Parents and Families  

eNewsletter: December 2012

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A Letter from President Juan Olivarez
From the Desk of the Dean of Student Services
Tips for Coping with Holiday Stress
International Programs: Perspectives from 2012 Rome Program Participants
Welcome to the Center for Diversity and Inclusion
Join Us for Junior Saints' Weekend! February 1-3, 2013
Supporting Our Students
A Letter from President Juan Olivarez

Dear Parents,

I am looking forward to the holiday season as I’m sure you are too!

So many terrific things have happened here at Aquinas this semester. Our student-faculty research initiative expanded beyond the sciences this year with new projects being funded in art, athletic training, marketing, music and sociology.  Our fall athletic teams have experienced great success. We continue to plan Phase II of the Sports and Fitness Center and hope to break ground soon. We enjoyed a fantastic Homecoming and a host of other activities planned by our Campus Life staff.

President Juan Olivarez

You can keep track of all the events on campus by checking out our calendar on the Aquinas website.

We’ve enjoyed a wonderful semester, but it is time for everyone to take a break and celebrate Christmas with friends and family. May you experience the blessings of the season!


Juan R. Olivarez, Ph.D.


From the Desk of the Dean of Student Services
Brian Matzke

Greetings and Happy Holidays!  As our students finish up their semester and find themselves half way through the year, I thought I might take a minute to share some thoughts regarding our developmental goals for each of the academic levels of our students. Some students will be ahead of schedule while others will be working into the second semester toward some of these goals. You may find it helpful to have a conversation with your student over the holidays about how they see themselves with regard to these areas of growth.

Let's begin with our first year students.  During the early part of a student's first year, we focus on teaching the student how to navigate our campus and familiarize them with the college and our variety of resources.  We then start to

encourage the student to begin some self-assessment.  It is our hope that students will begin to identify their skills, abilities, goals and values during their freshman year.  We ask them to ponder questions such as "Who am I" and "What are my strengths?"

As students transition into their sophomore year, we ask them to research and begin to explore a variety of potential career opportunities.  Many students will have completed our required career development course (CD 200) by the end of their sophomore year resulting in a map to their future.  We also encourage students to declare a major in their sophomore year, so that we can pair them with an adviser in their intended career field.  We have a sophomore pinning ceremony as part of our Students in Action Awards on Friday, April 5 where we celebrate all of our sophomores who have declared their major.  It is important to note that some students will change their minds, but we feel that answering questions such as "Where am I going?"  And "Who and what do I want to become?" are important developmentally in the sophomore year.

The theme of year three then becomes acquiring experience and reality testing.  By the junior year, we love to see students study abroad, do internships, and participate in service learning trips and other activities to gain experience.  We focus on asking the question, "What activities will best prepare me for what I want to become?" Our third year students also become very involved in leadership roles in our campus clubs and organizations, gaining valuable experience while sharpening their leadership skills.

As we get to the senior year, we strongly encourage students to begin a proactive job search or to check out graduate or professional schools.  If your soon to be college graduate has not yet initiated these activities, it is time for them to start.  Networking and conducting an aggressive job search is essential in the senior year. An AQ graduate who landed a job before graduation advises that it is never too early to start connecting with resources in the community. Crafting a quality resume that differentiates your student and articulates their broad liberal arts education with career preparation will greatly enhance their opportunities for employment.

 It is with this in mind, that we are very proud to have a new resource available to our students. Starting in the fall of 2010, Mr. Tim Ramsay, Assistant Director of Campus Life and Mr. Eric Bridge, Director of Service Learning began documenting participation in clubs and organizations,  and service learning trips that our student have experienced both on and off campus.  When I was reading through our survey of student engagement, I realized that students often fail to recognize their involvement in extra and co-curricular activities. For example, over 90% of our students surveyed as freshmen acknowledged that they had been involved in some sort of service learning. When we surveyed these same students as seniors the number fell to closer to 70%.  We know that these students had done service learning as part of their Project Unite experience in their freshman year, but somehow had forgotten this by the time they were seniors. To help our students get started on their resumes and graduate school applications, I am grateful that Eric and Tim are putting together an Aquinas Affiliation, Organization and Membership screen.  We plan on promoting this screen (which is available to students on their "MYAQ" login) beginning second semester. This “MYAQ” is the same place where your student goes to view their academic transcript, their report card, as well as to add and drop classes. While this is not a comprehensive list, we hope that students will use it as a resource to help jar their memory, as well as to differentiate themselves on their resumes and graduate school applications. 

As your student arrives back home for the holidays, we as part of your extended Aquinas family, wish you the very best and we look forward to a great 2013!


- Brian Matzke, Dean of Student Services, Aquinas College, (616) 632-2073


Tips for Coping with Holiday Stress

TO: Parents of an Aquinas Student
FROM: The Counselors at Aquinas College Career and Counseling Services


The joy of the holidays is welcomed by all. It is a time to reconnect with your child during the holiday break. Though your child is entering adulthood and becoming more independent, he or she will still need your help and support. Stress during the holidays can be overwhelming at times. When a child lives on campus most of the year the family dynamics often change. Adjusting to these changes can be challenging for the student and the family. Here are some tips for coping during the holiday break:


Tips for holiday stress and building resilience:

  • Set expectations. Be open and realistic when talking to your child about expectations for gifts and holiday activities. Take small concrete steps to deal with many holiday tasks like sleeping arrangements and transportation for your returning child.
  • Keep things in perspective.  Plan early and consult with your returning college student when making arrangements for family parties, vacations and other activities. Don't do everything for them. Let him or her take responsibility for the things they've been handling while away at college, such as medical appointments, finances, laundry, car and computer maintenance.
  • Make connections. Good relationships with family and friends are important. So, view the holidays as a time to reconnect with people. Even volunteering at a local charity with your child is a good way to connect with others.
  • Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings during the holiday season. Engage in activities that you and your family enjoy and find relaxing. Taking care of yourself helps keep your mind and body healthy.


To learn more about common mental health issues for college students, visit the Student Resources page on the Career and Counseling Services’ website.


For more information about helping your child during his or her college career visit our Parent Resources and Articles Archive websites or simply click on one of the following links: Break from Study; Break for Friends, Christmas can be Hectic: Christmas Break

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.


International Programs: Perspectives from 2012 Rome Program Participants
Emily Hazelbach and Mary Kisielewski








Pictured at left: Emily Hazelbach and Mary Kisielewski, Aquinas sophomores, are spending this semester living, studying and interning in Rome.

Emily's Story
Emily Hazelbach

Emily Hazelbach
Aquinas College sophomore
2012 Rome Program Participant
EWTN Global Catholic Television Network Intern


There is no better way to start your day than waking up at 5 a.m., hopping on a bus at 6 a.m., and attending mass at St. Peter’s at 7 a.m., followed by drinking a cup of cappuccino and eating 30 cent pastries while enjoying the beautiful sunrise and awakening of the city of Rome.  This has been my life so far this semester, and I could not be more pleased with my time spent experiencing a new culture while studying abroad through the Rome Program.  The opportunities I’ve had, things I’ve learned, and the growth I’ve gained spiritually, I will have for the rest of my life, and it is truly a blessing.

Every day is a new adventure. I’ve learned to let go and let God, because really His plan is the one that matters, not mine.  I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some incredible people from all around the U.S. and travel around the world with them as we have become one family this semester. Other than living in Rome, we’ve been to Assisi, the Amalfi Coast, Florence, Venice, Padua, London, and my favorite experience - our pilgrimage to Poland.


Besides taking classes, eating delicious food cooked by Italian chefs every day, touring the city of Rome, and experiencing Italian culture, I’ve had the most amazing opportunity to intern with EWTN Global Catholic Television Network at the Vatican! I am beyond thankful for this opportunity and the experiences I’ve had so far that have come with it.  It has provided me the opportunity to gain experience in the fields I’m interested in, those being business, communications and Catholic Studies. Before I came to Rome, I heard about possible internship opportunities at the Vatican, but I had no idea they were this great. Let me just list a few of the opportunities I’ve had so far through my internship.

  1. I was the photographer for the news station, and had special privilege to sit in front of the first pew at St. Peters, during the Ordination of Deacons Mass. Afterwards, I attended a special reception at the Pontifical North American College and met some of the ordained Deacons, other priests, and other people from the Catholic News Agency
  2. I interviewed a representative of the Human Life International Organization, asking him questions about their work and future goals, while he was being filmed. I experienced the work a broadcast journalist would do… and felt like Katie Couric! It was amazing!
  3. I met Timothy Cardinal Dolan and sat three feet away from him while he recorded an episode for his radio show. Afterwards, I recorded a question of my own to be asked on a future show.
  4. I worked with the editor of the Catholic News Agency in Denver and stood on top of the colonnade at St. Peter’s taking pictures of the Canonization Mass for the seven canonized saints. Amazing view of over 80,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, and perfect view of the Pope and hundreds of Cardinals, Bishops, and Priests who joined him on the altar this special day.
  5. I have had the ability to meet people and network with them so hopefully that will be able to lead to future opportunities! (I might even intern with the Catholic News Agency or for a show through CNA in Washington, D.C. someday)

My semester abroad has been the most fulfilling and life changing experience of my life.  My perspective of the world has been widened immensely, I’ve enriched my faith, and I feel empowered to, as St. Ignatious said, “Go and set the world on fire.”

I could not have imagined or asked for a better experience thus far and I’m excited to share my experiences and faith with others upon my return. 

One last note, I transcribed an interview at my internship one day. These words by a priest at the Vatican really stuck out to me, and they perfectly describe my experience here in Rome: "Coming to Rome broadens horizons. You meet Catholics from all over the world. You get in contact with the center of the Church, with the history of this extraordinary city. It changes you. It makes you a better human being, and it makes you a better Catholic." 

Mary's Story

Mary Kisielewski

Aquinas College sophomore
2012 Rome Program Participant
Anna M. Martorano Elementary School Intern

I am so blessed to have been able to have the opportunity to internship at the school, Anna M. Martorano. I have dreamt of becoming a teacher ever since the second grade. I’m not exactly sure how and why I got drawn into the idea of teaching. All I know is that I wanted to be just like my second grade teacher. Coming to Rome, I had doubts about still going into teaching. This internship, however, has helped me gain a better understanding of the job and has made me realize that this “teaching thing” is for me.

I meet with the teachers and students about twice a week. Unfortunately, that is all I can fit into my schedule. I have only been interning at this school for about a month, and have already gained so much. The teachers and staff that I work with are very sweet and understanding. There is a bit of a language barrier between us, but it makes my experience there all the better. I try to learn a little Italian and they try to learn a little English. For this internship, I teach English to five- and six-year-olds. I fell in love with the children the first day I met them. I have been able to observe the interaction of the teacher with the children both one-on-one and in a group setting. I also have been able to lead some lessons that consist of the students watching a cartoon episode in English and then re-enacting the cartoon verbally with hand motions. After the English lesson, I stay to observe the rest of the students’ day, which involves playing intellectual games, snack time, singing songs, coloring and story-time.


This experience has far exceeded my expectations! In the end, I’m sure I will have learned more from the students than they will have learned from me. I dread saying goodbye to the staff and students when I have to leave. I know I’m going to miss them so much. I love walking to the school twice a week, knowing that I'm going to be greeted by children clinging to my legs and shouting "Hello!" in their best English. I highly recommend future Rome study abroad students to be involved in some sort of an internship. This internship has been a highlight of my study abroad experience!


AQ International Programs

Aquinas College is very proud to offer semester abroad programs in Italy, Spain, Japan, Ireland, Costa Rica, Germany, and France as well as domestic exchanges in New York, Florida and California. >More information, including videos, of our various off-campus programs


Applications for 2013-14 programs will be due January 23, 2013. Interested students can download an application from our website or stop by the International Programs Office in AB 20 to pick up an application packet. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Joelle Baldwin, Director of International Programs, at (616) 632-2076 or


Welcome to the Center for Diversity and Inclusion

By: Latoya Gates, Director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion

Latoya Gates

The Center for Diversity & Inclusion, located in office 208 of the upper Cook Carriage House, is here to engage all Aquinas students. We offer a safe space to participate in empathic cross-cultural exploration, as well as develop a deeper understanding of individual cultural identity.

At Aquinas, we believe all students benefit from a multicultural learning environment. Encountering diverse perspectives and experiences prepares students to be successful in a global society. The Center for Diversity & Inclusion continually organizes events to connect a variety of cultural traditions, facilitates workshops on creating a more inclusive campus climate, hosts diversity speakers to increase cross-cultural awareness, and provides volunteer opportunities throughout

the year with the goal of combating social inequities. The Center’s foundation lies in advocacy as we work to promote inclusiveness across campus. We are a supportive resource for concerns and inquiries regarding diversity and equity.

As the newly appointed Director, I am excited to meet students and assist them in achieving a more culturally enriched college experience. Whether Aquinas is the most diverse environment your student has ever experienced and they are excited to explore new cultures, or if it’s the most homogeneous environment your student has ever been a part of and they are experiencing a bit of culture shock…encourage her/him to connect with us!


Join Us for Junior Saints' Weekend! February 1-3, 2013

By Heather Hall, Director of Campus Life

Junior Saints’ Weekend is an annual tradition where our AQ students welcome their sibs or those whom they love as family to join them on campus for a weekend of activities.  The event is for kids of all ages and offers our AQ students a chance to highlight their college and share their life with their friends/family.  We often have students who host a cousin, someone whom they babysit, a young neighbor, etc.

The Aquinas College Programming Board (AQPB) with the support of Campus Life and Residence Life has organized a weekend full of activities including novelty games and magic, interactive activities and film, music and more!  A complete schedule of events will be available online the week of December 10, 2012.

Junior Saints Weekend 2012

Please note that we will also offer hotel discounts and information about “what’s happening in Grand Rapids” that same weekend in the event that families would like to stay locally.  We see this weekend as a family weekend for our students and a break for parents! Treat yourself to that weekend and enjoy what our great city has to offer!


If you have any questions regarding this event or any activity that is happening that weekend, please contact AQPB is finalizing all of the details on the schedule, but here is some preliminary information about the event and how we are organized. 


>Frequently Asked Questions about Junior Saints Weekend (pdf)


Supporting Our Students
By: Brian Parsons, Student Support Services
Coloring bags for Kids Food Basket

We are extremely excited about some of our new initiatives this semester in Student Support Services (SSS). This year we have taken the Dominican charisms of service, study, and community to heart and are looking to help our students in this manner through several key programs.

The first endeavor we are really proud of is our current partnership with Kids Food Basket. They are a local, non-profit organization whose mission is to attack childhood hunger in greater Grand Rapids. They are responsible for serving sack suppers to over 4,800 kids EACH DAY. To assist them, SSS students are decorating bags that are used for the suppers, conducting a food drive to assist them in their goals of feeding area kids, and soon we will begin volunteering our time at the organization to help pack the bags. For us, allowing our students to give back to the next generation of students is a natural fit for us and we are proud to be giving our time and talents to such an organization.


Secondly, we have provided our students with multiple opportunities to learn about financial literacy. Our peer mentors delivered a workshop on effective budgeting strategies earlier this semester and they even were able to enlist the help of Nelson, our school’s mascot. Students who attended learned real-life examples about ways to create a budget, and more importantly, continue to stay on one. We will also be having a speaker from Lake Michigan Credit Union coming to speak to our students on credit scores and how decisions they are making as students can affect them after graduation.

Finally, we are thrilled about introducing the StrengthsQuest learning initiative to our first-year students this fall. Most of our first-year participants have taken an interest inventory to learn their five key strengths that make them unique. We believe that allowing our students to work from their strengths is a more effective way to reach them and open them up to understanding their self-identity a little more. The next step is meeting with a member of our team three times over the course of this semester to help them better understand how to harness these strengths, recognize them in others, and how they can work more cohesively in group settings because they better recognize their strengths.

These are just a few of the ways we are helping assist our students become better assimilated to Aquinas College as students and as individuals. We are extremely pleased with how our goals for this year are progressing and look forward to continuing that trend in the Spring semester.

As a reminder, Student Support Services is a federally-funded program that supports 160 Aquinas students per year who are first-generation, low-income, and/or students with disabilities. There are many students at Aquinas College who are eligible for our program and a waiting list has been established for those seeking entry into the program. >Learn more about SSS


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