Across Campus

December 1, 2014


Mother, son to graduate together from nursing programs

Mother, son to graduate together from nursing programs

A mother-son duo who started classes together in the Kirkhof College of Nursing in 2010 will earn degrees at the December 6 commencement.

Jennifer Zoeteman is receiving a doctor of nursing practice degree, and her son, Matt Zoeteman, is receiving a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Purdue University in 1989 and a master’s degree in nursing from Grand Valley in 2002. She is an affiliate professor of nursing for KCON. 

“My mom was a big influence in my decision to pursue nursing,” Matt said. “She would come home from work with such fascinating stories. I quickly realized how much opportunity I could have in the nursing field.”

Jennifer and Matt Zoeteman

Jennifer and Matt Zoeteman

Jennifer said having her son in the BSN program has helped her better understand the undergraduate students she teaches. “I experienced the competitive admission process, so I know the challenges my students face with rigorous coursework and long clinical hours,” she said.

Matt said he appreciated having his mother around for motivation while he was in the upper-level program the past two and a half years. “My mom is someone I can relate to,” he said. “She’s someone I can talk to when I’m either up or down. She constantly encouraged me as I strived to complete the program.”

Even at different educational levels, the pair had similar assignments and struggles. “We both had discussion boards, papers, and tests,” Jennifer said. Adding to that, Matt said it was nice to have someone on the same schedule. “We are both always at the hospital,” he said. “It’s nice to have someone to talk to on the drive home who is truly interested in what you did and the unique patients you cared for.”

After graduation, Jennifer plans to continue teaching and working as a nurse practitioner. Matt plans to work as a registered nurse and to pursue a graduate degree next fall.

While the two never imagined they would graduate together, they were glad to have each other for support throughout the past four years. “It’s easier when there are other people in your family going to college at the same time,” Matt said. “My brother is also an undergraduate student at Grand Valley.”

The pair is thrilled to be walking in commencement on the same day. “Graduating with your son is a rare experience,” Jennifer said.  Matt agreed, “I did not expect to graduate from college with my mom. It will be a day we will not soon forget!”

Mother and son Jennifer and Matt Zoeteman will earn nursing degrees at the December 6 commencement.


Record enrollment for engineering, computing

A record number of students are enrolling in and graduating from engineering and computing programs at Grand Valley.

The Padnos College of Engineering and Computing reported that the number of students majoring in engineering programs has nearly doubled in the last 10 years, and enrollment in computing and informations systems programs has increased by 46 percent since 2006.

Paul Plotkowski, dean of the college, said the growth is attributed to employer demand and student interest, which is a result of more attention being paid to STEM disciplines in K-12 schools.

“The message that these disciplines are making a difference in the world is being heard,” Plotkowski said. “Ten to 15 years ago, you probably never heard of work like biomedical engineering. Today, it’s a very understood thing and a good example of how engineering changes the world.”

Plotkowski said the No. 1 piece of feedback PCEC receives from students is the benefits of cooperative education, a program that requires students to complete three semesters of paid intern work for an employer that is most often located in West Michigan.

“We’re a very teaching-oriented university, and the internship and co-op program gets our students ready for life and careers, not just theory,” he said. “Most students are offered full-time jobs before they graduate, many times at companies where they completed their co-op experience. The majority of our graduates are working and living in the Grand Rapids area and throughout West Michigan.” 



Student asks for scholarship from Make-A-Wish Michigan

Many kids with life-threatening conditions who receive wishes granted by Make-A-Wish Michigan are off to a vacation destination or to meet a celebrity.

Jessica LeBlanc wanted to go to Allendale to attend college at Grand Valley.

The Clinton Township native received her wish to be a Laker when Make-A-Wish Michigan granted her a partial scholarship this fall.

LeBlanc, now 18, is majoring in nursing. Two years ago, she underwent a kidney transplant after months of dialysis and hospitalization. LeBlanc said doctors aren’t sure what caused her kidney to fail rapidly. The first symptom she noticed was blurry vision.

“My parents took me to an ophthalmologist to test my vision, and very quickly I was having blood work done and being admitted to the hospital,” LeBlanc said.

She spent about six months on the wait list for a donor kidney. LeBlanc missed most of her senior year in high school and said it was marching band she missed the most; she plays the piccolo.

One of her doctors at University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital referred LeBlanc to Make-A-Wish. “I was a senior in high school and I knew I needed a scholarship to go to college to study nursing, so I made my wish for that,” she said

Jessica LeBlanc

Jessica LeBlanc 

While LeBlanc didn’t join the Laker Marching Band, she is active on campus, serving on the council for her living center and as a member of Grand Valley’s American Sign Language and Culture Club and its Make-A-Wish Club.

Karen Davis, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish Michigan, said the organization was honored to grant LeBlanc’s wish.

“Jessica’s heartfelt wish was to receive a college scholarship to help further her education, and we are delighted to make this wish come true,” Davis said.

Make-A-Wish Michigan grants more than a wish a day, Davis said.