Salute to Women honors four women within the college's community for personal and professional excellence and for serving as role models and mentors to other women. This is awarded annually during March, Women's History Month.
Call for Nominations
Celebrate a GRCC woman! Have someone you admire join the women who have been honored through Salute to Women since 1999. Recognition of the award recipients is part of Women’s History Month and is celebrated through a formal reception on March 28, 2017. The nomination form link can be found to your right.
2016 Salute to Women Recipients
Mary Brown, GRCC Former Employee
Consultant, Inclusion and Diversity, Spectrum Health
A Woman of Reflection and Concern
Mary Brown had the very best kind of “indulgent parents." Curiosity, individual interests and questions were all explored and valued. “There were never any gender boundaries or restrictions,” Mary remembers, “For instance, we could not afford the monthly payments on a full set of encyclopedias, available those days from door to door salesmen, but my parents made sure we had large volumes of general knowledge books. I even had a chemistry set and could experiment in the kitchen.”
Currently at work on her Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership through Pepperdine University, Mary credits her childhood culture with aiding her interest in learning and development. “My father once suggested I follow an ant that he identified for me as I likely had asked one too many questions about the project he was working on. I did, as told, finding the whole ant community and system fascinating.” That early fascination with how things worked the way they did and an innate desire to address disparity and inclusion may have led to her current career track.
“I am interested in complexity thinking, an approach that sees organizations as evolving systems, with occasional chaos that suggests no simple solutions or chronological patterns. In my current work with Spectrum Health, I hope to help in diagnosing need and designing appropriate outreach in response,” Mary explains.
Mary also currently teaches as an adjunct with the Psychology and Business Departments of GRCC, finds robotics compelling, while enjoying membership in the World Future Society, the Interaction Design Foundation and the International Institute of Business Analysis.
Patti Trepkowski, GRCC Employee
Associate Provost, Dean of Instructional Support
A Woman of Dedication and Determination
Patti Trepkowski has always been concerned with development and learning, from her days in teaching and directing within the GRCC Child Development Program to her current job responsibilities. “It seems a simple system, but the course of development is often challenging and difficult. It requires learning and change, which always involves some risk, some loss and perhaps some regret," she recently wrote.
Patti’s approach to her upcoming retirement is much the same. She cites no regrets and looks forward to finding out what is next, what possibilities may emerge, but knows that she will miss working with the people and problems associated with the administration of a large organization, while seeking to solve them in the company of concerned colleagues.
Patti describes a warm, nurturing childhood with her mother teaching her how to listen, how to allow a thought to travel its own often circuitous path on the way to understanding. Her father, she says, always had an interest in the interaction of mind/body connections, while modeling integrity and committed responsibility. “My family is a very nonjudgmental group; we were always encouraged to have our own voice, our own opinion. I am basically an optimistic, positive person.”
Patti’s own developmental path through GRCC has echoed her interest in stages, patterns and systems of change, leading her into new and challenging positions since joining the College in 1978. From observing childhood maturity and growth, to encouraging and supporting faculty development, Patti’s concerns have truly crossed the College spectrum, offering unique opportunity in community and connections.
Nikki Banks, GRCC Alumna
Associate Professor, Department Head, Criminal Justice
A Woman of Resolution and Vitality
Nikki Banks recalls her mother’s oft repeated refrain, spoken throughout her childhood, “’If you had more education, you wouldn’t have a problem.' Seriously, she could use that statement to apply to any occasion; it didn’t have to remotely relate to the situation!” Nikki recalls the underlying tenet, the need to “get on with it,” move forward to more important matters. Between her mother and the collection of women, she refers to as the Hens; Nikki felt relentless support and witnessed honest, authentic lives. “They did not display any judgment of others, ignoring status or title, simply offering friendship and reinforcement when needed.”
This integration of resilience and character formed the core of Nikki’s educational and work journey. She admits her first years at GRCC were about joining everything, playing tennis on scholarship and struggling with direction. She says the move from a business major to criminal justice was energizing. “This major aligned so well with our service oriented family core. We were to be change agents and positively impact our community.”
After completion of both a Bachelor of Criminal Justice and Master of Social Work from GVSU, Nikki worked as a therapist with Arbor Circle, moving to the 17th Circuit Court first as a Probation Officer and then as part of a crisis intervention program before accepting a position at GRCC in 2006. “It was very difficult to leave each position, yet each time I felt I was positioning myself to reach and impact a greater population. Now, because I understand the systems involved, I can impart that experience to students here at CC and consequently connect them with the reality of the criminal justice system and their potential role in it.”
Sarah VanSolkema, GRCC Student
Associate of Arts
A Woman of Resilience and Insight
For many, enrolling in GRCC is a significant turning point in life. Sarah Van Solkema would say that, adding that GRCC has now become her family, offering the safety and encouragement that families do. “I have had so much sadness and personal loss. My early childhood was emotionally violent and wasn’t nurturing. That lack of security led to many self destructive behaviors that continued for decades. GRCC offered the first opportunity to surround myself with positive people who added to my understanding of my own potential. I am continually amazed at the supportive culture on campus. I take so much from each class. I feel recognized and I no longer want to hide.”
This renewed sense of worth led Sarah to seek ways to be involved in campus life. She joined StandOUT, a GRCC student group described as “A passionate & active group that promotes equality for our fellow Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Ally peers." Sarah is currently president of the club and says, “It is a great opportunity for me to reach out to other students from diverse backgrounds with diverse needs. I see myself as a transgendered female. I am in a transitional phase of my life and feel my experiences can help others. Through StandOUT we want to remove obstructions and provide a safe learning environment that many students have yet to know.”
Graduating in May, Sarah will transfer to GVSU to pursue a social work degree. While she says she is sad to be leaving, she recognizes how meaningful the experiences have been and how she will take them with for her own and others benefit.