Press release: GRCC graduate overcomes obstacles, transfers to Michigan State University


Kathy Mullins

Executive Deputy to the President and Board Liaison


April 30, 2013, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A 2013 Grand Rapids Community College graduate was able to keep up with her love of music while exploring careers.

When Jennifer Rotach graduated from Coopersville High School in 2011, she knew that she wanted to keep playing her clarinet, but she wasn’t sure that could be her career. She enrolled at GRCC with the goals of getting good grades and figuring out if music was her path. “It was close to home, which was important to me,” said Ms. Rotach.

There is no doubt that she accomplished her first goal. Ms. Rotach dedicated herself to her coursework, made the Dean’s List and became a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society. She was principal clarinetist in GRCC’s Wind Ensemble for three semesters and was a guest performer in the United States Air Force Band of Flight 2012 Grand Rapids performance. 

Despite finding success as a musician, Ms. Rotach encountered some obstacles.

“At the end of my first year, I auditioned at MSU for their music program,” she said. “I was so stressed out that I lost nearly all mobility in my hands. I was able to gain some of it back over the next few months, but I will never have complete mobility in them ever again. This meant that music could never be my career.”

While that realization would have stopped many in their tracks, she used it as an opportunity to find a new calling: psychology. She has been accepted at Michigan State University, in the College of Social Science, where she plans to study psychology. But first, she will be receiving an associate degree from GRCC at commencement on May 3.

“Over this current semester and the upcoming summer semester, I have been working to finish all of my general education requirements for MSU before I transfer as a psychology major,” Ms. Rotach said. "It wasn’t until I met with an adviser in February that I found out that I was only one class away from getting my degree!

GRCC Band Director Mike GIllan said of Jennifer, “She has been one of the most dedicated students I’ve had the pleasure to work with. I know she’ll do well at MSU and in her chosen field.”

Ms. Rotach is looking forward to joining the MSU campus band and is considering study abroad programs, graduate schools and MSU research teams related to abnormal psychology.

“I plan to either start my own practice or teach abnormal psychology at a college level,” she said.

“Thanks to Grand Rapids Community College, I have had the opportunity to find out what my true calling is. And now I can transfer to MSU. But if there’s anything that I’ve learned, it’s that you can’t be sure of anything. That doesn’t stop me from making goals and planning out a future, knowing full well that those plans will change and those changes will put me on the path of a new adventure.”

Grand Rapids Community College, established in 1914, offers opportunities for more than 30,000 students annually in degree courses, certification and training programs, workshops and personal enrichment classes. GRCC holds classes on the downtown Grand Rapids campus as well as several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.