Parents and Families  

eNewsletter: April 2013

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A Letter from the President
Are You Ready for Commencement?
Awards Ceremony Honors Students in Action
Exam Cram!
Residence Life News: May Residence Hall Closing and Summer Housing
Summer Classes at AQ
Summer Employment: What to Know
Coming Home for the Summer: Advice from a College Student
Supporting Your Commuter Student – An AQ Partnership!
Student Affairs Signature Series
A Letter from the President
President Juan Olivarez

Dear Parents,

As we move into spring, we draw close to the end of many students’ careers at Aquinas College.  The excitement and nostalgia surrounding graduation is a personal favorite. I’m inspired as I reflect upon our students’ dedication and many achievements here at Aquinas, and their energetic anticipation for the future.

It is an honor for Aquinas College to announce Peter Perez as our 2013 commencement speaker. Mr. Perez is the president of Carter Products Company, which is widely known as a leading producer of accessory equipment for the industrial woodworking machinery industry.  He has directed the family-owned company towards innovation and growth, while simultaneously taking leadership roles in organizations within the Grand Rapids community. His

distinguished career, including a presidential appointment as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing in the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, DC, from 2010 -  2012, can serve as a model and inspiration to our graduates as they proceed to the next phase of their lives.

Aquinas will award honorary doctorates this year to Most Reverend Walter A. Hurley and Ellen Satterlee. Bishop Hurley has served as bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids since 2005. He is dedicated to evangelization and visionary innovation. We are grateful for his support of Aquinas College.

Ellen Satterlee is the Chief Executive Officer of the Wege Foundation, and has been a loyal friend of Aquinas College throughout the years.  She is steadfast in the pursuit of conscientious environmental sustainability, a passion of Peter M. Wege, and a major initiative in our curriculum and an integral part of campus life.

I look forward to meeting many of you this May, when we gather at Aquinas to celebrate the close of the year and the graduation of the class of 2013!


Juan R. Olivarez, Ph.D.


Are You Ready for Commencement?

Everyone on campus is desperately wishing the weather would turn more spring-like, but when that happens a certain panic will set in. Beautiful spring weather will mean one thing to us... commencement is just around the corner! 

So, while your senior son or daughter is overburdened with papers, tests, projects, finishing an internship, completing student teaching, or is thousands of miles away in a foreign country, we have to add more tasks to his or her to-do lists.  The good news is, some of these things can be addressed electronically, and as parents, you can take care of some of these things for your graduate.  Please be assured that we will do whatever we can to make this as easy and stress-free as possible... for all of you. 


First, your son or daughter must declare a major and/or minor. The form is available on-line and also in the Registrar and Academic Advising Office (Hruby


Hall 30).  Completed forms must be signed by the department chairperson and returned to the Registrar’s Office immediately.


Second, those who wish to graduate must complete the Application for Degree Candidacy. This is also available on-line and in the Registrar and Academic Advising Office (Hruby Hall 30). Again, completed forms must be signed by the department chair and returned to the Registrar’s Office immediately.


Everyone participating in the Commencement Ceremony must wear a black cap and gown and an academic hood from his or her discipline. These can be ordered through the Aquinas Bookstore on or before March 27. If your graduate plans to borrow a black cap and gown or if he or she has one from high school, he or she will still need to order an academic hood and a 2013 tassel. If you choose to purchase them, graduation announcements can be ordered through the Aquinas Bookstore on or before April 2.    


Everyone attending commencement must have a ticket to get into the building. This year we will have 3 different tickets: a pink ticket is for special needs guests (plus one companion) at the Sturrus Sports and Fitness Center, a white ticket is for general bleacher seating at the Sturrus Sports and Fitness Center, and a green ticket is for the live-feed projection in the Wege Ballroom. Tickets will be available in the President’s Office from April 8 through April 26. Graduates can obtain up to four tickets for the Sturrus Center and up to four tickets for the Ballroom. 


There will be an optional brunch offered in the Wege Cafeteria on campus between Baccalaureate and Commencement, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Tickets are required at a cost of $9 per person, and are available in the President’s Office (Holmdene) and the Student Accounts Office (Hruby Hall 131) from April 8 through April 26. 


More detailed information about each of these topics is available in the commencement information packet sent to each graduate’s permanent address.  If your son or daughter has not received this packet, please call Brian Adams at 616-632-2151.  The packet is also available as a download (pdf) from the Aquinas website.


If you have any questions or concerns about anything related to commencement, please call Jan Sommerville at (616) 632-2881. This will be  an exciting day for your family and all of us at Aquinas will strive to make it a beautiful and memorable event.

Awards Ceremony Honors Students in Action

By: Heather Hall, Director of Campus Life

On April 5, 2013, a packed Sturrus Center served as home for the annual student leadership awards.  This event, fondly referred to as the “Students in Action Awards” highlights the academic milestones of many of our students on campus as well as the out-of-class tributes for our active campus community.  Dr. Juan Olivarez offered opening comments and Provost Gunnoe  and  Dr. Jennifer Dawson served as hosts.  Student leaders Ashley Strobel  ’13 and Stephanie Beld  ’13 provided the invocation and comments.


Dean’s List students were honored for their academic excellence. Sophomore students who have declared their academic major were pinned by members of the Student Senate. Resident Assistants, Student Senators, and Orientation Leaders were publically thanked for the foundation and support they provided the community this year.  Senator of the Year, Steven Hartford, Senate

Awards Ceremony Honors Students in Action

Executive board member of the year, Madeleine Burns, and the Outstanding Registered Student Organization, L.I.T. Club, were all recognized. Our Outstanding First Year Student, Lindsey Friend, Outstanding Sophomore Student, Catherine Biewer, and Outstanding Junior Student, Ian MacNeil, were also highlighted.


We are grateful for the vibrant and active community that our student leaders provide Aquinas College. They  excel in and out of the classroom guided by their commitment to faith, study, community and service.


Exam Cram!
Exam Cram

Mark your calendars because Exam Cram Spring 2013 is coming. It will be held Sunday, April 21 through Monday April 29. For those of you who do not know, Exam Cram (which started in spring 2008) is a concentrated effort to offer academic support to students the week before final exams. The support comes in the form of one-on-one tutoring, moderated study sessions, research assistance and writing help. But wait, there's more!  As well as addressing critical issues of the mind, Exam Cram also addresses your students' holistic and physical needs. Programs include nightly refreshments, holistic massage, oxygen bar, yoga and wellness tips. Most of the activities take place in and around the Grace Hauenstein Library and the Moose Cafe. Exam Cram culminates in the Exam Breakfast, Monday, April 29 at 10 p.m. in the Wege Cafeteria. The breakfast is free to all students through the sponsorship of Campus Life. 

In addition to Exam Cram, Student Senate is sponsoring extended hours in the Grace Hauenstein Library through May 2. So if your student enjoys studying into the wee hours of the morning, the library is the place to be.

Exam Cram is brought to you through the combined efforts of the following departments: Campus Life, Student Support Services, Student Senate, Residence Life, the Grace Hauenstein Library, Academic and Learning Services, Health and Wellness Services and Enrollment Management.


Residence Life News: May Residence Hall Closing and Summer Housing

Greetings from the Residence Life Office!  With only six weeks remaining in the spring semester, we are preparing for the closing of our residential facilities at the end of the academic year.  For planning purposes, please take note that the residential facilities close on Friday, May 3, 2013 at 6 p.m. for all students who are not graduating or otherwise approved to stay on-campus. Graduating seniors are eligible to remain on-campus through 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 5, 2013.  Additional closing information will be distributed to students via campus mailboxes, provided at RA facilitated floor meetings, posted on The Moose announcements page (online), and available on the Residence Life website in early April.


The Residence Life Office offers summer housing to Aquinas students enrolled in summer classes, employed in on-campus jobs for the summer, and/or enrolled

Summer Housing

at Aquinas for the next fall semester. Summer housing for 2013 will be located in Ravine Apartments A and B. Accommodations consist of shared two- or four-person apartments (same gender only), which include shared bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, and living area. Summer residents enjoy air-conditioned facilities, with access to cable, internet, free parking, and use of the Sturrus Sports and Fitness Center.  Please note that dining services are not available for the summer.  For more information regarding summer housing, including dates of availability, costs, and the application, please visit the Residence Life website. Summer housing applications are due by Friday, April 12 for priority consideration.


Summer Classes at AQ

Summer 2013 is just around the corner.  For many students, summer is a time to take a break from classes, find a job, and spend time with family and friends.  Summer can also be a great time to complete a class or two.  Here are some ways our students have benefitted from taking summer courses:

  • Take advantage of summer course offerings to get ahead in one’s studies.  Taking some summer courses can help a student to graduate sooner, or it can mean that a student may choose to take fewer courses during the year and still graduate on time. 
  • Use summer as an opportunity to focus on one particularly challenging course.  Many students find it helpful to be able to devote all their academic energy to one course, while also finding time to work during the summer.
  • Try out an online course.  Some students are unsure about taking a course in an online format.  Summer can be a great time to experience the world of online learning. 
  • Improve the grade point average.  Instead of taking the summer off, take some credits!  A student has the opportunity to boost the GPA with some hard work.
Summer Classes

To support our students in these efforts, we are offering a range of courses in a variety of formats this summer. There are many course offerings that meet General Education requirements, from departments including art, music, biology, mathematics, and theology, just to name a few. There are also upper-level offerings in business, communication, psychology, Spanish, mathematics, and education.  We offer courses in four-week, eight-week, and online formats.  The full schedule is available on our website.

A paper copy of the schedules for summer and fall of 2013 has been mailed to all current students. Registration for summer is going on now.  


Summer Employment: What to Know

Summer is right around the corner! Many students will be taking a break from classes and that means that some of them will be returning home.  However, it is not a time to take a break from developing skills, gaining career experience or earning income. 


Don’t delay! Encourage your student to start looking for summer jobs early. Many students work at park and recreation departments, summer campus or country clubs. While making money is great, experience can sometimes be just as valuable. Some students choose to do an internship or volunteer at places that build connections to their career field.  If your student is interested in going into health care, volunteering at a hospital, assisted living or nursing care facility would provide a means to both gain experience and network with health care professionals. Summer opportunities with parks and recreation departments allow students going into education a chance to design activities for working with youth, which can also be added to their portfolio and resume. 


Whether it’s a paid summer job or a volunteer opportunity; working throughout the summer will development teamwork, communication and responsibility. These are things that will help your child stand out to employers when they begin their career search. If they have not already, tell your student to check out Career and Counseling Services’ job and internship listings. 


>Read more articles for parents from AQ Career & Counseling Services


Coming Home for the Summer:  Advice from a College Student
By:  Kay Borst ’15, Resident Assistant and Student Worker at Career and Counseling Services
By the fourth quad, everyone is itching for summer and some time off from the constant grind of school.  Students start seeking summer employment at the local restaurant or shop, remind themselves on especially stressful days that relaxation is soon to come and get ready to face the rents – err – parents.
>Read More
Coming Home For The Summer

Supporting Your Commuter Student - An AQ Partnership!

By: Heather Hall, Director of Campus Life

Over the course of the last year, I have had the pleasure of advising the commuter committee on the Student Senate.  This dedicated group of students is continuing the work that Leah Kicinski ’12 provided in an internship in Campus Life that addressed the needs of commuter students at Aquinas.  As a campus that is predominantly commuter, her work has offered us with an excellent plan to support and engage our students whose pillows are not on campus.


The committee, under the direction of Kaela Bouwkamp (’14), Secretary of the Student Senate, looked at the various types of commuters at Aquinas and developed a series of ways to connect with those various types.  


Here are the observed types of commuters that we have garnered through our conversations and focus groups:

  • Local with family :  This commuter student type has a dualistic lifestyle.  They are working with their family members to maintain previous expectations of living with family while trying to acclimate to a college student lifestyle.  Oftentimes there is a need to reexamine expectations about responsibilities, work, time on campus, involvement in clubs and organizations, and financial goals.   Sometimes these students commute because home is less than an hour from campus and that was their own choice;  other times these students are living at home because they have already fulfilled their on-campus living requirement and do not want a local apartment.
  • Perimeter students:  These students are renting apartments or houses within walking distance of campus.  They are usually the students who have roommates and need to learn to navigate expectations without a resource like a resident assistant to address issues when you live and learn with someone else.  Oftentimes these students have jobs and are balancing paying for their apartments and utilities for the first time.  Sometimes these students are sharing apartments and houses with other area college students, not necessarily fellow Saints.  This type of commuter also has responsibilities to their neighbors and neighborhood that they do not need to deal with in residential hall living.
  • At-a-distance commuters:  These students are usually part-time, have jobs, and whose priority is to get here, get it done, and get back on the road.  They love AQ, but they are not concerned about getting involved on campus, participating in activities, etc.  They are solely here for the academic offerings and have a pretty scripted day when they arrive on campus.  This group predominantly travels from an hour or more away.  
  • Not their choice:  These students were the hopefuls that wanted to live on campus, but due to limited space were not placed in College housing.  Typically these students become very active on campus trying to connect with other residential students and are often looking for spaces that may open up at semester break.


The committee in Student Senate spent a great deal of time talking through the commuter student experience.  Many of them on the committee are commuters or have lived on campus and then transitioned into the perimeter student category.  As the year progressed, we wanted to be a resource for students to learn more about how to become an informed renter or college student living at home, a good neighbor, and to set themselves up for personal and financial success as they maneuver their new environment and responsibilities.


Three sessions were marketed to students offering information on safety, sustainability, searching for a new home, and setting up a successful plan for living off campus.  They were well received!  


Students left the session understanding the timeline for renting (which is RIGHT now) and gained tips and strategies for safely hunting for the right home. We also offered resources for students should they need assistance with various landlords or rental agencies. They discussed the advantages and disadvantages of apartments vs. houses, selecting and living harmoniously with roommates, creating a budget and a new commuter student schedule that allows them to keep everything in the air while inserting their commute into their daily lives.


The Commuter Committee issues a monthly e-newsletter complete with calendar and updates from various campus departments. We also provide support during first year orientation and throughout the year as issues come up dealing with weather and class cancellations, etc. We offer a study break during finals week on the second floor of the Academic Building and often times giveaway walking tacos and ice scrapers to commuters on random days just to pick things up!  The Commuter committee is really hoping to be the voice for commuter issues.


If you or your commuter student have feedback, questions or ideas, please email  so that we can connect with you.  A comprehensive website of resources will be launched this summer. Our goal is to connect you to the Grand Rapids community and to keep you connected to AQ.  Let us know what you need to be successful!


Student Affairs Signature Series

By: Brian Matzke, Dean of Student Services

Signature Series Scholarship Winner

This year, the student affairs team collaborated on a Signature Series of Events for our students. This series consists of 14 events that have been traditions of the campus. All the events are free to students. As a caveat, students that attend the signature series become eligible for two $1,000 student affairs scholarship.  The first scholarship winner was announced at the exam breakfast on December 17, 2012. The second scholarship winner will be selected following our April 10 event that comes from our Career Development "Interview with a Professional" event. 


The Signature Series overall has had tremendous turnouts. At each event, students sign in and thus become eligible for the scholarship drawings that take place at the last event of each semester. We kicked off the year and fall semester with campus ministry's Mass of the Holy Spirit. This was followed

by Campus Life's Saint Stock where over 700 people showed up to earn all about activities on and off of our campus. Residence Life then "Rocked the Block" with a great party in Woodward Area that highlighted our Living Learning Communities. Programming Board then brought in Tom DeLucia, a well-known hypnotist who entertained a full house in the Wege Ballroom. Halloween presented us with an opportunity to continue a long-time tradition of turning St. Joseph the Worker Hall into a haunted hall. This time-honored tradition was expanded to a haunted trail between the Sturrus Center and St. Joe's Hall and more than 325 students came through the hall. Most made it out...


After the exam breakfast, we transitioned into the spring semester where our Center for Diversity and Inclusion started to shine. Despite the cold weather that led to cancellation of other college events, Aquinas students took part in Martin Luther King Jr, social justice march on January 21.  We then transitioned into St. Thomas Aquinas Week, where we had a multitude of events and ended with a huge Super Bowl Party hosted by our Regina Residence Life Staff. February 15 brought us our annual "Wake Up People" extravaganza with lots of fun, food and entertainment. At the end of the event, Ms. Catherine Jandernoa was named the winner of AQ Idol 7.  February 17 brought us "Soul Food Sunday" sponsored by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. On March 22, Aquinas students took part in Friday Night Fitness at East Hills Athletic Club. Here students had the opportunity to spend Friday night off campus enjoying themselves by working out, doing yoga, playing volleyball and basketball all while enjoying each other's company.


With all of the success of the Signature Series this year, we are pleased to be bringing it back for the 2013-2014 year as well. Be sure to ask your student about the series and about their favorite signature event.


Our Signature Series consists of 14 events that are traditions on the campus. These events are free and open to all of our students and are put on collaboratively by the Student Services Team.