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Where to Attend College in Muskegon, MI

Higher education institutions in this region offer excellent opportunities along with diversity, equity and inclusion.

By Rebecca Deurlein on April 25, 2022

Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast at Muskegon Community College
Muskegon Community College

For higher education institutions in the Muskegon Lakeshore region, preparing for the next step in your life looks like more than textbooks and late-night cramming sessions.

Offering state-of-the-art facilities, educational programs for students of all ages, skilled training programs and career preparation in numerous fields, the colleges and universities in Muskegon offer an open door to limitless opportunities.

A centerpiece of their work is diversity, equity and inclusion, educating students, businesses and the community about the importance of living somewhere all feel celebrated and equipped for success.

Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley State University, a public university in Allendale, has been nationally recognized by Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit organization based out of Washington, D.C., for its commitment to the success of Latino students. It first earned this recognition in 2019, and GVSU President Philomena V. Mantella recently announced its recertification as the only predominantly White institution to earn this designation.

GVSU says that it is committed to dialogue and conversation versus division, holding monthly events from informed discussions to workshops that teach and encourage civil discourse.

Dr. Jesse Bernal, vice president for inclusion and equity and chief of staff to the president at GVSU, says the university’s commitment is anchored by a social justice and intersectional framework. That includes sustaining institutional practices to ensure that diverse voices are embedded across the campus in all functions, decision making and planning.

It also includes evolving policies and creating or growing environments, programs and initiatives where, he says, everyone “can be their full authentic selves.”

Reaching Higher

The university recently approved the Reach Higher 2025 strategic plan, which firmly positions GVSU as an institution dedicated to equity and systemic change in education.

“We are unrelenting in addressing the inequities of the status quo,” Bernal says. “Commitment to the future of education with equity at the center ensures the upward mobility of our diverse communities at the university and beyond.”

An agreement with Savannah State University, the oldest public Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in Georgia, is also now being implemented at GVSU. It allows students to earn master’s degrees in engineering, cybersecurity, criminal justice, communications and biomedical sciences by attending classes on Grand Valley’s campus.

With in-state tuition rates, financial aid and a wealth of GVSU resources to support their journey – including co-op and internship experiences with West Michigan employers – the partnership is a win-win for students and the Muskegon Lakeshore community.

Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast at Muskegon Community College
Muskegon Community College

Muskegon Community College

Declaring its commitment to diversity and inclusion with the hiring of Ken James to fill the newly created role of chief diversity officer, Muskegon Community College will expand access to inclusive workforce training efforts and incorporate celebrations of all cultures into the community’s calendar of events.

James says that, in addition to attracting and retaining a diverse student population, he is committed to ensuring cultural competency across all stakeholder groups.

James has already created a training platform to help local businesses attract and maintain employees, and he is expanding community activities that will recognize and reward contributions by various cultural groups.

The community’s Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast hosted yearly by Muskegon Community College features prominent guest speakers and brings the community together.

James plans to add a new lecture series, while continuing to grow other community offerings and resources.

“Who was better suited to bring this all together than the community college?” he says. “We teach that culture is paramount because once you get someone through the door, the culture you have created is the one thing that will determine if they stay.”

Businesses regularly request resources and support from James’ program, and they have seen the return on investment when their culture is welcoming to and respectful of diverse voices in the community.

“It’s a journey, but even in our first year, we made an impact,” James says. “The Muskegon Lakeshore community has seen success through the lens of inclusion and diversity, and we’re proud to be the thought leaders in this arena.”

Baker College in Muskegon, MI
Baker College

Baker College

Baker College is making a bold move, relocating its Muskegon campus to downtown. To prepare for the move, Baker College has sold its current Marquette Avenue campus building to Muskegon County.

Baker College will continue to reside in the current building until July 2025, and the county is also using the building for non-court operations.

“While we co-occupy the current building for up to three years, we are investigating several opportunities available for us downtown,” says Aaron Maike, Baker College Muskegon president. “We own 3 acres of parking lot property downtown that most people in Muskegon would commonly call the farmers market, and we also own a half- acre parking lot by our existing downtown Culinary Institute of Michigan building. We’re looking at multiple options.”

Maike says the move to downtown Muskegon makes sense for several reasons.

“The positive transformation of downtown is excellent, with redevelopment and growth,” he says. “That’s what students want – a vibrant, walkable, safe community. It will give students the opportunity to experience coffee shops, restaurants, bars, hockey games, theater and much more.”

Muskegon is a seasonal city with great tourism in the warm-weather months, Maike says, and by moving downtown, the college will help spur the economy during times when it’s traditionally less busy.

“We already have our Culinary Institute of Michigan downtown. Now, we look forward to having our entire campus downtown,” he says.

Baker College was founded in Flint in 1911 and today has campus locations in Cadillac, Jackson, Muskegon, Owosso and Royal Oak. About 1,000 students are enrolled at the Baker College Muskegon campus.

Kevin Litwin contributed to this article.

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