Parents and Families  

eNewsletter: Summer 2011

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Meet Juan Olivarez, Ph.D., President of Aquinas College Common Reading Experience 2011: This I Believe II
From the Desk of the Dean Academic and Learning Services: Getting Off On The Right Foot
Welcome Class of 2015: Convocation and Orientation On Campus Jobs: We Can Help
My First Year at AQ: A Student's Perspective Important Dates and Deadlines
Expectations for a Parent of an Aquinas Freshman  
Meet Juan Olivarez, Ph.D., President of Aquinas College
Dr. Juan Olivarez

On May 24, 2011 Aquinas College proudly announced that Juan R. Olivarez, Ph.D. would be our seventh president. Dr. Olivarez is well suited for this role. He has spent his entire career in education and fundraising and has been successful at both endeavors. Dr. Olivarez has been President and CEO of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation for the last three years and before that was the President of Grand Rapids Community College.  He is passionate about Aquinas College and is committed to our mission and vision. Dr. Olivarez and his wife, Mary, are graduates of AQ and met here when they were students. >Read more about him in his own words

From the Desk of the Dean 

By: By Brian Matzke, Dean of Student Services

Brian Matzke

As the summer winds down and the immediacy of your loved one leaving for college hits, I have been getting asked questions like, “How can I be sure that my child will be successful in college?”  While I’d love to be able spend some time articulating a 100% guarantee of how your student will be successful, the best answer that I can give takes us back to when your student first left the sandbox and started school.  

A few years back, there was a popular work by Robert Fulghum called, All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten.  If we harken back to the last time that your student started on a new educational journey, we might find questions on that first report card that look something like, “Student seeks help when necessary,” “Student takes advantage of resources provided,” and “Student plays well with others?”  While we will be working hard to build upon the foundation of knowledge that your student has and help develop them holistically, these same principles remain.

One of the main reasons that families make the decision to attend Aquinas College is because their students don’t want to be just a number.  If your student can keep in mind that we are here to help them and seek us out when the first signs of trouble hit, their chance for success is great.  We have wonderful departments including career and counseling, campus ministry, campus life (with over 65 clubs and organizations), diversity initiatives, disabilities office and a health center, just to name a few.  Students that are engaged with these offices tend to find success right from the beginning of their freshmen year.  A simple tip for success outside of the classroom- simply being willing to share and listen to others often leads to lifelong friendships that start in college.   While there is no magic formula for guaranteeing college success, earning A’s on these three questions found on a kindergarten report card is a good start.
Welcome Class of 2015: Convocation and Orientation

By: Heather Bloom Hall, M.Ed, Director of Student Activities & Orientation

Can you believe how quickly the summer months are flying by?  I am sure that your AQ student is counting the days until first year move-in…believe me… we are counting too! We are excited to have everyone here and to celebrate our campus community. 


Around the Fourth of July you received a letter from me detailing the goals and priorities of the fall orientation program (August 18-21, 2011). I cannot emphasize enough the importance we place on your student participating actively and completely in the fall program.  Our students leave the weekend with a sense of academic readiness and feel a sense of belonging here.  They start classes with less anxiety and are familiar with the resources (both departmental and personal) that will help them academically and developmentally during their time at AQ.  


For a complete schedule of the orientation program, please visit the orientation website.  It is

very helpful for you to actively review this website for any changes or announcements that

may occur.  It is also important for your student to begin to use their email address so that we can connect with them during the summer months.


Dr. Chad Gunnoe

Dr. Chad Gunnoe, Provost and Dean of Faculty, speaks at Convocation 2010.

During STAR this year, we described two academic ceremonies, Convocation and Commencement, as collegiate bookends.  The first of these ceremonies is Convocation, scheduled for 2 p.m. in the Sturrus Sports & Fitness Center, on Thursday, August 18, 2011.  While many colleges and universities use the term “convocation” or “a gathering for a special purpose” differently, we at Aquinas College share with a majority of the institutions that honor the first year community with a ceremony that highlights the new student transition. Faculty will be dressed in academic regalia and the various administrators, board members, faculty, staff, students along with our new president, Dr. Juan Olivarez, will kick-off the new year with a celebration of beliefs. The program is complete with music, prayer, and a myriad of well wishes as families prepare to depart to allow orientation to begin.


Immediately following Convocation, you will be offered a few minutes to wish your AQ Saint the best of luck in their first few weeks in college.

We know that this is an emotional time for you as families, but it is a momentous and special occasion for your student in their academic career. We look forward to sharing this milestone with you and to spending orientation helping your student learn how to make their education and time here count.


Should you have any questions regarding Convocation or Orientation, please contact me at or call us at (616) 632-2983.

Enjoy the rest of your summer - we will see you shortly!  Go Saints!

My First Year at AQ: A Student's Perspective

By: Bridget Salisz

Bridget Salisz

I experienced my freshman year of college with the utmost success to say the very least. The day I got dropped off by my parents was the start of a year that was full of many challenges, but with the support I got from my new Aquinas family, I will always remember it as one of the best years of my nineteen years of life thus far.


It definitely took some adjusting to learn how to claim responsibility and to live more independently, but it did not take very long to make those adjustments. I became a different person when I moved to Aquinas as I grew up and started calling the shots for myself with input and directions from the people that I love, but without just sitting back and letting them make the difficult decisions for me.


I started the year in the nursing program and was unhappy with what I was studying. I loved the Aquinas

atmosphere though, and I knew it was the place for me because every time I went home and people asked me how I was doing, my response without any hesitation was that I absolutely loved it. It just took me some time to decide that what I really wanted was to study education with an emphasis on Spanish. By second semester when I voiced that I was officially changing my major, my life had changed and I was the happiest that I had ever been. I had taken some wise advice that I was given by a high school teacher, “Find out what you’re passionate about and find a career that allows you to do it.”

On top of the difficulty I had with what I was studying, I found out in October that an immediate family member was diagnosed with cancer. It was a tough time for my whole family but the Aquinas community passed along their thoughts and prayers for my family and let me know in numerous e-mails and when they passed me in the hall that if I needed anything to let them know. On top of the professors and other Aquinas faculty that was by my side when I needed them the most, my new friends were such a strong support system that days went by that I felt like I was floating through life on a cloud.

As for my participation with activities at Aquinas, I joined AQ Pella, the all female a capella choir and became the vice president of a praise and worship group called Abandon this past year and have had an absolute blast participating in both of them. I was also nominated and accepted to be a Student Ambassador for this upcoming year and am extremely excited about the opportunity to share my experiences and love for Aquinas with others.

I enjoyed my freshman year of college to its maximum potential. Aquinas has become my second home in nine very short months and while I am enjoying being home with my family very much, I cannot wait to be back home in Grand Rapids this fall for a second year of growth.

Expectations for a Parent of an Aquinas Freshman 

By: The counselors at Aquinas College Career and Counseling Services

Congratulations, your young adult is an Aquinas Saint! This privilege is directly connected to the guidance, support, love, and sacrifice that you have given your son or daughter over the years. College is a time of transition that will certainly lead to greater independence, but throughout this process your child will definitely require your continued assistance and encouragement. 


For many students, the first year of college is both exciting and stressful. Students must navigate the academic, social, administrative, and financial challenges of college while developing and refining their adult identity. This can create feelings of confusion, anger, apathy, sadness, or joy as well as issues of anxiety and depression. As a parent you have the formidable task of helping your son or daughter through these challenges, while not

Parent & Student
“doing it for them.” By remaining in contact with your child, having open and honest communication, providing more options and less advice, and listening without judgment you will greatly aid your child in his or her adult development. Needless to say, it can be extremely hard to allow your child to make his or her own decisions (especially if it results in mistakes). Ultimately, your child will learn and grow from the challenges presented by higher education and, with your help, build upon the foundation that your family has established.

Tips for maintaining a good relationship:
- Send a “care package” with your son or daughter’s favorite treats. For commuter parents, pack your child’s favorite lunch.
- Make a coffee date with your child at the Moose Café to discuss academics and social life.
- Give your child some space if needed.
- Attend an Aquinas sporting event with your child (or support your student athlete by going to the games).


For more information about helping your child during his or her college career visit our Parent Resources web page.


Counseling Services at Aquinas College are available to help your son or daughter with concerns they may encounter while at college. Counseling provides a safe environment where students can openly express their thoughts and feelings to a trained professional counselor who serves as an objective listener. Counseling staff are available for scheduled individual appointments. Walk-in hours are also held Monday through Friday from 2 to 3 p.m. >Additional hours and contact information

Common Reading Experience 2011: This I Believe II 
By: Jennifer Dawson, Ph.D., Associate Dean of Student Affairs
This I Believe II

Looking for a good read to escape from the dog days of summer?  Here at Aquinas, we are diving into reading This I Believe II:  More Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman, our Common Reading Program selection for the 2011-2012 academic year.  Building on our success using This I Believe last year, we are excited to be tackling the second collection and linking it to our 125th Anniversary Celebration.  Last year, we found that first-year students enjoyed not only reading the essays and thinking about them in relation to American culture but also having an opportunity to write, and perhaps more importantly, share their own essays with their peers.  This year, we plan to incorporate the book into our first-year “Inquiry and Expression” course and into programming dedicated to celebrating our auspicious anniversary and our core Dominican chrisms of “study, prayer, community, and service.”


During STAR sessions, we have enjoyed introducing the book and getting the students talking about the possibilities by asking them whose “This I Believe” statement they would most like to read. You may want to ask your student to share his or her thoughts about the possibilities.  As the summer progresses, we are encouraging the community to take the next step:  active reading!  Editor Jay Allison best expresses the experience of reading the seventy-five essays as a composite:  “As readers, each of us is bound to take issue with some or be stirred by others.  And your reactions won’t be the ones of the person sitting next to you; one man’s cliché is another man’s revelation. Often, I find that an essay may not strike me one day, but will carry meaning months later when my own circumstances have changed.”  We hope that your student will find essays that resonate with his or her beliefs as well as essays that broaden his or her perspective and that you will join us in the process. 


Additionally, I would like to invite you to check out essays written by the Aquinas community on our Common Reading Experience website.  If you are feeling up to an even greater challenge, turn to the back of the book, read “Appendix A:  How to Write your Own ‘This I Believe’ Essay,” and start writing.  In the meantime, enjoy the waning days of summer and know that we are looking forward to an exciting academic year. 

Academic and Learning Services: Getting Off On The Right Foot

For some students college comes as a huge culture shock.  The pace and styles of teaching, along with adjustments to living away from home often contribute to feelings of being overwhelmed.  These can lead to academic challenges. What can you do to help? 
There are two choices, you can either,

  1. Spend an extraordinary amount on books with titles such as, Supporting your College Student, How to Let Go, How not to Hover, etc.,  or
  2. You can become familiar with the Academic and Learning Services that we have at Aquinas to address the academic challenges faced by students.

The first piece of advice is encouraging your student to talk with their professors.  Make use of faculty office hours.  This is an excellent resource for students needing advice on assignments and managing class work. 

Academic & Learning Services


Our Writing Center, in lower level Wege Center, is a great support for students writing college papers.  The Writing Center can answer questions regarding styles of writing, proofing papers, choosing a topic, editing and revising drafts.  Our bookstore, which is next to the Writing Center, has style guides and other books on writing successful college papers.  It is important to talk with your student about Academic Integrity, CTRL C + CTRL V (Plagiarism) is not tolerated in college.  We will teach your student the skills they need to undertake research. You can help by reminding them to, make use of our excellent library and seek out the Writing Center.  Our Peer Tutoring program and Study Groups, gives students the opportunity to work alongside one another, helping them to learn and discuss content that they might be struggling with.  We have specialists in all aspects of studying and how to be a successful college student.  We offer regular one on one academic support counseling, time management skills, how to deal with procrastination, Improving note-taking, reading, developing critical thinking skills and accommodation support for students with disabilities. 

On Campus Jobs: We Can Help 

Career and Counseling Services lists both on and off campus employment opportunities. 
The following are five steps to finding a job either on or off campus while your student is in school.


Step 1 - Looking at their class schedule to determine what hours they are available to work, how many hours they would like to work and how many hours their financial aid package will
allow. Make sure they leave enough time for study.  (Maximum number of hours your student could work is 20 hrs. per week.)


Step 2 - Check the job postings listed by Career and Counseling Services on our website or stop in our office, lower Donnelly Center.  Upper classmen can also be helpful when asked about jobs they may have held on or off campus.


Step 3 - Use the Aquinas website to learn about the various departments and their functions.


Step 4 - A student application is available on the Human Resource website. Print the application, complete the information, and submit the application along with a resume to each department that has a position available. Make sure to follow the department’s specific instructions and dress appropriately if dropping off the application to the specific department. 


Step 5 - When interviewing; arrive approximately 10 minutes early, do not wear blue jeans or shorts, be prepared to share why you would like the position, how you can contribute to  the department and what hours you would be able to work. 


Opportunities are posted throughout the year. You are welcome to visit us either on campus or online at or stop into the lower Donnelly Center.