Reflections from our international community, silver linings, and more
Reflections from our international community, silver linings, and more
Grand Valley State University
Interim Dean Mark Schaub

Dean's Message

COVID-19 cases rising daily. Mass layoffs (our younger son among them). Immediate and significant salary cuts (our older son was informed yesterday). So much gloom that seems to mount by the day. And heading for an expected increase in the number of Michiganders seriously ill from the coronavirus, there’s good reason to feel afraid for the next days, weeks, months.
There are good reasons to be optimistic.
There are.
Brooks LEADS the Way
Students are signing up for the LEADS program, anchored by the Integrative Studies bachelor’s program in the IRIS Department. As recently as this week, working (or now, not working, adults) are staking their families’ futures on this educational opportunity here in the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies. The online certificates as emphasis areas, and the hybrid INT 301 and INT 495 core courses will serve students across the state of Michigan. Take a look at the program’s website for additional details:
Relevant Events
Students in Denise Goerisch’s Leadership for Social Change (LIB 341) course invite you to their Twitter Town Hall on Monday afternoon (5:00 to 6:00 P.M.). What better way to connect with students and colleagues on the timely and important topics of student wellbeing and student debt? Meet us online!
Food on the Table
One of the essential activities that is exempt from “stay home” orders is the production and distribution of food. Come May, June, and July, there may well be a particular need for locally produced produce. That work starts now, with preparing soil and planting seeds. Youssef Darwich, SAP farm manager, is doing that work alone right now, since we are not hiring undergraduate student interns to assist. But that is critically important work. CSA shares are not being sold for this growing season, as the crops will be donated to community members in need. The SAP folks hope to be able to develop a volunteer rotation list once safety protocols are created, and at that point, you may be invited to help tend to the 2020 crop of greens and other healthy vegetables from Allendale township’s sandy loam.
There is a lot of work to do right now, and you’re doing it or you’re supporting it. Getting our students through the academic year as best we can. That focus is important right now, amidst the scary cacophony. Meanwhile, Youssef is folding seeds into the earth. With coming soil warmth and vernal showers, they’ll soon enough be pushing upwards towards the sun.

Reflections from our international community

This week, we asked one of our international students and colleagues from the Padnos International Center to share their thoughts on how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting their work and studies.
Ying Zhou, International Student from China, Master of Arts In Applied Linguistics
"Online classes can be challenging, especially for students living on campus, but every coin has two sides. For one thing, it's hard to stay productive, far too many built-in distractions around, which ask for higher self-discipline ability. For the other, the Wi-Fi signal is really a pain in the neck. It keeps going in and out, and when I'm online, the connection can get choppy, which truly affects the efficiency of the online class. I wish internet connections were more reliable. The good news is that we have a small program, which makes it possible for our professors to adjust online classes tools in flexibility and make it works well equally for every one of us.
Additionally, it's also a great way to develop new computer skills and techniques. For all that, online classes are pretty much the only decent option when it comes to learning during this weathering time. We all need time to adjust to new and difficult situations. What we need to do right now is to keep calm and do our own parts. Eventually, we will all get through this successfully."
Kate Stoetzner, Director of International Student and Scholar Services, Padnos International Center
"In January, Professor Shinian Wu and I hosted the Chinese international students for a dinner. We wanted to check on them and to assure them that they had support on campus. At that time, COVID-19 was only in China, and our worry was that our students were isolated from their families during a crisis. Also, we worried that they may be facing racism in and around Grand Rapids and GVSU. Some of our students are from Wuhan and had gone home for Winter Break. The dinner was great. I left feeling confident the students felt supported and knew a variety of resources were available. I knew the GVSU community would come together to assist the students and to act immediately if acts of racism were reported.
Fast forward to March, we've been recommending that if international students are able to go home, that they do so right away. I believe more than 250 of our international students will remain in the US. Going home is so uncertain. Is it safer there? Maybe. Is their health insurance better at home? Almost certainly. Will they be able to return to GVSU? The US Government has made travel to the US very difficult if not impossible for some of our students. Can they return home before their country's border closes? Maybe. Will they be quarantined at home? Almost certainly. Will they have access to internet in quarantine to keep up with GV classes? Maybe. Are they eligible for assistance from GVSU's financial aid office? Probably. Will immigration allow them to take classes online when it is prohibited in the regulations? Yes.
Mostly, what I am hearing from international students are questions and concerns. I have very few actual answers. What I know is that everyone at GVSU is committed to always doing the best possible for our students. It is that commitment that I base my answers on for our students. I feel comfortable asking faculty about online course availability for students who will likely not be able to return in May. The IT department has researched how our Chinese students who returned home can overcome China's internet restrictions so that they may access Blackboard. I've had many conversations with Housing and Campus Dining about continuing to provide services to our students who have no other housing or food options available. I know the mailroom staff are receiving important documents from Immigration on behalf of our students. Faculty, staff, and students have sent messages to the PIC staff volunteering to help if and when help is needed. Deans and faculty are looking for solutions to questions regarding internship credits in times of layoffs and workforce reductions.
'GVSU Magic' isn’t magic at all. GVSU Magic is all of us working together, solution-oriented and student-oriented. These are crazy times. While we will continue to make magic together, I’ll also be glad when our magic show is over and we can emerge from behind the curtain."
Meaghann Myers-Smith, Academic Advisor, Padnos International Center
"With eighteen years in as GVSU’s study abroad adviser, frequent interaction with GVSU students, parents, faculty, and staff is what keeps me falling in love with my job. That — and living vicariously through student’s experiences in this big, beautiful world. When COVID-19 hit China and then Italy, my colleague announced we’d be bringing GVSU students studying there home. My heart sank as I immediately thought of one student in particular. He is one of Brooks College's own — an honors student and an IRIS major with a focus on fashion design and business. We had worked tirelessly together, for at least a year, preparing for a semester studying fashion and design at Lorenzo de Medici Institute in Florence. Here, he would be taking courses such as textile science and construction techniques from some of the best in the business. Ultimately, he planned to take this experience and his GVSU degree back to his Southside Chicago neighborhood, to start his very own clothing business. After four short weeks of living his dream, COVID-19 descended upon his new home and he was boarding the next flight back to Chicago.
The field of international education has been reeling. My colleagues have been working tirelessly to get students back to the US and guide those whose spring/summer programs were canceled toward future opportunities abroad. As my advising turns virtual, I am longing for the days of being interrupted multiple times a day by motivated students hungry for adventure and learning from afar. If nothing else, I will appreciate those interruptions when things get back to normal. For now, my dedication to keeping students on track for future international experiences is stronger than ever. I am undoubtedly proud of my Padnos International Center (PIC) colleagues and their professionalism, tenacity and unwavering commitment to GVSU students through this very trying time."

Welcome to the world, Mora!

Last week, Yumi Jakobcic, director of the Office of Sustainability Practices, gave birth to her third daughter, Mora Sophia Jakobcic. Mora was born on Sunday, March 15 at 8:18 A.M. She was 19.5 inches long and 7 pounds, 2 ounces. Mother and baby are both healthy and doing well. Congratulations to Yumi and her family, and welcome to the world, Mora!

Meg Marshall wins Pride Award

Meg Marshall, Honors Academic and Enrichment Advisor, won the 2020 Service to Community Award from the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center. The Service to Community Award honors an individual who demonstrates an exceptional commitment to improving the lives of LGBTQIA+ people. The recipient of this award has made a substantial contribution toward advancing the interests, health, and well-being of the LGBTQIA+ community. Congratulations, Meg!

Silver Linings

Each week, we're sharing stories about the silver linings of this difficult season. Share your silver lining by emailing Thanks!
Becca Hambleton, Director of Study Abroad & International Partnerships, Padnos International Center
"I have a 45-minute commute to work each day which really cuts into my personal time to exercise and work in my garden. Now that I have an hour and a half of extra time, I am able to get out to enjoy the fresh air. The exercise is really important to keep spirits up as well as to help ground us in this time of uncertainty."
Aubrey Dull, Office Assistant, Dean's Office
"I am an introvert through and through, which may have you thinking that social distancing in and of itself is my silver lining. But it’s not. While I may love my alone time more than the average person, I also deeply cherish meaningful relationships with those around me. A silver lining I have experienced since this began is the rejuvenated desire in myself and others to seek out intentional connection. I have called and video chatted with more friends and family in this last week than I typically would over the course of a month…or two.
Amid the fear and uncertainty surrounding what is happening in the world, my heart is full. (And it doesn’t hurt that I now have two of the cutest officemates in the world at my side all day, although both Roo and Hazel are very confused as to why this extra time together doesn’t equate to 24/7 snuggles.)"

Twitter Town Hall: The Cost of Well-being (virtual event)

On March 30, from 5:00 - 6:00 P.M. EST, students in LIB 341: Leadership for Social Change will host a Twitter Town Hall (also known as a Twitter Q&A) about college affordability and student well-being. This is a virtual event that will take place entirely on Twitter.
You are invited to join in on the conversation at @RichinDebt or using the hashtag #notsowellWELLBEING. If you are unable to participate, all the tweets will be compiled into a moment that can be read after the event on Twitter. Please send any questions to @RichinDebt or email Denise Goerisch at

Faculty calendar & deadlines

March 29: Faculty should provide students with feedback on their progress in online learning
March 31: Credit/No Credit requests must be initiated
April 6: Extended withdrawal date
April 18: Classes end
April 20-25: Exams week
April 25: Semester ends
April 28: Grades due from faculty by 12:00 P.M.
May 4: Spring/Summer classes begin
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