Salute to Women

Salute to Women honors four women within the college's community for personal and professional excellence and for serving as role models and mentors to other women. This is awarded annually during March, Women's History Month.

Call for Nominations

Celebrate a GRCC woman! Have someone you admire join the women who have been honored through Salute to Women since 1999. Recognition of the award recipients is part of Women’s History Month and is celebrated through a formal reception on March 28, 2017. Nominate a woman you want to salute and celebrate.

2017 Salute to Women Recipients

Mary BrownLaura B. Moody
GRCC Employee
Professor of Nursing

A woman of service and advocacy 

As an educator, Laura B. Moody MSN, RN wants to be the person she didn’t have when she was a student. She encourages students to trust themselves, know who they are and study what they don’t know. She hopes to teach students to never let anyone tell them they can’t accomplish something.

Laura supports young women in their academic career and wants to see more nurses of color. An active educator and advocate outside the classroom, she’s an advisor for the Grand Rapids Community College Practical Nursing Club and also a member of many local and national groups, including the National Black Nursing Association and National League of Nursing.

A registered nurse, Laura earned her bachelor’s in nursing from the University of Michigan master’s in nursing from Grand Valley State University with a focus in women’s health. She is a full-time professor at GRCC and an adjunct professor at Grand Valley State University.

Helping students and community members understand health care has been a theme in Laura’s nursing career. With over 40 years of experience as a nurse, and nearly 20 years as an educator, she knows how to listen and be supportive -- and when to speak for those who need a voice.

Laura leads with clarity and authority on health issues impacting local communities, such as how ailments can affect quality of life. She tells us, “Community members need to understand the different resources that are available and how to tap into them.” She uses her experience and knowledge of hospice care to assist others dealing with end-of-life issues. She will often
sit at the bedside of those in need and help them understand medical terms and get their questions answered.

Her positive motto in life is a testament to her community advocacy: “If I can help someone as I travel along the way, then my life will not be in vain!”

Patti Trepkowski
Christina Arnold
Former GRCC Employee
Founding Director
Bob and Aleicia Woodrick Center for Equity and Inclusion

A woman of dedication and community

Chris Arnold may have officially retired as director of the to the Bob and Aleicia Woodrick Center for Equity and Inclusion at Grand Rapids Community College last fall, but she has not slowed down. She is currently a consultant at the center, serves on the Student Advancement Foundation Board and serves on advisory councils for Kent County, Varnum and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Her work at GRCC and in the community exemplifies the lesson she shares with young people: Work hard, be true to yourself and lead with your heart.
Chris’s dedication to uplifting her community goes back decades. She grew up in a single-parent, Mexican-American household in Grand Rapids. Her awareness of mistreatment of minorities while still in school helped develop her passion for social justice.

Chris became a secretary for GRCC after high school, assisting in the gradual growth of resources and programs to raise awareness of, and celebrate, diversity. Through this work, and then as the alumni and diversity coordinator, she was a key player in initiatives of former GRCC presidents Calkins and Olivarez to support minority students and diversity awareness programs on campus and in our community.

It was this activism which led to the creation of the college’s Center for Diversity Learning in 2003 – of which Chris was named the associate director. She envisioned the center as a place where anyone could be included and see themselves reflected.

Over her career Chris knit a strong community network to activate positive change, evidenced by the renaming of the center in honor of donors and fellow advocates Bob and Aleicia Woodrick in 2006. Though she takes great pride in the growth and sustainability of the center, Chris is excited is about what will come next. “I hope to continue to encourage people to get out of their comfort zones, seek opportunities to listen and learn from others,” she says.

Nikki Banks
Erendida Erazo-Alas
GRCC Student
Business Adminstration Major

A woman of determination and optimism

Erendida Erazo-Alas does not let challenges stand in her way. Having survived painful circumstances in El Salvador, she came to the U.S. in
2007 to start a new life.

Erendida worked diligently to learn English in the Grand Rapids Community College Adult Education’s ESL program, and then set her sights on a GED. College was not part of her plan until she found inspiration in her GED math teacher’s own story of attending college as a non-traditional student.

Erendida thought, “Maybe it’s not too late for me.” She started classes at GRCC in 2014 and was amazed to see so many women in leadership roles, including in the enrollment center, her first academic advisor and several faculty and staff from TRIO/Student Support Services.

With encouragement, and despite Erendida’s apprehensions about her English skills, she took a position as a student ambassador for orientation in GRCC’s enrollment center. She worked through the challenge of the amount of English speaking required as an ambassador and found joy in helping new students every day.

Erendida has served as a peer mentor for TRIO/SSS and a facilitator for the Latino Youth Conference, and has volunteered for many campus and community efforts. She has been described as a natural leader who lives
her life with optimism. “Putting a smile on someone’s face is the best part of my day,” she says.

Erendida has been recognized on the President’s and Dean’s Lists several semesters and is the recipient of multiple scholarships. She will graduate from GRCC this year with an associate degree, and plans to earn a master’s in human resources.

“When I feel like I’m struggling, I try to push a little more — push harder.” Erendida says. “If I set an objective, I’ll work hard to get it.”

Sarah VansolkemaDr. Nkechy Ekere Ezeh
GRCC Alumna
Associate Professor, Aquinas College
Founder and CEO, Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative

A woman of passion and inclusion

Few people walk into a career, but Dr. Nkechy Ekere Ezeh seemed to walk into Grand Rapids Community College at the right time.

A long walk that ended in the GRCC Library and the decision to take a class turned into a lifelong career and passion.

Dr. Ekere Ezeh was new to Grand Rapids in 1986 and only knew her husband. She’d take long walks and when she found herself in the GRCC Library, a brochure for the Child Development program caught her eye. As a mother-to-be, she was looking for information and decided to take a class. She ended up finishing a Child Development degree at GRCC, which has led to a highly regarded career in the field.

Dr. Ekere Ezeh completed her BA and M.Ed. at Grand Valley State University, and then went on to earn her Ed.D in Child and Youth Studies from Nova Southeastern University. She’s now an Associate Professor of Education at Aquinas College, serving as the Director of the Early Childhood Endorsement Program.

Reflecting on her early studies, she says, “GRCC started it for me, opened the door for me, made my life now possible.” That life includes achieving the highest degree in her field and founding the Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative, an organization that works to increase the accessibility of early educational resources for vulnerable children.

Dr. Ekere Ezeh credits her father for her perseverance. He was a chief in Nigeria who reached out to the most vulnerable women and children. He taught her, “Remember who you are. Whatever you do, do your best, to the fullest.” Here in Grand Rapids, Dr. Ekere Ezeh saw inequalities between neighborhoods and recognized that “the system created structure that leaves our children behind and continues to divide us.” She finds strength in her roots as she works toward changing that system and argues that inclusion is essential. “We must bring critiques, indigenous voices to the table,” she says. “It’s a problem when you don’t have people of color at the table when making decisions that will impact people of color.”