15 private colleges and universities.

Professors take pride in working closely with students. Class sizes are far smaller than average. That allows professors to forge lifetime bonds with students and help them forge their own paths, buck conventional wisdom and find a new way.

It’s an experience that simply isn’t available at traditional universities. And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates than four-year institutions.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Michigan Private Colleges Rank High in Social Mobility


Study after study has shown that college not only transforms minds, but it lives as well as wallets.

College graduates make 25 percent more per week than the national average, and unemployment rates are significantly lower the more education is attained, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In short, college is “a ticket to the middle class,” according to Bridge Magazine.

But getting admitted to one and finishing are two different things, and it’s no secret that some colleges do far better jobs of helping low-income students graduate and get jobs.

The online magazine analyzed federal data to rank colleges on how they promote social mobility — offering tuition breaks, mentors and other aid for low-income students, as well as how long it took them to narrow the income gap with rich students after graduation.

The results? Michigan’s small, private colleges ranked the near the top.

Adrian College was the top-ranked private college in the state, enrolling the seventh-highest percentage of low-income students and graduating nearly 60 percent of them.

Madonna University was not far behind, offering low tuition for low-income students (less than $9,000) and helping them make similar salaries with high-income students 10 years after enrollment.

Olivet College and Spring Arbor University were near the tops in enrolling poor students, while Alma College, Hope College and Calvin College ranked in the top six in graduation rates.

Kalamazoo College, inexplicably, was left out of Bridge’s analysis altogether. But using its metrics, would have scored in the top 10 for graduation rates and average earnings.

The rankings reflect a deep commitment by Michigan’s top 15 private colleges and universities to improving the lives of all students and offering a path to improve lives.

Contrary to popular belief, tuition is on par with many public universities. That’s because students receive far more financial aid. At most of our schools, more than 93 percent receive aid, bringing the cost of a world-class education within reach.

Students at Michigan’s independents typically graduate in four years, rather than five or six at public schools. That means they are earning a salary while their peers at big state universities are wracking up more student debt.

That also means they have a two-year head start on their careers, which is yet another way Michigan independents help students forge their own path.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.