The deadline to nominate a student for the CLA is March 14, 2016, and the deadline for student applications has been extended to March 28th, 2016.

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Cook Leadership Academy Fellows
Where Emerging Leaders Prepare to Build Our Future

Welcome to the Cook Leadership Academy! The Hauenstein Center’s Peter C. Cook Leadership Academy is a leader development program for 60+ undergraduate and graduate students during the academic year. The program is co-curricular and cross-disciplinary — this year representing 52 different areas of study — and it provides numerous opportunities for student fellows to develop leadership excellence.

Cook Leadership Academy Fellows — our students — are put through a rigorous curriculum of training, assessment, and practice designed to instill leadership excellence. Fellows are admitted to the Cook Leadership Academy for one or more years. Each applicant must meet the criteria of high academic achievement, active involvement in the campus community, dedication to the public good, a passion to lead, and a commitment to personal growth.

Through observation, mentoring, and practice, the fellows learn the behaviors and attitudes of ethical, effective leaders through more than 70 contact hours per fellow per year.
Our fellows gain access to a myriad of opportunities to advance their leadership skills. They…

  • Explore leadership with a cohort of more than 60 diverse, highly motivated student fellows during the academic year.
  • Build mentor relationships with community leaders from business, higher education, nonprofit, and government organizations.
  • Learn from and interact with accomplished local leaders through our Wheelhouse Talks speaker series.
  • Reflect on their own qualities as an authentic leader based on Strengths Finder, DiSC, Reflected Best Self, Emotional Intelligence, or mindfulness workshops.
  • Engage in valuable public speaking training in our Leader Lab as well as through Varnum Consulting.
  • Deepen their understanding in our “Grounded Leadership” coaching with Dr. Dev Butler from Thinc, Inc.
  • Pursue intensive leadership development through service learning projects, Washington Campus Week, and other high-impact initiatives.
  • Attend hallmark events through the Hauenstein Center and meet nationally recognized speakers. Our fellows have been face-to-face with four U.S. presidents, one U.S. Supreme Court Justice, two vice presidents, six first ladies, five secretaries of state, seven state governors, numerous business and nonprofit executives, multiple Pulitzer Prize winning writers, the world’s most decorated academic, a Grammy Award winner, and a national championship basketball coach.
  • Network and participate in vibrant downtown Grand Rapids through partnerships with the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, Library, and Museum; the Economics Club of Grand Rapids; the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan; the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce; and our accomplished alumni.

If you would like to learn more about the Cook Leadership Academy, click here or please contact Chadd Dowding at or (616) 331-7087.


Leadership Fellows in the 2016-17 Cook Leadership Academy

Ollie Ajami

Leah Beaulac – Biology
Leah is a biology major with minors in Arabic and Middle Eastern studies. As a student, she was an e-board member of the Model Arab league, a member of the Arab Cultural Club, and volunteered for events with both the Environmental Coalition and the Helen Devos Children’s Hospital. She grew up in Owosso, Michigan— a community that supported engaging in the arts— which helped her to develop a strong appreciation for music, art and theater. She is a classically trained pianist, as well as a recipient of several art awards including the 2012 U.S. Congressional Art Award. She has traveled to over 16 countries cultivating a strong interest in learning about other countries, cultures and languages.

During the summer of 2014, she studies Arabic in Oman, and spent the 2015-2016 academic year abroad in Amman, Jordan on the Barbara H. Padnos International Scholarship and the National Security Education Program David L. Boren Scholarship. While living in Jordan, she studied at an intensive Arabic language institute, Qasid, for 10 months. She was also a long-term volunteer at Mabarrat Um Al Hussein, an all boys’ orphanage and community center. As a volunteer, she played learning games with the boys, assisted them with their homework, and chaperoned special events. Additionally, she taught English to local professional women striving to advance their careers.

Currently, she is back in Jordan, interning with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). A total of 719,618 people of concern are registered with UNHCR in Jordan, including 646,329 Syrians, 55,162 Iraqis, and 9,127 others including 4,071 Yemenis, 3,055 Sudanese and 777 Somalis. This internship has brought her into Zaatari Refugee camp, the largest Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, and introduced her to the individuals working tirelessly to assist persons in need. Simultaneously, Leah is still working on increasing her proficiency in Arabic, while simultaneously completing her thesis on Water Scarcity and Refugee Populations in Northern Jordan.

Maria Beelen – Geology
Maria is a senior at Grand Valley State University studying geology, as well as women, gender and sexuality studies. With these degrees she hopes to go into hydrology and eventually science communications. She sits as the Vice-President for Educational Affairs on Grand Valley’s Student Senate, and as the President of Women in STEM Fields at GVSU. She also works in the Office of Student Life as a leadership programmer. Her passion lies within alternative learning such as, Kahn Academy, the Cosmos, and NPR’s Radio Lab and Science Friday. She hopes to promote women in leadership and more specifically women in STEM fields.


Richa Bhurtel

Rachel Bills – Communication
Rachel is a senior at Grand Valley this fall with a major in communications and a minor in advertising and public relations. She was born in Michigan but raised in Nebraska, GO HUSKERS! Her family moved back to Michigan when she was 9, and she spent the rest of her childhood on the east side of the state, Auburn Hills to be exact. Her mother worked in Marketing and her father was a teacher. She loves being active and spending time outdoors. Her passions include music, movies, literature, giving back, and helping others. She hopes to always continue growing as a person, whether that be in her professional or personal life, she hopes to never plateau. She is a firm believer that duct tape fixes everything, cowboy’s never cry, and you should always move forward no matter what life throws in your way.

Matt Bogden

Taylor Boyd – Masters of Education
Taylor is a graduate student pursing a master’s of education in Grand Valley State University’s College Student Affairs Leadership (CSAL) program. Taylor completed his undergraduate degree at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, but was born and raised in Columbia, SC. Taylor is an avid adventurer and outdoorsman who enjoys wildlife, camping, and fishing in his spare time. His adventurous spirt has taken him across the globe as he has visited and/or studied in nine different countries. Taylor has a passion for learning and aspires to impact students and enact change on an institutional level within a college or university. His previous work with colleges and universities has taken him across the south eastern portion of the United States as he has worked at a total of five institutions ranging from 12,000 – 52,000 students. His depth of knowledge within the collegiate realm has sparked interest in areas related to Black male collegians, research methods and assessment, accreditation, and the evaluation of institutional programs and initiatives. Along with his involvement within Cook Leadership Academy, Taylor currently serves on the Graduate Council Policy Committee and the University’s Assessment Committee. Taylor also sits on two graduate student organization Executive Boards and is the Graduate Student Advisor for Grand Valley’s Undergraduate NAACP Chapter. Taylor is excited to grow and develop with Cook Leadership Academy and looks forward to the opportunities ahead.

Sierra Bulson – Political Science
Sierra Bulson is a West Michigan native, born in Holland and raised in the small town of Hamilton where she graduated high school in 2013. Sierra is entering her junior year in the Frederik Meijer Honors College at Grand Valley State University. Ms. Bulson is pursuing her Bachelor’s in political science along with two minors in international relations and criminal justice. She recently completed an internship on the Ready to Run Michigan planning committee through which she was able to help train and encourage women to run for elected office. Sierra has received many honors and awards in her two years at Grand Valley, including: the GV Award of Excellence, GV Presidential Scholarship, the “I am Grand Valley” award and, most recently, the John T. Batchelder Political Science Scholarship. She has been on the Dean’s List every semester and was a Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society Freshman Honoree in 2014. Sierra is actively involved in GVSU’s International Relations Organization and is a member of Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity. In the Fall 2015 semester, Sierra will be studying European politics at Charles University in Prague where she looks forward to expanding her small town perspective and embracing all the Czech Republic has to offer.

Kristen Childs – International Relations / DeVos Endowed Fellow
Kristen is a junior at Grand Valley State University studying international relations and geographic information systems, with a minor in international business. She is also a member of the Frederik Meijer Honors College. Kristen grew up in Plymouth, Michigan, where she graduated from Canton High School in 2012. Before attending Grand Valley, she embarked on her first major adventure by living abroad for a year as a foreign exchange student in Arequipa, Peru as part of a Rotary Student Exchange. Always up for a challenge, she continues to jump at every opportunity at Grand Valley, participating in activities such as sailing, backpacking, and ballroom dance. Kristen most recently worked with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation interning in International Trade Development. Her future career aspirations lie in the application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) toward the understanding and communication of environmental and human phenomenon. She is also developing her language skills (currently Spanish and German) to enhance her ability to work with others from around the world. Kristen looks forward to fostering her leadership skills through the Cook Leadership Academy by networking with community and student leaders, with the goal of understanding how others choose to be bold, strive for success, and foster leadership in others. As a second year fellow, she is very grateful for the many opportunities that the Academy offers, and believes that the pursuit of learning outside the classroom is just as beneficial as what is taught at university. In her spare time, Kristen can always be found singing, enjoying the outdoors, meeting new people, and seizing the next exciting opportunity that comes her way!

Kathryn Christopher – Product Design and Manufacturing Engineering
Kathryn Christopher, more commonly called KC, is a senior pursuing a major in product design and manufacturing engineering. She was born and raised in Portage, Michigan and graduated from Portage Central High School with an International Baccalaureate Diploma. She received her Associate’s Degree in liberal arts from Kalamazoo Valley Community College where she was also the recipient of the Presidential Award for student athletes in 2011. She then transferred to Grand Valley State University that same year. She strives to be involved in a variety of activities on campus and in the Grand Rapids community. She played on the varsity softball teams at both KVCC and GVSU and is still actively involved with both teams. KC started a company, Fluition LLC, with four other GVSU students in 2014, and they are currently creating a medical device that they hope to have on the market within the next year. She has also spent time working as an intern at Eaton Corporation, Xaerus Fluids, and Charter House Innovations. Her curious and creative spirit have sparked her interests in a variety of fields including law, sustainability, entrepreneurship, and design. KC has a passion for learning and plans to continue her education after graduating with her B.S.E. in 2015. KC also enjoys running, camping, and crafting and you can find her frequenting the downtown breweries with friends, jogging around campus, or attending one of the many local sporting events.

Micaela Cole – Political Science
Micaela is a sophomore at Grand Valley State University. She is majoring in political science and is a member of the Frederik Meijer Honors College. Before attending Grand Valley, Micaela grew up in East Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she was able to participate in her high school’s “We The People” Team and represent Michigan at the national competition in 2014. At Grand Valley, Micaela helps other students study abroad as a peer adviser in the Padnos International Center. She also works with administrators at Lakeside Elementary and Breton Elementary in East Grand Rapids to promote youth literacy and reading for pleasure. Micaela is a part of the Beaver Island Club of Grand Rapids, which organizes an annual event to raise funds for emergency services on Beaver Island, Michigan. Next year, Micaela will continue studying Political Science in Galway, Ireland as a Padnos International Scholar. She is excited to foster her leadership skills and meaningfully engage with other students and community members through the Cook Leadership Academy.

Jonathan Cook – Finance and Accounting / Titche Endowed Fellow
Jonathan enjoys his time learning in the classroom, but his curiosity drives him to further his education outside of the university setting. This explains Jonathan’s semester-long departure from Grand Valley to pursue a full-time internship with Google. Jonathan plans to return in 2016 to finish his degree in finance, accounting and management information systems. He plans to build on his diverse base of knowledge to find sustainable solutions for the world’s most wicked problems. When he isn’t working or developing his startup, you can find Jonathan at the local dance studio.


Terrell Couch

Brody Cragg – Economics
Brody Cragg is from the village of Oakley, Michigan. He is majoring in economics with an honors emphasis and a minor in LGBTQ Studies. After receiving his undergraduate degree, Brody plans on going to law school to become an attorney specializing in litigation regarding minorities of any sort and their welfare in the United States. His academic areas of interest include politics, economics, environmental studies, gender and sexual minorities. The organizations he is a part of include GVSU’s Student Environmental Coalition where he serves as the Vice President, the Black Sheep satire newspaper where he serves as writer and deliverer, and the GVSU Running Club. Additionally, Brody is a student ambassador who gives tours of campus to prospective students. He enjoys athletics, especially running and swimming, and competes in road races of varying distances. Brody likes to keep busy and active as shown by his involvements on campus!

Megan Damico

Dallas Davis – Liberal Studies: International Conflict Resolution
Dallas a senior in the Frederik Meijer Honors College at Grand Valley State University dual-majoring in German and liberal studies with an emphasis in international conflict resolution. Dallas grew up in Lansing, Michigan and graduated in 2012 from Holt High School where he was involved in the National Honors Society and year-round athletics. Since starting his education at Grand Valley, his desire to learn more about the world and its international systems has grown tremendously. He has been a member of the Grand Valley Men’s Rugby Club at Grand Valley for four years, and has recently become involved with the international student organizations on campus. From September 2014 until August 2015, Dallas studied for a year in Munich, Germany. He is an employee at Grand Valley’s Padnos International Center and he plans to take part in another study abroad program to Punjab within the next year, allowing him to further his understanding of the world. After graduation, Dallas would like to attend a masters program emphasizing international policy and security. Dallas considers the Cook Leadership Academy to be an exceptional opportunity to transition from student life to professional life and he is excited to see where this experience takes him.

Dana Eardley – Public and Nonprofit Administration and Liberal Studies: Sustainable Food Systems / Hauenstein Endowed Fellow
Dana is a senior in the Frederik Meijer Honors College who finds great value in receiving an interdisciplinary education that allows her to employ systems thinking when addressing complex problems. Dana is working towards identifying ways that we can work across the boundaries of nonprofit, business, and governmental organizations in order to resolve social inequities, specifically those relating to food access. Dana has further explored this concept by interning at Good Life Ranch, the Sustainable Agriculture Project at GVSU, Baxter Community Center, Local First of West Michigan, and the YMCA Farmers Market. As Dana enters her third year in the CLA, she is eager to work closely with other fellows to explore new ideas through lenses that differ from her own.

Jaclyn Ermoyan

Hannah Fernando – Liberal Studies
Hannah Fernando is 20 years old and has completed two years at Grand Valley State University. Since beginning a new stage in her education at Grand Valley State University, she has started a major in liberal studies where she is composing her own program centered on sustainable food systems. Being raised in a diverse home with a multiracial background, she has been exposed to very different cultures, foods, and traditions. Growing up, food was more than physical nourishment, it was a means to developing community. Her love for food has matured with her, evolving from a love of good food, to a passion for good nutrition, to a conviction for food justice. She is currently combining a collection of consciously selected classes, thoroughly researched internships, and diverse network of extraordinary community leaders to build a foundation for her future. She is excited for the chance to learn more in the Cook Leadership Program so she can go into her community and offer her education as a means to gain welfare in the city.

Brandon Fitzgerald

Cullin Flynn

Ella Fritzmeier – Finance and Business Economics
Ella Fritzemeier is a senior at Grand Valley State University pursuing degrees in Finance and Business Economics with a minor in Spanish. She is from Chelsea, MI, home of Jiffy Mix and actor Jeff Daniels, right outside of Ann Arbor (Go Blue!). Ella studied abroad in Chile summer of 2015 and absolutely loved learning a new culture; she is hoping to travel across Europe upon graduation to continue learning from new cultures. This past summer, she worked as an intern in the Finance Development Program at Whirlpool, where she has realized how much she enjoys Corporate Finance as well as the company culture at Whirlpool. She will be working there full-time upon graduation in July 2017. She hopes to gain a great basis of financial skills, give back to the community she will be living in, and promote women in leadership. Aside from Cook Leadership Academy, Ella is a third year Resident Assistant in the Holton-Hooker Learning and Living Center, is a member of both National Residence Hall Honorary and Omicron Delta Kappa, and has the privilege of being elected the Student Senate President for 2016-2017. Student Senate is a group that is dedicated to ensuring that the student’s voice is continuously heard by the University and has been one of the best organizations that Ella has been a part of during her time as a Laker. Ella is looking forward to all of the different opportunities that Cook Leadership offers and learning from the other fellows.

Katheryn Gipe

Emma Hahs

Alexis Hartman

Malayna Hasmanis – Special Needs Education
Malayna Hasmanis is a senior at Grand Valley State University, where she is majoring in Special Needs Education with an emphasis in Emotional and Cognitive Impairments. She recently studied abroad in Tanzania, where she was able to live her dream of teaching abroad. She hopes to eventually get her doctorate in School Administration, where she can open up her own school in Tanzania, preferably Arusha, to focus on the developments of vocational skills for children with disabilities. Although she was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, she is quite smitten with the mitten, where she has jumped fully into her adventure at Grand Valley! She serves as the President of Greeks Against Sexual Assault, BRCAn’t Stop Me, and the Panhellenic Association. She also serves as the Vice President of Educational Affairs for Student Senate, where she hopes to really embrace the means of the Open Access initiative. She is passionate about all things regarding to education, for “your education is one of the few things that no one can take away from you, thus making it so powerful”.

Lilia Hauenstein

Ty Hendry

Andrew Hereza

Nicole Horne – Chemistry, Aquatic Biology – UM, BS ’94; GVSU, MS ’16 – David and Carol Van Andel Leadership Fellow
Nicole M. Horne is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Edward & Theresa Horne and hails from Muskegon, Michigan. Upon graduating from Muskegon High School, she matriculated through and graduated from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry (’94). She was then employed at Pfizer Global Research & Development in Ann Arbor & Holland, Michigan as an organic chemist for eight years, performing pharmaceutical synthesis and producing, isolating, and purifying recombinant DNA proteins for disease enquiries. In February 2004, Nicole entered full-time ministry as the Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church of Muskegon and served in this capacity for nine years. She is also an adjunct faculty member in the Math and Physical Sciences Department at Muskegon Community College, where she teaches chemistry and math. Nicole is currently a graduate student at GVSU in the Biology Department under the direction of Dr. Bopi Biddanda. Her thesis research is in the area of aquatic microbial ecology, with respect to aquatic biofilms and their role in the inexpensive and family-scale BioSand Biofilter water filtration system, which is used to provide safe drinking water in developing countries, improving human health and well-being.

Haleigh Hunter – Biomedical Science
Haleigh Hunter is a junior at Grand Valley State University majoring in biomedical sciences. She is in Grand Valley’s pre-medical program and hopes to one day become a physician. On campus, Haleigh is a part of the Frederik Meijer Honors College, the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, the Grand Valley Campus Lions Club, and the Pre-med Club. Haleigh is also a physiology laboratory assistant. In order to take a break from all things science, Haleigh works at the Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors as a writing consultant, where she enjoys meeting and collaborating with the many unique and diverse students on Grand Valley’s campus. During her free time, Haleigh loves to run, read, and watch movies, especially those from the 1960’s and 1980’s.

Chad Jackson

Yah-Sheba Jenkins

Natalie Joaquin – Political Science and Communication Studies
Natalie Joaquin is currently working on a Bachelor’s Degree in both communication studies and political science. As a committed member of Grand Valley’s Multicultural Cohort Program, she relishes any opportunity to promote equity and inclusion both within and beyond the classroom. She is the vice president of the Official GVSU Belly Dance Club and is also involved in other organizations such as the Law Society and Model Entertainment. While embracing her Dominican culture she enjoys salsa dancing and spending time with her family.

Megan Kellog

Emily Konen – Therapeutic Recreation
Emily is a senior at Grand Valley State University in the Frederik Meijer Honors College. She is studying therapeutic recreation and planning to pursue her Masters in Education after graduation. She was raised in a small town near Lansing, with her twin sister and two younger siblings. She graduated from Grand Ledge High School in 2014. At Grand Valley, Emily has worked with the fellowship office to become a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholar, as well as a Murray Scholar. These funds helped her spend this past summer abroad in Ireland where she volunteered with children with serious illnesses. Emily has also earned the President’s Volunteer Service Award and is a part of National Residence Hall Honorary, the American Therapeutic Recreation Association, and the Therapeutic Recreation Student Association. Emily is a Resident Assistant and works for Grand Valley’s Office of Public Safety. In her spare time, Emily is probably dancing, running, hiking, or volunteering. Emily is excited to learn more about leadership to further her future career!

Alena Leshner – International Business and Marketing
Alena Leshner is a senior at Grand Valley State University, with a double major in international business and marketing, and a minor in German. She grew up in Holland, Michigan, and spent her high school years helping exchange students adapt to life in the United States. She is a member of the Frederik Meijer Honors College, and works as the assistant to the Honors Academic Advisor. She is currently the president of Grand Valley’s International Relations Organization, and is a member of the national honors societies Phi Kappa Phi, Omicron Delta Kappa, and Beta Gamma Sigma. When she is not studying or organizing multicultural events for her organization, she enjoys playing her fiddle, hiking, spending time with friends, and learning new languages. She also loves traveling, and has studied abroad twice; once in Italy during high school, and her second time in Germany while attending Grand Valley. During the summer of 2014, she worked as a Development and Marketing intern for Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity, and is now a Product Marketing intern for Steelcase. Alena looks forward to networking and forming lasting relationships with fellows and mentors in the Cook Leadership Academy.

Christopher Lopez

Emily Macauley

Paige Matusiak – Behavioral Neuroscience
Paige is a junior at Grand Valley with a major in Behavioral Neuroscience and minors in Applied Statistics and Spanish Language. In July of 2015, Paige’s family moved from her Chicago-suburban hometown of LaGrange, Illinois to settle in downtown Grand Rapids. It was then that Paige found her immense passion for indulgence in the novelties of foreign cities and countries; she can now be found pursuing her desire to be a neuroscientist at KIIT University in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India. While taking courses in India, Paige is also volunteering for Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), a massive local tribal school which educates, houses, feeds, and empowers 25,000 malnourished and underprivileged tribal children. Having aspirations to be a world-traveler and a multilingual-speaker, Paige hopes to additionally study in a Spanish-speaking country before she graduates in order to achieve fluency. Back at GVSU, Paige is a proud member of the Frederik Meijer Honors College, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and the Judiciary Board of the Panhellenic community, for which she represents the Iota Iota chapter of Phi Sigma Sigma. Paige eagerly awaits to return to her fellow members of the Cook Leadership Academy, where she is excited to develop new friendships and to integrate her leadership and service skills into building a career in the field of neuroscience.

Aaron McClellan

Austin McNeal – Business Administration in Marketing
Austin McNeal is currently a junior at Grand Valley State University pursuing a Bachelor of business administration in marketing with a minor in nonprofit administration. Raised in Greenville, Michigan, Austin began exploring leadership opportunities while attending Greenville High School. He held leadership positions in the National Honor Society; Village Green Singers, his school’s show choir; Greenville Youth Advisory Council, a philanthropic organization; various athletic teams; as well as Student Council and Students Against Destructive Decisions. It was during this time that Austin began developing a passion for service and philanthropy. At Grand Valley, Austin is a student in the Frederik Meijer Honors College and is joining the team at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy in August 2015 as a student assistant in the Institute of Foundation and Donor Learning. Austin is also an active member of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, having served as a small group leader in the honors college. He is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. Austin is an “I Am Grand Valley” recipient and has made the Dean’s List every semester thus far. While life after college is unclear, Austin hopes to either work for a charitable nonprofit organization, a socially responsible for-profit organization, or work on developing partnerships between the ever-blurring private and nonprofit sectors. Whatever the future holds, he is sure the skills and knowledge learned during his time with the Peter C. Cook Leadership Academy will serve him well in his future endeavors of leading and serving others.

Symphonee Montgomery

Nhu Nguyen

Kole Niemi
Kole Niemi is a Junior at Grand Valley State University, and a member of the Frederik Meijer Honors College. He was raised in Garden City MI, and attended Lutheran High School Westland, graduating in 2014. Kole enjoys being active on campus, which shows through his involvement in multiple clubs and Greek life. As a brother of Alpha Tau Omega Kole has served as philanthropy chairman, organizing and participating in their 160 mile walk from campus to Traverse City, which raised over $42,000 for the National MS Society. You can find him on stage with ATO during Homecoming at his favorite Grand Valley event, lip-sync! He has loved the sense of community that Grand Valley provides, and he wishes to give back to the community in any way possible. He hopes to attend the University of Michigan for medical school after graduation. He is excited to learn and develop as a lifelong leader in the Cook Leadership Academy.

Alicia Perez – Hospitality and Tourism Management
Alicia is a senior at Grand Valley State University majoring in Hospitality and Tourism Management with an emphasis in Meeting and Events and a minor in Latin American Studies. Born and raised in Grand Rapids, Alicia graduated from Potters House a small yet heavily diverse, Christian high School. In high school Alicia found her passion planning events as elected Vice President of student council where she planned various event such as a breast cancer awareness game and Hispanic night fundraiser. Now at Grand Valley Alicia is President of Latino Student Union and Treasurer & Pre-college Outreach Chair for The National Society of Minorities in Hospitality. She has also served on the GVSU Cultural Council Funding Board and been involved with the Multicultural Cohort Program, Meeting Professionals International, Niara-Mentoring program, Advocates for Immigration Reform and You Beautiful Black Women. In 2015 Alicia was awarded the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association Diversity Award. In May 2015 Alicia was given the opportunity to work at the Cannes Film Festival in France. While there she gained valuable knowledge about the logistics of planning an International event. There she discovered that it was her goal in the future to work large-scale entertainment events such as the Oscars, Emmys and Grammys. Alicia is passionate about diversity and cultural awareness. She is an advocate for social justice and a feminist at heart. In her spare time Alicia enjoys traveling, and hopes to see as much of the world as possible. She enjoys exercising and being active and tries to live a healthy lifestyle. Alicia is active in her church, and enjoys quality time with her family. This year she hopes to gain essential leadership training through the Cook Leadership Academy as she continues to pursue her career.

Rachel Paris – Allied Health Sciences
Rachel is a junior at Grand Valley State University pursuing a degree in allied health sciences with an emphasis in pre-physician assistant studies. She grew up in Davison, Michigan and graduated from Davison High School in 2013. At Grand Valley, Rachel enjoys being an active member of the Glen A. Niemeyer Living-Learning Community as a member the Frederik Meijer Honors College and as a Resident Assistant in the Niemeyer and Calder community. Some of her other commitments include being a member of the National Resident Hall Honorary and serving as a Campus Ministry small group leader. Rachel is an active international traveler who enjoys learning about different cultures and customs. She has enjoyed her time at Grand Valley thus far, since she has been able to meet a variety of people and develop her leadership skills. In her spare time, you can find Rachel reading, running, serving others, and building relationships with her buddies. She is excited to be a member of the Cook Leadership Academy and to learn from the other fellows and the mentors before taking the next step toward becoming a Physician Assistant.

Elena Ongaro

Matt Oudbier

Jaedah Pickens

Michael Pratt

Carol Reiss

Dallas Rohraff

Cameron Saghaiepour

Kaela Sakorafis – Mathematics and Education
Kaela Sakorafis is a senior at Grand Valley studying Mathematics and Education with a minor Spanish. She is from Rochester, MI and loves to travel—most recently, by spending a summer studying Spanish language and culture in Bilbao, Spain. At Grand Valley, she serves as the President of Phi Sigma Sigma sorority, advocating strongly for their national philanthropy which supports school and college readiness across the nation. In addition, she was a founder and president of Students for Education Innovation— an organization that strives to collaborate with schools and local leaders to learn about and support innovative ideas for education reform. She currently works for the Kennedy Family Foundation in Grand Rapids Public Schools in order to promote and assist in improving literacy for at-risk kindergarten and first graders. She is an advocate for lifelong learning and quality education for all, and is highly passionate about the K-12 education system in the United States. Improving the overall status of education for at-risk youth, including English Language Learners and below poverty line students, is the most prevalent aspiration for her future career.

Laura Sample – Liberal Studies
Laura is not good at writing autobiographies, especially in third person. She obsessively consumes words and likes to regurgitate them in a variety of formats, including short story, prose, sketch, speech, and song. She believes in people, the colors of the sunset, pizza and Jack Kerouac. She is currently pursuing a degree in liberal education with an emphasis in interaction and experience design (ask her about it- she can’t wait to tell you her dreams and ideas). Her longest-lasting leadership position- twenty years and running- has been as a big sister to four outstanding young ladies who currently reside in her hometown of Imlay City, Mi, with her/their parents. She hopes you are happy. She hopes you know goodness. And she hopes you find these words, from Kurt Vonnegut, as cool as she does. “What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”

Casey Skinner

Kali Smolen – Cell and Molecular Biology
Kali is a fourth year student in the Frederik Meijer Honors College at Grand Valley State University where she studies Cell and Molecular Biology. As an Allendale native, she is proud to be a part of the growing Grand Valley community. Following graduation, Kali plans to pursue an MD/PhD dual medical degree and become a physician-scientist. Ultimately, she hopes to work in an academic hospital where she can both treat patients and investigate innovative therapeutics. At Grand Valley, she researches in the lab of Dr. Brad Wallar, exploring novel inhibitors to antibiotic resistant bacteria. As someone who loves to mentor up-and-coming scientists, Kali is a tutor in the Chemistry Success Center and the president of the Pre-MD/PhD Club at Grand Valley. She also volunteers as a Spanish Interpreter at Health Intervention Services in Grand Rapids. Outside of the clinic or laboratory, Kali can be found on the back of her horse, in the campus beehives with the Grand Valley Beekeepers, or hiking in the ravines. Kali is very excited to engage in conversations with community leaders, learn more about her leadership style, and serve on Cook Leadership Academy’s Advisory Cabinet this year.

Levi Stephenson – Accounting and Finance
Levi Stephenson is a junior at Grand Valley, majoring in accounting and finance. He was born and raised in Oxford, MI. He is the youngest of 6 children, and has a twin brother. After graduation, he will take the CPA exam— the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination— after which, he hopes to attend law school to study transactional and environmental law. His goal is to work in a senior leadership position for a large firm or corporation, where he can use his knowledge of business and law and his passion for the environment to bridge the gap between science, politics, and capitalism.

Jonathan Taccolini – Music
Jonathan (Jono) grew up in a large family in Ypsilanti, MI. He graduated from Grand Valley State in the spring of 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music and a French minor. His instrument of study is voice and he plans to pursue a master’s degree in Choral Conducting as well as a possible additional degree in Vocal Performance. Jonathan is a devout Catholic who enjoys spending time in dialectic discussions of truth, philosophy, theology, and religion. Jonathan also has a deep love for travel and language and spent the fall of 2014 studying French in the Loire Valley in France. He enjoys fine dining, is an avid sports enthusiast, and a lover of literature and the arts.

Rachel Travis

Jeremy Turnbull

Rose Turuka – International Business and Marketing
Rose Turuka is from East Africa, Tanzania off of this little island known as Zanzibar. She is an only child but she grew up with most of her nieces and nephews hence she has never truly been the only child. She came to the United States in June 2010 to visit her father who had been here studying and ended up joining him on the journey to finish her studies. Apart from herself and her father, the rest of Rose’s family is back home in Tanzania. She just finished her third year in Grand Valley State University as a double major in international business and marketing with a minor in French and cannot wait to see what her final year here entails. She is the President of African Student Council after serving as the Events officer for the organization two years in a row; she served as the Cultural Board Officer of International Student Organization, choreographer for the African Dance Team, a member of Ballroom dance Club and a member of Phi Chi Theta. She inspired the beginning of a non-profit organization back home in Zanzibar known as the RoseTuruka (ROTU) Foundation which aims to aid financially unstable individuals and orphans to receive education. As of now it is only based in Zanzibar but her dream is to expand and nurture the non-profit so that it may have branches around the continent of Africa and eventually around the world. In her free time, she loves to dance, cook, write, talk, create new ideas for her organizations, try to sing (keyword, TRY) and experience the slow moments in life. From the Cook Leadership Academy, she hopes to work together with fellow aspiring leaders to make the impact needed in the society as well as creating lasting relationships with both mentors and fellows.

Eric Versluis – Allied Health Sciences
Eric Versluis is a junior pursuing a degree in allied health sciences and a minor in business with the goal of getting into a physician assistant program after his undergraduate studies. Eric graduated from Calvin Christian High School in Grandville, Michigan. During high school he played varsity tennis, and was an active participant in the Boy Scouts of America program, during which he attained the rank of a Life Scout and served as an Assistant Scoutmaster. For nine weeks immediately following his high school graduation, he biked 3,900 miles from Los Angeles to New York City via the United States and Canada with the Sea to Sea organization in order to raise money and awareness for those living in poverty. He was successful in raising nearly $11,000 for the impoverished. He regularly volunteers at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital where he helps out in the inpatient therapy gyms. Eric has a strong passion for helping others, and he plans to spend as much time as he can on medical missions to third world countries lacking medical attention after graduating from a physician assistant program.

Guerin Wagner

Caileigh Wasmer

Nikhil Watsa

Lawrence Williams – Political Science
Lawrence is the only boy of 4 and was raised in Detroit, Michigan to a single mother. He enjoys singing, as he is a Praise and Worship leader back at home. After graduating Southwestern High School, he came to Grand Valley ready to take on a new environment, develop his skills, and obtain an education that would propel him into his future. While at Grand Valley, he has been very active on Student Senate, and now serves as Vice President of Senate Resources in his fourth year.


Skylar Wolfe

Alexander Wong


Mentors for the 2015-16 Cook Leadership Academy

Raul Alvarez: Chief Communicator, Storyteller & Synergist (PR/Marketing Counselor), GTSD Group

Fred Antczak: PhD, Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Science, GVSU

Richard App: Owner, Richard App Gallery

Charles Ash, JD: Partner, Warner Norcross & Judd LLP

Scott Ayotte, JD: Inclusion & Diversity Specialist, Spectrum Health System, Inclusion & Diversity COE

Deb Bailey: Director of Global Corporate Relations, Steelcase, Inc.

Claudia Bajema: Director, Graduate Business Programs (Retired), GVSU, Seidman College of Business

Dan Behm: Superintendent, Forest Hills Public Schools

Peggy Bishop, CPA: Partner, Beene Garter LLP

Bert Bleke: Board Chairman; Former Superintendent, GRCC; Grand Rapids and Lowell PS

Mary Dailey Brown: President, SowHope

Allie Bush: Director, Government Affairs, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce

Dev Butler, PhD: Director of Staff Relations & Development, GVSU

Laurie Chesley, PhD: Provost/Executive Vice President for Academic & Student Affairs, GRCC

Evelyn Clingerman, PhD: Executive Director, The Bonnie Wesorick Center for Health Care Transformation, GVSU

Ryan Cook: Vice President, Clear Energy Brokerage & Consulting, LLC

Saralyn Coupe, CFP, CPWA: Vice President, Financial Advisor, Sherwood & Coupe Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley

Michelle Covington: Development Manager, Kids’ Food Basket

Kevin DenDulk, PhD: Paul B. Henry Chair and Director, Henry Institute, Calvin College

Tania DeVries, JD: Vice President, Wealth Advisor, Huntington National Bank

Jason Duncan, PhD: Associate Professor and History Dept Chair, Aquinas College

Jeff Dykstra: Financial Advisor, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management

Brandon Eisentrager: Executive Director, Jandernoa Entrepreneurial Mentoring

Justin Gray, RN: Inpatient Nursing Supervisor, Spectrum Health

John Green: Executive Chairman, Partner, Founders Brewing Co.

Dan Hurwitz: Assistant Vice President for Community Giving, GVSU

Jack Iott: Senior Investment Analyst, RDV Corporation

Jennifer Maxson: Practice Group Leader, Varnum Consulting

Rob McCarty: Partner, The Image Shoppe

Cynthia McCurren, PhD: Dean, College of Nursing, GVSU

Ciciley Moore: Programs Manager, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce

Noreen Myers, JD: Employment Attorney; Former Chair of GVSU Board of Trustees, Private Practice; GVSU

Juliana Nahas-Viilo: Membership Manager, Grand Rapids Art Museum

Jim Payne: Vice Chairman, Amway

Peter Perez: Chairman; Former Deputy Asst. Secretary for Manufacturing, Carter Products; International Trade Admin., US Dept of Commerce

Matt Rampe: Senior Manager- Forensic, Valuation & Litigation Services, Beene Garter LLP

Kristin Revere: Director of Strategic Engagement, Vanguard Public Affairs

Dr. Larry Robson, MD: Doctor of Vascular Surgery, Spectrum Health Medical Group

Megan Sall: Business Development Manager; Board of Trustees Member, The Right Place; GVSU

Ryan Slusarzyk: Global Project Manager, Nutrilite, Amway

Hilary Snell, JD: Estate Planning Attorney; Of Counsel; Former Managing Partner, Varnum Law, LLP

Dr. Jane Toot: Professor of Physical Therapy, Frederik Meijer Honors College, GVSU

Selma Tucker: Director of Marketing and Communications, Public Sector Consultants

Kyle Van Strien: Co-Owner; Distiller, Long Road Distillers

John Wardrop: Former President; Chairman; Board Member, Dake; Sparks Belting Co.; TEC; Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids

Heidi Weesies: Communications Professor; Consultant, Davenport University

Michael Youngblood: Principal Account Manager, DTE Energy

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