I am a Michigander, born and raised. I studied at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) for both my undergraduate and master’s degrees. As part of my graduate program, I had the opportunity to participate in a great assistantship with GVSU’s Career Center. This was my first experience engaging corporations with universities. Upon completion of my master’s degree, I decided I needed to explore another city.
Ending up in Pennsylvania, my role focused on corporate outreach at the University of Pittsburgh. It was fun learning a new city, specifically all of those new challenges you face like how to get around, which neighborhood to live in, and the best places to eat. For me, it was a completely new culture. Due to limited parking and complex roads, most people travel on public transportation. It was a great experience learning the transit system. There are a lot of east coast influences there. Saturday was always market day, but not like the farmer’s markets we have here in Michigan. It has more permanent shops—think Pike’s Place in Seattle. Similar to Grand Rapids, Pittsburgh is family-oriented with lots of cultural activities.
While I enjoyed my life in Pittsburgh, when an opportunity to advance my career at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor became available, I made the decision to relocate. Not only was it a great career opportunity, it also allowed me to have more flexibility in my personal life because it was a much shorter trip to see family. Pittsburgh was just close enough to West Michigan that it didn’t make sense to fly, but it was a seven hour drive, making it difficult to return on a weekend. My husband, Nathan, and I enjoyed Ann Arbor for seven years. Both of us loving our careers and visiting with friends at some of Ann Arbor’s great places to eat and shop. But when we decided to start a family, our priorities shifted.
We had always thought that it would be great to move back to West Michigan so that our daughter, Clara, could grow up around family, but we didn’t expect things to work out so soon. For the move to happen, all of the pieces of the puzzle had to come together. Our house had to sell and both of us wanted jobs that would expand our skills and advance our careers. Even if just one of the pieces wasn’t there, we couldn’t move.
Luckily for us, the puzzle pieces aligned beautifully. Much to our surprise, we had several offers on our house in the first week. When my job offer with Grand Valley State University came through, everything was set. Once it all happened, it was almost harder to wrap our heads around the fact that we were really doing this. That has been the hardest part of the transition. We had a great life in Ann Arbor and I enjoyed working with my colleagues at the University of Michigan, but we knew that this was our chance to give our daughter the opportunity to have family nearby.
Returning to West Michigan has really been an eye opener for me. So much has changed over the past ten years. This inclusive community believes in the area and supports it one hundred percent. That unique quality is what makes my job as Director of Corporate Giving at GVSU so much fun. Working in a philanthropic community that believes anything is possible if we are behind it brings an amazing energy to the community. I know my daughter Clara will have access to great schools, cultural activities such as the Children’s Museum, and wonderful healthcare at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. She will grow up in a community with great integrity and cultural appreciation. We are grateful to have the opportunity to be back in the West Michigan Community and look forward to getting involved.
Favorite West Michigan Spot: Anywhere on Lake Michigan!
Favorite Restaurant: Cygnus 27- a great view of Grand Rapids!
Favorite Weekend Activity: Frederik Meijer Gardens- beautiful, peaceful, great music, what else can you ask for?
Favorite Festival/Event: Grand Crossing Labor Day Bridge Walk, Grand Rapids- where else can you walk across so many bridges?