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. Nominate a woman you want to salute and celebrate.
2018 Salute to Women Recipients
A woman of service and advocacy
It comes as little surprise that Karen Walker, Director of GRCC’s Occupational Therapy Assistant Program, made service to others an instrumental part of her life. "It’s just who I am," she says. "It’s what I have always done." From volunteering at a crisis hotline to working with children with disabilities, Karen has dedicated her energy to the well-being of others, a philosophy she says she got from her parents. "They were always very nurturing and supportive; they taught me that helping others succeed should be the goal."
This sense of service paved the way for a distinguished career at GRCC. Arriving on campus in 1986, Karen first served as a classroom faculty member and, in 2000, was appointed to the position of program director. Karen says her thirty-two year career has been an opportunity to advocate for others. As a mentor, her goal is to give her staff the tools and resources they need to be successful. "It’s about creating opportunities for them to be who they want to be and do what they want to do," she says.
One of Karen’s enduring contributions to the program is her development of community partnerships for student training. Partnering with organizations such as Pine Rest, St. Mary’s Hospital, and Spectrum Health gives students the chance to develop hands-on skills and knowledge that are vital to career success. "Students have the chance to grow individually and incrementally," she says. "That way, they are prepared for the challenges that await them."
When asked about her impending retirement, Karen speaks glowingly of her colleagues. "There are amazing people here who can carry the torch," she says. However, this does not mean she plans on slowing down. In addition to spending time with family, Karen hopes to continue working as a therapist; a return to the classroom is a possibility, too. Given her lasting impact on the college, GRCC should be so lucky!
A woman of Leadership and Focus
When Morgan Brown graduated from high school, she had the goal of one day becoming a music teacher. It wasn’t until she took Professor Kimberly Overdevest’s History of Photography course that she decided to pursue professional photography instead. "I just loved how she taught," Morgan says. "She included every student in the learning process."
What was once a budding interest for Morgan is today an achievable goal. That’s the kind of impact GRCC has had on her since she first arrived on campus in the fall of 2015. For Morgan, GRCC is a place where dreams become a reality. “GRCC helped me find out what I wanted to do and how I can do it,” she says.
Morgan’s contributions to GRCC are as unique as they are influential. She currently serves as the photographer for GRCC athletics, using her talents to promote the college throughout West Michigan. As the chapter president of the honors society Phi Theta Kappa, Morgan coordinated the group’s participation in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and the Mental Health and Wellness Awareness Fair. She also collaborated with the GRCC Foundation to establish a scholarship for students who cannot afford membership fees. Finally, Morgan increased fundraising for the chapter by 600% and plans on running for the office of International President this April. “The opportunity to develop my own leadership skills is great, but using them to help others is even better,” she says. “My involvement with PTK just might be the most rewarding of my life.”
After Morgan finishes her Associate of Fine Arts degree—her second degree at GRCC—she plans to open her own photography studio. Not surprisingly, she sees a direct connection between her time at the college and the realization of this goal. “Being able to get involved on different levels on campus has given me a chance to gain insight into what I plan to do with the rest of my life.”
A woman of Compassion and Courage
“Make It Count!” That’s the motto that shaped Peggy Gorno’s eighteen-year career at GRCC. “Whether you’re working one-on-one with a student or developing a strategic plan, it’s important to be passionate about what you do every single day,” she says.
Peggy’s contributions to GRCC certainly counted. The positions she held include Assistant Director of Financial Aid, Campus Information System Coordinator, IT Manager of Academic Applications, and Director of the Enrollment Center. Regardless of the specific role, however, Peggy was always mindful of the importance of connecting with others—so much so that she deflects when asked to speak about her own accomplishments. “They are the story, not me,” she says of her former colleagues. “I simply had the privilege of being here.” Peggy’s legacy can be felt firsthand at the college: in the GRCC Enrollment Center, where her re-design provided deeper integration of services and wider connectivity for students; and with her former student workers, several of whom went on to earn full-time positions at GRCC or moved into leadership roles with other companies and organizations.
Peggy is grateful to her parents for being role models of inclusivity. Their goal was to foster environments for those who felt excluded and needed to find their voices. As a life-long learner, Peggy developed a new voice after leaving GRCC, and she finds herself using it in a unique and courageous way. As a cancer survivor—or as she calls it, cancer thriver - Peggy writes about her “cancer journey”, initiating conversations about the day-to-day struggles that are often ignored. “Advocacy and hope are at the root of my call to writing,” she says. “I want to shed light on spaces where people may not have a voice or feel understood in the cancer journey.” For someone who has “made it count” her whole life, Peggy’s grace and fortitude in the face of this challenge—as well as her mission to help others who are on the same path—are hardly surprising.
A woman of Dedication and Resilience
There is no shortage of people on GRCC’s campus who have positive things to say about former GRCC student Shannon Gamel, especially those who knew her best, like Assistant Professor and Academic Advisor, Erin Busscher: “Shannon’s perseverance amazes me. I admire her determination to move forward no matter what barriers she faces.” Lynnae Selberg, Director of Academic Advising, is equally complimentary: “Shannon is an amazing young lady. She has overcome enormous barriers to achieve her academic dreams.”
Those dreams were comprised, in part, of earning a Bachelor of Science degree from Ferris State University (FSU) and continuing her studies by pursuing a Doctorate of Pharmacy, also from FSU. Shannon is on track to complete that degree in 2021.
These are lofty dreams for anyone, but they were particularly remarkable for someone in Shannon’s situation. As a single mom, she was forced to drop out of high school to take care of her child. However, after earning her GED, Shannon found her way to GRCC, where things clicked academically. Managing to balance her personal life, work, and school, Shannon earned an Associate of Science degree in the spring of 2015 and then went on to work towards her Bachelor and Doctorate degrees at FSU. The path that Shannon chose wasn’t easy, but her passion and drive allowed her to achieve her goals.
During her time at GRCC, Shannon served as President of Phi Theta Kappa, an international honors society, and worked as a student employee in the Counseling and Career Center. There, Shannon worked with a wide variety of students, staff, and faculty, connecting them to the resources they needed. “Despite her challenges, Shannon made it her personal mission to help others,” Selberg says. “She has a compassion and ability to connect with people.”