GRCC honors three with Excellence in Education awards



Leah Nixon

Director of Communications

(616) 234-4213

Aug. 30, 2016 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids Community College honored three employees for the meaningful connections they make with students.

The Excellence in Education Awards were established in 1989 to honor GRCC employees — all of whom are nominated by their peers — for their contributions to the college, higher education and the community. Mike Klawitter, a reference librarian and archivist, received the faculty award. Laura DeVries, a support professional with the English department, was given the staff award, and the music department's Yelena Wells received the adjunct award.

Klawitter teaches many information literacy sessions each semester and is an often-requested librarian by faculty, who praise the caring way that he works with students. 

"He is able to transform seemingly intangible concepts into relatable stories for his students," said President Dr. Steven C. Ender. "He is always willing to explore new ways to present information."

Klawitter also played key roles in the college's recent 100th anniversary celebration. He provided images and research for banners, a timeline, various events and a commemorative book. 

DeVries' colleagues say she fosters a sense of unity and teamwork in GRCC's largest department, which has 110 instructors, 85 of whom are adjuncts, and offices on three floors spread over two buildings.

"Laura is the 'beating heart' of the department," Ender said. "She is often the first person a frustrated or anxious student sees when they come in the door. She helps them collect themselves, makes calls for them on scheduling conflicts, makes appointments with them to meet with professors, and directs them to the places where they can get help."

Wells went through special training in order to serve as the Wyoming Middle College program's first music instructor, an assignment she took on in addition to her course load through the music department.

"As a former GRCC student herself, Dr. Wells brings a unique perspective to her classroom," Ender said. "Her students know that she will advocate for them, give them honest feedback and help them find the right resources when needed."

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for more than 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.